Saving Rossannah Saving Me
Rossannah was in my bed. Her face was swollen and bloody and that wasn’t even the worst of it. She had bruises from head to toe and there were deep cuts in her back where the whips had touched it. She smelled of feces and urine because she had been tied up and not allowed to use the bathroom.
Shyla and I removed her clothing and I instructed my new shadow, Ashlee, to burn it and bring her new clothes. Shyla and I then wrapped her in my blankets and helped her to the bathroom where we had run a bathtub full of hot water. As we tried to lower her down into the tub, she began to scream and arched away from it as the hot water touched her sore and open wounds. We helped her out again and Shyla helped her sit up as I dipped a wash cloth into the tub and washed around her wounds, scrubbing away the repugnancy as best I could without having to submerge her.
“I can’t get rid of the smell,” I complained to Shyla.
“We will have to put her in the shower,” she sighed.
“But she can’t stand it,” I argued.
“Cold water,” Shyla said. “It will still hurt, but she needs to get clean to prevent infection. It will feel better than the hot water. Hopefully she will pass out and we can use soap.”
We ran the shower and forced Rossannah, half-unconscious but still fighting into it. Shyla had a strength that I hadn’t expected in her and she held Rossannah’s wriggling body as I applied the stinging soap to it. It took a while to do because of all of the struggling but we eventually finished and then went about the equally trying task of drying her off. It was as if every inch of Rossannah’s body was bursting with pain and she couldn’t stand to be touched.
Ashlee appeared with the new clothes that I had ordered her to get. I made a move to put them on Rossannah but Shyla stopped me.
“No,” Shyla ordered, “let’s let her be naked for a while. We’ll need new blankets and sheets for her to lie on though. We should probably get a healer to check out her wounds. Maybe they can do something to make the pain less.”
I agreed with Shyla and sent Ashlee out to get the things that Shyla had mentioned. We wrapped Rossannah in towels and brought her back to my room, and held her while we waited for servants to strip my bed and put fresh linens on it. Then we put Rossannah in my bed on her stomach so we wouldn’t upset the whip marks on her back. She closed her eyes and went to sleep.
The healer came and put something on her back and checked her over. He mentioned that she was lucky she didn’t have any broken bones. Then he made her swallow something and she seemed to be in less pain. He gave me a bottle and told me when to give her the little pills inside. He promised to come back and check on her every day.
At night, I slept on the floor beside her so that I wouldn’t accidently touch her wounds and cause her pain. In the morning, Shyla would come and sit with her when I couldn’t be with her. I made sure that someone was with Rossannah at all times because in her fragile state she could easily become a victim of the king or his mother and people would just believe that she had died. I couldn’t let that happen.
The king would show up every now and then to “check” on Rossannah’s progress, but I knew that he was just trying to catch her at a time when she had no defense. Even though he didn’t outwardly show his disdain for me, I could tell that he wanted nothing more than to hurt me. Killing Rossannah would be an opportunity to do that.
Eventually, Rossannah began to get better. She started to talk a little, here and there. Sometimes she would request water or food. I was ecstatic the night that she rolled over onto her back in her sleep and didn’t even wake up in pain. She still felt weak though.
“Are Cub and Sheena alright?” I asked her when I felt she was strong enough to talk about what had happened.
“What? Oh…yeah, they’re fine,” She answered. “It was me. I was the only one caught. They tried to stop me.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Some of the people in the tribe got scared,” she replied, “before we were supposed to rescue you. They turned on the rest of us. They kept us from going. They said if he had you he would probably leave the rest of us alone. We tried to get to you…but there were too many people who agreed with them. When it was all over, it was too late. Sheena and Cub said that you were probably dead by then. I didn’t think that you were. I wanted to go after you. Sheena said if you weren’t dead that you would be able to take care of yourself because you were smart. They told me to stay. I couldn’t stay, so I waited until everybody was asleep. I used everything you had taught me about the forest and I found my way back here. As soon as they saw me, they arrested me. They beat me and tried to get me to tell them where the tribe was that had been hiding us. I was going to come and rescue you. Maybe I was foolish. You’re the Queen now?”
Her speech was broken and confused. Every sentence was broken with a pause as she searched for the words to begin the next one. I looked at her face which had now been healed without a slight trace that any damage had been done except for her eyes. Her emerald eyes were now dulled by the hint of the emotional scars left behind. I had come from the forest. I had known this life for as long as I remember. I had to hide from the world for years, from the time of my birth. This was her first taste of the pure hatred that others felt for her. She had come back, expecting that nothing too bad would happen to her, and this is what she had found. I could see that she felt betrayed. She was supposed to be one of them, but you can’t have your two feet in separate worlds without expecting to be ripped apart.
I leaned over to kiss her, as I would often do when Cub was distraught. My lips touched her forehead and lingered there as I swallowed back my regrets that she would have to learn about war this way. People like her shouldn’t have to be caught in the middle of it. People like her should be able to watch from the sidelines with no real understanding as to what the fighting really means. I was built for this, as were the others who were raised in the forest. Then it dawned on me. That is why the king hated us so much. We were the only people who possessed the ability to stand up to him.
I don’t know how long I stood there like that, with my lips pressed firmly against Rossannah’s forehead, contemplating my new understanding of the inner workings of the king before I felt the tender, newly weathered hands reach quietly for my face and rest on my check. I looked at Rossannah’s face and lost my own hands in her beautiful strawberry blonde hair and then we kissed. It was a real kiss, soft and intimate, the way a man and a woman are supposed to kiss. It was tender and beautiful and unrehearsed, unlike the many kisses that I had shared with Joseph, but best of all, it was true. It was like I had been living in a world full of clouds, never knowing the sun, but at this moment the sky opened up and I could feel golden rays all over my body. That is what that kiss was like.
When it was over, it felt as if the clouds swallowed me back up again. We pulled away from each other, confusion pulsing unconcealed on both of our faces. For the first time since we had met, we were both too shy to speak to each other. I wondered which one of us would be the one to break the silence. Which one of us would find the courage to explore what had just happened to us?
“I don’t know why I did that,” Rossannah spoke up. Her normal speech had returned to her. It was as if that kiss had thrust her back into a place where what had happened to her physical body was just a minimal irritation on her emotional stability.
“I don’t know why I let you,” I conceded. Then we both just began to laugh. We shrugged off that moment as a one-time occurrence and began to talk, as if we were us. But we weren’t us, not anymore. Now we were other people entirely, other people that tried to ignore the very thing that defined who we had become. We attempted to be us, but those other people shined through more and more every day as Rossannah became stronger and I became more overwhelmed with responsibility that I didn’t want and the one-time occurrences happened more often behind closed doors. Eventually we just gave up and let those other people have their ways. Then we just accepted them as the new us. Then we decided to love them. It wasn’t a fast transition, but it was one that I had been dying for my entire life.
When Rossannah was fully healed, the king insisted that she go back to live with her father, who had once again returned. I couldn’t handle the thought of losing her so I argued with him about it. I had learned over the past few weeks that I had just as many if not more rights as he did and I started to slowly assert them. This seemed to annoy him immensely but he couldn’t do or say anything to force me to change the force with which I began to embrace my new found sense of power.
“She should at least be staying in her own room,” he argued with me. “She’s well now, and she can take care of herself. If you have to have her around at least give her a room next to yours or something. People don’t really expect the queen to have a roommate. There is an etiquette here. You are going to be expected to act a certain way. You’re not really supposed to have friends. If you had been groomed for your position you would have known that.”
He enunciated his last sentence with vigor, throwing his hands up in the air. It was true. He had been the one who had been taught from birth to be a leader. I was thrust into this as a last ditch effort for him to hold onto his power. I couldn’t feel sorry for him though. What he chose to do with the power that he had been handed was nothing short of barbaric. Still, I gave some thought as to what he had been trying to communicate to me and decided that even though I could never fully trust him or his motives, I had to admit to myself that for the sake of living a semi-peaceful existence in a world I couldn’t fully control that I had to make some compromises with it to maintain it.
That night I broke the news to Rossannah that she would be moving into the room that was between Shyla’s room and my own. It was a strategic move that not only kept us in close proximity to each other and would allow us to sneak in and out of each other’s rooms without being detected, but also added extra protection because Shyla was on the other side. Even though I was learning that the king was mostly smoke and no fire, I still felt safer knowing that if Rossannah ever screamed, we would both be able to be there to rescue her.
Rossannah wasn’t thrilled with the idea. She argued that I was letting him set all of the rules. I think that even though she argued that point she knew that it wasn’t true. If he had his way she wouldn’t even be close, and I would let go of everybody that I had ever known and do things his way all of the time.
The truth was that it was good for us to be in separate rooms because I had a whole mess of people watching me now and I was supposed to be married to the king. I didn’t know how my “subjects” would react to my strange infidelities. Now I was winning most of the battles when it came to making decisions. The people really took to me on the grounds that I was the “real” ruler. I had been able to completely stop the king from hunting down the tribes in the forests. It was nice to have control. The king would argue his point and I would argue mine and we would leave it up to the population to decide. I fully realized that my affair with Rossannah could possibly sway all votes in his direction.
The first night of our separation was agonizing. I had gotten used to Rossannah being beside me all night. Now we had to content ourselves with a couple of hours before letting go to be by ourselves in our own beds. I suppose we could have easily allowed ourselves one or two nights of sleepovers but the risk seemed too great. While Rossannah was sick we didn’t ever think about these things, but the king’s constant reminders of how I should be acting now that Rossannah was well kept us from doing things that we would be hard-pressed to view as mistakes if we were ever caught.