The silence that surrounds me is broken only by the steady beeps of a machine, some sort of hospital computer that monitors every beat of my heart. It should be a comforting sound for it lets me know I am alive, but to me it is only annoying. It is an intrusion, something that prevents me from slipping back into the peacefulness of sleep. I want to sleep, it’s the only time I don’t feel the pain, the only time I don’t have to think about him.
But I am awake, and the thoughts will not stay at bay for long, nor will the flashbacks, horrible visions spiking in my mind. And with those memories comes both a sense of guilt and regret. I can’t help but wonder where we went wrong, if there was something I could have done to keep him from becoming my abuser.
I search my memories and I cringe, it’s a painful reflection that stabs ever deep when I realize that in the beginning we had been happy. So damn happy, it feels like it had happened to another couple. Certainly the man of my memories would never have done the things that he had done, would never have left such scars on my soul.
It hurts to even think his name, his smiling face being replaced with an ugly expression, eyes filled with rage. I’ll never understand what drives him to be so angry, or why he chooses to lash out at me.
When did it all begin? I struggle to remember, searching my memories for the first time he truly hurt me. I do not conjure up images of the first slap, but of something more subtle. Harsh words spoken to me, Keith berating my performance in blue lion. He had never wanted me to fly, thought it beneath me. But more than that he said it was too dangerous for me.
I think I felt the first flickers of something more for him then, his concern for my safety touching something deep inside me. Perhaps that was how he lured me in, lulling me into a false sense of security around him. Someone that concerned about me could never, ever hurt me. Or so I thought.
But then that first day that he really let into me, his words rough, unneeded cruelty as he put down my abilities as a pilot. I could remember wanting to cry, he had never spoken to me like that before.
It had started out with a simple rant, familiar words he had often spoken to me before. I had nodded meekly, head not quite bowed as I listened to him berate me. “Careless!” Keith had cried out, and all I could do was bob my head in agreement. “Needlessly reckless, you take risks that put us all in jeopardy.”
I never thought of myself as that big a risk taker, but sometimes when I was in that seat, blue lion’s controls laid out before me, strong impulses would come over me. The need to prove myself, to show I wasn’t just as good as the other members of my team but better. Perhaps I became cocky, trying to do things that would help us win a battle.
I didn’t realize how much they worked to compensate for my short comings, not until Keith began listing them all. “You’re slow, you leave your right side open to attacks. You panic, and when you do you forget how to pilot your lion. How many times have we had situations where you couldn’t activate your own weapons?!”
My cheeks surely turned red at those words, and what’s worse I had no defense against them because they were true. Keith hadn’t been done with his tirade, the man started to pace around me. Each word like a bullet, burrowing into me with enough force that I would flinch.
“You’re a disgrace to the team.” He had hissed, and I hadn’t dared look at him then. I hadn’t wanted to see what sort of expression he wore, didn’t want to see coldness in his eyes. “Your actions reflect on us all, and reflect badly. You bring down our performance level, and endanger not only your team mates, but the entire planet. Do you want that Allura?”
“No!” I cried out quickly in protest, but Keith wasn’t having any of it.
“We might as well march up to King Zarkon and lay down our weapons. Offer Arus up on a silver platter for all the good you do us as a pilot!” A pause, both in words and movement, Keith coming to stand right before me. I had looked up then, and nearly hissed in surprise, the disgust apparent on his face. “You’re absolutely useless.”
Useless! The word was like a slap in the face, especially coming from him. Keith, who had been my most staunch worth defender, the sole person who had fought to keep me on the team, against my advisor and even his own team mates’ wishes. And now he had let me know how he really felt, sneering at me with that cold look in his eyes.
My eyes had burned at that moment, the tears hot and ready to pour down my face. I had struggled with them, I hadn’t wanted him to see me crying, scared of his potential reaction. My fight to maintain composure must have succeeded, for he continued with his words, my head bowing lower with each sentence.
“You’re just a girl…” Another one of those pauses, as though he had been giving me time to let the meaning of his words sink more deeply inside me. “Playing at being a hero. And the time for playing is over with.”
“Don’t take me off the team…” I had begged him then, words heart felt and desperate. “Being a member of the Voltron force means everything to me. It gives me purpose in life…”
“Then act like it!” Keith had retorted. “Stop fooling around, and become serious with the job presented to you. Or go back to being a pampered princess. But do not ever mix up the two together!”
“I won’t! I promise I won’t!” I had promised him then, my relief palpable in the moment. He wasn’t taking me off the team, not yet at any rate. In a twisted way I felt grateful to him, knowing he was the deciding factor on whether I stayed or left. And there he was, giving me another chance to prove myself. It had left me determined not to disappoint him.
Of course I would. It was inevitable. It seemed no matter how much I tried, I was always messing up in some way. First with the lions, then with us, our relationship having become more than just princess and protector. We began dating in secret, stealing moments to ourselves when no one was looking. How innocent those times seemed, our lives full of laughter and love.
I wish I could only remember the good times between us. The happy times, the moments when I felt safe and loved in his arms. But those moments never lasted long enough, especially with Keith pushing me for more. He had wanted things, things I could not give him. I could sense his growing frustration with me and the secrecy of our relationship, but there was little I could do to stop it. I was a princess, and he? He was the hero of my people, but lacked the pedigree to be able to properly court one of my station.
I tried to make the best of it, hoping he was doing the same. But moments would come when he would say things, snide things. Words that hurt me, shooting daggers into my heart. Never did Keith put himself down directly, instead making sly insinuations that I was ashamed of him. Ashamed of our relationship. He began to pretend he didn’t understand why else we would need to keep our love a secret.
“It must be nice…” He had once said, his wistful tone not quite hiding the hurtfulness of his words. “To be able to go slumming with a peasant like me.”
“I am not slumming!” I had quickly insisted with a shake of my head. He had ignored me, shrugging off my hand on his arm. “Keith…” I should have let him walk away from me then, but I didn’t, offering up words to soothe his hurt. That had been a mistake, nothing I could say would make things better between us, not unless I was prepared to out our relationship.
Perhaps I had been wrong to fall in love with someone who wasn’t equal to my rank. But love is ever foolish, and cares not about such things. The heart wants what it wants, and we are helpless to resist. I believe Keith loved me, I have to, or I will go mad. And yet I cannot understand how someone who felt the love that I did could do such awful things.
I think I am not without blame, taking up with him in a relationship that could go nowhere. I was setting us both up for heartbreak, and yet I willfully ignored the ultimate outcome of our love. Even when Coran and Nanny began pushing princes, kings, and emperors on me, I continued to cling to my relationship with Keith. I was stubborn, refusing to even consider the offers for my hand, and maintaining a veil of secrecy around me.
The men continued to propose, offers coming in droves, many lacking subtlety. They certainly didn’t try to keep secret about their desire to court me, their antics and gifts putting further strain on my relationship with Keith. I can recall vividly the breaking point of all that attention I received, and though it pains me to do so, I shudder at the memory.
Keith and I had stolen away for a few moments alone. Inside my mother’s tea parlor, surrounding by her memory, and her things, we had shared a few kisses and warm embraces. Both of us had been tense, I assumed he was as fearful as I about getting caught. I thought wrong. What started out as an innocent encounter, soon became heated, Keith pulling at my clothes. It was something he was doing more and more often, trying to go further than I was prepared to go.
He had managed to get my shirt free of my belt, his hands sliding underneath the fabric. He moved them with a purpose, seeking out my breasts to give my a firm fondle. Although the act wasn’t unpleasant in the slightest, I had pulled away, a blush coloring my cheeks. He hadn’t gotten the message, advancing on me, hands gripping my waist, pulling me close for a heated kiss. This time I refused his lips, and he gave me such a look, reminding me of a wounded animal.
I should have remembered that animals are their most vicious when wounded, even as Keith asked in a deceptively calm voice, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” I had answered, stepping away from him. I put the table between us, needing that space to think.
“Then why won’t you let me kiss you?” Keith had asked, the first hint of a frown on his face.
“You want more than a kiss.” His frown deepened, and it was enough to fool me into thinking hurt was the only thing bubbling within him.
“Is that so wrong?” Keith had wanted to know, and it was my turn to frown.
“I didn’t say it was wrong….I just….” I had sighed then, taking a seat on the nearest wicker chair. “I just have certain obligations to uphold.”
“Obligations?” He had repeated, earning a nod from me. He didn’t ask what obligations could keep me from going further than a kiss with him. Instead his eyes narrowed, Keith practically hissing in that moment. “It’s those men…those royal dogs who sniff after you, desperate for your hand.” I had made a sound then, I wasn’t sure what I meant to say, but he never gave me a chance to form words. “You think to save yourself for one of them, don’t you?” He screamed them, the words mad and accusing. “Don’t you?”
It would have been bad enough to be yelled at by him, but then he reached down for the table’s edge. His actions followed his scream, Keith flipping the table over, my mother’s porcelain tea set smashing into the floor. It and it’s cups were beyond salvageable, shattered pieces that even glue would not be able to hold together.
“Keith….!” It seemed all I could do was say his name, and that set him off even more. He flew into a rage, shouting out words, accusing me of doing things with those other men. For each growled out shout, more damage was done to the parlor, Keith throwing things, punching the wall, overturning furniture. I could only cower in fear, sitting in that chair as he circled around the room committing a wave of destruction.
When it was over with, he was left panting, breaths harsh and heavy. His one hand was bleeding, he had split the palm open on a shard of a vase when he crushed it in his hands. I had started to cry, tiny whimpers of sound as I tried to control my tears, frightened of setting him off once more. But my weeping seemed to get through to him, he suddenly approached me, arms entwining around me from behind.
“I’m sorry.” He had spoken quietly, nuzzling his face against my hair. I can remember how strongly I trembled in his arms, frightened beyond belief. “I didn’t mean to do that. You drive me crazy, you know that?” I realize now it was just like him to blame his actions on me, but back then I had accepted the words, whispering out an apology of my own.
“I don’t mean to.” I had tearfully said.
“I just wish things could be different…” Keith had murmured. “I’m so tired of the secrecy and the lies. Having to hide what I feel for you.”
“It’s stressful for me to.” I had actually been willing to write off his behavior as a manifestation of the stress he had been experiencing. Especially with him turning gentle, holding me in a comforting embrace. I needed that comfort, I sought it out, even as the man who offered it had terrified me earlier.
He helped me clean up the mess he had made of the room, but many things were damaged beyond repair. It hurt all the more that it had been my mother’s belongings that had suffered for the problems in our relationship, but it wouldn’t be the last time he would destroy things. Anger at me, at our situation would continue, boiling in him until it erupted in violent displays.
“If you really loved me….” He would often snarl. “You’d tell them about us! Stations be damned!” I was helpless against such accusations, wondering if a part of me didn’t love him enough, just like he said.
Keith would make me desperate to prove myself to him, to validate the love I felt for him. Eventually our relationship moved passed kisses and hugs, I was doing things with him I had never done before, sexual things. I wouldn’t let him take my virginity, but I would let him have other firsts, and for a time he seemed happy with making use of my hands and my mouth.
I couldn’t realize that would only make him more possessive, Keith assuming it was only a matter of time before I gave all of myself to him. He didn’t want to understand that it wasn’t mine to give, that a part of me would always belong to my people, my kingdom. I had my duties, and though we could ignore them for a time, in the end they always came calling for me.
It wasn’t enough to run the kingdom, and pilot blue lion, I had to entertain those who sought my hand in marriage. Balls were sometimes held, lavish affairs where the various royals would present themselves to me. I knew I was in love with Keith, but I had an obligation to my people. And so I gave those men a chance, speaking with them, getting to know them, even dancing.
And all the while he would stare at me from across the room, smoky gaze boring into me and whatever partner I moved with. Finally after one ball too many, he would drag me outside, pulling me into the shadows of some trees. The shadows would hide his dark intentions, Keith fingers digging into my arms, bruising me.
“You’re mine!” He had snarled, giving me a vicious shake. My head had rattled from the force of it, my lip being bitten to hold back my protesting cries. I had tried to twist away from him, and got shoved against a tree, Keith pinning me in place with his eyes blazing. “No other man shall have you!”
He hadn’t waited for me to answer, Keith kissing me hard. It was different from all the other kisses we shared, not loving, not passionate, just angry. He had kissed me as though he intended to destroy me with his lips, I even cut myself on his teeth, tasting blood. And all the while his fingers squeezes my arms, hurting me more and more.
I wouldn’t return to the party that night, giving off lies of suddenly falling ill. I knew that had disappointed my caregivers, they had such high expectations of me. And Keith placed even more on me, forcing me to disappoint others to please him. The balls would continue to be held, but no longer would I dance or speak more than a few words to any potential suitors.
I couldn’t realize the damage I was doing to my reputation, those suitors letting word travel of my cold disposition. If it weren’t for Voltron, the offers for my hand would have stopped completely. That would have suited Keith just fine. Perhaps he thought if I drove off all my options, I would have no choice but to pick him.
The verbal puts downs and abuse would continue, Keith never lax in pointing out my faults. It seemed there was little I could do to please him, he found fault with the way I dressed, the way I wore my hair, even the way I spoke to the other members of the team.
“You’re too overly familiar with Lance and the others.” He had complained.
“They’re my friends.” I would point out, tired of this familiar argument.
“You don’t need them as friends. You only need me.” He would quickly retort. He had meant it too, Keith working to isolate me from friends, family, and servants. It frustrated him that people kept coming to the castle, seeking me out for help or advice. He didn’t know how to drive them away, and would grow increasingly angry at their presence in my life.
There was one person in particular who would soon occupy all of Keith’s thoughts. A certain prince from the Drule Empire, a man more stubborn than all the royals combined who had courted me. I don’t know what Lotor was thinking when he first began to pursue me, but his interest enraged Keith. It wouldn’t be long before all our
arguments seemed to be about Lotor, and with it, would come the increasing of Keith’s violent temper.