“Go,” Evelyn murmured to Lisa, gesturing. “Ask them for their wine selection. We can’t keep them waiting.”
After a beat, Lisa tapped forward, delivering a dazzling, American service smile. “Hello,” she greeted, trying to remember her old server days. “I’m Lisa, and it will be an honor serving you this evening. How are you?”
“Just fine,” the Prince affirmed, giving her a warm glance. The Princess didn’t move. Her expression was icy; her eyes like glass. “And yourself?”
Lisa nodded, sensing the tension between them. “I’d love to get you started with a bottle of wine. Our finest from the Chateau de Lyon, perhaps?”
“Which one?” Princess Rose asked, scoffing slightly.
“I’m sorry?” Lisa asked brightly, recognizing the gaps in her knowledge of the wine menu. She hadn’t had enough time.
“Which chateau of Lyon?” she asked, looking at Lisa the same way a lion would stare down a mouse. “There are plenty of them, you silly American.”
“Enough,” Prince Francesco said, swiping his hand through the air in a cutting motion. “We’ll have whatever you recommend, Lisa.”
“Absolutely,” Lisa said, turning swiftly from the table and making eye contact with Evelyn, over by the kitchen. Evelyn gave her two thumbs up, even as she blinked back tears. Even the mania of her restaurant’s biggest night couldn’t distract her from her pain.
The bartender delivered the wine to the couple, uncorking the bottle with professional precision, and pouring them both hefty glasses. The couple seemed to have turned to a more amicable conversation, with the Prince speaking rapidly and gesturing excitedly with his hands. His warm tones wafted over Lisa as she stood in the corner, assessing them.
Her fingers twitched, yearning to snap a few photographs of this at-times happy couple. Even if they didn’t bicker tonight, a photo of them in this romantic setting would net her a couple thousand. And she’d already climbed mountains to get that far.
In that moment, the first course arrived at the couple’s table. The Prince refilled the Princess’ wine glass with a brief smile, and she cut a piece from her quiche and stuffed it into her mouth, reminding Lisa of Melanie’s spotting of her scarfing a hot dog. She chewed sloppily, and eyed her fiancé without pleasure. She said something that Lisa couldn’t quite make out—something that seemed to make the Prince’s hair stand on end.
Lisa’s eyes widened as she recognized what was going on: she was witnessing the beginning of one of their famous arguments. Almost anything set them off. Any word could be used as a match to start the fire.
As Princess Rose began to argue, her face brimming with red, her engagement ring flashed beneath the chandeliers. She was speaking so rapidly, in accented English, that Lisa couldn’t work out just what had irritated her so much. But she was spitting with anger and resentment, clearly pushing it all upon the Prince.
The other server, Jenny, began to walk toward the table with the Prince and Princess’ second course, but Evelyn held her back, mouthing: “Can’t you see what’s going on? Don’t go now.”
Lisa meandered toward her fellow servers, eyeing the steaming bowls of soup that Jenny had meant to deliver, whispering to Evelyn. “What is this one about?” she whispered.
“She doesn’t like the food. Can you believe it?” Evelyn asked, her eyes wide. “The snob. Doesn’t she know how hard our chef works? Does she think that everything comes lined with gold? I’ve never seen a more spoiled princess in all my life.”
“Have you ever seen a princess?” Lisa asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“I mean. No,” Evelyn admitted.
Lisa nodded, just as Jenny swept back to the kitchen with the soup, to the uproar of the chef. Hank, the manager, had begun to sweat, eyeing the servers from the kitchen.
“Is Hank going to survive this?” Lisa whispered.
“He’s new, so no. This will kill him,” Evelyn affirmed.
Lisa eased toward a corner that was closer to the table, with a full view of both the Prince and the Princess. From her new position, she could hear their bickering—which had evolved from a complaint about the food to something deeper.
“I don’t understand why you treat me this way,” the Princess wailed, stabbing her finger on the table. “When I say that I want to stay in, I want to stay in. But you don’t take me seriously. It’s like you don’t even hear me!”
“I thought it would be nice to spend some time together, is all,” the Prince said, his eyes flashing. “We’ve been traveling separately for weeks. And we haven’t exactly been getting along. I thought—if we took some time—”
“Well, you didn’t listen, so you’ve already messed it up,” the Princess said, crossing her arms over her chest. She rolled her eyes like a spoiled teenager, flipping her hair.
Sensing that this was her moment, Lisa lifted the lens of her camera from her apron pocket and snapped a few shots, thankful for the lilting classical music which masked the sound. She moved around languidly, getting several different angles. With everyone’s focus upon the fighting couple, she was all but invisible.
Suddenly, the Princess rose from her chair, allowing it to fall back on the floor. She stabbed her finger into the Prince’s face, challenging him. “If you want to find me, I’ll be in Holland. I won’t spend another wretched night on this continent with you.”
And with that, she turned from the table, her glittering dress flashing in the light. The cloakroom boy scrambled to grasp her coat and wrap it around her shoulders before seeing her to the door. As Lisa stood, shock ebbing through her, she watched Princess Rose collapse into the backseat of Sergio’s car, which zoomed off into the bustling Manhattan night.
Prince Francesco sat alone, his eyes upon his half-finished glass of wine. With a flourish, he lifted his hand and wrapped his fingers around the stem, downing the rest of it. Evelyn shot forward and filled his glass for him before racing back to her corner, not wanting to be in the shadow of his sure anger.