“Father’s going to work in his office today, okay, Precious?”
Henry set the breakfast of pancakes and fruit salad down in front of the little girl. She pulled her plate closer and nodded. “Okay, Father.”
“That means you need to try not to make much noise. Stay inside. And you get a choice: either keep the curtains closed or keep the scales off.”
Itazu nodded. “Yes, Father,” she stuffed spoonfuls of strawberries into her mouth.
“You know where to find me if you need anything though, right, Precious?”
The girl looked up at her father with her best raised eyebrow, which was just two raised eyebrows and a scrunched up nose. “I’m eight. Not three.”
Henry smiled, “I know Precious. I bought you a new book. It’s on the bookshelf.”
The girl looked excited and sped up her eating.
Henry sat down at his desk in his office. He left the door ajar, so he’d hear any mess Itazu got into. Starting of the day’s paperwork, he was rather far behind, mostly due to one of the other advisor’s bad penmanship.
At ten am, he was on track and only had three hours of work left before lunch.
At eleven am he was finishing signing some important papers and was very happy with progress.
At twelve o’clock, he was looking forward to lunch in an hour’s time as he prepared stamps.
At three o’clock he was swearing in his head because he’d somehow lost track of time and Itazu must be absolutely starving and he hadn’t even finished his work.
He pushed the papers aside and made his way up the stairs to the living room. He expected Itazu to be in the kitchen and making a mess by now. Thankfully, she was on the floor near the bookshelf.
Her new book abandoned as she looked through an old photo album.
Henry sat down next to her. “Hey Precious, I’m sorry I took so long.”
Itazu smiled. “It’s okay. I finished my new book, though.”
Henry nodded. “Does that mean you expect a new one?”
She nodded before showing Henry the photo album. She pointed at one of the photos of him with King Philip. “That’s you.”
Henry nodded. “Yeah.”
“And who’s he?”
Henry smiled. “That’s King Philip, my boss and your king.”
“Only my king?”
“No, no, everybody’s king.”
“Oh,” she sounded disappointed. Probably at having to share. She passed to the next page, “that’s my mum.” She pointed to a photo of Henry. On his right, with her arm around him, was Charlotte, Itazu’s mother. On the left Elizabeth, the ex-head of security.
Henry nodded. “That’s right. That photo was taken at the palace, where I was working before you came along.”
Itazu nodded. “How are photos made, Father?”
Henry frowned. “Well, I don’t know too much. Basically, the cameras are very advanced machines that capture light and print it on paper.”
Itazu nodded. “Why do you have so many photos? What are they for?”
Henry smiled. “Photos are… they’re memories. A way to freeze time and capture a moment you were happy and want to remember later on. It’s a way I can still be with people who aren’t with me anymore,” he flipped through the pages. “It makes distances smaller and…” he paused, looking at his daughter.
She was watching the photographs with interest.
“They’re very important to me.”
Itazu smiled up at him.
“And I want more.” He stood up, “after lunch we’re going to get a photoshoot done!”
Itazu’s eyes brightened as she smiled so widely her fangs were visible. She jumped to her feet. “You’ve finished all your work for the day?”
“Yeah,” Henry lied, picking her up and twirling around, “and I want to spend the rest of my day making memories with my favourite little girl.” He kissed her on the forehead and placed her on the kitchen island.
Itazu laughed and smiled and to Henry she was the most beautiful thing in the world. He realised there was no way the camera could capture this moment, but if it caught just a tenth of it, it would be priceless.
After lunch, Henry pulled out his very best suit and one of Itazu’s pretty puffy white dresses. He put the both of them in a travelling case and prepared Crusade for travel.
“We’re taking the horsey?”
“His name is Crusade Precious, and yes, we’re travelling by horse.”
Itazu nodded. “Hello Croissant,” she greeted the horse.
Henry smiled. “Crusade.”
Itazu nodded, stroking the horse. “Good Croissant.”
The horse lowered his head further down so Itazu could reach easier.
“Yeah, good Croissant.”
They arrived at the photography studio and despite not having a reservation, the woman at the counter, the owner, recognised Henry immediately and made time for the two. She led them into the changing rooms.
Henry put on his suit and helped Itazu into her puffy white dress. The owner came in.
“Stunning!” she smiled at Itazu who did a pose. “How about we do your hair, Sweetie?”
Itazu nodded excitedly.
Henry sat using the straighteners to get his own hair how he liked it. The owner used the curlers to turn Itazu’s wavy hair into perfect little lockets.
Itazu looked fascinated by the process and played with her new lockets of hair to get a feel for the texture. When the owner put the curlers down to go sort out the equipment, Itazu reached for the curler, touching the hot metal.
“Precious,” Henry put on a stern expression. “We don’t touch hot things in public, do we?”
Itazu smiled. “Sorry,” she continued to play with her hair with her fingers.
Soon the owner came back. “Everything is ready! Come, come!”
The upcoming photoshoot was one of those family days out Henry would never forget. The backdrops were beautiful, and Itazu was having loads of fun going through the props. She also got a more detailed explanation of how photographs worked.
At the end of it, Henry had a whole new photo album in his hands. In every photo, Itazu had the cutest of smiles. And in every one, Henry looked stupid, his eyes on his daughter, a goofy smile. They were perfect.
“Can I order a couple more copies?” he spoke to the owner.
“Of course. Where shall I send the extra copies?”
“To the king.” One for Philip and another for safekeeping in his quarters at the palace. He couldn’t bear for something to happen to these photos. They were priceless.
A good thing, seeing as it wouldn’t be long after the cottage would burn down.