Kingdom
7 / 3 / 3124 Celes Era

               “The truth is, I’m lonely,” she said, her back to him, eyes low, as if speaking to the end table next to their bed.  Her straight black hair swam calmly down her back, but her shoulders were stiff.  “You never spend time with me anymore.”

               Lynas frowned, in that moment wanting to reach out and stroke that hair, feel its shine on his fingers; but the distance between them prevented it.

               “Reconstruction has damn near killed me,” he said, sitting down on the bed opposite from her.  Their backs touched, just for an instant, as the mattress adjusted to his weight.  “I’ve hardly time to keep myself fed and watered, what with the Council approvals, donor banquets, meetings with mayors and lords and architects and all manner of worker’s guilds…”

               “I know,” she breathed.  “And I’m proud of you for it.  I think this will be a great boon for the kingdom. Still…”

               He waited for her to continue, but she did not.  Shy and quiet she still was around him, even after three years of a marriage filled with secret laughter and passion.  So, following her cue, he prompted her: “Still, what?  We have this time, this short time, to ourselves, so please—relieve your mind.”

               Kayla sighed, long and slow.  He could feel the bed quake as her chest collapsed.  “This was your choice, Lynas.  This is a project, and a necessary one, but it is not a war or a drought or a plague, barking and tearing at our feet.  Surely the agricultural silos can wait while you have lunch with your wife and play with your two-year old daughter?”

               Lynas set his teeth, trying not to let his pride overcome his patience.  “You know that, as much as I love Rain, I love you and Filicia a thousand times more.”  She shifted—was she pleased?  “But I cannot ignore my duties and claim to be the man that you love.  And the very fact that I started Reconstruction is what keeps me pushing harder and harder.  Without my lead, the project may come to a stall, or, worse, fail.”  He stopped, noticing how quiet she was.  Their short time together tonight, and they were both lecturing each other.  He exhaled.  “But you know that.”

               Kayla did not respond.  Lynas sat there for a while, staring at his fingers as they lay awkwardly crossed in his lap.  He heard her breathe, finally, as he noticed the smell of roses—her perfume—present in the air.

               “So, what are we to you?” she said.

He expected her to continue, but she did not.  Her silence told him she expected an answer; and her pale tone warned him to care for his words.

“You…you’re what keeps me breathing, when the weight of the world stands on my chest.”

She didn’t speak for a moment.  He heard the watery sound of her hands smoothing out her dress on her lap.

“I am glad…we are…a relief to you.  And you say you are working hard for our sake.  I cannot ask you to choose between your family and your kingdom—“

Lynas turned to her, alarmed.  “Kayla—“

She talked to the wall as he stared at her back, thinking of the familiar line of her spine, now hidden by her dress. “I cannot ask you to choose because they are the same.  Your family is your kingdom.  You must tend to our hearts, just as you tend to your people.”

He put his feet on the ground and rose from the bed.  She ignored him, unmoving.  “I know all those people are relying on you.  They need their king.  But the world will continue to turn for an hour without your intervention.”

He walked around the front of the bed, watching her profile as she spoke, still facing ahead, eyes seeing, not him, but the absence of him in her heart.  He noted, as he looked at her, how perfect and straight her nose was, how pink and soft her lips.

“All those men have rulers and lords aplenty to help them in their time of need,” she said.  “But Filicia and I—we only have you.  No maid or tutor can love her as you can, and I’ll have no better man—or friend—than you.”

On her side now, he stepped toward her.  “We need you, more than anyone—“

“I’m sorry,” he said as he took her chin in his fingers and leaned close.  She swallowed her protests as he kissed her, with all the force of his loneliness.

After he withdrew, he looked in her gleaming, speckled brown eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he said again.  “I thought of you as the ease to my burden, forgetting that yours is the most important—most priceless—burden that I carry.  Let’s ride tomorrow, out to the Chivalry Lake with Filicia.  Take her to see the ducks.  She’ll love it.”

She smiled as she lowered her eyes.

“Yes,” she said.  “That sounds…good. Sweet.”

“And I promise you,” he said.  “I’ll never let you be lonely again.”

She met his eyes, took his hand; and the rest of their night was spent in warmth.




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