I watched my father inspect my gown trying not to move. He was always displeased with my garments. They were never bright or feminine enough for his taste. They all made me feel like a porcelain doll with no say as to my fate.
He shook his head, “you’re impossible child. Stand up straight.”
“I am not a child,” I sighed. “I just do not see the point to all this.” I turned to gaze at my reflection in the oval mirror. “I hate this dress with all its tiny roses and ribbons and the color, eck, pink!”
“The point is to marry you, my dear.”
I snapped my head away in his direction, “what if I do not want…”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me close, “you will not disobey me girl. Your mother would be very disappointed in you.”
“You mean you are.” He raised his hand to silence my words but I stood my ground. His gaze was hard but then slowly loosened. “I give up…your will is too strong. You act as if you were a man.” I began to speak but he waved a hand to quiet me. “I love you my dear, but who will care for you when I am gone?”
I protested, “I will care for myself.”
His gentle smile warmed me, “this world is not a place for a lone woman.” He cradled my face in his hands. “Will you at least try…for me?”
He knew I could not refuse his request. I sighed again, “I will try, but,” I grabbed at the dress, “I will not wear this monstrosity.”
“Fare enough. You choose the gown, but keep in mind you want to attract a man.” I nodded. As he left I turned back to the mirror. ‘Attract a man indeed. As if a gown could truly do that.’
I moved to the chest at the foot of my bed to find a more suitable garment. With a few tries I found what I was looking for and retrieved it. I knew he would think it plain, but it was one of my favorites and my mother’s. As I held the dress to me I recalled her sitting by the library fire sewing it. I could still smell her scent of wood roses and lavender on it. Yes, this was the gown I would wear. I did not have much time to change but it would be worth the effort.
I entered the crowded room with my father at my side. He took my hand in his as we were announced,
“Lord Razden and his daughter Lady Ezdalia.” I could feel all eyes turn upon me and I felt my disgust grow inside. My father did not notice this for he was surveying the array of guests.
He leaned close to me, “there are many available husbands here.”
“Yes, I can see that,” I whispered, “and plenty of time.” We stood watching as a group of maidens approached us. They were dressed in various shades of pastel and gaudy posies. They regarded me with questioning looks. The one in lilac stepped forward as my father released my hand.
She bowed her head to me, “my Lady.” I returned her greeting in the same unfeeling manner. “Come I will introduce you to the young Lords.” She wrapped her arm around my waist and ushered me away. I knew my father had put her up to this, so I did not resist. “What a pretty gown,” she chided. “So are you in the market for a knight or another type?” It was obvious what her agenda was.
“I have no preface to his occupation.”
“Oh I see,” she released a cackle of laughter, “but you wouldn’t want a stable boy now would you?”
“No.” I could see that the less I said the better. “I am just looking for the right man.”
“Indeed, aren’t we all,” she addressed to the other maidens. They nodded in unison. Suddenly something caught her eye, “ah there is Lord Dorin. You should meet him and Lord Kerwen. Oh and of course that Romanian prince, he could be the one…”
“Yes of course,” I agreed. This farce continued for hours as she and her clique dragged me from one man to the next. Each came with a preview of his stature and wealth. I listened and nodded and greeting with pronounced acceptance, but my patience was wearing thin. There were few she had missed. Finally I excused myself to the privy and worked my way to the southern balcony. I needed silence from all this chatter and gossip.
I drank in the cool breeze coming off the water and felt my inner peace return. As I stared at the full moon, the bustle of the feast faded. It was a brief moment before another intrusion came.
“My Lord, yes that is fascinating.”
“You are not even listening to me girl.”
The pair did not notice me in the shadows and I had no intentions of revealing myself. I had no need for gossip nor did I want to be included. I only wished for them to move on.
“Oh but I am listening and your stories are so…”
“No, you are not. If you were you would not be pandering to my every whim. I despise your senseless rapport.” He folded his arms before him.
She openly approached him and touched his soft leather clad chest. “In the end we are but flesh my Lord.”
He grabbed her hands and pushed her away from him. He spoke in almost a growl, “leave me wench.”
She squealed and withdrew in a sudden shock that left him in a flurry of silk and ribbons.
I smiled at her exit and turned back to the night, but it seemed that the Lord had the same idea. He strode to the archway only a few feet from me and raised his head to the dark sky. I kept very still and drew within my self, but his perceptions alerted him to my presence.
He turned toward me, his hand on the hilt of his sword, “who is there?”
I sighed, “it is Lady Ezdalia my Lord.”
“Are you spying on me?”
“No, no I was only…looking for a moment of peace.” I could see him smile and loosen his grip.
“Have you found it yet my Lady?”
I shook my head, “no, not yet. I fear it is useless in this place.”
He nodded and crossed the darkness that separated us. I started as he emerged from the shadows. His form seemed fluid at first and almost animal like. He looked down upon me with the deepest green eyes I had ever encountered. There was gentleness and something untamed in those eyes. Something that most, other than what I could remember of my mother, did not possess.
“Why are you not seeking the company of a young man to lure?”
“That is not my way or my goal, but my father’s. I would rather seek the solace of the moon on the water.”
His eyes smiled, “I admire your abandon my Lady. May I join you?”
“If you wish.” I moved over a bit to allow him to sit on the ledge next to me. The mere closeness of him seemed to excite me and even made me a bit uneasy.
“You are unlike the other maidens. You have more…”
I nodded and began to speak. He put his finger to my lips and his touch was like soft fur. ” I grow weary of words. They never reveal what is meant.”
I met his eyes and placed my hand to his mouth in the same fashion. We did not speak, but what followed was more than words could express. Slowly his finger traced the curve of my lips and followed that line down my chin and to the hollow of my throat. I let my head fall back and closed my eyes. My hand mingled with his raven tresses as his other hand caressed the small of my back. I felt a flow run through me like the coming of a storm. This was beyond this worldly experience and existed somewhere deep in the primal essence of nature. Neither of us had any intentions or preconceived goals. We were simply there in the moment. Suddenly he took my head in his hands and I opened my eyes with a breath. There were no words, but his voice spoke to me through his eyes. ‘Do not be afraid.’ I replied, ‘I could never be afraid of you.’ He moved closer to me and nuzzled his face into my ebony hair. I could not help but hold him to me. It was as if I knew him from a life half remembered. I could only hear the sound of the waves and his breathing. There was a steady ebb and flow that likened to the rhythm of my own breathing. I felt the light brush of his lips on my neck and still I did not pull away. There was a pulse growing between us. It started in my ribcage and then moved deeper. It felt as if he was pulling something from me, but at the same time he was giving. I knew he was more than he seemed and did not care. The coolness of his hand found the warmth of my breast. Everything fell away into the mystery of him. His thought broke the rapture of my mind, ‘we are one, you and I.’ ‘As we have always been,’ I added He held me tighter to confirm my thought. I felt the softness of his goatee as he brushed my face and then kissed me deeply. As before I felt the exchange of something so much so that I shook. I was lost in the passion and knew I could be with no other.