They sat side by side, looking out from the palace, taking in the sight of the kingdom below. One could see everything from that balcony in the palace. The bustling crowds, the marketplace, the homes. Further out, the farms, the cottages, the greater estates with their large homes. Yet farther still, the hills and battlefields, the arena full of glory. The king caught the girl sighing as she looked down at the crowds. It seemed so colorful, so delightful, so full of new and exciting things.

As a child she longed to live a life fully alive, experience it, savor it, not watching it from a distance. She listened, with rapt attention to stories of what people had found and done amidst those crowds. It fueled her imagination. When she met the king, she began to learn about genuine love, integrity, honor and family in ways completely new and whole. Now were the days when he asked the two parts of her imagination to meet, for the good, true and beautiful to overcome the fantasy. She knew he was asking her to let go, to move on, to accept. She struggled to do so.

“Do not go near the crowds anymore,” the king said very clearly.

“But why?” the girl asked.

“Just please, do not go near the crowds anymore.” He lightly touched her beautiful veil with his hand.

She looked back at that world. “I don’t love it like I used to, not anymore.”

“I am very pleased.”

“I want to run away when I start to get near it. It’s ugly to me.”

“Yes,” he understood.

“It doesn’t have anything like you or the palace. It is all plain and gilded; it isn’t real. But it looks real and people believe it; they’re entertained by it. But when I touch it now, my fingers burn, the gold dust comes off on my hand.”

“Do you think I am asking too much?”

“No. After all I told you before I would no longer go there. I would only go nearer the palace, and not away from it.”

“Yet your heart looks at the sacrifice you’ll have to make.” The king knew there was still a trace of longing for worldly adventure.

She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Yes, king, I look at it, because it is there. But I’ll make it. I won’t go near the crowds anymore. I love you. I know that should I ever need anything from the market, you will part the crowds and I will find you there in the center, ready to hand me what I need. I will never have to stay long.” Her little heart was eager to please.

“Yes, that is true.”

“Thank you, my little king,” she said affectionately.

She knew that he was the greatest and most glorious king. Yet he made himself mystically little as if he could fit inside her heart, a heart so small. And she must be very little too, if she could pass through the crowd and hide herself in the corner of his heart, a heart so great. She was his little girl because she was naive and inexperienced in love and life, but she was learning. She would always be his little girl because her heart would always be little.

The Queen Mother also fit inside her heart, as did her friends, the loved ones, those knights whom she loved. So many things fit inside her heart, a heart so small; and she loved them. It was something magical the king did. It was wonderful to behold when she looked inside her heart at all the people fit snugly inside, the king the largest of all. And yet, in all the people taking up space there in her little heart, she saw the face of her king in their eyes and in their hearts, even those who lived far away and worked far away from the palace. She saw him in them and that was yet another way that he very mystically fit, in such a little way so large, inside her heart, a heart so small.

“I brought you some dirt from the arena,” he handed a small glass cylinder filled with dust. She grasped it up in her hands and held it close to her heart.

“Oh my king!” she cried. Tears came to her eyes. How she missed her fellow soldiers! In her hands burned the memories and the blood they shed, and the love that grew between them. “This is for me! I don’t…I don’t understand…or I don’t deserve it…I thought it was done with.” It felt like an invitation to look back, to dwell a little on the past.

The king said, “you thought I would ask you to leave, to move on and not hold on or not touch it again because it was over with?”

“Yes, I did,” she admitted

The king reassured her, “you are wrong again, princess. Not all fight in the arena. It is not more glorious than the battlefield, it may be less than many battlefields, but it does affect the heart very deeply. Do not forget. You have my permission to hold on it, because I know that you are willing to live and fight wherever I ask you.”

“I am? I love you, my king!” She hugged him and kissed his cheek in excitement, not only for the dirt but also for his words. She had struggled so much to love where she now lived inside the walls. The girl thought she was supposed to move on and never look back. But loves knows better. That she can accept the future and cherish the past. She thought to be heroic she would have to let it go entirely. With love and age, she continued to learn.

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