Chapter Seven - Unrequited (a)
While we made our way through the vast plains and to the hills, I was left in awe as I took in the whole view in front of me. It was… breath-taking. It’s beautiful to see nothing but green grass, majestic trees, and colorful flowers. And how the slopes looked like, this view is better than the view that I have on my balcony.
“This place…” I struggled to form a coherent sentence. The beauty of this place rendered me speechless. It felt like all of my words were taken from my lips.
“Don’t worry, I know how that feels,” she giggled as she found me almost dumb-founded. “That’s the same thing that I said when I first discovered this place.” She hopped down from her horse and I followed suit. We started walking to a hill where a tree stood on top of it, tall and proud.
“When did you find this place?” I asked.
“When I was first brought here, I was looking for a place where only I know. A hideout, to put it simply,” she explained. “One day, I was running from a boy who was trying to hurt me, taunting to poke me with a stick with thick thorns. I kept running until I ended up here.” As we reached the peak, we sat down and allowed our horses to roam free as long as they stayed within our sight and our reach.
“Does that mean you come here often?” I asked as I made sure I was sitting comfortably.
“Usually, I come here when I have some spare time. Whenever I need some time to think or when I need some peace of mind,” she replied as she looked forward, keeping her stare at the view in front of us.
“Does Grandpa Ben know this place?” I continued to stare at the scenery. The wind was gentle and cool. Birds were flying freely in the sky, some of them even headed right onto the tree that stood behind us. Lady and Leo seemed to be enjoying their feast together.
“I’m not quite sure,” I turned to her. Her lips, now in a firm line as she tried to think if Grandpa Ben knows about this place. “I never told him about this yet but maybe he does. He’s been living here before we became a family so there’s a chance that he’s familiar with this place.”
“If that’s the case then I won’t tell anyone about this place,” I assured her as I hugged my knees closer to me. “In respect to you, having this place as some sort of refuge from the outside world.”
She turned back to me with that beautiful smile again. “Well then, Prince Robert, how’s life for you?” she crossed her legs and put her arms behind her to support her weight as she leaned back. “How’s life in a grand castle?”
“It’s… it’s not that great but it’s not that bad,” I stammered as I laid out my legs and my hands behind me to support me as I leaned back. “It’s not all boring but it’s not all fun as well. I don’t want to describe my life in an extremity so I’m just going to go with “fine”. Just to keep everything neutral.”
“You don’t seem happy to be talking about your life,” a confused look appeared on her face.
“Well, there are some aspects in my life that I’m not proud of.”
“Really? Why is that?” she turned her attention fully on me.
“Well, life in a castle doesn’t mean it’s all about the glamour, balls, and luxury,” I started as I turned to her as well. “Even if you have everything in this world, it doesn’t make you happy. On the contrary, worldly things can make you a prisoner.”
“There are many people who would like to be in your place, Robert,” she answered. “And you don’t seem to have some sort of appreciation for what you have.”
“My life isn’t easy, Laura,” I said after a sigh. “I do have all the riches this world could offer but I don’t have the freedom in anything, especially with marriage. My father - I mean, James - doesn’t even act like a father to me and my sister.”
“At least you have some sort of family to call your own,” she replied.
“You have Grandpa Ben,” I reminded.
“I do have him however I do wish that I have a real family,” she looked down at her hands.
“You have no idea who your family is, don’t you?” I asked.
She sighed, shaking her head. “I wish I did.”
“Your family is somewhere out there, Laura. I’m certain of it,” I replied, moving closer to her. “I also believe that they didn’t mean to leave you… especially your mother.”
She let out a deep breath, raising her head. “Anyways, I do have another question,” her voice changed to a lighter tone as she looked at me.
“Fire away,” I smiled.
“I have a friend of mine who is smitten with this man that she’s known for almost all of her life,” she started. “They are now a couple but only for a little while.”
“I don’t understand why you’re telling me this,” my brows furrowed.
“They’re going to be a couple for a short while even though the man doesn’t love her. Do you think that’s fair?” she proceeded with her question. “Would you let yourself be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t love you? Would you bear that just to have a chance to be with that person?”
I started to reflect on her question as guilt started to build inside of me. Her question is quite similar to my situation with Mallory and I can’t help but feel nervous about it. “If I was a girl, I would say it’s unfair.”
“However, the girl is… for a lack of a better word, ignorant - my apologies for the choice of word - because she keeps hoping on the wrong person,” I explained. “I wouldn’t want to come out as judgmental. Perhaps, they already had a conversation about it.”
She nodded. “You do have a point. But still, it’s unfair for my friend.”
“My verdict is that nobody wins this little situation that they’ve created,” I replied. “In the end, everything will get worse than it was before.”
“You’re right about that,” she smiled.
“With all honesty, both of them aren’t using their brains,” I blurted out, causing Laura to snicker. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings or your friend but in reality, that’s how they’re acting.”
“Don’t you worry, I understand. I completely agree with you. My friend’s willing to do anything for this man, even if it’s absolute stupidity,” she groaned, rolling her eyes in the process. “How about you? Any ladies in your life that you care about?”
I was caught off-guard for a moment, my eyes widened as I stiffened. Should I tell her? Should I share any details about my marriage arrangement? I know that the right thing to do is to tell her but a part of me wants to know her more. I’m afraid that my marriage arrangement will ruin a chance that I may have with her.
“Robert, is there something wrong?” she quickly asked.
“Yes, um…” I furrowed my brow. I guess there’s no way to tell the truth. “Unfortunately, I’m in an arranged marriage.”
“Really? To whom?” she asked, her eyes widened as she scooted closer, eager to hear what I have to say.
“I don’t know her personally because it’s our parents who made the arrangement,” I explained. “Although, we do send letters to one another to build, at the very least, some sort of relationship.”
“Why haven’t you personally met? Shouldn’t it be a tradition to meet your future bride as soon as possible?” she asked.
“Our parents decided that we should meet each other only on the day of our engagement announcement,” I explained. “It’s to make sure that we’ll stay patient and loyal to one another, even though we’ve never met. They want this marriage to happen because it’s going to become some sort of seal.”
“A seal for what?”
“She’s a princess, the heir to the Kingdom of Middle Earth. Our marriage will serve as a start of an alliance between their kingdom and ours,” I began telling the story. “Their kingdom was never militarily strong but they have a lot of resources, which is something the Western Wind lacks. Their kingdom was blessed by gods to have the abundance of materials used for weapons and my parents saw this as a way to ensure the safety of the kingdom in times of war.”
“I see,” she nodded. “Do you think you’ll like her even though you’ve only received letters from her?”
“I already like her as a person, a friend, a confidant,” I stuttered, explaining everything without my words having the possibility to be contorted differently. “She seems to be kind and with great manners. However, I would love to know her personally because that’s vital in a marriage,”
“So, is there a possibility for you to like her?” she repeated.
“Maybe, we’ll never know,” I answered with full honesty. “As of now, we’re good friends so that’s a start.”
“That is better than nothing. It’s better to start with friendship to have some sort of foundation.”
“How about you?” I quickly changed the topic.
“Me?” she scoffed in disbelief. “Trust me, I don’t have any.”
“That’s impossible, Laura,” I replied. “A simple admiration is a normal emotion to have.”
“Well,” she began playing with her fingers. “There is someone that I like and there’s someone, who I think is trying to gain my affections.”
What she said suddenly destroyed all my chances of hoping that maybe, just maybe, she’s the one for me. But it looks like her heart is already occupied.
“Really?” I asked, trying to hide the bit of pain that’s about to come out of my voice. “Could you tell me who they are? I’m certain that I’ve never met them.”
“For now, I’d like to keep things to myself,” she answered. “It’s something that I wouldn’t want for others to worry about because it’s not their problem.”
“I understand,” I nodded. “Is it possible for you to describe them?”
“The one, whom I think, likes me is very - for the lack of a better term - sophisticated. It’s as if he’s a monarch,” she described. “Quite the gentleman but his manner of being one is a bit over the top. It’s like he’s a prince that’s found in every bedtime story for young girls.”
“You don’t seem enthusiastic to be talking about this person.”
“I find him too unrealistic. He’s too much of a fairytale and not of reality,” she groaned. “I only see him as a friend. Everything about him is too much for me.”
To hear those words from her reignited my hopes! There might just be a place for me in her heart after all.
“Why don’t you just tell him?” I suggest.
“I’m not the best at explaining my thoughts by words. I show them through actions,” she stuttered. “As much as I could, I show him that I’m not interested in his courting. I’m not sure if he notices it.”
“You should’ve told him right then and there. You should’ve been honest with him and yourself,” I answered, moving closer to her. “It’s not enough for you to show it. It’s better if he heard it from you. You have to speak your mind so he could understand it as early as possible,” I continued. “It’s to prevent heartache in the end as well.”
“I will try your advice the next time we see each other,” she chuckled. “I’m just not that good at telling people what I feel. I’ve always been the person that people deemed to be too gracious, too kind. I was always the girl who hid behind the achievements, the glamour of other people. It’s been like that for as long as I can remember. I always stayed behind and agreed to what other people wanted.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being kind, Laura. Being king doesn’t give anybody the reason to take advantage of you, to despise you,” I said.
“Nobody hates you but everyone will step all over you like some kind of rug,” she sighed as she let out her frustrations. “And when you need someone, the people whom you thought would be trusted, disappear into the wind, vanishing into thin air,” she bowed her head, plucking out some grass near her feet.
I held her hand, causing her to look up at me. “I’m here and I will always be here for you,” I looked into her eyes, reassuring her. No one should feel as if they are alone in this world. We all need each other; we cannot survive on our own. We think we can but in reality, there are specific things that cannot be done alone.