She stands in the doorway, leaning against one of the two strong posts that hold up such a doorway, made of wood worn down by time. The endless sky stretches ahead with another sunny day, a deep blue, to contrast the sand-colored town. She looks and looks, lost in her thoughts for this quiet moment. Seeing movement in the distance, near the town gate, she squints her eyes. Yes, it is him.
The king has come to visit her. A knight escorts him. It makes no difference. He follows his path in his own power. They never recognize him, as it is. As the years have gone by, Philothea met several others who recognized him as he is.
She waits the longs wait of the still figure watching the approaching figure. When he drew close, there was the momentary question of to be reverent or familiar. She straightens up, and bows her head. Clasping her shoulders in his old hands, he looks into her eyes, a knowing and long look with a smile. She gives into this warm gesture, and smiles back.
The king walks inside and Philothea follows. They tread across the worn floors, sand colored and smooth as any grand oak installation. The kings knows where to go. He sits at her table, unevenly made out of necessity for a growing family. Philothea goes to the teapot and the cupboard. The walls and floor and table may all be sand colored, but the teacups she brings from the cupboard, these show the artistry of her heart. How little they fit in these poor surroundings. They were a gift from the Queen Mother in those years back when Philothea was at court. How long ago it seems. And in all that time, how much silence!
She pours the tea and sits across from the king in silence. Her fingers absentmindedly run across the rim of her cup. He sips, observes her, the floor, the tea, and gazes out the window. The knight sits outside the doorway, allowing for this private audience. Philothea stands to take him some tea, he refuses at first and at second insistence, accepts because she has already poured it in the cup.
Returning to her seat, she looks long and daringly at the king. This old king. How young he seemed when she loved him, and he loved her as a father. How foreign he seemed in those years that past when she moved back inside the walls and took up residence in this dusty habitat. How strange that she chose this home, when she had seen and done so much in those golden halls, with all those teacups.
Now she only stares and remembers. Everything looks different here, even the king. It is simpler, less romantic. She can feel the hard work, the ache of labor and delivery coloring all she does. Sitting here with him, she can remember her anger.
There was so much anger. She was angry to live inside the walls, angry to put aside her ambition and dreams and romantic notions of a life with the king, the life within the court. Then the silence followed. Not a silence out of anger but the silence that comes with work and children and marriage. There is too much to do to take daylong hikes and chat over little flowers on her birthday. It is too difficult now to remember her birthday from the last year. It was in the fall of last year that the pain began. It was one event after another. Some decreed by the king; some fell out of the sky. So the girl would walk to the edge of the town, look past the walls and see that palace in all its difference and whisper under her breath, “I used to know you.” So as to imply, “I do not know you now.
Events piled on each other. Philothea labored and worked and worked and worked, barely looking up. She began to take long walks to create some peace of mind. More than once she wandered to the marketplace and dreamed of that life she left behind for the glory and simplicity of married life. She walked and pondered and walked some more. But ever she had to return. The children must be fed, the house cared for, her husband greeted.
That prince. He, too, chose this life. He left behind the glory he might have had for a life with her, a life that once seemed so full of adventure and now seemed so full of sorrow. He, too, had separated from the king in the distance and anger of those events in this past year. Philothea did not question the prince on what conversations he had with his father. All she knew was they felt the distance.
It is painful to look back. Philothea returned her mind to the present room. The king stood admiring her humble room made a home. He could see the care and beauty she put into it; like the teacups but translated to this more difficult terrain.
The past year had not continued. It was only, perhaps, one month ago, or less even…no, it was more, when the king began to show the signs of his presence. Did he have spies, or messengers, about to report to him what Philothea had wished for? No, she began to write letters, short simple letters requesting the time away from home to be short. And each request was answered exactly as she asked it, again and again.
So, her letters grew in length and gradually grew in affection. Then, in the past two weeks came the gifts. He anticipated her longing for some particular items to help with the sadness about to come. For she was great with child, but this child was not to live.
Why in the distance did the words pour out of her mind like a flurry and she could imagine all he would say to her, and then, in this visit, the third this week, was there this silence? After long enough, he broke it and asked, “is there anything else you need?”
Is there anything else I need? The words echoed strangely for a mind so full of furniture. It was not an offer to change her life or her home or to give her the glory she too often missed. And yet…she had only to ask.
Very well, she thought, I’ll ask. “I would like to show my daughter the art gallery…I want my husband to walk again…I…well, could I see you more?”
He turned and stood before her. The king was so tall and strong before her. “Yes, I will visit you often.”
What of the other things? He never answered for sure. She would have to wait and see what he decided to do. The king took his cup to the counter and walked to the doorway. Philothea followed. They stood together in the narrow doorway. Her mind wandered as her eyes fixed on his chest. He grasped her left shoulder with his right hand, and squeezed affectionately. He would be there for her, as she needed him. Indeed, for the first time, things were beginning to make sense.