All right, here's a short story. I'm not much for sad ones, but this one is sad. Well, it is to me. Make what you will of the ending. I don't like sad endings...I left it open to interpretation.* Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks a ton!
I have always found it funny how thoroughly we love, and how incomplete all our other emotions are. Happiness is seldom found, especially in our village. When it is there it’s but a tiny little grey thing, with just a bit of sparkle. Sadness is worse. It coats everyone, so sickly and poor that you cannot help but look away from it. Then there’s the madness. Madness because everywhere you look that sickly sadness creeps upon you, until you are so enveloped in it that you cannot see, cannot fathom even blinking. The tiniest movement is so painful.
That is why love it so permanent, I think. It is the one feeling we can rely on not to waver. That is, until it does. I’ve seen it change, too. So much that you think I’d stay away from it, but I couldn’t possibly.
That’s why Charles Alexander was wrong. It upset me so, how he swept in and stirred up not just one, but all of my emotions. Everything came to be associated with him. The scarce, fickle happiness and that terrific sadness--the madness, how he made me so mad over him. The anger, of course, that stupid anger that sent me pounding my fists into my mattress long after mother and father went to bed, followed by great, wracking sobs that shook my whole body.
But the worst was the yearning.
Oh, every inch of me yearned. Every atom, every cell. I sparkled when he was around, buzzing with energy and bubbling girlishness. I giggled--giggled¬--and made a complete fool of myself.
“Charles,” I said as he combed my mare one evening, a beautiful chestnut with a silky mane, “Would you say Holly is a proper thoroughbred, or just a bit of luck?”
“Hard to say,” he replied, stooping over to get the gunk out of her hooves. “She’s a fine gal, though. Just splendid.”
“Would you say it mattered where she came from?” I, of course, wasn’t speaking of her, but myself.
He looked up at me through golden brown bangs. “I say that if you love her, that’s all that matters, and her background shouldn’t get in the way.”
“I do,” I whispered, stroking the length of her neck. “I love her.”
Our scarce conversations in the stables became more frequent, until finally he invited me to make his rounds with him.
“I’ll teach you about how to care properly for horses,” He explained, filling Lady’s tin with oats. “It’s quite simple, once you’ve got the hang of it.”
So every night I took to sneaking out, wearing my rattiest dress. It trailed the mud, though, quickly becoming an inconvenience. Eventually I cut the skirt of the dress until it came down right over my thighs, which I tucked into my undergarments. The first time I came to the stable with my petticoats showing, Charles raised his eyebrows.
“I thought a princess like you would take care to be decent,” He said, leading me to Myrtle, who needed to be fitted for a shoe.
“Shush, you,” I said with a smile. “You’ve no place to be telling a proper lady how to dress.” I was enjoying myself.
“Ah, but a proper lady wouldn’t be wearing her underclothes in front of hired-hand, now would she?”
“She might,” I replied after a moment of thought. “If she trusted this so-called hired-hand.”
“I’m glad to know I’ve earned your trust, milady.”
I chuckled. “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Charles.”
He never did get ahead of himself. In fact, it was me who incited our short-lived romance. We took to walking around the castle in addition to our stable rounds, and one of those gorgeous nights I reached over and took his hand.
He looked at me with alarm and began to pull away. I stopped him with a kiss.
“Milady-“ He whispered when I pulled back.
I shook my head. “No, Charles. My given name is Elizabeth. I would like nothing more than for you to call me such.”
So I became “Elizabeth” and he became “My Charles, my light.” I was so preposterously in love. I wrote him poems and sang him songs. Sometimes we’d lie in the grass, hands linked, until the sun began to rise. Only then would I get up, brush my skirt off, and sneak back into the first-floor window I always kept a little cracked.
The guards were too wrapped up in other affairs to take notice of my absences. I came and went as I pleased--a matter that eventually became more frequent. I started to spend all my time in the stables, helping Charles during the day and talking to him through the nights. All the while, I fended off suitors and tried to placate my parents in doing so. There were thousands of excuses to choose from, except the one I really wanted to speak: “I’m in love with someone else!” But that could never be.
The last night with Charles he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him, asked me to run away. I agreed. We planned to leave the next evening.
We never got to.
I started to sneak back in, but the window was closed. Panic rose in my throat, until I figured it was probably oiled the day before and had slipped back down. I started toward the back but knights closed upon me, grabbing my arms and pulling me into the castle. I thrashed. I demanded to know what was going on.
“How could you?” Mother screeched as they brought me before her. “How could you soil yourself so completely?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said as calmly as I could.
She slapped me. “Of course you do! You liar! You’ve been sneaking out with the stable boy--I was just told last night. We saw you with him. How. Could. YOU?”
“Because I love him!” I cried, and instantly felt relief.
Her face grew dark, and deadly. “I was afraid so,” she said in a carefully controlled calm. “That is why he must be hung today, at noon. We shall make an example of him. We must show our people what happens when they interfere.”
“Oh, please, no!” I cried, falling to my knees. I clung to her skirts and sobbed, pounding my fists along the floor, letting all the emotion fall out of me.
She would not listen. She just wouldn’t.
They let me speak to him, before. I was bought up to the podium by two knights and released. I cradled his face in my hands. I kissed his eyelashes, knowing there would be no rebuke painful enough to keep me from doing so.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
He smiled. Actually smiled. “Oh, Elizabeth. I’m not.”
“Of course not. I was so happy with you.”
“And that day? That long ago day? When I said, ‘If you love her, that’s all that matters,’ I meant it. I meant you.”
I sobbed as they dragged me away. Our eyes met for the briefest moment. I knew I couldn’t let it happen. I couldn’t just stand by.
I began running as the man reached toward the lever. My hand strained toward his. Then there was the clink of swords, and a flash, and we were standing together. Charles and I.
“Charles,” I said uncertainly, taking his hand. “Would you say this is real, or just a bit of luck?”
“Hard to say,” He whispered, kissing my hair. “This is a fine place to be, though. Just splendid.”
*In my mind, they both live at the end, though I don't know how! Ahh! I just HATE SAD ENDINGS!!! :)