Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I can’t get married

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“I can’t get married.” She said it quietly and then she sat silently as she was abused for everything from her misguided understanding of her family status to her perceived act of feminism. The topic of marrying her off had arisen because she was now eighteen.
She waited.
It took a long time before the threats and the shouting died down enough for her to explain further.
“I can’t get married,” she repeated, “Because I am already married.”
Her father’s face went so red she suspected he might actually have a stroke. “Whaat?”
“To whom?” the royal advisor demanded. “As far as I know, you never leave the palace.”
No. She didn’t, and she almost hated the man for reminding her. She allowed a tight glare at him before she got herself back under control.
“Who did you marry?” her father demanded. “And when?”
“I was a child and it was to Stefan of Moldavia. You remember, father?” The young man had seemed a lot older than she was to her five year old self. Now, she guessed he had been early teens, perhaps twelve. She had held some romantic fantasies over him as she grew up. And she had never forgotten him. He had been sweet to her when she had been terrified by the whole process. She spent the ceremony holding tightly to his hand.
“Ohh, ppfft,” her father said. “That was nothing.” His standard response when things didn’t match his plans.
“Nevertheless it was a marriage; not just an engagement.” Her nurse had explained the difference to her. She was the only one who had taken the time to do so, before she was dismissed some years later for trying to help the young princess.
“I-I have no record of this,” Chancellor Boleyn blustered.
“You are a recent addition to the household,” she reminded him. He looked, oddly guilty to her, though. “There must be a record of it. And I would be most surprised if his kingdom has not been in contact.” Especially as she had aged, and was now old enough to assume all the responsibilities of her position as wife.
“Boleyn?” the king demanded.
“I... I had no idea.”
The king understood that he was dissembling. “Did they contact us?”
“There was a letter... but I didn’t know-”
“What did you tell them?” she asked.
He gaped at her. “I--”
“What did you tell them, Boleyn?” the king asked.
“That the princess was to be married to another.”
“Your majesty?” a guard interrupted.
“Not now!” the king rounded on him.
“There is an envoy... from Moldavia.”
She wanted to laugh; the timing was exquisite. “Is it Prince Stefan?” she asked, her heart in her throat.
He bowed to her. “Yes, your highness-” he glanced at the king, “- and he has brought an army,” the guard added.
She gasped.
“This is outrageous!” the king said. “It’s an invasion.”
The guard spoke, “He said it was required as a sign of respect for his wife.” The statement went up on the end; it was more of a question.
She smoothed down her skirts, and rose. “That would be me,” she told the astonished guard. She hurried out of the room and nobody moved to stop her. It was so hard to keep her pace to a fast walk and not a run.
She grabbed the first horse she saw and rode out to greet her husband. She was not surprised to see her old nurse in part of his entourage.
“I did wonder how you knew I needed rescuing,” she said to him later, when they were alone.
“Did you like the army? Was it too much?”
She chuckled. “You came; you didn’t send a representative. They were so surprised, and they couldn’t argue that I didn’t need or deserve such respect.” She studied him. “That was very smart.”
“I can be diplomatic.” Clearly, he could also be forceful when it was necessary. His armour and weapons were worn with the ease of a man long used to them.
“You held my hand,” she said.
He smiled. “You remember?”
“Yes.” She reached for his hand, and lifted it to her lips. “I have never forgotten you.”
“Good.” Encouraged by her response, he held her close. “Do you need anything from the castle?”
“Nothing. And I would rather not return there. It has few happy memories for me.”
“I am so sorry. I should have come sooner.”
She touched his face. “We can make new memories.”
© AM Gray 2014

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