He put a hand to her face, and let out a sigh. How many times would he be able to do this? He out another sigh, before forcefully peeling his eyes away. Her fiance would be visiting the manor in the coming morning. If only he’d been born in a wealthy family, a family of comparable status to hers. If only he was someone that her father could consider as a worthy candidate. Another sigh escaped his lips.
Even if he had the wealth, the status, what would that bring him? With such a birth, he’d probably never encounter her. He’d probably missed out on her childhood. He’d almost certainly wouldn’t have the fortune of freely spending time with her. Watching her sleep like this, without his current identity, probably would’ve never been possible.
As a member of a wealthy family, he’d undoubtedly have the family’s hopes and dreams sitting on his shoulders. He’d probably bear the burden of being an heir. Or perhaps, he’d be forced to study hard, with limited time to play. In such a setting, he couldn’t imagine being able to find her, not to mention meet her.
He felt a tear slip down his face. He caught it before, it landed. He couldn’t disturb her sleep. Not when she had such an important day tomorrow. She was the princess of the manor. She deserved the best. Whether it was the things she used, the person she married, or the life that she lived. That man could grant her a life that he would never be able to.
Not with his status. Not in a million years. He passed a hand over the brand on his forehead. The mark of a slave. An identity that would follow him no matter where he went.
He sucked in a breath, letting his face in his hands. Other than serve her, support her, what else did he have to offer? With teary eyes, he forced himself to stand. Taking another look back, he let out another sigh. Finally, he walked over to the candle, blowing it out, before heading toward the door.
There, he stood for a moment, observing her beauty as the moonlight, entering from the window, danced off her lustrous skin. He put a hand over his mouth, muffling the sobs that accidentally escaped his lips. Closing his eyes, he closed the door behind him. With a barrier between them, he collapsed against the nearest beam.
Tears washed his face, as he was no longer able to hold back the pain. Soon, she’ll belong to someone else. Even so, he didn’t want to leave her. Pressing his forehead onto his knees, he stubbornly stayed outside of her room. He wanted to accompany her, but he knew what others would say of her if he had stayed in her room all night without a chaperone by her side. He couldn’t let her suffer from his own selfish desires.
Silently, the night passed by. The rooster’s call forced him up. It was still dark, but time for the slaves to start their work. Picking himself up, he gave a final glance back at the door. The door that barred him from her.
“Goodbye, Essie.” He whispered under his breath, as he turned away.
Suddenly, he heard the creaking of the door unfolding behind him. He paused in his step.
“Ahris, wait!” A familiar voice shouted behind him. Her forehead pressed against his back, before he could turn. “Please don’t go. Take me with you.”
He sucked in a breath, not believing his ears. Standing there, he blinked back tears, as he tried to recollect himself.
“Do you know what you’re asking?” He said with a hoarse voice, when he finally recovered from the shock.
“Of course.” She said, turning him to face her. “Of course, I do.”
Without waiting for his response, she put a hand over his cheek. Lifting herself to the tips of her toes, she drew him into a kiss.
“I know what I’m asking for.” She repeated, when they separated. “Your status doesn’t mean anything to me. You were the person that was always here for me. The heir of that family is nothing to me.”
“I can’t give you anything he can.” He responded.
“But you understand me. You’re willing to be here for me.” She answered, cupping his face in her hands. “What is wealth when I have to watch my every movement? What is wealth when it makes me weary of every shadow? What is wealth, when I don’t even have a single person that I can share my feelings with? If continuing to live a life of luxury will cost me everything I care about, why should I want it?”
She planted another kiss on his cheek. Then more quietly she added. “None of the wealth in the world would be able to pay off the regret I would carry if I let you go.”
“Are you sure?” He asked, quietly. “I’m just a slave. A branded one, at that.”
“I’m sure.” She answered, before pulling his face to hers, and pressing a kiss over the scars. “A brand means nothing to me. If others have something to say, then let them say it.”
“Essie.” He whispered.
“Ahris. I’m sure. You’re the only one that I could ever want.” She stared into his eyes, before pausing at his lack of response. “That is, if you’re willing. I’ll stop if you don’t want me to.”
“I just don’t want to ruin your future.” He whispered, turning away despite his flushed face. He was a slave, yet she asked him for his thoughts. She was the princess of this manor, yet she considered someone as lowly as him as a valid option.
“The only way you could ruin my future is failing to be a part of it.” She answered, forcing his gaze to meet hers.
“I’m just a slave.” He reiterated, turning away.
“In my eyes, you were never a slave.” She answered, leaning into his back. “Tell me, do you share my feelings?”
“I do. You know I do.” He replied.
“Then, let’s be together.” She said.
“Your father…” He answered, hesitating. She had a fiance. One that her father picked out. One that her father approved of.
“I’ll make him understand.” She reassured. “As long as you share the flame in your heart, there’s nothing we can’t overcome.”
“You’re really?” He asked again.
“Yes.” She answered, before drawing him into another kiss. “But if you ask again, I can’t promise I won’t get mad.”
He nodded in acknowledgement before, leaning in to the kiss, allowing himself to accept it in earnest. An action that he never thought that he’d be able to do in reality.
“Thank you, Essie.” He breathed between kisses. In his mind, the differences in their statuses was the main inhibitor of any possible relationship between the two of them. Never in did he consider the possibility that the primary hurdle would be himself. Finally, they broke apart. He stared into her eyes, as her arms remained locked behind him. His heart, too grateful for words.
Inspired by combination of a song that I recently stumbled across on YouTube, an the idea from a prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication of writing stories based on the feelings that a song evokes, and the drama, “Ashes of Love”