can you hear heaven cry

It was not the first time Ciara had woken up to an empty bed that hadn’t be so cold the night before. Usually, however, it was from scratching an itch rather than… whatever the previous night had been. The wine had amplified emotions to a level that had been unstoppable. Mutual loneliness and driven every action afterward, but Ciara couldn’t have said she was sorry that it had happened. She wasn’t. The guilt of cheating on Damon and pulling Arthur to cheat on Lilith was certainly present, but so was the reminder that neither spouse had been in contact, if they were even still alive, in years. It had been nearly a decade since Ciara had seen Damon, and it seemed the queen had been gone nearly as long. Those claims on Ciara and Arthur were wearing thin and frail and liable to be broken. Last night they broke.

And yet, the chill of the sheets against her bare skin, despite the sunlight pouring into the room, woke Ciara. Comforter pulled over her chest, she sat up and looked toward the wrinkled but empty side of the bed and sighed. The twist of her stomach was unexpected, but she chided herself for that. If she had staked more on the game and conversation and following activities than the king had, that was not his fault. Besides, as king, there would be few women in the castle who would care to resist the lure. To change a friendship over something that could come so easily could produce regrets. There was no question about it.

Running her hand through her messy, morning-after hair, she pushed the curtain the rest of the way, pausing at the crinkling of paper she hadn’t noticed before. Delicately, Ciara pulled the note free and read it, still wearing only the sheets she had dragged with her from the bed. More than she’d been expecting from him when she’d awoken alone, the king surprised her pleasantly.

Note clutched in her hand, a flimsy promise with the potential to grow into another level of their relationship, Ciara pulled on the wrinkled dress that had crumpled to the floor near the side of the bed. Her best efforts to smooth hit down over her body were failures. How exactly was it going to look to whichever poor servant came to deliver the promised breakfast? Certainly she could lie and say she had a scheduled meeting that was being postponed while the king worked, but in a wrinkled gown… Ciara then noticed the stain from the wine (which she did not recall spilling) and groaned. It was not, she reminded herself, the staff’s business.

Breakfast came 15 minutes after she put her shoes back on and shuffled what was left of her belongings into a nook, but Arthur didn’t accompany it. Arthur didn’t come in the following hours, and in the early afternoon, Ciara gave up hope that he would be returning. Breakfast noticeably touched but barely eaten, she left the suite with the note hidden up her sleeve and hurried to her own rooms to change.

Arthur didn’t come at all that day, or the next. Ciara tried to be patient, but her head reminded her that she was not the only woman around, and that meetings didn’t typically last forever. She had read the note tens, if not a hundred times over the last three days, but the words were becoming more vapid each time. She hadn’t thought it was that bad being with him, but she wasn’t so sure anymore. Perhaps he’d found her unpleasant. Or perhaps the guilt that was still tugging at her mind was holding more tightly to his.

It didn’t help that two days ago she had heard the guards discussing the outcome of the pirate interceptions. Now the slip of paper hovered over the waste bin with uncertainty. She didn’t want to throw that night away. What if the king did? Did she really want a reminder of another lover leaving her?

The arrival of roses was a conflict for the woman. On the one hand, he was thinking of her and giving her a gift. On the other, he’d had time to get them collected, but hadn’t even run into her in the hallways. If he was avoiding her, he was doing a great job, but she’d have preferred to be told that rather than dragged along. Best friends can’t exist in a state of avoidance. She thanked the young girl from the gardens who had run the delivery, and placed the flowers in a vase near the window. She admired them for a few minutes before she finally grew stir crazy. She couldn’t keep sitting here waiting for the meetings to be over, or the king to get the courage to talk to her. It had been three days, it was about time one of them initiate contact.

Except, he wasn’t in the more typically locations, and when Ciara went to find him in the less typical places that meetings happened, she found herself barred from entrance by guards who eyed her with more than suspicion. Not privy to the discussion inside, not trusted enough to hear what was causing such distress to the kingdom and the king. She was a stress release, and he needed to stay stressed. Or perhaps, he wasn’t stressed at all. Filled with aggravation, Ciara left for a ride, and stayed out for the majority of the day.

When she returned that evening, nothing had changed except that she was sure where the letter belonged.

She returned to her rooms after supper and dropped the letter into the bin closest to the open window. She’d have tossed the roses, but her previoius flowers had wilted and she had needed a new bouquet to lighten the mood. She shut her eyes against the pain of silent rejection, but they were only shut a moment before a knock at the door snapped them open and necessitated a smearing of what little moisture had formed.

Arthur stood across the threshold, finally, Ciara stared at him. It was about fifteen minutes of awkwardness and shifting emotions before she stepped aside.

“Come in,” she said, placidly. She wanted to snap, but she bit down the urge. The whole point of visiting him that night was because he was always busy and deserved a night off. Now she saw how tired he was again, guilt at her own selfishness and foolishness that he should have plenty of time had hit home. “Everything settled with the peaks now?” she asked, unsure if this was going to be a friend conversation to vent, or more. She had to start with less.

photographs by mariaamanda on dA


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