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My heart aches for her.


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I closed my eyes.

I opened them slowly as I turned around.

"Duke Tazmain." I curtsied lightly and issued a greeting, always keeping my eyes on his shoes.

"Your highness," I could see as the Duke's feet moved. He performed a customary bow in greeting to someone of higher rank, me.

I immediately gave him leave to be at ease. By this point I was truly glad I was wearing a long dress. My legs were shaking, and it was all I could do to keep myself from falling to my knees.

I was so scared I would do something I would regret.

"I have not had the opportunity to greet you tonight, your highness." He said as he stood erect once more.

I continued to stare at his shoes, even as my heart melted as I heard his voice sounded so good. I longed to look up at his moving lips. Stare into his eyes.

My face turned red from my thoughts.

I was well trained by all my past teachers, and an answer came out of my lips despite my distraction.

"I saw you were quite busy with guests, and decided to greet you later. After all I will be visiting often, as long as you allow me to." I gave him a flimsy excuse and then whispered my deepest wish. A wish I both hope he granted and denied.

"My wife-" As soon as I heard those words my mind shut off. My ears were filled with sea wave like sounds. What he said next I did not hear, my heart was filling with agony, and that feeling overwhelmed my other senses. It was some time before I was calm enough to hear him again.

"- as such, you are always welcome here." The Duke grew quiet after his words, and appeared to be waiting for me to say something.

I deeply wished I could look at his face. I wanted to see how he looked, but if his face was full of bliss like Esmeralda's... My heart was not ready for that.

I didn't let him wait long. Though I had no idea what he had said earlier, I still thanked him politely.

"You are much too gracious Duke Tazmain." I already had my head down, but I dropped it further to show my thanks.

"Very good. Were you on your way out earlier, Your highness?" He asked as he moved closer toward me.

Just a little closer, and I would be within kissing distance if I looked up.

"I was, Duke Tazmain." I retreated two steps, just enough not to be obvious.

"Allow me to accompany you. I believe Esmeralda wanted to see you once more before you left tonight." He said as he extended a hand toward me in invitation.

I nodded and silently cringed inside. The Duke was known to be very aloof, why was he now so talkative and friendly? Why did he want to see Esmeralda together with me? I cannot go together with him, Esmeralda would know there was something wrong immediately.

I took a few steps forward toward his extended hand and then stopped.

"Duke Tazmain, if you do not mind, I would prefer to see her by myself. We have not seen each other in quite some time and I would like to share some words with her. Would that be alright?" I said the first thing that came to mind. I desperately hoped that the threat of being part of women's gossip would be enough to deter him from going with me to see Esmeralda.

"I see. I will not interfere then, Your Highness." I heard some noises behind me and I figured he was trying to give me a parting bow.

"Thank you. Good night, Duke Tazmain." I walked away slowly, doing my best not to trip on my dress.

In my mind, I chanted 'The first time is always the hardest' over and over. This meeting had to be the hardest, if every meeting was like this one... would I ever be able to speak with Esmeralda properly again?