Dragon Day

A princess that's not a lady. A king that's not a gentleman. And a wedding that does not go according to plan.

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22. A Punch and Blissful Happiness

A Punch and Blissful Happiness

 

            He stomped through the door without giving her a chance to say anything. Alex knew he couldn’t let her say anything. She was probably shocked, that someone like him had dared to love her. Especially when she was in love with someone else. He knew that whoever she loved, he wanted to kill the guy.

            Up on the deck there was music playing and dancing. Darya was dancing with Dain. As she smiled she looked ten years younger than she was, even younger when she blushed. The Captain was playing the fiddle enthusiastically while the cook strummed along with a banjo. The music was bad, but joy made up for it.

            He couldn’t be around that much joy. He couldn’t go back below deck to face her. The rope to the crow’s nest swayed in front of him. The wind was starting to pick up as the sun descended and the full moon started to emerge in the sky. He didn’t fear. The worst that could happened had already happened. He climbed up the rope, step by step carefully.

            No one below noticed him, too wrapped up in their festivities to see the lone black figure sitting in the crow’s nest staring out at the darkening sky. The wind dulled the sound of the music below, people’s laughter didn’t carry that well to where he was. He wasn’t happy, but he was at least at peace.

            Melaina stepped out of the room slowly and stumbled up the stairs. The captain saw her and led her into a dance. She followed his steps numbly, looking around for Alex. Finally she saw him, his arms sitting in the crow’s nest, with his arms around the wooden bars of the railing and feet dangling over the edge.

            “What is he doing up there?” she thought out loud, looking at him.

            “Go call him down, Pint. It’s a full moon tonight, strong winds. It’s not safe for people to be up there. Get him down as soon as you can.”

            She ran to the rope immediately, climbing quickly through practice. He didn’t see her until she was standing next to him. But he was trapped. She was standing in front of the way down, blocking all means of escape.

            “What are you doing up here?” she asked. “It’s not safe here, not now.”

            “I don’t care, your highness,” he replied lazily.

            “What did you mean back there, in Dain’s room?”

            He sighed. She was intelligent when it came to almost everything, but when it came to matters of the heart she was dense, irritatingly dense. He snapped, “I think you know what I meant.”

            “I want to hear you say it,” she admitted.

            He laughed dryly. “What does it matter if I admit to it?”

            “It matters, more than you know.”

            He didn’t understand. But then again, it was impossible to understand Melaina. But he wanted to see the look on her face when he told her. Perhaps her face would be overcome with shock, disgust, or as far as he dared to hope, a twinge of sadness.

            “I love you, Melaina! I! Love! You!” he shouted. He added quietly, “What does it matter when you love someone else?”

            “What?”

            “Who is it?” he asked, not really caring. It didn’t change anything who she loved. He didn’t dare to look at her face. The curiosity at her reaction was gone. It had been quickly replaced by fear.

            “You,” she answered quietly. “I don’t love anyone, but you.”

            “Dain said—”

            He stopped mid-sentence. She didn’t love anyone. His brother had changed too much for his own good. Turning from the totalitarian ruler of a warmonger country to playing matchmaker. He stopped when he realized what she said, that she didn’t love anyone… except him. He finally turned towards her again and saw her smiling face, almost glowing.

            “I’m going to beat your brother to a pulp,” she said with a smile.

            He chuckled, “I’ll make sure he doesn’t get away.”

            “I love you,” she said with a sigh. It felt wonderful, the weight lifted off her shoulders, the doubts that evaporated from her mind. She had no worries, no sorrows.

            He looked past her for a moment, at the absence of music and the silence except for the wind. His outburst, his proclamation of love, everyone had heard it. Even from thirty feet off the deck he could see the shock on people’s faces. Darya’s mouth was in a pretty ‘o’, David’s jaw nearly touched the ground, and the Captain was holding onto his bald head in shock.

            He tapped her on the shoulder and motioned for her to turn. The happy smile on her face was wiped off in a second. The crew, her best friend, her former fiancé and his current fiancée were all looking at them. She quickly climbed down the rope. The smug grin on Dain’s face was impossible to miss.

            As embarrassed as she was, she would’ve spent the rest of the journey in her room. But even with all his good intentions, Dain had played around with the both of them. So she made her decision. Balling her hand up into a fist, she walked up to Dain and punched him in the stomach.

            It was gratifying, and she heard Alex laugh behind her. He no longer cared about the consequences. He knew that she could punch harder, but also that she was going easy on Dain. He wouldn’t interfere, not until she had gotten out both his anger and hers. Darya had stepped back as well as she landed another two punches and finally stepped back with a triumphant grin.

            “Next time, maybe you’ll think before meddling,” she warned him. He nodded weakly.

            “Sorry brother,” Alex said with a shrug. He knew his brother had changed. The brother that he knew, the tyrant, would’ve done everything in his power to keep Alex with him, as a bodyguard. The man in front of him was someone else entirely, someone that should’ve emerged a long time before.

            Darya sat on her knees next to Dain and helped him stand up. She didn’t chide Melaina, just helped Dain up and back to his room. The captain was sitting on a little stool, and looked in all directions with surprise. David walked up to him.

            “Wha-?”

            “It’s a long story,” Alex explained. He followed Melaina to the front of the ship, where they could finally talk in peace. He ran freely, slipping between the crew that headed below the deck. The full moon lit up The Beast in a haunting way. The ropes tied to the mast were transformed into giant silk threads, the deck bathed in a silvery light. The waves slapped against the hull, and the wind surrounded them on all sides.

            “Why were you ignoring me?” she asked. It seemed stupid, how long they had avoided each other, how long they had made themselves miserable.

            It reminded him why he had ignored her in the first place. He wasn’t worthy. She loved him, but she didn’t know everything about him. He knew that even after she did, she wouldn’t think any less of him. Everyone else in the world would, but she was different from everyone else.

            “There’s some things about me that you don’t know,” he said. “Maybe after I tell you, your opinion of me will change.”

            He took a deep breath. A lot of peoples’ opinions had changed over the years after they had learned of his secret. A lot of people had left to him in the cold, cut him out of their lives, seeing him as nothing but a sin.

            “My mother was the younger daughter of a Lord in the north. I don’t know which one. Dain was a child when she first met our father. Dain’s mother had died in childbirth. My mother fell in love with our father. But something went wrong, and I was born out of wedlock.”

            She knew the fate of such children. They and their mothers were shunned, their families disowned them. Her father had worked to change the old ways in Lor, she imagined that nothing had changed in Felucca.

            “In Felucca, it was a law to kill illegitimate children. My mother hid me, until they found me when I was ten years old. She tried to take advantage even then, lying that there had been a secret marriage. There was a court hearing, and the father who she claimed was the one to conduct the wedding, spoke against her.”

            “I was sentenced to the gallows, but my father died the day that I was supposed to. Dain ascended the throne, and his first law was to stop the killing of children like me, bast-”

            “Don’t say it,” she stopped him. “All that is in the past. And I couldn’t care less.”

            “Dain saved my life. Even back then he had some good in him,” Alex said.

            “What happened to your mother?” she asked.

            “Exiled, to some faraway hamlet. I haven’t seen her in ten years,” Alex admitted. “Sometimes I wonder how she’s doing, is she ill? Is she lonely? Dain gave me permission to visit her time to time, but I never did. What would I say to her?”

           

           

            “That you love her,” she answered. “It’s more than I can say to my mother. She was trying to save you, Alex, trying to keep you by her side. My mother wanted to send me away from her reputation.”

            Everyone he met was convinced that his mother was a woman to avoid, a sinner without remorse that had trapped a widower in his weakness. He knew that she was weak, born privileged but forced into poverty because of one mistake. He had felt pity and love for her as a child, but the training of the army, the brainwashing of the people by his side, all of it had made him forget her. It had clouded his vision, turning her from a victim of circumstance to a vile woman with a quest for the throne. He couldn’t feel guiltier if he tried.

            Alex leaned on the railing of the ship, looking at the stars and the moon. They were what Dain had compared Darya to. He didn’t see the link.

            “Your eyes don’t shine like the stars, and your smile doesn’t remind me of the moon,” he said.

            “What? You honestly don’t know how to praise a girl,” she commented. “But it’s a good thing. Poets are not my type.”

            He continued, “You don’t remind of those things, because how often do people notice how beautiful the moon is, or how the stars twinkle? I’m amazed by you every second I see you. I can’t compare you to something as weak as the night sky, something that can go unnoticed so easily.”

            The words were heartfelt. She let the fact that they were intolerably corny slide by. She was happy, just standing next to him. He didn’t make her giggle like her sister Lucille did when she saw Gavin, she didn’t blush when he smiled at her. They didn’t call each other by ridiculous nicknames, and didn’t disgust anyone with the showiness of their love. But she was happy, a blissful happiness that filled her to the core and threatened to spill over.

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