Amara tilts her head while resting on her arms on a supposed window sill, gazing upward at the stars. Usually, she would admire the way the blinking fairy lights of different shapes and sizes would swirl and churn amongst themselves. The way it seemed as though they were sprinkled throughout the heavens so there is a star in every direction. She would normally raise her hands in an attempt to reach for one because it was so surreal that she wanted to keep one for herself. However, she simply huffs and looks back into the room she is in. There was no light, quite opposite of the lands outside that are illuminated by the whimsical heavenly bodies. Surrounded by three cement walls and metal bars at the front that are the only things untainted. “I can’t even enjoy the starlight because of this wretched place,” she thinks. The rest of the so-called room is anything but undefiled. The stench of urine overpowered the aroma of the wet grass and dandelions outside, causing Amara to grimace. Just then, a man armed with a baton, tasers and a gun appeared in the distance.
“Oi, you there! Guard! When are you guys gonna tell me why I’m in here?!” she yells while roughly running her hand through her hair, making it slightly dishevelled. She pauses, waiting for an answer as she fixes her half mask of a bunny. No response. “You know, it’s rude to simply arrest me without a legal reason or even a warning. What you guys did was practically kidnapping! You all dragged me into the parking lot of a library and shoved me into the police car. If anything, it should be you guys in here, not me.” Amara stomps and groans when she receives no reply. The guard just stands a metre away from Amara’s cell with his arms crossed, watching her.
“Calm down, you child.” A 6”2 tall man wearing a skull mask with his short dark brown curls loose, snickers.
Amara turns to look at the voice mocking her. Time seems to stop as she focuses solely on the man, hearing nothing but the drumming of her heart hammering against her chest. Quickly, Amara masks her enthusiasm with annoyance. “Colton,” she spits. Her eyes follow his every move, noticing that his hands were cuffed behind him as another officer holds them. Colton nods his head as an acknowledgment of Amara’s greeting and grins. This police officer opens the jail door, releasing the loud screech and creak that comes with it. Colton is pushed into the room with Amara after being uncuffed. She lets out a sigh, closing her eyes while walking to the back of the cell and slouches onto the cement floor. The freezing temperature of the ground seeps through her thin black skirt causing her breaths to rise in puffs and hug herself tightly.
“It’s been a while.” He murmurs, following suit to her actions, grunting as he sits beside her.
She inwardly groans but stays quiet. “Why did you have to show up in my life now? What am I supposed to do this time around? Should I continue to pull away before I fall too deep?” She asks herself, conflicted while opening her eyes. On the other hand, the boy wore a huge smile behind his mask.
“Did you speed again or jump from one rooftop to another?” He asks mischievously.
Amara looks away for a minute or two before finally giving in for the sake of communicating with another being. “I didn’t do anything this time.” Colton tilts his head in a questioning manner, urging her to go on. “I was just in the library reading more about the kingdom of Ederrassi’s history when these doofuses practically shoved their royal badges in my face and dragged me outside to their police car. And now I’m here.”
“You were reading about your kingdom’s history? Don’t you already know everything that has to do with Ederrassi?”
“...Really? That’s what you find interesting from what I just said? Not the fact that I said that these armed men dragged me outside and forced me in here? Wow,” she looks at him in disbelief, “I was practically kidnapped!”
“So I’ve heard. You could’ve run away from them though, you’re the fastest person in the track team for a reason.”
“Did I say they were armed? Because they were. In case you forgot, that means they had weapons that can hurt a being so bad that you may be hospitalised. But yeah, I should’ve risked my life, risking the royal bloodline of the Ederrassi Kingdom and ran. Smart.”
He raises both his hands up in surrender. Before they knew it, they were surrounded by an awkward silence. The two haven’t seen each other in a year, they were the best of friends back in the day.
“What happened?” He questions ever so quietly that Amara had to strain her ears to hear.
“I already told you-”
“I meant.. It’s been a year, Amara. You disappeared on me.” His eyes filled with hurt finds their way to hers, searching for regret or sadness. But the look on her face wasn’t anything he was expecting. Rather, the lack thereof. Amara became expressionless and distant in a matter of seconds before casually looking away. Determined to get an answer for why he had to suffer a year stuck in a never-ending heartbreak, he speaks. “Did our time together mean nothing to you? We grew up together. Do you even remember when we would sneak out into the gardens of Laxaria just to meet each other because your parents, the king and queen of Ederrassi were not so fond of us being together? You came to me, crying about how they started to fight and banned you from ever seeing me. You said it was because you told them that you liked me. You were so caught up in the moment that you didn’t even realise that you confessed. I didn’t say anything about it then because I knew that was not your first priority at the time. But my heart skipped a beat when you said that. You would tease me for not being able to run for more than one minute, calling me unathletic and a stick. I would just join you in laughing before I teased you back for being manlier than the boys in our year level in school. We would climb up the biggest tree in all of Laxaria and cuddle as we watched movies on my phone.” When Colton heard nothing come out of Amara’s mouth, his hopes of becoming what they once were or hopefully more slowly diminished. Until his heart started aching, pleading for relief did he set on his goals again.
“It’s night. We should sleep.” Amara uttered in monotone. Shuffling as she crosses her legs and slowly falls asleep.
Colton didn’t say anything. He watched the girl before him with raven hair and bunny half-mask, he recognises this behaviour of hers. She would emotionally distance herself as a way of running away from confrontation or as a way of getting ready to leave. He hoped it was only the former for he cannot bear the thought of losing her again. Especially now. He gently pulls Amara closer to him so she lays on his chest comfortably as he falls into a deep slumber as well. To say that he was utterly crushed by the result of the morrow was putting it lightly.
The sun is still firmly below the horizon when Amara awakes to her arms wrapped around a man’s torso as his arms are wrapped around hers. She fights the beckoning of her dreams to fall back asleep with every blink and slowly lifts up her head to look at the owner of her pillow. Colton. She looks down to witness their limbs tangled together and comes to the conclusion that they cuddled throughout the night. Amara takes this opportunity to bathe in his presence once more after not being able to for a year. She stayed there staring at him while hugging him tightly until the sun rose higher, rousing more colours from the sleepy monochrome of the night. Sunlight struggled to get past the metal bars in the window, hitting the skin on her legs. At this moment it was just them, their own world where life allowed them to be together once more. Unfortunately, this moment is broken by the deafening slam of the solid metal door and screeching as it scrapes the floor, bringing chills to Amara’s spine. “It sounded like a dying animal who wept from pain. They really need to grease that. My poor ears. Colton’s poor ears!” Her thoughts are interrupted when men wearing all black walk in with various masks that are so frightening, Amara believes that she will be the dead animal.
Dragged by her hands, limbs all tied, cloth in mouth and a sack over her head, Amara now sits in a vehicle going at a speed of 135km/hour. She would tumble and hit her head onto the car’s window with every turn. Letting out a frustrated cry, she attempts to spit out the cloth, mumbling incoherent curses to her kidnappers every so often. What felt like years, the car finally came to an abrupt halt causing Amara to almost fly forward and out of the windscreen if it wasn’t for the arms that held her shoulders in place. She is then tossed onto the shoulder of a man who seemed to have a strong build, towering over the other men as he walked passed. Amara wiggles and kicks to get out of his hold but it was to no avail. She stops and listens to how a voice informed the man carrying her that the preparation is ready. “Preparation? What- if I was supposed to be a guest to a party then they could’ve just asked,” she says, attempting to lighten up her mood, “Oh who am I kidding? Whoever they are, they’re probably going to kill me… Yeahhh no duh, Amara. Stupid.”
“I’m going to place you on a chair. Are you going to be a good girl and sit still and be quiet?” His voice is smooth as honey that sounds as if he is from the heavens above yet he also holds power over his words.
“Good.. Good girl? Who does this man think he is? Just because you sound hot does not mean you have the right to boss me around without introducing yourself to me first. Wait, scratch that. You shouldn’t boss me around anyway since we’re strangers.. He kidnapped you, he probably has a gun aimed at you right now, Amara.. Fair,” she debates with herself before finally nodding.
Setting Amara down, she keeps her breath steady and sits in an alert manner. The sack is lifted off her and the cloth gently pulled out. Blinded by the sudden brightness, she winces and closes her eyes again. The lights are then dimmed, helping her eyes to adjust. Once it does, she stares at the man in front of her. “Hmm. I’d say he’s about 6”4, no tribal tattoos indicating which kingdom he’s from, just from what I can see anyway, that black suit is really not helping. He’s all covered up.”
He shuffles closer and roughly takes off Amara’s bunny mask. “Now listen here, princess. That is if you want your kingdom to survive,” he demanded.
“My kingdom? What do you mean? Who are you exactly?”
“That doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that when the clock strikes midnight-”
“WhEn tHe ClOcK StrIkES MidNiGhT, pfft,” she laughs before rolling her eyes, “so original.”
The cocking of a gun aimed at her shuts Amara up and makes her gulp visibly. “As I was saying, you have until midnight to gather your best soldiers and hand them over to me or Ederrassi will be destroyed along with your little boyfriend, Prince Colton of Evreyn.”
Amara’s eyes widen in shock as she comes to the realisation that this man standing in front of her is the reason why they all had to wear masks out in Aelbourne, the neutral ground. Masks became necessary a few years back when the emperor got word that one of the kingdoms are planning to take over and go rogue.
“Don’t you dare hurt him,” she says with venom.
Meanwhile, at the other end of Aelbourne is Colton who is desperately looking for Amara. Sweat falls continuously while he fights the breeze that comes with running. His lungs constrict and oxygen struggles to get in, his heart pays in consequence… Days pass and he continues his search. His family begs him to stop but he doesn’t listen. His heart slowly deteriorates from all the exhaustion and he collapses to the ground. Colton being hospitalised minutes after being found on a field, Amara dashes to him when she hears of the news. On the way to the royal hospital in Evreyn, bloodied bodies both dead and alive can be seen. Despite her worry and curiosity, she stays focused on the matter at hand. She was about to open the door to his room when she heard talking inside.
“You don’t have long to live, Prince Colton. We tried everything already but you put too much stress on your heart that the damage is irreversible.”
“I understand, doc.”
“If I may ask my prince, why were you running for days in a row when you know you have a very serious heart problem?”
At that, Amara bursts through the door, “You have a heart problem and you didn’t even tell me?!”
“Amara!” he exclaims, shock written all over his face.
“I’ll leave you two to it then. Excuse me.” The doctor leaves after glancing at the two lovebirds with pity.
“You can’t die, Colton.”
“And why not?” he furrows his brows in anger.
“What do you mean why not?”
“It’s not like you care. Even if I did live, you’re just going to leave again. That’s what you always do.”
“What, no excuses?”
“I never wanted to leave you. Colton, I. I love you. I was forced to get away from you for your own sake. I was told that, that-,” before she could finish her words, Amara could no longer hold back the tear ducts running on her face. She gasps and heaves as she wipes them away, only to be replaced with new ones. Seeing her struggle, Colton sighs and pulls her for an embrace.
“Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay,” he soothingly pats her on the back, “whatever your reason is, I can tell you probably had no choice.”
She swiftly shakes her head, “No, I didn’t. I promise.”
“Okay, I believe you.”
“I believe you. If you’re lying while you’re here crying so hard in front of me then you’re one hell of an actress. But I’d rather die believing that what you said is true and that you love me. Don’t you think?”
Amara simply stares at him. “Let’s go to the garden outside,” he smiles. Not questioning the dying boy in front of her, Amara follows him as he quickly weaves through the hallways. “Are you sure you’re dying? You seem lively to me,” she jokes, trying to ease her anxiety.
“C’mon!” he jogs to her and pushes her to go faster. Reaching the garden, Amara is awestruck by a cherry blossom tree standing at the centre in all its glory. “I asked for them to plant one here ever since we were younger just for this day,” he confesses. “Amara,” he kneels onto one knee.
“Is he doing what I think he is doing?. The last wish of a dying man,” she ponders.
“Will you marry me?”
“It’s not fair. I wished for this moment to be a happy one, not bittersweet. Oh, how life must hate us,” she admits, “Of course I’ll marry you, my prince.”
A wide toothy smile takes over Colton’s face. “Now, do you, Amara Knight, take me, Colton Bardolf, as your husband who will love and cherish you forever?”
“I do, I am all yours,” she giggles, “Do you Colton Bardolf, take me, Amara Knight as your wife who will remember you forever with so much love?”
They share a gentle kiss that secures their love for one another before pulling away. The sun finally begins to set in the horizon, spreading its beauty across the lands. Painting the baby blue in the sky with rich hues of red blended with oranges and purples. Amara stares for a moment, only to look back at her husband with now glossy eyes, “I can’t lose you.” She bites onto her bottom lip to stop it from shaking, her heart breaks at the thought of him leaving this world forever. “You won’t, you can always find me here,” he points at her chest.
“I will love you forever, Colton.”
“And I will forever love you a thousand times more. Death will not do us part, Amara.”
The dusk comes as a promise of starlight. Slowly, those brilliant pearls of the night become visible through the black velvet layers. They lay under them which serve as a safety blanket over their heads. A blanket that manages to fight the eeriness that darkness has. Creating their own universe, deaf to the cries and woes that the war brings, located 100 metres away. They remained gazing at the starry night and during so, a shooting star appeared. It came and went, stealing Colton’s last breath with it. Amara refuses to look at him as her body begins to tremble while a sob erupts deep from her throat that she tried so hard to suppress. The sound of footsteps grow louder and faster with the shouts of the rogues but she simply stares up at the stars as her quiet sobs fill their universe.