“I still have one class between now and spring break,” Alexander said while packing an overnight bag.
“I have three, but I really don’t care about any of them.” Noah shrugged.
“Right, school, hadn’t thought of that.” Mark looked around at his three college roommates. “What about you, Drew?”
“I’ll get out of them. We have a family emergency.” Drew blinked his eyes innocently. “I can talk my way out of anything.”
“My father is sending a car late this afternoon and the plane leaves around dinnertime.” Mark sat on the edge of his bed, contemplating. “That gives us most of the day to talk with our professors, explain the situation, and meet back here in plenty of time.”
Alexander sat on his bed across from Mark with a stern expression. “How come you didn’t tell us your family was rich?”
“Yeah, and what’s with all this ‘your highness’ crap?” Noah leaned his shoulder against the doorframe and folded his arms across his chest. “That’s kind of a rude way to talk to your dad.”
“My father is such a good man,” Mark said, feeling a lump in his throat, not wanting to get emotional. “I’m thankful he allowed me to remain in the U.S. when he returned to rule in his father’s place when grandfather became ill.”
“Wait, what?” Drew sat down hard. “Is your father a…”
“King? More like Crown Prince,” Mark explained. “Our kingdom was torn apart during a civil war in the Middle East and my grandfather, Prince Marcos Sayid of Madain Saleh took asylum with his best friend, who had moved to Cancun. But his father, King Sayid of Madain Saleh is still alive and ruling, barely.”
“What part of the Middle East?” Alexander asked.
“Al Madinah region of Saudi Arabia.” Mark impressed himself that he remembered a little of the stories his grandfather had told. He had never been to the region and knew very little about his monarchy. “A little kingdom called Madain Saleh.”
“So… you’re, like, a Saudi prince?” Noah lifted his chin in haughty acknowledgement.
“There are many, many Saudi princes,” Mark said, growing uncomfortable with this conversation but knowing it needed to happen before they left for Cancun. “I do not consider myself to be one of them. I was born and raised in the United States of America and my heritage means little to me.”
Even as the words rolled off his tongue, he knew them to be false. He cared a great deal about his grandfather’s kingdom of origin and his lineage and was very proud of the great men from whom he descended. Mark cleared his throat, fighting back emotions he hadn’t let flow through his mind in several years.
“Anyway, the people who followed my grandfather thought of him as their crown prince even though they had fled their home because of persecution. When my grandfather grew ill, he named my father Crown Prince, and my father spent much of the past ten years in Mexico, serving alongside his people.”
“That’s deep, man,” Alexander said, then chuckled. “Should I start calling you Your Highness?”
“Many people will address me that way while we’re travelling,” Mark said, realizing Alexander had probably been joking. “You would be wise to stand to my right and slightly behind me. You will be seen as my most trusted advisor.”
“I was sorta kidding.” Alexander gulped. “But… okay… Your Highness.”
“What about us?” Noah sounded jealous.
“You will also be seen as my advisors,” Mark explained. “But you should be aware that Alexander is my best friend and will therefore be at my right hand. If this is uncomfortable for you, you are welcome to stay. I should not have assumed you would drop everything and follow me. My apologies.”
“Now you’re startin’ to sound like a prince,” Drew said. He rose from his bed to reach over and punch Mark on the arm. “But we’ll follow anywhere you lead.”
“I very much appreciate that.” Mark also rose and patted Drew on the back. “We’re going to have a great spring break in Cancun.”
“Awesome dude,” Drew said.
“Although, I don’t advise punching me on the arm again, even in jest. I’d hate for you to be arrested.” Mark suppressed a grin as he grabbed his jeans and t-shirt from the corner of his bed and escaped to be the first for a shower.
That time he had been joking, but his grin faltered as he realized there may be some truth to his statement.
By late that evening they would be settled into his grandfather’s palace. Mark felt a chill travel up his spine, sensing his life was about to change.