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Portrait of Two Women 1914

The king spoke to the girl, “I want you to take care of my daughter. Show her where you live and your life, but help her to prepare for what I am asking of her. She has spent many years on the battlefield, now I would like to take her to rest. I want you to take care of her.”

The moment the two girls were placed in a room together the girl knew the friendship would be deep. The king had given them many things in common and he loved them both. She was honored to care for his daughter, to be escorting a princess around her home and escort her to the halls of the palace.   The king always walked with the princess alone once she arrived, but he still invited both girls both in, showing them pieces of what he had planned for his princess.

To the princess the girl was only a girl—little in light compared, but a joy to share a friendship with. The princess knew the king very well, loved him well, followed him well with dignity and stature. At times the princess fought with the king, as any daughter would. Her love was simple as a rose: beautiful with some thorns. It was as awe-inspiring to the girl as a rose with water drops, to one who had never left the desert.

The girl could look at the princess and already envision the crown. How lovely it was on her fair skin and how it brought out the love in her eyes.

Ah princess! The girl shared with her the dusty home inside the walls but neither were of that place. In their conversations it was like they were in an oasis, everything was bright and new and blessed by their good king. The girl loved her, cared for her, served her and stood by as king prepared his princess for the throne.

“Please, take care of her,” the king recommended ways for the girl to do this. “Do what you can to take care of her. Offer to care for her. Live to serve her if you must. If you do this, it will be a great favor to me. I asked you to do this, no one else. You have helped, but you are the one I chose to care for my princess.”

It was an honor and also a delight. The girl liked the princess. When they talked, they laughed and joked and enjoyed each others’ company. They loved each other and leaned on each other in a deeper way than a normal friendship. It made sense. They had been entrusted to each other, after all. The girl learned from this princess the ways of royalty. She learned to be royal one must be persistent, humble, daring, loving, and gentle. She must be soft-spoken, almost afraid to feel love because the magnitude of real love was so pure that it strains the walls that contain it. It makes itself attentive to the individuals nearby.

She sat with her king one evening. The princess was talking to her guardian who directed and guided her. The king and the girl sat alone, in the stars, with the night air blowing, the light dimly lit, and much peace. “I had a hard day today, my king, but I did one thing good.”

“What did you do?”

“I met someone you sent to the battlefield. I remembered what that felt like and I asked him if he thought he should write what the battlefield looked like before going back into the garden, so he would remember, because…you know, I have forgotten so much.”

He king responded, “I know him of whom you speak. Thank you for sharing. It is good to remember. You have done well.”

“But I started to lose you and I wanted to cry.”

“Then what did you do?” The king asked.

“I spent some time with your princess, taking care of her as you asked.”

“Do you feel better?”

“When I don’t think about that feeling, I feel better. It makes me become sick again, very easily.” That feeling…it oppressed her.

“I know. Continue to fight it. Some days you will be stronger; some days you will be weaker. You won’t die from it, I promise.”

“Thank you. You are such a good king.”

“Yes, but you didn’t spend much time with me today.”

“I wanted to, I tried to,” she said.

“We were together this afternoon and you hardly talked to me,” he pointed out.

“I’m sorry.”

“I want to spend that time talking to you, with you. We have so many moments just being together, that time is for talking. Silence…yes, it is good, but I tell you that so that you can listen better, be distracted less. We should be talking.”

“What should I do?” she asked.

“Darling, don’t be afraid to be natural, to just be with me, where your heart is.”

“I love you,” she told him. He smiled. Ah, how he warmed her heart.

“Remember the princess; she’s in your care. You will do beautifully.”

‘Thank you for bringing her to me.”

“You are both in a special situation. You both are grateful for many things. I am helping you, because this is not the test, it is full of gifts. She is preparing for something very great, and it seems very large to her because she is so small. You haven’t experienced that before, but I am helping you understand by explaining it to you. I will explain these things to you, because you’re still too young to understand. This way you will not be confused or misunderstand or envious because I am not preparing you as I am her.”

“I am not confused or misunderstanding or envious. My heart is all yours.” In the good moments she could say that. He knew in the difficult moments the seeds of those feelings grew.

Though he knew her weakness, the king acknowledged that she made a gift of her heart in the imperfect way she could. He kissed her on the side of her temple and drew away from her. “Now, say good night to my princess and rest. You may meet some struggles tomorrow. Rest for them.”

 

With the Princess busy at the palace, the king led the girl inside the walls and showed her the work he desired. And she thought she did not need patience! She saw better after she began the job he set her to. The girl was sympathetic of others’ struggles, but had no excuses for herself. She felt so frustrated. By the end of her shift, her head her because of all the moments when she did not know, did not understand, could not answer. She was supposed to serve the knights, but she was failing. How much she needed patience then.

The princess’s presence made her reflect on her own possible entry into the palace. Her hear was moved seeing  the example of the princess’s heart. She desired that marriage much deeper. She even felt she had been made for only the king and his marriage alone.

Those in the village around her thought the girl had changed her mind, that she would not marry the king after all. She still did not like them to mention it. No, she would never change her mind. She loved him. Her heart felt made for him, only sometimes she got distracted by other men while she waited. Her little friend from the palace explained to her that she must continue to prepare her wedding garment for that wedding day.

She understood a lot. She understood that on-edge feeling of her friend; she remembered the “yes” from the king “all things to your heart…yes.” She understood the sadness of those soldiers being transferred to other places; she understood the eagerness of that soldier leaving the battlefield for the garden. She encouraged him to remember the battlefield lest he forget the fight while the garden was being tended.

How sad she grew after working. How little her heart could handle and how awful her heart hurt. But then, she looked over and saw her king beside her, watching her, loving her. His presence made her heart warm. All the frustrations, the not-knowing, it was all there, but it would all be okay. It would be okay. He was there, that would be enough. And she loved it. She would love it because he had asked her to. And she loved him.

“Stay with me, king,” she said, “you are all I have. I can learn nothing without you standing right there.”

He stayed in her heart.

He would not leave.

“You’ll have your heart’s desire,” he promised.

 

Yesterday and the day before, she cried. The day had been so hard and as she said goodbye to him, she gave him that pain, kissed the fabric of his robe and left to pick up the princess. Before she left he gave her a beautiful painting filled with pink and light. He met her there at the palace, only a moment later. Her heart was worn down, and in his presence, in his love, with his caring eyes and face that made all her heart let go—she began to cry in front of everybody.

She stood by him and a knight placed their hands together and very firmly pressed the king’s hand into hers. She could feel the compassion of the knights and ladies-in-waiting. She was comforted and she was near her king, still worn down—but having cleansed her heart of the roughness, she knew she could go on and face it again. Why was she so depressed?

The king stayed with her.