Better Worse 07

It has been a week since my birthday. A week since I have truly smiled, a week since I have been happy. Time continues to flow, the days passing but slowly. The marks Lotor has left on my body have already faded, but the scars on my emotions, on my very soul remain. I hurt constantly, emotionally anguished and heart sick. I want to cry all the time, but do not allow myself such weak moments. The depression is bad enough, even without tears shed.

I am constantly berating myself. I find fault in everything I had done that night. If onlys run through my mind, telling me I should have dressed different, should behaved different. I know now I should never have insisted he meet with me, and it is only one of a dozen things I would have done differently that night. If I could change the past I would. I’d make it that I never even talked to Lotor, never even looked at him let alone had sex with him.

I dream about that night. Those dreams torment me, reminding me of his every lie, from his deceitful looks to his manipulative tongue. Worse yet, I remember how it felt to be kissed by him. To be touched and caressed, and told I was loved. To my shame, I often wake up needy. Trembling and aching. That lasts only long enough for me to remember the morning after. Of how I awoke alone and abandoned in the garden, my body on display for anyone to see.

I hate myself for any desire the dreams stir in me. I tell myself it is not Lotor I want, but worry he has twisted something inside me. He’s awaken to me the woman inside. A woman who seems not to care about the abuse done in her longings for pleasure. I want to believe that someday I can be happy. That someday I can find a good man, a trustworthy man. One who will actually love me and help bring me to fulfillment in all aspects of my life.

I worry I will never find that man. Not after what Lotor has done to me. I fear no man who is my equal in station will want a woman that has been used. I curse myself a fool, knowing I had been stupid and naive around Lotor. I sometimes hate myself enough to feel I got exactly what I deserved for trusting a man like the prince of Doom.

I live in constant fear. It is the fear that someone else will find out what I have done. I even worry that Lotor will become tired of keeping quiet, that the scandal will make it’s rounds through the gossiping nobility. I don’t ever want what I have done to become known, not even if that would be one less worry to burden myself with. I want, NEED Lotor to keep quiet, and yet I don’t dare get in contact with him.

The people around me can tell something is upsetting me. My smiles are always forced, the light of happiness never in my eyes. I spend much time in my apartment, and I’ve stopped visiting the gardens. The gardens were once a safe heaven, a sensory pleasure I partook of often. Now I can’t bear to even look at it, and all because it reminds me too much of what happened amongst the flowers.

I know I am depressed. I cannot muster up the energy or interest to do the things that once gave me pleasure. My schooling has become the most painful of chores, but at least the work is something to take my mind off of Lotor and what was done to me. But I can’t throw myself into the school work with vigor, doing a half hearted job at best. If this keeps up, my grades will surely suffer.

This is no way for a princess to be behaving. I am something to be admired, to be respected. I am supposed to do my best in everything I attempt, lead an exemplary life so that others might look up to or try to emulate me. But I know they would never do that if they knew their role model was tainted. I feel as though I am living a lie, one of omission, but a lie nonetheless. Pretending to be the same Allura of a week ago, when everything has changed for me inside.

To that end I concentrate on some of the more charitable work I’ve been assigned. I actually leave my apartment, and meet with the various people who come to the castle to petition for aid. It is something my parents would approve of, and this is practice I need. Coran, the official advisor to the throne is also present. He helps guide me towards making the right, the just decisions.

There are many concerns the people of Arus have. Some of the petitioning groups have traveled from the far side of the world, all to meet with and petition aid from the castle. I am nowhere near experienced enough nor wise enough to help with every case, but there is more than enough people I can help. From opening up the food banks, to lending money to those who need it, it makes me feel as though I am accomplishing good.

Neither my mother nor my father are present for these events. That is not entirely unusual. They lead busy lives, and are sometimes called away to meetings. These meetings help further decide Arus’ future, help plan for it’s success, even works to cement alliances and earn more gold for funding. I think nothing odd that my parents have been called away to meet with some diplomat early this morning. I am confidant they will do what is necessary to keep Arus safe and successful.

I don’t know how right I am. How willing they are to protect this planet and it’s people. Even at the risk of scandal to their own daughter. But I’ll soon find out.

It is when I am in the midst of talking to a small group of farmers about their concerns, that word comes. My parents have returned home. It is a return that has the servants and people of the castle in a tizzy, gossip spreading like wildfire. There is a mood about them, my mother distraught, my father visibly angry. I don’t yet hear about the other arrival, the one who will be brought inside the castle in chains. He will come later, under a strict supervision of the castle guards and their commander.

I don’t know what is going on, but an uneasy feeling begins to settle within me. It only grows stronger when a messenger approaches in the midst of my conversation with the farmers. He is apologetic but insistent, telling me my parents are demanding my presence in the King’s office. The messenger will tell me no more, not even at my persistent questionings. I am sure this is serious trouble, but I try to fool myself into hoping it has nothing to do with me and my tryst with Prince Lotor.

Making my excuses to the farmers and other petitioners, I leave the throne room. Coran will handle the rest in my absence. In truth, the instant the messenger arrived, my mind has become distracted with worry. I constantly think on my parent’s emotional return from their meeting, and what it could mean. I keep on hoping it has nothing to do with Lotor, wondering if an alliance has fallen apart, or funding has been denied. I even dare hope a war might be on the verge of happening. Anything to keep the truth of my sin from being found out, even if that is selfish of me to wish disaster on our world in favor of keeping my shame hidden.

My hands are starting to grow damp with sweat. I wipe them constantly on the front of my pants. I am so nervous I feel sick. I want to do anything to avoid this meeting with my mother and father. But it is unavoidable, the messenger escorting me to the King’s office.

The King’s office is a sound proof room. We hear nothing of what is going on inside. The messenger knocks several times, then opens the door. I am given the impression that my parents had been heatedly discussing something when the interruption came. My father looks angry, his teeth bared as though in the midst of a spoken word. My mother is not yet crying, but her knuckles have bled of their color due to how tightly she grips her handkerchief.

I enter the room, and the door is closed behind me. I want to jump at that sound, though it is neither loud nor forceful. Ill at ease, and struggling to hide it, I give a respectful bow to my parents. My mother returns it with a nod, but my father’s eyes are sparking with anger. I am more certain than ever that this meeting has to do with what happened with Lotor.

“Sit.” My father commands, a finger pointing at a seat across the table from my mother. I do not argue with him, hurrying almost too fast to take my seat. My heart is starting to beat faster, as though it’s frantic thumping would be heard by my parents. I glance at my mother, who seems to tear up under my gaze. My father is staring at me, standing at the table, his hands fists on the lacquered surface.

“What…what reason do you call me here?” I can’t help but stammer. The tension in the air is a palpable thing, nervous energy filling me in response to my parent’s obvious upset.

My father has never been the type to delay a topic. He gets right to the point, angry eyes intent on me. “We’ve just come back from a meeting.”

“Yes, I know.” I start to say. But he is not finished.

“A meeting with one Prince Lotor of planet Doom.” I am sure my face pales at the mention of Lotor, but other than that I school my reactions well. But my father hasn’t failed to noticed the way the color fled from my face. His eyes actually narrow, his jaw clenching in response. “Prince Lotor had a great many things to tell us.”

“Oh?” That word is a hoarse sound. It is all I can muster.

Even that sound is too much, grating on my father’s fraying nerves. “I thought I–we raised you better than this.” Somehow I manage not to flinch, even when he says the following. “I thought you were smarter, that you wouldn’t be lured in by a handsome face and pretty words.”

There is no denying it, they know. I’ve done nothing else that deserves being talked to in this manner. My eyes lower to the table’s surface, but I don’t yet bow my head in submission. The sick feeling continues, and I hear my mother make a sound. She is trying to hold in her urge to cry, it is apparent by that strangled sob she let out.

“How could you do this Allura?” He demands. “How could you be so foolish?!”

I know it’s no excuse, and yet I cry it out all the same. “I thought he loved me!” I say. “That he wanted me…” I bite my lip. Lotor HAD wanted me, but only for one night. It was stupid to think his desire would last any longer than that.

“It was not you that he really wanted.”

“ALFOR!” My mother snaps, her tone more forceful than I have ever heard. I glance up quickly, just in time to catch the reproachful look she is giving my father.

“Diana, why try to soften the blow” He demands. Neither one is looking at me now, too focused on each other. “She has to know…”

“Yes, she does.” Agrees my mother. “But there are other ways….kinder ways to tell her.”

“To tell me what?” I ask and am ignored.

“Is there even a way that is kind to tell someone they have been used?” My father asks. I don’t know what he means by that exactly. What had Lotor used me for, except his own pleasure?

My mother gives my father another reproachful look, tone chiding. “We needn’t hurt our daughter in the process!”

I didn’t think they could hurt me any worse than Lotor had. My father would have disagreed, the man throwing up his hands in exasperation. “Fine, then you tell her!”

“Me?” I caught my mother’s startled look. It appeared it was not a task she wanted. But she wouldn’t back down and let my father handle this. “Fine.” She turned her gaze on my, eyes wet but showing soft emotion. She was struggling to be strong, and I wanted to reach out and touch her hands for comfort. But those hands still had a death grip on her handkerchief, leaving me to fear rejection.

“Mother…tell me.” I plead. “What else has Lotor done?”

Her eyes lowered briefly, then turned determined. “His highness….made an offer to us this day.”

“An offer?”

“Yes.” A nod of her head. Her lips flattened to a thin line, my mother trying to hide her emotional response to whatever it was she was about to say. “Prince Lotor has grand ambitions where Arus is concerned. He wants to rule this planet, wants to take it from us.”

“You would never let him though…” I quickly say.

“Of course not!” My father interjects. “I would never give in to his demands and threats…”

“Threats?” I glance at my father now. “He threatened you?” I was working myself up to be angry, even though the sick feeling remained. I assumed he threatened my father with physical violence, even with death. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than that. Let alone something involving myself.

My father nodded, but it was my mother who spoke, drawing my attention back to her. Her gaze was sad, as though her own heart was breaking to tell me this. “Prince Lotor wanted to use what you two have done together, to blackmail your father into giving over the planet of Arus into Doom’s custody.”

“What?” I breathed out, staring at her aghast. “No…he can’t. He won’t! It will be his word against mine!” But even just Lotor making the claims of sex would be enough to ruin me and bring doubt and scandal to our home.

“He has footage of you.” My father said this before my mother could silence him. My eyes went wide with horror, Alfor nodding, grim faced. “He filmed you Allura. Filmed every moment of your…indiscretion.”

His hesitation made me wonder what word my father had wanted to really use. But I didn’t question him. My own eyes felt moist, I wanted to cry and yet couldn’t. I had to be strong. As strong as my mother was being. But more than that, I had to become as angry as my father. It was an easy feat to manage, especially when I imagined just how my parents knew about this video footage.

“He showed it to you, didn’t he?” My parents exchanged looks, and seemed as though they would lie to me. “Didn’t he?!” I practically screamed, grateful for the room’s sound proofing.

“Yes.” One word, but it was enough to get me pounding my hands on the table.

My mother dabbed at her wet eyes with her handkerchief. “I am so sorry.” She whispered. It made me want to break down, to leap over the table and go into her embrace. To have the good cry I had been denying myself all week. But my anger was the prevalent emotion, stronger than any tears. Any color I had lost, was surely returning, my cheeks an angry red of rage.

“I’m the one who should be sorry.” I say. My parents do not deny this, merely gazing at me. “You’re right father. I was foolish, stupid even. I let Prince Lotor dazzle me with lies, let myself believe he loved me. I never dreamed he could have an agenda like this. Believe me when I say I would have done things differently had I known…” I couldn’t tell if my father believed me, but I was being sincere. Lotor was a mistake I would never had made in the first place, if only I had known his true nature.

My father nodded at last. “We all would have done differently…”

“If there is one thing I have learned in these last few days…wishing can’t change the past.” I wasn’t trying to come off as a wise woman. “We must move forward, and deal with the problems as they arise.” I took a deep breath, then straightened my shoulders. “So what is to be done? What sort of damage control must we do? Is there anything we can do to lessen the impact of this scandal?”

“It’s already in the works.” My father told me. “Prince Lotor is currently a guest in our dungeons.”

That I had not been expecting. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, nearly gaping at my father. “The dungeons?!”

He didn’t smile, but he did nod, looking pleased with himself. “This is an insult that cannot go unavenged.” I was still staring at him shocked. “I could have killed him…I still can.” My father added softly.

“Won’t that cause a problem if you do?” I ask, but already know the answer. Just keeping Lotor in our dungeons would put the alliance between Arus and Doom in jeopardy.

“Prince Lotor must pay for his arrogance.” My father stated, and my mother was nodding.

“But surely you don’t intend to really kill him….”

“I probably won’t.” But the gleam in his eyes spoke of the relish my father would take if he chose to actually kill Lotor. “But the fact remains, he committed a crime in trying to blackmail the royal house of Arus. He will be punished by our laws.”

That would most likely net him several years in an Arusian prison. I couldn’t imagine Lotor’s father, King Zarkon standing for such a thing. “But he is not from Arus!” I point out. “Nor is he your typical black hearted criminal. He has STATUS. He is part of a kingdom, the crown prince of Doom. King Zarkon will not allow his heir to suffer such an indignity. Not without acting…” It was war I feared, a battle between our two kingdoms.

“If King Zarkon insist on war between our two kingdoms, he will learn the error of challenging Arus.” My father said. It was no idle boast, and still I feared what would happen next. A war could cost so many lives, ruin land and crops. Destroy whole cities. I wanted none of that to touch my planet, and felt myself despair over the actions I had done that might lead us into battle with Doom.

“Fear not daughter.” My father continued. “Arus is no weakling. We have a strong military presence. Doom would be a fool to engage us in battle at this time.”

I could hardly be reassured. But I nodded all the same, eyes troubled. My mother reached across the table to touch my hand. She could not muster up a smile. “It will be all right Allura.” She said. “Things will work at…”

I hope they would, nodding weakly at my mother. “Yes…again I am sorry for what I did.” My gaze lowered, staring at the hand touching mine. “If I may….I would like to be excused now…”

“I suppose you may go.” My father said. “I am sure you’ve been punished enough with this revelations.”

How right he was! I nodded, and rose from my seat. “Thank you…” I bowed quickly, then hurried to exit the room before he changed his mind. But it was not to my apartment or the throne room I would go to. No, with a determined look in my eyes, and a vengeful anger fueling my every move, I would hurry to the bowels of the castle. Deep down to the dungeons, where Prince Lotor was in the midst of awaiting his punishment. He would not get it from my father, not today. But I was determined to mete out my own brand of justice in a display of vindictive but deserved anger.

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