The girl faced the king. The palace stood in the distance. She shook her head with surprise as he removed the sword from her hands. The battle moved in the background. The king took the in his hands, placed his arm around her and turned her away from the palace and the battle. “I want you to wait,” he told her. He motioned the girl to follow him. How could he ask her to wait, she was not even that close? Her heart broke. This was the battle she waited for, that she longed for. This was the one that seemed like it should follow the arena: the battle where they would find themselves wed together, should they enter to fight it. He was asking her to wait. The very words broke her heart. It was painful, confusing, sad. The multiplicity of feelings overwhelmed her.

Was it the distractions? Had she given herself too much to the world around her and not enough to his kingdom? Was that the reason? She began to cry as she followed him without a fight. The girl was not ready. She was not ready for the marriage or for the fight he had asked her to. Why did he ask her in the first place? She knew the reason. Little by little he had always revealed his plans, his desires for her. Only now, little by little, he asked her to wait. She thought, perhaps, it was time. Looking at herself, she knew it was not. She would need different armor, a different sword. The entire walk back inside the walls she struggled within herself to understand. Her heart was broken. Not that he had rejected her, or loved her less, only that her heart was so set.

But she knew. Her weapons were wrong. Even though she could learn as she went, he wanted different training for her. That would be the greatest battle, the one with the most commitment. The one where she would find her place in the kingdom by his side.

The king wished her to experience more, to receive more and different kinds of training before going in. That must be it, she thought. They returned to the walls of the palace. He would not hand the sword to her. The king told her, “learn to fight here first.” She looked around her. They were inside the walls; she would not have wished for this place. It was home, where she grew up. “you never learned to fight here,” he said. It was true. As much training as had taken place, she never touched a sword here. She never served those around her. He had taught her the ways to fight through the arena. Now he wished her to master it here.

“I want this for you,” he told her. He was so encouraging. She was a child. How could the girl act the martyr in the presence of such a king, who had suffered and given up everything for his kingdom? How could she claim to be proficient in love in his presence?

She followed him. He stepped away, smiled and nodded his head. The king stood some distance away. She felt sad and she longed for him. He knew her heart was broken, that he had broken it again. Not his fault. Only broken because she loved herself too much. He was asking her to break away from herself and her expectations. She wanted to fight for him with her whole being. If it were for him, she would do it. She committed her heart to him, and stood ready for training. She would win here, with him, for him, through him. Her heart belonged to him. The girl was determined.

 

Her heart was heavy when she thought of it. It felt like she slipped into her old habits. The girl tried to remember what she had learned. He visited her each day inside those walls.

The king would not be satisfied. He began coming to her in the evening, standing beside her, whispering to her. She found herself staying up talking to him at night. She looked back and remembered being a child, before she knew him well. One night talking to the old father for three hours. She talked and talked and he listened. He listened with great patience and attention. And now, so many years later, she sat there with the son very much in love.

Her heart overflowed with love. At times she put it away and tried not think about it. The girl took their time for granted. Yet being with him so routinely, she could see, much more plainly, her weaknesses, her imperfections, her natural resistance to him. She found herself needing to seek out a love letter he had once written her, in order to be reminded that he loved her and that she had “ravished his heart.” To have to be reminded! To be reminded when he told her he loved her and showed her he loved her every day countless times. She should feel ashamed that she took it so for granted.

A fellow soldier, a messenger, however, reminded her that she was not only weak, not only imperfect, that there was more to it than that. She could not dismiss herself so easily. After that message from the king: the king rushed to her that evening and explained it to her more. She was always in need of lessons! She was made beautiful regardless of how intimate they were. He had created her beautiful. Just as he was by nature love, she was in an image like his. To say she was nothing but weakness and imperfection! How wrong she was. She was his spouse, his bride, or would be one day, but always united to him, always, regardless of vows or wedding gowns. He brought her into union with his heart, and he would not let her go.