A brief, haunting romance story. The classic tale with a shocking end.
|Their Last Dance
By Savanna Uland
They both leaned into their hands, which were pressed against the bright gray stone of the castle’s battlements. One emotion filled the hearts of Jessen and Lord Aurelius “Lee.” In the space between their bodies, you could look out and below, way down to the summertime expanse of green fields and the festivities bathed in afternoon sunbeams.
Jessen broke their quiet. “Lord Aurelius… you look handsome in your…” She couldn’t think of the word. Suddenly her cheeks were hot and she wished she hadn’t said a thing.
Lee lifted his hands from the warm castle wall. “Well,” he smiled, “it is my wedding day.” He approached her softly. “Darling, you really don’t have to call me Lord Aurelius. Lee is just fine.”
Jessen stared on at the wedding preparations below. White on green. She was too embarrassed to say another word, let alone meet Aureli—Lee’s eyes. She kept her hands pressed into the battlements, watching the last of the nobles and peasants arriving for the wedding.
“I never knew you could dance like that,” he told her. He was referring to last night. Images waltzed through Jessen’s mind of the banquet ball Lady Elizabeth had thrown to announce her son’s engagement—to a princess!, after all. Jessen had danced till midnight, but she had never known she was particularly good at it. She blushed darker still at the compliment from him.
Lee stood tall in his suit, glowing in the sun. He didn’t waste a glance at the fields down below; he couldn’t miss a single moment of being with her.
Jessen always got thrills when she and Lee touched, and the thrill she got when he pulled her hand off the battlement went straight up her arm and into her heart.
The orchestra below began rehearsing. Jessen smiled softly into Lee’s brown eyes; he noticed how the cloudless sun turned her thick hair blonde. He became lost in the glow of her.
“May I have this dance?” he asked.
Jessen glanced worriedly to the fields. “I should… the wedding is soon…”
“Then,” he announced, “it is my last dance as an unmarried man.” Jessen pressed her lips into a smile for him, one corner of her mouth a little higher than the other. Jessen’s unique smile, all her own; each of her smiles was a gift to Aurelius, a little part of her no one else would ever have.
Jessen’s grace flowed into their dance. They moved much slower than the bright, cheerful music floating up to them. This moment must last, thought Jessen. This moment must last.
They danced. The sun, bright and warm, glinted off the round tears welling in her eyes. The wedding day had finally arrived. Jessen thought of her grandmother, many years past, saying, “Sometimes, love just hurts.”
Even when the orchestra finished, they kept dancing.
“You’ll be faithful to your bride, won’t you?” whispered Jessen.
Lee pulled her closer; their dancing slowed. “And you’ll always love me?” she asked. Lee lifted their arms and slowly twirled Jessen. When she returned, he told his answer.
Suddenly, Jessen stopped dancing and thrust him close. “I love you,” she cried. Her tears fell to his shoulder. He held her tight and softly rocked her, stroking her sun-goldened hair. “Good-bye hurts too much,” she murmured.
Lee held her tighter. “Farewells are unhappy, but they don’t have to be joyless.” He stilled and looked her in the eye.
Far off, the trumpets blasted, announcing the arrival of the Princess Ekaterina.
Neither of them looked away from each other, and were silent for a long moment. Lee gave Jessen one last, sweet kiss. For that one moment, long and glorious, time felt like the sunbeams surrounding them, streaming down from Heaven, perfectly still and yet traveling forever.
“We have our lives to lead,” he finally spoke.
He squeezed her hand, and then stepped into the stairwell, their kiss still on his lips, still on his mind, and forever on his soul. Lee glanced over his shoulder one, final time; and then he was gone.
The Lord Aurelius’s bride had just arrived. His arranged marriage was about to begin.