Duty?

I retract slightly from him, my heart racing widly and beating so hard I could barely think. Everything in my head seemed like a whirlwind of mashed up blur, raging emotion. Love?

I wanted to stay with him, to continue, our arms still hanging around each other as he looked into my face. I had to contain myself. My feelings. This was improper, it was wrong, from what I had been taught. It felt rebellious, I felt independent,  freed from their laws and restraints, wonderful with him, but I had to keep my senses about me.

"You should leave," I murmured.

To my surprise, he did not appear hurt, or pained in any fashion. He didn't want to fight, or force something upon me. He almost seemed to agree, or resign to my wish in a way. "You are right," he nodded slowly.

I smiled slightly.  I inquired, "You will stay with the Prince, yes? At our house? You won't be turning around and heading back toward the palace after he is dropped off?"

Julio grinned in reply, "No, I will be with Samuel at almost all times." 

"So I will see you in the morning, then?"

"Yes, my Lady," he answered, gently pushing some hair behind my ear. He then moved to kiss my cheek, just as I had to his, but then traced his lips over my neck. I nearly jumped out of my skin, my whole face turning bright red. Julio pulled away, still smiling. Although he could not see me blushing in the dark, I knew he knew that I was.

"Julio!" I covered my embarrassment with a soft scold. "Don't you have some...guard-ing to do?"

He chuckled lightly, "Good night then, Helena."

"Good night," I said, allowing him one last brief kiss. I watched him leave the room, shivering to myself as he shut the door and was out of sight.

~~~~~

The next morning was spent in the most horrendous fashion. Father and Mother chatted with Prince Samuel and I the entire time, making slight references to how wonderful he was and how wonderful we were together and would be together. They were easily picked up on and was more embarrassing then I could have imagined, Mother taking the time to brag about me and play up all my little, insignificant talents. The whole time, I tried to only half listen to what was happening, smiling, nodding, and doing as I was bid at my certain points.

Julio was obviously irritated. He was especially annoyed and frustrated when my parents would speak. In my mind, I pleaded that he would remain in the shadows and not say (or do) any perposterous. He appeared to hear me. He stayed in the backround, trying to appear blank and cold-faced.

~~~~~

From the parlor window, I watched Prince Samuel and Julio stroll through the gardens below. It looked like Julio was speaking to Samuel--I could guess what the topic was.

"King Samuel and Queen Helena," murmured my Mother wistfully. "Does not that sound so wonderful, dear?"

I turned around to face her. "What if I do not wish to marry him Mother? Has that ever crossed your mind?"

She stood from her chair, her expression hardening, "What?! He is perfect; kind, dashing...and a Prince! What more could you ask for?"

"But I do not love him!"

"How could you not!" she cried. Exasperated, she went on, "Well, who do you love? Do you love anyone?"

I swallowed, looking down at my hands. I lied, I suppose. "No,"

Appearing satisfied, as if she had won, she set herself down in the chair delicately. In the pause, Mother went on, her voice bitter, "I do not like that Julio. I don't know why his parents allow the Prince to be in his company."

"You shouldn't judge people on rumors, Mother," I said quietly.

"I don't like how he looks at you,"

I looked away, back towards the window and the two figures walking below to mask the color that rose to my cheeks. At that moment, Julio turned his eyes to the window in which I stood, meeting my gaze.

I held the secret hope that we would meet again--alone.

The End

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