Chapter Eight Part three

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“What do you do for fun?”
He sighed,“Fun?  I don’t think a prince and fun could be used in one phrase, especially not in Bohemia castle.  My father expects me to be in meetings with landlords, solicitors and briefing Carnell’s unit all day, every day.”

We touched on every subject and filled our stomachs to capacity.  I remembered Laila’s  chain with the keys and other things hanging from it.
“Oh, that is called a chatelaine. A woman who owns or controls a large house, usually wears a set of short chains on a belt.  By tradition, the woman of the household would be in possession of it all of the was my mother’s property.  When her illness progressed to such a degree, that she couldn’t take responsibility for valuables, it was handed over to Laila.  That would make her the woman with the keys to all the many desks, chest of drawers, food hampers, pantries, storage containers, and many other locked cabinets.
“That is a big responsibility and I gather Laila was the perfect candidate.  Is that why it is hidden under her apron?”
“You miss nothing, do you?”
“Just happened to notice it earlier in the kitchen…” He was looking at me, as if, staring into my soul. 

I felt unnerved..
“Why don’t you trust men?”  That was unexpected.
“What exactly makes you think that?”
“Your whole attitude, like now, trying to deny it, being hostile.”
“I was not!” It seems that we have spent enough time here.  I wasn’t in the mood for twenty questions!  He saw my distress, but he wasn’t planning on leaving it at that.
“Do you trust me?  Enough?”
“With what exactly?”
"With your secrets, your deepest uncertainties in life?  Or am I asking too much for someone who has known you such a short time?”
“You hardly know me…I’ve been hurt badly by someone from my past.  I can’t say that I have fond memories of relationships and to top it off- Aldrich…. I thought I knew him.”
“You didn’t know him well enough”, he looked at me intently, “Don’t’ blame yourself for it.  Besides, memories are important.  The remembrance of them, determine how well you handle them.  I know from experience that bad ones only get muzzled and filed back where they came from.”  He sipped his wine leisurely.

  I had to agree.  It was the truth, but easier said than done.  “Let’s start with something small.  You say you are scared of horses?”
“Well then, that is where we’ll start.  I’ll help you overcome your fear of horses.  I want you to get on a horse on your own and ride it as if your life depended on it.  Will you do that for me?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“I need you to trust me and I want you to be free.  To live your life to the fullest.  I want you to be happy.”
“But why?  I can’t enjoy my life while dying inside from longing for my family.”
“Steph, I know it’s easy for me to say because I’m not in your shoes, but will you allow me to try and help you?”
“If it is that important to you?”  He nodded.  I couldn’t understand his compassion towards me.  Why would he waste his time on someone who can do nothing for him in return?  He lifted my chin and answered me, as if he read my mind.
“You are worthy.” 

This was getting out of hand and I knew my thoughts were starting to gather into a full-blown emotional eruption.  I wanted to get up, but he held me back.
“I want to leave now, take me back.”
“No, unless you can get on that horse yourself.”
“What do you want from me?!”
“Sit here, lay your head on my shoulder.  You don’t have to look me in the eye.  Tell me about that man that made you such a fearful young woman.”

A few sighs were uttered, the one more prolonged than the other.  He waited.  I put my head agaist his shoulder and listened to his calm breathing, I noticed his slender toes, the same as his fingers and the little tufts of dark hair on his big toes.  This is actually the first time that someone pertinently  asked me about Alan.  Someone wanted to hear me tell my sad story…as if I was in a psychiatrist’s office.  Only, it was so much more liberating under this big tree with Boaz, coming real close to graze at our feet. 

I could smell the horse, hear its loud breathing and the sounds made by its teeth plucking the juicy bits of green grass before eating it.  I told him everything, all of it and of course, the accompanying sobbing was never far behind.  He just listened.  He didn’t judge and he didn’t preach and that was what I needed.  I felt tired and worn out, but my soul felt lifted of a huge burden that’s been suppressed for too long and suddenly grew paler in intensity.  I sat up and didn’t care that I might look like a mess in a prince’s company.  He must have seen the relief on my face and looked satisfied.

“Feeling a bit better?”
“Much better and….thank you.”  I could look into his eyes.
It reminded me of what I saw that early morning, when he squatted in front of me in his sitting room, while I was sobbing.  It was his eyes. Not only were they striking and exceptional, but they were kind and gentle and above all, sincere.  He cupped my face with his hands, and said a last few words.

“When you can one day tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, that’s when you know you’ve healed.” 
No truer words than those.  He took a book that was laying on the grass next to him and opened it at some specific place to begin reading to me.  I tilted my upper body backwards and lay with my head on his lap.  This was such an inspiring delight!  I could look up at his face and listen to him reading.  It was a treat, as I soon found out.  He was reciting a poem: The First Kiss Of Love by  George Gordon Byron.  I knew this piece very well!

“Away with your fictions of flimsy romance;
Those tissues of falsehood which folly has wove
Give me the mild beam of the soul-breathing glance,
Or the rapture which dwells on the first kiss of love.

Ye rhymers, whose bosoms with phantasy glow,
Whose pastoral passions are made for the grove;
From what blest inpiration your sonnets would flow,
Could you ever have tasted the first kiss of love!”

I listened attentively and joined in at the last two sentences.  He was surprised that I knew the words by heart.  I told him that English literature was my passion and we talked about our favourite writers.  Before he closed the book, I saw a piece of paper with his handwriting, used as a bookmark.

“May I?”
“Of course.”  I took the folded sheet and read the words on it.  It was Psalm 56 verse 11.  In God I trust.  I shall not fear….
“Beautiful…” I remarked.
“Yes, words to live by.” Looking down at me, he smiled, touched the tip of my nose and used his forefinger to trace the outlines of my jaw.
I wanted this moment to last forever, but we had to go back to reality….
“We should probably go back.  It’s getting dark,” he said.  I sat up and started putting on the boots.  “Let Lily take you to Delbert Huber, for your shoes tomorrow.”
“Thank you, it would be so kind.  How can I ever repay the Montecutes for all that you’ve given me?  I have no money.  I should find a job.”
“All in due time.  If you want, I can help you find something, a teaching position perhaps?” I was glad to hear those words. 

The longing to work with children was getting the better of me.  We packed up and mounted Boaz.  I felt content, reliving the events of the afternoon.  Is this man for real?  I have never met someone quite like him.  It seemed that the chapters of my new beginning was only now, being written.  Riding back, he put his head on my shoulder at times, while speaking.  Some slender fingers loosened the band around my hair and it tumbled down to my shoulders.  He disheveled it further and I heard the words: “ravishing.”  I just laughed at his skillful use of humor, something I’ve learned to love about him.

  It was dark when we reached the castle.  There was still movement in the corridors and kitchen.  We went upstairs and stopped at my room.
“Thank you for a wonderful day Aland.  It truly meant the world to me.”
“My pleasure.  I thought it would.” As I reached to open the door of my room, he took me by the shoulders.  “You are so beautiful Steph.  I wish you could believe it.  Every day since you came, I hoped to somehow catch a glimpse of you.  Have a good night.” He kissed me on top of my untidy head of hair.
“Goodnight Aland, the day was very special.” I smiled sincerely and watched him touch his door’s handle and looked back at me one last time.

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