No Longer Enemies
"Princess Mary? May I have a word?"
Mary turned, her long coppery golden locks swinging round as she did so, stiffening as soon as she realised who had called her name.
"Lady Anne." She said coolly, holding out her hand for the dark-haired woman, who had dipped a half-curtsy as she drew level with Mary, to kiss.
Anne Boleyn brushed the girl's hand with her lips, and then laid her hand on Mary's sleeve. "Not here, Princess. I would rather speak to you alone."
"And what makes you think I would want to speak to you at all; let alone in private?" Mary hissed angrily, wishing she could strangle the woman who stood before her so brazenly, the woman who had enraptured her father and caused her mother so much unhappiness, and who, worst of all, did not even seem to be sorry for it. Instead she contented herself with allowing her veneer of royal politeness to slip for a second, and whispering softly "You Whore."
As she had hoped, the words stung Anne, and the elder woman drew herself up proudly, and answered "I am no whore, Your Highness. Believe me, I have not given in to your father yet. I will not be his whore; no matter how much he urges me. "
"He desires you still?" Despite herself, Mary gasped. She had never seen her father in pursuit of one of his mistresses yet, but one heard rumours, of course, and he had apparently never stayed faithful to any woman for more than one or perhaps two summers. No woman save her mother. At the thought of her mother, Mary smiled, and straightened her shoulders, only to be startled out of her pleasant train of thought when Anne took her sleeve again. She scowled at the woman as she continued to talk quickly.
"Please. Princess Mary. Come back to my rooms with me. I want to talk to you, that's all. And think of your father. How pleased would he be if he knew that you and I were associating with one another? Please. For your father's sake."
At the thought of her father, Mary weakened. He was the centre of her fifteen-year old existence, and she had always adored him. She would do anything for him. Even, it seemed, she muttered bitterly to herself, chiding herself, keep company with this shameless harlot.
Reluctantly, she let Anne draw her along the corridor and into her private rooms. Anne sent the women tidying in there away with a single word, and Mary found herself admiring the way she handled them, as though she had been born a far greater woman than an ambassador's daughter – and younger daughter at that. She took the goblet of wine Anne offered her silently, and waited until she saw Anne sip at her own before daring to try hers. It was good – sweet and dry, and it slid down her throat easily, warming her despite her trepidation of the woman who sat opposite her. Anne looked her with something astonishingly like pity in her jet-black eyes.
"Oh, Princess, you didn't honestly think I would poison you, did you?"
"You had my mother banished. I'm her heir." Mary replied tersely, and Anne sighed.
"Yes. I can see why you might think that I would benefit from your death, but Mary – I – I don't know how to say this, but well...I'm sorry." Anne said this last bit in a great rush, and Mary started with surprise.
"I beg your pardon, Lady Anne?" she exclaimed.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what my father made me do. I'm sorry I was ordered to put myself in your father's way, and I'm sorry you have to suffer for it now. I swear to you before God, if I had had a choice in the matter, I would rather have married my cousin Thomas Wyatt and never left Hever again then have to put you through this."
Anne's voice broke, and Mary looked up at her properly, only to see tears shining in the older woman's eyes.
"Then why not leave Court? My father would mourn you and then forget you – as he has done with every other woman he has ever strayed with." she added through gritted teeth.
"It's too late now." Anne replied sadly "I've done what I swore I would never do – fallen in love with the King. I love your father, Mary, and that's a fact. I will always love him."
"Oh." Mary did not know what to say, and as she hesitated, Anne continued "I know it must be hard for you to be separated from your mother, but I promise you, whatever my father makes me say, or makes me do in public, in private I shall always grieve for you, and I shall certainly never encourage your father to hurt you any more than he already has - no matter what."
Mary peered closely into Anne's face. She longed to believe that the woman was lying, but Anne spoke with such sincerity that she found herself quite unable to do so. At last, unsure what else to do with herself, she picked up a deck of cards that lay forgotten on the side table. "Do you play Canasta, Mademoiselle Boleyn?"
"Upon occasion, Your Highness." Anne answered, half-smiling as Mary shuffled and dealt out thirty cards, before cutting that group in half and saying "Then I challenge you to a game."
Anne picked up her cards and the game began.
That was how the King found his beloved and his daughter when he came to Anne's rooms in the quiet time before dinner. He stood there, astounded, before recovering himself and going forward to greet Anne by kissing her lightly on the forehead.
Mary, sensing what he did not say, rose to her feet, and inclined her head stiffly to Anne. "I'll leave you with better company, my lady."
"All right." Anne said easily. "But do come back. After all, Princess Mary, we two have a game to finish."
"I look forward to it." Mary said smoothly, but to her surprise, she actually did.
Perhaps...just perhaps, she and Anne Boleyn could be friends after all. They were certainly no longer enemies.