After a day overfilled with emotion – of fighting a monster, of feeling the rejection of his father, of their reconciliation, of hearing his true love finally profess her adoration for him, of sacrificing his life and then having another sacrifice her life for him, of chancing it all and winning it all by being crowned king – all Idamante wanted to do was collapse into bed. But the idea of being in that huge bed alone suddenly seemed impossible to him.
The moon waited high overhead, casting a pink grayness across the courtyard as he stood in the night beside Ilia. Soft daisy pedals played underfoot as the first evening winds blew through the open space, barely lifting the ends of Ilia’s long curls. In the moonlight, Idamante thought she looked more beautiful and more delicate than ever.
He took a step closer and he could see the tiredness in her eyes. She looked up at him, her lips forming the smallest of smiles. Her closeness gave him a surge of boldness and he said,
“Ilia, will you come and…sleep with me tonight?”
Even in the low light, he could see her blush.
“Oh, not like that,” he corrected quickly, his words sticking together in their haste. “No, what I meant was, will you please come and sleep beside me tonight.”
“Oh,” she said, looking away. Her face was in perfect profile, the gentle curves illuminated by the moon. She paused there a moment, thinking, and then she looked back up at him, a new strength in her expression.
“But won’t that make people talk?” she asked. “Won’t we get in trouble?”
Idamante took a breath, gingerly running his fingers along her neck and up to her ear. He gently massaged the edge of her ear, his eyes watching his fingers, as he said,
“We’re going to be married any day now. Once we are, it’ll be forgotten. And we’re not doing anything wrong. What could they possibly say?”
Ilia didn’t answer. Instead, she closed her eyes and leaned closer to him. He went on,
“I wouldn’t ask you to do anything you don’t want to. If you don’t want to stay with me tonight, I understand.”
“It’s not that,” she whispered. Her words struck hope in Idamante’s heart, spurring it into a faster rhythm. She looked up at him with those round, brown eyes that he had so irrevocably fallen in love with. Her hands were on his arms now, gripping firmly as though she could feel the pulsing of his need there.
“But why?” she asked. “Why this urgency?”
Idamante took a long breath, then leaned his forehead against hers as he answered,
“Because I’m afraid of losing you. I’m afraid that I’ll go to sleep and find that you’ve vanished in the morning. I’ve almost lost you so many times today. Now, just when you’ve finally told me that…”
Idamante swallowed, then finished, “…that you love me.”
Ilia threw her arms around his torso, pressing all of herself against him. He thought he could feel the shape of her smile against his chest. He reciprocated, his arms around her shoulders and his nose buried in the scent of her hair. How many times had he longed to do this!
He continued his answer, softly, “I just want to hold you, to have you with me, and never let you go. I never want to let you go again.”
“I love you,” she said into the night, a gift radiant and breathtaking. Then, with a bit more seriousness in her voice, she added, “I understand.”
She pulled the tiniest bit away and kissed his chin. Surprised, he looked down at her little smile and bright eyes. Then, he wound his fingers into her hair and drew her in for a full, long kiss. She tasted like springtime and all the things he had ever waited for.
After they had run out of breath, he leaned close to her ear and said, “I love you, too.”
When he stepped away, he asked,
“You’ll come with me?” She smiled, her features softened by the night, and nodded her response.
With a playful, joyful gesture, he took her hand and, moving lightly, led her through the palace to his own room. He snicked the lock shut behind them and took off his boots as Ilia removed her shoes.
She shyly wandered around the room for a moment, her steps soundless and aimless. Idamante watched her graceful movements, thinking that he’d never seen anything so beautiful.
He tried to remove his nonessential clothes gentlemanly, turning his back to Ilia as she did the same. He heard her move toward the bed, the heavy blankets moving as she climbed in. He turned around to see her covered up to her neck in blankets, looking a bit hesitant but completely adorable. He walked slowly to the bed, as though afraid to scare her away, and gently got under the covers. When she didn’t move away, he edged closer to her.
She let him take her in his arms, her skin warm and soft against his. He listened, eyes closed, to the whisper of her heartbeat. He drew in her scent, his own heart finally calming.
And there, in that night filled with so much promise, he just held her until sleep found them both.