Royal Dad(3)

By: Leanne Banks

 She took another bite of the sandwich and watched Francois stiffen. “Let me remind you that you are to discuss this with no one. You signed a privacy agreement. The prince’s disability is a very delicate matter.”

 She waved aside his concern. “Well, it shouldn’t be. Einstein had a learning disability, too, and he was smarter than anyone walking around this palace.”

 Francois inhaled in barely controlled outrage. Good thing there weren’t any flies around or he would have swallowed one, Maggie thought.

 “You are not to discuss the prince’s disability with anyone besides Prince Michel or me.”

 “I won’t,” she assured him. “But I have to tell you I’m not sure I’m the right girl for this job. I didn’t know I would be working with royalty, and I don’t have a high tolerance for a lot of unnecessary, prissy protocol. Just in case you can’t tell, I’m not a prissy girl.”

 “That’s quite clear,” he said in a dry tone as he glanced at her T-shirt and jeans.

 Maggie brushed aside the pinch of insult she felt. “It takes a lot of creativity to get a learning disabled kid up and running, and that’s where I keep my focus. I don’t have time for unnecessary protocol. My whole goal is to help Prince Max find his joy of learning again, get him confident and re-teach him how to read.

 I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen,” she said, and silently added, even though this kid might be so spoiled I can smell him from the other side of the palace.

 Francois gave her a look of guarded respect. “After you have eaten and freshened up, I will introduce you to Prince Maximillian.”

 Truce, Maggie thought.For now.

 She finished her sandwich and toiled over what to wear, which was something she never did with her students back in the States. Maggie scowled, then pretended it was Parent Night and dressed in a blue cotton sheath and sandals.

 Francois led her to the prince’s schoolroom where the boy sat on a sofa watching 102 Dalmatians.

 “Your Highness, I present Mademoiselle Gillian,” Francois said.

 The boy stood, reluctantly tearing his gaze from the movie. Maggie noticed he was tall for his age. He was dressed in a suit, but his starched shirt was rumpled, and a shirttail hung out of his slacks. His hair was slicked down, but a cowlick on his crown rebelled, reminding her of Dennis the Menace. Maggie’s heart softened. Since she’d stood in the shadow of her perfect brother her entire life, Maggie had a deep, abiding compassion for imperfection.

 When Francois turned off the movie, she watched the little prince frown, then glance at her with wariness.

 “Welcome to Marceau, Mademoiselle Gillian,” Prince Maximillian said in a neutral tone.

 “Thank you very much, Your Highness. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Do you prefer Max or Maximillian?”

 The little prince hesitated, and she quickly shot Francois a quelling glance. “Max,” the boy finally said.

 “Good,” she said. “You may either call me Maggie or Miss Gillian.”

 Max nodded.

 “I’m here to help you learn to read and write.”

 She saw his face immediately shut down. Funny, she thought, prince or pauper, that expression was universal among kids who’d experienced too much failure.

 “I don’t like to read and write.”

 “I’m not surprised,” she said, and wandered around the room eyeing shelves and shelves of unread books.

 Max crossed his arms over his chest and looked at her with suspicion. “What do you mean?”

 “I mean you’ve had a rotten experience trying to read and write and you’ve tried and tried. Trying has made you feel stupid even though you’re quite smart.”

 “How do you know I’m not stupid?” he asked, and her heart broke a little at the doubt in his voice. The glint of defiance in his eyes held a world of pain. She remembered the years in her childhood when she’d felt stupid because she couldn’t read.

 “Because there are tests that measure learning and intelligence and you score high on the intelligence tests. You have had a problem reading, but I’m here to help you.”

 Max slid his gaze back to the television. “I would rather watch movies.”

 She smiled and bent down. “Watching movies can be fun for a while, but you’re very smart and you will want to do other things.”

 He looked at her with a mixture of doubt and curiosity. “Are you American?”

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