Act III: Tragic Days
The Tragic Days
I can’t. The world falls solemn; the snow fades away at last, but the sun hides behind the sad, gray clouds. Our days were ending. It hurts more now to think about it—realizing the exact amount of time that passes by before we had to part. All that’s left now is memories, my undying love for her, this broken heart of mine, the lily, remnants of souvenirs, and her sword. Sometimes I procure the sword from its resting place above the fireplace and unsheathe it—contemplate as my reflection stares back at me in the blade’s silvery sheen. Ponder what it must have been like for her. To feel how she felt—to try to understand. But, really, all I can do is sigh. I sigh all the time. My heart’s too heavy to do anything else. I hate feeling this way—but I have to. I told myself I would remember. Recall it all—for her sake. To recall only a part of it is not to relive the entire story. But it hurts. The fire flickers away in the fireplace, flames dying away softly. My journal waits, closed, on the desk. The bouquet of lilies in the vase…waiting to stand beside her. Just as I did. Just as I have always wanted to. I…
Must I remember that day? I usually skip it on purpose, holding instead onto the moments she was alive. But that’s not the entirety of the story…nor is her sacrifice the end.
Sigh… I have to, don’t I? I should… Like then, all those years ago, as I promised… I must see it through to the end. To the bitter end. Always…by her side…
Forgive me. My love.
Our simple days were over. Long gone. It was becoming apparent that we should return to fighting and help the situation that certainly wasn’t getting any better. Though she powerfully, miraculously, came into my life at the perfect moment and saved me from being practically extinct, the tides only shifted, and the current state we found ourselves in was basically a plateau. We could neither ascend nor descend—though that stinging feeling in my heart informed me that was about to change… And I prayed every night that it wouldn’t be for the worst. We had done too much, savored and enjoyed so much, for that all to be lost in the blink of an eye.
I worried for everyone—not just for Jeannette. Seeing my people finally back to living again, enjoying the days and doing their best. I missed that. There’s always something so miraculous about peace and being able to see the clouds parting over the horizon. It reminds you why you’re here…what it is you’re striving for. Why it is that you promised all those years ago that you would never give up. In a way, I felt like garbage going away for that short time and taking a sort of vacation watching over Jeanne and enjoying the simple times. But I followed my heart then, so I shouldn’t really have any regrets.
Trying to find myself and understand a bit more as I cleared my head, I scaled a nearby mountain on my morning walk. It had been so long since I had been to the mountains to the west, and though it was a steep bit of a climb, I kept going, for the reason I was there was for the view. Lush countryside outstretched—as far as the world unfolded before me on all sides. Reaching into the pallid blue sky; running from me in wide, open space as much as the area enclosed me, making me feel safe and loved. Asking me to come chase it until I reached the end of the world on all sides. This is what I live for; such openness makes me feel so alive. I missed it so much.
With a soft smile, I joked to myself about how much of what I’m seeing is really me. If the world was really meant to be all mine or if I’m really just a small part of the land that makes up our wide, circular home. Then, I imagined if Paris were there with me, and she probably would have said something like “as much as you would like” or “as far as your eyes can see.” With a deep exhale, I tried to shake away all my worries and all the heaviness in my heart. And as the air turned quiet, nourishingly tranquil, a whisper echoed inside my heart, and I realized it was the latter.
“Someday,” I whispered as I turned away. “Someday.”
At the abandoned castle which we stayed, Jeanne and I shared some lunch outside by the gardens. We didn’t know it then, but that was to be one of our last days at the castle together before we returned to fighting. Quite cool outside, the serine sky was dotted with puffy clouds, and the clear sun sought to bring warmth to our hearts. With a stretch, I fell into the chair beside her, and we relaxed for a moment and enjoyed our lunch.
Though, unfortunately, our moment of peace didn’t last very long, for I spotted a familiar blonde-haired figure in the distance who called me over, taunting me and waving his arms.
“What?!” I yelled out, jumping up from my seat. “What are you doing here?!”
“Calm down, Monsieur France,” Jeanne stopped me, putting her arm out in front of me to keep me from charging.
“Please stay here and stay safe for me, all right? I’ll go see what he wants.”
“But what if…”
Before I could hear what she had to say, I ran off with my super speed and met dummy where he stood down the way. Though he was at quite some distance, it took me only seconds to get to where he was.
“You interrupted my lunch!” I berated him, scolding his rudeness.
“Big deal. Just thought you’d like to know your slacking off is catching up to you,” he commented manner-of-factly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” I blurted.
“You know better than to take a break in the middle of a war, you idiot! For all you know, I could have destroyed you already!”
I shuddered and turned about as pale as a glacier.
“But that wouldn’t be any fun,” he brushed off. “So you better get back into the game, dummy. Our fight isn’t over yet.”
“Will it ever be?” I joked.
He scoffed quietly, probably amused by my comment. “Well, you better watch out because they’re coming.”
“What?” The thought penetrated my mind. “They’re coming?”
Then my greatest fears kicked in again. No. It can’t be. Not that horrible nightmare.
Suddenly, they came. Surrounding her—sword falling through the air to slice the beautiful soul which touched my own. I can’t bear it. I couldn’t bear it. No. I won’t allow it! I must save her!
My fears had me at their mercy. Pushing him back with a swift and powerful punch, I sprinted back to her—faster than my quivering heart which trembled in pained fear. I shouldn’t have left her there all alone. What was I thinking? I always need to protect her. I promised I would. Always…be there…
Please. Please be OK, my love.
No sooner did I impulsively dart away did I return—to her beautiful presence. To her sweet gaze, emerald eyes enclosing me in embrace like the shifting grasses on a warm spring afternoon. Let me lie down beside you in the grass—enjoy this lovely day together. Forget all our troubles. Let’s just run away.
But we couldn’t. Unfortunately, running away isn’t always the answer.
She curiously sought an answer from my frantic disposition, her eyes not wavering from that sweet, innocent gaze they usually display. “What is it?” she asked innocently, staying in her seat casually. “What did he say?”
With a heavy sigh, I lowered my head and searched my heart for the right words. What was I supposed to say? I hated the thought of us returning to battle. It troubled her so much last time, and Heaven forbid my nightmare comes true. Right then and there, the only thing on my mind was “Let’s forget all this and enjoy this lovely day together. Please don’t worry. I’m here. You’re here. Let’s cherish each other.”
But what would that have done? Forgetting is so very sweet, but it doesn’t solve anything. It wouldn’t have changed anything—it probably would have made our situation worse. Dummy Eyebrows was right. I couldn’t relax and stay away forever. One of these days…we had to go back and finish what we started. I needed to live again. Return, hopefully, to some kind of peace and start anew.
And so—as much as it pained me to do—I told her the truth.
Her little head fell slightly, studying the cup. “Do you mean we should prepare to return?” she asked in a mousy, concerned voice.
I heaved a great sigh. It burdened me to admit it. “Yes.”
Suddenly, my heart picked up, and I realized she could stay safe. “But I’ll go fight. You can stay here. Remain safe.”
But what was I thinking? Adamantly but slowly, she stood up, not producing a sound as the chair slid behind her. “No. I will follow. I know I must.”
Of course. We’ll always be together.
I was worried it would come to this. We had to return to action. We were being called again, and we had to heed the call. Feeling it was our last chance—our Renaissance, of sorts—we sent a letter to the King in hopes he’d hear our plea. And, to our mutual delight, he responded, saying we were welcome to visit the castle.
I was so relieved. But so worried. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t shake away the worry—it was always there. Pervading everything, hanging over our heads like an ominous shadow or the proverbial dangling sword.
But we both arrived confidently—side-by-side—to deliver our ideas. On the trip, we discussed everything we’d said and a good plan of action. So I allowed her to speak for me, knowing all too well she was thorough on the subject.
In the grand hall once again, I felt so small. Against my own King, I felt like my words got lost in the wide, vapid space and never reached their intended destination. But I promised myself I’d stay strong for Jeanne. Standing up straight, I followed her—staying to her left and back a bit.
King Charles shot me a steely look—recognizing my presence, realizing the aura I was exuding was one of defiance. And free will.
“You again,” he barked.
I said nothing.
Drawing a deep breath, Jeanne stood forward, without kneeling, and delivered our plan.
“My King, I feel we must return to battle for our kingdom. I feel compelled to return to Compiègne to lead a conquest there. If we win, we will most assuredly turn the tides and will be able to lead our forces into Paris.”
The doubt on his face was evident from everywhere in the room. “You are certain about this?”
“As most certain as I have ever been, indeed,” she returned with her usual determination, which resonated through my heart and soul as she spoke.
“Is it your Voices that have told you this?” the king questioned in almost an offensive manner, still doubting her resolve and always being too cautious about everything.
Jeanne, a little hurt by his tone, lowered her head as though to reflect on the notions of her heart and her motivation. Then, delivering her final verdict, her steely resolve returned, sparking in her eyes. “I believe so, yes. It is also the will of France that I take on this task.”
I flinched a little, surprised at her addition of me, and the king looked me over dubiously, sensing my internally flustered state.
Jeanne pleaded with the doubtful king once more, and after hearing her speak out and request for the longest time, he finally agreed with a sigh. “All right. Because you are so determined, I will allow you to depart with 350 soldiers. But promise me there will be no uncertainties or troubles this time?” he requested it as though it were a question and not really an absolute proclamation that we wouldn’t fail.
With a quiet huff, Jeanne closed her eyes again to reflect on the situation. It was only then that I could sense her doubts waiting below the crystal clear, still waters of her proud heart. The nerves began to gnaw at my stomach again, making me sick. “I am dearly sorry that I cannot promise you anything, my king,” she declared. “All I can say is that we will determinatively fight until the end. And I will assure you I will do my best.” Delivering her message, she kneeled and spoke as though it were her final words of promise. Resonating in every undertone that she meant it—and that she somehow feared they would be meaningful now.
That’s what worried me the most. Did she foresee something? What if that was our last fight? My nerves only got worse.
“Very well,” he returned. “You may go at once.”
And, with a nod, she did so. And I, with overflowing doubts, swallowed my tears and followed. I trusted her, and I would always follow her.
It was unseasonably cold that day. A chill that resonated in my heart as we stood ready for battle once again. My heart faltered, and I couldn’t muster up the courage or emotion to reassure myself that what we were doing was in fact what we were meant to do. That our paths were premeditated and for the best. I just couldn’t. The weight in my heart held me down so much that I couldn’t even force a smile anymore. What was I thinking? Why were we even here? Fears crept up from my mind again, reminding me of the terrorizing nightmares that kept haunting me every night and into every day. I didn’t want her to be taken away. A part of me, perhaps my intuition, kept telling me to run far away—never look back. Go now. And then there would be no regrets.
But there was only one thing keeping me from taking that plan of action and heeding it. Her. It was always her. I wanted what she wanted. Always. And she wanted to stay. Her eyes were brim with determination and courage. As full as they had ever been—like before when we had stood at the top of the world together. Side by side. I couldn’t let her go. Where she would be, I would be also. If I ever said to her I wanted to run away, she would have probably shaken her head and told me to believe. To have faith.
But how could I…when all I could do was cry? When all I thought about was seeing her being taken away? When…my fears took over me to the point where I knew—for certain—that it was going to be real?
When she was done leading the soldiers and explaining the plan, they gathered and stood ready to follow her commands, and she came beside me. It took all my strength to keep from bursting into tears at the sight of her. To keep my crippling fears to myself and to accept her hand in humility.
“I don’t want to lose you,” I wanted to say. It’s all I thought.
As though she could read me like a book, she clenched my hand tightly and stared straight into my eyes—far into the depths of the ocean blue. As she did so, it was as though I could see the color reflected in her eyes—our souls intertwining and dreams winding. Our courage and compassion shared. Pains eliminated and companionship strengthened. We were no longer separate—but the same. We had that kind of intimate connection.
The tears hid at the corners of my eyes, and I brought her hand to my face, nodding, refusing to let such pain bother me. “I’ll follow you,” my gesture said. “Even if it means that.” With a smile but hidden tears and a heavy heart.
With that, we returned to war again. For one of the last times.
The battle, again, was fierce. Neither side wanted to back down. We tred forth with determination, and they pushed us back with mighty power. Even a bigger army and guidance from Jeanne’s resilience wasn’t enough anymore to guarantee us victory. I guess England was sick of being pushed around by me… Well, the feeling was mutual. I couldn’t wait until this stupid war was over and done.
Eyes numbed by the brutalities, heart softened by my sweetie’s words, I stood among the madness and provided help where I was needed as I still lurked in the shadows and didn’t want to show myself fully to anyone. My sword had felled many, but it had yet to pierce my own heart as it did then—indirectly—as I scanned the area for potential dangers.
Really, I was just vigilant for anything that could potentially hurt Jeanne as she surveyed as usual and tended to her fellow comrades. Her heart was still a burden to her; the heaviness would come straight back at the sight of the fallen, and she would tuck her remorseful face to her heart and mutter a prayer or two. Poor sweetie. Her attitude was beginning to grow on me, though, for the glory days were far behind me, and I found myself increasingly aware of the fact that I was just sick of all the violence.
My paranoia got the best of me that day—my thoughts constantly drowned me in the idea that she would be hurt—killed—by some sort of means during battle, and I couldn’t bring myself to shake that feeling away. Because it could happen. And if it did, I would have blamed it all on me. And so, as I said, my true purpose was to protect her and to keep watch on everyone’s movements to assure she’d be safe.
As she lowered her head in regret, she closed her eyes to reflect on life and what lies beyond—the peace that waits. The paradise where the tired and wary soul may finally rest. The sword. From the jagged shadows, the crippling pain returned to my heart, and the inescapable turned to life like a living nightmare—all blurred and darkened. No. Without thinking, my body acted for me, darting directly to the armed man without any prompt or action other than it was what I was meant to do. What I had to do. In a flash, I stood before the murderer, a fortress protecting my treasure; and, with all my strength, made a quick and determined slice with my sword. It was almost like cutting paper entirely in half. And then—the world went red. No longer black. But red. No longer a person or a being or anything—just some sort of poor representation of objects strewn together and ripped apart. That could be anyone. I crumbled.
I can’t take this anymore.
All my strength had gone away. All the grand notions of things—gone. There was nothing left. To keep me from hating fighting.
I collapsed—fell like a lead weight straight to my knees. And all the pent-up tears and frustrations just streamed out of me like a river that had burst forth for the first time in a long time. I needed to cry. I couldn’t stop myself once I started. I was a miserable, sad man drowning in tears in the middle of a battlefield. Sad and alone amid the waves of destruction.
In hysterics, I yelled out amid the sobbing, “I hate this! I hate fighting and war and dying! It’s so ugly… there’s nothing special about it at all! I hate it…” My voice failing me, my sobs turned quiet and pained. Everything was different now. I was different now.
Gasping for air, I covered my tortured face and continued to cry to myself, secretly hoping no one was watching me then. I just wanted to fade away to someplace secret. Never be seen again.
But she always noticed me. With such a light, careful touch, like one of an angel’s, she rested a hand on my shoulder. She understood. All that time, I always wondered what she was thinking or feeling. I finally knew. But I wish I hadn’t. Poor sweetie. It’s too much pain for someone like you. Once I had calmed down somewhat, I turned to her—only to see her sweet face dripping tears as well. Consoling tears.
“But you are not ugly, M. France.”
That’s all she said. All she had to say. The wave of sadness and worry coursed through me again, reducing me to just another stupid, sobbing fool. I took sweet Jeanne in my arms—and I told her everything.
“I don’t want you to be here! You could get hurt, and I want you to be safe. I hate seeing you get hurt.” Earlier, she had been injured in her arm, though it wasn’t very much of a wound. I hated seeing her in pain. “That could have been you!!” I yelled out suddenly, my voice breaking—being corroded by the pain. The nightmares—they were all of her dying by sword—much like that incident. I didn’t want that—so I jumped. Changed it. I couldn’t bear for it to happen again—in reality. Before my eyes.
Ceasing my hysterics, she laid her gentle hands on my face, pulling my eyes to hers. I can’t even describe her gaze. It was at once caring but entirely stern—but in an emotionless way so as to convey she had nothing to say. It was her mere presence that spoke through her. It was as though she was expressing “But I’m still here” without conveying the message in any way at all. Except being there. Just being there.
My tears immediately dissolved.
“I will be fine,” she assured once I had stopped crying. “As I have always said, I will continue to fight for you. The Lord will protect me. And…I know you will, too.”
“Of course,” I mouthed, pushing away the last onset of tears. Cherishing having her close. Savoring her presence…the beautiful warmth of her life as I held her hand.
With a small nod and a smile, she offered to help me up and then dutifully turned away, her profile exuding light in this dark, drab day—as she had always seemed to me. To be bright. Inspiring.
My chest still heavy, I exhaled bravely in attempt to regain some of my energy. Sobbing like that always leaves me feeling so drained. With a quick hug, I whispered, “Take care of yourself, OK?” and patted her back, sending her off.
And so we returned again to our own battles—in our own battlefields. Beside each other, allied to each other, but somehow separate in substance.
But I was so drawn to her—as I had been so often lately. Just… It was just so enchanting watching her. My eyes could never pull away. Her presence, magnetic and divine, filled me with so much warmth and lifting hope. It was as though I were soaring, flying, floating away… That I could soar and see all the world’s beauty from afar. That I had so much to smile about in this rosy world.
“Hey, old man!” Dummy’s abrupt yell shattered my daydreams and reminded me where I was. “Did you forget your glasses today?!” he teased, probably because of my lovestruck expression, which left me with squinted eyes.
“Can’t you see I was having a moment?!” I yelled back in disgust.
“You and your petty excuses,” he huffed.
Internally, I rolled my eyes. He never could understand why I did the things I did. Maybe that’s always bothered him. We never could see eye-to-eye, you know. His personality is just too plain.
“Well, I hope you’re prepared!” I prefaced, charging with a powerful attack.
“Oh, please!” He deflected my sword and striked back. “After all the blunders you’ve been making lately?”
I growled, annoyed. “Stop teasing me!” My anger level had turned to seething rage in a matter of seconds. It was probably a new record.
We went at it again, trying to get past each other’s defenses and swift dodges as neither of us made any hits for the longest time. I’m surprised I was still fighting then—especially after the heaviness that practically crushed my heart, stepping on it and draining it of all energy.
“Idiot!” he yelled at me, sick of our little game. “I should have killed you when I had the chance all those years ago!”
“You really hate me so much that you’d never want to see me again?” I questioned, pained. “That it would make you happy to see me erased?” There went my strength again. I dropped my guard, and he got me—but I didn’t care. No cut no bruise nor mortal wound would ever feel worse than the pain my heart has to endure on a daily basis. Standing there, I had nothing left. I didn’t care anymore. I was so pained but so numb that I couldn’t cry.
But he didn’t know. He was too busy laughing and bragging that he finally got me.
“Go ahead,” I voiced monotonously.
“Why? You know nations can’t really die, idiot! It’s just something we say!” he protested.
“So you won’t? Then I will.”
“What? Have you lost your mind?” he looked at me, bemused.
“Maybe I have,” I stated, the heaviness in my heart dissipating and evaporating into tears. “I can’t fight anymore.”
His face contorted into the most ridiculous look I’d ever seen—one of pure confusion. It makes me chuckle now to remember it—but then, I practically burst into tears. No one understood me like she did. And she was mortal.
“Run back! Come back!”
“Huh?” I whipped around, making sure those words were real and not something my thoughts returned to me.
Sure enough, my people began to flee the fight, returning to regroup or perhaps to rest. It was too much, wasn’t it? I should have known…
And, again, without any thought or predetermined assignment to my mind, I just darted off—my soul and body always only wishing for one thing…to be beside her.
“Hey! Come back! We’re not through yet! Where are you going?!” England yelled at me as I went, his words becoming more and more distant as I ran. Swallowed by the perils of war. But, even though the distance was far, I could hear his final mutter, “That’s all he does is run lately.”
Was that true? But…what else was there? I wanted her to be safe. If only we could run away… to somewhere safe. Get away from all this madness and violence…just live a peaceful life.
“Where are we going?” I asked once I was beside her. She wasn’t hurt that time, thankfully, so she was at full form while running.
“Back to Compiègne!” she instructed. “We will rest there and reassemble tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” I returned with a warm smile. I knew she’d never give up. She just cared. Always…so caring…
As the others mounted horses or increased their dashing, Jeanne and I lingered behind to see them off. We always stood at the back—the most dangerous place when running away—and surveyed to make sure everyone was safe. Even though Jeanne always wished to be at the end of the procession, I stood behind her instinctually—so as to take the sting of any arrows or ammo that may come by.
And that time, there were arrows. Four of them.
Just as we were to follow our army back, arrows surged through the stagnant air, and my body instinctually protected her again—standing before her, my arms clutching her in a tight embrace. Yes, four arrows. One almost hit my heart.
My breathing increased rapidly, and I hyperventilated through the pain, releasing my arms from her to make sure she’s all right. They didn’t go right through me because of the armor—but still.
But, to my surprise, horror struck her face, and her shimmering eyes were glossed over with dread.
“What’s wrong?” I questioned sweetly, concerned.
“You…” she couldn’t form any words. She looked as though she had seen a beastly monster.
“I had to,” I stated, knowing then what she was thinking.
“I’m immortal!” I growled, the pain surging through me and forcing my words to sound menacing. So as not to concern her, I breathed away the pain and added softly, barely a whisper, “You’re not.”
But it was too late. With tepid tears streaming down her face, she ran away, leaving me there to wonder just how far I’d gone.
What had I become?
Stupid. That was so stupid. I was so so so so stupid. Sigh.
“What am I doing to myself?” I wondered at last. My fear and paranoid delusions had gotten the best of me. I shouldn’t have let it control me so much—to the point where I drove her away. Why?
“What…What have I done?”
After that intense battle, luckily, we were able to take a rest at a camp we’d set up in Margny. With a heavy, burdened heart, I lifted my eyes toward the sky, taking in their quiet, consoling shimmers. The stars would always be there, waiting, each night, holding on to my wishes and promises with the assurance they’d never let go. Whispers and dreams winding down the shimmering river of stars…
As I tried to reach for them, a tear fell from my eye—and I couldn’t stop others from following. Why? The pain was too much. I hate this pain that weighs down my heart.
A rustling in the grass caught my attention, surprising me; quickly, I wiped the tears away and attempted to compose myself. I knew it was her. I didn’t even have to look or call out to receive any hint of my notion. The way her essence caressed the fields and her presence lightened the room was unmistakable. And—somehow—I always expected her to come to me. Like a guardian angel.
Sitting beside me, she shared no words as she took my hand in hers—so small and young. Touched by the work in the fields and nurtured by protective parents. Tanned from the sun and worn by the scorns of war. Kissed by the cool night air as the warmth of my hand sought to comfort her. Her eyes stayed cast to the ground—lonely and distant. Concerned.
“Please. Don’t hide your feelings for my sake,” she voiced. It wasn’t a request or a kind idea—she truly wanted me to. Commanded I not hide my feelings from her.
My darling. Of course. If you are so willing, I will share my feelings with you.
The tears burst from me; but I subdued them to quiet sobs. As I took her into my arms, my cape dangled over my shoulders, enveloping her in a translucent embrace, keeping her warm and protected. Like angels’ wings. All the words came at once amid the flow of tears and the pulses of pain as my heart strained to beat.
“I’m so afraid…and so worried about you. I’m afraid to lose you. I don’t know why…but I feel like our time is short. Who would have thought, huh? That someday we…wouldn’t have each other… I can’t imagine a world like that.” My voice cracked, and I strained to whisper, “I need you.”
It felt so good to hold her then—even as I cried my eyes out. It was comforting to have her at my side and to know she shared my pain. After I had finished relaying my words in a senseless barrage, the night stood still—soft, listless twinkling of the stars and breathless zephyrs across the grass. My broken, muffled sobs and quick breaths sounded so empty and distant in the silence. Like I was far off listening to myself—or just my echoes maybe.
As she held me loosely with her sweet arms wrapped around my back, Jeanne stood still for a moment, allowing me to relax and express myself. She stayed quiet, comforting me with her scintillating presence.
“I’m sorry,” I pleaded. “I didn’t mean to hurt you like that. I was just so worried…” I strained through tears. By then, I was almost fully healed already, so it felt nice to have her stroke my back.
“I know,” she returned, her voice sounding equally as pained. “You don’t have to hurt yourself for my sake, Monsieur France. I…”
“I know,” I finished her words, “You care about me, too.”
She sighed softly as though to confirm my words.
“Please. Let us not discuss it anymore. I forgive you,” she said peacefully, holding me a little closer.
Sweetie. “OK,” I agreed, cherishing her sweet embrace as we remained there for a while under the eternal sky. We both had each other then. That was all that mattered. “I have you now,” I voiced gently. “And you’re safe now.”
But I still couldn’t shake that feeling away. Even as we held each other and comforted each other for the longest time. Treasuring the quiet, the solitude, and the silence. The rhythms of our hearts beating in time with each other. I never wanted that moment to end. I hated the thought of letting her go.
The entire time, she had been pondering my words. Musing my concerns and cares. And she said nothing more about the subject as we stayed there beside each other. Then, she sighed. It was an ordinary sigh, sure, but it quieted me—comforted me. Grasped at my attention in a way that I found myself waiting to hold on to her oncoming words.
Our eyes met; comforting green resolute with promise and softened with love and care.
Vibrant blue curious and reaching, longing for love and understanding and to reciprocate those dreams.
Yes, my love?
“We will always have each other, M. France. Even a little piece. You don’t have any reason to worry.”
I’ve never forgotten those words. They have been my only comfort all these years. Having her tell me that she’ll always be here—somewhere, somehow—beside me always. That I shouldn’t fear or feel alone. I wanted to cherish and savor those words—her doubtless resolve behind them, that quiet night under the bouquet of wishes, our tight but ephemeral embrace.
We’ll always have each other.
Even a little piece.
You don’t have any reason to worry.
She succeeded. She got me to smile again. Feeling the pain slip away, a smile swept across my face like a shooting star, and I giggled a little as her words continued to dance in my head—echoing in my memory. “Of course,” is all I had to say. I’m sure she would have said something like “Oh ye of little faith” had I said anything else. I knew then. Of course I wanted to have her forever…but mortals can’t stay, can they? But while she remained…I promised I’d cherish her. Her words. Her warmth.
As I turned and stretched, reaching for the sky, I fell back and took one last look at the stars. It could have been my imagination—but I was sure they were shining brighter. With a deep sigh, I casted my cares away, a subtle smile painting my face.
“Do you mind…if I just hold you again? For a little longer?”
Sigh. Savoring this sweet night with you, my love. Nothing could be better. Just being here with you…feeling you near me…holding you in my arms…
It is the Heaven I seek amid these perils of Hell.
Knowing you care… It’s very special to have you, Sweetie. Fulfilling to smile with you and to nuzzle your sweet head. To snuggle up to you in the cold. Just…knowing you’re there.
Is this love? How do I feel about you? I just…feel like you and I belong together. Like you were made for me and I was made for you. That’s what I feel. You belong in my arms…and I miss having you there…next to my heart—where you belong, my love. My sweetheart. My darling…
My God. I can’t let her go.
In the blink of an eye, our camp was surrounded and attacked as we stayed the next morning. Jeanne was in one of the houses resting, enjoying a peaceful dream far-removed from our melancholic world. But once she heard the yells outside, she burst from the bed and yelled out to retreat and run back, almost as though she were calling out after waking from a vivid dream.
As I stood contemplating across from her, I turned back in concern, “Should we abandon here?” I confirmed.
“Let us try,” she gathered her composure, tossing the covers aside and getting up to suit herself with her sword and cloak. “It won’t do us any good to stay here.”
I nodded. “I’ll follow you.”
Somehow, I trusted her decision completely. I promised myself to follow her wherever she went, and it was evident that trying to fight back now wouldn’t do any good. We were ambushed. All we could do was try to divert and strike back.
“Let’s run back to Compiègne,” she instructed as she was prepared and standing beside me. She didn’t put on all her armor, and a part of me wanted her to stay and take the time to equip, but the other part didn’t have the heart to stop her determination. “We can divert them and start a return attack there.”
“Sounds good,” I responded, keeping close beside her as we walked outside.
It was like a literal rain of arrows outside the camp—as though the sky itself were attacking us. With loud calls, we rallied the others and mounted horses to make our full-scale grand escape away.
Jeanne always followed in the back after everyone else had gone, and that time was no exception. Keeping close by her, I protected her from the arrows, deflecting the steel rain with my sword. I kept at the parrying until she called for me to join her.
“Come on!” she declared, waving me to her.
“I’ll run beside you!” I called back, still staving off the arrows. They just kept coming, and I didn’t want her to get hurt.
“No!” she insisted, looking nervous. “Come on the horse with me.”
The arrows lightened up slightly as I looked back to her. “Are you sure?”
I couldn’t question, so I jumped on. Once I had mounted, the horse took off with extreme speed, and we were on our way—out of the madness and into the horizon of uncertainty.
The countryside sped by us as though we were taking a drive. But the journey held the air of uneasiness. I enjoyed being with her, of course, but I couldn’t shake away the brimming sense of dread that consumed my nerves and chilled my heart. I hated it. It wasn’t nervousness or baseless fears anymore. It was pure dread—regret for something that hadn’t yet happened. It felt like we were riding straight into our doom—all the forces that had plagued us and all the nightmarish feelings that nipped at us and marred our thoughts and courage were slowly becoming reality—until, finally, they plunged into life and became our reality.
I couldn’t take it. I wanted so badly to be hopeful—to believe—but at the same time, every gram of my heart knew it wasn’t possible.
Somehow, we had fallen a bit behind the others during the trip. They had sped forward before we took our leave together to watch the back and keep our comrades safe. But—unfortunately—we couldn’t keep them safe. Once we had arrived near to Compiègne, captured and deceased comrades amid more rain of arrows awaited us.
They knew we were coming.
I can still feel the weight that shook my heart, practically crushing it, once the reality hit my eyes. We couldn’t escape the nightmare anymore. It had us in its tight grip—and refused to let us go.
“Let’s turn back!” I begged Jeanne, pulling on her stiff shoulders.
“But where would we go?” she stated, eyes full of resolution.
“They need us!” she pleaded, taking the call to action.
I sighed—a sigh which ran chills up my cracked heart.
Leaping from the horse, she called out to the others, determination glinting in her eyes and courage guiding her course. With all her resolve, she unsheathed her sword, ready to protect everyone and to do her part to fight for me. Sword raised to the sky, she carried with her the heart of gold—the shining ray of hope and the love of courage.
But it was too late. My little sweetie was never meant to fight in that way. Only in the ways of angels.
At her last attempt, she was suddenly pinned with another arrow in her shoulder—the same one, the piercing sending a shockwave of memories. A recall of all the days as they flashed by in an instant. From then. To now. Overcome by the sudden shock and the throbbing pain, she stopped right there—and fell to her knees.
“Jeanne!!” I screamed to her in agony. But as I lifted my arms to the sky to run after her—to reach for her—and to start a barrage of swordplay, two extensively strong forces bound my arms, pulling my shoulders back so forcefully that they practically got ripped out of place.
“Let me go!!” I growled, struggling to set myself free from the intense pull.
It all seemed like such a nightmare—such a surreal but nevertheless vivid affair. It plagues me even to this day. I was sure the world was dark that day—that the sun never existed and that my life was a tragedy born from madness.
That fiend—idiot England stood before her alongside one of his lieutenants. They both carried themselves so highly and mightily as they stood before poor Jeanne. Disgusting. They could never possess her kind of pure strength.
“We have you at last!” England declared pridefully.
Clenching her shoulder, Jeanne tried to remain calm amid the pain, but I could tell she was struggling a great deal, for she was breathing hard, and her little back was shaking. Her right hand still clutched the legendary sword, though—with a tight grip and a resolve which still flowed from her passionate heart. “You will never take me!” she professed.
“There’s nothing you can do now! Surrender, and we will spare your life,” he said.
“I would rather die than surrender to you!” she blurted.
“No!!” I screamed, my voice breaking from all the stress. The weight on my arms increased—more men came to hold me back from rushing to her. I was a raging tiger ready to be set loose and to rampage.
“That’s not an option!” the lieutenant spoke up. “You must surrender and pledge loyalty to England!”
I have to go—she needs me. Let me go!! The weight—it was everywhere. The pain, inescapable. How could this be? Why couldn’t I save her?!
Slowing her breathing, she feebly lifted her arm, willing with all her might to raise the sword to the sky. But she found her strength not there—but in her heart. “I told you I will never surrender or pledge loyalty to you! My loyalty belongs to the Kingdom of France!” It wasn’t until then that I noticed the hint of brashness in her voice—true anger and resentment which I had never heard tinge her tone before. It didn’t seem possible to me…that she could hate or get angry like that.
Continually, she refused to give in, and finally, they sighed and called two men to come with chains.
“No!” I yelled out, my voice tired and feeble, as I was still battling the forces holding me back adamantly. There must have been at least ten of them trying to keep me back by then. My fury and determination were so much that I would have destroyed the world then. Anything—anything—to have her back in my arms. To protect her. For them to take me instead.
“Lock her up,” England demanded.
“No! I will not be taken prisoner!” Jeanne still fought, shaking and flailing about as they tried to take her arms in chains.
“Take her away!” England called, rallying the troops.
“No!!” My call echoed across the world like a bomb, shaking the ground as I plunged finally from the incessant pulls constricting my arms.
“I’ll save you!” I promised in my thoughts as I ran to her—in this dark, uncertain world. My sword ready to take down all those in my way. I hate this dark, sad, tragic world—let’s fill it with hope again! Together! We will fill it with hope and make everything new again! We will live together…the both of us.
I don’t know why—but my sword slipped from my hands as I thought of her. My hand reached out—so as to grab her and take her with me. For us to escape—for me to hold her, perhaps. Is that what I really wanted? Just to run up to her and hold her? She looked so scared and so marred. I hated seeing her like that…my shining star so dim. I’m here…
But that was the last I saw—her wide eyes and scratched face and petite figure clad in armor. Her arms wrapped in chains like angels’ wings clipped. The soft sparkle of shine left in the depths of her verdant eyes… Before I was knocked out by a sharp and swift blow to the head. And fell…unceremoniously—like descending into madness and darkness—to the shadowed ground.
I couldn’t save her. What good am I?
I…failed you. I’m so worthless. Worthless.
I’m sorry, my love.
Where am I?
Everything is so clear but fuzzy with light… The warm, inviting sun is clothed in pure white—so bright but so beautiful, as well. Tinting everything in warmth and softening the edges of the outstretched fields—as though I were in an Impressionist painting. The fields, dancing and free, are dotted with flowers, lying close to the grasses and amid the shifting greens so that, if you were to take the time to look, you would be rewarded with the pleasure and beauty of occasional colors. But the delicate scent of the harmonious aromas perfumes the entire area, lifting my spirits and giving the feeling of being in a rêverie.
Is it all a dream?
Clothed in a pure white robe, ruffling in the gentlest breeze like a dress, she stands among the flowers as they reach for her, smiling, as the wind nudges them back and forth. With a cascade of gorgeous, straight blonde hair, like the sunset reflecting in the ocean, she turned to me. Ah, such beautiful eyes. Nothing of substance or anything produced by man in such an impure world could ever come close to the pure, untouched beauty of those emerald eyes. Soft porcelain face, beaming with a smile, innocent and loving. Like an angel, she glides across the glades, coming to me. But I’m unworthy. Beaten-down. Sitting in the grass, smashing the ground and desecrating such a lovely place. Could I really be as beautiful as you?
Standing before me, she offers me her delicate hand. You want to help me up? May I? With half a breath, I accept, and she spins around as I stand, as though we were in dance. The sun’s light had faded; it’s really her that brightens this place. The white dress. The golden hair of sunlight. Eyes of beautiful nature.
Reaching for the ground, she plucks a flower from its resting place; putting it to her face, she blesses it with a soft whisper, cherishing its gift it has given to the world before she passes it on.
“Here you are,” she declares, twirling around to meet my bemused, suspended gaze. “It is a white lily that has yet to bloom.”
As I accept the flower, the sun recedes into the horizon behind her, its light fading away, dissolving into the sky and painting the blue canvas with a myriad of subdued colors.
A gentle smile comes to her face. “Please take care of it for me.”
Before I have the chance to nod or to speak with her or even to return the promise…
Unfortunately, I woke up.
“Jeanne!!” I screamed. It sounded like all my agony had burst from me in a single word. All at once, I was plunged back into reality—my dark world. I was back at the field, with her before me, the world falling to gray all around us. And me standing in the grass, desperately reaching for her—until everything went dark.
Except I wasn’t there when I finally came to. I was lying in bed in my lonely room of my lonely house—frantic and hysterical.
Some of the soldiers that had accompanied us stayed with me, and upon seeing me wake and thrash about, they attempted to calm me down.
“Where is she?!” I screamed madly, jumping out of bed, blue eyes seething with anger like raging seas ready to swallow the world.
“We can’t tell you,” one of them said as they all stood back and put up their arms defensively.
Ugh. That burned my heart. How dare they say that?
Stomping to them, I slammed the door, locking them out of my life. With pure, blind rage, I pounded the mattress and paced the room, trying to make sense of all this and where I am. And also trying not to destroy everything in sight with boundless anger.
But then, as I turned around in my frantic state, something beautiful and white caught my eyes. It called to me. Calming myself, I shuffled over to the desk. Sigh. There it was. The white lily she gave me when we played together in the garden. Its distinctive aroma flowed through the room like a guardian spirit; the petals and stem were still so cool and crisp as though it had just been freshly picked. Closing my eyes, I held on to the scent, to the memory, those days, her presence. That flower reminded me of her—brought her there beside me again to comfort me. To love me and to console me. My light in this dark, uncertain, and lonely world.
The others must have noticed the quiet and that the hostile mood had been blown away by a gentle breeze because they peeked through the door and watched me, as though waiting for me to speak. Or maybe just because they were concerned because I had been lost in that trance for the longest time—just treasuring her sweet soul.
Calmly, almost unemotionally but fully hurt from being apart from her, I questioned again, “Where is she being held?”
“She is at a fortress in Clairoix,” one young man responded. “But we don’t recommend you go. They might catch you there.”
It was such a relief to know she was still alive. But it hurt me even more somehow to know she was apart from me. The lily, itself, seemed to beg me, “Go see her,” and I couldn’t just mope around the house knowing where she was. Knowing she was out there somewhere—sad, perhaps lonely and confused. But that she was there. It was such a comfort. It was such a sweet experience—like I had a purpose then to fulfil. I had to go. I had to see her.
Taking the lily with me, my heart fully determined, I passed them all by and left my house for Clairoix—not saying a single word as I left and took the trek the whole way there. With my heart uneasy but courageous, and the lily keeping me company, easing my lonely soul.
Finally, I arrived at the fortress at Clairoix; when I had arrived, it felt like a trip through eternity and noncombatable forces to get there. An impossible battle for an impossible dream. The fortress was shadow-like and gray, a stone tower that reached just far enough to be labeled as tall. It was then that my heart failed me, and I almost fell apart from weakness—as though I had been drained of all my energy. It was like I was going to prison. A prison. How is that even possible? My little cutie…holed up in there?
I didn’t know how to respond. Was it all fake? Maybe I was still dreaming some kind of twisted nightmare? I didn’t even know how to respond or what to believe anymore. But I knew I was there for a reason. Led there for a reason—by something or someone. And I knew she was there. Not just because of what I had been told. Not just because I was led here and because the tower did, in fact, exist. But because a little flicker of hope lit in my heart the moment I came near this very spot. As though I were tracing her delicate steps as she skipped away… No. Her pained steps as she was forced inside the fortress. Sigh. How disgraceful.
With a quiet but heavy sigh, a sigh that was meant to resound across the land but instead made no sound, I tucked the lily into my shirt, keeping it close to my heart, and casually walked inside the tower. I passed everyone by—paid no notice to the guards. Hid myself from the world…and maybe even from myself. It was so surreal. I dragged my hand along the stone tiles as I walked the corridors, ascended the stairs…as though I were still unconvinced I was really there. That it was really there. That she was really there.
I blindly, aimlessly, wandered around until I stopped dead in my tracks, realizing I had been subconsciously led to the top floor—to a small room behind a wooden, enforced door. With a quick pry, the door opened to me, and I nearly fell down the stairs because it opened out to me instead of into the next room. This was it. I knew it was. My breath shook, and my heart pounded—but from apprehension. I staggered a sigh…and walked forth, closing the door behind me.
It was terribly quiet. As though we were the only ones in the entire building. Maybe even the whole country. A cell wall surrounded the entire room, blocking off any sort of hope or any idea of anything besides captivity. A small window provided some light but made the room even more stagnant than if there weren’t a window. It just reminded me how closed-in this small space is. How hopeless it felt… How…
Clothed in white, a small figure sat facing the wall, face buried in folded legs, breathing very steadily and making no noise. It’s her, isn’t it? My caged angel. Even her light couldn’t relieve the burden this room brought to me. She looked so sad and lonely—so isolated. Like all her troubles had manifested and sent her to this awful place. But it wasn’t her fault. Nothing was her fault. She didn’t do anything. Nothing but dream and inspire me. Remind me who I am. Like the flowers that grew no matter the circumstances, she reminded me how to live.
I couldn’t tell, but it almost sounded as if she were crying softly. Maybe stifling the sound with her face in her knees or just trying not to cry in the first place. I stood there for the longest time just watching her. Realizing it wasn’t a dream, but what could I do? I needed her. Even though it was hard on me to see her like that… I needed to see her. What else could I do?
Suddenly, she lifted her head and let out a despondent breath, stretching out her legs and arms and getting off her seat on the cold, hard floor.
I missed you.
Standing, she continued to watch the wall for a second or two before turning her head over her shoulder curiously. Such beautiful eyes. The only warmth of color in this wretched world of pain. Wide with surprise, she spun around quickly and ran to the bars, pleading me in a whisper, “What are you doing here, Monsieur France? Please go before they catch you, too!”
“So? Let them. Then I could stay here with you.”
“No! You don’t mean that! Please…” she pleaded once more, wrapping her small hands around the bars.
“I do mean that. What’s my life without you?”
“You still have a chance! Why did you come here, anyway?”
“I just wanted to see your face again.”
Finally, she sighed exasperatedly, tired of my silly, somewhat vapid responses. “You were worried, aren’t you?”
I smiled. “You know me so well, don’t you?” At her unamused expression, I tried to lighten the crushing pain in my heart that was dragging down my true responses. “Of course I was,” I broke through a whisper.
At this, she said, “I knew you would be,” and closed her eyes, lowered her head, and turned away to the wall again, though staying nearby the bars. And nearby me. “Please don’t be. I am fine. I can look out for myself here. They do not mistreat me, and I am fed regularly, so I feel fine.”
Gradually, I stepped closer to her.
She lifted her eyes to the ceiling. “I don’t mind being held here. I know it is the will of the Lord for me. Please don’t try to break me out or save me because it will only cause more trouble. I don’t want them hurting you, too, Monsieur France.”
Her sweet eyes turned to me, and she put a hand on the bars again, looking so young but so pained. As though she truly requested this with all her sweet, big, beautiful heart. “I am willing to stay here for your sake. So please. Let me be.”
There you are.
Cautiously, weakly, like a leaf unfolding slowly, I wrapped my hand around hers, cradling her in comfort. If only I could hold her. If only I could stay with her. If only I could have saved her. All the tears that had been waiting in my beaten, broken-down heart began to fall like summer rain, trailing down my face and into the cold stone below my feet. “I’m sorry…” I lamented, crying through pained, nervous laughter. “I’m sorry,” I pleaded, breaking down crying. “I’m sorry,” I forced through broken voice.
“It is not your fault, Monsieur France,” she said with her usual air of commanding—but with a gentleness of love. “It’s no one’s fault. It is how the Lord meant it to be.”
How broken I am. Can I even still love you with a broken heart?
Searching for her through my teary eyes, like rivers of sadness, I reached for her other hand and placed mine between her small hands again—the symbol of trust. It was like a soft whisper between us amid the crushing burdens of the world. I promised I would heed her words. I couldn’t bear to see what they would do to her if they saw she had escaped. I couldn’t bear to be responsible for that. I couldn’t bear to see her be hurt. If she says she’s fine, I believed her. She’s fine. I just hated knowing we’d be apart. That was the worst crime of all.
I kept her close to me—the gesture of trust—your warmth filling me. Your presence keeping me safe. And searched her eyes—such lovely gems; they shall never be tarnished. I wanted to keep the color of her eyes, the way they shimmered like stars, in my mind forever. The way, if I searched beyond the initial color and found myself nestled in her gentle soul, they almost shimmered a quiet hue of violet. A tender, warm tint of rose. And, if I may be so brash, mademoiselle… the compliments of the bright ocean blue you so seek, as your eyes reflect mine. As we both seek each other. My God I’ll miss you. I love you.
With a swift nod, I relayed my promise. And rested my forehead to the bars, wishing to kiss her sweet forehead. “Stay safe,” I’d say. Like a daddy seeing his little girl off to preschool. Or something so ridiculously stupid like that. But she rested her head beside me, too, nourishing my soul. So that I could part. Oh, but it hurts to leave you like this. It’s maddening. Why?
I could barely reach…but I gave her a soft peck to her forehead. Sweetie. I gave you my charm, my love. And…wishing I wouldn’t have to go, I slowly…slowly…pulled away. Drawing my hands back…feeling her gradually slip away…like the last of the autumn leaves detaching and whispering away from the trees…being carried by the cool autumn wind.
I never said goodbye. Because it wasn’t. I refused for it to be.
But I forced a smile—a smile tinged with all the sweet memories she gave me. The beautiful bouquet I was left in my heart as I cherished her presence. Her sweet smile. Her golden, sunrise hair cut short as it swept across her cheeks. Her beautiful eyes like the land we traversed and sought to keep. All this is what I saw as I left—closed the door on the past and the altered reality. It wasn’t gray and dark and cold.
No. She was warm and sunny. Always.
That’s what I saw, anyway. Made myself see.
Before I broke down and cried.
I ran all the way home—eyes streaking with tears. I kicked everyone out of my house and just stayed there. For days and days on end—never seeing daylight. I couldn’t bear leaving. I couldn’t bear coming to terms with reality or knowing what would happen. Everything was just a world apart from me—something broken and fabricated. Even worse than the hole I had made for myself in that cramped room of mine at the house. Dark, stagnant, and depressing. In a sense, I had locked myself up, too, subconsciously. We were both imprisoned. But I imprisoned myself.
Three days passed, and Jeanne was sent to Jean de Luxemburg’s castle in Beaulieu-les-Fontaines, a small commune north of Paris. At the same time, a notice was given to her parents that she had been put on ransom for basically an insane amount of money. Her poor family was despairent because they couldn’t afford the ridiculous ransom price (I couldn’t even come up with the funds—not that they would let me), and I hoped they wouldn’t move her any more because I would often sneak out at night and stand at a distance, observing and watching over her secretly. I liked knowing where she was. Even if I mainly stayed home and cried all day.
I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely move half the time. Mostly, I felt like a phantom floating through life—like a shadow haunting the land, cursing everything I touched and condemning the ground where I walked.
Words spiraled in and out of my head—the events of our time together kept repeating over and over like I was frantically putting everything on rewind. For some kind of meager chance to learn what I did wrong. If I did anything wrong. What I could possibly to do help. If I made a good impression on her. Did I say anything wrong? Do anything wrong? What did she think of me? Did I do all I could?
Sigh. I had so many regrets.
And, of course, I couldn’t stop worrying. It was inevitable that those fiends would do something to her, and the very thought of her being tortured just ripped my heart and soul to shreds. I couldn’t bear the thought—but I was constantly plagued with nightmares to the point that I was practically crushed and in rags before anything even happened.
I was a wreck. For the next entire year. Let alone those first few months.
But I still (forced myself to) took walks at night to clear my head and to lose myself in the night’s serenity. The tranquility and carefree feeling. To wish upon each star for her safe return. I often pondered whether she would be staring at the stars with me—and whether she would be thinking of me as I thought of her. Perhaps the stars could carry our messages to each other. I still liked to dream. Dreams were all I had.
I would always dream about running away. It was a ridiculous but very real fantasy I had—especially then. If only I could take her in my arms—sweep her away—and take her with me somewhere far, far away. To rescue her and give her a place to stay and live. Somewhere to be happy and to smile…somewhere to dream and live the life she always deserved. A simple life. Without worries or cares… (with me)
But how? Where? Where would we even go? You can’t run away completely, can you? And I couldn’t just leave my country, I suppose. But how desperately… I just wanted us to run and run and to forget it all—leave it all behind—until it is nothing but a memory. A glimmer. A vague recollection.
But my heart knew it was just a cry from a desperate man. I could never pull off such a frivolous stunt. It would make everyone angry at me, and not only that, there really was nowhere to go. The reality was steep. My intuition told me that even beyond the vast expanse of blue wasn’t an option. But why? I had always wanted to visit there—to traverse the ocean to see what’s beyond. I wish she could have come with me.
Sigh. What’s the use?
And once I had had enough dreaming—and once my dreams were properly crushed—I’d return home once again. To try to sleep that night. Ugh. What a miserable life.
After I had my fill of moping, I promised myself I would visit her again, for I could tell from the last time I dropped by that she had something to tell me. There was just something hidden in her eyes, and I wanted to know what it was. My top priority was for her to be safe and to feel safe, so I was very worried for her. I dropped by once in a while just to ease my soul even though she told me not to come. But she never complained when she saw me standing before her. Once again together in the quiet room, I treasured being beside her once again. Though I could tell she was unhappy.
Her beautiful eyes had turned vapid—almost gray—and wouldn’t leave the floor from the moment I walked in to see her. And the silence of the room, colder than the stone building we were in, was almost maddening.
Without any sort of prefacing sigh or breath or anything, her words announced themselves proudly from the silence. “I’m being put on trial for my crimes.”
What? It was the most nonsensical thing I had ever heard; for a moment, I thought poor Sweetie had lost her mind. But the sternness on her face was undeniable.
I scoffed loudly, still unable to understand. “What crimes?”
“The trials are to start soon,” she continued vapidly.
“But—you must be kidding! This must all be some kind of joke!” I yelled out, still taken aback by the entire idea.
At my hysteria, Jeanne stared straight into my eyes as she continued to sit upon the ground and twirl the cloth of her white cloak. The look in her eyes was unmistakable. She wasn’t kidding at all; neither were they.
At this, I burst into tears. How was it even possible?
“Please don’t cry, Monsieur France. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“But it’s you!” I shout, the tears being replaced by anger. “You haven’t done anything wrong! You’re always following what God says, and you saved me! You saved my life! And gave me a reason to live and to keep on living!” I rambled on and on, pacing the room, emphasizing each new addition to the list as though it were some kind of brilliant breakthrough or foolproof evidence of her innocence. Kneeling, coming up to her, I stayed beside her a while, and she lifted her hands toward the bars so I could grab them. Hold her. Her sweet, innocent, little hands. “And you’re a great friend and…you…”
You’ve always been there for me…and I love you. You’re the light of my life. You mean everything to me. I love you with all I have… I wish I could take you away somewhere with me… Somewhere special. Forever.
But I couldn’t have said that. Not now. It wasn’t the right time; it would only make it all the more tragic. All the more stupid and romantic. I didn’t want to burden her. Besides, I knew she wouldn’t want to run away with me. She would say it’s illogical. Especially then. And it was.
Her eyes turned gravely melancholic—as though she could sense all my pain—and she gradually slipped her hands away from me. “I will be fine. I promise.” Returning her gaze to the floor, she conveyed, “I would rather you not come to the trials. I know it would hurt you.”
“But…I want to be with you,” I voiced in barely a breath.
“Monsieur France…” she said not in a strict tone—but it still did its purpose of quieting me. “You protected me then…and now it’s my turn to protect you.”
She meant to protect me emotionally. She knew by then how fragile I was emotionally. I guess it didn’t take too many instances of my bawling my eyes out for anyone to catch on to my tragic, little secret. But it was really just her. I cried all the time worrying about her. She’s my everything.
I chuckled a little to myself, surprised at how well she understood me. “I understand.”
As though we planned and rehearsed it, we both stood up at the exact same time—even at the exact same speed. She placed a hand on the bars but kept her eyes lowered—almost as though she were checking on my heart, watching it with a concerned expression on her face.
“Be strong for both of us, OK?” I said, ruffling her hair. In all that time, her hair had begun to grow a little—now rolling down to her shoulders and gaining almost a slight wavy curl amid the frizz. Such a cutie.
She nodded, gaining a little smile. “Indeed. I will.”
My sweetie. I’ll really miss seeing you, you know. It hurt me to leave then. I wanted to stay all day—all the time if I could. But I didn’t want to put cutie in danger. She was right to assume I would probably start a riot at the trials or something—because I probably would have. I loved her so much. I hated for anything bad to happen to her. But, at the same time, I knew she wanted everything to be in God’s hands. Whatever it was He wished for her.
But I missed seeing her. And holding her and just…being there with her. As I stood there, turning away to the door, and feeling so awful I’d be leaving her behind.
“You know…” I breathed, another sigh shaking out of me as though it were stumbling past all my pain, “I wish I could hold you just one more time.”
She gave me that cute look—the look of the innocent girl. She reached her arm out towards me, and I almost ran right into the bars running to her. But I couldn’t really reach through to hold her. I just took her hands and tried to nuzzle her sweet head.
“Be strong,” I whispered again. “Be strong.”
That time, I really didn’t want to leave. I wanted to feel her near me forever. To cherish her warmth and care. I really wanted to hold her in my arms again.
And…unfortunately…I later got my wish.
Throughout those troublesome months that came together as a barricade and made up that troublesome, depressing year, I was devastated. I was even more of a wreck than I was before, and I was so worried for my dear love. All alone—scared and worried. I could think of nothing else but her.
Especially after that fateful night we met again much later.
One night, I went out for another walk, seeking solace and understanding from the stars. My heart wasn’t as heavy, and I made myself something to eat before I left, so my head wasn’t swimming as much as it had been. I had a terrible, surging headache from crying, though. As the stars and half moon lit my path, I wandered a bit before being compelled to see her again—just to stand outside the building at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines, maybe to peek through the window, just to be there beside her. Perhaps to catch sight of her.
I don’t know why exactly, but as I walked along, I felt as though I were pulled into a dream—and I could sense her sweet presence on the air, lightening the atmosphere and tinging the air with the scent of flowers. After a moment, I cherished the thought as a kind of fantasy, knowing that she most likely wasn’t there, but it was a nice thought to treasure. The possibility that she could. And I continued to expound on my fantasy until I arrived at the fortress.
Through the silvery shine of the moon’s glow, the shadows were swept away, and a hint of gold stood out among the swaying grasses. Angelic. Graceful. Wait.
“Is that her?” I wondered to myself, my pace instinctually quickening beyond my will to catch up to her.
At the sound of swishing grasses, she yelped like a frightened dog and turned her head away, covering it with her skinny arms. “I’m sorry! Please! Have mercy!”
“It is her,” the words spoke through my heart. It was so pleasing to hear her voice again. Refreshing as a drink of cool water from an oasis after trekking strenuously through the endless desert. “Jeanne?” I called softly. “It’s just me. Are you all right?” I reached for her, resting my hand gently on her arm.
At my familiar voice and my soft touch, she lowered her guard, revealing her wide, curious, and rather relieved eyes. “Monsieur France?” In the depths of her verdant eyes, she was delighted to see me. On the surface, she was—as she always was—perplexed. “Why have you come?”
I chuckled. “What are you doing out here, silly?”
“I…well…” she fumbled for the right words, lowering her face to the shadowed ground.
She was clothed in her riding outfit again, something that then was suited only for men to wear. She said she preferred the outfit because it made her an equal to boys and kept them away. She wasn’t fond of the men’s conduct and felt safer in the outfit. They weren’t making advances on her, were they? Poor sweetie. But the clothes suited her, and her long hair gave her a sort of distinguished presence.
Then the cold, hard truth sunk into my heart. She was running away. There must have been a reason. Were they torturing her? Prisoners or boys bothering her? Refusing to feed her? Maybe she just wanted to return home—as she had always wished? Maybe…she was going to run away without me? Or…maybe invite me along?
“Wait. You’re not running away, are you?” I softened my urgence with a whisper. “That’s dangerous! What if they catch you out here?”
“I know. I was foolish.” She hung her head in shame.
“But why?” I questioned, my words filling with concern. “Are they hurting you?”
“No, they are not beating me.”
“Boys bothering you?”
“Sometimes, but the Lord keeps me safe.”
“Then what is it, Sweetie?”
For a moment, she turned away and listened to the quiet of the night, perhaps to find the right words or maybe to muster the courage to tell me her emotions. Then, amid the swishing of the night breeze, her pained tears and sniffling drifted to my ears. “They are torturing me. But emotionally. The trials are terrible! They are changing my words and asking me questions using terms and things I don’t know! And they ask me to read and write—and I cannot do either! They are driving me mad, and I am beginning to believe that perhaps I am mad! Or that I was all along!” Hurt, she burst into tears, covering her face and trembling from the pain.
My poor sweetie. “I’m sorry.” I brought her into my arms. A light but loving embrace. “They shouldn’t be doing that to you. Don’t listen to them. You’re always so confident. I could always tell your words and actions were true. You inspired me. I don’t think you are crazy.”
She sniffled the tears away. “Really? You don’t?”
“Of course not. You saved my life.” Tracing her beautiful face, I dragged the tears along with me and locked them away—hoping that would make her smile again.
“But…” she continued tearfully, “the Voices… They have left me. There is no one with me anymore. I wonder oftentimes whether the Lord really is with me because I feel so alone, and these events are torturing me so much. Why would He will this on me? Do I deserve it?”
“Don’t say things like that, Jeanne.”
“But I know nothing anymore. What…” she choked on her tears, and I held her closer to my heart. “What is true anymore, Monsieur France?”
I sighed. She really had been through a lot, hadn’t she? My poor cutie. So young… How could they have done this to such a bright, young girl like her? Monsters.
I stroked her back, letting her get rid of the last of the tears. “It’s all right. I know who you are, and you do, too. In your bright, passionate heart. They can’t take that from you—even if it seems like they are. Don’t listen to them. You have done so much good, and you are one of the Lord’s most special children.”
“Oh…I wouldn’t say the most special. But you really believe He is still with me though the Voices have gone? And that He will aid me if I ask?” she questioned, her eyes peeking up to me.
With a warm smile, I declared, with a quick nuzzle, “I’m sure He will because you’re a beautiful, strong, bright, and determined young lady.”
She made an odd noise like a sad squeak mixed with a joyful, stifled giggle. Snatching my hand in hers, she held it to her cheek, still stricken by tears, and expressed, “I’ll never forget your kindness, Monsieur France.”
With a soft smile tinged with a love-struck giggle, I returned, “I’ll never forget you.” Returning the gesture, I took her hand which was latched onto mine and held it to my face. All the while trying not to cry from a strange mixture of pride, sadness, melancholy, and pure joy stemming from our mutual fondness.
We stayed there for a while just cherishing each other’s’ company. It was lonely being apart—especially after the days we spent together. It felt natural to be together. Maybe she missed me, too. Actually, I know she did. It was so life-giving to have her with me again. All the pain and sorrow and madness just fluttered away, and a big smile burst on my face. I couldn’t contain the joy I felt with her.
“Come here, silly,” I said, giggling. I took her in my arms and gave her a big hug, all the while laughing joyfully that I had her back. The meaning to my life. The reason my heart kept beating despite the horrendous pain it experienced. Nuzzling her head and spinning her around a little, I felt content and happy showing her some of my love and care I’d always wanted to share with her. Sweetie.
Her face lit up, as well, with a beautiful, full smile like a garden in bloom. “You always make me feel better somehow, M. France.”
“Yes. It gives me hope to see you smiling.”
“You like my smile?” I could feel the blush rising again.
She nodded. “Of course. It is always nice to see even during the bad times.”
“So, seeing you smile again has given me courage. I won’t run away.” She sighed heavily, shaking away the burdens and stiffness and loosening her stance. Her sweet face displayed a calm, relaxed smile. “I will make it.” She declared, her confidence returning as a spark nestled in her eyes. It was always there; it just needed to be revived.
My girl. Putting an arm around her shoulder, I escorted her back. “I know you will,” I assured. And I meant every word of it. Especially the part where I told her I’d never forget her…
I’m glad we got to see each other again. And to cherish a sweet hug that lifted both our burdens away and sent them, bursting into the sky, fading away like fireworks. Transformed by the power of love.
It was enough to hold her in my arms again. My shining star. It was enough to comfort her and remind her I was there. Except I wasn’t. I wanted so badly to save her from this madness. The torture and pain were evident in her eyes, and I felt so awful—as though it were all my fault my love was suffering. Was it all my fault? Was there really anything I could have done? I didn’t want to make it worse.
All I could do—all I could ever do, all I ever do—was cry. Day in and out. It was like the rain that continued to pour out from the sky and drown everything. Wash it all away. Drown away. Float away—adrift—somewhere. Anywhere besides here and now.
She was right. I couldn’t bear it. The one time I decided to go to one of her trials and listen, my heart was practically ripped to shreds.
The way they talked to her—condescending. The way they mixed their words around and demanded things of her. The way they acted.
But worst of all—the way she faltered.
Her eyes, pained, like the mirror of her struggles. The tenseness of her soft voice getting lost in the echoes of the room—trying to reach desperately toward Heaven for some sort of answer.
The way she doubted herself.
My cutie should never have had a reason to doubt. She was my strength—my resolve. She always emanated that air of confidence and poise. Was always sure.
But then—I could tell they were trying to break her. I could tell the trials were rigged.
It was like being in Hell. The distance between us, the room spinning madly out of our control—the words and pieces of our broken souls being lost, tossed, across the space into some kind of nowhere. A blank space. Oblivion. Never to be seen again. As though they were never real in the first place.
That everything—all time and all we were—
was a lie.
Oh. I wanted so badly to punch them all. To save her from this Hell. To blow up this false world—a nightmare made by madness—around me.
I hated it. I hated them all. I wanted it all to go away.
So I went home and ripped up my house.
Whenever I’m too tortured, angry, or pained, I tend to do this. It’s not a good thing at all. Hatred never brings about anything beautiful.
My room had been so properly destroyed—and the wood had beaten me up and scraped me good. Physical pain to accompany the unbearable pain my heart felt.
I never wanted to go back there again. I couldn’t believe she had to endure that madness. It just wasn’t possible.
In all my pain and desperation, I screamed out to God and pleaded with Him to have mercy—to be with her and to help her. To remind her who she is. To be with her again. To send her confidence and her Voices again to console her. For anything. Something.
Just so I’d know she’d be OK.
Because I wasn’t. No. Not at all.
I didn’t know until later—decades later—when I read the accounts and trail words just how much she had to endure. I can’t believe she had to suffer through so much. If only I could have been there—but what could I have done?
Those were the worst months of my life—never-ending agony. Each day blurred into the next, and I never gave in to any rest, so everything looked like shadows and receding ideas of dreams melting away into the dark edges of the room like ink.
I had forced myself into drinking—thinking it would help—but by God it doesn’t help. It only made me cry more. It was like I was drinking my own tears and blood only to pour them out again stronger and stronger each time. If I were human, I would have literally died from heartbreak.
The pain was too unbearable—my heart even stopped a few times, and the disintegrating world of warping shadows and melting scenes unfamiliar to me anymore just blacked out in an instant—and suddenly I was awake again.
But the pain was still there.
But Jeanne was still suffering.
But I was still alive.
Oh my God how I wanted to die.
To be finally liberated from all this God-forsaken pain and just die.
But I couldn’t.
And so it began again—
And the dying
Followed deftly by the revival.
The return of all the pain,
as I must swallow it all again.
I couldn’t stop.
I had gone mad.
Mad from the depression I couldn’t handle.
Mad from the guilt and regret that was never my own.
(But I don’t do this anymore. Please don’t. It doesn’t solve anything. It only makes it worse.)
I never once left the house. The light of day never saw my face—it never wanted to. Darkness consumed me until I lost all notion of time and reality. There was no world. There was no time. There was no France. There was nothing.
And that was when she was still alive. Sigh—I had so much left still to endure, but I didn’t know that then. I was so stupid torturing myself so much—hurting so much before anything ever really happened.
But it was too much for her. Oh, how I wanted to take her away with me somewhere peaceful and quiet. But where would we even go? How would we even leave? What would we even do?
Sigh. What a sad and tortured soul I was. The broken man—
the man with the broken heart.
Unable to love.
Unable to be loved.
I had nothing.
But my desk was still in place and left untouched by the violence and pain that surged through me, making me rampage suddenly like a savage monster. The only truth and order left in my decrepit house. My disintegrating sanity. The desk—yes—with my journal and the lily. The white lily she gave me.
At certain moments, I would finally calm down and lift my eyes to the lily which watched me cry my days away. And I’d observe it reverently—and speak to it as though it were her or some kind of object which the Lord blessed. It told me nothing, but the flower—as simple and beautiful as it was—comforted me. It seemed so otherworldly, so pure in this agonizing world. Then I realized.
It wasn’t aging.
It wasn’t fading away.
Even after all my days of tears and pain and all the hours of mortality’s touch and time, the flower stayed the same as though she had just given it to me yesterday. Maybe even the same morning. Lilies usually, without water and cut so short, last only about three days at maximum before the color fades away to a dull beige and the flower loses all its moisture.
But that lily—her lily—stayed.
It was impossible. How could it even be? Was it me? Had I gone mad and was only imagining it? It stayed like that for days and into months—as though it were trapped in time. Stopped on that day she gave it to me. Halted on the last moment we cherished together—our perfect eternity. Our garden. Our love. That day—our time.
When I picked it up, I could still feel her essence. Feel her presence in each second of delicate scent. See her smile in the pure, untouched petals. The pollen hadn’t even left a single speck of yellow on the petals—they were such a purest white that it was almost impossible for such a color to exist in this dark world. This wretched place.
I couldn’t understand it. It refused to die. It refused to fade away. It refused to be tainted.
She refused to waver.
After many days of pain and moping, my tears were exhausted, and I couldn’t bring myself to cry any more. And so, with a little lighter heart, I unstuck myself from my bed and picked myself up with all the strength I had left. And forced myself to take a walk outside. Walks always clear my head and remind me the reason I still strive to live—the flowers, naturally—and the exercise would do me good, anyway. Though my body was too weak to put in the effort, so I felt like I was floating to the front door.
The sudden, bright sunshine knocked me back and practically blinded me. With an internal shudder, I cursed the bright, blue sky for being what it was—and not gray and dark, like the only feelings I could muster in my cold, desolate soul. But I couldn’t change the sky nor the fact that the world’s events were out of my control. So I shut the brightness away—pretended it wasn’t there. And walked meaninglessly through the countryside.
As my thoughts ebbed and flowed like a nearly empty sea, my plodding feet subconsciously led me to the fortress where Jeanne was held, and I chuckled to myself. I joked my heart led me to her—where I belonged. But as I neared the entrance, the guards stopped me from entering. I couldn’t believe I was somehow still visible—especially because my self-esteem was practically non-existent then.
“Please. I don’t meant to cause any trouble. I just came to visit Jeannette. She’s being held here.”
“You mean she was,” one of them corrected me.
Without letting them speak any further, I blurted out, “What?! Where is she now?!”
I didn’t even really need a full answer—just the name of the town. Or the fortress. And off I went. Like a rocket, I was there within a few minutes. I had hoped I wasn’t too late. What did they do to her? Is she still alive? My sweetie. I hope you can hear me, my love. They can never take your sweet soul.
It was fate that I was led there that day.
No sooner did I arrive that all my questions were answered. She had been put on her final trials and was to be sentenced. Tomorrow. It was going to be earlier.
What had I done? What had I done? It was so heart-wrenching. So many regrets. If only I had known. Been there. Somehow would have stopped all of this. Was I just another pawn watching all of this unfold?
I couldn’t bear to show my face. I ran home and cried.
“It’s such a lovely day!” Jeanne exclaims happily.
“I know. It is!” I return.
It really is the perfect day for a picnic. Relaxing, warm sunshine…careful breeze…endless blue that soothes the soul.
“It was fun mountain-climbing with you, too. I loved the view.”
“Ah, yes… The view was magnificent!” I agreed with a romantic sigh. “But not as magnificent as seeing it with you!” Wrapping an arm around her, I nuzzle her sweet head and take her into a loving embrace.
Giggling, she pushes me away playfully but, with a shy look, silently admits that she wouldn’t mind sharing a little hug with me. Cutie.
Sigh. If only…
If only it were real.
All that awaits me is pain.
I hurt still—but in a different sort of way. It wasn’t regret and pain for what wasn’t to come or for what could come. It was pain and remorse for what was waiting very near over the horizon. Tomorrow. Was the last day I’d see her.
All the daydreams in the world. All the fantasies I had treasured. All the words I wanted to share but couldn’t. All the days and love and time I longed to give her. All everything. All of me. All the hope and empowerment she’d given me.
The lily still stood alive, though. Vibrant with color and life. I couldn’t bear to see it fade away, so I pressed it in my journal while it was still young. So as to keep it forever. Not just in memory…but somehow in immortality.
Always. Together. But tomorrow.
Sigh. What was I?
I wished it didn’t have to be. That we could have more time and memories to share. Good ones.
I hated the thought that she had to…
She didn’t have to. Who said she did? That it was required? Why?
My pain. My agony.
Why do you have to go? I’ll miss you. I need you…
“Why? Why, God, why? Why did you have to take her from me?”
I dread the very thought of writing this. It’s so painful. But it must be done, yes, my darling? I wish to tell your whole story, too. After all…it was the last time we saw each other. The last time…
I miss you. I love you. And I’m sorry.
I’m sorry it had to end this way.
I was the first one there. I arrived before anyone else. I saw the stars fade away into the morning and the sun rise triumphantly into the clear, blue sky. I witnessed the clear blue shadow over with white clouds until they mixed with gray to make a somber atmosphere. I witnessed the shift of the air to a cool, brisk breeze that soon faded away to basically the stillest possible day I have ever felt in my life. The air didn’t move at all. Not even a miniscule measurement of wind. It was almost the perfect day for this. That’s what frightened me the most. It was all planned. But why? Why, Lord?
By the time the men came to prepare the area, I felt like a statue. I had planted myself there and stood still for so long that I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Except my heart beating mercilessly in my chest, my stomach churning from apprehension, and my nerves tingling from the same affliction that was sickening my stomach. I was scared to death. I felt like I was being tortured. I wanted so much just to scream out and surrender just for it all to stop. Just so I wouldn’t have to see it. Just so it wouldn’t have to happen.
They set up a pit of logs—a perfect circle—and hammered a tall, skinny piece of wood into the ground. As I was the ground, I imagined the pain it drove into my heart—the sharp pain of sharpened steel being hammered into me until it was found to be enough for the wood to be secured. Each hit hurt. More. Each time.
I couldn’t bear to look. I shut my eyes tightly, cringing and shaking and sniffling at the thought of what’s to come until I wasn’t alone anymore. I wanted to be alone. It was just worse being surrounded by screaming idiots who were tricked into believing that the act today was some kind of “good thing” instead of the worst possible thing I could ever imagine. The worst day of my entire life. The day that left me behind nothing but a broken man with a broken heart and a tattered soul.
I lost the love of my life that day.
I wanted to be alone. I kept my eyes shut tight and tried to push away the rest of the world. Tried to forget why I was there. Why I was a statue. Why my heart couldn’t take it anymore.
When, suddenly, a hand placed itself on my right shoulder. It wasn’t hers—I could tell immediately. It was bigger and not as warm. Heavier. But I didn’t look.
“You can go if it’s too much for you, you know.”
But I recognized that voice. That stupid accent. That biting accent. I whipped around and threw his hand off my shoulder. “What are you doing here?!” I screamed, aghast.
England just gave me that look. That look he always gives me. He doesn’t understand why I’m this way. The crying damsel in distress. The one that’s too emotionally-driven. What? Is it wrong to cry?
“Look. I don’t like it any more than you do,” he tried to console me—in the usual sort of biting tone.
I turned around and shut my eyes again—tightly. I didn’t want to admit he was there. I didn’t want him to be there. It was his fault. It was everyone’s fault. Was it also my fault? I didn’t want to think about that then. What if it was? The tears came, painfully, forcing themselves from my closed eyes like plants forcing through concrete. I couldn’t cry—I couldn’t let him see me cry. But it hurt. What if it was my fault? I should have done something—anything!
Just as I lamented over my inability to help her…the noise blew up around me, and I knew immediately.
[this is the hardest part to write
There she was. Though she was walking on her own, there were two guards walking her down. With chains on both her wrists, she looked like a poor, tortured dog being pulled by two leashes. Time had taken such a toll on her poor face. Her innocent features were tattered by insults and scraped by the dust of the world. She almost looked like how I looked before she saved me. She saved me. And her hair had grown almost all the way out, reaching all the way past her shoulders to the middle of her back. Straight but fuzzy—still a beautiful blonde but it was sullied by dirt until it was literally a dirty blonde color. Only her cloak was pure white—soft as the first snowfall and pure and innocent like the robes of angels. She was skinny, too—almost too skinny.
If I had to narrow down when exactly my heart was shattered into pieces, I would have to say it was right then. Seeing her so beaten-down…so filthy and scratched-up… It just pains me. What happened…to my girl?
I almost broke down and cried. The world surrounding us was unrecognizable. The darkness stemming from my tortured soul and tattered heart and all the days of agony that led up to this living nightmare. Even with the shine she once had and her luminous presence she kept in her soul, there was nothing that could help me. Even as desperately as I tried to look back to her to reach for the other world we made—the magical land and sensation where it would be only us, our true and pure love, I couldn’t. It didn’t even exist anymore. Was everything all a lie? Did I wake up? Did I imagine that? Oh, so badly…I wanted to escape. Just feel that same trinket of comfort that I could escape—in a small way—in her presence and feel lost in her loving, protective arms.
As she was led through the crowd, she motioned the two guards alongside her to stop, and they listened. She stopped right before me. Those familiar emerald eyes stared straight into my eyes, and, comfortingly and subtly, the world did begin to fall away a little. At the first glance, I expected to see all the pain and torture she’d taken, and while her appearance made that evident, her eyes held no trace of that torture. She was as confident and sure as she’d ever been—wielding this time and incident as though it were her greatest shining ray of hope for me. As though she knew this is what she had to do. I couldn’t believe it.
I went to speak, but I could find no words, and she had no words for me then. Her look provided all the answers. And, knowing I had received the message whether I liked it or not, she pushed through the chains, like a butterfly pushing back a mountain, and gently but firmly took my hand. With a nod to confirm my thoughts, she let go and continued to walk. To walk away. And leave it all behind.
That couldn’t be all she wanted to say, I kept telling myself. I had too much I wanted to say, but what good would any of those words do now? To reach for her—to stop it all. To ask her why she was so confident, so willing. To tell her how much I love her and how much she meant to me and how much I hated to see her willfully just…go. Why? It didn’t make any sense to me at all then.
As she walked away, I lost all the strength to reach for her and take her back into my arms. Tears poured from my eyes like heavy rain, and I hid my face with my hands. I felt so useless—so powerless. So futile. So crushed and pained. Foggy in a world of darkness.
They led her to the front of the crowd, to a scaffold where they allowed her to stand upon her own. As though it were a tragic play they had rehearsed, the guards let her go, and she kneeled before us on top of the wood and lowered her head in shame.
“I am sorry for the pain that I have caused,” she called out in a repentant but oddly confident voice. “Please, I would have you offer your prayers of forgiveness to the Lord for me.”
But you didn’t do anything wrong.
“Please have mercy upon me, O Lord!” she yelled out, suppressed pain making its way up from her heart. “I accept now your will for me!”
There were no more incriminating words. No trial questions. No contradictions or sentences or interjections. A thoughtful and rather dreadful wave swept on all of us. And there was only silence. Thoughtful, pained, regretful silence.
“I’m ready now,” she barely muttered—a sound that, even at that distance, sounded like she whispered it directly into my right ear. “But first—I request, humbly request, that you bring me a cross that I may hold as I burn.”
The accusers were surprised at her request, but they nevertheless sent someone for a cross from the priest—but they never returned.
While they had gone and there was only tense waiting, my tears had gotten the better of me, reducing my face to stricken grief. I couldn’t stand being apart from her. Especially then. Trying to make myself unnoticed, I wandered to her through the people, and England yelled out at me to stop—but I ignored him.
It was so gratifying being beside her again. Her essence, though diminished, filled me with a soft light of hope. I wanted so badly to take her into my arms and flood with tears, pleading her not to leave me. Not to give up. But I knew how she’d respond. So, instead of fabricating her cute responses in my mind, I wished to cherish her direct thoughts and words so they would echo in the emptiness of my heart for all eternity.
“Why did you come to me, Monsieur France?” she wasn’t angry nor sad I was there with her—simply curious. Her face held no hint of emotion other than dutifulness and a stoic sense of fear that had been long pushed away.
“It feels natural to remain by your side, Jeanne.”
She almost smiled at my genuine comment. “I see.” Swiftly, she turned her head away and looked to the sky. Now on the ground, her eyes seemed to want to reach farther to see what’s beyond the crystal veil. “Please do not interfere, M. France. This is something that I must do. This is the final task the Lord has granted me—something that I must do for him, I was told.”
“I had refused before because I was too afraid of the fire. But I know now I have no fear,” her little voice broke at this, and my heart wanted to break, too. She took a deep breath. “Because I know He is with me.” Gracefully, she turned her face to me, revealing a powerful, oddly genuine smile peeking from under her fully determined and rather pained expression. “And I would like you to be with me, too.”
Always. But I can’t bear to see you go. But why? I love you, my sweet. Please explain.
“Please,” she continued resolutely and somewhat nostalgically, “I have only one request for you, M. France.”
“That you stand among the others and smile as I do this.”
“But…how?” I was fully torn and unable to comprehend. “How can I smile?” when the love of my life, who has given me so much…is…
I had to. I knew she was serious—there was no doubt about that. Her eyes were as steely as they’d ever been, and if it truly were the wish of her heart, her last request, I knew I had to heed it. Somehow. With a sharp breath, I mulled over my decision and couldn’t possess the strength to answer. So I held her sweet hand, weighed down by chains, and cradled it—cherished her—to my heart, reflecting upon her a moment. With a soft kiss, I let her hand go, returning it gently to her side. We nodded almost unanimously, and my body refused to let her go. Why couldn’t I stay? Hold her forever…feel her…and be beside her until…
With an internal sigh, I slipped away and returned among the nameless faces.
The monsters in charge were becoming impatient, so they yelled out to continue despite Jeanne’s request for a cross, which never materialized. Though Jeanne adamantly demanded to have a cross to hold—to keep beside her the entire time. I couldn’t leave her. I lingered. As I reached for her, a nearby onlooker crafted a simple cross with sticks and handed it to her, touched by her words.
Upon gently receiving it, she folded her hand around the simple trinket and pulled it to her heart, treasuring the gift with a warm, full smile as though it were the single greatest thing she could ever have.
It was life-giving to see her smile again. A picture I’ll forever cherish in my mind. The sun could have come out right then, and it wouldn’t have compared to the warmth of her smile. I savored the sight, letting it wash over me and cleanse my soul—before I returned with the others, where I realized that the sweetest sentiment brought about the most horrid event.
Why couldn’t it have ended there? She was one of God’s greatest children. But the corrupt church didn’t see that—they saw only what they wanted to. Manipulated her to say otherwise. They were still human, after all—and they, unfortunately, gave Catholicism and Christianity a bad name. She was the purest of angels. The strongest of fighters. A saint among liars.
I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stood in the same place I was before, and I could feel the ground sinking underneath me where my tears had fallen and the residual pain and dread I had infused into the surrounding air. It all came back and chained me again.
“Hey,” England came by and whispered. “What are you doing consorting with the prisoner, you dummy?”
That’s all it took was that word. In an instant, I had him by the throat and was about to choke him and snap his neck at the same time. “Don’t you dare call her a prisoner! You ingrate!!”
“OK. Stop,” he forced. “Let me go!”
I clawed my hands away—letting out the last of my aggression. Turning away, I regretted what I did and returned to moping.
“Sheesh. Fine. I won’t talk to you anymore,” England commented while rubbing his neck, his footsteps receding in the grass.
I sighed heavily.
I hate this pain that drags down my heart. That keeps me from having anything but heartache.
And so, on that lonely day in May, it happened. They started that wretched “sentence.” That ill-bided “ceremony” that took place while the sky refused to cry and all the pain in my heart numbed me until I was crumbling—my nerves stuttering along, my heart fumbling along; the weight so much that I constantly collapsed in on myself. I could barely stand anymore. The monsters in charge, still trying to convince us that somehow Sweetie was the one at fault here, preluded the affair with something so stupid that I pushed their words out of my mind. The only ones that stick, the ones that still now float in my mind so vividly that I can still hear them, are hers. It’s always her. Why did it always have to be her? Why couldn’t it have been me instead?
The whole time she awaited her inevitable fate, she stood eerily calm. No flashes of fear, no outbursts, no statements against what they said. Nothing. Just that same determination which never wavered—it didn’t even soften upon sight of me. There were even split seconds which I cherished that our eyes met—and still, that confident, stern expression would remain. And I don’t know why I could barely stand it—wanted to yell out something or maybe just to ask her why. This was madness! Couldn’t they see? Madness!
Was I the only one that saw?
Still with equanimity, she allowed the guards to take her again—to chain her to the stake while I stood there, dying inside. It can’t really be. It can’t. Is it all just a nightmare?
Make it stop. Make it stop.
Then, suddenly, she found her voice.
“Oh, Lord almighty whose presence sees and knows all! Hear my prayer!” her mighty call rang out all across the land, silencing all. “Forgive these men who accuse me and grant me the strength to listen to your call!” Though she still brimmed with confidence, tears welled in her eyes, and I could tell her hidden feelings had gotten the best of her for a moment. “Please, all you who are holy, pray for me! Pray for forgiveness for all I have done! Lift your hearts to the Lord who saves all!”
And then, calming herself, closing her eyes, and reaching her head back as far as her neck would take it to the sky, she recited Catholic prayers and creeds that were guided by her heart. Every word another piece of her soul.
The words left me. The words left everyone. There was nothing left we could say. The emotions began to drain from me. But the tears somehow rose and stayed, trapped, in my eyes—just enough to blur the nasty view so as to console me just a little while longer before…
The torch came.
Her prayers didn’t waver—not even a little.
The silence among us turned to protests and shouts—sporadic and demanding.
“What?!” England joined in on the protesting, as well. “What are they doing? They aren’t going about it humanely?!”
The “humane” way for this execution is to break their legs and arms or basically to snap their necks or to half-kill them beforehand so it wouldn’t hurt as much. It sounds unpleasant, but really, feeling it all is much, much worse. Being alive during it all is much, much worse.
Still, she didn’t waver at all. Not even a centimeter.
The flames immediately engulfed the small timber that was set. It was a devouring monster with an insatiable appetite. I couldn’t stand it. Make it stop. Stop. I can’t. I don’t want to see it anymore.
My whole body began to shake—writhe—in pain. My breathing turned borderline hyperventilation. Tears streaked from my eyes very steadily—never once feeling polite enough to blur my eyesight. Reach out. Stop it—break through and stop it.
The shouting continued, and some of the officials silenced the protestors—pushing back those who had at least half a heart left. Others broke down and cried, their eyes burning with hot, painful tears. Those who prayed knelt to the floor, muttering as though they had gone mad—pleading for it all to cease. I wanted to break down and cry. But I also wanted to believe it wasn’t actually happening.
England saw me fighting my war with myself and my emotions, and he took my shoulder, realizing now that we were no longer enemies. We both hated this. “Do you need some time?” he asked compassionately—oddly compassionately. Probably the most genuine he’s sounded in his entire life. “You don’t have to force yourself to watch if you can’t.”
“But I…” I sputtered through tears.
Why? I couldn’t bear it, but I knew I had to. She’s… I need to be here. I said I’d never leave her! Even now… She…
She needed me.
Of course. It was so evident. I promised her I’d always stand by her side, through good and bad. Through everything. Until the bitter end. Well, here it was. And what was I doing? Trying to force myself not to cry or to pretend it’s not real? She actively gave her life for me, and I was trying not to cry?
I couldn’t. Though my human soul was writhing in pain from all those turbid emotions, there had to be something I could do. I wanted to share her pain. To take it. Like the ground the stake was thrust in or the grass which the flames licked. That was me, too. The land which she strived to protect—the country which she vowed would remain. The person in which she sought confidence. The people which fought at her side.
I…was all of those things. Not just the idiot who was always crying in the background about how much he hated to fight or to see her go. I…was the Kingdom of France. And I needed to be there for her—just like she was always there for me. Even if it meant taking on everything she felt. Being courageous for once. Standing there. Beside her. Until the end.
So I ran to her. Pushed anything and everything aside and took her into my arms. That was what my wary heart truly wanted. To stay beside her—even as she faded from my arms.
The heat was unbearable. The pain almost as worse as what consumed my heart. I doubted the ground really exchanged that much of the intense pain and heat, but I didn’t mind—because I was willing to. Through it all, though, I could still somehow sense her there. Feel her subtle warmth—of her caring soul—comforting and cool in this terrible inferno.
She stopped her prayers and hymns for a moment to ask what I was doing. Not in a surprised way. Nor in an annoyed way. In fact, pretty emotionless entirely.
“I will stay by your side and share your pain,” I stifled my yells of agony. Even though I wouldn’t die, it felt like I should have. At least three times. Waterfalls of tears evaporated before they had the chance to leave my eyes.
“All I asked is that you smile.”
“I’m sorry! I can’t! I don’t understand how I could!”
“It is fine,” she assured quietly. “I understand.”
It’s not that she sounded disappointed, per se, but that response, knowing I hadn’t heeded her only request, made the tears flow more.
Returning to her prayers and hymns, she carried those words of soul, releasing them to the sky, until her last breath—which she knew by then would be any time.
That’s what frightened me. I couldn’t bear to see her go. But I still remained, anyway. Cherishing each last second of her brief, beautiful life…
As memories of her came dancing into my mind, the heat and noise dissipated, and my heart became strangely light. Her presence had always been such a comfort to me, and she gave me so much in only three years. So much. So many moments to cherish, so many smiles to treasure…but so many vignettes to rip from the scrapbook and so many stabs to my heart that I had forgotten just how…special it all truly was. Did I really have to feel only regret? I kept my promise… I tried my best… And my love would never fail.
We both did all we could do. And whether it were a lot or everything or hardly anything, we believed in our hearts it was enough.
It was only after a while that I realized that reminiscent, light feeling was the same I had always felt with her—when the world would fade and we would have only each other. Haha. Seems strange to feel that during such a painful and disturbing time. But…it was nice to sense it once again. All the troubles fading away…as we remained close. For the fire could never take her soul, and the distance could never sever my love.
As the soft tears descended, disintegrating as one of the most beautiful essences did, I could feel her slipping away…and, breaking through all my pain and all the barriers constricting my throat, I whispered gently…a wish to send her off to the sky…an envoy to guide her among the angels.
“Adieu, my love.”