Queen of SomedayBy: Sherry Ficklin
And then he does the most dangerous, reckless thing he ever could have done.
He kisses me.
The moment our lips touch, the last fraying strands of my self-control snap and I reach up, clasping my hands behind his neck and pulling him against me. There’s no reason, no judgment—only gentle waves of relief. I’m lost in the ocean of his embrace, drowning in him. I could live a hundred lifetimes inside his kiss, and it would never be enough. One single thought surfaces through the tide of emotions.
“Of the entire universe, I only wanted you,” I whisper the words against his lips, a solemn pledge.
His hands slide up my back and into my hair, working it loose with his fingers until it falls in brown waves across my shoulders. I sigh against his mouth and he responds by pulling away just a bit, laying a kiss on the tip of my nose, my forehead, and beside my eye, before returning to my lips.
“You have ruined me,” he whispers against my mouth, his voice thick with desire.
The sled is cramped; my legs and back ache in protest as we cut through the deep snow. I pull back the heavy damask curtain covering the small window. Outside the landscape is barren and desolate. Nothing but stark white snow for miles, interrupted by the occasional leafless tree. Though the horses race forward across the plain as fast as they are able, the trek has been long and the snow deep so they snort with exertion. We’d had to abandon our more spacious carriage in Livonia and continue the rest of the way in this small sled. Across from me, my mother carefully stitches on her small linen even as each bump threatens to destroy the colorful tapestry she’s creating. She hasn’t spoken to me in two days, not since I’d finally grown weary of her constant chatter about how different and lavish life would be at a real court and reprimanded her harshly.
I sigh deeply. Perhaps the rolling hills of Anhault-Zerbst are not as grand as the palaces of Berlin, where she grew up in the home of our wealthiest aunt, but it was my father’s land and my only home. Never have I missed it more than I do on this journey, the dangerous trek through the depths of Russia in the coldest months of winter. I have acquired a constant shiver and my toes and fingers never seem to thaw. Still, it was only Mother’s callous remarks about my father that had provoked me to speak rudely to her, and she is making me pay for it now, making the already cold interior of the carriage seem absolutely frigid with her indifference.
Letting the heavy damask curtain fall back into place, I sit back, stretching beneath the thick, fur blanket heaped over my legs. Closing my eyes, I rest against the seat, and I can almost feel the warm summer sun on my face. Days of running through the field with my darling little brother and sister, as we chased down chickens that had escaped the coop, float through my mind like soap bubbles. I remember sitting on the edge of the creek for hours, slipping off my shoes, letting my toes soak in the water. And sometimes Gretchen, my good friend, would come and bring flowers to weave into my dark hair or a flask of wine from her father’s stock for us to drink until our heads were light as a feather. It never mattered much to me that she was the daughter of the local innkeeper and I was the daughter of the prince. We were innocent of such things, much to my mother’s chagrin. I can’t help but smile at the memories. As they come, I try to hold them close, weaving them around me like the fragile threads under my mother’s fingers.
Such happier times, though not so long ago, seem to me now as if they occurred in another lifetime.
Everything changed when I turned fourteen. Though still a girl by any accounts, Mother was desperate to see me wed. I didn’t learn until much later of our family’s dire financial situation, or that Father was in danger of forfeiting his family properties.
She had first tried to wed me to young Peter, then heir to the Swiss throne. But when he abdicated to move to Russia with his aunt, all hope of that union seemed lost. Mother had been forced to offer me to my uncle, an old man with missing teeth and thin, white hair. He’d come for a visit that summer and while I had thought it an innocent visit, his intentions toward me became painfully obvious. I can still remember the stench of brandy and tobacco on his breath as he’d cornered me one evening and forced a kiss upon me.