- Even the stars fight to keep them apart -
Enemies of the Stars.
I was a peasant. Nothing more than a servant boy. My father was a servant, my father’s father was a servant, and you get the idea.
Of course, she was the Princess, and I was just another boy without a crown.
At age five I said the words that would secure my place beneath the rule of the Princess; words I would remember for the rest of my life.
“My name is Cosmo Kerby Stargate, and I would die for the Princess.”
Now 12 years later, I still hear those words, echoing through my memory as I serve the royal family with more integrity and loyalty than any other palace staff.
I grew up in the shadows of the gleaming palace, my eyes forever set on the floor in respect. I had learnt the art of silence, and I knew how to stay in line. Come the night, I would leave my work in the palace and make my way through the misty forest to my home; a small hut beyond the stables with a grass roof and empty windows. It was a humble place, but enough for the orphaned son of generations of indebted servants.
I was nothing compared to the knights; to the dukes and the nobles. I was nothing compared to the duchesses and ladies.
And I was nothing, nothing, compared to the impeccable royal family.
Now it just so happened that as I thought these things, sitting alone in the near-darkness of my home, that the sound of footsteps interrupted me.
My gaze stopped on the stables, and I waited for a familiar figure to emerge from the darkness. I looked passed the eerie trees, watching, waiting.
And out of the shadows she walked, enchantingly beautiful.
“Your Highness,” I addressed her, bowing low. I was used to this. I was used to the secret nightly visits of the Princess.
With an graceful hand she touched my head, and I rose to my feet. My eyes never met hers, but they didn’t need to.
I already knew what she looked like by heart.
In a glistening gown she walked so elegantly, her ebony locks in perfect curls, her eager eyes shining like stars. Atop her head was a tiara, but even the shine of its gold could not compare to her unmatched beauty.
Nor could it compare to her torturing personality.
“Servant Boy,” she reported, “You left the palace so quickly, I hadn’t the chance to speak to you.”
“My apologies,” I said quietly, “Whatever you wish, it shall be done.”
The Princess tilted her head in questioning, taking a step closer.
“Servant Boy,” she demanded, “Tell me why, over all these years that I’ve marched all this way every night, you don’t even look me in the eye. Tell me why you stay so quiet and reserved. Why hide in silence?”
I stared at the ground, noticing the mud that clung at the hem of her gown. Surely her parents wondered how she ruined so many of her royal garments. They would have each had a fit had they known she was traipsing through the woods at night to waste her time with me.
Oh, how she loved to torment me.
Every night was the same. After I’d left the palace, she would walk all the way here, only to ask the most abstract questions. And she would talk.
And talk.
And talk and talk and talk and talk.
She would talk to me about everything; from her father’s methodology in running the Kingdom, to the ‘ingenious’ idea she’s had that morning. Sometimes she would stay outside, but most nights she would come inside my messy little hut and sit herself down on the dirt floor, not caring that her skirts would billow out to be covered in dust and filth.
I, on the other hand, found it ridiculous that for seven years, the Princess herself would come every night to spend time with a servant boy who, no matter how many secrets they had shared, still wouldn’t dare look her in the eyes. Even though perhaps he really wanted to.
“My place is in the shadows and dust,” I said gently, “Yours is in the palace. Our worlds aren’t meant to meet.”
The Princess seemed content with my answer, taking my hand and leading me to sit with her on the step outside my hut. Sitting beside me, she seemed to watch my features, studying my expressions with apt concentration. I’d become used to her mannerisms, and perhaps even fond of her company.
“Servant Boy,” she asked, a certain softness in her voice, “What’s my name?”
I replied without a thought. “Princess Arianna of Horizon Kingdom.”
The Princess smiled, and I felt my lips twitch in response to the contagious gesture.
“Servant Boy,” she asked, “Do you know my birthday?”
Again I replied correctly and she smiled in admiration.
“Servant Boy, what is it that I hate most in life?”
I thought for a moment, remembering a conversation from long ago.
“The standards you’re expected to live by as royalty.”
Again she smiled, then asked, “And what do I want most in life?”
I knew the answer to this one easily; it was something she talked of often.
“A handsome Prince who’ll love your despite your apparent ‘flaws’, who’ll listen to you and appreciate you, and who would be willing to lay down his life just to prove what you meant to him.”
Princess Arianna didn’t smile this time.
“You know my father forgets my name, more days than not? And for the past five years not one person in my family could remember my birthday. Did you know that every day I’m subject to the very expectations and criticisms that I despise so greatly. Did you, Servant Boy, ever realise that in all my talk of someone who would love me despite my flaws, who would listen to me and appreciate me, who would even dare to die for me, I never once mentioned that what I longed for was a Prince?”
I nodded, fiddling shyly with the cuffs on my pants. Princess Arianna reached a timid hand to my cheek, turning my face so that for once, my eyes might look into hers.
“You have the most amazing eyes, Servant Boy. Eyes I wish I could stare into for every hour of every day. So tell me honestly,” her voice became soft, small even, as she asked, “Would you die for me?”
Looking into the eyes of one of the most powerful and influential people on earth, I felt small and meaningless. But looking into the eyes of Arianna, my closest friend through all my life, I felt brave. I knew I couldn’t lie.
I smiled, and then with all honesty I declared,
“My name is Cosmo Kerby Stargate, and I would die for the Princess.”
And then Princess Arianna did something no Princess ought to do.
She kissed me.
Me, the servant boy.
Her lips felt like heaven against mine, one of her hands running through my hair, the other affectionately on my cheek. She kissed me so passionately and intimately I could have sworn I saw stars.
Then she pulled just a little away, her lips still millimetres from mine.
“I’m going to get in huge trouble for this,” she whispered, breathing shakily.
“If you don’t want me to, I won’t tell. Whatever you wish, it shall be done,” I said quietly, looking away.
My lips burnt with guilt. My hands trembled.
It was true; we could never be. The world would be against us.
No fairytale magic could save us from this.
For a long time, we sat in silence. It seemed as though for the first time in her life, the Princess was lost for words. Her silence was strange and foreign. I decided perhaps it was my turn to speak.
“Your Highness,” I croaked, afraid to speak, “I have to ask...”
She looked at me, her eyes searching and longing.
“All these years, did you ever bother to learn my name?”
The Princess blushed, curling a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Cosmo,” she said softly, “I knew your name from the beginning. And from the beginning, I knew that so long as I never dared say your name, I could never fall in love with you. I’d hoped that if I called you nothing but ‘Servant Boy’, I could convince myself that was all you were to me.”
I glanced across to her, unbelieving.
“Princess, why did you come here tonight?” I asked. She closed her eyes, breathing slowly as if to steady her thoughts. Perhaps there was even tears in her eyes when she looked at me again.
“I came to tell you that I’m leaving. No doubt you’ve heard about the new world they search for across the sea. Come dawn I’ll be there, travelling to a far-off land. A new kingdom awaits me. I may never see you again.”
I nodded. Of course.
All this time had amounted to nothing.
Because not even time could hide the blinding fact that was our destiny.
“And a Prince awaits you, also?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
A tear rolled down the Princess’s cheek. “Yes,” she choked out.
I understood. It was only reasonable that she’d be sent off to be married.
A servant boy and a princess could never be.
Not in this world, for even the stars would have been our enemies.
“Then you came to say goodbye?” I asked, only to hear the words aloud.
“Yes. I came to say goodbye. And to say that upon my life, I swear I shall never love another how I’ve learnt to love you.”
Princess Arianna wiped her eyes, then she kissed me again. This time slowly, gently, earnestly. And I have to admit; I kissed her back.
When she pulled away, we stood to our feet- standing beneath a sky of stars that had witnessed the truth. We both knew what was going to happen.
“I have one final order,” the Princess said.
“Whatever you wish, it shall be done,” I replied.
“Then never forget me, Servant Boy.”
“I’ll never forget you, Princess.”
And with that promise, she disappeared into the night; gone before a tear could sneak out my eye and roll down my cheek, dripping soundlessly to the ground.
That was the way it was, and that was the way it was meant to be.
Servant Boys and Princesses lived in worlds that weren’t meant to meet.
I suppose you could call us doomed. Or perhaps bound by fate. Or better still, go ahead and say we were trapped by destiny.
It doesn’t matter; we knew what we were. It was what we’d always been.
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