My favorite part of the day.
I don’t know exactly why I enjoyed nighttime so much. I guess it was the only time when everything was quiet, and when I would be able to have some alone time with myself. When I lived with my Dad, he was always inactive at night, which was a relief to my soul. If he wasn’t asleep, he was nitpicking my cleaning skills and pointing out the particle of dust that I had missed while wiping down the counter, or sweeping the floor.
The royal purple moonlight trickled through my open balcony, a puddle of light collecting on the cobblestone floor. I leaned against the noir colored rail, closing my eyes as the breeze sifted through my hair. It felt as though my Mother’s hands were raking through my hair again, helping to tie my hair into a ponytail; or Raja’s claws, his pleasurable, soft-tipped claws as they brushed my locks. His own hair was equally as long as mine was, if not, even longer.
I hung my head, licking my chapped lips. Something dropped in me, and I wasn’t sure if it was my stomach, or my heart. I still remembered how long it had been: ten years. Ten years since everything changed, since my life flipped upside down.
Bile rose in my throat and I swallowed it, the chunk clinking against the back of my throat. I bit my lip to control the tremble of my chin. I wasn’t going to cry, not now, not ever.
The image of my Dad rose in my mind, of his twisted lips and his arrogant, raised eyebrows. Of his narrowed eyes and his stiff jaw. He’d changed over the years; he’d become a man I not only feared, but held resentment for. Sure, I behaved around him; sure, I did what he wanted me to do, but sometimes, I think that he only let me go to school to have something to show off to, especially when he had nothing else. Labeled a disgrace for fathering a girl instead of a boy.
I sighed, reaching for my messy bun, pulling the hairtie out of my hair. I couldn’t help thinking about them, and after everything that had happened in the last decade, I didn’t want to think about either of them, even though they haunted my mind daily. It was like everything I looked at reminded me of them.
Everything, that is, except Raja.
Raja was a specimen. He didn’t remind me of any of my family members. In fact, despite the wave of nostalgia that crashed into me whenever I saw him, Raja was a breath of fresh air to me. He wasn’t like any of the men from Mukhauta; he wasn’t stuck or anti-feminist. He gave me my freedom, and never pressured me to do anything I was uncomfortable with. I remember, when he first bought me, I was afraid he’d have me strip myself and wait in the night for him.
“I like him,” I thought out loud, grateful that there was nobody else in my room to hear me. “He’s different, but I like different. He hides himself, but I like a mystery. He’s unique, but that makes him special. He’s a specimen...and he’s mine.”
I didn’t mean to sound so greedy, but I couldn’t help myself. One week passed into two, and one kiss passed into dozens. He wasn’t shy anymore; he made his beastly desires known. And while we never went farther than kissing, tension was building in the atmosphere in the palace, and almost everyone knew of us, except Chandra.
I wasn’t even sure what to call us. We weren’t in a relationship, at least, I idn’t think so. He was still brooding over his past and his secrecy. He still believed I couldn’t love him. And while I didn’t love him yet, he was growing on me, fast. Him and his dark eyes and sharp features. Him and his strong arms, and smooth skin; his warm lips and cold eyes.
The red color hadn’t left my lips in a long time, and while I was proud of my naturally pink mouth, I liked having the red over my mouth. It meant that I was claimed already, taken by someone I could possibly have a future with.
Whoa, slow your horses, Radha, I thought to myself, shaking my head. Maybe I liked night because I got to daydream so much. You guys are still in standing on step two. You aren’t even close to step fifteen. Relax.
When it came to my life, I realized, I was never relaxed. There was always something in my mind, plaguing me, drawing me in or pushing me away. Even now, bought at an auction, brought into a world of legends and mythology. What was my life becoming?
Maybe one day, I’ll write a memoir, or a book about my life, I thought. Would people even believe it though? If I do marry Raja, will they believe I was bought by a demon? Well...three demons, technically, and two nagani’s...Nah, they wouldn’t believe it.
The breeze snuck underneath my dress, caressing my sides and tugging at the silky fabric that covered my skin. It was much better than anything my Dad had ever given me. My Mom, no matter how much money we had, always found a way to buy me something. She spoiled me, but also taught me to be grateful, something I’ll never forget.
“I’ll never forget her,” I mumbled. “I never have, and I never will, I know that.” That was the problem with me; I could never forget anybody! I could never forget people who have betrayed me; I could never forget people who had left me. They haunted me, clawed at my mind, just like Raja’s past clawed at him.
Maybe that’s why we connect so easily, I deemed. I was looking for a better life, he was looking for a wife. I was looking for an adventure, he was looking for romance. I couldn’t forget those who hurt me, he couldn’t forget those that he had hurt...Huh, that sounds more poetic than I thought it would.
I chuckled to myself, wiping at my eyes. I didn’t realize that they had been wet, or that they had been rolling down my cheeks, but one I managed to wipe them away, I made sure they didn’t come back again. I didn’t want anyone to see me teary-eyed; I didn’t need to be exploited as a weak woman, a girl that anyone could lord over and tell what to do.
I clenched my jaw, rolling my shoulders. “That won’t be happening, not with me. Raja wouldn’t do that; he’s not like Gabriel.”
I said that to myself, but what did I know about Raja? I didn’t even know his name, much less his past life. I agreed to wait until he was ready, but would he tell me on my deathbed? I opened up to him (partially). Would it be a lifetime before I learned my promised’s name?
Coincidentally, the door to my room opened just as the balcony light flickered on, as if he had heard me talking to myself about him. Granted, most of it was an internal conversation, but I didn’t know what Raja could do, except fight like a boss in battle!
I didn’t turn, pretending I didn’t hear him. I didn’t feel like turning, anyway. I felt tired, drained. Like thinking had taken all of my energy away.
I leaned my cheek on my palm, a rush of cold wind sweeping over my back. Cold arms encirled my waist from behind me, cool lips pressing against my cheek. I tilted my head backwards, catching the dark orbs that Raja had through the folds of his mask. His hair brushed his forehead and his cheeks, the tendrils reminding me of tentacles on his pale blue skin.
Ocean blue skin.
I smiled, reaching up to meet his frosty lips, his fangs poking against the tender skin of my mouth.
His own lips twisted, an indication to me that he was smiling. “I see that you are busy,” he murmured, breaking our kiss slowly.
I hummed, pulling him back down for another kiss. “Not nearly as busy as you’d think.”
“Is that so?” He asked, his voice low and deep, reminiscent of hard waves crashing against firm ocean rocks. “Penny for your thoughts, then?”
I laughed. “Where did you hear that?”
Raja’s shoulders rose and fell, indifferent. “I do pay attention to human antics, contrary to what you believe,” he said. “Is anything wrong? Have I done something?”
“No! No, absolutely not!” I denied rapidly, twisting in his arms to gaze up at his face; at his curled, ruby lips and his dark eyes. “I was only...thinking of home...”
Raja’s breath hitched. The trail his gloves had been making on my skin faltered, and his eyes didn’t meet mine. “I...see. I apologize, I did not mean to—!”
“Don’t worry about it, Raja,” I assured, pressing my palm against his chilly chest. Somehow, everything about him was always cold, unlike his behavior. “You didn’t know, and it doesn’t matter, anyway. I’d probably be disowned and banned if I stepped foot in my father’s house right now.”
I bit my lip. “Well...my Dad was always old-fashioned. He wanted a boy to carry on the family name, and when he got a girl, he wasn’t too happy about it.”
Raja’s eyes narrowed, based off of the space in his mask. His muscles on his jaw tightened. “Did he do anything to you?” He growled, his arms tightening around me.
I shook my head. “No. Actually, he was a pretty decent Dad, at least, until my Mom got pregnant again.”
“Really?” Raja’s eyes rose above the curvy dip of his mask. “If you do not mind...may I ask what happened?”
I nodded. “Mom died during labor, partially because Dad refused to go to the main hospital, and partly because, well, Dad never specified. My brother died days later, and I guess my Dad’s resentment at me returned when I was all he had left. I became a bad omen to him, and because we had no other families left, he kept me.”
Raja was quiet for a few moments, despite the gears moving in his head. His jaw remains firm, his eyes glued to the horizon. When he did speak, his voice was soft, but with an undercurrent of displeasure.
“What did he do to you?” He snarled, his voice hard, leaving no room for debate.
I shrugged. “Nothing really, apart from making me work. I went to college, but I had not chance to get a job before he was forcing me to work in our bakery.” I sighed. “He changed after Mom’s death; he was a good father before that, but I guess her demise hit him hard, you know? I went from loving him to resenting him in one whole day.”
“Loving him, hm?” Raja repeated. “I see...”
“I don’t know,” I admitted, ignoring him. “Everything changed. I tried to forget her, but she just kept returning to my mind, haunting me, annoying me to no end. It’s like everything I do—!”
“You see her in them,” Raja finished, cutting me off softly. “In every breath, every action, every day, you see her; you think about her, and you feel remorse, regret, despair. I understand.”
I blinked, my mouth opening slower than Mr. Fanchise’s garage door. “Uh...yeah, I guess, just not as morbid.”
Raja chuckled. “I am not morbid. I am only telling you the truth.” He knelt down next to me, his face eye level with mine, his nightly orbs capturing me and dragging me towards him.
“I understand what it feels like to lose someone like that, to lose someone close, and feel like it is your fault...well, it was my fault,” he grumbled under his breath. “But it’s okay to try and move on...coming from a hypocrite.”
I giggled. “Well, our circumstances are different,” I teased. “But yeah, you’re right. I just takes time, I know that. Ten years later, and I’m still at stage one.”
“Well, that’s better than me,” Raja grumbled. He stood, rising to his full height in the dark shadow of the moon, as if he needed any more of a shadow. Luckily, he wasn’t wearing his hood, his black and gold mask on full display.
From the vantage point that I looked at him at, I couldn’t see anything wrong with his face. Sure, his skin was blue, and sure, he covered his hands (which probably had claws underneath), but what else was there? What could be hiding underneath that mask of his that would scare me half to death?
As if reading my thoughts, Raja coughed, leading me back into my room and shutting the door behind me. “There is something important I need to discuss with you. Originally, I wanted Saira to tell you, but her schedule’s already packed, so I’ll tell you instead.”
I nodded, frowning. “Is everything okay?”
Raja smiled. “Yes, everything is fine. I have a meeting with a human coming up soon; one of Lucifer’s one-night stands.”
I snorted. “Why do you have to meet with him? Does he need your permission?”
Raja grinned. “No, but now that he knows of our existence, we have to meet to trade...things to keep our secrets with each other.”
“What incriminating secret does he have to hide?” I asked.
Raja winced. “Since he’s high up in the social hierarchy, it’s forbidden for a man to sleep with another man. The deal was that as long as he kept our existence a secret, then we’d keep his one-night stand a secret.”
I whistled lowly. “Harsh, but he had it coming.” I sat on the bed, gesturing for Raja to sit beside me. “If he did give you away, would you have exposed him too?”
“Of course. I take my promises seriously,” Raja said. He reached for my hand, his palm velvety against mine. “But it will only be him and I in the room. You do not have to be there if you do not want to.”
“I don’t mind, if you need me,” I assured. “Normaly, I don’t like talking to, well, men, but if you need me there, then I’ll come.”
“Why don’t you like talking to men?” Raja asked, reclining on the fluffy pillows and smooth duvet.
I lay beside him, his arms collecting me against his body. “Men in my village didn’t pay any attention to women once they bore children. It was as if they suddenly became unnecessary to the men, unless you counted cooking or cleaning. Being treated as inferior to them made me change my views on them, all of them.” I coughed. “Well, except you.”
Raja’s eyebrow rose. “Oh? How am I different?” He asked, his tone light, and with an underlay of teasing.
I blushed. “Well, you don’t treat me like an object, first of all. You treat me like a human being. You bought me, but you give me my freedom and my independence. You give me my right to make my own decisions and you don’t force me to do anything or lord over me. You make me feel human, if that makes sense.”
Raja nodded. “It makes complete sense. Believe me when I say that Mukhauta wasn’t like this in the old days. It was a beautiful, prospering kingdom, one my father had worked incredibly hard to make. Hell, he’d made being king look easy.”
“Aren’t you a King?”
“No. I was only a price. My family and my kingdom were gone before I could be crowned King.” Raja admitted, his eyes cast towards the blankets.
I opened my mouth to say something, but maybe it was the rush of adrenaline at his cold eyes, or maybe it was the amount of water I had before leaving Saira to finish the rest of the chores, but I felt the need to go to the bathroom.
I slipped off the bed, Raja’s eyes following me. “I...have to use the bathroom. I’ll be quick.”
He smiled. “Sure. I’m not going anywhere.”
Nodding to him, I made a beeline for the toilet, nearly dashing as the stream trickled down my body. I cursed myself for drinking so much, for ruining the moment we were having, but I consoled myself, saying that we would have many more moments together.
The door slammed shut behind me, but I hardly acknowledged it. I flipped the toilet flap open (I had closed it once I finished cleaning), and hurriedly slipped my skirt off so that I could relieve myself.
I was surprised at just exactly how much water I had drank, and silently, I hoped that Raja couldn’t hear me from outside. I knew the walls dividing the rooms were thick, but I wasn’t too sure about the wall dividing the bathroom from the main room.
I rushed to finish up in the bathroom, flushing the toilet and fixing my skirt on my hips again. I wasn’t changed into my pajamas, not yet. I was still getting used to the time differences from my old home and my new one.
The elastic to my clothes snapped on my waist, the fabric swaying gently in the wind coming from the open balcony. It wasn’t heavy, since the door was closed, but it was just enough to make me sway on my feet slightly.
As I walked over to the sink to wash my hands, a yellow note pasted on the mirror caught my eye. Apart from me, nobody had ever been in my bathroom, and if Raja had placed it before I came, surely I would have noticed it, right?
I reached over the rushing water to peel the note from the mirror, realizing it was a sticky note, the kind that I would keep on my nightstand back in my old home.
What was written on the note, however, had my eyes widening and a gasp leaving my throat.
Tale as old as time, song as old as time
Beauties never have happily ever afters with beasts