A rose is as red as blood that is shed with flesh upon a thorn hearts are torn with what a simple flower that holds such power can represent.
Soon. Soon. Soon.
Each tick of the clock on the mantel, the infinitesmal movements of the second hand, in time with the rhythm of her heart, told her when he would arrive.
She jumped a little at the weary voice, more of an involuntary twitch. She did not turn, merely kept her head bowed over the spotless white hankerchief in her lap, edged with lace, and bearing the initials A.F.L. in curlicued letters.
The voice was now tinged with exasperation, using her nickname to try and capture her attention. He should have known better than that - there was only one person who held her thoughts now, and had for the past week.
Now a warm hand clutched at her shoulder, and she had no choice but to look round, if only to glare at her father's servant. Wenwick was an old friend of the Golde family; he had been there since she could ever remember, before she was an infant. So she was like a neice to him, and he couldn't stand to see her silent heartache as she kept vigil by the open window.
"Leave me, Wenwick, I beg of you."
"Milady," he said, and it was his voice that was pleading now, "Your parents are concerned for your health. You have sat here for seven days with this window open, and you will have caught a chill at the very least. Won't you at least sleep?"
Rosabella lowered her gaze to the flimsy cloth twisted in her delicate hands. Her black curls slipped from their pins and hid her face, hiding the tear that escaped unbid from her closed eye. She was as exhausted as he sounded, and indeed cold, despite the blankets that had been draped around her by the fretful maids.
"I can't," she whispered. "I can't give up on him."
His voice cracked a little, and she couldn't stand to look up at him, for she knew the pain she felt in her chest would be reflected in his eyes. She felt sorry for inflicting her personal misery on her family, but she couldn't deny her heart its sorrow.
"It's been a week. The rest of the survivors came back five days ago. Don't you think that maybe... Alexander... he might not be coming back?"
At the sound of his name, a quiet gasp had escaped her lips, and after he had completed the sentence it was as if the words had broken a dam inside her, and all her fears and hopes came pouring out of her in the form of hot tears that left shining streaks down her white cheeks, sticking her hair to her face and mussing it. She knew she was a mess; but she didn't care. All she wanted was Alexander. She let out a broken sob, her shoulders shaking with the sound, and poor Wenwick could do nothing but watch over her with an increasing pity.
It was a barren world outside the enclosed palace of the Golde family. The trees twisted up through a carpet of white that blanketed the world for as far as the eye could see; the eye that was not weeping from cold and heavy from exhaustion.
Eight days of travel, non stop trudging through the frozen wasteland, until his skin was blue, his extremities numb, his pack the weight of a thousand rather than the mere one; but inside his mind he had retreated from the pain and iciness, to warmer thoughts of the one he sought. The one he had almost died to prove his worth to, and the one he almost died for again to return to her side.
How much longer? His broken body screamed, but he ignored it, choosing instead to keep on plodding robotically towards the castle that he knew must be somewhere ahead of him. Whether it be hours, days or minutes away. Every heartbeat brought him nearer.
Bring the foot up. Down again, a little further in front. Now the other foot, And again. Keep going. Who had ever known that walking could become such a difficult task?
The tiny chips of ice, diamonds in the carbon black of the night sky, bit at his exposed skin and blurred the horizon into a flurry of white. So pure, so clean. Like the warm sheets on his bed... how he wanted to lie down and be enveloped in its comforting embrace, to allow himself to sink into the unconsciousness that tried to claim him.
He couldn't feel it in his hand anymore, but he knew it was there. To take his thoughts down a less macabre path, he dropped his tired eyes to the rose in his fingers, the only splash of colour. It was enchanted, a symbol of his bond, and never died. The unblemished red petals were as bright and full as they had been the day it bloomed, and would stay that way eternally as long as their love flourished. It had fared far better than he on this everlasting journey.
His heart, so dull and sluggish inside him, seemed to pick up speed like a drum as he thought he saw silver towers glinting up ahead through the night. He squinted, and a while later it was confirmed. White walls, bleached in the moonlight, and golden gates barely a mile ahead.
As if it had a mind of its own, his heart began to leap with joy as he surveyed the dark windows of the palace. From here he could see that one window still bore a golden candle glow. Somewhere inside there his love waited.
Eagerly, he stepped forward, but to his confusion he had not moved. He stared down at his feet, for he could not feel them at all. They stayed there, stubbornly, no matter how loudly he screamed in his head for them to move. At length, his right foot lifted a little, but as he tried to bring it forward and make a step, he somehow lost his balance, and he fell; slowly and too fast; he felt the softness of the snow against his cheek, and its iciness filled his mouth and soaked his clothes, blurring his eyes with white. For a moment he could see her, her pale skin almost glowing it was so white, then with despair he realised it was only more of the wretched snow that was going to become his shroud.
Rosabella, I love you, he thought, closing his eyes gently. Forgive me. In his hand, a petal dropped from the rose that was slowly beginning to wilt; the wind snatched it up and carried it to the palace with its mournful howl.