Keeping the door to his suite locked, even when awake and performing meaningless tasks such as packing to fly back to America, had become commonplace. From the tour to visit the other princes, Mark was aware the king wasn’t used to knocking on a locked door.
Mark hurried over to swing open the door and welcome his great-grandfather into his suite.
“I realize you’re flying out in a few hours, but I wanted to show you something before you go,” King Sayid said, stepping tentatively into the suite. He seemed nervous. His demeaner had changed from three days ago when he had confidently barged into the offices of his grandson and great-grandsons. His take-charge attitude was subdued.
“Please, come in,” Mark replied. “What did you want to show me?”
“Bring me your crown please,” the king said.
“My c—crown?” Mark’s shoulders sagged and his heart plummeted. He thought he’d had a good rapport with his great-grandfather, that the king wanted him to wear the crown that represented his successor. Disappointment pulled at his mind and he realized how much he’d been looking forward to returning to his homeland to take his rightful place on the throne.
Alex retrieved the heavy leather bag from the closet and handed the bag to Mark. They held each other’s gaze briefly and Mark could tell Alex felt the pull and disappointment as well.
Mark reluctantly held out the bag to his great-grandfather obediently and bowed his head with reverence.
“Set it on the table, would you, son?” the king asked. “Let’s sit for a minute.”
Sayid sat on one of the leather sofas in the small grouping that formed a square around a low table, upon which Mark rested the leather bag. He and Alex each took a seat on one of the other sofas and waited.
“There is a special feature to your crown you might not be aware of,” the king said, reaching to open the bag and carefully remove the largest velvet box. He rested the box on the table next to the leather bag and carefully opened the lid. With slightly shaking hands, Sayid lifted the heavy crown from its nest and turned the ornament upside down.
Mark cocked his head when his great-grandfather slid his fingers along the underside of the crown, unclipping a piece of the base and separating off a simple band of gold, elegant and ornate but without the jewels and height. A crown within a crown.
“Whenever you have need to dress in anything finer than a casual suit, you should always wear a crown. But the crown doesn’t have to be your full crown unless you are participating in a very formal gathering. If the occasion warrants a tuxedo or involves upper level governmental affairs, your full crown is required, but most any other formal occasion can justify separating out the simple band and understating your title.”
The relief that washed over his heart was almost palpable. Mark heard Alex let out a long sigh.
“Let’s see how this looks on you,” Sayid said, raising from the sofa as if a spritely young man rather than an 82-year-old. “Come sit at your grandfather’s dressing table.”
Mark rose from the sofa and followed over to his deceased grandfather’s antique dressing table, cautiously sitting on the bench. He met his great-grandfather’s gaze in the mirror.
With nimble hands, Sayid rested the simple band of gold on Mark’s head and Mark nearly gasped looking at himself in the mirror. Just like the first time he’d seen himself wearing a crown, the vision had a profound effect on his perception of himself as a man and a prince.
“Alexander, could you bring the rest of the crown over here and I’ll show you both how to put the two pieces back together.”
Alex did as he was asked and tried to hand the larger crown of gold to Sayid but the king lifted the band of gold off Mark’s head and turned to Alex.
“Hold the crown carefully upside down and slip the smaller band back into place,” he explained while simultaneously demonstrating the move. No clips or fasteners held the two pieces together and yet they seemed to magnetize themselves and become one again. “Now, let’s try this again.”
Mark almost held his breath as his great-grandfather stepped behind him and held his gaze in the mirror. He steeled himself for what was about to happen, instinctively knowing there was more symbolism in this one simple gesture than any formal coronation ceremony.
With only one other witness in a nondescript private suite of his palace, His Majesty, King Sayid of Mada’in Saleh rested the full crown of gold onto the head of his great-grandson, His Highness, Prince Marcos Sayid. No words were required.