Season 2, Episode 9
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
I recognized Lily’s voice before I opened my eyes, and smelled the fried liver. I was quickly coming to detest that odor. On the other hand, Lily’s voice cheered me. I hadn’t seen her since the Queen’s visit, over a week prior, and had feared that she had been kicked out of the palace, or worse, for letting Kaye in to see me while I slept at death’s door.
“Lily!” I pushed up to a seated position, and immediately regretted my haste as my head swam.
“Careful, milady! You mustn’t push yourself.”
I sighed as I shook off the momentary dizziness. “You are right. I’m just relieved to see you again.”
“I’m still a bit giddy to see you awake and talking.”
That gave me pause. I should be grateful to be alive, but since the Queen’s visit, my thoughts had been cycling though anger to escape plans to despair and thence back to anger, over and over.
“I’m surprised they let you in. I thought you’d been banned from my chambers, or removed from the palace staff.” Or worse. I let that final thought go unspoken.
“Oh!” Lily exclaimed, her hand rising to cover her mouth, “I didn’t mean to alarm you. Just, well, Geoff thought it best that I be scarce for a while.”
“Geoff?” This was a pretty puzzle. “I assumed Geoff was the one who told the Queen what was going on.”
“I did,” Geoff’s voice echoed as he passed through the doorway. “The only part I omitted is which servant helped Kaye sneak into your room.”
As he spoke, Lily set a wooden tray down in front of me, and on it there was a plate heaped with chunks of liver and large slices of onion with wilted spinach throughout. Ignoring the food, I gazed sharply at Geoff.
“More eavesdropping and listening at doors?” I asked. “Is it not enough that I am confined here, must I also be spied upon?”
“Easy, milady,” Lily soothed as Geoff winced slightly. His face returned to a stoic mask before he spoke.
“I have my duty, and I do it,” he said with no trace of apology. He then stepped closer and spoke more quietly when he continued. “In all my years, this is only the second time I have ever lied to the Queen. Theobel has cause to be upset. Give her time and she will come ’round.”
“I know,” I replied, “but she’s not the only one who has been through a lot.”
Geoff looked me square in the eye as he replied, “That is true.” As he turned and left, I couldn’t help but notice his new limping gait. We’d all been through a lot.
“Eat up!” Lily said as the bedroom door closed behind Geoff. A few moments later, when I had a mouthful of the cloying, heavy stuff, Lily slipped a scrap of paper out of one long glove and handed it to me. I nearly choked on my food. There, on the folded bit of foolscrap, was a quick sketch of a thorn-pricked heart.
Unfolding it, I found a message in Kaye’s hand, written small and cramped on the bit of paper. It read: I wish I were with you now. We’ll find a way. Send a note back and burn this one. I love you.
Tears welled in my eyes and Lily presented a handkerchief to dab them away. She pointed at the plate, then produced another small piece of foolscrap, this one blank. Understanding her meaning, I ate as quickly as I was able. When I was done, Lily presented me with a goblet of water which failed to wash away the taste of the liver, and then whisked away the goblet, plate, and utensils, replacing them with quill, ink, and paper.
I sat for a while, trying to figure out what to write. I had so little space to write on, but it was essential that my note be small enough for Lily to conceal it easily, and dispose of it if need be.
My dear one, I wrote, I will see you soon, I promise it. Tell me if your chest bothers you. I love you. And with that, I was out of room. I folded the paper in half, and tried to think of a mark to place on it. I wasn’t going to sign my name; if the scrap were found or intercepted, our best hope was that none should be able to identify or trace it.
I settled on a quick sketch of a recurring motif I remembered from the lace gloves Kaye had given me, and hoped he would recognize it. As I handed the foolscrap to Lily, she gave me a wink and tucked it into her sleeve. She gestured for the other one, Kaye’s note, and I was at first reluctant to give it to her, but I agreed with the logic as much as I hated to part with Kaye’s words. She tossed it into the fire, and I saw it flash, burn, and dissolve into ash.
“Lily,” I spoke up, breaking the conspiratorial silence and causing her to look at me with worry, “would you bring me my gloves?”
“Yes, milady,” she said, and I saw the relief on her face.
She brought me the worn brown gloves with the garnet-flake grapes.
“Not these, the other ones.”
Lily’s face fell. “Sorry, milady, these are the only pair here.”
At that, I began to cry. Silent, useless tears, shed over a feeling of loss, over the sense that Kaye was being stolen away from me.
A few days later, Lily brought me another note from Kaye. It read: Some pangs, but I think they are from missing you, not injury. Mother is miserable, but won’t talk about it. Love you. And then there was the thorn-pricked heart.
I wrote back: There is a secret you deserve to know. I hesitated before writing on: Ask him when your mother’s not there. Be brave. Kisses. I signed with the lace motif, and it felt simultaneously strange and right, knowing that the gloves were gone.
This became a regular pattern: one or two messages a week passing back and forth between us in Lily’s gloves.
I feel like I don’t know my own family any more, he wrote, and I replied: People do strange things when they’re desperate.
After the shock wore off, and as I continued to recover, we wrote mainly about one another. When I told him I was out of bed and walking, his reply was so enthusiastic that it was only half-legible.
I was outside today, and I looked at your window, but I didn’t see you, his next note read.
Just don’t stare too long, I replied, though I knew I’d be checking my window more often to see if he was there.
I exercised to the best of my ability, and as my strength returned, so did my libido. Amidst snippets of news about the castle, continued concern for each other’s health, and worries as Queen Theobel became more reclusive, our notes became more passionate in character.
I long to be near you became I want to feel your hand in mine and then I think about the touch of your bare hand on my skin. From there, it was but a small step to wrap my fingers around your cock and my tongue between your legs. I think Lily was reading our correspondence in secret, because she would come in looking a little flushed when she was bearing a particularly spicy message from Kaye, but I decided not to ask her about it.
My period returned, bloodier and more painful than usual, but I was relieved. This was my first moontime since the attack. Lily told me that I hadn’t bled even once in the months I was comatose. My fear of losing Kaye was compounded by my separation from him, but that separation also made me think about life. Kaye and I were both safe for the moment, but this wasn’t living. Without the notes, it would have been unbearable. If it came to pass that we had a child and then one of us died, at least we should have been together first, for however long.
I tried to put my new uncertain feelings into words, but all I could fit on one of those bits of foolscrap was: I want you, all of you, forever.
A week and a day after I stopped bleeding, Lily came into my room with a lunatic grin and bright red cheeks. She fished a badly crumpled piece of paper out of her left-hand glove and presented it to me like it was gold and rubies.
On one side, it read: Slept with this scrap in my hand for a week. Dreamt you came to me and said we’d never be apart again. On the other side, he’d continued: Then you showed me the holy of holies and we were as one until dawn.
When I looked up, Lily gave me a wink. Ignoring her insinuations, I pulled my neckline and tucked the scrap into my cleavage. This bit of paper wasn’t going into the fire.
That night, I stripped completely naked before getting into bed, abandoning my slip for vague half-felt reasons. I re-read Kaye’s note before blowing out the candle, and then I continued to hold onto it with one hand as I began to touch myself with the other. I had scarcely been aware of how aroused I was until this point, when my hand passed between my legs and I found myself terribly wet. I shivered, I shook, I moaned, and at some point I fell asleep.
I found myself standing on a shattered flagstone floating in a misty, grey void. Dim lights flared, powder-blue, all around me, and I saw more fragments of floating stone in what looked like the ruins of my chambers. I jumped to the nearest fragment and from there I saw a cross-section of my bed, as if a singularly sharp blade had sliced through pillow, sheets, mattress, and frame without disturbing a single goosefeather. My bedroom door was ajar, so I crouched and then leapt to a floating paver close to it.
Something moved in the mists below and to the left of me. I froze, caught by a sudden intuition that there were things out there, dangerous things, and that I did not want to attract their attention. The motion receded, and I made a small hop to the doorframe itself.
From here I could see the door that led out to the hallway. It was split impossibly, half of the door and arch dangling several feet up and away from the rest. More of that wan, bluish light flared, and I was able to pick a path through the floating rubble and empty space out into the hallway. I looked up through several stories of broken-up paving stones and walls, up through the mist, and I saw the stars above, but they were not the constellations I knew.
© 2012 Copyright Tof Eklund
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