He stood by the door and took a deep breath as he surveyed the room in front of him. It was exactly as he remembered it, only smaller. A bed was nestled in one corner, and a wooden chest where he had put his few belongings lay at the foot of the bed.
He took two steps forward and raised one hand above the bed, letting it linger for a moment. He lowered his hand, gracefully letting it come to rest on the straw mattress. He smiled, for he had forgotten how rough his childhood bed had been in comparison to the palace mattresses filled with sheep's wool.
He turned around and sat on the bed, placing his hands on his knees. He closed his eyes and steadied his breathing. He tried to clear his mind, blocking out all thoughts but one, the one thought, the one idea that would bring him peace. With his eyes still closed, he smiled again, remembering the calming sensation that his bedroom and his bed in particular had come to symbolize.
He stretched out on the bed, his feet hanging over the edge. I just need to rest for a moment, he told himself. A soft knock at the door brought him out of his resting state.
"Yes," he called out to the person on the other side of the door. The door opened, and Elizabeth stepped into the room. She held a plate of scrambled eggs.
"Paul, dear," she said, taking a step toward him. "I have some eggs for you."
"I thought I said I would come out when I was ready," he replied, rubbing his forehead with one of his hands.
"Yes, I know. That was two hours ago, though."
Paul made a sound, acknowleging the passage of time. He accepted the plate and frowned at the eggs.
"They are not two hours old."Elizabeth laughed. "These are a fresh batch."
Paul gazed at his wife and couldn't help but smile in response to her thoughtful words and facial expressions. Returning to the plate, he noticed the various chips and cracks—another difference from the palace, whose plates were not only chip and crack free but were also intricately decorated with painted scenes.
"That's one thing they have plenty of around here ... eggs,"Elizabethsaid as Paul began to eat. She sat down beside him, the wooden frame creaking under the extra weight.
"Well," Paul replied, "when everyone in the village has at least a dozen chickens, no one goes hungry because of a lack of eggs."
He finished the food and placed the plate beside him on the bed. Sighing, he declared with raised eyebrows, "I did not dream."
"But, you haven't had dreams like that in years,"Elizabeth reminded him.
"I always had them here, though, not missing a night since they started."
"When you met Josephine,"Elizabeth said in a questioning tone.
"Yes," Paul agreed and then frowned. "No, the dreams started before I met her but right before."
"Speaking of Josephine," Elizabeth said, "I didn't see her today."
"She always kept her distance from the family," Paul explained. "Especially right after I met her." He sighed and smiled. "The memories are pretty strong even though I was only six years old at the time."