The sun was cold in a cloudless sky as the recently engaged, discontented couple rode through pleasant countryside.
Corinne was frustrated. Richard had not spoken to her once yesterday, not in the morning when she had visited him in his chamber, not at lunchtime when she had found him alone in the dining room, nor during Tuesday dinner which they took together. Even this morning she had received his suggestion of the trip by way of a note - a few words scrawled hastily on a ragged slip of parchment. She had asked him when they had set out this afternoon if something were the matter but he had looked to the ground, frowned and shaken his head. She had attempted to kiss him but he had pushed her away, almost as though he were angry with her.
But what could she have done? She did not understand this complicated situation! The engagement had been an indication that Richard wished to spend his life with her. Surely he could not feel irritation towards her?
After a long period of silence where the only sounds were those of the world around the pair and the noise of the horse’s hooves, Corinne uttered a harsh order to the man she was going to wed.
“Stop the horse.”
She felt lost and helpless and she couldn’t bear it. So if he wouldn’t talk to her, she would return to the manor.
Richard pulled on the reins but remained facing in the direction he was taking her, like an otherworldly phantom or an echo of the past: like he had no connection to the world of the living, none even to the woman he loved.
Corinne swung herself off the horse and stood, straight and defiant, regarding him coolly.
“I do not know what it is I have done to upset you but if you deny to talk to me before the sun sets, you shall find the diamond ring currently around my finger upon the table at your bedside.”
Corinne continued relentlessly.
“You had me believe that my misery was destroying your sanity but you made me the happiest woman alive and are still dissatisfied. Was any word you spoke in that moment the truth?”
Very slowly, Richard turned his head to look at her. He gazed into her eyes with an unfathomable expression upon his face and dismounted his horse.
Corinne bravely stood her ground.
“I have never lied to you, my lady Corinne,” he murmured, “and my silence was never intended to communicate a false message: I do love you. Yet if you want to remove the ring from your finger, I will not stop you. Merely consider, my lady, that I asked for your hand to bring about your happiness. If you return to being miserable, I will be at a loss as to what to do. You cannot say I dislike you, Corinne. What more can you ask of me?”
“What more can I ask of you?” Corinne repeated in shock. “You talk as if I am a demanding woman. All I want is your love.”
“And you know you have it,” Richard replied, his voice rising alarmingly.
“But you will not show it!” Corinne exclaimed, one part of her horrified that they were having an argument and the other outraged by what Richard was saying.
“Is it not enough that I feel it?!” Richard shouted.
“No!” she cried, and she was confounded by the shock which appeared in Richard’s eyes in response. Tears rose to her own eyes. She did not lower her voice, however, as the words poured out from her weeping heart: “It is not enough that you merely feel it, for if you do not show it then how can I know if the feeling is present? How can I know that I am not wasting my love on a man who cares nothing for me?”
“Would you want any other?” Richard asked, his eyes flashing dangerously. “Because Iwould rather die than give my heart to another woman.”
“I do not wish to be possessed,” Corinne retorted.
“So now I am possessive,” Richard cried, throwing his arms up into the air in his helplessness.
“I do not know what you are,” Corinne told him. “You lock yourself away like other people could only ever harm you. You limit the time we spend together and reveal nothing during those moments. You are so closed, so ... cold.”
“Cold?” Richard echoed angrily. “Cold?! Then what are you? You never allow me to have what I want. You say you love me but refuse to let me be my own person. I am forever chasing you against my will, solely because your frown is like a sword through my heart. Yet you stand here and say that I am the one who is cold! Is there nothing you understand about me?”
Tears leaked down Corinne’s cheeks like rain in a downpour.
“Why do you love me then? If I cause you so much pain, if I don’t understand, why do you allow yourself to continue to strive for my happiness?”
Richard’s voice dropped low, like a stone hitting the bed of a river.
“Because you are the kindest, most beautiful, most brilliant lady I have ever known. Because your eyes are so wondrously expressive, because your heart could hold the world and still have space for feeling, because your mind is bright as the light of a thousand stars... Your soul is a dazzling beacon and it invites all to bask in its glow while the sweet music of your essence plays and the angels weep over the perfection of their one and only creation. That is why I love you.”
Corinne stared at Richard, shocked into silence. The tears dried on her face as she gazed in wonder and awe at the fairytale prince standing before her. She had had no idea that Richard could be so romantic.
“I would not care if you merely loved me for being a handsome man,” Richard murmured, looking away from Corinne.
“That is not why I love you,” the princess of the fantasy replied, able to speak again though her voice was quiet as Richard’s.
“It does not matter,” he said sharply, astonishing her. “I have given you everything and will not give more. And you are free to hate me now as I feel the only strong emotion of which I am capable is also hatred.”
Corinne was puzzled. Why did Richard act as though he had lost everything? He had caressed the dragonfly wings of her spirit for one perfect moment and was now violently sending her away as if he never cared to see her face again. She loved him more than she ever had and he was refusing to look her in the eye.
Perhaps he needed encouragement.
“I can be happy now, Richard,” she said tentatively.
“And yet it cost me everything,” he told her harshly, sending a stinging needle of pain through the most tender part of her heart. “Is that fair, my dear? I think not. You may take my horse home. I shall walk.”
“But we are far from the manor, love,” Corinne pointed out.
Richard’s face hardened.
“You are not to call me ‘love’. And I would rather walk a thousand miles than ride to Dachshund Manor with you.”
Corinne gasped involuntarily. Richard turned and briskly walked off.
Angrily, Corinne mounted the stallion and set off at a gallop to Periville, thus arriving hours before Richard.
She went to her bed immediately, neither bothering to undress herself not climb beneath the sheets.
A little later she was shivering and pulled thick animal hides over herself. After that action, however, she lay still and closed her heart to the world as she fell into a dreamless sleep.