The Queen of Hearts - A Story of Forbidden Love (Carve the Mark Competition Entry)

*1st PLACE in the CARVE THE MARK COMPETITON * This Fanfiction is based on Marissa Meyer's book, Heartless. *FANFICTION CONTAINS SPOILERS* It is a year after the crowning of Lady Catherine and though she surrendered her heart to the Sisters, is it possible pain is driving her to a final act to reunite her with Jest? My entry for the Carve the Mark competition!

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1. The Queen of Hearts - A Story of Forbidden Love

Lady Catherine, or the Queen of Hearts as she demanded all to call her, looked out of her bedroom window at the rose garden that awaited below. Her obsession with red roses had led to the once bright and bubbly garden where she longed to drink tea with the kind, looking like it had been slashed and left bleeding. She discovered much too recently that the gardeners had not, in fact, planted red roses. But in a lack of laziness, simply decided to paint the roses red. Now newly hired gardeners were working their hardest each day to make sure every rose was the blood red colour, much the same as the blood that pooled from the bodies at the execution for the failed task.

Though she tried often, she could not help but look out at the garden and think of white roses. Though everywhere she went she made sure was covered with the red that had now been associated with her, nothing could wipe the memory of the single white roses left on her windowsill.

Even though her heart had been torn out for close to a year now, sometimes she could swear she felt her chest aching from the pain. The pain of losing him… Jest.

The king made the mistake of calling her Cath a month or so ago. She was filled with such a fury that Raven didn’t even have to ask to take the shape of the executioner and chop off his head. By now, no one questioned what the Queen of Hearts did due to her ruthlessness and lack of mercy or compassion. Her family long since stopped coming to see her for fear of losing their heads and she watched all the castle servants scuttle away from her as soon as she rounded a corner. Though it filled her with power to march the halls and leave a trail of fear behind her, part of her felt lonely. Or the old Lady Catherine would have anyway.

The Queen turned away from the window to survey her room. Most of it was hidden under the bushes and bushes of bleeding hearts that grew every night thanks to her dreams of… him. At first, she spent hours each day watching servants try and rid them, but she had long since accepted them as friends. Soon the branches began to twist and shape themselves around the different objects in the room such as the wardrobe and the frame of the window. Once she even woke up to find a bird perch where Raven made his home. The bleeding hearts were almost comforting. Though she felt no more pain since surrendering her heart to the Sisters, the hearts were a reminder that she was still a person who gave much and lost everything.

Lady Catherine sat on the bed, lost in a dream of what seemed long ago. Last night she dreamt she was back by the treacle well with Jest. She woke up with the sound of his laughter in her ears before reality set in and she dragged herself through another day without him.

Jest made the impossible possible for her. It was her favourite thing about him. But the possible made the impossible out of Jest. Part of her was angry at him for dying, but unlike those around her, she could never stay angry at him.

Part of the Queen was proud that they had made it as far as they had. Between her parents, the obsessed King and just fate itself, their relationship should have shrivelled like a dying flower. But something about their forbidden love for one another made the flower bloom and blossom until, much to cruelly, it was cut down. With the loss of Jest, the Queen lost herself. Only one thing remained of the old Catherine and that was her love for baking.

When the Queen managed to drag herself away from sleep that promised Jest, she spent hours upon hours in the Castle’s kitchens, making everything and anything. The servants knew she was a safe person to be around, but not to interrupt. She didn’t bake to eat or even to feed others. She did it to lose herself. Sometimes she’d be reminded of her dreams to open a bakery, but mostly she was reminded of Jest, who wanted nothing more for her then to have everything she desired. Baking and sleeping kept Jest alive to her.

The Queen looked at the bedside table where a tray of rose macaroons waited for her and she smiled to herself as she thought of her first proper tea party. The King may have loved her tarts, but she knew Jest loved the macaroons the most and often, that’s what she found herself baking.

Picking on up into her hands, she twisted and turned it, thoughtful of what could happen. She had the idea only this morning to use the bleeding hearts that grew from her dreams instead of normal roses. Maybe they would bring him back. Maybe they would make the impossible possible again.

“They could harm you, you know.”

The Queen looked up to see Raven watching her thoughtfully. They didn’t talk often, but his voice was always welcome to her.

“I know,” she told him.

“Jest wouldn’t be able to forgive you if you hurt yourself,” he warned her and she shook her head, crumbling the macaroon angrily.

“Then it’s a good thing Jest is dead,” she responded dryly and Raven looked away.

“Did you hear of the girl?” she changed the topic as she neared the window again. “The blonde girl who fell down the rabbit hole?”

“I met her acquaintance only the other day,” Raven told her and after a pause, continued, “she reminded me of you at your first tea party.”

“Oh?” the Queen asked coldly.

“Young, innocent… enjoying the magic Wonderland has to offer.”

“I suppose she was having tea with the Mad Hatter.”

“She was. I didn’t introduce myself, but I surveyed the situation.”

“What is she here for?” the Queen cut to the chase. “I need to know.”

“To return peace to the Kingdom.”

“Peace? We’ve had peace ever since I was queen.”

“Peace from enemies, only because you’re their enemy now. You rule the kingdom from an iron throne.”

“Be careful what you say to me, Raven,” she rounded on him, eyes blazing with fury. “I could have your head in an instant.”

“Doubtfully,” he flew to the windowsill. “An executioner cannot execute himself.”

She wanted to say something back but bit her tongue as she again picked up the macaroon.

“The girl is here to kill me,” she stated, not questioned. She knew there would come a time.

“Alice,” he told her. “And yes, that is what’s been prophesized by the Sisters.”

“I think I’ll welcome death,” she told him. “I’m tired of this... pain.”

“My Queen, you have not felt real pain since you gave your heart to the Sisters.”

“If this is not pain that I feel, then I cannot bear the idea of what pain feels like. I think it will kill me.”

“Then let the girl take you first and complete the prophecy.”

The Queen smiled wryly.

“Just once, I want to beat the prophecy.”

Before she could think too much of it, she bit into the macaroon and smiled blissfully at the sweet flavour that filled her mouth. Raven didn’t object, simply watch her thoughtfully. She knew it was possible the macaroons would not give her what she wanted, but something about the bleeding hearts that surrounded her made her feel like they wanted to help her. That they understood her.

Soon enough, the sweet flavour turned into something else. It wasn’t sour, but it wasn’t pleasant either and the Queen coughed and felt something fly from her throat. Looking into her hand, her eyes were met with the sight of a petal from the bleeding hearts.

Smiling to herself, the Queen laid herself onto her bed and looked up at the canopy that had begun to sway welcomingly. They knew her. They wanted to help her.

“Raven,” she spoke and was surprised by the clarity in her voice. “You can join me.”

“I would, my Queen, but this is not my time. With your permission, I would like to return to the White Queen.”

The Queen of hearts grimaced at his request. He was abandoning her… Just like Jest.

“On one condition.”

The bird flew to her bedside table to watch her thoughtfully.

“Stay with me until I die, Raven. Don’t let me die alone.”

The bird hopped onto the pillow beside her and nested in her hair.

The Queen had begun to feel lightweight like she was dreaming even though she knew she was awake.

“Did you mean it?” she whispered to the bird. “Do you think he won’t forgive me?”

“My Queen, Jest died for you. He’ll do anything for you. It was my failed attempt to stop you from doing this.”

A single tear left the corner of the Queens' eye as she felt them begin to close.

“Thank you for your servitude, Raven.”

“Thank you for your vengeance, my Queen.”

She wanted to say more, but her tongue felt heavy in her mouth and she couldn’t feel her body anymore. She could hear the bleeding hearts swaying in a symphony and it wasn’t long until she recognised a tune. It was a song Jest wrote for her.

“Jest!” she screamed in her mind, knowing she couldn’t say it out loud.

“My Lady,” she heard him whisper and in that moment the Queen could feel her heart beating in her chest as she tried to search for him.

“Jest, my love. Come to me.”

Everything halted to a stop and the Queen could feel again. She wriggled her fingers and wriggled her toes. She began to panic that it was just a dream until she felt a hand stroke her cheek. Her eyes flew open wildly as she sat up straight.

If she still had a heart, it would have stopped as she took in his presence.

Jest looked exactly the same. No missing head, no broken bone, no decay. He wore the same smile with the dimples that he always gifted to her. Even his jester hat was sitting on his head.

“This is just a dream,” she whispered, looking around at the familiar garden with the treacle well. “It must be.”

Jest took her hands in his and bent his head to kiss each of her knuckles.

“My Queen, I died for you and now you have done the same for me.”

“Catherine,” she corrected him and he paused, appraising her thoughtfully. She cleared her throat and continued. “I am not your queen. I am your lady. Lady Cath.”

“Cath,” he breathed blissfully. “My Cath.”

They crashed into each other than, kissing and holding one another like they had been separated for centuries rather than a year. She was scared to believe that this was real and not just a dream, but she trusted those bleeding hearts.

The reminder of them pulled her away and she looked up into his eyes, tears dripping down her cheeks.

“Jest… I gave my heart to the Sisters.”

“I know, my beloved,” he rubbed his palms along her arms. “But you are restored now. I lost my head and it’s been returned. You lost your heart and it’s been returned.”

“I was such a cruel Queen,” she told him, not daring to meet his eyes. What would he think of what became of her?

“We all do crazy things when we’re in love,” he kissed her forehead. “And now Wonderland has gifted us time everlasting to be together.”

Catherine pinched herself to make sure he was right. It was a trick to drag her out of nightmares that always worked, though she rarely used it in dreams. The pain was real and piecing and she allowed herself to relax into the truth that she was forever joined with Jest.

“Where are we?” she asked as she rest her head on Jest’s chest as he stroked her hair. “Surely this isn’t the real well.”

“Wonderland legend says that each person’s grave is their favourite memory. This must be both of ours.”

“Because you kissed me for the first time?” she laughed and felt her face redden.

“No,” he breathed. “Because you told me you loved me.”

That was the last words they spoke for what felt like hours and hours as they partook in the forbidden love Wonderland was finally allowing them to have. And afterwards, as they looked up at the fairy floss sky and with Jest’s hand resting above her heart, the Queen of Hearts knew she was finally worthy of such a title. Because it felt like in her chest, every heart to ever exist in Wonderland beat inside her with love for Jest.

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