Guard the royals. Life was black and white, destiny clear. He stood there scanning the crowds outside the palace for any sign of trouble. Each day the same, he lived expendable. Hardly wondered which day would be the last, he was always ready. But that would change.
This day there was some ceremony. The basics were no different- might or might not be his last day. The odds were higher, the royalty was on display. There could be more honors if his death was witnessed. He felt his strength beneath the armor, sweating slightly. But then- that moment. For all his training, all his concern for honor, his lineage, his duty to God and man, it was so unlikely- but it happened. After scanning across the crowd he glanced at the princess. How could it be the same for her? Their eyes froze in a moment that could not be.
Recovered, he caught his breath. Dare he hope to live? It may not have been noticed, but she knew.
The same for her. She looked around keeping her composure as best as possible, very well she thought. She settled down now, assured nobody had noticed. But the best possible heart did notice- the heart that wanted her happy above all things. Her father had seen it all.
Two nights later the humble knight retired to his secret place by the lake. He sat on a large rock along the shore watching the moonlight glisten across the ripples as his horse drank silently beside him. He saw her eyes everywhere he looked, felt the heart pounding in his chest. He was still alive, more alive. It did not matter, but his greatest aspiration now was to die so she could live. He pondered if that could be his reason, his destiny, or why he could not drive her from his mind.
The sound of the ripples against the shore as he watched that moon slowly rise brought a soothing calm. But suddenly he heard a horse. Instantly he was at his feet taking it all in. He could hear one horse only, getting closer, no metal, and no voices. The sound was light; there could not be a heavy adversary. He moved to where the moon light would illuminate this figure in the night. It was her.
For the second time in as many days he was looking in those eyes. He knelt before her, his only thought that now he would die from that moment’s indiscretion. How could he have ever been so foolish? Yet- wasn’t it somehow worth it? Rather than the cause of his death, were not those glances the only moments of life?
“Rise,” she called to him. He stood up; scarce believing that life could allow him this much time to look at her beauty. But his insignificance, how and why had she bothered to come, and why alone?
“You looked at me,” she called to him. “You looked in my eyes.” He was guilty without any defense. He had to take it as a man.
He thought of his parents. What they would think of his short life. He spoke to her.
“Can there be forgiveness?”
She looked at him with a passion he could not have imagined. “No,” she answered. He was sure of death. “What did you see?” she asked him.
He kneeled once again, and slowly looked up to her. “I saw,” he slowly rose until he was at full height to tell her this. “I saw my greatest cause for death with meaning.” If his whole life was in these moments of being in her presence, it had been a good life regardless of how it appeared.
“Do you want to know what I saw?” She asked him, again- this passion showing made him dream of being someone else. There were no choices of estate.
“Yes,” he said, but he was not sure. What could it matter?
“Ask it,” she demanded.
Better thoughts of a demanding woman brought the slightest smile to his face. This could not be happening, any more than that first glance. This was even better. Every additional moment was such value added to his life time.
“What did you see?” He asked her and stood firm. The look of her made him pray for a cause to die- saving her. Then she would know him. How else could she?
She answered. “I saw,” unless his eyes deceived him he noticed a tear sliding down her precious face, and a fragile smile. “I saw more love than an entire kingdom could give me.” Now it was his eyes flooding with tears.
“I am nothing,” he cried.
She swung her leg over the horse until she was side saddle, and started to slide off. “Catch me,” she declared. She landed in his arms and he stood there as in a dream effortlessly holding her. She spoke again, almost a whisper; “Did you not see me looking back at you? Do you think I stare at nothing?” He was silent. His face moistened by many tears. “What did you feel” she asked.
He carried her over to where they could both look out across the lake and take in the magic of earth’s beauty. As they looked out over an earthly miracle they both listened to his words. “I felt everything a man can feel, every dream, every passion- every wish that has ever been made.”
She smiled at him. “Then how can you be nothing?” She stroked the side of his face, wiping tears as his eyes closed. She had more to say.
“My father saw us looking at each other. He saw what we saw. He has arranged safe passage for us to a land with no titles.”
He let her to her feet, and they stood there holding each other as one body. He said, “No titles? Then what shall I call you.”
With both hands on his face, tears, and smiles, she told him… “Yours.”
John H. Bidwell