author's notes: This is for Silver Moon Droplet's challenge! I was supposed to use the word 'sunset' two or more times in a tragic fairy-tale. So…enjoy!
disclaimer: Sorry, don't own it.
once upon a time…
It was just under three weeks until her wedding day, and she wished it just would stay that way. Any other girl would be ecstatic, gushing to all her best girlfriends about the details. Any other girl wouldn't be able to wait until her big day when she would vow her love to her husband until the day she died. But she wasn't like the other girls. She hadn't even met the oh-so-lucky groom. She had been betrothed since the day she was born, and her parents (his and her royal majesties), thinking it was for her own good, had locked their daughter (the beautiful princess) in her room. They argued that if she met another prince besides her betrothed, she might (just might) grow feelings for him. This would ruin everyone's plan for the perfect marriage, also known as the perfect join between kingdoms.
And so it was as they had wished. Their daughter never laid eyes upon another prince. She hadn't even laid eyes on her own prince… or the light of day, for that matter….since she was destined to marry. She saw her parents once -maybe twice- a year, and only for a few uncomfortably stiff minutes. She didn't have any friends, she never spoke to anyone, and heaven forbid she leave her room to go –gasp- outside. Her parents (it was for her own good) insisted that if words rarely rose from her mouth, she would learn to have a soft, sweet voice. And if the sun's harsh rays never beat against her face, she would have a beautiful porcelain complexion. She would be the perfect bride: gentle, graceful, and ever obedient. So she just sat in her room (more like a windowless prison) obeying. Obeying, yet still yearning to break out of her cage, to fly away from this horrible life the king and queen had thrust her into, to live, to laugh, to love.
and so the fairy tale begins…
Princess Naminé slouched ungracefully at her writing desk, reading her history text half-heartedly. Her governess always preached that since she would be queen someday, it was absolutely necessary to know the history of her kingdom. Naminé didn't really want to spend her entire day reading something so boring, but it wasn't like she had anything better to do.
"Princess?" a masculine voice cut through the silence.
"Yes?" she responded sweetly (with a trace of un-princess-like annoyance) without even turning to see whom the speaker was.
"I have your dinner, princess," the voice replied shakily.
Nighttime already? Naminé lifted her gaze from her book to the door and saw a young man standing in the doorway, holding a tray of food. Wait, masculine voice? Young man? She had never, ever had a male servant before. "I'm sorry, but who're you?" she asked more gently, puzzled.
"I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself, princess, but my name's Riku."
"Wha-who-wh-" Naminé stuttered embarrassingly, searching for the right words.
"Your ladies-in-waiting have been assigned to take care of the wedding details, so I'm your personal attendant until then," Riku said, cutting her off.
"Oh," she said simply and turned back to her book. She heard his footsteps grow louder as he approached her and set the tray at the corner of her desk.
"Do you want something else, princess?"
Riku linked his hands behind his head casually as he repeated, "Do you want something else?"
"Nobody ever asked me if I wanted anything before," she said softly, looking down to the cold, marble floor.
Riku bent down so he could be at eye-level with her. "Anything I can do, my princess?"
"Y-yeah," she stuttered keeping her gaze on the floor, "Could you…could you not call me 'princess' anymore? It gets pretty old, I mean, I know I'm a princess, y'know… you can just call me Naminé."
Riku smiled and replied, "Of course. Anything for you, princess…I mean, Naminé." She looked up and started laughing at the embarrassment etched into his features.
"It's nice… laughing," she said wistfully. This was all too surreal- a boy in her room, and she was laughing, not cowering in fear. Laughing. Naminé soon snapped back into reality and shook her head violently. "You don't have to call me Naminé if it's that hard."
He grinned, relieved that he could retain her formal title when he addressed her. "Um," she began, "Uh, you can go now…Riku…"
He stood up and bowed formally. "Anything for you," he said before he left. The click of the door locking from the outside resonated through her room. She was alone again.
He came back to her room everyday, sometimes two or three times a day. Sometimes he would deliver a message from the king and queen, sometimes he would give her an update on the wedding plans, and sometimes he would just stop by to see how she was doing. He told her very quietly, restraining his voice to the best of his ability, that he thought her parents were wrong to lock her up like this; all the servants thought so. And this would make Naminé smile, knowing that someone agreed with her.
Sometimes he would just walk in wordlessly, doing his duties in silence. Sometimes he would come in to make her bed even though they both knew the maid had just cleaned. Sometimes he would chatter endlessly with her, and this made Naminé smile, because she had never really talked to anyone before.
But he always (always) asked the same question before he relocked the door.
"Anything I can do?"
And this made Naminé smile, because Riku was the first person that cared about her happiness, even if he was just pretending. But she knew, deep down, that he really did care that she was happy. Because whenever he replied with his formal "Anything for you, princess", there was this gleam in his eyes. And Naminé smiled when she saw that gleam, because she knew he was happy, and she loved to see him happy.
"Why do you always do whatever I ask of you, Riku?" she questioned with a giggle, about a week before the big day.
"Because it makes you smile, princess."
And she loved to smile.
It was two days before her wedding, and Riku had come in, bringing Princess Naminé a cup of her nightly tea. Naminé was sitting in the chair centered in the room, drawing on a sketchpad (because a princess should be highly efficient in the arts). Riku walked next to her and bent down, lowering the tea tray. "Good evening, princess. How are you?"
Naminé sighed. She felt horrible, but a princess wouldn't dare say that. "Fine," she replied brusquely. The pencil scratched the paper angrily.
"Princess, I don't need that tone of voice," Riku mocked, fully aware of her hatred of that sweet and bubbly tone her parents urged her to adopt.
"Riku, I don't need that sass; I could have you hanged for that!" she said jokingly. Riku grimaced and grabbed his throat, pretending to choke himself. "Hey! I'm just kidding!" she cried, laughing, and slapped his arm playfully.
Riku grinned widely and adjusted the collar on his shirt. "Anything I can do, princess?"
Naminé grabbed her mug and held it close to her body. The steam rolled over her face soothingly as she murmured softly, "Yes, actually." And there was that gleam again. "I know this might be too much to ask, and you probably couldn't do it… no, you can't… I shouldn't…" her voice dropped to a whisper, "Never mind."
Riku bent down and peered into her indigo eyes, "What is it?" he asked gently.
"I… I've always wanted to see what's outside my room. I want to feel the wind blowing through my hair and watch the birds fly overhead and…" her voice grew stronger, "I want to see the sunset… I… I hear it's beautiful." The smile dropped from Riku's face as he stood up slowly. Naminé's gaze climbed to his eyes. "It's okay, really. You don't have to… I know I'm not supposed to leave…you can just go…" He pivoted around and left wordlessly. No 'goodbye', no 'anything for you'.
And the mug crashed and the scalding liquid streamed across the floor.
It was the eve of her wedding day. Any other girl would be giddy with excitement, but the anxiety rising in Naminé's stomach just made her feel sick. Riku had been into her room only once that day, and hadn't spoken a word. She needed to talk to him. She needed him to comfort the fears. Her mouth kept opening and closing, but the apology just couldn't seem to make its way out of her throat. He left after a few silent, uncomfortable minutes. So Naminé remained alone, sitting on her bed with her back propped up against the headboard. A blank sketchpad rested in her lap just screaming to be drawn upon. She wanted to draw so badly, and the crisp, white paper called to her colored pencils, but no idea would enter head. A soft click resounded from her door as a silver-haired head poked its way into her room.
"Riku! I- I'm really sorry ab-"
"No time for apologies, princess, come here," he demanded. And Naminé (the ever obedient one) slid her legs over the edge of her bed and approached him tentatively. "Come on," his voice rumbled harshly as his cool, clammy hand curved around her wrist. With a slight jerk, he pulled her from her prison out into the hall.
She was free. Seventeen years, eleven months, and thirty days of being locked in this dungeon and she had finally escaped.
"Now, we have to be quiet," whispered Riku almost inaudibly. He tugged her gently through the winding hallways and down the spiraling staircases. The hem of her dress rippled as her feet pitter-pattered on the stony floor, earnestly trying to keep up with Riku. Turn, turn, run, stop, run- they danced through the corridors. "Now… close your eyes," he muttered.
"But…" she hesitated. He reached out and laid his hands over her shoulders lightly.
"Princess, don't you trust me?"
She looked up tentatively, and through the flaxen hair dangling into her eyes, saw him grinning widely at her. A nod curved her neck down and back up as her eyelids fluttered closed. His fingers weaved their way between hers, and Naminé heard the drawn-out creak of door hinges.
Warmth rushed over her cheeks as her locks flew from her face. He pulled her along, encouraging her to walk more. But there was no pitter-patter; the blades of grass licking her feet dulled the sound. Riku finally stopped in the castle courtyard and his fingers released her hand from his grasp.
"Now… open them," he exclaimed, sheer joy wrapping its way around every word. Her indigo eyes shot open and were blinded by the light's intensity, but her pupils dilated and adjusted quickly.
The oranges and pinks and purples washed over her face calmly and the perfume rising from the garden's flowers tickled her nose and the birds singing their tune sounded like angels. "…R…Riku…"
"It's not what you wanted, is it?" he groaned, voice laced in disappointment.
"It's…beautiful...it's perfect." She threw her body into his chest, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. Riku was caught off-guard and stumbled backward, falling onto the lawn and pulling Naminé with him.
"Oh, gosh. I'm s-so sorry, princess," he stuttered with embarrassment as he pulled her up from the grass. But she was laughing and smiling and enjoying the oranges and pinks and purples, so it was okay. He took her elbow and led her over to the stone bench surrounded by daylilies. She sat and smoothed the wrinkles out of her dress.
He bent and sat next to her, fidgeting at their closeness.
The peace swiftly wrapped around them, but she still couldn't forget that he was a servant boy and she was a princess. Naminé's eyes widened slowly as she came to the stark realization that this would probably be the last time they saw each other. Because a queen would most certainly be forbidden from fraternizing with a servant.
"So… are you excited for tomorrow?" Riku said solemnly, breaking the silence.
Naminé's eyes lowered to her lap, "Sure, I guess," she whispered.
"I assume that's a 'no'," Riku exclaimed, a smirk wiggling its way onto his face.
Her hands lowered and fingered a loose thread on her dress. "…Riku… I'm scared."
His hand rested over hers, giving it a slight squeeze of encouragement. "Princess, it'll be fine, trust me. You'll just walk down the aisle in your white gown and everyone will turn and look at how beautiful you are," his voice began to waver, "and you'll smile because you're so happy and you never could have dreamed of anything better."
Her lip trembled dangerously as she mumbled, "But… it's not going to be like those fairy tales that I read as a little girl. I don't know him. I don't want to marry him." The tears had wriggled their way up and balanced on her lashes, threatening to fall any moment. "I don't care if it's for the good of the kingdom, he's not my prince charming." Naminé gasped as she felt strong arms wrap tenderly around her body, securing her in an embrace.
"…I'm…I'm so sorry," his voice caressed. The bushes rustled softly behind them, and her tears were silently streaming down her cheeks. She pulled from his grasp and looked up into his teal eyes, shining brilliantly.
"Riku, promise me something…" she managed to sputter between sobs.
"Of course, princess,"
"We… we must keep in touch, no matter what… I fear I won't see you as much…if at all…" she whispered.
Riku rummaged through his pockets and retrieved a single piece of string. "But I will, and if I don't make it to you one day, I… I want you to have this." The string wrapped around her finger, forming a makeshift ring. "Sorry I can't afford anything bett-"
"It's wonderful, Riku…" she paused, eying the gift. "You know, you were the first friend I ever had," Naminé said as she traced the edge of the string with her thumb. "I just want to say… thanks… for everything." She looked up and saw him beaming down at her, and the distance between their faces closed dangerously.
"Anything for you, princess," he replied through his grin.
Their lips met, and neither cared that she was the princess and he was the servant, because the sunset flooding over them and the aromas filling their nostrils and the birds singing sweetly made it okay, even though they both knew it was terribly, terribly wrong.
His lips broke from hers and curled up as he mumbled, "Well, we should get you back inside." He locked his fingers between hers and lifted her up from the bench, pulling her gently back into the dank halls of the castle. Despite her attempts to follow him and sneak down into the servants' quarters, Riku made sure that Naminé was safe and sound in her room again.
"See me tomorrow?" she pleaded, looking down at her hands wringing nervously.
He nodded slightly and said, "Princess?" Her head jerked up. Riku smoothed her bangs from her face as he leaned down and kissed her tenderly on her forehead. "You're going to be great tomorrow, trust me."
And she smiled.
The door locked shut behind her, and Naminé saw the lonely sketchpad resting on her bed. She finally knew what to draw.
It was the day of her wedding and the castle was in an uproar. Maids were running frantically about, dusting the windowsills and mopping the floors in anticipation of the prince's arrival. The chefs in the basement kitchens were frenzied, cooking last minute food for the reception ball, hoping to impress the foreign king and queen with their exquisite cuisine.
But Naminé was in her room, preparing for the wedding. She already managed to pull the white dress onto her body, and her tongue peeked out of her mouth as she attempted to pin her hair up. She hoped Riku would come visit her before the ceremony; she really wanted to show him her drawing. Naminé stroked the string around her finger anxiously. A knock on the door gently tapped its way through the silence.
She jumped up and ran to the door. "Riku! I was waiting for you! I wanted to sh-" Naminé stopped, frozen in place. A young girl with choppy silver hair poked her head into the room hesitantly.
"Princess, the ceremony is to begin in ten minutes time…in the south cathedral," she squeaked.
"Where's Riku?" Naminé demanded brusquely, gripping her drawing so firmly that the edge was crumpling under her grasp. The young servant looked down to the floor in shame. Naminé didn't need a servant right now; she needed a friend. "Where. Is. Riku?!" she repeated, her voice growing louder with each word.
"He… he was… executed… early this morning, princess. On the king's orders," she choked as tears streamed down her cheeks. The girl looked up at Naminé again and saw her dropped jaw, her widened eyes, her quivering lip. Naminé's hands released their hold on the drawing, and it fluttered gracefully to the floor.
"He… my brother… wanted me to give this to you, princess…" The child shakily thrust an envelope Naminé's hands and left the room sobbing. Naminé's hands trembled as she ripped the envelope open, and her eyes were laced with tears. She unfolded the yellowed parchment slowly. He can't be…dead.
My Dearest Princess, the tear-stained letter began, if this letter has reached your hands, then I am no longer alive. I am dearly sorry I could not support you today. I ask for your humble forgiveness, but please do not cry for me. Your face is far too beautiful to be marred with tears. Hopefully, my words will be enough to help you through today.
Princess, you are an amazing young woman. You'll make a great queen someday. You are extremely talented and wonderfully kind, even to a lowly servant boy. These past three weeks that we have spent together have been the best of my life, and I never could have dreamed of anything better. You have made my pitiful life worthwhile, and I cannot thank you enough.
As for why you are holding this letter right now, I do have an explanation. When we sat watching the sunset yesterday, I heard someone in the bushes behind us and knew we were being spied upon. I knew I was to be executed because I took you from your room, and I pray that you will be strong in spite of this. You will walk down the aisle and smile for me, princess. Because you love to smile.
Princess, I have wanted to tell you for so long… I love you. Naminé, my Naminé, I love you from the deepest depths of my heart. Not even death can stop me from loving you. Please remember me, Naminé. -–Riku
The parchment dropped from her quivering grip and slipped across the room. Naminé collapsed weakly onto the marbled floor, not caring about the dirt or grime of the ground. The skirt of her dress puffed up, swallowing her petite frame. The sobs erupted from her body in tiny gasps. She didn't care that her bun had loosened and flowing blonde locks hung limply in her eyes. She didn't care that the tears rolling endlessly down her cheeks had smudged her perfect make-up. She didn't care about anything but Riku.
"…Riku…Riku…Riku…" she whispered his name again and again, shaking her head in disbelief, seeking comfort in the sound of his name. But his name alone couldn't mend her broken heart. He was her faithful servant, her only friend, her one true love.
And he was gone.
She reached for the wrinkled drawing, hand shaking pitifully, and clutched it protectively to her chest. It was her last memory of him. She could still hear the robins chirping, the wonderful smell of the daylilies, and the colors. Oh, the colors. The oranges and pinks and purples had made his eyes look so, so brilliant. She ran her finger over the sun skimming the page's horizon as the tear droplets plummeted onto the paper. She still felt his voice folding around her, felt his rough, calloused fingers interlocked with her hand, felt his soft lips upon hers. Despite how cold her shivering body was, Naminé could still feel the warmth of his breath, the warmth of her sun.
He had shone into her sad, dark life, lighting it up with his laugh, his loyalty, his love.
He… was her sunset.
The organ blared its music through the cathedral as the wide oak doors opened slowly. The audience stood and turned to catch a glimpse of the bride ambling slowly down the aisle.
She was the pure essence of beauty.
Before she reached the altar, Naminé looked up at the stained glass of the rose window. The light poured into the church and cast the colors across her veil. Orange and pink and purple caressed her moist cheeks. So she smiled.
Because he loved when she smiled.
author's notes: So yeah… first attempt at character death. Even though it made me sad to have Riku die, I actually kinda liked this one… I hope you did too! Yeah, and I pictured the prince to be Roxas while I was writing it, but I left it open for any character. Anyway, please, please, please review to make my day!!