Loosely based on The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson and inspired by the song, Don't Fear the Reaper by the Blue Oyster Cult. Weird? Yes, but it makes sense. :D
Warning: Character death
Gwen stood shivering outside of the large brownstone in the middle of a snowy, Manhattan day waiting for her client to arrive. She already had someone from the office walk through the house, lighting candles in the bedrooms, switching on the appropriate lights above the art work, baking cookies in the oven and making sure the kitchen and bathroom windows, in particular, shone brightly to allow every bit of natural light that this December day could afford.
It was 3:00 PM and she was instructed by her client's representative to be outside at precise that time to greet the potential buyer.
The house, along with the original stonework and hardwood floors, crown moldings, crystal chandeliers, scenic views of the park and its multimillion dollar price tag, had been on the market for more than a year without any serious offers. That was until about six months ago, when her company was contacted by an elderly woman calling on behalf of some British aristocrat looking for a change of pace.
She didn't know anything about the family, other than their last name, and had no idea what to expect. The house was lovely, large and perfect for a middle aged couple with two children and a one four-legged, furry family pet; just like the wordsmith had written down on the flyers and the dedicated website.
She blew a heavy breath out of her lungs and the warm air frosted into white clouds before her soon-to-be numb face.
This is the price you pay for a seven figure commission, she thought.
Queen Guinevere sat before Camelot's finest nobles, knights and commoners, dressed in her most regal gown with her crown atop her head. She smiled at every face and kissed the cheeks of every young couple who had decided to wed on this day, the anniversary of her wedding to their dead king.
It had been a tradition for a long time now and one that she enjoyed because of the new memories and the old ones too, but each year was more difficult than the last. Never had she wished to be Queen of Camelot, but she was. To be Arthur Pendragon's wife was her only desire and she was happy to have been for the short time that they were together in this life.
As the music played on, the wine flowed heavier into the long, cold night of winter. She whispers to her serving girl that she needed to take a short walk and would only be away for a moment from all the festivities.
Placing her hand on the young girl's warm cheek, she looked deeply into her eyes and said "Farewell, my child."
She walked down the quiet corridors to her chambers where she removed her silken gown, all of her jewels and stones and the gold crown that he had bequeath her. She donned the simple peach-colored dress that she had worn to meet him at their secret picnic when they were still so young, as young as her serving girl.
A heavy winter cloak and one torch to light the way, everything else was to stay.
Arthur was terribly late. He did not mean to be, especially since his personal secretary gave specific instructions regarding the proper way to greet nobility and the fact that this whole trip would be a complete waste of time. The last thing he wanted was an overpriced, stuffy mansion near the park where all his neighbors would be carbon copies of the very people he was trying to escape in London.
The trouble with having a sweet, older woman managing nearly every aspect of your life was that they were too sweet to kill or tell off and they never listened to a word you'd tell them, insisting that they knew best. Such was the case with the lovely Emilia, who had been his governess many years ago and was now, effectively, his caretaker.
Another problem: they behaved like your mother, which have two dire consequences. The first was that they did everything for you and the second was that after awhile, you couldn't do anything without them.
Today was a good example of both.
Emilia had arranged the showing, going over every detail to the letter. What she did not account for was bad weather and terrible New York City traffic. So now, there was some poor real estate agent standing outside in the cold and snow, waiting for some prat to finally show up at the door because said prat doesn't have a clue as to how to contact them.
The Queen walked on shaky feet through the snow covered forest over slippery roots and dead leaves hidden beneath the white flakes that had collected on the ground for more than three days and now this third evening.
The stone path that dotted the stream where many years ago she had tiptoed across, leaving the side of her friend, Merlin, to take the hand of the Prince and the man who would one day become her husband, was covered in ice, frozen by the cold air of this, most harsh winter.
She slipped and fell to her knees, punching a hole in the once solid block. They crunched into smooth pebbles on the floor of the stream. She crawled instead of trying to take steps. On her hands and knees, feeling her way along, her fingers, toes and limbs burned from the cold sheet of frozen water beneath them. Her breath was ragged and every ache and pain took on the strength of twenty times its purpose.
On the other side of the banks, she slowly limped the last few feet towards the tree where they had lain together and kissed, in what seemed to be a lifetime ago.
Now the tears came freely. It had been ten years since her king had died and left her alone. Ten years since she had touched his face or heard his laugh or kissed his lips. The torch dropped with her hands into the snow and singed itself out, leaving nothing but the smell of burnt wood and a melted circle around it.
It was too far to walk back to the castle, but she had no intention of returning. Tonight, in the place where they ate together as equals in the warmth of spring, she would give her body to woods and her soul to fate, in hopes to see him smile just one last time.
She leaned against the tree and waited for death, dressed in his long, dark cloak that concealed his grotesque form and bony hands, to make her sleep for good; but he never came.
"Guinevere." It was a familiar voice, sweet like summer fruit, drizzling in her ears like honey.
She opened her eyes. He was standing before her, face lit warm by a golden light that danced upon his silver armor like tiny stars.
"You've come for me," she said.
He smiled and extended his hand. She stood, creeping her back up the rough bark of their tree.
A flash of sudden cold chilled the back of her neck, something whispered to her on the wind. She turned her head in its direction. In the distance there were lights, twinkling behind the trees and bushes that still carried leaves. Hounds howled desperate cries and men's voices shouted in panic.
"Guinevere, you don't have to leave now," he said.
She turned again to see his face.
"I will be here, waiting for you. No matter how long it takes. We will be together always; it is our destiny, across all time."
The Queen looked down at her King's hand. She raised hers and felt his strong, warm hand in her palm again. She pushed her back off of the tree and stepped into the golden light with her King.
His watch read 3:56 PM. The snow was coming down hard and there was already a foot of it on the ground. The driver tells him for the fourth time in the last twenty minutes that they're five minutes away.
"Are you certain this time?"
"Yes, it's that white one three doors down."
He squinted to try to see if the number on the door – the one thing he did know – was correct. It was. "I'll walk from here," he said deciding it would be better not to grab his coat and opening the door. Traffic was at a standstill.
There was no one outside and he thought for a moment if he could get out of this early, then he may still have time to see one of the places he scouted out on his own in SoHo.
The front steps had been previously cleared and ice crystals crunched under his feet with every step. He rang the door bell and silently promised anyone of the world's Gods who may be listening, that he would be a better person if it went unanswered and things would go his way, just this once.
He peered inside. It was quiet.
He looked over his shoulder back towards the black sedan. He surmised that it may have moved a foot, two at the most. Behind him the door unlatched. His plea, instead of the door, had gone unanswered by all of man's divine beings. He shut his eyes and decided that he would do at least one bad thing today to settle the score with the preoccupied deities.
He turned around to see the most beautiful woman with dark curls, dark eyes and gloriously tanned skin standing before him.
"Yes," he answered and thanked the heavens – all of them – and Emilia for this moment.
"Please come in," she told him.
"I am sorry for being so late. There was a lot of traffic."
"It's no problem at all."
He noted the familiar accent. "You're not a native of my lands are you?"
She smiled. "How is our Queen?"
"Still alive and surprisingly spry for her age," he said.
Her beautiful smile widened. "Would you like to start the tour in the kitchen? There's tea."
"Ah, yes. That would be appropriate." He thought about why he was supposed to be inside the house and Emilia's instructions. "God, I hope you weren't standing outside this entire time. Again, I'm terribly sorry for that."
"It comes with the territory. After doing it for awhile you learn to dress warm, bring soup and never listen to personal secretaries. I was only outside for two minutes, tops!"
His smile broadened now too.
She extended her hand to him. "My turn to apologize now, I didn't introduce myself before. I'm Guinevere, but you can call me Gwen, most people do."
He laughed and paused for a moment. This was like something out of a dream. He could remember the stories, the legends that he had been told ever since he was a young boy. No doubt, she could too. He was after all one of their country's most celebrated Kings and she was his eternal Queen.
Her hand was still hanging out, awkwardly waiting to be taken.
"What's so funny?"
"It's not often that you meet someone with your name. I certainly never thought that I would."
He took her hand, gave it small shake.
A/N: Written for One Shot Challenge at AG_FICS LJ. It won second place. :D