It was less than an hour by carriage, but she didn’t want to take the carriage, she wanted to ride. You convinced her not to. You said it would be safer for the baby for her to be ensconced in the cushioned carriage seat, and not bouncing around in the saddle. She’d scowled at you, both because of your eloquent description of the riding she loved so much, and because she knew you were right.

“Fine,“ she‘d agreed exasperatedly, “but only for the baby.“

You replay that moment now, The last word she said to you before getting in the carriage. You wonder if you’ll ever see that flash of fire in her eyes when she’s angry again. If you’ll ever see her mouth twist into an irritated scalp , or turn up into her beautiful smile. Will you ever see her lips twitch again as she tries to hold back a laugh, or part when you lean in to kiss her?

Stop it, you tell yourself firmly, just stop it. There’s no use asking yourself such questions, they’ll do nothing but heighten your anxiety and concern for her which has already become all-consuming.

You’ve tried not to look at her from the moment you brought her here, so far you’ve managed it. But all at once you know longer can and your eyes are drawn inexorably towards where she lays on the spring green grass a few feet away.

Her eyes are closed, her face is deathly pale, but her chest, you see with great relief is still rising and falling, although far more slowly than it ought to be. You look at her and your thoughts once again return to this morning’s carriage ride, the place where in the blink of an eye, it all went so terribly wrong.

She’d spent most of the journey staring out the window at the green fields and tall trees which lay beyond the glass. You thought at first that perhaps she was still angry at your insistence on taking the carriage. Maybe she was imagining herself galloping through the green grass along the side of the road, how much quicker the journey would have been that way.

You were about to say something, tell her that you hadn’t meant to make her cross, but she turned to face you and it had been clear from her expression that anger had not been what had made her so quiet.

You’d leaned toward her, taken her hand in yours and asked her gently what was wrong. For it was clear from the unsettled look in her sapphire eyes that something was.

She’d looked at you directly then, her bright blue gaze meeting yours squarely. You’d known before she spoke that you weren’t going to like whatever it was she was about to say. You hadn’t tried to forestall her; however, all that mattered to you was that she trusted you enough to share her deepest thoughts, even in perhaps most especially when they were troublesome ones.

“I’m frightened,“ she’d said the words in a whisper as if half hoping you wouldn’t hear. “I’m frightened because I’m not sure how they’ll react.“

Her words had surprised you. You’d thought perhaps she was going to say that she was frightened about the pregnancy. You were, who wouldn’t be. You were both first-time parents, each rather far along in years to have a child. But you were also healthy, well established in your relationship and social status in society. You had no concerns over finances, nor about what others would say. You were married after all, and had been for several years. 

“Surely they’ll be happy for you, for us,“ you’d said giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.. 

“ Of course they’ll be happy,“ she’d said, returning the pressure of your fingers with her own, “that’s not what I’m worried about. I’m sure they’ll be over the moon.”

“Then what is it that worries you?“ 

She’d glanced away for a moment, fixing her gaze on a loose thread which dangled from the hem of her tunic. Running her fingers along it absentmindedly she’d looked back up at you and said, “I’m just worried that they’ll be obsessed with possible complications. You know what they are both like, mother is always 10 steps ahead of where she actually is. She’ll be giving me all the precautions for seven months before you know it, never mind that we’re not even at the halfway mark yet. And father well, you know, he doesn’t say much but when he does it’s usually serious and contains a warning of some kind.”

Relieved that this was all that troubled her you’d quickly reassured her, “Cassandra, your parents love you and want what’s best for you, If they worry overly then it’s only because they’re trying to show you how much they care. you’d placed a hand on her knee and continued, “but if it’ll make you feel better I’ll do my best to run interference. If it seems like one or the other of them are getting too comfortable with the rattling off of possible disasters,“ you had given her a crooked smile, “I’ll do my best to head them off and steer the conversation into a more favorable, and practical, direction.”

The concern which had been clouding her dark blue eyes had lifted slightly, “Thank you, that will definitely help.“ She‘d leaned forward on the carriage seat and without giving you a chance to reply, pressed her lips to your cheek in a butterfly brush of a kiss. 

You can still feel the soft, feather light sensation now. You hold onto it, replaying every exquisite detail of the fleeting feeling in your mind, desperate not to lose a single second of the precious memory. Because as you watch the slow, laborious rise and fall of Cassandra’s chest, as you clock the movements of the black cled healers swarming around her like ants on a picnic blanket, you can’t help thinking that that fleeting brush of a kiss may be the last you will ever share.

Her lips had still been on your cheek, when the world exploded. There’d been an earsplitting crack, and then the unmistakable sound of shattering glass. Cassandra had screamed and you’d thrown yourself across the carriage seat toward her.

 The horses winnied in alarm and frantically tried to free themselves from their traces. The carriage jerked beneath you and then spun. You’d covered Cassandra’s body with your own, pressed her between you and the seat cushions, done your best to shield her, but it hadn’t been enough.

You felt the ripple of air as it flew past your cheek, you heard The whoosh of wind as it speared toward its target. It happened so fast, was over so quickly, that by the time your mind was able to process what was going on it was already far too late.

The bullet had struck Cassandra in the collarbone. It hadn’t hit any major veins or arteries, but she’d been unconscious from the moment it had penetrated her skin. The healers had explained that the shell had been coded with poison, one the likes of which they had never seen before. They were laboring furiously to find an antidote, they’ve been working over her all morning and into the afternoon. You notice distantly that light has begun to fade, evening must be approaching. It doesn’t seem possible that just this morning your biggest Worry had been convincing Cassandra to take the carriage instead of riding her beloved horse.

A thought occurs to you and you sit bolt upright in horror. If you’d let her ride her horse the way she wanted to, if you had”t convinced her to take the carriage, then none of this would’ve happened. She would have easily been able to bolt away on her trusty gelding at the first sign of trouble.. 

“My Lord, my Lord I think the healers have something to tell you.“ The words, spoken by Arden, your faithful squire and oldest friend, break into your spiraling train of thought. He is standing in front of you, you get the feeling that perhaps he has been for sometime and you have been so wrapped up in regret over the days events that you only now realize it. 

When you speak your voice cracks from having been unused for the past several hours, “report.“ Your tone is Kurt, not polite as it should be, but you don’t have the energy for dicorem right now.

Miriam, an older woman with long gray hair who has been the head of the Palace healers for as long as you can remember is the one who speaks. “My Lord,“ she says, “we are cautiously optimistic about lady Cassandra‘s condition. My fellow healers and I believe we may have found a possible antidote to the poison. We have administered it to your wife, and it is exhibiting promising results. She is still unconscious as you can see, but her breathing has stabilized and the levels of toxins in her blood have slowly begun to diminish.”

“Thank God.” You don’t know if you speak the words out loud, but you must because Miriam falls silent. You don’t want to ask the question, you don’t want to hear the answer, You don’t think you’ll be able to bear it if it’s a negative one. But you must . If the situations were reversed and you were the one injured, if your life was tied to that of your child the way Cassandra’s now is, then you know what she would do. Cassandra would have the courage to ask what she needed to, and so you must find it within yourself to be that brave.

You clear your throat, bite your lip, take a deep breath, and finally ask, “And the baby?“

Miriam’s expression Titans, her lips pressed together and she looks at you grimly. ““I’m afraid we don’t know my Lord. The baby is alive and does not appear to have been injured, But we won’t know for sure until he has been born. As we have not encountered this poison before, we do not know what its effects might be on his development end…“

You cut her off, “He? Cassandra is having a boy?”

Miriam‘s face softens, becomes slightly less grim.“Yes my lord, that is correct. In about six months if I’m not mistaken, you will have a son.“

A son. Cassandra and you are having a son. You thought it would be a girl, but Cassandra always said she believed it was a boy. She was right apparently. You shouldn’t be surprised, she usually is.

You don’t know what the future holds. You don’t know what impact the poison may have on Cassandra or the baby. You don’t know what the long-term consequences of your actions today, of your failure to protect your wife and child, may be. But right now, the woman you love and the child she carries are both alive. And right now, that’s all that matters.

July 10, 2020 03:19

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Amber Griffith
19:23 Jul 16, 2020

This was so sweet! I couldn't stop reading. I liked the part where the narrator described Cassandra's anger and smile and kiss and wondered if he'd ever see or feel any of those things again. It gave both him and Cassandra personality, and it was a really good way to introduce both of those characters.


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Batool Hussain
13:16 Jul 12, 2020

I read this story in an instant:) This is soo good! Mind checking out my new story and giving your views on it? Thanks.


Tessa Gray
22:11 Jul 12, 2020

Thanks for reading. I’m glad you liked it. Can you send me a link to your story?


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