Falling in love at first sight, was not an idea I heard throughout my childhood. I grew up hunting in the woods for survival, where my parents taught me all of their skills pertaining to living in the wilderness. They were the ones that told me how to properly skin a wild animal while also looting a royal carriage, and not get caught. To be able to stave off hunger when the winter was harsh, and there wasn’t a variety of easily accessed food. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to continue living in the woods after their deaths.
One particularly harsh winter after I gained adulthood, I had been sneaking after a fox, when suddenly there were loud horse hooves and men’s voices shouting very close to me. I must have ventured further away from home than I realized, and was by the trail that only the royals used because they liked the scenery that accompanied it. Everyone knew it was just an excuse not to be seen throughout the main village, but I liked when they came through. It reminded me that my world was much bigger than it seemed.
The Royal Family consisted of a King and Queen with their one daughter being my age, if not a few years older. She was beautiful, and because the King and Queen had insisted upon everyone in the land having a painting of their family, I was able to see the Princess daily. Even if she was frozen in time by the painter’s hand. Yet as a carriage came into view, my thoughts were not of the Princess but rather, what would they do if they saw me trespassing on royal land? The royal family had prohibited hunting this far off of personal property.
I darted behind a tree and held my bow close to me. I could hear they had stopped, and by the shouting, something had broken from their carriage. Peeking from behind the thick oak, I could see that the two valets had no idea as to how to fix a wooden wheel, one that had fallen off and shattered. I held back a scoff, since there was nothing they could do to fix it out here. They gave the Princess a sword, and claimed they were going to walk back to the kingdom to seek out the blacksmith. Why would anyone leave the Princess unguarded with such a foolish plan?
As they began to walk away, I waited until they were out of sight before I approached the carriage. The Princess looked bored as she sat with a sword upon her pink satin dress. She stared aimlessly out the window at nothing in particular. What was I doing? I knew better than to approach someone of such royalty and yet, here I was.
“Can I help you m’lady?” I asked when I was a few feet from the open door. Her head spun to face me, and I saw that she was more beautiful than any portrait I had ever seen. Did I dare say it was love at first sight? At the same time, however, she didn't seem scared or disgusted by my presence. Indifferent.
“No, my servants are on their way back to the kingdom to seek out the blacksmith. He will fix this, and I will soon be on my way,” She said curt but sweet, as though her voice dripped honey.
“A blacksmith cannot fix a wooden wheel, they specialize with metals and industrial lumber.”
“And what would a commoner such as yourself know of the capabilities of a blacksmith?”
“A commoner? Oh no, m’lady, I am much further down on the social scale than a commoner,” I chuckled all the while cursing myself for seeming such a fool to someone of nobility.
“Well prey tell then, what are you?”
“I’m not sure, actually. I’ve never had to think about it to converse with a royal before.”
She nodded. Perhaps I should have taken this as my queue to leave, but something seemed to be holding me back. I wanted to keep talking to her, so I took a step closer to the carriage. The pink in her cheeks seemed to bloom as her eyes widened.
“You’re a thief, aren’t you?” She said gripping her hand around the hilt of her sword.
“No, no that is one thing that I am not.”
“Then why are you approaching me? A woman dressed in men’s clothing carrying a bow and quiver of arrows? I have no gold on me. I am basically useless.”
“M’lady, I was out hunting and strayed too far from my land. If my outfit and presence offends you, then I will take my leave.”
“No. You do not offend me. I apologize. I’m just not used to having normal conversations with, well, normal people,” Her grip loosened on the hilt.
“Normal people?” I laughed.
“When you’re the Princess, it’s an endless parade of tea parties with snobbish cousins and court ships with men you’re not attracted too.”
“Surely there has to be a few handsome lads out there.”
“It’s not the problem of whether or not they’re handsome. It’s the fact that I simply cannot look at any man and find an attraction there.”
I took this in shock. How could someone who was raised so nobally, be the same as I? It was virtually unheard of, and when it was mentioned, it was in gossip and disgust.
“I’ve offended you, haven’t I?” She said in dismay. “You wouldn’t be the first person.”
“No, not at all! In fact, I feel the same way as you.”
There was a silence between us as we admitted to something that society would frown upon and turn away from. I knew I had to break the silence though, there was no way I couldn’t continue talking to her.
“My parents expect me to carry on the bloodline,” She sighed with the exhale that indicated she had been holding this in for quite some time. “But nothing inside of me yearns to bear children, or have a husband. My family suffers in dismay upon it of course, and expect me to change, but how can you change something you have no control over?”
“I don’t think there is a way to change,” I said, leaning against the open door of the carriage. “There is no control over the feelings that harbor us.”
“How did you know you were, well, like me?”
“My parents tried to force a man into my life a few years ago. Not only was he a total slob, but I didn't feel those feelings of warmth with him that most young ladies would.”
“And your parents, did they disapprove?”
“They died the next winter. They never found out about my true feelings.”
“My condolences. It can’t have been easy living all on your own since.”
“It’s not the easiest life, but I make do,” I gave a small smile.
“You seem to be thriving, I’m sorry if I offended you at first with my accusations.” She smiled at me. Was the Princess of the Royal Family attempting to flirt with me? The sunlight from the small carriage window cascaded down around her shoulders as though the heavens were trying to create a halo of clairvoyant beauty.
“There’s no need to be sorry, m’lady. Most people do frown when I visit the market. They wonder how I will be able to attract a man, but I do not listen to them. After all, why dwell on things that are already so difficult, when there are things out there that can make us so unimaginably happy?”
“Where has a woman like you been all my life?” She glanced down in an effort to try and hide her wide toothy smile. There wasn’t a way I couldn’t have noticed, I was transfixed.
“Living in the woods, and being avoided by nobility,” I chuckled as she looked up.
There was another moment of silence, the two of us smiling at each other, with warm afternoon air, and the feelings of young love surrounding us. Cicadas purred in the distance as birds sang above our heads.
“Come sit next to me,” She patted the empty cushion on the seat next to her.
Unable to resist, I tucked my bow into my quiver, and set it down by the oak. With one quick leap, I entered the carriage, and sat down on the luxurious seat. I couldn’t help myself as I looked at the artwork that had been carved into the ceiling. It reminisced the heavens, and was shown with large sweeping gestures that could sweep one off their feet.
“Do you like it?” She whispered. I let out a breath I didn't realize I had been holding. Her brown eyes were tilted up towards me, and it took everything I had in me not to glance down at her lips. How could I be in this situation where a member from the royal family was interested in me, and pulling at heartstrings I weren’t aware of their being on my sleeve?
“Beautiful,” I whispered back. Her eyes glanced down at my lips, and I couldn’t help but look down at hers. Pink and parted with the need to be kissed. I noticed she was leaning in, her face slowly approaching mine. I tilted towards her, and as our lips brushed, our worlds collided, but the men’s voices were shouting once more.
We instantly sprang apart, my first reaction was to run. I leapt out of the carriage as arrows began whizzing by me. The men were shouting because they had seen a figure, and suspected the Princess of being robbed. She was hanging out of the carriage, as I looked back one last time, shouting for the men to stop. Her pink dress had began blowing in the wind as her dark hair drowned her in desperation.
I quickly ran with all my might, until I was sure I had lost the two men. Collapsing with tension filling my entire body, I laid my head down against a mossy log. I would never be able to see her again, her parents would never allow for it. But somehow, I had fallen in love, and so had she.