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Queen of Hearts

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Saturday, March 30th

Standing along the dance floor of the ballroom at the Ritz, Rose Tyler clapped harder than any other guest as the newlywed couple shared a kiss, still holding the cake-cutting knife.  The groom, thirty-seven year old Adam Mitchell, had been Bad Wolf Matchmaking’s first client five years earlier.  Rose had been the one to find him Sophie, and her happiness at their joy was matched only by their mothers’.

His happiness with Rose’s work was what put her on the map, slowly but steadily building a client base full of happy customers one introduction at a time.  An endorsement from the Mayor’s son was second only to that of the Queen herself, and in some circles, even more powerful.

Another happily married couple, she thought with satisfaction, sipping from her champagne glass and watching them sway together, lost to the world.  

The mother of the groom came up next to her, gushing, “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m so glad you did!”

Rose smiled, blushing slightly.  “They were made for each other, I just introduced them,” she demurred.

“You underestimate your talents, Ms. Tyler,” Mrs. Mitchell disagree with a laugh.  “My son is very picky!”

“Oh, I know!”

Movement from the far side of the ballroom caught her eye, and after a moment of searching she spotted her assistant waving her over.

“I’m sorry, I have to-”

The mother of the groom waved her off, and she edged around the dancefloor to where Mel stood at their table.  “What’s up?”

“Well done,” her friend toasted her with her own champagne.  “They seem terribly happy.”  Their glasses clinked together, the fine tinkling sound of expensive china one Rose never tired of hearing.  It was a symbol to her of how she had made it, had clawed her way tooth and nail from being a chav on an Estate to being a guest at the same wedding as the Mayor.

“I’d like to think so.”  Rose smiled, watching Adam teasingly smear cake over his bride’s mouth before kissing it away.  “He deserves it – they both do.”

Mel hummed approvingly.  “You know, they call you the Queen of Hearts.”

She did know that, but the concept was so foreign that she had to deflect.  “Because heads roll when I don’t get my way?  Is that a critique of my abilities as a boss?” she shot back teasingly, cheeks pinkening.  “Come on, you know I don’t care about any of that. I promised myself that my main goal would always be to make others happy.  As long as I’m doing that I’m satisfied, and if the business is doing well… that’s merely a plus.”

“Of course,” Mel mocked.  “The fabulous reputation and business you’ve built mean nothing.  You’re really Mother Theresa.”

Rose made a show of glancing around covertly before leaning in.  “You want to know the truth?” she whispered.

Mel nodded, a skeptical eyebrow arched.

“It’s really all about the wedding cake.”  She burst into laughter at her assistant’s exasperated sigh even as she accepted a slice from a waiter.  “Thank you.”  It was actually the intricacy of the dessert she loved, seeing how it reflected the couple as a sign of how in tune they were.  By now, she could judge the staying power of a marriage by details of the ceremony and decorations without even meeting the couple.  In this case, it was a tasteful melding of two people’s desires, one that suggested they would last the course.

She was rarely wrong.

“Why do I put up with you?” Mel asked rhetorically, taking her own and digging in.  “Nothing better to do on a Saturday night, I suppose.”

“See?”  Rose pointed her fork at her.  “Stick with me kid, and you’ll be set.”

Mel shook her head, laughing.  “I’m only a year younger than you!  And should be making bank in Silicon Valley, thank you.”

“Oh, come on!  What nobler profession is there than helping people find true love and happiness?  Without it, the world is liable to stop turning.”

“As a realist, I have to disagree there,” Mel said sternly, before grinning.  “But as a fellow romantic, I wholeheartedly concur.  I just wish I could find you somebody.  I’m no good at the actual ‘matchmaking’, just the statistics and managing our software,” she lamented.

“You’re better than you think you are,” Rose reassured her, setting down her empty plate at their table and grabbing her purse and jacket.  “That’s why we’re such a good team.  You help me sort through the Wrongs to find Miss, or Mister, Right.  I couldn’t do it on my own.  Now, I have a very important appointment, so I’ve got to run, but you stay and have fun.”

Mel sat at her own spot, still finishing off her slice with one hand as she pulled out her mobile with the other, likely to text her boyfriend she would soon be leaving.  “Hot date?  Please say yes.”

“I do, as a matter of fact.  Tall, handsome, rich.”  Rose pulled her hair out from her collar, fighting back a smirk as Mel’s face went from excitement to exasperation.  After seven years of friendship and working together, the other woman knew her too well.

“Sure, of course, leave the beautiful wedding with lots of handsome, single blokes to read Pride & Prejudice for the thousandth bloody time.  I don’t understand you, honestly.  Doesn’t the Mayor have another son?”

Rose threw her head back laughing; they’d had some variation of this discussion a thousand times.  “Where’s the fun in life without a little mystery?”

“You’ve dedicated your life to finding love for everyone else – when will you start searching for yourself?”

“Like we tell every potential client – true love will come when you’re ready, and you just have to be open to it.  It can be found in the strangest of places; all you have to do is look.  I’m not looking right now.”

Leaving Mel sighing and rolling her eyes, Rose slipped out of the ballroom, thinking about the warm bath that awaited her.

What more could someone need to come home to?


Bursting out into the fresh air, Rose beamed at the first hint of spring.  Birds were chirping, the sun breaking through in spots, and forgoing a cab she started down the pavement on foot.  Spring was her favorite season – to her it always symbolized new birth, a fresh start, and not just because it meant her birthday was close.  Spring meant the chill of winter was behind them; the daylight hours were lengthening, flowers on the cusp of blooming.

It was also, coincidentally, the end of the post-holiday slump for business as people emerged from their hibernations and sought a new partner to enjoy the improving weather with.

Spring meant possibility.

She only made it ten or so steps down the sidewalk before giggling behind her caught her attention, and she glanced over her shoulder to see three preteens huddled together beneath the hotel entrance awning and watching her.  “Hi?”

“Are you the matchmaker lady?” the taller of the two girls blurted, blushing as her friends tittered.

“I am.”  She turned back to them, sticking her hands in her pockets as she approached.  Her ‘hot date’ was one of her own making, and she had all the time in the world.

The second girl, a brunette to her friend’s blonde, elbowed the first girl.  “This is Farrah, she’s got a question.”

“Shoot.”

“Do you ever take teenagers as clients?”  The blonde, Farrah, blushed harder, and Rose swallowed a laugh.

“You’re a little young for that, aren’t you?  Tell you what, what’s the situation?”

The youngest, a boy, spoke up, and was clearly a brother to the brunette.  “She likes a boy who doesn’t know she exists!”

Rose did laugh at that, shaking her head.  “I’m sure he does, but you’re trying to catch his eye?”

The brunette nodded eagerly.  “There’s a spring dance in a few weeks, and she wants him to ask her!”

She hummed in thought for a moment.  “Are you in any classes together? You could ask him to study with you.”

The three burst into giggles again, the blonde smiling shyly.  “That’s awesome!  Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome sweetie, good luck!”  With a final smile for the teens she continued heading for home, taking in the bustle of the city she loved.

If only it were always that easy… 


Sunday, March 31st

Ian, King of Gallifrey, had never been more pleased in his life to be on a conference call than he was when his sister stormed into his office, Sarah Jane trailing helplessly behind, powerless to stop the Princess Royal from doing… anything.

Shrugging innocently in the face of her wrath, he pointed to the desktop phone he was using to indicate that he was busy.  To his dismay, she merely crossed her arms and glowered across the desk, not even bothering to sit.

He groaned softly as he recognized the writing on the wall, quickly and skillfully wrapping the conversation up within a minute – the longer Donna steamed, the worse it would be.  Waving Sarah off, he bit the bullet.

“What?”

“What?!” Donna bellowed, and he was ashamed that he jumped.

“Donna-”

“Don’t what me,” she roared, “what the hell did you do?  You screwed the pooch, that’s what you did!  Not only did you screw it, you fucked it to death!  The pooch is dead!”

Rising from his chair he came around the desk against his better judgement, glancing nervously towards the door and thinking wistfully of his bodyguards – of course, they were terrified of her too.  Not that he’d ever seen her this mad before.  “I don’t understand-”

“You don’t understand?!”  Donna’s eyes flashed.  “I don’t understand!  I just went to get my future sister-in-law for a dress fitting – only to find out she’s not here anymore!”

“Ah, that,” he played dumb, as if he hadn’t been bracing himself for this.  “Yeah, I sacked her.  I mean, she’s gone.  The wedding’s off.”

“Why is the wedding off?” she screeched.

The short fuse on his temper was quickly fraying, and he endeavored to soothe her before they ended up fighting in earnest.  “Donna, you need to shut up and calm down.  I can’t talk to you like this.”

She lunged for him, snarling like a wounded animal, and he caught her by the shoulders.  “Start bloody talking right fucking now, Ian Reginald.”

“Sit down.”  Ian forced her down onto one of the visitor chairs in front of his desk, making sure she would stay before taking the other seat.  “Now, shut up and listen.  I called it off yesterday after I caught her berating Luke.  I’m sorry, but that woman will not be the Queen of Gallifrey, nor the mother of my children.  I don’t see why we’re going through with any of this, and I can’t just abdicate now in favor of you.  Everyone would be much happier that way.”

His sister huffed, still clearly displeased, but she no longer looked ready to breathe fire and he considered that a win.  “I know she wasn’t… ideal-” she gave him a warning look when he snorted- “but we’re quickly running out of time.  You’re the son, Ian- you are king.  You can’t run away from that any longer, I won’t allow it.  This isn’t what I want for me, or Lee and the kids.  At Lungbarrow House we have a chance of keeping them normal; I don’t want them growing up in the palace being treated like little gods as we were.  I may have accepted I might succeed you, but it for damn sure won’t be for a lack of trying not to on my part.”

“She was awful,” he said plaintively, “not fit at all.  The Queen must rule by diplomacy and grace; not by barking orders and flirting with every man she meets.”  He raised his eyebrow, but the censure went over her head.

“That still leaves us without a queen five weeks before the Coronation.  This morning Rassilon suggested I be fitted for the regalia as well, ‘just in case’.”

Ian flapped a hand dismissively.  “I’ll figure it out.” He had no idea how, but something would come to him; it usually did.

Donna pursed her lips.  “I don’t think you can fly by the seat of your pants on this one.”

“All I need is a little faith.  And time.”

His sister took the dismissal for what it was, graciously rising and giving a slight curtsey he knew was mostly to make a point.  “Fine.  By you’ll understand if I don’t just sit idly by.” She paused at the door, glancing over her shoulder.  “Maybe you should start mentally acclimating to the idea of you bowing to me.”

Ian stayed where he was long after she left, staring at the ceiling and contemplating his options, feeling the oppressive weight of duty slowly choke him like a noose.

What am I going to do?


Monday, April 1st

Rose walked to work the following Monday, reveling in another beautiful morning.  The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and she had a good feeling about the day.  The perfect morning for a new beginning.

Letting herself into the office space she rented for Bad Wolf Matchmaking, she hummed to herself as she moved towards her office.  Waving good morning to Mel who was already at her desk on the phone, she let herself into her private sanctuary, pausing in the doorway as she did every morning to take a moment and appreciate what she had built.  For an Estate girl raised by a widowed mother, she had changed her predicted future through hard work and a refusal to accept anything less.

Hanging her coat on the hook and putting her purse in a drawer, she settled at her desk and logged into her email.  Pictures from Saturday’s wedding were the first thing she opened, taking a few minutes to ooh and ahhover the gorgeous shots while choking down the carrot juice Mel insisted she drink.  It’s high in vitamin A, the redhead would claim when Rose complained.  Keeps your immune system strong.

Mel knocked on her door, and she called her in, distracted.  “Yeah?”

“Rose?”  Her assistant poked her head in, carrying her laptop.  “D’you have a minute?”

“Of course, what’s up?”  

Me came around behind her, setting her laptop on the desk in front of her and logging in.  “If you play your cards right, I think we’ve got our next big client,” she muttered, as the lock screen resolved into a Skype session.

At the other end of the call sat a well-dressed woman, with dark wooden furniture behind her.  The woman was seated at a desk as well, with little in the camera frame except for herself, certainly nothing to identify her.  A redhead, she appeared a few years older than Rose, and she had… an air about her.

“Rose Tyler, this is Her Royal Highness the Princess Donna of Gallifrey,” Mel said carefully, positioning herself off screen.  “She’s potentially interested in hiring us.  Your Highness this is Rose Tyler, she is the owner and secret weapon of Bad Wolf Matchmaking.”

What?