Love is not in our choice but in our fate.
John Dryden (1631-1700)
When she awoke her head was spinning. She tried rubbing her eyes, but darkness surrounded her. Moving her hands slowly around, she felt the cold, hard floor that she was lying on; a chill spiraled up her spine with fearsome intensity. Leaning back against the equally cold wall, she hugged her knees to her chest, either for warmth or a pointless quest of security, and she tucked her bare feet beneath the folds of the thinning dress she wore. Resting her head on her knees, she tried to recall the events of the day.
Images of people flickered across her mind, but one face stayed still. It was the memory of his face that triggered her memory. She could see herself standing underneath a moss covered bridge, her bare feet partially covered by the water, but she was not alone. The image became clearer and she realized that she was in the arms of a man, in the arms of her man, her love. He was holding her and whispering to her that he would never lose her. The next thing that happened startled her and the memory almost disappeared, but she held onto it and could see three men appearing next to her and her lover. The men separated the young couple and securely held them apart. Even though her lover tried fighting, the strong man that held him would not loosen his grip. Two of the men took hold of the girl and carried her off, against her protesting screams. The last thing that she could remember was the loud responding cries of her true love. Opening her eyes, the realization of what had happened washed over her. They had been caught! Her mind always knew they would be eventually, but her heart knew that she never wanted to lose the only man who had ever truly shard her feelings. They had both known all along that their forbidden romance was dangerous, and that being caught would only result in suffering. That is why they swore never to be caught. Tears began streaming down her face.
What is to become of me? What is to become of him? Lying down on the damp, hard ground she soon had cried herself to sleep. An hour or so later a noise awoke her. A dim light appeared to the right of her, steadily increasing. Within moments she was able to see the hazy outline of a long staircase that winded up and away from her. A man's shadow loomed out of the darkness in front of her; he held a stubby candle. She backed away. He approached her and roughly demanded that she stand. She feared his tone but did not comply. Taking her arm in his large, strong hand, he pulled her to her feet and tied her hands in front of her body. As he rudely pushed her towards the stairs, she stepped on something sharp and let out a cry.
"Silence," he demanded.
In the faint light she could see a thin stream of blood running down her foot. She swallowed another cry rising in her throat and stumbled on. The man led her up the stairs to a small, but heavy, wooden door. He opened it with no more effort than he would use to lift a small stick; however, he had to bend down in order to fit his tall frame through the doorway. The petite girl walked through easily enough, without having to duck her head. Finding herself in a dark corridor occupied by three more men, with long muskets visible at their sides, began to frighten her.
"Where do I take her?" the man that held her asked the other men.
They motioned ahead and the girl was soon dragged up another flight of even steeper stairs, not knowing what doom awaited her at the top. She did not have to wait long. The burly man led her into a large room lighted from the sun shining only slightly through the barred windows that lined the upper half of the tall walls. Tables and benches, crowded along the walls, were filled by unshaven, war-worn men, who stared candidly as the timid girl walked past. She could feel their impish ogling as their eyes studied her figure. Suddenly self-conscious, she became shy and embarrassed, feeling like one of the lewd harlots who displayed themselves in impure show for the rich men's lustful pleasures at one of the brothels in London. The innocent young girl disgusted herself with the comparing thought and tears clouded her brilliant crystal-blue eyes. Trying hard to ignore the leers and whistles, the girl stumbled past the men with her head hanging low. The long walk to the front of the enormous room felt like hours to the frightened girl, each second excruciating with the pain of humiliation and despair. Finally the man leading her stopped. Afraid to raise her head, because she knew well whose condescending face she would see when she looked up, the girl bit her lip and stayed very still.
"Well, well, well," the expected voice boomed from in front of her and she shook with fright. "I must admit, that when at first I heard the news of your capture, I bluntly refused to believe its validity. I see now, of course, that I was in the wrong and that you are indeed here as a captive in my camp. Well done men." The girl sensed that the man had stood and was walking towards her. All she wanted was to escape, to run far away so that she would not have to face this public shame. "You look at me when I speak to you girl!" A rough hand cupped around her chin and forced her to lift her head and look into his fierce face. There he stood, towering over her looking as though he could strike at her at any given moment. His forehead was permanently wrinkled and his eyes always in a scowl, portraying his constant ferociousness and controlling behavior. Tears again gathered in her eyes and she tried to blink them away. "What are these tears? Surely you are not so timid that you cannot even look into the face of your enemies. Surely your father raised you stronger than that." Quickly she stopped crying and glared at her offender. "There, I see he did raise you with enough sense for that, though he could not seem to train you not to be captured by the enemies." An evil laugh erupted from the general and his army that still sat behind the girl watching and waiting for her penalty. The general released his hold on her and started to return to his seat.
Suddenly she became brave, "Please sir, in my position I cannot assume to ask pardon on myself, however I must insist that you do not disgrace my father. He is a good man, and even more honorable of a general or father than you could ever aspire to."
The general became fierce and swiftly returned to her, raising his arm in threat. "Do not insult me, wench! I hold the power to end your existence if I choose."
"On what grounds sir?" she was puzzled as to why she sat here in judgment all on her own, she was confused as to why her love was not there beside her receiving equal humiliation and punishment.
A harsh slap against her cheek shushed her. "Do not mock me!" the general nearly shouted and then returned to his seat. Her cheek burned but she clenched her teeth together to keep from showing him how badly he had hurt her. A loud noise that sounded like the heavy doors opening and then clanging closed again came from behind her. The sound of running footsteps was approaching the front and soon the general spoke. "Ah, here you are. I hoped you would choose to join us, son."
The girl glanced up as the general's young, handsome son stepped up on the platform next to his father. Her eyes locked with his and she thought she saw pain hidden behind his familiar deep green eyes; she knew he could see the sadness in hers. "I must know what you plan to do with this girl." The young man spoke coldly.
"Nothing has been decided yet," the general grinned. "Perhaps you could contribute some advice on the matter."
The son appeared detached and indifferent. "It must be your decision father; I will take no part in it."
What? What does he mean? He might very well be the only person who could save me! He is the only one who holds any sway with his father, and yet he will give no advice! Could this be real? Maybe he never really cared; perhaps it really was all part of his brilliant plan in capturing me! The girl was terrified as she stared sadly into the young man's eyes. He returned her stare before looking away. No I will not believe it; I cannot. He loves me, I know he does; he must!
"Very well then, I require more time to make my decision." The general stood. "We will keep her here until I have decided how best to use her!" The crowd cheered but the general's son simply stormed out of the room, refusing to even look at her. "Lock her away!" the general commanded and the man that had earlier led her to her condemnation again took hold of her arm and led her back to the dark room she had awoken in. Nothing fazed her as she walked past all the men. She was in such a state of distress that even their crude remarks could not penetrate her mind. She did not understand how he could just abandon her like this. His father asked for his opinion and he refused to give it! Does he truly wish for me to die? Her thoughts were interrupted as a gentle hand reached out and touched her bare shoulder.
The man that was leading her stopped and began to oppose but the general's determined son shook his head. "Allow me a moment with our prisoner if you will, I never had a chance to speak my mind to her."
"Of course, but only a moment I have instructions from the general." The man released his hold on the girl and stepped away to allow the general's son a moment with the girl.
"What…" she started to speak but he stopped her, quickly pushing her into a small alcove where he was sure no one could see or hear them. She was angry with him and wanted to tell him so. But when she tried again he quieted her with a kiss. She was a little surprised at his sudden affection since he had appeared so cold only a moment ago in front of his father.
"I am so sorry, so sorry," he repeated his apology over and over until she stopped him.
"I do not want your apology. All I need is an explanation." The girl stared into his eyes trying to find the answer she was looking for.
"Nothing I could say would be appropriate, my love. The truth is I panicked. You do not understand how terrible my father can become."
She lifted her bound hands to her still burning cheek, "I think I do." She could see the pain in his eyes as he wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his cheek on hers.
"I am so sorry," he whispered sweetly into her ear. "All I can ask is that you believe me when I tell you how much I love you."
"I know," she whispered back. "I knew you would never lie to me."
"Of course I would never lie to you; I never could lie to you. You are the only thing that matters to me in this dreadful world. I promise that I will do everything I can to protect you and prove my love to you!" he pulled back and again stared into her eyes.
"You have nothing to prove to me. I can see your heart in your eyes." She smiled and they kissed again before returning to their expressionless faces and rejoining the man who was waiting to take her back to her prison. The young man watched as his love was taken away, vowing that he would figure out a way to save her.
Now let us take a trip backwards in time, to a memory of two years proceeding, to a time when these two lives were separate, where he was serious and cruel, where she was innocent and determined. To a time when there was no hope of the sky being brilliant and bright, when there was no hope of the ground being fresh and alive. Let us experience the repetitive hours of ill-mannered hardships during the time when these two young lovers had not yet met. For these days were pleasantly bitter and the people were blissfully violent. The skies were dark and clouded with the hazy scent of death. Nothing lived, or at least nothing lived for long. Everything and everyone was blindly traveling down the road to ruin. It was during these fearsome days of provocative brutality in which none dared to oppose the anger and malice or declare themselves a pacifist. It was during these same gruesome days when destiny's cruel humor chose to tangle these young people's fates so drastically that they would have no option but to comply and to fall in love…