My entire body quaked with grief as I laid myself out on the fountain's edge, sobbing into the crook of my elbow. The image of his face burned itself onto the inside of my eyelids. Forcing me to see the charming peasant's smile every time I closed my eyes. Every time I blinked.
The cold of Agrabah night had long ago settled over the courtyard, making its home among the tall hedges and sleeping blossoms. But I could care less. My body felt icy despite the cold.
He was gone.
"I'm the princess," I whispered to myself, cursing my own rank and status. Why couldn't I save him?
Because of my thoughtless selfishness, my lack of intelligence, my absolute disregard for consequences, he was dead.
Dead because of me.
Jafar, my father's advisor, had told me himself. His sentence had already been carried out; death, by beheading. The ultimate and only punishment for kidnapping the princess.
He didn't kidnap me, I ran away!
I wiped my face with both hands, smearing the salty, wet tears down my cheeks with the heels of my hands and pausing my fingers on my trembling lips as I looked into the sapphire-blue water of the fountain. I sniffed once and listened to the sound of trickling water. It was soothing, to say the least.
"How could you?" I had asked him in a deathly whisper before running off to cry alone. I was asking myself the same question now, repeatedly.
How could you?
In the gentle waves of the crystal water, he appeared. I saw him. I knew him at once. He was sitting beside me, stroking my hand and my face, smiling at me. I leaned into his touch and sighed, kissing his palm. He was warm and real and bright; shining in the darkness of the royal garden at night.
He whispered something to me, and although I couldn't hear it, my heart swelled and my eyelids fluttered in bliss. There he was again, smiling at me once more, alive and well.
I remembered our night together. I remembered him inside of me, and how I had shied away. How I regret not giving him another chance. An ache began to form somewhere deep inside of me.
He kissed the back of my hand, my open palm, my fingers, then pulled me in for a kiss on the lips. I watched and waited intently. He was there; he was living again. Loving me again.
A single drop of liquid emotion slipped from my face and into the water, rippling and shattering the illusion. My heart sank and a decision was made.
I pulled the knife I had stolen from its sheath in my lap. It was made of steel, and the live, sharp blade winked at me; the ornate handle, carved from jade and inlaid with gold and turquoise, felt stuff and foreign in my grip.
With my other hand, I carefully and shakily brushed the length of my hair away from my neck and shoulders. Goosebumps raised on the newly exposed flesh.
I gingerly brought the blade up and touched it to the back of my neck, pressing it to my skin. Was this what he felt, the moment before his life was taken from him? Did I deserve to feel it as well? As I closed my eyes, I saw his face and I felt the blade. Did he see me in his last moment of breath? Would he want me to die? Would he want me to die this way?
How could you?
He had shown me, before we were caught, that there are ways other than death to escape. He had shown me, when I had trusted him, and took the leap of faith with him. I couldn't take my own life. Not now. As badly as I wanted to, I could never.
With anguish, I threw the knife from me. It clattered and clinked a few feet away, glinting evilly in the moonlight. I descended into a new fit of despair. Cries racked my body and ripped from the throat that was already sore and raw from screaming, and I buried my face into my arms to hide myself from the world. To try to comfort myself. I held my face the way he had held it to comfort me.
I heard a low mewl from behind me, and my arm was nudged tenderly by the fuzzy mug of a Bengal Tiger. I sat up and rubbed my eyes to see Rajah watching me, purring sadly.
"It's all my fault, Rajah," I lamented as I calmed, wiping my eyes with my fingertips and thumb. A thought occurred to me, then, a thought that had haunted me since the street rat was dragged away by Razoul and his thugs; the last time I ever saw him. The last time he was alive.
I didn't even know his name.