I like the shade around four o'clock. The sun is in just the right position that one of the old pine trees leaves a little patch next to the roses.
It was one of those Spring days where the breeze makes it chilly in the shade, but it is uncomfortably hot without it.
I chose the chilliness where the breeze could bring me hints of the sweet smell of the roses. But in the sun or shade, I wasn't supposed to be there. This was the Queen's garden.
I leaned closer to the roses, ignoring the prick of the thorns, and tried to get deeper into the shadows. I knew the Queen had already had her daily walk.
I saw her, her attendants following like a gaggle of geese, as she returned through the courtyard. She is tall, taller than many men even.
She was walking with her head held high, not looking to the left or to the right. She looked sad. But it is not my place to guess at the emotions or thoughts of the Queen.
'Or be in her garden,' I thought with a half smile.
It wasn't often that I dared to venture there. It's not that I couldn't...Years of being the only daughter in a house full of loud, sweaty, and perpetually drunk men had taught me well.
I knew how to disappear and how to seem as small and inconspicuous as possible even as I was beginning to grow into a women. If my brothers and father forgot I existed, it was a good day.
On this day I had enough. There was no shade in one of the lesser courtyards of the palace where I was hanging linens.
Bea, one of the older ladies down the street, had hired me to help her for the sake of her aching joints. I was to get a good meal in return.
I wondered if these were the Queen's linens I was hanging and what she dreamed about at night.
I mostly dreamed about food, but I figured that Queens must dream about more elegant things like chocolates, roasted pheasants, or cakes with icing on them.
Oh the food! I couldn't keep my thoughts away!
The heavy hand of Bea to the back of my head quickly brought me out of my reverie though.
That, of course, caused me to drop my armful of linens into the courtyard mud which led to more blows and my eventual retreat.
Cursing Bea under my breath and fighting back tears, I ran until I was a safe distance away.
That's when I saw the Queen coming across the main courtyard. As I rubbed the back of my sore head, I caught the look on the Queen's face and something about it stopped me in my tracks.
It occurred to me that perhaps this Queen was more accustomed to nightmares than dreams.
Shaking that thought away, my feet seemed to move unconsciously towards the garden. I hadn't been in some time.
I began to think that it must be especially beautiful with the arrival of Spring and that brought a little spring to my step. It wasn't terribly difficult to sneak in.
When the Queen wasn't there, there wasn't much purpose in keeping a careful eye out I guess.
But this time the sounds from the garden were unmistakable. Footprints. There was nowhere to hide and no time.
I sunk into the shadows as far as I could, praying to every god I could think of that I wouldn't be losing my head that night. The Queen stepped out from the trees and I stopped breathing.
For a moment it was as if the whole world had frozen. But then I noticed the tears running down the Queen's face and she covered her mouth with her hand as a sob escaped.
I knew I shouldnt be looking, but I still couldn't move. And then she noticed me. Her eyes flashed with anger, then embarrassment, and something else I couldn't put a name to.
I crawled a little out of the shadows, and still on my hands and knees, began to stammer, ' I...I didn't mean to...' I stopped. One should never speak to the Queen without first being spoken to.
I didn't dare look up at her again. I waited for her to call her attendants or to her guards, but I heard nothing.
Before I knew it, she was beside me, sitting on the grass and trying to rearrange the folds of her dress around her. 'I hate these things,' she murmured.
Suddenly I began to cry. Perhaps the emotions and relief at not being dragged away to prison or dead already were too much. Whatever the reasons, I couldn't stop.
The Queen gently grabbed me and laid my head on her shoulder. I had never been comforted as I cried before. Soon I was crying about everything....
the loss of my mother whose face I could no longer remember, the ache in my belly from every missed meal, that morning with Bea and every other beating I had ever taken...
When my tears had finally begun to lessen, I carefully looked into the face of the Queen.
I was struck with shame at how I must smell and look and that I had covered her fancy dress with snot and tears. Quickly I looked back down to my hands.
'I think you are not in my garden by chance today.' She whispered it, but to me it was as if she had shouted it. 'My Queen,' I said. I did not know how else to convey my emotions.
Words were not often used in my family. She had been the Queen for most of my life, but she had been like a god to me.
Someone I was curious about, a little afraid of perhaps, but mostly just a mythical figure that had no real impact on my life.
But there, in the shade of the old pine trees and the roses, she replied, 'I am honored.' And I knew that I would serve My Queen for the rest of my days.