Disclaimer: I don't own Tangled. If I had, Flynn would be all mine and Rapunzel probably would have been pushed off a cliff. (It's nothing personal, it's just that you've got Flynn. That is so not fair!)
The silhouette of Eugene came towards her, and Rapunzel sighed with relief.
"I was starting to think you ran off with the crown and left me," she said, sheepish at her lack of faith.
But, when the single figure morphed into two, two men who were much larger and muscular than Eugene, she gasped.
"He did," one sneered.
The words cut inside her before she sealed herself off, refusing to believe it. These men looked to be capable of major bodily harm . . . . What did they do to Eugene?
"No! He wouldn't!" she said shakily, not wanting to believe what they said. He couldn't have left her!
"See for yourself," he gloated.
She turned towards the water and saw, through the fog, the outline of a boat, with a familiar person at the wheel.
It is nearly impossible to describe what she felt that moment.
Many people have felt betrayed. Kings, Queens, various leaders of different countries . . . all have felt the sting of betrayal at one point. But it's not as strong as that of one you love betraying you.
Many people, normal people, have felt betrayed. But, in truth, it wasn't real betrayal. Their minds were too hurt to comprehend that, really, it wasn't a true betrayal, in which someone shows their disloyalty.
It has happened, however. But no one has ever felt its pangs like Rapunzel did in that moment.
She had never been out of her tower before, never trusted anyone except her mother. She was naturally very trusting and had never even considered the idea that those she trusts can break that trust, as well.
The first thing she felt was disbelief. Disbelief that Eugene could do this to her, after everything they'd been through. She'd thought . . . she'd thought that maybe, just maybe, he was falling in love with her, too. It had almost seemed in the boat like he was going to kiss her. Then something went . . . wrong.
She still didn't even know who these people were or what had happened between Eugene and these men.
But she could hardly focus on them.
Because, deep in her heart, a small fissure was being ripped away. And that tiny crack grew into a huge, gaping hole where Eugene was. It tore her in two, her eyes wide with disbelief.
"No . . . Eugene!" she shouted after him, hoping against all hope that he'd turn around and look at her. She didn't care expression was on his face, so long as he turned around.
But he didn't even do that. He sailed away, leaving her with these men who were beginning to circle her like vultures, like men who were examining something they had purchased.
"Eugene!" she screamed, panic coloring her tone.
How could he do this to her? She could have seen this happening if she had given him the satchel soon after they set out, but now? After they'd almost died multiple times, and lived? After what had happened in the boat?
He had pushed away the satchel when she had offered it to him. He'd acted like it didn't matter. So why was he sailing away now with the crown and leaving her behind?
She felt the heartbreak of first love as strongly as anyone else—stronger, even. For she'd never even had a tiny crush. She'd never known that love like this could exist, all-consuming, unconditional, irrevocable love.
Yes, unconditional and irrevocable because, even after he had left her like this, she still loved him. Watching him sail away, the crown clutched in his first as he steered the boat, she still hoped that he would be okay, that he'd avoid arrest and that he would stay safe.
Love doesn't automatically end because someone hurts you. On the contrary, sometimes it grows stronger because, while you know they don't love you, you can't help but love them and wonder what they're doing, what you'd be doing with them at that moment if they hadn't hurt you.
Rapunzel's love was pure—it wasn't something easily retracted. But evidently Eugene's was.
"A fair trade," the one of the enormous men sneered. The scar on his face made him look even tougher, and she shivered when she imagined what damage he could do with his bulging muscles. "A crown . . . in return for the girl with the magic hair."
"What?" she gasped, leaping away. How did they know?
Did he tell them? Her thoughts were everywhere. Eugene had stabbed her in the back, and these men had just turned the knife. No, he wouldn't! Would he?
A small, pessimistic part of her mind whispered, He just left. Who's to say he didn't?
"No, no please!" she begged them as one took a sack out of his pocket.
She ran, her bare feet scraping on the stones, but she couldn't stop. She had to run, run for her life.
But her braid was caught on a log, and she could hear their footsteps and knew it was over, knew that she would be taken. She yanked frantically on her hair, but it was stuck.
Suddenly, there was a grunt and two loud noises.
"Rapunzel?" a familiar voice cried.
"Mother?" Rapunzel gasped. She managed to undo her hair—a much easier feat when she wasn't completely overcome with panic.
She walked around the corner and saw her mother, her hair much grayer than usual and her skin slightly wrinkled, but it was still her mother.
"Oh! My precious girl!" Mother breathed.
"Mother!" Rapunzel said again, running into her mother's arms.
"Are you alright?" Mother asked, examining Rapunzel for any injuries. "I was so worried about you. So I followed you. And then I saw them attack you!" She clutched Rapunzel closer for a minute before leading her away. "Come, come, we must leave before they come to!"
Rapunzel started to follow her, but couldn't. An invisible tie was holding her to the man sailing away. She turned around and walked towards the end of the beach, looking towards the boat that was nearly invisible now in the fog and dark of the night.
Tears beaded in her eyes and she felt her throat tighten. She turned and looked at Mother, who set down her lantern and held out her arms.
Letting out a small sob, Rapunzel ran back into her mother's arms, the arms of the only person who would never betray her.