Written sometime in '08 or '09
She watched from the deep shadows of the wood. Her inky hair was a curtain for her pale face. Her green eyes matched the moss that clunk to the trunks around her. She did not move. She did not breathe—much. She just watched. It was what she did best. It was all she had ever been allowed to do.
She mostly watched him.
She did not know why she watched him. She always had. He was as familiar to her as her own shadow and just as ever-present in her mind.
She watched him in the courtyard. He wielded his sword. The sword was heavy, but watching him, one could not tell. He moved with powerful grace. He swung the sword right, left, he blocked, he parried.
He was everything she was not.
His skin was tanned where hers was moon-pale.
His hair was the color of new straw where hers was the blue-black of midnight.
His smile was easy and bright where hers was hesitant and skeptical.
His heart was strong where hers beat frantically.
He was clever where she was tongue-tied.
He was bold where she was unsure.
He was handsome where she was delicate.
He was free where she was not.
She could not have been farther from him, nor closer. They were like a mirror image: both opposite and the same.
She loved him, of course, but in a deep, tragic way that did not make sense to her at all. She did not know when she had first loved him. It seemed to her that she had been born loving him. She had never spoken to him, although they had lived on the same property all their lives. He did not know of her. More than ever before, she began to regret that. He should know her. He should know the girl who watched from the shadows.
“Hello.” Her voice, though very low, did not shake.
His sword stopped. He turned, almost more in surprise to hear her speak than to see her there. “Hello.”
She took steps out of the woods.
“I know you…?” he asked. It was a statement, but an unsure one. It was the first time she had heard him sound uncertain.
“Yes,” she found herself saying. “I’ve been watching you.”
“Well met,” he said, his voice strong and calm. He did not ask for her name. He did not seem to think it was important. “Why do you watch me?”
Her liquid emerald eyes were large, but not innocent. “Because I hadn’t the courage to speak to you.”
He tilted his head. His yellow hair slid against his forehead. “I’ve seen you before,” he said. “You are a handmaiden for my mother.”
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “I am.”
“I’ve watched you.”
Her eyebrows arched higher. “You have not,” she said lowly.
His blue eyes smiled. “You do not believe it because you have not seen me,” he said. “Should I doubt you for the same reason?”
“Why would you watch me?” she demanded. “I’m nothing. I’m ugly. I’m an underling.”
“It does not make sense,” he agreed. “I do not understand my feelings either. I like to watch you. Something about you feels familiar to me.”
Only she heard the small intake of breath that parted her lips. How was it that he felt the same about her? Even as they felt the same about each other, his feelings were still different: bolder, more forward, less troubling.
“You’ve taken the words from my very heart,” she said. She took steps closer. She came out of the shadows of the forest. The yellow sunlight touched her. “And why do you never speak to me?”
Did he cringe? Just a little? “It…it is not my place.”
The words pierce her. “If I may, you mean that it is not my place. Your speaking to me would require my speaking back. To be found conversing with someone of my status…” She let the accusation hang in the air.
“I did not have a reason to speak,” he said. “For me to speak to you would have been…unnecessary and troubling to us both.”
“And yet you speak now. Why?”
“You spoke to me. You had the courage to do what I dare not.”
She felt herself blushing. “You disguise your words as a compliment. You mean to say that the burden of impropriety lies on me now and not you.”
He cleared his throat. “Yes.”
Her green eyes flashed. “For someone with your standing, that is a very weak excuse,” she said. “Speaking with an underling would have required but a moment’s explaining on your part.”
He sheathed his sword and made steps towards her. “You would have thought me mad!”
She took a step back. “Do you think me mad for speaking to you?”
“Of course not! But—”
“I hardly see your point anymore.”
He sighed harshly, drilling her with his hard, sapphire eyes. “Do you love me?”
“Of course I do.” She did not even blush as she said it.
His eyes softened to an ocean blue. “I love you as well.” He reached out to touch her. She took yet another step back, looking wary now.
“Please, wait.” Her voice was not quite sharp.
“Something does not feel…right,” she said, her eyebrows knitting together. “Do you feel it?”
“No,” he said abruptly. She looked at him, and he reconsidered. “Perhaps I can know what you mean…”
“I’m going back into the house. I’m sure your mother has something for me to do.”
He looked pained.
She turned and walked toward the house. Something warm and comfortable, like satisfaction, had draped itself across her shoulders. She glanced behind. “If you ever wish to speak to me when other are around, I would not mind.”
Love is blind, she thought as she entered the house. But I am not. I must learn to look with myself, and not with my love, next time we meet.
There would be a next time, she knew. But now, he would be the one to speak.
She smiled. Perhaps he was not so much braver than her after all.