After their marriage was finally sealed — it felt like ages as far as Catherine was concerned — life was good for a while. She and Harry were very much in love. They could hardly stand to be apart, and when they were alone, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. And they’d set about creating the Camelot that Arthur always wanted.
However, performing her duty was a bit more complicated than Catherine had thought it would be. She didn’t mind all the time she and Harry spent trying, but the rest of the family was starting to amplify their cries for an heir. As if they hadn’t given her a hard time before.
She wanted a child just as much, if not more than, everyone else did. However, she hadn’t yet been able to carry a pregnancy to term, and it was starting to take a toll on her relationship with Harry. So when she hadn’t bled for a few months and everything seemed stable, Catherine was overjoyed. Of course, everyone hoped — pretty much assumed — that it would be a boy. That was what they needed for succession, after all.
However, Catherine knew that there was just as much of a chance that she would have a girl. And, if she were honest with herself, she was hoping the child would be a girl. It would give the Tudors a huge taste of their own medicine, and after all the trouble they’d put her through, Catherine felt they deserved every bit of it.
When Mary made her appearance in the world a few months later, Catherine was tired, but holding her daughter was the most satisfying feeling in the world. Harry was excited too. He couldn’t stop staring at his wife and daughter. They looked so perfect. And now he was sure that they would eventually have heirs, which seemed to appease everyone else. His father was still the king, of course, but people were starting to listen and take him seriously.
He and Catherine kept trying, but all they ever had was Mary. Harry wasn’t sure what to do. He was quite happy with his little family, but the others, especially his grandmother, for some odd reason, were still pressuring him for an heir. He couldn’t exactly give them a piece of his mind; he still wasn’t king yet. He’d tried to talk to his father about changing the law or something, but it was like talking to a brick wall.
And he was still trying to climb over that wall for the next few years. Even when he finally became king, he couldn’t get his advisors to agree to change the stupid law that said girls couldn’t rule. They thought it was politically risky; the common people wouldn’t necessarily agree with it. The monarchy had been a constant for so long, and it was working, so why change anything? If it wasn’t broken, no one had to fix it.
While Harry was busy trying to consolidate and exert his power, Catherine had her hands full with Mary. Now a rambunctious six-year-old, she was curious about everything, and her questions were relentless. Catherine didn’t mind, though. Curiosity only killed cats, after all. She only wished her husband would pay more attention to his daughter.
Harry, however, had neither the time nor patience for domestic life. He was too consumed with thoughts of Anne Boleyn. It didn’t matter that she was Catherine’s lady in waiting. He wanted her, and he was counting down the hours until he could see her.
It wasn’t long before he and Anne were all over each other in the courtyard at dusk — their usual place and time so that they could try and be discreet about … whatever they were doing. Did they really need to have a name for it? Anne sank down in the grass, and Harry climbed on top of her. Contrary to his early reputation, he was neither quick nor lazy. He took his time kissing every inch of Anne as he lifted her skirts. Anne kissed him earnestly while her hands worked on pulling down his pants.
Both of them having climaxed, Harry rolled on his back, catching his breath.
“I think I should go. I don’t want them to miss me.”
“Oh please, since when have you cared about Catherine missing you?” Anne scoffed.
“It’s not Catherine I’m worried about. It’s Mary,” Harry leaned back on his forearms.
“You really think a six-year-old is going to notice you’re gone?” Anne stood up, brushing off her skirts.
“I don’t know. But I’d rather not take chances,” Harry pushed himself to his feet.
“We’ve been taking chances, though. And honestly, I’m done being your secret plaything. Either you leave Catherine, or we’re done,” Anne said firmly.
“Anne, I can’t just up and leave my wife! Do you know how bad that would look?” Harry managed to keep his voice down.
“What if I don’t care how it looks? If you really want to be with me, you’ll find a way. You’re the King of England for crying out loud!”
The next time Anne and Harry were together, she drank him under the table. He was slumped over the bar in the local tavern, trying and failing to figure it out.
“How are you not completely sloshed right now?” Harry asked as he lifted his head slightly to look at his mistress, slurring the words.
Anne just laughed. “I get that question a lot, actually. Let’s just say my family knows how to hold their ale. Did you figure out what you’re going to do about Catherine?”
“I’ll say,” Harry stumbled, tripping over his feet as he tried to stand up. “As far as Catherine is concerned, well, I wrote to Pope What’s-His-Face, but he wouldn’t grant me the dispensation.”
“Here, put your arm around me,” Anne didn’t want him to fall. “Do you really have to listen to the pope, though?”
“No, no, I’ve got it,” Harry put his hands out in front of him to break his fall. “What’re you playing at?”
“You. Are. So. Daft,” Anne muttered, kneeling down to put one of Harry’s arms around her. “Let’s get you home.”
Harry managed to make it back to his bedroom on his own, still a little drunk, but very much aroused. He stripped down to his underwear, got into bed, and tried to climb on top of his wife.
“Harry, no,” Catherine murmured, half asleep. “I’m serious, get off of me! Oh, you smell like cerveza. That explains a lot.”
“Does it?” Harry whispered in her ear.
“Oh, shut up!” Catherine shoved her husband back to his side of the bed.
“Mama?” Mary’s small voice came from the corner of the room a few moments later.
“Yeah?” Catherine slipped out of bed and walked over to the corner of the room where Mary’s bed was.
“Sí. Por qué?”
“You didn’t sound okay.”
Catherine’s heart shattered into a million little pieces, but she held herself together.
“Trust me, it’s nothing you have to worry about.”
“I promise,” she kissed Mary’s forehead. “Get some sleep.”
That was it. The last straw. Catherine had to get herself and Mary out of Hampton Court for their own good, at least for the time being. But she had to make some preparations before she confronted Harry so they wouldn’t have to wait to leave. The next morning, she grabbed some parchment and a quill and sat down to write to one of the few people she could still trust: her niece, Eleanor.
Later that day, her letter to Eleanor having been dispatched, Catherine steeled herself for a confrontation with her husband. However, if she were honest with herself, she wasn’t nervous as much as she was curious. What would Harry do when she gave him the ultimatum? In a weird way, it was exciting.
She found him alone in the throne room, staring off into space.
“Harry, we need to talk.”
“Oh! Catherine, I didn’t see you there,” he said, turning in his seat to face her. “What do we need to talk about?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Henry. You know as well as I do what you’ve been up to lately.”
Harry’s eyes went wide. Hardly anybody called him by his given name, and Catherine had never used it before. Why was she starting now?
“How did you find out?” Harry asked after he’d collected himself.
Catherine just had to laugh at that one. “People talk. It’s called court gossip. I really shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. You had your eyes on me before I even married Arthur.”
“Oh, yeah? Who talks?” Harry raised his voice, completely ignoring the mention of his brother. “Lina? Oviedo? Rosa? Oh, wait, Rosa packed up and left!” He laughed as if it were some kind of knee-slapping joke.
“You leave my friends out of this,” Catherine growled. “They have nothing to do with it. If you don’t shape up, Mary y yo volveremos a España.”
“Shouldn’t it be ‘iremos a España’? Mary hasn’t been to Spain. Either way, you can’t do that. I won’t let you,” Harry stood up to walk toward his wife.
“I can say it however I bloody want! Just watch me go back,” Catherine spat in his face. “Or did you not know what you were getting into when you married me?”
“STOP FIGHTING!” Mary screamed bloody murder from the hallway and ran for the stables.
Catherine and Harry were shocked into silence. Neither of them knew how much Mary had heard, but Catherine knew it would be her job to pick up the pieces and explain things. It was always that way; why would this situation be any different?
“To be continued,” Catherine turned on her heels and walked out of the room.
A few minutes later, Catherine found Mary in the stables petting her horse, Lark.
“Thought I’d find you here,” Catherine smiled. “I’m really sorry you had to see that earlier though.”
“I just wish it wouldn’t happen so often,” Mary turned toward her mother.
“Believe me, the last thing I want to do is fight with your father.”
Mary thought for a moment. “Why don’t you just get divorced?”
That question stopped Catherine’s train of thought in its tracks.
“I still love him and I want to work things out,” she answered honestly. At least, she thought it was true.
“Well, he doesn’t seem to want to,” Mary replied.
Twice in as many days, Catherine’s heart broke. But she had an idea. She still had some last minute things to take care of anyway.
“Tell you what. How about we go see Lina?”
“Mama, you know that’s not even a question, right?” Mary smiled.
“Lina!” Mary barreled through the doorway and into the arms of her mother’s best friend, who scooped her up into a big hug.
“Hola, chica. Cómo estás?”
“Mucho mejor porque puedo verte.”
“Aw, you’re too sweet!” Lina turned her attention to Catherine, who was still standing in the doorway. “Why do I get the feeling you need a favor?”
“Come, Lina. That’s not the only time I show up, is it?”
“No, but you hardly show up just to chitchat.”
“That’s fair. And you’re right, I actually do need a favor,” Catherine admitted.
“Nothing, really, just Harry being difficult. I’ve made arrangements to go back to Spain and cool off, see if he comes to his senses.”
“Are you kidding me? Of course not! You know my relationship with her has always been about walking on eggshells. I told Eleanor.”
“I see,” Lina sat down at her kitchen table with Catherine. “What exactly do you need me to do?”
Catherine stopped staring out the window and looked at her friend. “Just look after my day to day. Keep my mail for me.”
“I can definitely do that. As long as you take Oviedo with you.”
“Lina,” Catherine rolled her eyes. “I’m not some damsel in distress.”
“Oh, I know you can handle yourself. Everybody’s seen as much. But you’re not the same person you were when we first got here. Because, oh, I don’t know, you’re the queen and you’ve got Mary.” Lina turned around to wink at Mary.
“I heard my name. Estáis bien?” Oviedo walked in from another room.
“Just trying to convince my friend over here that if she’s going back to Spain she should probably take you with her.”
Oviedo shifted his gaze from his wife to Catherine. “No es problema. I’d be happy to accompany you.”
“Well, I don’t really have a choice at this point, do I?” Catherine smiled in spite of herself.
Mary woke up in the middle of the night to see her mother leaning over her.
“What the …?” And then she remembered the conversation from the other day. “Oh! So we’re going.”
Cathrine nodded with a finger to her lips.
“Get dressed, pack what you want to take with you, and meet me at the stables,” she whispered.
The next thing Mary knew, she’d mounted Lark and they were off.
After an eternity — at least that’s what it felt like to Mary, who was still trying to grasp the concept of time — they’d reached London’s city limits, pulling into the paddock nearby. After taking care of her horse, Catherine went to check on her daughter.
She found Mary still mounted, hugging Lark’s neck.
“Need help getting down?”
“No, I can manage,” Mary reluctantly swung her leg over and slid down from the saddle. “Do I have to leave her behind?”
“It’s just easier if we leave Lark here for now. I don’t think we’d have room for her on the ship anyway.”
“If you say so,” Mary took her mother’s hand.
“And where we’re going, I doubt you’ll even have time to miss her,” Catherine winked.
“What do you mean?” Mary’s curiosity peaked.
“You’ll finally meet my side of the family.”
“Quieres decirme que yo tengo más familia?”
Catherine laughed. “Of course you do, silly!”
Oviedo was waiting for them. “Listas? I told my friends we’d be meeting them soon.”
“Would these be your tavern acquaintances Lina told me about?” Catherine teased.
Oviedo smiled mischievously. “No matter what my wife says, they’re not bad people.”
“I didn’t say she said they were!”
“She usually doesn’t have to say anything.”
“That’s true,” Catherine agreed. Lina’s face was an open book, whether she intended it to be or not.
As soon as she boarded the ship, Mary went below deck, climbed into one of the hammocks, and passed out. Getting up in the middle of the night to go on vacation was fun, but she wasn’t used to getting up so early, and the adventure-driven adrenaline that had kept her awake throughout the journey had finally worn off.
A few nights later, as the ship rocked on the waves, Catherine found herself unable to sleep. She went on deck to get some air, leaning against the rail as water sprayed her face, her red hair flowing behind her on the wind.
“Qué estás haciendo?” Oviedo joined her at the rail.
“Yo no puedo dormir,” Catherine looked over at him.
“Yo tampoco. Estás bien?”
“Yo no sé,” Catherine sighed. “I have no idea what Joanna’s going to be like, and I still haven’t quite figured out what to do about Harry.”
Oviedo put an arm around his friend. “You’re your mother’s daughter. If that means anything, I think it means you can figure this out.
“I know,” Catherine leaned against him. “I just didn’t think I’d have to deal with any of this in the first place.”
Oviedo leaned down to kiss Catherine on the cheek. Catherine automatically turned, finding his lips instead. It was a few minutes before they realized what they were doing, but when they did, they broke it off immediately.
“Lo siento, Catherine.”
“No, Oviedo, the fault is mine. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Neither of us were. But we’re definitely not telling Lina.”
“No, as far as Lina is concerned, this never happened. Goodnight.”
Catherine was heading back down below when the ship lurched, sending Mary flying out of her hammock. Catherine was just in time to catch her.
“Hm,” Mary grunted, regaining her balance. “Yeah, thanks Mama … Can we snuggle?”
“Sure! Estás bien?”
“Yo no sé.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” Mary began as she climbed into the hammock beside her mother, “ … does Daddy love me?”
“Of course he does!” Catherine wasn’t sure about this answer at all, so she chose her next words carefully. “He just has a loco way of showing it.” That made Mary giggle.
Now that she had a daughter of her own, Catherine felt the absence of her own mother even more. Isabella wasn’t perfect by any means, but Catherine had always felt loved, which was what she needed right now. Love and guidance, or at least reassurance that she was making the right decisions given the current circumstances. But she would never be able to ask the relevant questions. Isabella had become bedridden some years ago, and she’d passed away two years after Catherine’s marriage to Harry, which meant Joanna was now the queen of Spain. And everything had only dissolved into chaos since then.
“Land ho!” Oviedo shouted from the crow’s nest a few weeks later.
Mary jumped out of bed and raced up the stairs to get her first glimpse of Spain. Catherine took more time to get up, but when she finally saw her country again for the first time in years, she could feel a weight leaving her shoulders. She was home. And she couldn’t deny that part of her wanted to forget Harry completely and stay forever.
Before she could dwell on anything else, Catherine spotted Eleanor and Rosa waiting for them on the dock. She almost tripped over herself in her haste down the plank to get to them.
Rosa laughed. “You always knew how to make an entrance.”
“I’m surprised you noticed, what with you always chasing after boys,” Catherine teased, hugging her friend.
“Not so much any more, actually. I’m still putting myself back together after the Stafford situation,” Rosa said, releasing the embrace.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
“No worries, amiga.”
“So what am I these days, chopped liver?” Eleanor cut in.
“Not at all! You’re the person I came to see!” Catherine threw her arms around her niece.
“I know, I’m just messing with you, tía.”
It was only then that Catherine noticed her shadow wasn’t with her. She turned to see Mary still on deck, watching intently.
“What are you waiting for?” Catherine called. “They’re not going to bite; they’re family!”
“I know, I just …” Mary trailed off, not sure how to finish the thought. She wasn’t so much afraid as she was shy. It took her awhile to warm up to new people, even if they were family. She slowly made her way down to the dock and walked up beside her mother, taking Catherine’s outstretched hand.
“Do you want to say hi?” Catherine asked. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“Um … hi,” Mary muttered, staring at her feet.
“It’s okay to be shy, you know,” Eleanor knelt in front of Mary. “I hate meeting new people, and I have to do it all the time.”
“Really?” Mary lifted her gaze and gave her cousin a small smile.
“Really,” Eleanor winked as she stood up. “Shall we head home?” she asked, looking at Catherine.
“Well, we can’t stay here all day. Does your mother know I’m coming?” Catherine asked Eleanor.
“Um … No; was I supposed to tell her?”
“No,” Catherine smiled. “I think it’s actually best if she doesn’t know.”
They arrived at the Alhambra in the early evening. It looked the same as it had during her childhood. The same vaulted ceiling painted with a thousand stars, the same layout of the throne room. It was a time capsule. The only difference was the woman occupying the throne.
“Well, well, well,” Joanna sneered, slouched on the throne, her golden crown crooked on her head. “If it isn’t mi hermanita, finally come home. How are you, Cathy?”
“Joanna, please. You know I hate it when you call me that.” Catherine pleaded, hoping the conversation would end quickly.
“And you know that’s exactly why I do it,” Joanna shot back.
“Is this because you still resent me?”
“So what if it is?”
“Well, I never asked to be anyone’s favorite.”
“Madre, that’s enough,” Eleanor walked in before her mother could reply, followed by Mary and Rosa. “tía just got here. And I won’t have you two fighting in front of mi prima. Why can’t you be nice to people for once? They’re family.” Eleanor gave Mary what she hoped was a reassuring smile.
Joanna laughed. “What makes you think you can control me, Eleanor?”
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe the fact that I’ve kept this entire country afloat since before I was supposed to marry su cuñado. I don’t know what happened when you and Father were in England, but you haven’t been the same since.” Eleanor stood her ground, walking out of the room before anybody could say anything else.
Once the four of them were back in Catherine’s rooms, Mary made her first impression known.
“Tell me about it,” Catherine and Eleanor said in unison. They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“So, wait a second,” Catherine turned to her niece when they’d recovered from their laughing fit. “Have you really been …?”
“Shadow running the country?” Eleanor finished. “Yeah, I mean, someone has to do it. Dad did an okay job, but when he passed, Mom really went downhill. And you know what she’s like. So, I had to step up.”
Catherine nodded. Even on her best behavior, Joanna was eccentric, to say the least.
“Rosa’s been helping me, of course,” Eleanor added. “She sorts all the correspondence and brings me the most urgent things first.” She turned toward Rosa. “You know you’re basically my right hand, right? I’d be completely lost without you.”
Rosa smiled. “Aw, gracias, Eleanor. That’s very sweet of you.”
“Well, it’s true!” Eleanor smiled back. “So anyway, how is my ‘betrothed-turned-uncle’?” Eleanor turned back to her aunt.
“He’s a big, fat, meanie-pants!” Mary piped up, looking very pleased that she came up with the phrase all by herself.
Catherine chuckled. “That’s one way to put it. Seriously, you should see his royal portrait. Even on canvas, he looks like he’s about to break his throne.”
Eleanor doubled over with renewed laughter.
“Catherine,” Rosa raised her eyebrows at her friend. “I think you broke your sobrina.”
After a few weeks of much needed rest and relaxation, Catherine knew it was time to get down to business. She couldn’t avoid Harry forever. Nor could she leave her daughter stateless. As much as Mary seemed to be enjoying Spain, at the end of the day, her home was England. Catherine was sitting by the pool, treading water with her hand, when Rosa appeared.
“Catherine, this came for you. It looks like it’s from Lina.”
“Oh, gracias,” Catherine stood up, tearing through the seal. Rosa couldn’t help but read the letter over her friend’s shoulder.
Catherine laughed to herself. “I figured this would happen, but I don’t regret taking my toys back.”
Later that evening, Catherine called everyone together for a meeting in the conference chambers, which looked like they hadn’t been used in years. Catherine wouldn’t be surprised to find out that her mother was the last person to hold meetings here. Mary followed Eleanor in, the book she’d been reading dangling from her hand. She took her seat next to Eleanor and went back to reading.
“Eleanor,” Catherine began, “it seems your novio-tío is back in England …” Catherine paused, scanning the letter to find Lina’s exact quote. “Running around como un pollo de sangre sin cabeza.”
“Is it your job to keep me in stitches?” Eleanor barely held back her laughter.
“Oh, those are Lina’s words, not mine,” Catherine smiled.
“Even better! How is Lina, by the way?”
“Ella está muy bien, gracias,” Oviedo smiled at Eleanor from across the table.
“Which means,” Catherine continued, “we actually have to go home. Well, at least Mary, Oviedo, and I have to go back.”
“You’re half right, tía. Rosa and I are totally coming with. I can’t let you be alone with tío.” Eleanor looked at Rosa, who nodded in agreement.
“If we’re going back … Catherine?”
“What’s up, Rosa?”
Rosa walked to the front of the room to whisper in Catherine’s ear.
“Of course you can! I hope I’m your back up though.”
“Of course you are! Thanks, chica,” Rosa smiled.
“Alright, where was I?” Catherine mused. “Oh, yeah!” She took out a huge piece of parchment, draped it over an easel, and began furiously sketching Hampton Court’s throne room. When she turned around and stepped aside, there were a series of X’s and O’s on the board, with names attached. It was a standard duel formation.
“Okay, now we’re talking,” Eleanor nodded. “Is this like a fight-to-the-death type thing, or …?”
“Eleanor, calm down. I’m not my mother,” Catherine couldn’t help but laugh. “And I’m not about to rob Mary of the chance at a relationship with her father, should she decide she wants to try and have one later.”
“Aw, man!” Eleanor pouted, which made Catherine laugh even more.
“Wait, what about me?” Mary perked up, ripping her eyes away from her book.
“Um …” Catherine hadn’t thought about how to explain the situation to her daughter yet.
“And how come my name’s not on the board when everyone else’s is?” Mary asked.
Eleanor covered for her aunt, sort of. “Prima, this whole board is about you.”
“Really, Ellie?” Mary cocked her head skeptically.
“Yep! You’ll understand someday.”
As everyone else filed out of the room, Mary stayed behind, taking her mother aside.
“Mama, do we have to go home?”
Catherine pulled out a chair and sat down at the rickety table. “Don’t you want to go home?”
“Well …” Mary looked down, shifting her weight from foot to foot, not quite sure how to say what she wanted — needed — to say. But she knew she had to try. She looked back up at her mother, still hesitant.
“You remember how I said Daddy was a big, fat, meanie-pants?”
“Yeah, that was funny!”
Mary, however, was neither laughing nor smiling.
“Oh, wait, you’re serious, aren’t you?”
Mary proceeded to tell her mother how she felt about her father and describe some of the things he’d done to the best of her ability. Catherine’s heart shattered once again — Mary was quite good at doing that, though she probably wasn’t aware of it — but her resolve only hardened. Revenge wasn’t personal anymore. It was for both of them. When Mary finished, Catherine kept it simple.
“Hija, I’m so sorry,” she fought back a combination of sad and angry tears. “When we get back, I’ll make sure he can never ever do any of that again. Come here,” she pulled Mary into a fierce hug.
“Are you gonna let Ellie beat him up?” Mary asked.
“Maybe a little,” Catherine laughed as she stood up. “Come on, it’s late. We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
Big days were ahead, indeed. Catherine woke the next morning at the crack of dawn and headed to the armory to pick out the weapons she might need. The armory didn’t look like it got much use these days either; everything was covered in a thick layer of dust.
“When was the last time you were in here?” she asked
“Dios, yo no sé. I guess that’s a good thing though.”
“I didn’t say it was bad. Grab whatever you want and let’s get practicing. I know I’m good, but I don’t want Harry to be better.”
The sun was still rising as they made their way out to the courtyard. Catherine felt so good letting her guard down after being cooped up in Hampton Court for eight years. Being the queen of England was nice and all, but she couldn’t be herself. Not when she was constantly trying to shield Mary from Harry. She felt something touch her and looked down to find the point of Eleanor’s sword poking her shoulder.
Catherine looked up at her niece with a smirk. “You’re just lucky I was distracted.”
“I don’t need you to let me win. Abuela taught me, too, you know.”
“I figured as much.”
“Buenos días, Oviedo,” Mary said, still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Dónde está Mama?
“I think she’s outside with Eleanor,” Oviedo smiled.
Mary dressed quickly, grabbed her book, and raced to the courtyard to see what her mother was up to. She tried to focus on finishing her book — she was almost done, after all — but she couldn’t. Not when swords looked like so much fun. Why were all the cool toys for grown-ups? It totally wasn’t fair. But when she thought about it, Eleanor wasn’t technically a grown-up. At least, Mary didn’t think so. Maybe she had extra special permission or something.
Oviedo noticed Mary’s rapt attention. Eventually, they made eye contact, and Oviedo winked at her as he got to his feet. When he came back a few minutes later, he held something out to her.
“I’ll teach you how to use this later,” he whispered.
Mary couldn’t wait though. Eleanor jumped back, but not before Mary slashed the bottom of her dress.
“Ah! Watch it, prima!”
“What’s up?” Catherine asked.
“Nothing. Everything’s fine,” Eleanor said.
Catherine looked at her niece, and then her daughter. “Why am I getting the feeling that it’s not fine? Mary, what’s behind your back?”
Mary couldn’t hide her guilty face as her mother walked toward her.
“Mary,” Catherine said again, “can I see what’s behind your back, please?”
Not meeting Catherine’s eyes, Mary slowly brought the dagger around to her front, holding it with both hands.
“Mmmhmm. Where did you get it?”
Mary’s eyes darted in Oviedo’s direction.
“Okay. Why don’t you go say you’re sorry while I talk to Oviedo? Can I have the dagger, please?”
Mary handed her mother the dagger and slowly walked back towards Eleanor.
“Lo siento, Ellie”
“No harm done, chica, it’s only my dress.”
“You know you’re my favorite, right?”
“Hm, that’s funny,” Eleanor mused.
“You’re my favorite! Just don’t tell my bothers and sisters,” Eleanor winked.
Mary laughed and hugged her cousin. “Okay.”
“Oviedo, did you have something to do with this?” Catherine flipped the blade in her hands.
“I’m sorry, Catherine. I really thought she would wait.”
“Come, Oviedo, I think you’ve known us long enough to know that we’re not patient women.”
“You said it, I didn’t.” Oviedo laughed.
“I mean, I’m only stating the obvious,” Catherine laughed.
Catherine walked back over to Mary and Eleanor, kneeling so she was eye level with Mary.
“You need to be more careful,” Catherine said sternly.
“Yeah, Mama, I know.”
“We’ll see about that,” Catherine turned towards Eleanor. “Did she apologize?”
“Yeah, she did.”
“Good. I’m going to hang onto this.”
As she got ready for bed that night, Catherine placed the dagger in the nightstand drawer, hoping Mary had learned a lesson.
Mary woke early the next morning, as she usually did. It was kind of fun to be awake before everyone else; she could do whatever she wanted. She got out of bed and tiptoed over to the nightstand, where the dagger was. She’d seen her mother put it there the night before. She opened the drawer and looked at it longingly. She knew she shouldn’t touch it, but the temptation was too strong. She picked it up carefully, sitting down on the floor against the bed.
Mary turned the hilt in her hands, watching the blade catch the morning light. Her grip slipped, and the dagger cut the inside of her hand, between her thumb and index finger.
“Ow,” she gasped.
Catherine’s eyes sprang open. She sat up on the edge of the bed and looked down at Mary, who was examining her hand.
“What did I tell you about being careful?” Catherine said, clearly exasperated.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” Mary apologized automatically.
“I’ll be right back with a bandage. You stay right there, and don’t you dare touch anything.”
When Catherine came back, she softened her tone as she wrapped Mary’s hand.
“Do you get it now? Why you need to be careful?”
“Yeah. I wasn’t trying to cut myself though.”
“It’s not about trying. Sometimes things just happen.”
“I guess so.”
“You’re going to stay here so I know where you are. And, I’m taking your book away.”
“Mama, that’s not fair! What am I gonna do?”
“You’re going to sit here and think about why you need to be careful. I know it looks like fun and games, but these things aren’t toys. I’ll make a deal with you though. If you’re good, I’ll teach you how to properly use that dagger once your hand heals up.”
“Deal!” Mary smiled.
As Mary spent the next few days staring at the wall, her mind kept going back to her parents, even though she didn’t really want it to. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she knew something was off about their relationship. She couldn’t remember the last time they didn’t fight. Mary tried to get them to stop, but sometimes — most of the time, actually — all she could do was cover her ears. And of course, she had her own reasons for thinking her father was mean. They were the same reasons she didn’t want to go home. At least in Spain, Daddy couldn’t touch her or yell at her for every little thing she didn’t do perfectly. Mama seemed happier here in Spain, too. The only thing Mary missed about England was Lina. And Lark. Mary couldn’t forget Lark.
“How’s your hand?” Catherine poked her head in the doorway.
“Oh!” Mary startled. “Well, it doesn’t hurt a lot, but I haven’t looked at it.”
“That’s good. Let’s look at it now,” Catherine started unwrapping the bandage.
The cut had healed quite nicely, but it was crusted with dried blood. Catherine cleaned it with a damp cloth.
“It’s looking good, but we should probably leave it wrapped for a few more days just to make sure it’s completely healed. I’ll go get a fresh bandage.”
While her mother rewrapped her hand, Mary worked up the nerve to ask the question, even though she wasn’t sure she should.
“So … are you gonna teach me?”
Catherine smirked. “Yeah, I guess you’ve been good enough.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m just keeping you on your toes. You’ve been really good. You must really want to learn.”
Mary nodded eagerly. Cathrine smiled.
“I don’t blame you. I wasn’t much older than you when I started learning.”
“Really. Oh, hey, before I forget. So you have something to do while Ellie and I are working. You and I should be able to start working in a day or two.”
Mary caught her book with both hands.
“Gracias, Mama,” Mary hugged Catherine around the waist.
“De nada,” Catherine kissed the top of Mary’s head.
The next day, swords clashed, and Catherine’s fell to the grass. She had to stop.
“Gosh, I hadn’t realized I was so out of shape,” she straightened up, still panting.
“If it’s any consolation, you’re still better than me,” Eleanor said.
“Oh, you’re too kind. Also, dresses are overrated. They look nice, but when it comes to combat, they just get in the way. To be fair, though, I don’t think anyone imagined that a woman would ever have to fight.”
“Do you want to try wearing armor and see how that goes?” Eleanor asked.
“Do you have some?”
“I think we might still have your mother’s laying around here somewhere.”
After scouring the castle from top to bottom, they finally found Isabella’s armor in an obscure broom closet. If someone weren’t seeking it, they definitely wouldn’t find it.
“Dios mío” Catherine whispered reverently. She could feel the tears coming, so she ran back to her room. Eleanor and Mary followed, barely keeping up.
“You okay, tía?” Eleanor leaned against the doorframe.
When Catherine looked up from the pillow, her tearstained face said it all: Does it look like I’m okay?
Eleanor approached the bed slowly and sat down. She didn’t want to poke the bear. Then again, she wasn’t dealing with her mother. She relaxed a bit as Catherine leaned into her shoulder, sobbing quietly.
“Wha – Oh,” Mary paused in the doorway and stared, not sure what to think. She’d never seen her mother like this, ever. It was scary.
“It’s okay Mary, you can come here,” Catherine said, trying to wipe her tears away.
“Are you sure you’re gonna be okay?” Mary climbed onto the bed next to Catherine and laid her head in Catherine’s lap.
“Yes,” Catherine smiled through her tears. “Although, Eleanor, I have to admit, when I realized your mother was the queen of Spain, I was quite disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing madre again. I hadn’t seen her since I left for England.”
Eleanor smiled mischievously. “I can’t say I blame you.”
Catherine took the rest of the day to mourn Isabella. She never had time until now because she’d been occupied ruling England and dealing with Harry. It felt good to finally let all of her feelings out.
That night, Mary appeared at Catherine’s bedside on a mission.
“Mama, I’m coming in,” she announced. “You’ve been sad all day, and I don’t want you to be sad anymore.”
“Aw, hija, no te preocupes por mí. It’s my job to worry about you.”
“Never mind,” Mary said, quickly changing the subject. “Tell me about abuela. Was she nice?”
“Abuela … was a bit like tía,” Catherine said carefully. “She was always nice to me though.”
“Is that why tía was kinda mad when we got here?”
Catherine would’ve continued, but Mary was already falling asleep.
The next morning, Catherine gently moved Mary off of her (she’d fallen asleep on Catherine’s chest the night before), slipped out of bed, and went to retrieve her mother’s armor. By some sort of lucky coincidence, Isabella’s armor fit perfectly. She went to the armory to get a sword, then circled back to see if her sparring partner was awake.
The door creaked open a little. “Well, buenos días to you too!” Eleanor laughed. “Give me ten minutes.”
“Okay, you know where to find me.”
In the courtyard, Eleanor found her aunt shadow sparring, her sword slicing the air with precision. Catherine was almost certainly oblivious to the world. Eleanor reluctantly broke her focus.
“Abuela’s armor looks good on you.”
“Oh, hey, thanks!” Catherine smiled. “Ready?”
“Whenever you are.”
As they sparred, Catherine definitely felt lighter on her feet, and she didn’t think it was just because she’d ditched her dress. Somehow, she could feel her mother’s energy flowing through her. As for her goal, it was clearer than ever: she needed to put Harry in his place and make him acknowledge his daughter.
Try as she might, Catherine couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. When she spun around to dodge Eleanor’s blow, she saw her sister.
“Oh, hola Joanna. Qué tal?”
“Nada. Estoy viendo.”
“Por cuanto tiempo?”
“How long is none of your concern.”
Catherine sighed. “Well then why are you here? I really don’t need you in one of your moods right now.”
“Moods? Catherine, relax. Can’t a girl help help her sister out once in awhile? I’ve got skin in this game too, you know. Harry tried to come on to me while I was visiting you in England.”
“Why am I not surprised?”
Joanna laughed. “Eleanor, can I borrow that?”
Eleanor tossed her mother the sword and went to sit down next to Mary.
As they matched each other’s moves — Catherine was impressed, as she didn’t remember Joanna ever picking up a sword — Catherine wondered if she should bring up what happened during their childhood. Well, it would’ve been Joanna’s adolescence, but when it happened didn’t matter much. Catherine wanted to address it while Joanna had been in England, but half an hour wouldn’t scratch the surface of it, and that was all they had had. It was a supervised half hour at that.
Out of the corner of her eye, Catherine saw something fly by and embed itself in a tree. She looked, and it happened to be the same dagger she’d caught Mary with. She turned back and saw Rosa trying to play it cool.
“Rosa, was that you?” Catherine asked.
“… yes,” Rosa couldn’t help but blush.
“Well, I’m impressed. Maybe Mary should learn from you!” Catherine raised her eyebrows and smiled. “Seriously, when did you learn to throw like that?”
“A girl with no prospects has a lot of time on her hands, and it gave me something to do,” Rosa’s blush faded instantly.
What do you mean you’ve got no prospects?” Catherine asked, even though she suspected what her friend meant.
“You know … Stafford.” Rosa said in a low voice only Catherine was able to hear. “I’m damaged goods.”
“Amiga, let me tell you something. It’s not your fault. Edward Stafford is a married man who wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He would’ve done it with anyone. You were just the freshest face he saw. He took advantage of your innocence, and he’s going to answer for it.”
“Well, what did you have in mind?”
“I thought this was your idea! Do I have to come up with everything?” Catherine teased.
“What, do you think I’ve spent all my time thinking about it? I’ve been trying to forget it!” Rosa hissed.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I’d do the same thing if it were me. How about we plan this together?”
Four weeks later, they arrived on English soil. Catherine was ready to get down to business, but when she reined up outside Hampton Court, it was complete chaos. She scanned the battlefield for a friendly face and found one, mounted a little ways away from the fighting: her sister-in-law, Mary.
Mary Tudor hadn’t heard that voice in months, but she’d recognize it anywhere. Even if she didn’t, the flash of red hair she saw in the distance was a dead give away that meant one thing: Catherine was back.
Mary was just as excited as she had been when Catherine showed up when she was nine years old: she had another older sister. She’d always looked up to Catherine, but she hadn’t realized how much until recently. As far as Mary was concerned, Catherine putting her foot down with Harry and actually going back to Spain was absolutely brilliant. Mary spurred her horse into a trot and met Catherine halfway.
“Well, well, well. Look what the gato dragged in.”
“Haha, I’m just glad someone missed me,” Catherine said as she dismounted. “It’s so good to see you, Little Snitch.”
“And there it is! I should’ve known the nickname would come back when you did,” Catherine’s sister-in-law smiled as she released their embrace.
“I guess I can drop the ‘Little’ at this point,” Catherine mused. “You’ve grown up quite a bit since we first met.”
“You never told me tío was a warmonger,” Eleanor said as she rode up. “And you must be the one who saved me from marrying him,” she said, turning her attention to Mary Tudor.
“I guess I am. I never thought of it that way,” Snitch smiled.
“In any case, we’re related because … is mi hermano treating you okay?”
“You don’t need to worry. He’s been nothing but a gentleman. We write each other constantly.” Snitch couldn’t help blushing just a tiny bit.
“You know my offer still stands, right?” Catherine reminded her sister-in-law. “You just say the word, Ellie and I can set him straight.”
“Yeah, I know,” Snitch said, smiling at the memory.
“Hey Aunt Mary!” Catherine grabbed the reins as her daughter hopped off of Lark and ran over to give Snitch a hug.
“Hey kiddo! What’s up?”
“Not much. Spain was fun though.”
“I’m glad,” Snitch smiled. “Now that you’re here, I know someone who’s going to want to meet you. I don’t see her from here though. I’ll be right back. Nobody move.” Snitch rode off toward the battle.
And she came back a few minutes later with someone else, as promised. Someone who was ecstatic to see Catherine.
“Catherine!” Meg, Harry’s middle sister, clumsily dismounted in her excitement. “I never thought I’d see you again!”
“Hi Meg! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?” Catherine hugged her other sister-in-law.
“I think I’d go as far as to say it’s been too long.”
“Agreed. How have you been?”
“I’ve been okay. The weather in Scotland is horrible though. So. Much. Rain.”
“Is England really that much better?”
“Touché,” Meg laughed.
“So, who’re you?” Mary looked curiously up at Meg.
Meg smiled as she knelt to be at Mary’s eye level. “Well, I suppose I would be your Aunt Meg. Younger than your father, but older than your Aunt Mary.”
“When was someone going to tell me Daddy has another sister?” Mary shot an accusatory look over her shoulder at Catherine.
Catherine laughed. “Lo siento. Para ser honesta, yo no pensé que veríamos ella otra vez”
“Well, she’s here now, so I guess I can forgive you,” Mary turned back to Meg. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Meg said.
“Ahem,” Catherine cleared her throat to get everyone’s attention. “Meg, Snitch, would you mind meeting me at Lina’s tonight so I can fill you in on why I’m here?”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure my brother has it coming to him!” Snitch said.
“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. Harry won’t know what hit him.”
“Sus cuñadas parecen simpáticas,” Eleanor said as she, Catherine, and Mary made their way up to the castle.
“Oh, definitely. Snitch has heard me rant, and I know it’s not the best, but having someone listen and understand makes things around here more bearable. And I hadn’t realized how much I missed Meg until I saw her just now.”
“What about me?” Mary caught up and walked between Catherine and Eleanor.
“Oh, come on, you have to know I love you!” Catherine said.
“Oh, por supuesto! I’m just keeping you on your toes.”
“Okay, now you’re just throwing my own words back at me, you little stinker!” Catherine said as they all laughed.
Despite Mary’s protests that she was nowhere near tired, Catherine carried her to her room and tucked her into bed.
“Are you sure I’m not missing anything?” Mary yawned.
“Trust me, it’s super boring grownup stuff. I don’t even want to do it,” Catherine told her.
You have no idea how much I wish I didn’t have to do this, hija, Catherine thought to herself. But I have a feeling it’s the only way you’ll get a fair shot at your full potential.
“And you’ll send Lina to see me in the morning?”
“Of course I will. None of us are going anywhere. Buenas noches,” Catherine’s lips lightly brushed her daughter’s forehead.
“Buenos días,” Lina said as Mary’s eyes fluttered open. “You wanted to see me?”
“Lina!” Mary scrambled out of bed. “Oh my gosh, I missed you so much!
“I missed you too! We’ll have more time to talk later. Right now, your mother wants me to help you get ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Today,” Lina hoped that would be enough of an answer, but she should’ve known it wouldn’t be.
“Mama knows I can get ready by myself. Something’s definitely up.”
“You’ll see soon enough. What do you want to wear?”
Mary looked inside her wardrobe and groaned. “Why do I always have to wear stupid dresses?”
“Like mother, like daughter.” Lina laughed. “Your mother doesn’t like to wear dresses either.”
“Well, does she have to? I mean, she is the queen.”
“Being Queen doesn’t mean doing whatever you want.”
“Oh. That kinda stinks.”
Mary eventually settled on which dress she would wear and took her time getting ready — she figured the longer she took to get ready, the less she’d have to deal with … whatever was happening.
Mary’s nerves weren’t exactly settled when she and Lina ran into Catherine in the hallway. Normally, seeing her mother would have put her at ease, but today … today, she was wearing armor. Mary really didn’t want to think about what that meant.
Catherine knelt to make direct eye contact with her daughter.
“No matter what happens today,” she said matter-of-factly, “I want you to know that I love you.”
“Of course I know that, Mama!” Mary flung her arms around Catherine’s neck and hugged her tightly, barely holding back tears. “I love you, too.”
“Mary, please don’t start crying. If you cry, I’ll cry, and I really don’t want to cry in front of him.”
“You mean Daddy?”
“You know, I’m beginning to think you’re too smart for your own good!” Catherine couldn’t help smiling. “Go ahead and wait for me in the throne room, okay?”
Lina was about to follow Mary when Catherine placed a hand on her shoulder and whispered.
“Recuerdas el plan?”
“Espero que no tengamos usarlo.”
“You and me both, Lina, you and me both.”
Finding herself at her bedroom door, Catherine was beyond humiliated. It was pathetic that her relationship with Harry had gone so far south that she was about to knock on said door as if to ask permission to enter. When no one answered the door, she tried the handle, and let herself in.
“Harry,” she said, not waiting for either her husband or his mistress to acknowledge her, “necesitamos hablar. Meet me in the throne room in five minutes,” she walked over to the chest and threw a shirt and a pair of pants in Harry’s direction. “Oh, Anne, you might as well come too.” Catherine closed the door behind her as she walked out.
“What the bloody hell was that all about?” Anne disentangled herself from Harry and got out of the bed.
“Um, my wife wants to talk to both of us,” Harry rubbed his eyes.
“How the heck should I know?” Harry sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on his clothes. “Just get dressed.”
“Um, excuse me, since when do you tell me what to do?” Anne stepped into her dress and pulled it up.
“I feel like the correct answer is ‘I don’t,’ but I’ll be honest with you right now. I’m scared.”
“Of who? Her?” Anne spat.
“I mean, no one knows what she’s been doing. Anything could happen. Let’s go; I don’t want to keep her waiting.”
In the hallway, Eleanor was getting antsy. “Can I get the first whack at tío? Pretty please?”
“No, Eleanor, we’ve already discussed this. You’re my secret weapon. Stay here and wait for my signal,” Catherine said as she approached.
“Sometimes I forget you’re related to my mother. This is not one of those times.”
“And I’m actually going to take that as a complement because your mother behaved herself for the most part.” Catherine turned to her sisters-in-law. “Ready ladies?”
“Is it weird if I say I was born ready?” Snitch asked. “Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to have the upper hand.”
Catherine smiled. “Well then let’s go play our hand.”
And so they walked in the throne room with their heads held high, Meg flanking Catherine’s left, Snitch flanking her right. Harry sat on his throne looking positively bored, like he had a million better things to do, and he’d rather be doing any of them right now.
“So. You came back.”
“What, were you hoping I wouldn’t? Well, too freaking bad, honey.” Catherine turned her attention to Anne Boleyn. “Devuélveme mi trono, puta.”
It took Harry a minute to realize Anne would need a translation. “Oh! Basically, Catherine wants her throne back and — please don’t stab the messenger — she called you a bitch.”
Anne scoffed. “Your throne? Where exactly have you been for the last three months?”
“Lucky for you, you don’t have to take my word for the answer,” Catherine looked over her shoulder.
On cue, Eleanor came out from the shadow of the hallway. “Ella ha estado en España conmigo.” When she got two blank stares in response, she continued. “Oh! Right, I’m in England, sorry. Auntie’s been in Spain with me,” she put her arm around Catherine’s shoulder.
All the color drained from Harry’s face. He felt like he was going to be sick. The girl — woman? — he almost married was standing in front of him. But Eleanor had become his niece instead. He bolted from his seat, not stopping until he got outside.
“Lina, you were right after all!” Catherine laughed, looking out the window. “How could I let myself fall in love with a chicken?”
“Love makes people stupid sometimes,” Lina hugged Catherine. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too!”
“Um, I can go get him if you want,” Mary spoke up. “I’m the only one here he’s not afraid of,” she ran off without waiting for an answer.
“Daddy, wait!” Mary sprinted into the courtyard and found her father bent over, trying to catch his breath.
“You should come back inside.”
“Did your mother tell you to tell me that?” Harry snapped at her as he stood up straight.
“Um … no. Why would you think that?”
Harry didn’t answer. But he knew that if word got out and people thought he couldn’t control his wife, people would think he was weak, and that was his downfall just waiting to happen.
“Okay,” he told Mary, “I’ll do it for you.”
Mary took his hand and dragged him back inside.
“Alright, I’m back,” Harry said as he resumed his seat. “What exactly do you want, Cathy?”
He knew it would piss Catherine off, but he hadn’t expected Eleanor to come to her defense.
“Um, last I checked, my mother is the only person allowed to call tía that, thank you very much.”
“You know, she’s right,” Catherine said. “And I only let Joanna do it because I know she’s going to do it no matter how many times I tell her not to. So, how about you, you know, don’t call me that.”
“Only if you tell me why you’re here. I know you didn’t come back just because you missed me.”
Catherine ignored him and got to her point. “I want to talk about the line of succession.”
“Why? Did you foresee my imminent death or something?”
Catherine burst out laughing. “Harry, quit being paranoid. A king should never be paranoid.”
“What does succession mean?” Mary whispered to Lina.
“It means you’ll be Queen someday.” Lina whispered back.
“Oh, cool! When?”
“After your father.”
“Okay, well, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, so you’ll have to explain to me how this is relevant.” Harry said.
“Of course,” Catherine replied. “It’s quite simple, really. I want to make sure Mary will actually have the throne someday.”
“And how do you suppose we settle this?” Harry asked.
“Now that, that’s the fun part. I was thinking we’d duel. If you win, whatever devil spawn you have by Anne can have the throne first. But if I win, Mary gets it first.”
“Good. Go get your weapon.”
The easy part was over. Catherine knew it would be easy; Harry never could resist a duel. But that didn’t mean anything for the outcome. Catherine was all too aware that Mary would be watching, and she didn’t want to let her down. She’d already been through so much; she deserved better. They both did.
When Harry came back with his sword, Catherine unsheathed hers. The craftsmanship was unmistakable.
“Hey, is that the sword I got you for …?” Harry trailed off.
“One of our anniversaries,” Catherine finished his thought.
“Do you remember which one?”
“I hardly think it matters at this point.”
“Okay then. Don’t be sentimental.” Harry struck first, but Catherine was ready.
“You’re one to talk. When was the last time you were sentimental about something?”
Harry lunged forward in anger. Catherine backed up just as quickly. Eleanor appeared at her side, primed and ready to get right in the middle.
“Hey, do you mind if I talk while we fight, or whatever this is?” Eleanor asked Harry. “No? Okay good. First of all, you might be the King of England, but that doesn’t automatically make you dignified enough to be my uncle.”
“Well, as the King of England, I’ll remind you that you happen to be in my court at the moment, so I can tell you to keep quiet and let your aunt and I handle this ourselves.” Harry slashed at Eleanor.
“Um, I don’t think that’s how this is going to work. At this point, whatever you do to tía, you’re also doing to Spain, and as the future Queen of Spain, I’ll protect her as much as I feel I need to.”
“God, if I’d known you were going to be this annoying, I wouldn’t have agreed to marry you at all.” Harry spat.
“Well, that makes two of us who didn’t want to get married.” Eleanor said.
While those two were distracted, Catherine sought out Anne.
“Oh, now you want to be civil? Nice try. Why are you doing this anyway?” Anne asked.
“Well, the main thing is making sure my daughter gets the throne, but also, just because I can.”
“You know Harry loves me, right?”
“Oh, did he actually tell you that? That’s cute. I’m really happy for the two of you.”
“Don’t mock me, bitch,” Anne spat at Catherine. “Do you know if he ever really loved you?”
“Okay, that’s fair, but who said I was mocking anyone?” Catherine put her sword down and her hands up. “That’s actually a really good question. Do you want to ask him, or should I?”
“I want to see what he tells you,” Anne smirked.
“Hey, Harry,” Catherine said as she snatched up her sword and made her way over to him.
“Yes?” Harry’s sword met hers, forming an “X”.
“I just have one question.”
“And that would be?” Harry raised his eyebrows.
“Did you ever love me?”
“I’d be careful how you answer that, big brother,” Snitch appeared beside Catherine and raised her own sword.
“Oh really? What are you going to do to me, little sister?” Harry asked.
“I don’t think you want to find out what we can do, Henry,” Meg stared her brother down as she joined Catherine and Snitch.
“Not you too, Meg!” Harry whined. He couldn’t believe his entire family had teamed up against him.
“Oh, you’d better bloody believe it! And actually, I just came over here to say that Arthur would’ve been a better man. Probably a better king, too.”
“Alright, that’s it …”
“Are you seriously jealous of your dead brother right now?” Catherine cut him off before he could do any more physical or verbal damage. “I think you’re forgetting the question.”
“I mean, of course I loved you!” Harry stammered. “I wrote you the love letters, didn’t I?”
“Ah, yes,” Catherine replied. “Those pieces of parchment I tossed in the fire as soon as I realized Arthur hadn’t actually written them, you bastard!”
Harry leaned in close to Catherine, pushing their swords against her chest. “The only bastard in this room is Mary.”
After that, all Catherine saw was red. Adrenaline surged through her body, and she used it to push her sword against Harry’s chest, driving him backwards toward the dais. When he fell against the steps, Catherine pointed her sword at his throat.
“Tía,” Eleanor sheathed her sword and slowly walked over, gently gripping Catherine by both shoulders, her voice barely above a whisper. “I really don’t think you want to do this right now. Remember what you said? You’re not your mother.”
Catherine took a few deep breaths to calm herself, at last sheathing her sword. Eleanor helped Harry to his feet, pulled him close, and whispered in his ear.
“If I ever hear of you mistreating my family again, I’ll come back here with my entire army behind me.”
“Okay, okay. Mary gets the throne. Are you happy now?” Harry asked Catherine.
“You know, Henry, I’d actually answer that if you weren’t using such a condescending tone.” Catherine replied. “I think we’re done here,” she turned to walk out of the room.
“Oh. My. God!” Harry shouted. “Were you this dramatic with Arthur?”
“Henry, you know your brother and I didn’t have much time together.”
“I don’t even care about what you may have done with him anymore. Just go.”
Eleanor waited until they were properly in the hallway to break the silence.
“Wow, I never knew you knew how to push buttons like that, tía. Dare I say I’m impressed?”
“It’s all about knowing whose buttons you push and when you can push them,” Catherine said.
“Is it bad that I’m happy?” Mary asked.
“Wait, what?” Catherine stopped walking, as did everyone else. She got down on Mary’s level before she continued. “What makes you say that?”
“Well, being Queen someday is nice, I guess. But I mean, all I really wanted was for you and Daddy to kiss and make up and stay together.”
“Okay, now you’re allowed to make me cry,” Catherine teased. “I’m not even sure how I feel right now, but I do know that whatever you’re feeling right now is okay, and no one should tell you how to feel or tell you to change your feelings about something. And if anyone does try to mess with your feelings, you just tell them to go home and sleep it off, because they’ve obviously had too much to drink,” Catherine winked at Mary as she stood up.
Later that day, Catherine and Rosa found Edward Stafford outside the tavern relieving himself, of all things. At first glance, it was disgusting, but it wouldn’t stop them. They had him cornered; it was now or never.
“Hello, Lord Stafford,” Catherine cleared her throat.
“Oh, hello Your …” Stafford didn’t have time to make himself presentable before he felt something pierce his side. His knees buckled immediately, and he sank to the ground, groaning in pain as he rolled onto his back.
“Remember me?” Rosa walked closer to stand over him. “Because this,” she kicked the dagger with her foot, “is for what you did to me.” Stafford winced.
Stafford managed to sit himself up, leaning against the wall, before Catherine got in his face.
“And this,” Catherine turned the dagger in his side as if she were winding up a toy, “is for messing with my friend.”
“No wonder Harry left you, you crazy bitch!” Stafford spat a mouthful of blood everywhere.
“Oh, please,” Catherine rolled her eyes as she stood up. “I left him.”