Just a King feeling extremely lonely and then accidentally finding the love of his life.
|The king gently stepped on the flowery pink carpet that spread endlessly before him. Closing his eyes, he took in a long breath, sucking the smell of the flowers into his lungs. A soft, almost-warm breeze caressed his sharply sculpted cheekbones, and passed through his carefully styled silky hair, carrying the smell of peach blossoms to his nostrils.
On a normal night, these sensations could relieve him of the stress and bring a smile –although a very small one- to his lips. But that night, it seemed like nothing could calm him down. The sweet smell of peaches, the gentle breeze, and the silvery moonlight peeking from between the branches seemed to have lost their magic. Letting out a long, inaudible sigh, the king began his usual nightly promenade in the Garden.
He had been feeling a bit restless and uneasy for months now. He was good at hiding it behind the indifferent, carefully-poised expression of the royalty in front of the ministers, and a mask of false happiness in front of his mother and sisters. But deep inside, he knew that he can never lie to himself. He just knew that his soul was aching for something, something that could not be replaced with the shiniest pieces of jewelry that he owned, or the most nice-smelling, most beautiful golden peaches that were owned only by him.
The young king stopped to a halt under one particularly tall tree, looking up at one of the golden fruits that shone under the silvery moonlight. Not too long ago, this scene would have made Gilbert feel like the proudest man in the world. But tonight, they seemed to have lost their meaning. The golden peaches, the most beautiful, most nice-smelling, and most delicious peaches of the whole world that belonged solely to the King.
Letting out an almost inaudible sigh, he gently leant his back to the tree’s trunk. Tipping his head back, he stared at the moon peeking through the branches, allowing himself get lost in his own little world. At some point, he must have closed his eyes without himself even knowing, because upon hearing that sound, his eyes shot open. At first, it was a very gentle humming coming from his right side. But the sound kept getting louder, being accompanied by soft footsteps. Someone –most probably a female- was softly singing to a song. Gilbert squinted to see more clearly, but he could only make out a silhouette. So, he waited until the humming stranger came to his view.
Now Gilbert could clearly see her, her face being illuminated by the warm moonlight. She looked every bit like a foreigner, from her skin tone to her clothing. The song she was humming was also in a language unknown to Gilbert. The girl had beautifully bronzed skin, shining mesmerizingly under the moonlight, along with her dark hair that fell down to her shoulders in gorgeous waves. Her eyes were slightly almond-shaped and somehow sharp, her cheekbones round and full. She had heart-shaped, somewhat full lips, coupled with a straight, cute nose. She was easily one of the prettiest girls Gilbert had ever seen, and Gilbert had indeed seen many girls before.
The girl seemed to be completely lost in her own little world, because when she finally noticed Gilbert, she jolted involuntarily. Gilbert stayed as still as possible, not intending to spook the beautiful strangers. A few moments passed in complete silence, the two just staring at each other and taking their situation in. Then, the stranger broke the silence with her warm, velvety voice.
“Umm… Hi, I guess?” the stranger laughed softly, the sound of it doing something to Gilbert’s heart. She had a bit of an accent, and Gilbert must’ve judged correctly from her appearance that she is a foreigner. Even so, one could tell solely based on the fact that she had been roaming the King’s garden like that. All of the children born in the Peach Blossoms Land knew that as a rule: the garden of golden peaches belongs to the King, and the King only. But instead of getting angry or annoyed, Gilbert found himself amused and intrigued.
“Yeah, hi,” so he replied the stranger, smiling in a way that knew would reveal his dimples.
The stranger blinked, seemingly surprised. Maybe she had thought that Gilbert is not real, or something of that sort.
“My name is Caroline,” said the stranger, daring to step a bit closer.
“I’m Gilbert,” said the King.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” the girl –Caroline- bowed slightly.
“Nice to meet you too. You’re not from here though. Are you?”
Caroline chuckled and looked around a bit, avoiding Gilbert’s gaze.
“Is it that obvious? Or maybe you’re just smart,” said Caroline, a shy smile playing on her lips.
At that, Gilbert also started to blush a bit. People had always praised him –mostly for his looks, and generally because he was a king- but people rarely complimented him for his intelligence.
Sensing the awkward atmosphere, Caroline cleared her throat a bit, successfully snapping Gilbert out of his trance.
“I hope I haven’t disturbed you. You seemed like you were trying to relax.”
At that, Gilbert shook his head in negation.
“It’s not like that at all. On the contrary, I wouldn’t mind company at such night,” Gilbert blurted out before he could stop himself, and his face began burning as soon as the words left his mouth.
Caroline let out a laugh, warm and melodic. Gilbert found himself mesmerized by the sound of that laughter.
“Well, neither do I. I was feeling a bit lonely walking all by myself in such beautiful garden. It’s so special, isn’t it? These peaches look like they are made of gold,” said Caroline, craning her long, elegant neck to look up at the peaches.
Gilbert straightened up and began walking towards Caroline, thinking that Caroline being so clueless is cute. He stood near Caroline, ignoring the way that his heart began to race upon smelling Caroline’s scent, which was somehow stronger and sweeter than the scent of all those peaches. He also looked up at the royal fruits, and then his gaze non-consciously fell on the elegant slope of Caroline’s neck. He swallowed dryly and tried to compose himself.
“Who knows, maybe they really are gold,” Gilbert’s voice came out raspier than usual. Caroline’s gaze snapped to his face, surprise written all over her beautiful features. Gilbert let out a chuckle and began to walk, gesturing for Caroline to follow him.
“I was only joking,” said the King. The face of disapproval that Caroline made was strangely endearing.
“You were right, I’m not from here. But I’m not that much of a foreigner either,” Caroline spoke after a few minutes of comfortable silence.
Gilbert looked at him, lips slightly pursed. Caroline’s heart-shaped lips stretched out into a smile.
“My mother was born and raised here. She lived in this city until she fell in love with my dad. My dad was a young man from the Southern lands back then, having come here to tour the land. She and him met accidentally under one of the many peach trees out there, and I guess love at the first sight happened to them,” at that, Caroline’s smile widened, and her eyes took on a dreamy look. Gilbert guessed that Caroline was seeing that scene in her imagination.
“My mom left here and married my dad in the Southern lands. You know, those lands are nothing like here. It’s all burning sun and dry lands and thorn bushes. But she left behind all of the beauty of this land to be with my dad. They had four children together, me being the last. We had all the things we could ask for, before my mom passed away when I was eleven,” Gilbert watched as Caroline’s smile turned sad, the joy and dreaminess suddenly gone from her eyes.
“Hey, you don’t have to-“
“Yeah, but I want to. It’s okay. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. But I’ve got this feeling that, you know, we are going to see each other for a long time,” at that, Caroline ducked her head and stared at the carpet of peach blossoms under her feet. Gilbert felt his heart stop for a moment before it began to race wildly.
“Uh, please don’t take me serious. I must’ve become too emotional. Anyway, my mother used to tell me stories about this land, about the magical peach trees that are ever-green, ever-heavy with both peach fruits and blossoms. My other siblings were not as interested in her stories, so she spent a lot of her time with me, because apparently she had a deep longing for this place, and talking about it made her feel at home somehow. After she passed away, I held onto those stories, and even wrote down some of them. I couldn’t get those pictures out of my head, and eventually when I grew up and could travel alone, I came here. The land is much more beautiful and mesmerizing than my mom could ever describe with words,” that fond smile was back on Caroline’s lips once again, and surprisingly, Gilbert found himself smiling as well.
“You must like it a lot in here, then,” said Gilbert, his voice barely above a whisper.
“I don’t like it in here. I love it,” said Caroline and let out a chuckle. The sound was doing something to Gilbert’s heart. Gilbert had not fallen for someone before, but he had read enough books to know what he was going through. Although it was too soon, but it all felt strangely right. It felt so right to be walking under the peach trees and the moonlight, listening to Caroline’s honey voice, looking at her side profile and admiring the way her beautiful golden skin shone under the subtle light.
“Hey! Are you even listening?” Caroline’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts once again.
“Uh, I’m sorry…” said the king, left hand non-consciously going up to rub at his neck. Caroline let out a sigh.
“You could’ve just told me when my ranting became too much,” said Caroline, only half-serious. But Gilbert began to panic.
“What?! No, it’s not like that at all, I was jus-“
The king abruptly came to a stop when he registered the fact that Caroline had actually reached out to ruffle his hair.
“You’re so adorable. I was only joking. By the way, I asked you three times about your age. You seem to be younger than me,” the tanned girl pursed her lips, seemingly in thought.
Gilbert cleared his throat.
“I’ll turn 24 in two months. What about you?”
“I was right then. I’m 26,” said Caroline with a chuckle.
Gilbert didn’t know why, but he blushed. Maybe he always had a thing for older girl, but he wouldn’t admit it.
“Uh… tell me about your family, if you don’t mind? I did tell you about mine,” Caroline’s smile turned somewhat dreamy once again.
“My father was… the king,” Gilbert said slowly, not finding a reason to hide the truth from Caroline, but he also didn’t want to possibly scare her off.
At that, Caroline came to a complete halt, and blinked at Gilbert owlishly. Gilbert could hear the gears spinning in her head. And then, realization washed over the girl's graceful features.
Before Gilbert could register what was happening, Caroline had kneeled on the ground, bowing her head so low that her forehead was almost touching the ground.
“Please forgive me, your highness! It was so stupid of me not to remember what my mom always said about the garden of golden peaches that belongs solely to the king,” her voice was so meek and shaky.
“Caroline-“ began Gilbert, but Caroline was already starting to panic.
“I am terribly sorry, your highness! I swear I didn’t have any ill intention, I’m-“
The girl was hyperventilating, and sounded like she was close to tears. Something in Gilbert’s heart clenched. Thus, he also kneeled down and did what his stupid brain told him to do at that moment: he grabbed both sides of Caroline’s face, made her raise her head, and kissed her full on the lips without any hesitation.
The girl went completely still the moment their lips touched, but when Gilbert didn’t pull back and instead put more pressure in the kiss, she went pliant, daring to raise her arms to put them around Gilbert’s shoulders.
The kiss may not have lasted more than several seconds, but it took their breaths away all the same. When they eventually parted for air, Gilbert stared into Caroline’s eyes, taking in the picture of the moon and the stars that were reflected in her dark orbs.
Afraid to ruin the moment, he stood up slowly, without breaking eye contact with the mesmerizing girl still kneeling on the ground. Then, a warm, genuine smile crept up to his lips. He raised an arm, reaching out for one of the golden peaches hanging heavy on one of the lower branches. He picked the fruit gently, his smile widening at the way it glowed under the moonlight. He then kneeled down once again. Caroline’s gaze had not stopped following his movements for even one second. The young king gently grabbed Caroline’s right wrist, pulling her closer and placing the fruit on the palm of her hand.
“This… this means that I want to be with you for a long time… but you are free to accept or reject,” said Gilbert while staring into those dark brown orbs of Caroline’s eyes.
A few moments passed, neither of them moving or speaking. Then, slowly, very slowly, Caroline closed her fingers around the fruit, simultaneously raising her left hand to wrap it around Gilbert’s neck, before craning her neck slightly to kiss him once again.
At that moment, Gilbert was sure that he had gotten rid of that nasty, heavy feeling in his chest, possibly for good.