Pearls Before Swine.

Part II.

Yes, she had always been nervous at night.

And nothing had changed, even when the dreaded Judge had lost, when his claim on her was meaningless, when he had gone forever.

Even when Johanna Barker had escaped into the darkness that once trammeled in around her, she had been nervous.

Even when the slender, shy, wiry youth had freed her from her ornate prison, even as his nervous smile promised an escape she had only ever dreamt of, she was nervous.

Dreams can so easily become nightmares.

And marriage had only shone in Johanna's future as a grim herald of doom.

But she was married to him now. There was no turning back. She was free. Yet also, she had effectively shackled herself to a new jailer, and really, if he was merciful or not, it was hardly the point.

So when the darkness came - the first darkness of her life as a wife - Johanna was nervous.

You wouldn't have guessed so.

She calmly removed the ridicolous hat she had worn that day, and allowed her yellow hair to tumble down to her waist. She had allowed the Misses of the tavern to bathe her until her marble skin flushed salmon pink, to gently douse her tangled curls in scented water until they were once again unbearably soft. She had lent Johanna her daughter's nightgown, and had exclaimed so about how pretty she looked.

Johanna had seen herself look prettier.

Johanna had seen herself look beautiful.

Johanna had seen herself dressed in the garish silks, the delicate lace, the exotic patterns of the latest fashions from London, to Paris, to the Orient. Johanna had seen her mane of silk braided into the most intricate of styles that would have graced a Queen. Johanna had seen her delicate figure weighted down with jewels that would have been fit for a King's ransom.

But seeing her reflection in the tavern bedchamber's looking-glass, bare-footed, in a white cotton nightgown that hid her slender body from the neck down, with her hair as fresh and bright as wheat in a sunlit field, and her heart-shaped face flushed so that her eyes sparkled in a way her unwanted jewels never had - Johanna thought she had never looked safer.

And so as she got into the bed, and watched the shadows of the fire in the grate dance on the ceiling and walls, and as she saw the candles gutter in their holders, her guardians of the light against the darkness, she felt only a flutter of nerves as Anthony's footsteps echoed down the corridor.

As the heavy door creaked shut behind him, she only felt the heat rise in her cheeks.

As he crossed the room, and took her reverently in his arms, she felt only the frantic fluttering of her heart against her chest, beating not in terror, but in ecstasy.

As he clung to her, his dark, tangled curls at odds with her silken golden mane, Johanna succumbed to the unkown, in a flush of desire.

Suspicion gave way to trust.

Terror gave way to acceptance.

Uneasiness gave way to the beginnings of something more than lust, but not yet love.

And as the fire died down, and the embers glowed purple in the night, and the full moon shone down through the window, and darkness lay entwined with light, Johanna thought of her pearls.

Her pearls that rose from the depths to the top.

Her pearls that were forced into rigid attire, to only be a trophy to those that desired it.

Her pearls that were not appreciated by either it's purchaser, or it's owner.

Pearls.

Pearls before swine.