For two weeks, they fought two separate battles side by side. They were wonderfully victorious. Now the girl was home again, inside the walls. The king asked her for a new commitment. In the presence of his court, she committed herself to him and his service. Marriage or no, she would always belong to him. Everything in her life would be dedicated in service to her king. Although a woman, a small frail figure, she became a knight. The sun was already set; the stars shined bright. A fellow servant said to her, “you ask for a star and he gives you the milky way.”
The billions of little lights shined in her now. All her mistakes in the past were wiped away. There lay only the future. She was in his service. It was no longer just a child’s promise, but a knight’s vow. The girl belonged to her king. If she should fall, or stray, or be distracted, or fall in love with another, he had her word that she would return quickly to him. With the help of the court, and a promise of aid from the Queen, she signed her commitment and gave her heart to him. She loved him. Now, not only her heart, but her life, wherever he would lead it, was in his hands.
The girl was not afraid to ask him questions about him, his kingdom or his plans for her. She understood he would guide her in those plans: first arrange it for her, place her near it, then move her gently into it step by step. The king’s gentleness with the girl was a sign to her that he loved her. The girl trusted he had plans for her and that she would not need to ask. He might surprise her, or he might tell her. She had to trust him. This confidence made her feel closer to him.
But people did ask. She could not stay inside the walls and just stand there—she would need something to do. So the girl waited. As she stood outside her home, pedestrians stopped and asked what she was doing. She should have said, “waiting” but instead she speculated as to what he would give her to do. Many things seemed right. She was confident things around her were taking shape.
Once the girl began speculating, she started assuming. Soon she claimed the king had already told her his plans. She could have sworn he had. In her assumptions she grew in joy and as if plans were already underway. Word reached the king. He called her attention to the truth. The girl assumed too much.
“Oh,” she said slowly. She felt small, ashamed by her actions and words.
“Please,” he asked, “wait.” Hardly any time at all passed before he placed the job before her. He came to her and said “take this.” She nodded in gratitude.
After that the girl grew afraid. She distrusted herself. She felt she ought not to have asked him so many questions. Could she trust her mind or her memory? Was she only fooling herself to believe in him as she had? She had no secret relationship with him. Perhaps she was a fool for thinking she had a privileged spot with the king. For so many years, she thought she knew his plans, then he asked her to wait.
She confided to her neighbor. Her neighbor responding simply: ask the king.
It seemed too much. “I can’t ask him,” she thought. The phrase alarmed her. The very idea that she could not do something regarding love of the king, was a sign something was wrong and needed to change.
She called on him, came near him and asked. Distracted again, she failed to listen to his answer. She apologized once more and repeated her question, “What is your will?”
“No” was all he said. She heard his voice. She really heard his voice. Everything he said after that was hard to listen to, her mind and thoughts too distracted. What did she mean when she asked? Did she mean, “do you will me to be with you, do you will me to marry you, do you want me for you bride?” His “no” echoed in the confusion of her heart.
But that was his answer. She was grateful for the answer, though it was hardly the answer she looked for.
That evening she went to her room in the palace. Some nights she stayed here. There were nights of pain and nights of joy spent in that little room. Tonight it hurt. She leaned in near to fix a candle and the shelf began to fall. A picture of her Queen Mother fell to the ground. Was it damaged? It was a beautiful picture of the Queen Mother and her son when he was only a boy.
Looking at the picture in her hands, her heart heaved sighs and tears. She could not feel her heart open to her king. She was so distracted when he spoke. Her good friend from the court came in, following the Queen. They spent time together, and sang beautiful little songs about love. Then they talked. The Queen comforted her and her friend told her of her own experiences when the prince had courted her. “That little thief,” her friend said, “he stole my heart.” It seemed good to be lighthearted about the things that usually weighed heavy on her heart.
When the girl retired, she lay her head down and found her Queen Mother taking a seat beside her. This mother stayed close by. Whenever she turned, she felt the warmth of that good, gentle woman. She was comforted. The girl asked the queen to teach her how to love. As the night went on, she woke and heard the queen whispering to her what it meant to love. In the morning, with the Queen still present, the girl felt her heart opened. She could try again today.