Maruska lay in her bed. She had been laying there practically all day, feeling wretched, despondent and whatever other bad feeling you can think of. For so long now, all she had thought about was finding Anton, confronting him–and if need be–hurt him for leaving her. And now she had done all that, and she didn’t feel any better; in fact she felt worse. She’d known all along what she’d done was wrong, but like someone running down a steep hill, once she started, she couldn’t stop. She wanted to hurt the man that had hurt her.
Maruska closed her eyes. A single tear dripped out of the corner and trickled down towards her ear; she didn’t even bother to wipe it away.
Right now, she just wanted to sink into her bed and vanish.
Her life was a mess, and sadly, she knew the only person to blame was herself. So many years filled with bitterness, anger and hatred.
Half her life wasted.
The friends she had grown up with, probably all had families, little children. Even the man she loved had a beautiful wife.
And what did she have? Maruska had no one. All she had was twenty years worth of sad memories.
Maruska opened her eyes. She heard a whispering.
No more. It stops today.
It was coming from inside of her. Amid all the heavy, dark thoughts that filled her mind, was a pure, clear voice.
Today it ends. Today you start your new life.
Maruska didn’t move a muscle. She ignored everything else and just focussed on this voice.
Every step you take from now on, will be towards a brighter future. It is the way to a charmed life.
Maruska’s gut and instinct latched onto what the voice had said. She knew it was right. She had no idea where the voice came from, but she didn’t question it. She wiped away the tear that had dripped down to her ear.
Yes, thought Maruska to herself, I will not waste another day of my life. Forget about Anton and everything in the past. A bright future is all I care about.
She sat up and swung her legs over to the side of the bed. She paused. This was the moment. She could either lie back down and wallow in self pity, or she could stand up and immediately begin to fix her life.
Maruska stood up.
And then a feeling flowed through her; a feeling she had not felt in a very long time.
It was hope.
King Bastion skewered the shrimp on his fork and was about to put it into his mouth when-
It was Lancaster, the oldest and most loyal servant of the royal household.
“What is it, Lancaster?” said the King, a little grumpy as he was interrupted mid-bite.
“’Tis Lady Maruska, she requests permission to speak to you.”
The King nearly choked when he heard this. The one person he would drop anything for. Literally. He put his shrimp back down on the plate (which just showed how much he thought of Maruska. Because he was quite a big fan of shrimp).
“Oh, yes of course!” said Bastion, “Ask her to come in immediately!”
The King picked up a napkin and wiped his mouth, and ran his fingers through his whiskers and beard a few times to straighten it out.
Lancaster bowed deeply and left the room. Moments later, in walked Maruska. Bastion thought she looked particularly stunning this evening.
She approached the king and bowed her head respectfully.
“I am sorry to interrupt your dinner, Your Highness, but I have something I need to tell you. I could not bear to wait and leave it any later.”
Bastion gulped. This is it, he thought to himself. After twenty years she has finally caved in to my manly charm and going to tell me that she loves me. I knew my method of slowly chipping away at a woman’s resistance would pay off.
“Bastion,” said Maruska, “I came here to thank you personally, for all that you have done for me.”
She’s going to thank me personally, thought the King, Wow. I really would prefer somewhere more private, but well then, let’s not be too fussy.
“I’m leaving Bastion,” said Maruska, “I plan to leave the castle tonight. You probably will never see me again. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you have done for me. I will never be able to repay you, but just know that I am eternally grateful.”
Hmm, my stomach is still full, thought Bastion, And I probably should go close the door, I wouldn’t want any of the servants inter- WHAT DID SHE SAY?
“Excuse me?” said Bastion.
“I am leaving Castle Aerie, Bastion,” said Maruska.
“But why?” said the King, “Are you not happy here? I can provide everything that you need! I am the King!”
“I have thought much about this for the past few days,” said Maruska, “And I must do this, for myself. I want to go away. Somewhere far away, somewhere that doesn’t remind me of my past, or the choices that I’ve made. I want to start over. I fear that I have wasted my life. I don’t want to waste another day. Please understand, Bastion. I must leave.”
“But, where will you go? Will I ever see you again?” said Bastion.
“I don’t know where I will go,” said Maruska, “And perhaps we may encounter one another in the future, but my heart tells me this may be our final meeting.”
“Final meeting?” said the King, “No! You can’t. I won’t allow it.”
“I have made up my mind,” said Maruska, “Goodbye, my liege.” She curtsied and then turned to leave.
“Stop!” he said, “As King of Tuscan, I order you to stop.”
Maruska stopped but did not turn around. “That is not an order you can make.”
“Maruska, I love you,” blurted out the King, “I will do anything if you would stay. Do you want to be the Queen? Stay and marry me, and be the Queen of Tuscan.”
Maruska was silent for a moment. Then she turned around, stepped in close to Bastion and kissed him gently on the cheek.
The King nearly fainted. All these years he had waited to feel her lips on his skin. She was so close he could smell her lovely perfume; it was intoxicating.
“Bastion,” said Maruska, “I will always think fondly of you. But I do not love you, in the way that you want me to love you. I would not make a good wife, nor a good Queen. Farewell, my King. I will remember you fondly.”
And with that she left the room, leaving the King standing there alone.
Bastion stood there, motionless, just breathing; he didn’t want to leave that spot, because the air still smelled of his beloved, and that was all that he had left of her.