The chilled air carried the scent of freshly-bloomed flowers and the gentle smell of dew throughout the garden. Ophelia wrapped her woolen shawl tightly around her shoulders, watching her breath fog up. The sun had just touched the sky, washing everything over with a soft pink.
Where is he? she wondered as she twirled the drawstrings of her damp dress around her finger. She had worn grey, as to not be seen slinking in the night towards the castle like a thief or a fallen woman.
How am I better than one of those ladies of the night? I am, in essence, a mistress. I am not to be known, not to be seen. I am nobody.
The voice crept inside of her like a ghoul. The thoughts haunted her, however true. Her shoulders trembled in the crisp dawn air. Maybe, he’s not coming this time.
The thought lingered as the sky blushed brighter, like a girl in love for the first time. Ophelia tried to remember what that felt like. She filled herself with artificial warmth, imagining Hamlet’s hands intertwining with her own, drawing hearts into her palms with his thumb. The touch of his fingertips always lingered like a tattoo, marking her like blood-red ink.
She rested her back against the rough bark of an old tree. How did I get here? Thoughts of him plague me every night, like a strange bout of illness that I cannot dispel. If she removed herself from it, tried to look at it objectively, she forgot why she loved him. His disarming smile and silent charm could not make up for the cruelty that he had put her through. She felt as though she was in a constant balancing act. Perhaps what they had was art, a thing of beauty. But, perhaps that was too much to ask. He knew just how to break her, and just how to build her up once more.
The pink skies gave way to soft blue. The dew had begun to dry, though her tears had not. She felt humiliated, like a child who had been caught in the act of stealing or lying. She was lying. She was lying to herself. Every time she told herself that it was not so bad, that she could take it once more, it was a fabricated truth made to keep her from falling apart like a frayed rope on the verge of snapping. Her heart was a heavy weight in her chest, a violent magnet that drug her wherever it pleased.
Without him, she felt like nothing. She was a ghost, a phantom, haunting her own skin. She wasn’t herself if not his. If he were ever to leave her, for good this time, she’d sooner drown in her own sorrows than go on living another day.
Perhaps I should be the one to leave , she pondered. It wasn’t a bad thought, but it was one she loathed. She didn’t want to leave. But, how could she go on living like this? She lived off of the food of stolen kisses and secret embraces behind heavy curtains and in empty halls. She was starving for more, a beggar for affection. Averted gazes and hushed whispers weren’t enough to satiate her. She loved him in the most base and feral ways; she loved him so much that she became nothing but love itself in his presence. If only love could be more gentle with her and her frail body, deprived of the nutrients of kindness from Hamlet’s hand, she could make it through the harsher seasons with a smile.
But, she knew deep within her, that it would never happen. A Princess was she not; a Queen she could never be. She was hardly tame enough to be the plaything of the future King. The pressures of the Danish court would cause her to snap like a dead twig, broken to carry the flames of a raging fire.
Just as she began to scale the stone walls once more, a voice, so distinct on her soul, rang out to her like a siren’s song.
“My dear, where dost thou go so soon?” That same knight’s smile flashed across his face. He was flushed, and giddy as a puppy. Ophelia stepped down, relief washing over her. She tried to banish her previous thoughts as they remained in the back of her mind.
He is here. He is here in my arms today. Nothing can be wrong, so long as he is here.
I suppose, in this lifetime, I will not hold on to any hopes for a great love. For ‘tis useless, when one knows quite well the truth.
In this lifetime, we are staying here, together.