10 Years Later...
"Mommy, come play with me!" Little Margaret runs across the courtyard, her tiny legs moving as fast as they possibly can.
I smile and watch as Isabella stands and rushes after our daughter. They chase each other around the yard, laughing and singing while Alice and Mother sit under the tree across the way.
I glance up at the castle behind me, to the one window way up in the corner, where I know my Father is probably asleep in his bed. The sickness came quickly, and although the town healer has visited several times, I think we all know his time is short. I try not to think about it.
"Daddy!" Margaret crashes into me and I fall playfully back into the grass.
"You got me, little one!"
She pulls a wooden sword from her waist and threatens me.
"I'm a knight, just like Mommy!" She declares.
"Yes, you are. Your Mommy is the bravest knight I've ever known." I sneak around her weapon and place a kiss on her cheek.
"Tell me the story again." Margaret sits down beside me as Isabella walks up.
"What's she asking?"
"She wants to know all about how her mother won the heart of the dashing young prince." I smile.
Isabella laughs and sits down, pulling Margaret close to her. "You've heard this story a million times, my love. I know for a fact Uncle Jacob told it to you barely three days ago at bedtime."
"I know, but Uncle Jacob doesn't tell it as good as you do. He leaves out all the good parts," Margaret says.
"Alright then," Isabella starts. "Once upon a time..." She smiles at me. "There was a little girl just like you who lived down in the village. She loved her father and her brother dearly, but she wanted something more."
"Yes. You see, she used to spend her days playing with the other children of the village. And the little boys used to talk about their dreams of becoming a knight of the king, of playing with swords and the bravery of the tournaments in hopes of winning love."
"You won Daddy's heart?" Margaret says.
"She won my heart long before she won the tournament, sweetheart." I tickle her little feet.
"And then what happened?"
"I wanted to be brave. I wanted to be strong and I wanted to find love." Isabella shrugs. "So I told those little boys what big dreams I had ."
"And they told me that girls couldn't be knights."
"But you are a knight, Mommy!"
"I was." Isabella kisses the top of her head. "And if you ever want something in your life that someone tells you you can't have, you try anyway. Always follow your heart."
Isabella continues her story. About how she'd travelled to see Jasper when her father died. About how he was skeptical at first. And how she disarmed him in moments and made him promise to help her.
I'd asked Jasper several years ago, after the dust had died down from the scandalous royal affairs, why he decided to help her.
"I remember her mother. She only came to visit me once before she died, but I remember her kindness and her compassion. Her eyes were soft brown, enough to make you feel what she was feeling with one single look. Isabella? She has her mother's eyes. And in that moment when she looked at me, I felt what she felt. Fire. Passion. A spark that I would not dare extinguish." He had smirked at me. "And plus, have you ever tried to convince her she's wrong?"
"Can I be a knight, Daddy?" Margaret jumps into my lap.
"You can be whatever you want to be. You can marry who you love. I don't know that there's much I could ever deny you." I look up at Isabella. "You do have your mother's eyes."
"Your Highness." One of the servants approaches. "Pardon the intrusion, Sire, but the King wishes to see you." Her eyes are red and puffy, evidence of a crying fit. It seems to be a commonality here lately. Even down in the village, the people are concerned for my father. It took him awhile to win back their love and trust, but win them back he did.
"Alright. Thank you." I nod to Isabella and Margaret and get up.
"Can I come and see Grandfather, too?" Margaret asks.
"Maybe later, sweetheart. Why don't you go track down Aunt Rosalie and play with your cousins for a little bit, eh?"
"I'll take her." Isabella grabs Margaret's hand, her expression sad. "Do you wish me to accompany you?" She asks quietly.
"No, I'll be alright. I'll find you later."
She nods and takes Margaret toward the castle entrance. I follow shortly behind, but instead of heading to the Great Hall, I take an obscure staircase that leads up to my father's room.
Several servants keep vigil at his door, ready with food, drink, or whatever he needed. I fear food nor drink will help him now.
I push the door open and find him lying in his bed, his breathing labored and his skin pale.
"Father." I kneel beside his bed and take his hands in my own.
"My son." He manages a smile. "My boy."
I would ask how he was feeling but I did not feel it would benefit either of us. His illness is in his face and in his touch, frail and weak.
"Won't be long now, Edward." He smiles sadly, barely able to. "I want to tell you something before..."
"Father, don't." I shake my head, begging him not to speak that way although both of us know it is the truth. "Save your strength so you can get better."
"I won't get better, Edward. I won't. The sooner we acknowledge that, the more honest we can be with each other, don't you agree?"
I don't argue. For once in my life.
"I want you to know how proud I am of you. How proud of the King I know you will be. And." He pauses and takes a few deep breaths, the best he can manage. "And I want to thank you for standing up to me all those years ago. If you hadn't, I wouldn't have the life I've had. Shorter than I would have hoped, I admit, but these last years have been the most wonderful. With you, and your sisters and mother. And my grandbabies. And Isabella."
I cannot help but smile at the sound of her name.
"She is quite a lady, son."
"I love you, Father." The tears come without plan or thought, they're just there, hot and wet against my skin.
"I love you, too."
The room goes very still, very quiet. My father takes one deep breath, and then, as he reaches his final moment of peace with his life, he goes.
The servants are the first to cry out, breaking through the strange calm of the room.
"Please fetch my mother and sisters," I stutter, holding tight to my father's hand as his soul departs this life. I know not what I will say to my family, do not know that I will be able to say anything at all.
Several minutes pass before Mother, Alice, and Rosalie arrive. Thankfully, I do not need to utter a word. They all know.
The girls cling to Mother like she is the only thing holding them to the floor, their eyes red with tears.
"Edward," Mother sighs.
"It's done." I wipe my nose on my sleeve. "He seemed...content." I nod and get up, giving them all a kiss on the cheek as I leave in haste.
After I tend to Mother, Alice, and Rosalie, I go to the hidden baths, the ones Isabella and I escaped to the night of the ball, and so many times after. Just for some solitude. Just for some peace. To think.
Minutes, hours pass. I find myself standing as still as a statue studying the stained glass window. The way the colors change and shine in the light. How each piece is so intricately fit together to make this beautiful masterpiece.
"Edward," Isabella's voice comes softly from behind me. "We've been looking for you for hours, you've worried your mother to-"
"Death..." I mumble.
I hear her footsteps come up behind me and when her arms wrap around my waist, I take my first deep breath since my father died.
"My father loved you," I say.
"I think he tolerated me," she teases. They had a relationship no one else understood, but it was theirs. And they did love each other, almost as much as they frustrated each other.
"He told me you were quite a lady."
"Well, I won't argue with that." She kisses my back. "Are you alright?"
"As well as I can be."
"The King's advisor's are looking for you." She clears her throat. "To make the arrangements."
"For the funeral?"
"For your crowning."
"Oh." I nod. "I see. Well then, I shouldn't keep them waiting."
We leave the bath together, hand in hand, holding my shattered heart together the best I can manage.
The wake is short, as Father would have wanted it. Days later, I sit waiting for the crowning ceremony to start. My leg hops anxiously up and down as I listen to the chatter from outside my door. I am not nervous about being King. I realize it's not that at all. No. I'm nervous because I want to make sure he would be proud of me.
"Whatever doubts are running through your head right now, they're wrong." Isabella steps inside, wearing the most beautiful dress of gold and white.
"I don't want to disappoint him," I admit.
"I think that's impossible, Edward. The people have loved you since you were young. I love you. Margaret loves you. And he loved you. This isn't about taking his place as much as it is becoming who you were meant to be."
"And you, my Queen?" I take her hand and raise it to my lips. "Do you believe you are who you were meant to be?"
I pull back, surprised.
"Because this life is so much more than I could have ever believed. I can only hope our daughter has the same magical, unexpected path that we had." She kisses me. "You are going to make a wonderful King."
"Only because you are my Queen." I can only imagine all of the wonderful things Isabella will do for the people.
We take a few more moments to ourselves and then I take a deep breath, and begin the long walk down the aisle. Eyes watch me as a I walk, whispers follow each step. Isabella walks, not behind me, but beside me. Margaret waits at the end with Mother, who has thankfully needed her Grandmother duties the past few days to take her mind off things while I settle into my new role.
My hands shake as the ceremony begins and the next thing I know, the heavy crown is placed on my head. It reminds me of everything I stand for. What I want my Kingdom to stand for. And how I will fight every day for my people and to make my family proud.
"Presenting his Majesty King Edward, and Queen Isabella! Long live the King!"
The crowd erupts in applause and I can't help but smile and take a deep breath. Despite of my grief over losing my father, I feel complete. The close of a chapter and the beginning of another.
The girl born of ash and fire has found her place in the world in the most unexpected of circumstances. And I, a Prince of dreams and a wild heart, has realized he knew all along where he was meant to be. A perfect match and, if I may say so myself, a very, very happily ever after indeed.
A/N: Hi, all. Or those of you who are still with me. Thank you to those who are! As you probably noticed, it's been awhile. To be honest, I haven't been in a great place creatively. I've even been struggling to work on my original pieces. I don't know exactly what it was, but it took me so long to get something together that I was happy with. I sat on the last few lines for awhile, going back and forth on what I liked and what I didn't. I've literally had the rest of it done for several weeks, but I couldn't find the right words. I guess all writers get in funks sometimes, right?
Anyway, enough rambling. I have the final part of When We Were Young going and partially completed. That will be hopefully coming sooner than later and then I will be taking a break to get my brain back on the right track for writing. Whether that's focusing on my original pieces for a while or dabbling in some one shots, I'm not sure, but as soon as I know you guys will know.
Thank you to all of my readers for being so patient and kind and supportive, I couldn't do any of this without you. I hope you enjoyed this little story about a Prince and his Ladyknight :)