“Right now, we’ll both be seated as we practice, but at the actual coronation we will kneel before our advisors,” Benjamin explained. He pulled a chair over from his wife’s dressing table and sat a few feet away from where Mark sat at his father’s. They faced outward so that Mark was unable to see what was happening in the mirror.
Hazel took a seat on the nearby sofa that extended his parent’s suite into an informal living room space. Her eyes were wide but resigned and curious. She took a long breath and blew it out slowly. Mark returned his focus to the men in front of him.
“Te mostrare como hacer esto,” Pedro said.
Mark hated to do this, but he and Alex needed to fully understand this and their limited fluency in Spanish was going to make an already stressful situation nearly impossible. “Is there any way we can do this in English?”
“Si,” Pedro said, then nodded over to Benjamin. “Les explicas.”
“Yes, I’ll explain the steps as Pedro demonstrates,” Benjamin said.
Pedro ceremoniously opened the large velvet-covered wooden box and reverently lifted the beautiful golden, jewel adorned crown from within. Almost floating the crown over to Benjamin, Pedro gradually raised it to the level of Benjamin’s head.
“There are no words that need to accompany the placing or removing of the crown,” Benjamin explained. “Just a sincere reverence.”
Benjamin bowed just slightly to offer the top of his head, and Pedro rested the crown in place. There were no clips or fasteners and yet the crown seemed to stay in place firmly as if it had been created just to fit him. Mark knew that wasn’t true. He wasn’t sure how many generations the crown had passed from one prince to the next, but he could almost feel his ancestry hanging in the air like a physical presence.
His father lifted his head and gazed up at Pedro with an expression that could only be described as surreal brotherly love. Mark wondered if he and Alex would have that significant of a connection.
“The removal is merely a reversal of that process,” Benjamin said softly. “Now this process will usually occur facing a mirror with you seated at your dressing table, but for the coronation we will be facing our advisors.
“The only other time you will be facing another person is during your wedding ceremony when you, Mark, not your advisor, will lift the crown from its box and place it onto your bride’s head, sealing your connection to one another and officially coronating her as your princess.
“Oh, I correct myself, this will also occur again if King Sayid passes away during your lifetime and you have a coronation to be crowned King.
“I correct myself again. This will occur again when your son is named Crown when he comes of age.”
“How old is that?” This had come out of left field for Mark. He was determined to make sure his oldest son was aware the coronation would happen at such a young age.
“Twenty, just like you,” Benjamin said. “This should have been done closer to your last birthday.”
“So, the coronation really has nothing to do with the death of my grandfather?” Mark asked. “Then why are we having the coronation as part of his funeral?”
“Convenience, mainly,” Benjamin said. “The family and community are already gathered. When I had my coronation, there were very few people in attendance.”
“Father, am I to understand that you have been Crown my entire life and I didn’t know about it?” A tear slipped down each of Mark’s cheeks and he couldn’t keep track of how many startling revelations had been dumped on him in the past week. He vowed never to do this to his children.
“That is correct, my son. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”
“You should have.” Mark turned to face forward again, keeping his eyes focused on his best friend, who was about to become much more.
“Seguir?” Pedro asked.
“Si,” Benjamin replied. “Let’s continue. Like I said, this is a reversal of the placing.”
Benjamin lowered his head and Pedro gently lifted the crown and almost floated it away and turned to where Alex stood before Mark. The four of them were close enough to one another that Pedro didn’t have to take even a step toward Alex, merely reached the crown forward and Alex awkwardly lifted it from Pedro’s hands and turned to Mark.
As Mark had seen his father do, he lowered his head slightly and Alex placed the crown on Mark’s head. The heavy gold didn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable as Mark feared it would. Similar to how the crown looked on his father, it seemed to fit as if it had been created just for him.
Mark was tempted to turn and look in the mirror but didn’t want to see himself in shorts and a t-shirt. This was almost disrespectful to the crown and all it represented to practice in such casual attire. He would take the time to view himself in a mirror later that evening while wearing a formal suitcoat.
“Now at the end of the evening, you will accompany Mark to his suite and remove his crown to place it in its box and then into its leather bag,” Benjamin said. “At that point, the bag will be tucked into a secluded location just inside his closet.”
“What if Alex is on vacation or something?” Mark asked.
“There will be very few times when you need to wear your crown,” his father explained. “Only during formal events and those are planned well in advance. The two of you will rarely be apart anyway. In a rare exception, you are allowed to remove your own crown.”
“Okay,” Mark said.
“Of course, once you’re married your wife will be trained how to perform this routine,” His father continued. “Usually at times when you are wearing your crown, she will also be wearing hers and you’ll remove hers for her. This is often an affectionate moment and the two of you will probably have a very romantic night after that.”
“Oh my gosh, dad, stop.” Mark felt his neck heat with embarrassment, and he shook his head, attempting to remove the thought that his father was describing relations with his mother. His thoughts then turned to Hazel and he didn’t dare even glance her way. “Can we just finish this practicing so I can go get ready for my grandfather’s funeral?”
“Alex, you can now remove Mark’s crown and place it in the velvet box.” Benjamin cleared his throat and got serious again. “You won’t do this until Mark is ready to remove his formal clothes later this evening. The crown will stay in place after the coronation through the formal reception.”
Mark leaned his head slightly forward and Alex carefully removed the crown, transferring it back to its box and lifting the box into the leather bag and nesting the smaller velvet box on top.
“Nicely done, gentlemen.” Benjamin stood and reached his hand out to Pedro, grasping him in a familial way, then turned to Alex and shook his hand as well. When he came to Mark, he gathered his son into his arms, and they held one another for a long time. Mark’s head almost rested on his dad’s shoulder like a little boy clinging to his daddy, which wasn’t far from the truth.
When they pulled away from one another, they looked each other in the eye, man to man.
“You are going to be an amazing leader,” Benjamin said. “Whether as King of Medain Saleh, or an upstanding citizen of your community. Be not afraid, my son.”
“Thanks, dad,” Mark said. Turning to face his friends he realized they’d all left the room, probably out of respect for their father and son moment.
“Go get dressed and gather those buddies of yours,” Benjamin said, patting Mark on the shoulder. “Let’s get ready for the funeral.”