The sun rays it’s eliminating beam of light through my bedroom window awakening me from my sleep. I slowly turned my tired body towards the center of the bed as I stared mindlessly up at the ceiling. Today is the last time I’ll ever be in this room, in this bed, in this palace, in my country. Tomorrow I’ll be made someone’s wife and live in an unfamiliar place with people who think me out of place. I could feel a lump growing in my throat as I thought about how my life is about to change and I can’t do anything about it. To think, my life was already decided for me just because I was born a female. If I was born a male, if I had not been born with breasts and the ability to bear children, maybe I could have some kind of control over my life. But alas, I was not so lucky.
The bedroom door creaked open revealing my mother with two maids following close behind her. I quickly got up from the bed and fixed my nightgown before properly greeting as she made her way to my window. I watched silently as she opened the curtains allowing more light to brighten the room before turning her attention on me. I could see the hurt in her eyes as she stared back at me with her bloodshot eyes. I bite my lip to hold back the tears I could feel forming in my eyes.
“We must proper for your departure,” she spoke calmly, intertwining her fingers together in front of her stomach as she motioned the maids to begin gathering my things. “Your father will accompany you to your new home and ensure everything goes according to plan.”
I remain silent as I listened. I could hear the pain in her voice as she mentioned the events that will be taking place tomorrow. She was just as unhappy as I was. Today is the last day she’ll ever see her only child again. All because of the fear her husband had of going to war. A coward who’d rather marry off his only daughter to the world’s most dangerous kingdom amongst the eight.
She stepped closer to me, placing her hands on both sides of my face as her eyes moved to every inch of my face. I did the same, this is the last time I’ll ever look my mother in the face again. I’ll never see those ember green eyes that welcomed me or the feel of her hand brushing against my skin to assure I was safe and loved. Just as she will only remember me as her pure beloved daughter that shared the same eyes as her.
“I tried to convince him that there has to be a better,” she whispered as she placed her forehead against mine with her eyes closed shut. “I begged him to try and talk things out with King Lou. But he said this was the only way and that there isn’t another.”
A tear escaped down my cheek as I watched her own slide down her melanin skin. I’ve never seen my mother cry before. She is known in our kingdom as a strong, caring, and encouraging African woman that serves greatly at the king’s side. But now, she looks so helpless as she held me for the last time. The last time I would ever feel safe.
“I’m sorry,” she cried, her voice cracking as she continued to apologize to me. “I’m sorry you were born into this. Into the role, women have been made to play for hundreds of years. I’m sorry I didn’t properly prepare you for this. I failed to protect you. I failed as your mother.”
“Don’t say that,” I finally said, my voice also cracking as I placed my hands on hers and squeezing them tightly. “This isn’t your fault. Know that I never will blame you for this. It’s my own fault for being so naïve to think this life could be anything but cruel. I don’t even blame father for this. If God says this is his will, then I will go along with it. For I serve him first before I serve anyone.”
We stayed like that for a couple of minutes just taking each other in for the last time before breaking apart to whip our faces. My mother fixed her Kitenge as well as her natural long fluffy hair before raising her chin high in the air as she assisted the maid with packing my belongings. I made my way to the window as I watched a group of male natives circle in on a grey crowned crane. Its wings spread wide as it tried to warn off the men from attacking. I placed my hand on the window as the men fling ropes around its neck before yanking them tightly causing its neck to snap in different directions.
“We’ll arrive there before nightfall, just in time for the engagement ceremony could begin.”
My father announced as he came around the carriage towards my mother and me. She glared at my father with disgust before pulling me in for one last tight hug. The scent of freesia filled my nostrils as I snugged my face into her soft hair for the last time.
“Don’t forget to write to me,” she whispered in my ear. “If you’re in any danger or you want to leave. I’ll send a carriage for you and we’ll escape together. We’ll head to Europe and start over.”
I quickly nod before heading into the carriage. She grabbed my hand making me turn back as she placed something in my hand. She gave me a warm mile before ushering me into the carriage cart. Once settled I turned to her one last time giving her a smile. “I love you, mother.”
“I love you too, my golden rose.”
My father sat beside me as he banged the roof of the cart signaling it was time to go. I bit my bottom lip to keep the tears from escaping as we departed from the place I once called home. I hanged myself from the window far enough to wave goodbye to my mother. She did the same, chasing after the carriage with natives joining in before we reached the exit. The tears escaping anyway as I said farewell to my people before sitting back down. I whipped my face, then quickly remembered mother put something in my hand. I looked to see a beautiful golden necklace with a rose charm with an emerald in the center of it. I smiled as I brought the charm up to my lips and gently kissed it before placing my palm against my heart. I pray for God to guide and protect me as I enter my new life.
We rod in silence, not speaking a single word to each other let alone look at one another. Only the sounds of the wheels against the rocky ground were heard as I stared out the window. We haven’t talked since last night when he announced the engagement. His cold words still dancing around my head. She is a woman after all. What used does she have to me if she can’t marry a man when I tell her to. I can’t help but feel a sense of hatred towards my father. All because he was too cowardly to fight for his country. He dares calls himself a king.
“I know you don’t remember him,” he finally said I could feel his eyes on my face as he spoke. “But you and Prince Namjoon knew each other since you were children. Although he was seven and you were four, you played together and were really close.”
Like that is supposed to make things any better. I bet he had this planned out right when were children. Two innocents purely playing with each other not knowing that once they’ve come of age, they’d be forced into a marriage they didn’t want. I barely even remember Prince Namjoon, let alone what he looked like. And even if I recalled meeting him, who’s to say he’s the same boy I once knew. I remain silent, keeping my attention outside the window as I stared at the animals running around freely.
“I know this is a lot to take in at once,” he continued. “But the prince is a fine man indeed. He’s intelligent, which means he’s very wise. He’ll make a fine husband and king someday. I believe you and he will make a perfect match.”
“A perfect match,” I repeated with a slight bit of sarcasm mixed in my voice. I turned to face him, the look on his face was serious and menacing causing me to harshly swallow my spit before continuing. “You call two people who don’t know a thing about the other a perfect match? Forgive me, my lord but you see why I can’t show a single ounce of excitement to be forced into a marriage I didn’t even want.”
I turned back to the window when he painfully gripped me by the forearms, forcing me to face him once again. His eyes piercing with anger and a hint of annoyance as he stared me dead in my eyes. I could feel the fear crawling up my spine as I held his gaze, afraid of what he would do to me if I dared look away. I’ve only seen him give this look once and I’ll never forget the screams that followed afterward echoing within the palace walls that night. He’d only get this angry when someone spoke against his decisions or make a foul out of him. And I, unfortunately, did both.
“How dare you,” he growled through his teeth. His grip tightened as he began shaking me violently. A scream escapes my lips as the pain grew as his nails dug into my skin. “I worked hard to protect my people, my queen, and you my only child. I gave you life, put clothes on your back, kept you fed, educated, and entertained. A privileged most are not so lucky to be born in and you dare speak to me in the utmost disrespect!? How dare you challenge me! You’ll do your duty as a woman and remember your place!”
Tears began pouring out of my eyes as I trembled at his words. I never thought he would ever talk down on me like that. His words cutting through me like a knife, reminding me that women should do nothing more but remain silent and seen. I was nothing more but an object to him, a tool which he needed to use to advance in this king’s game he was playing. I quickly lowered my head, my hands trembling as I began begging for his forgiveness.
“If my words offended you, I’m sorry. Please forgive me, my lord.”
It was silent again. Neither one of us making any attempt to move as the carriage came to a complete stop. I was trembling uncontrollably now but my head remains low as I waited for his next move. Slowly, he released his hold on my forearms before fixing himself on his seat as the coachmen approached the window.
“We’ve arrived, my king.”
“Alert his majesty that we have arrived,” he ordered. His voice firm but I can still hear the anger in his voice. I remain still as he exit from his side. The sound of footsteps rubbing against the dirt grew louder as it reached my side. I looked up right as he opened the door, extending his hand out without meeting my gaze. I took his hand and quickly stepped out of the carriage. He pulled me towards him enough to where he was close to my ear.
“You’ll do good to behave yourself while we are here,” he whispered threatening me. “Don’t screw this up. The fate of our kingdom is up to you.”
It felt like a ton of weight has been added to my shoulders. I wanted to run, run back to my mother, and wake up from this nightmare. But there was no way out of this. We were here and there was no turning back to what has been started. I glanced over at the beautiful gold and red palace that was guarded safely behind black gated bars. I gulped as I was pulled to the entrance.
King Lou stood in front of his bedroom window that allowed him to see beyond his palace gates into his precious kingdom. The village people preparing for the celebration of their prince’s engagement as other royal guests began approaching the palace gate. His eyes stopping on a particular pair of foreigners that stood just in front of the gates. A slight grin began growing on his face as the door to his chambers flung open.
“Your Majesty,” the palace guard greeted as he stopped in the center of the room. The king glanced over his shoulders at his most trusted guard before turning his attention back on the window.
“I already know,” he said his grin now forming into a smile as he stared at the colored girl.
“The negros have arrived.”
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