The story of A Girl and Her King, joins the young protagonist as she grows in her commitment towards her good king. She is young and he is old. He teaches, her watches over her, protects her. He has taken her to the battlefield, the arena, and now asks her to find her place inside the calm environment of her old home, where challenges abound to test her dedication to him in even in the smallest matters. She does not yet know what form their love will take, if he will one day bring her to live with him in the palace, or request she stay in that quiet home forever. But willing to wait, she receives the lessons he has in store for her.
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The king led Philothea up a mountain. It took many days to reach it and very often he asked her to pause, although she did not feel she needed rest. “Look around,” he said. Philothea stood, one foot higher than the other, ready to take a step at any time, knees bent for balance, and a little, just a little, out of breath. She looked.
It was beautiful. They were surrounded by the sky so blue and so clean, only a little dust left in the air and patches of clouds here and there. She could see the green below them. The mountain seemed to stretch beyond the world. She could see a valley below.
“It’s very beautiful in there,” the king told her.
Philothea looked at him.
It did look beautiful. But it also looked dark.
“One day,” he said, “One day we’ll go” and he began to walk again.
Philothea followed a step behind him, sometimes beside him. Whenever they stopped, he would pause and she take another step forward, pause, look back at him. The king would smile very naturally, very cheerfully. “At the end of the day, we’ll go back,” he said. The entire hike was filled with him teaching from time to time, pointing out things, commenting on them. Philothea was silent for the most part. She felt he was showing her something. She had nothing to say because there was too much she needed to hear. Even while he said nothing at all, she felt the whole world under her feet and that spoke volumes in itself.
The king began again. “You’ll make assumptions,” he said, stepping forward. “You don’t have to assume they’re wrong. You need to make them sometimes.”
The message was confusing. “But then I’m assuming…” she had always been taught by everyone not to assume.
The king shrugged his shoulders and walked past her “but you’re thinking about it.” It seemed like something simple to him. Philothea still did not understand. “What if something comes up and you’re so close to the answer, everything there except the answer? Don’t walk away. It’s okay.”
“But if I assume wrong?”
“You always assumed the best anyway. What’s wrong with assuming with an open mind? I want you to think about these things.” The king was so casual, in a good mood with her, relaxed. It was a day that was part of the memories of days of peace and learning before it was too complicated or hard. It was a day to walk up a mountain.
“Maybe we’ll wait a little longer than today before going down. I really want you to see how things look from the top.” From where she stood, Philothea could not see the summit. It seemed close and far away all at once.
She wanted him to explain more. Philothea tried to prompt him by saying, “so assume…?”
The king continued, “you want answers to everything. If you make a mistake, so what?”
“But what if it’s terrible and hurts a person?”
The king laughed. “Do you think I’d let you hurt anyone like that? I never let anyone hurt you.”
“Did they try to?”
“Just a little. You probably didn’t see it, but…remember? There were a few times. Don’t worry, I rushed in.”
The king knew he was a hero but he made light of it.
“I like it here,” she said.
“Beautiful, isn’t it? There are some good people on this same path also. I know you don’t understand everything but you will when you need to. I promise. I’ll let you understand everything. But listen to people, though, huh? That’s the thing I don’t want you to assume about.”
Times like this it was hard to remember he was a king. Yet he forever carried something—humility probably— or that caring love that a good and gracious king has that an ordinary man does not need. A king loves all—many who will never lay eyes on him. He loves them and takes care that they have food to eat and a place to stay when it rains. No one wanted for anything in his kingdom. Outside the walls things were different. It was all at everyone’s disposal, but not as many took it up as in the kingdom.
Still and all, the king liked to visit outside the walls. He liked seeing those he loved, whether or not they recognized him. He loved to look into their eyes and leave a little present in their bags when they were not looking. This was a king, the kind that does not love the loyal subject more than the rebellious ones. He hurt when someone rebelled. He hurt when they went through much pain to be against him. It was sad. The king had done nothing to them. How they hated him. And why? Because they were confused, lied to.
This rebellious house: the girl had been there, seen it; they tried to convince her, but she could not believe them. No! She knew. She had heard, had somehow seen. The girl remembered the little gift he slipped into her bag before she knew him. She still kept it close to her. He loved her when she did not know him. Look at them now, going up, up, up this mountain in clarity and fresh air, only a little confusion, but far from lost. He knew where he was taking her—up—it was that simple to him.