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Grasping the Light

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There was no doubt in Fayre’s mind that her father had impeccably terrible timing, though of course she would never have told him so. Indeed, she wasn’t ever compelled to reveal her feelings to the chambermaids who carried on their expected duties within the bower and wardrobe. Fayre was nothing other than a picture of utter composure as she slipped onto a hard mahogany bench beside her bed, strewn with maroon and deep purple pillows. Her fingers reached out to pluck at the pale strings of her harp as her thin frame wrapped about the instrument like a mother enfolds a child.

Musical notes ricocheted through the room as though billows of warm breath had been blown inside the cold-hearted chamber. Fayre’s body, almost imperceptibly, folded in on itself as she let her weight slump forward against the instrument, an angel bent toward her duties.

She normally practised with her eyes closed; however, that day she couldn’t help but look around. Like miniature boats, her cerulean eyes dragged across the room. She struggled to propel against the tide. As dark and damp as the castle was, she couldn’t imagine venturing beyond its sturdy walls. Her gaze was halting; she often paused to glance at things she treasured but usually couldn’t bear to look at for fear of painful memories: a hollow wooden chest crafted for her as a child; a long black rosary dangling from one of the knobs of her bed; and, finally, a large thirteenth-century white glass window which appeared more green than white. Fayre’s mouth went dry when she glanced at the window, her fingers still weaving, albeit mechanically, between the strings as her breath caught and she choked on the scent of burning wax. Her eyes clouded over as memories flooded her vision and she grappled with the thought of such exuberant light rearing its head before the panes of sickly-green glass. Fayre’s heart squeezed, the yellow bands of light reminding her of the golden halo of her mother’s hair.

It was the first day of spring. She could hear the faint echo of birdsong bouncing off the window pane. Even from her bench, she was able make out the snake-like meandering of the moat around her father’s fortress. If she peered closely enough she would see the peasants going about their work far across the distance. She might have enjoyed herself had her eyes not frozen on the sight of her country’s red-and-white silk flags swishing in the breeze just outside the window, the fabric twisting at the command of the wind. All sound became swallowed by silence as Fayre’s fingers stilled on her instrument and a sob tore through her lips. Her frame heaved against her corset, a trapped canary struggling within the confines of a cage.

The girl cried relentlessly, and her eyes swelled as her tormented thoughts kicked inside-out. When she finally composed herself, Fayre hobbled to the window and pressed her face against the sun-kissed glass. The view astounded her with its kaleidoscope of colours, so much more beautiful than the simple shades of the tapestries or pillows in her room. How her mother had adored springtime . . .

Her thoughts coalesced to form images – memories – of when her mother took her into the villages to see the country she would one day rule with a husband. She could see her mother everywhere. Fayre remembered the hillock by the moat where she was informally taught about nature as a child. She recalled the town where her mother first introduced her to some of the English commoners. Her mind called up the image of the poverty-stricken streets where her mother promised she’d bring happiness and health someday.

Her mother never had the chance. Death killed her dream as quickly as a star’s light blinks out before the rising sun. Fayre could hardly bear the thought of taking her mother’s place; in fact, the thought shook her as a nightmare wreaks havoc on a child. Yet she had to be strong and push past the cobwebs of fear. The one duty she’d ignored had been the most important of all. She could finally feel herself opening her mind to the possibilities as she gazed on in marvel at the country sprawled before her, a kingdom filled with her mother’s love.



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