Princess Esmeralda was walking in the woods, far beyond the borders of her kingdom, the first time she saw him. He sat in a rainbow field of wildflowers, scribbling in a journal. His tawny skin told her that he was an animal fairy from the Kingdom of Fauna, sworn enemy to her Kingdom of Flora. She had spent all day in battle meetings, biding her time, listening while her father consulted with heads of the Floran military. She waited patiently for her escape from their barbaric discussions of how to force the Faunans into submission. She wanted no part of that silly war. She had never even seen a Faunan before that day. She watched through the navy branches of a singing tree while he wrote. He was clearly unarmed, and seemingly unaware of her presence. As she spied, he closed his book and fell back in the cerulean blades of grass and closed his eyes.
A few minutes passed, and Esmeralda gathered the courage to approach, after checking for a third time that no one would see. Even as she came within a few feet, he continued to bathe in the white sunlight pouring down from the soft pink sky.
“Hello.” The music of his voice floated in the air although his eyes remained closed.
“What are you doing?” She reinforced her words with a steely resolve to cover her genuine curiosity. She looked around nervously, not wanting to be seen with a Faunan.
His long, black lashes fluttered open, revealing the lightest green eyes she had ever seen. Blocking the suns with one hand, he smiled up at her. Esmeralda’s heart took off like a rocket, and, simultaneously, her breath stopped.
“I’m resting in a field,” he replied rather obviously, propped up on one elbow. “Has it offended you, Princess?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I was referring to what you were writing.” His use of her title reinforced her confidence.
“Well, you are welcome to sit and have a look.” He pulled the brown leather-bound book from the tall grass as he drew himself up to sitting, looking at her expectantly.
She glanced around one last time, making sure no one would see her, before folding her long legs beneath her on the ground and reaching for the book. His poetry captivated her instantly. She had never been a fan of art, any of the arts, really. Her father had always laughed at such nonsense, with a stern reminder that expanding the kingdom was all that was important.
“This is really beautiful,” the words sprung from her lips without permission. “For poetry, of course.” She covered her awe with a casual shrug. A smirk flitted across his face so quickly that she wasn't entirely sure it had been there at all.
“Thank you,” his low whisper hummed through her. She could feel its vibration deep in her gut giving birth to waves of tingles that shot out to her fingers and toes. She glanced at him and saw a faint blush fade from his dark cheeks. “I get a little caught up in the beauty of nature. The wildflower’s sway, the jingling song of the rock birds. Even the the crisp blades of grass can be endlessly inspiring.”
“The grass?” Esmeralda laughed at the thought.
“Yes!” His enthusiasm bubbled over. “Watch how each blade seems to darken as it bends toward you, but then lightens as it bends away.” His rough hands caressed the grass with such tenderness, she couldn't help but imitate. “See?”
A laugh slipped from her throat before she could stop it, but she was glad. She felt at ease here, surrounded by nature. She needn't put on airs of callousness to show her capability to lead her kingdom. She relaxed as she petted the grass and felt truly at ease for the first time in years. Hours passed as they spoke of the wonders of the wilderness. Esmeralda was reluctant to let it end, but as the suns began to set, they stood to depart.
“Will you return?” she asked hesitantly, ashamed to let hope shade her words.
“Everyday, Princess,” he bent and kissed her hand, his touch lingering. She felt the heat of the blush on her cheeks and her lips spread into a smile. “And you?”
She repeated, “Everyday.” He slipped his hand from hers and turned to walk away. “Wait, I don’t even know your name.”
“Neither do I know yours, Princess, but if you require one, you may call me Jay. Until tomorrow…” The fading twilight swallowed his figure and Esmeralda turned and rushed home, his kiss still tingling on her knuckles.
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