The following is an exclusive excerpt from Day 16 of Meg Cabot’s continued chronicle of Princess Mia of Genovia dealing with the coronavirus’ effect on her country. For more of Mia’s diary, visit Cabot’s blog.
- Royal Bedroom -
The prime minister called. “I have bad news,” she said.
“Well, you’re really not going to like this one,” she said. “You’re being sued.”
“I know. The Genovian Hotel and Restaurant Association is suing me for shutting down all of their businesses down due to the virus.” I looked down at my fingernails, which, since I haven’t seen a manicurist in so long, I’d gone back to biting, so they had returned to the state in which they’d been back when I was a teenager. “What else is new? The royal attorneys are working on it.”
The Prime Minister surprised me, however, by replying, “No, this isn’t about that lawsuit. This is a new one. This one is from a small, family-run Genovian bakery.”
“A bakery?” I was shocked. “But why would a bakery sue me? Bakeries are considered essential businesses. They’ve all been allowed to stay open!”
“That isn’t why they’re suing you. They’re suing you because they say your closing the country to tourists, including cruise ships, is adversely affecting their sales. They say that last year at this time, when the ports and roads to Genovia were open, they were making 1,600% more in sales of croissants and éclairs than they are now.”
“Well, how can they blame me for that?” I exploded, startling Michael and the twins, who were building a pillow fort nearby. “I’m not the one who unleashed a deadly virus on Genovia! I’m trying to protect Genovia from it! Pardon me if Covid has a nasty habit of being extremely contagious on cruise ships! You’d think these bakers would show a little gratitude to me for FORBIDDING cruise ships from coming here and bringing it to all of us!”
“Yes, well, that does not seem to be the attitude of the Paninis.”
“Wait a minute.” I could not believe what I was hearing. “These people own a bakery and their last name is Panini?”
“It appears so.”
“This has to be a joke. This lawsuit is some sort of cruel prank by the paparazzi just to torment me!”
“It does not seem to be. Monsieur Panini says his family has owned a bakery here in Genovia for over six centuries, and it is only since you shut down the country that his business has suffered irreparable financial harm—”
“It’s only since I shut down the country that Covid has existed!” I thundered. “And anyway, what about the Spanish flu? You can’t tell me his business wasn’t affected by that! Let’s find my grandmother, she was probably around then, I bet she remembers this Monsieur Panini and his alleged bakery, she can probably tell us. Or maybe the Bubonic Plague years. It sounds like his family was around then. How well were his croissants selling then? Let’s consult the royal tax ledgers! Did his ancestors sue my ancestors for shutting down the country during the plaque?”
“Well, Genovia didn’t have cruise ships during the plague,” the Prime Minister said. “And, anyway, it isn’t all bad news.”
“Oh, really?” I asked, as Michael got up from all the pillows the twins had buried him under and came to rub my shoulders, as he could tell I was having a very stressful day. But not even his manly hands could not rub away my anxiety. “The people of my country are suing to get me to open up again to cruise ships and tourists, the exact things that will bring more cases of the virus here, and you think there’s good news?”
“Yes,” the Prime Minister said. “The Royal Genovian Academy’s graduating Class of 2020 would like you to give their commencement address. Of course they’re only having a cyber commencement due to the virus, but they’d be honoured if—”
I stood up, inadvertently flinging away Michael’s hands. “I’ll do it!”
“Oh.” The Prime Minister sounded surprised. “You will? To be quite honest, I thought you’d say no, since you already have so much on your plate. And I do think you should know that apparently you were not their first choice. They asked Harry Styles first, and then some individuals I’d never heard of called Desus Nice and the Kid Mero. But they were all unavailable.”
“Of course. Still, I’m happy to do it.”
“How wonderful. I’m sure they’ll be pleased.”
“Thanks. And do get back to me about the baker if there are any developments.”
“I will,” said the Prime Minister. “Of course.” Then we said our goodbyes and hung up.
“What is it?” Michael asked. “What’s going on?”
“Mommy, mommy,” cried the twins. “Help us build our fort!”
“Not now, darlings,” I said. “Mommy has something very important to do for the good of the country. I’m writing a commencement speech,” I told Michael. “The Royal Genovian Academy’s graduating class of 2020 has asked me!”
“Oh,” he said. “Well, that’s great. Have you ever written a commencement speech before?”
“Not that I can remember. I’ve been asked, of course, many times, but I’ve always been so busy attending UN sessions and opening hospital wings and whatnot, so I’ve never had a chance actually to give one.”
But we live on a different planet now. The UN is open only to virtual sessions and while many new hospitals are opening up, they aren’t wasting time with grand openings or anything like that.
So what to say? What to say to the young people of 2020, heading out into such a vastly different world than it was a mere two months ago, much less than when I graduated?
And how am I even supposed to think while stuck inside with all this joyful toddler prattle and a newly bearded prince consort, distracting me? Think. I’ve got to think!