The Moon

Here’s a 900 word flash fiction story, just for you. Enjoy!

They’d been betrothed as long as he could remember. Ever since he was a small child, barely able to speak, he’d known his life’s path. Maturity. Marriage. The crown.

Some may have chafed at the foreknowledge, struggled to change their destiny. He merely shrugged. The forces binding him to his future felt too large, and far too powerful. It would be like fighting gravity, or old age.

So he showed kindness to his betrothed. He gave her gifts, small tokens he hoped would help endear her to him. When she turned five he gave her a golden bracelet; when he learned she’d lost it in the woods, he shrugged.

When she turned ten he gave her a diamond necklace. This too was lost, he heard some months later. It was no matter to him. Diamonds were easily acquired.

When she turned fifteen he gave her a fine silver diadem inlaid with emeralds and sapphires to match the deep blue-green of her large eyes. She blushed as she opened the elaborate box, murmuring her thanks. He never saw it again.

And when she turned twenty, the age of consent, the age of marrying, he gave her the moon.

It was no easy task, acquiring the moon. There were several tricky procedures, a long voyage, and great expense. There was even some risk to his person, which he hoped may qualify as mildly heroic, the kind of thing that would prove he’d make a good husband.

The moon itself he found disappointing. It was much smaller than he’d expected, small enough for him to lift, although heavier than it looked. And it did not shine.

His guide, the magician, snorted when he commented on the moon’s lack of luminosity. “The moon shines with reflected light, boy,” he said. This magician was one of the few people who still called him boy. “Even you should know that.”

He decided not to comment on the magician’s insolence. Instead, he shook his head and ordered the moon be wrapped and presented to his betrothed.

A day later she requested his presence for the first time. He experienced an unusual sense of unease as he waited for her, pacing in his antechamber. They’d hardly ever spent time together.

An attendant announced her presence at his door, then swept gracefully from the room. She entered, carrying the moon in her arms.

“My lord,” she said.

“Yes?”

“It’s the moon,” she said. “My lord.”

He frowned. “The moon? Is there a problem?”

She met his eyes for the first time. “I cannot accept the moon,” she said. Her voice contained a hard edge. Perhaps that was the way she always spoke.

“What? Why not?”

She looked down at the heavy, dusty rock in her arms. “You can’t take the moon from the sky,” she said. “Just look what you’ve done to the tides!”

He blinked. He had no idea what he’d done to the tides; tides were not his concern.

“People need the light of the moon,” she continued. He noticed a hard line between her delicate blue-green eyes.  “The harvest moon. The strawberry moon. You can’t take those from the world. I will not accept it.”

Silence fell between them. He was not accustomed to being refused.

“Fine,” he said. “If the gift is unacceptable, I’ll return it.”

He stepped off his dais, crossed the room to stand before her. He extended his arms, and she rolled the moon into them. Their hands brushed; her fingers were warm.

“Is that all?” he asked.

She nodded, her gaze on the tiled floor. “Of course. My lord.”

His discomfort grew, creeping through his stomach and across the back of his neck. It occurred to him there may be something she was not telling him. He took a deep breath. “Do you have any, uh, additional concerns?” he asked.

Her cheeks flushed a deep red. “Of course not,” she said, quickly. Very quickly.

His heart sank. An hour ago it wouldn’t have occurred to him to wonder if she had any thoughts at all, about anything. Now he was disappointed she wouldn’t share them.

“Do you… Do you love another?” he asked.

The flush across her high cheekbones deepened. She stared fixedly at the floor. “I do not,” she said.

He sighed. The moon was quite heavy; his arms were beginning to ache. But she held it, and he would hold it as well.

“As this gift was unacceptable, is there something you would prefer?” he asked.

She turned to the far wall, whispering something he could not quite make out.

“Excuse me?” he asked, trying to lean toward her without dropping the moon.

“I said I hate jewlery,” she whispered.

He blinked again, so surprised he took a step backward. “You… what?”

She sighed and met his eyes. This time he felt heat rush to his own cheeks. “I hate jewlery. It serves no purpose. I cannot abide things that serve no purpose.”

He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I see,” he said.

“If that’s all,” she said. “My lord.”

He nodded, cleared his throat. “Of course.”

She curtseyed low before leaving the room, the dust of the moon patterned across her delicate dress. He watched her go.

“Something useful,” he muttered. He would need to give her something useful as a wedding present.

He had no idea what that might be.

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