“The girl is now a woman,” my mother said unto me.
Streamers and guffaws erupted from the crowd around us and the heavy crown lowered onto my head. The twisted spurs of gold weighed more than expected, but I had practiced for this moment. I had practiced for this day since birth.
A princess. Not a ruler, but rather a symbol. That was my curse. That would be my trial.
Be happy. This is your time.
His voice was my only reprieve in that moment. Some encouragement and a reminder to maintain my practiced composure. My eyes opened to my mother’s glee. She smiled down at me from the steps, the golden streamers clinging to the white velvet of her robes. She looked radiant, glowing in the shroud of the Queendom she had engineered. A Queendom doomed to stay that way until my coming of age.
Because I could have a son. One day, if the prophet wished it so.
Don’t forget to smile, If.
Right. Smiling. Never one of my skills, though I had practiced it often. He was proud of me. His emotions so blinding, they overtook my own. But that was the point. What I could not muster from my own mind, I often found in his. We were blessed in that way. Born a true balance of opposition.
The banquet was annoying. The long table graced with the pure white of snow and gilded in gold was filled to the brim with a feast in my honor. One for which I had no appetite. Everything a blinding sparkle to hide the true meaning—that I could no longer run from my destiny.
He felt distant then—no surprise he wouldn’t want to stay with me through the whole maddening event.
Relax. I’m still here.
You are? You’re so calm, I said to him from inside. You don’t have to stay present. You can go if you’d like.
And drown in your disappointment and hostility? No thank you.
I’m better here with you than explaining my upset to pater and the guards.
Reign lived a life so similar to my own, it should have no surprise to anyone that our link was so strong. While most links fall within levels one through three—one being physical, two being physical-emotional, three being physical-emotional-mental. If that had truly been the scale, we were verging on level four. A complete mind-body share.
We were born at level two. As children, we were connected emotionally. I could feel his hunger, his discontent, his worry—and he felt mine. When we were old enough to begin to understand language, we were both misunderstood, our parents worried we were inept.
The truth, however, was that we had created a language on we understood. Before we had words, we had been speaking to each other.
The control of level three came finally when we were but thirteen years old. While in meditation, we learned to separate our voices and thoughts. As we blossomed, for lack of another word, we wished for time alone, time where we didn’t need to hear each other or speak about everything. That is when we learned of our ability to close the door.
Our connection was strong—incomparable to any other link we had encountered. To be able to control when, where, and how deep our connection happened was rarely even documented in the great texts. But we had yet to peak, yet to master it.
We could never truly leave one another. Whether I was hearing him or not, I always felt him on some level. I knew what he is doing even when he doesn’t want me there. We, however, were lucky.
The two of us had grown strong in our bond. At 18, there was nothing I did not trust him to see—I’d rather he see more, or rather, feel more.
Our physical separation was more painful than the constant presence of the other. As was true for all links, he was me and I was him. We were together. Always. And never.
Can you sneak away?
I thought you’d never ask. I took my leave, a curtsy to my mother to show her my plans to return, though that wasn’t quite the case.
I found a book in the scholar’s library. Something that may answer our question.
Yes. Let’s get together.
Excitement washed over me. He must have found something good. Something forbidden.
Climbing the spiral staircase, I flew up the stone steps as fast as my legs would take me. When I found the secret entrance, I pushed against it with all my weight and slipped inside.
The moonlight shone through the small window, casting a blue glow and illuminating the abundance of dust floating through the air. My private study. The place I could always go to be undisturbed.
I sat atop the small pillow facing the other. That is the place I imagined Reigniel. Where I have more than once seen his aura in my physical vision.
Closing my eyes, I blocked out every sensation but our link. In my third eye, I saw his aura.
Silver flecks of light like distant stars creating a dense nebula in the form of a human being. He felt warm and cold at the same time. Both distant and close.
Happy birthday to us.
Happy birthday to us. I smiled cheekily as he did. What does the book say?
It seems we were close the last time. We were simply missing one crucial piece.
He recited the passage from his memory. A common space, a common position, a common destination for the mind’s eye. We were close.
Imagine me there with you, same as always. But tell me what it is like. Tell me where to meet you.
I described the room to him with every detail I could muster. Our breathing matched, our minds stayed focused. I touched the floor to show him the cold, breathed in deep to show him the smell. With every detail he understood, his aura became more focused. Soon, a discernible shape. After that, a face.
“Look at me,” a voice said from before me.
I opened my eyes to see the same figure sitting as an apparition before me. Reigniel’s calm tamed my rush of disbelief. “Reign?”
“If.” His voice was as I had always heard it, but two lips move before my physical eyes.
“Is that really you?”
“I am how you imagine me,” he says. “What do I look like to you?”
My eyes took him in, the smile growing on both of our faces. “You are handsome,” I admitted. “Small, but strong. Skin like warm, chamomile tea, hair short, simple, and amber.”
He laughed. “That is nothing like me.”
“What do I look like to you?”
“As tall as you are bold. Hair long and red like fire,” he says. “Beautiful.”
I was nothing like his description either. I was shorter than most, though my slender figure helped me look taller. My hair was indeed long, but an ash gray like most royal lineage in the Queendom. Most described my face as akin to that of a weasel, but beauty had never been my concern. “Nothing like me either.”
Though we knew our images were nothing more than ideality, we felt as close to one another as we ever had. Though—as it often did—that made our separation that much more apparent.
“I wish I could touch you,” I spoke my mind.
“I wish that more than anything in the universe.”
“Will we? One day?”
He leaned his head toward mine. Though I could not feel it on my physical self, I could feel it in my mind’s eye. His forehead pressed against mine, our third eyes seeing into each other’s souls. We were together. Though it was painful at times knowing a piece of ourselves was somewhere far, far away, it brought us comfort. I couldn’t’ve imagined it any other way.
“We will,” he told me. “One day soon.”
Oh, how I wish that had been a lie.