Simone's mind is muddled and unclear. She tries to piece together the fragments that float through her mind before she attempts to open her eyes. A pounding pain in her skull keeps her from trying that, a headache likely caused by the reality of what is going on around her. She'd woken up to voices, one unmistakably being the voice of Jared, which means she is not back at home in her bed. "Will she be okay?" she can hear the concern in his voice. "I'm unsure of what it is that riled her so Your Highness. I cannot tell. The queen appears to be well and in her right capacities, thus I cannot explain her behavior." The voice is of a woman, obviously older than she.
"I assure you sire that I will not leave her side until all is well" the woman consoles Jared. Simone can't understand how they can be speaking of her with such endearment and she has no clue whom they are. As far as she can tell they are a bunch of nuts. Simone feels a familiar presence around her, the thick darkness she'd felt so many mornings before she woke up. That heavy, threatening feeling had frightened her too many times to count. Her eyes flutter open at the concept.
"You are awake" Jared announces the moment her eyes are open. He'd been on guard watching her since the moment she'd awakened before. Simone does not respond to his query, still unsure of his motives. She'd thought the worst when he'd carried her into the bed. Jared reaches to caress her hand and she instinctively pulls away into the blanket she'd been bundled in. "My queen, how is it that you fear me?" he questions Simone's more than obvious trepidation on a whisper that is nearly impossible to make out.
"Now, now Jared, we mustn't bother the queen with such trivial questions. She needs her rest." The woman speaking looks to be in her mid to late fifties. She fusses over a small roll-in cart with herbs, hot water and what looks to be honey. Her brown and grey streaked hair is tied back in a loose roll at the top of her head. Her skin had begun to age, but gracefully as though time were her friend. She looks to Simone like some make believe fairy godmother in her floral print gown and apron. This woman too had called her the queen, a fact that did not escape Simone's attention.
"I'm sorry, but I am not whoever it is you think I am. I'm not the queen of anything" Simone finally musters the courage to speak. "My name is Simone Bradshaw. I am the personal assistant to Mayor Martin Rivera of Los Angeles, and believe me he will take notice if I am not around, especially for his press conference today." Throwing her title around had gotten Simone out of a few parking tickets, so why not try it now, she thinks. She redirects her protests to Jared "I am not your wife." Simone keeps her eyes trained on Jared's; the misplaced compassion in them gives her hope. He appears too sensitive towards her feelings to be a murderer or kidnapper, or at least she hopes.
Jared looks to the older woman in desperation. "Sarai, she is more ill than I imagined. What can be done for my wife?" Jared searches the older woman's face for answers he can't find on his own. "She isn't ill Your Highness, The Queen simply doesn't remember who she is" She remains calm and quite pleasant, smiling as if nothing is wrong.
"That's real cute" Simone scoffs at what is obviously some sick joke about her amnesia. "Your Majesty, please allow me to attend to you." Sarai motions towards Simone and Simone feels obligated to oblige her. Sarai's tone is gentle and pleasant but her eyes say that she means business. Simone scoots cautiously to the edge of the bed towards the woman. Sarai does not hesitate to give her a once over, checking her eyes, her hands, her pulse and whatever else it is she checks that Simone cannot determine. Until now Simone had taken little notice of the thin sheath of a gown she is wearing. The sheer lavender cloth clings to her skin, leaving very little left to the imagination. Goose pimples had covered her flesh, more from embarrassment than from being cold.
Sarai busies herself mixing herbs at the small table she'd rolled in. "I will make you your tea Simone dear, that should ease your mind." She says, not looking up from her mixing. "Thank you but I'll pass" she says wrapping up in the blanket she'd been in before, shielding her body from open view. Sarai looks up in shock, as if the prospect of her turning down tea is appalling. "What do you mean? You and I always share a cup of tea your highness. It has been our tradition for longer than I can remember." "I don't like tea. As a matter of fact I hate it. I obviously am not the person you think I am." Simone says satisfied with her small revelation.
Sarai extends the small cup of tea in Simone's direction. "Your majesty I'm afraid I must insist that you have your tea" Their eyes lock and Simone can clearly see she'd inadvertently entered a battle of wills. Unfortunately for Sarai, Simone Bradshaw very rarely backs down from anything. "I said no thank you. I do not drink tea, and your insisting does not change that." Sarai rears back as if she'd been slapped in the face and Simone begins to regret the tone she'd taken. Offending the older woman may not have been the right thing to do.
"It is best if you listen to her" Jared states seeming confident in the older woman's judgment. "I know what's best for me, and it's not tea. I need to get out of here and I need to get home. Let me out of here and I'll prove to you that I am not who you think I am. I wish you people would listen," Simone says in frustration. "I need to get out of here"" Simone drives on feeling that maybe she's getting some leverage in the situation and can appeal to their sense of reason. "Absolutely not your majesty!" Sarai interrupts, "We have no idea what is going on, it's not safe!" "I'm afraid I agree with her my queen, you should stay in the palace" Jared chirps in again like her little parrot.
"Jared, leave us immediately" The woman's voice is at once cold and slightly threatening if Simone is not mistaken. His eyes move between the two women before he stands, bows, and turns to exit. "Where are you going?" Simone calls for him amazed at his obedience to the older woman and slightly frightened herself to be left alone with her. ‘Is she his mother?' she wonders.
"I am leaving" he answers in a tone that says he doesn't understand why she asked. "I can see that, but why?" "Sarai asked that I leave you." Simone can tell that he'd be frustrating if she couldn't get the hell away from them. He apparently has no mind of his own. "You take orders from the lady that makes my tea? What the hell kind of king are you? Does the lady tuck you in a night too, or does she just think and speak for you?" Her tone is condescending at best and meant to bruise his pride. Divide and conquer is one of the most successful political strategies known to man. Even the Bible says that a house divided cannot stand.
Jared tenses visibly and his eyebrows furrow together in obvious discomfort with the accusation. "I only do what you ask my queen. It was you that insisted that all matters in the palace be relegated to your advisor, and you who deemed her head of all household matters." His tone is obstinate, as if he'd been insulted. Simone smiles inwardly; proud that the politician in her had done what it does best, found a weakness in the opponent and attacked it.
"If that's the case then stop taking orders from the help. Get out Sarai." Simone says in a tone of authority she hadn't realized she possessed. "If I'm the queen like you say I am, you have to do what I ask. Jared can't seem to make a decision without your permission so I want to be left alone with..." she pauses at the prospect of her following words, deciding that playing along with their little game might be beneficial "with my husband."
Sarai's eyes widen as if she'd never been given orders in her life. It's a trait that she and Simone have in common, not being people who easily roll over. "But your highness..." she begins to reason with Jared. "You heard her Sarai, excuse yourself" Jared says with obvious pleasure. Sarai bows, her high bun nodding with the reverent dip of her head, and backs away through the entrance that seals shut behind her.
The moment the door seals Simone considers that she'd lost her way out and that she hadn't thought this whole situation through. She doesn't move from her spot and Jared stays planted, standing at the end of the massive bed. For what seems like very long moments either of them speaks. The two just stare at one another, unsure of what to say or how to behave.
Jared is the first to break the uncomfortable silence. "Is there anything I can do for you my queen?" Simone can tell that he needs to be lead; he seems to be consistently waiting for direction from someone, particularly a woman. "Yes, you can stop calling me that. My name is Simone, can you call me Simone?" She says on a weary sigh. The wheels in her mind do not stop turning in an effort to affect her escape. "As you wish Simone. It has been many years since you have allowed me or anyone else to address you by your name"
That revelation Simone finds odd, even odder than the people holding her captive. "If you think I'm your wife, why wouldn't you call me by my name?" she queries, strangely interested in hearing what story he'd come up with. Jared's eyes are pained, as if he is carrying a weight on his shoulders that he'd born for quite some time. "You are queen, you are to be obeyed. It has been that way for many years. Do you truly not remember?"
The tall sexy something of a man seems so genuine, Simone almost wants to believe him. "I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't even know where I am. I just want go home." Simone remembers having a very similar conversation with a police officer many years prior and shudders at the thought. "You are home Simone. You are in your palace in Shandria where you have ruled for many years. You do not remember Shandria?" Simone sighs again, hard and loud with annoyance. "No I do not remember Shandria, I do not remember you, I do not remember any of this because I was not ever here. I live in L.A. This room is bigger than my entire apartment." She says while for the first time really surveying the room.
The walls are a shade of bluish green that reminds her of the Mediterranean Sea, or at least the pictures she'd seen of it. The hard wood floors are deep brown with a glossy finish she can't readily identify. "But you have been here Simone. You haven't left the palace for many now, not even to visit the gardens or the courtyard. What is this L.A? I am not familiar with that province"
Simone can't help but to laugh at the ridiculousness of his question. She isn't losing her mind, he had. "So you've never heard of L.A. huh?" she manages. "Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and the Dodgers. Any of that ring a bell to you?" Her sarcasm is almost tangible in the air, but Jared only looks on, completely confused by what she says. "You are far more powerful than I Simone, maybe this is a realm that is beyond my capacity to reach or understand."
"Yeah, if I'm so powerful than why can't I leave?" Simone mumbles. "You may leave when you choose, I have simply advised against it considering your ailment. No one will stop you from leaving" Simone pauses to consider his words. Is he seriously just going to let her walk out and call the police on them or is this some kind of a trick? Either way she knows she has to try, God only knows what will happen to her if she doesn't.
"Okay than I want to leave" He only slightly nods his head and says nothing in response. "So where are my clothes?" The last thing she remembers is going to bed in sweats, but even they are better than the shred of a nightgown she's wearing now. "What do you mean?" he asks. "My clothes, you know my sweat shirt?" His thick brows pull together in a glare that suggests bewilderment. "You have a shirt that sweats?"
The question is ridiculous and Simone feels her patience running thin. "Forget it. I am not afraid to leave here wearing this" she counters as she stands with her shoulders wide and chin held high, not letting even a fraction of shame or embarrassment filter through even though the many curves of her svelte figure are on display in the long sheer gown. "As you wish my queen" he nods again.
"Okay, you can let me out now. I am ready to leave" "Let you out?" he questions yet again. "Yes, let me out. What are you a parrot? Open the doorway like you did before." Jared nods and lifts his palm facing where an exit had previously been, and the walls pull apart creating a grand entranceway with a slight rumble. Simone begins to question what kind of technology he was using to pull that off but decides otherwise. Her mind is on one thing, Run while you have the chance. Outside of the room is one very long hallway that begins at her door and runs straight ahead until it reaches another entrance with doors that look to be cast in gold and are three to four times the height of the average front door she'd seen.
The floors are a brilliant white stone with pillars rising on both sides towards an extremely high vaulted ceiling, each holding an unlit torch. "Wow" Simone has no other words in her vocabulary for what is before her. She hasn't seen walls span so high in her life accept maybe in a museum or on a college trip to Washington DC at the Lincoln Monument. Besides that she has no reference with which to compare the architecture. The extremely high walls are the truest royal blue she has ever seen. Her pace slows taking in the sites around her.
As she passes the first set of pillars, their torches light with the roar of flame. A scream escapes her lips as she hurries past them, having been slightly more than startled. Each set of torches goes ablaze as she passes them causing her to move faster and faster down the vast hall until she reaches a full sprint. The flap of her gown echoes along with her footfalls as she runs. The hall becomes more and more bright the further she gets, each torch continuing to light as she passes it filling the hall with brilliant light.
Simone slams into the post of the large doors, grasping her chest tight in an attempt to catch her breath. What is this place? Her mind struggles to grasp what she is experiencing. She knows she isn't asleep or her lungs would not be constricting, struggling for air, nor would her feet sting from running on the stone floors barefoot. The only thing she can figure is that she is being held captive by a multi millionaire, but that makes little since. Some one with enough dough to have a bedroom that size led up to by a hallway long enough to be a small road certainly wouldn't have to resort to kidnapping to get a woman, even if he were particularly crazy or violent. Some woman would endure it for the sake of the cash. Simone contemplates what she'd gotten herself into. None of the mayor's associates could afford anything that looks like this, at least none that she knew of and they were the highest in the income bracket that she knows or had met for that matter.
She presses forward unwilling to wait for an explanation. To her surprise the massive doors push open with little to no effort. Simone walks into another hall, running perpendicular to the one she'd just exited. Her feet sink into lush burgundy carpeting so deep that her toes disappear beneath it. Shee stands in awe of what is before her. She looks out over the largest most grandiose balcony she had ever seen, at least in real life. Places like this only existed on television for Simone, never had she imagined actually standing anywhere near anyplace similar.
Simone slowly approaches the ledge, at least 100 feet from where she entered the grand hall. Her fingers tightly grip the railing made of a metal she can't readily identify as she attempts to catch her breath. The horseshoe shaped hall turns into a beautiful set of winding stairs at each end leading down to a foyer. She hadn't seen anything like this since she'd last seen Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella. It is simply amazing. There are people below, bustling about as if none of this were strange or interesting. How could anyone not be in awe of this amazing architecture? Men, women and children alike just walk by chatting, looking busy and completely uninterested in their surroundings.
Simone watches as a young woman walks up the hall towards her, dusting the rails with such scrutiny you'd think she was studying the particles of dust. Her ebony, bone-straight hair hangs down to her lower back and sways back and forth as she walks. The long black peasant skirt and loose fitting grey blouse is obviously uniform. Several other women downstairs are wearing the exact same thing. "Excuse me" Simone says, not waiting to interrupt the girl and break her focus. She can finish her dusting after Simone gets the hell out of there.
She looks up and her soft features are frozen with fear. Her skin is a deep olive as if she is of Spanish decent, her hair is long, black and flowing but her eyes are the most brilliant soft blue Simone has ever seen, they almost seem to be glowing. "Your Highness!" The worker falls to her knees so quickly that Simone is startled into movement and grabs her arm to hold her up. "Are you okay?" she asks, still firmly grasping her arm.
The girl's eyes are wide in amazement and she literally shakes with fear. "The Queen!" The random voice of a man announces from somewhere down below. Simone slowly releases the girl, who immediately returns to kneeling, and looks around. All movement in the foyer had stopped, all noise had ceased. Everyone in the building is turned in her direction and kneeling in reverence. "What in the hell?" Simone whispers looking out on the crowd.
Slowly people begin to lift their heads and again she becomes aware of how very little she is wearing, particularly in the sight of children. Simone takes a step back from the banister, immediately covering her breast with her hands, feeling the unmistakable burn of shame stinging her cheeks. She wants to turn and run as far away as she can, but her embarrassment seals her feet to the floor. The idea of running half naked past all of those people outdoors where there are undoubtedly more people paralyzes her. She takes another step back in retreat but is stayed by the warm brick wall of a man standing behind her that she instinctively knows is Jared without looking. He places a hand protectively around her arm to steady her. Simone notes immediately how his large hand is able to wrap around her entire bicep.
Without saying a word Jared wraps a long silky robe around Simone's arms, covering her from prying eyes below. He moves with such calm, as if he were simply tying his shoes or glancing through a book. He is not nervous or rushed as he covers her and tightens the robe around her waist in front of an audience.
"They are waiting for you to dismiss them Simone, nod your head and they will disperse". He says, returning to his post besides her. Simone does as he asks and just as promised everyone continues on as if she hadn't walked out in a night gown. Even the cleaning lady had scampered off in silence. Simone is nearly paralyzed with fear, but manages to sink back into the man behind her. She has yet to decide if she can trust him, but he is obviously her best option at the moment.
What is happening to me? She ponders fearful she had truly lost her mind. Either all of those people are crazy or she is. Simone reasons that the pure math of it points to her having finally gone off her rocker.