Better Worse 14

Dinner had ended not long after Lotor’s display of temper, and subsequent punishment. I think none of us had an appetite after that scene. As angry as we all were with Lotor, it hadn’t been pleasant to watch him writhe on the floor while a continuous current of electricity washed over his skin. The fact that the electricity had continued even after he had been brought to his back on the floor, was a testament to how angry Lotor had been in the moment.

It had been a frightening display, and the thoughts that followed were just as chilling. What would Lotor have done if the device hadn’t been in place to subdue him? How many more people would he have hurt in an attempt to alleviate his rage and frustration? That was something I could only guess at, knowing the prince had always had a temper. A temper that had grown worse with age, and the situation he now found himself in.

Not that my attitude was any better. I was just as upset as Lotor, though I doubt I could ever bring myself to be as violent as he was behaving. I didn’t find satisfaction in striking random people, in taking out my frustrations on people who weren’t directly involved with what was happening. Even when I had been slapping Lotor in his dungeon cell, it hadn’t really made me feel better. Perhaps nothing would.

I couldn’t keep from sighing out loud. I didn’t care if the sound drew any attention to me. Most people in the castle already suspected there was something strange about this wedding of mine. Why go to the trouble of pretending I was happy about what was to happen in less then two day’s time? After all, this marriage would be no love match. Lotor and I could barely tolerate the sight of each other at this point and time. That was how much the relationship between us had soured.

I was sure everyone was talking about it, gossip making the rounds. After all, before my birthday, I had made no attempt to hide from the servants how much I was looking forward to seeing Prince Lotor. My personal maids had giggled and teased me, actively plotting with me for a way to get his attention. It was shocking to them to see the change come over me, to see my new found disdain for the prince. They had to know something had happened, something that didn’t just have to do with the attacks from Lotor’s fleet. But how much they suspected, I did not know.

Even without anything concrete to go on, there was plenty for the people of the castle to talk about. From what the maids suspected, to what the guards had overheard, even actual fact lent a hand to the speculation and gossip making the rounds. It was talk that would continue even after the wedding, and once my condition was known, people would surely take that as confirmation as to why Lotor and I had married. And so hastily! But they wouldn’t be able to prove anything for sure. My marriage, my pregnancy, it would all be viewed with suspicion, but never would the absolute truth come out so long as Lotor and I kept quiet about it.

Lotor was a wild card though. He might very well speak out, regardless of the damage it did to me, to him, to our marriage and child. And all out of spite. He was so angry, and only growing more incensed the more he learned and endured. I had seen firsthand tonight, how angry he was. An anger that endured even as he was shocked over and over again by the device implanted in his arm.

It hadn’t been easy to watch him being shocked. I had taken no pleasure in his pain. Nor had I remain unaffected by what was going on, a betraying scream escaping me before I could stop it. My mother had actually taken me into her arms, as though she feared I would try to go to Lotor, and receive a zap in the process. I had stood shaking, trembling in her embrace. Staring at Lotor, and unable to take my eyes away from his writhing form.

I was shaken still. And all because some part of me wasn’t as unaffected by the prince and his pain as I would have preferred. It had upset me to see him hurt in such a manner. I tried to tell myself it was because it had been so sudden, the electricity taken a hold of him before I could prepare myself. But I knew that was a lie. I still had feelings for him, feelings I had been trying to bury for nearly two weeks now.

It made me sick that a part of me could still care for him. But I’ve since learned that feelings like love aren’t so easy to bury or kill. Even with all that Lotor had done, he hadn’t complete eradicated that girl hood crush I had had for him. It had merely become distorted, twisted into something that wasn’t as pretty or innocent. I was wiser now, or so I would like to hope, hardened by my experiences suffered at Lotor’s cruel hands. I had been forced to grow up and leave behind my fanciful dreams, all in order to face the harsh realities of my situation.

Even with the feelings I still had for Lotor, I wouldn’t make anything easier for him. I still resented him, despising what he had done to me and to my parents. He needed to pay, to be punished. My father was working on just that, stripping Lotor of any power where Arus was concerned. I could do my part to, and make Lotor absolutely miserable in our marriage. Most days it seemed an easy task. And all because my anger and disappointments were first and foremost in my mind, affecting my moods and my feelings towards Lotor.

I wasn’t able to believe in happily ever after anymore. And indeed it looked like my life would be a misery, just as much as Lotor’s would be. I couldn’t, wouldn’t forgive him, even if he had been willing to ask for forgiveness. He was not anywhere near ready to be sorry for what he had done. We could all see that, and that knowledge HURT me. I was sure there was no way to ever mend fences between us, no matter what happened next.

Nor did I want to try. I was failing to see that I would be just as much cause for heartache and misery as Lotor, and all because of my stubborn refusal to forgive and start over. I was determined to cling to my heartache, my hurt. Even at the cost of my own happiness. But then, I didn’t believe there was ever a chance for me to truly be happy again.

It was these troubling thoughts that had me wandering the halls of the castle. I was without purpose, not wanting to return to my rooms. The maids would be there, working on getting my things ready for the upcoming ceremony. There had been no time to commission a true bride’s gown for the wedding. We had to make do with what was already in my closets, a white dress being found and hastily modified. There was bits of lace and pearl being added to the otherwise plain silk, the bodice being adjusted to hang at a more proper height for a bride. There was even bolts of cloth that had been purchased, a white that nearly matched the dress’ original color. Those bolts of cloth would be sewn into the back of the dress, giving my gown a nice length of train. It was not the ideal gown I would have envisioned for myself, but I appreciated the effort that was being put forth to give this hastily thrown together wedding a semblance of normality.

The castle’s ball room hall was being decorated, party favors left over from my birthday being painted into a gold and white color scheme suitable for a royal wedding. There was no time to bring in nearly enough fresh flowers, even if we raided the castle gardens. I told myself it didn’t matter, that I didn’t care that we weren’t spending the time and expense that was proper of a royal marriage ceremony. I even tried to convince myself that we needn’t go so far, that none of it mattered so long as Lotor and I were married in a timely fashion, before my belly started to grow. But honestly? It did.

This was not the wedding I had envisioned for myself ever since I was a young girl. There was none of the excitement and good cheer associated with the festivities. Hell, there wasn’t many festivities being held, no parades and parties. We hadn’t even had the time to hold an engagement dinner to announce and introduce my future husband to the nobility of Arus. The wedding was on such short notice, not many would be able to attend. And those who would, were frantically rearranging appointments so as to attend the ceremony.

Everything was being blamed on the so called mounting aggressions between Doom and Arus. The marriage between myself and Prince Lotor was to be the end of the problems, to strengthen the truce between our two kingdoms. Privately I wondered if anything could ever be the same again, especially for the relationship between the rulers of Arus and Doom.

During my musings, I had wandered far about the castle. The ball room doors were in sight, flung open so that people could hurry through without hindrance. I drifted in that direction, curious despite my misgivings. The hurrying servants made sure to greet me, but were otherwise distracted with their errands. Many had arms full of objects, boxes overflowing with decorations. They would work round the clock to get the room ready, until everything was as perfect as perfect could be for such an occasion.

I entered the room, and stood just to the side of the doors. I wanted to be in no one’s way as I looked around the ball room. Already things glittered and sparkled, banners being hung that represented both planets. There was a row of long tables pressed against the far wall. The day of the wedding, they would be covered with food. But for now they were empty, save for the embroidered, white and gold table cloths.

There was benches placed in two groups, each facing the stair case. The heart of the ceremony would take place at the top of the stairs. Lotor and I would be present before a priest, who would stand slightly above us on top of a podium brought in just for this occasion. The long train of my gown would be displayed brilliantly on the red carpeting that covered the stairs. Every minute would be recorded, the footage then being sent out to all the news stations to broadcast. The galaxy would rejoice to see the brilliant match the princess of Arus and prince of Doom had made, a marriage that would safe guard peace in this part of the universe. But there would be little peace in my own household and heart.

My hands did not quite clench in anger, though I’m sure I was scowling based on the nervous looks I received from some of the maids. I tried to take a calming breath, to cool the fires of my anger. I shouldn’t be walking around with such an expression visible to the castle gossips. None of them should be privy to my inner turmoil. Why just the expression alone might get tongues wagging in speculation, and wouldn’t that be something if the rumor rags got a hold of the princess’ displeasure at marrying her future husband?!

I felt the tension work it’s way through me. My life had always been a happy one. With little scandal or worry to truly touch it. Certainly I had never had to overtly worry about schooling my expressions so as not to cause new gossip to circulate as much as I had to in these last two weeks. But it was different now. Had been different ever since the night I had given my virginity to prince Lotor. Worry after worry had filled me, new problems emerging that could bring ruin to me and my family. Even this marriage would cause trouble, I would constantly be on guard to hide my true feelings about it from the public.

It seemed too much of a lie to spend the rest of my days living. But my other choices were just as unappealing. It was either marriage to Lotor whom I could barely tolerate, life in a convent where I would be kept apart from my family and the child I would one day give birth to, or try to marry someone beneath me in station on the off chance they could forgive my youthful indiscretion with Doom’s prince. That third choice would surely have attracted many gold diggers and social tree climbers. And even then I wasn’t guaranteed a match, let alone a good one!

Lotor might have spent the rest of his life in an Arusian prison if my father had had his way. I supposed you could say Lotor had been granted his freedom on my choice alone. But it wasn’t a benevolent decision. He had gotten me into this mess, had spawned a child off of me. It was only right he pay the price and suffer through this marriage with me and be a father to our child.

It certainly had nothing to do with any distorted feelings I still had for Lotor. Or at least I tried to tell myself that. I might have even fooled myself into believing this marriage was motivated purely by my need for revenge, the need to ensure Lotor was as miserable as can be. I was hurt, and wanted to lash out at him. Again and again, until he bled just as badly as I did.

I was only growing angrier as I stood in the ball room, looking at the things that signaled a wedding would soon take place. I knew I had to leave, that I had to go somewhere to calm myself and get control over my feelings. But I wouldn’t get the chance, a voice behind me saying my name.

“Allura…”

Instantly I stiffened. I recognize the voice, and the familiarity in which he spoke my name. I started to turn, not bothering to hide how unhappy I was too Prince Lotor. He didn’t look any happier than I, lips frowning as he met my gaze.

“What do you want?” I demanded, harsh and without any attempt at politeness.

“I came to see you.” He said. My anger did not die, but for one-second it was dulled. And all because I felt surprised to think he had sought me out. But my anger trampled over my surprise, my face not losing it’s scowling expression.

“What could you possibly have to speak to me about?”

“It’s about our wedding.” Lotor said, after two men finished walking past us with a wheeled trolley.

I could guess at what he wanted to say to me, but I pretended otherwise, turning snide as I talked. “Any changes you want done to the decorum and ceremony, will have to be passed by Malenia, the wedding coordinator.”

“I’m not interested in the finer details of this wedding. And you know it!” He exclaimed, still frowning. “Allura, this is madness. We…” Again he had to pause, a woman hurrying past with an armful of cloth garlands. “We can’t get married.” Lotor said at a lower tone of voice.

“Why ever not?” I asked.

“Because we don’t love each other.” He stated firmly. “I certainly don’t love you.” I was pleased I managed not to flinch, though those words felt like a knife stabbing into my heart. Damn him, but he still had the power to hurt me! It made me want to curl my fingers into claws, and slash my nails down his face. Anything to hurt him back.

“And I do not love you.” I retorted out loud. “But love has never, ever been a requirement for those in our station. It’s always been about advantages, cementing truces, averting wars….” I almost smirked then. “It’s a shame for you that your father has proven too reluctant to fight for your freedom.”

“My father is a coward.” Lotor scowled. “I realize that now.”

“It must run in the family.” I say, watching as Lotor’s angry look increased. “Admit it Lotor. You were just as cowardly, trying to take Arus the way that you attempted!”

“It wasn’t from any fear of fighting, I can tell you that much!” He snapped in reply. “Allura, you know why I did what I did. I wanted to avoid damages, casualties, even you and your family’s own deaths. I wanted to conquer Arus through a more peaceful means.”

“Your excuses for what you tried to do will never absolve you of your sins!” I hiss. “It was cruel, and cowardly. Yes, cowardly! To use me in such a way! To hurt me…to hurt my parents…” I would be strong, and not allow my voice to break on the angry sob that wanted to come out. “You’ve damaged my relationships with them. My father can barely look at me now.”

“Don’t try to claim his love for you has lessened.” Lotor then touched his arm, the one that was said to be implanted with the tracing and taser device. “He wouldn’t go to such extremes if he wasn’t still fiercely protective of you, if he still didn’t care for you.”

“He’s trying to keep scandal from our house!”

“It’s more than that! He loves you. Wants you to be happy. A father who doesn’t care, wouldn’t demand that his future son in law do everything in his power to see to your happiness.” Lotor growled. “But he’s a fool.”

“Don’t talk about my father that way!” I snapped out in protest. My voice came out too loud, drawing curious gazes to us. Lotor noticed as well, frowning. I didn’t even blush, just repeated what I had exclaimed in a lower tone of voice.

“I’m right and you know it.” Lotor said. I wouldn’t agree with him, much to his displeasure. “How can he expect you to be happy with me? You can’t even stand me!” I did not deny it. “Allura, this wedding needs to be stopped. Our lives really will be ruined if we get married to each other. Please….stop this while you still can…”

“And what are my options otherwise?” I demanded. My voice was raising again, leaving me to fight not to shout. “Life in a convent, kept away from everyone I love, everything I ever knew? Or to marry someone else, some gold digging, title hunting fop who would never let me forget my past transgressions with you?!”

Lotor stared at me steely eyed. “Haven’t you considered a fourth option?”

“Fourth?”

“You could…always get rid of the child you carried.” He continued, ignoring my own shocked gasp. “If you do it early enough, no one need ever know you had been pregnant in the first place.”

“Abortion…” I squeaked out the distasteful word in a low voiced whisper. I couldn’t believe he was suggesting such a thing. To us Arusians, abortion was a terrible thing, a distasteful choice that few if any ever took. I had thought the same for the Drule culture, but maybe I was as wrong about them as I had been about their prince. “No…no…never.” I shook my head in a fitful manner. “I would never commit such a sin! Lotor, our baby is innocent! It shouldn’t be made to die for our wrong doings!” I was glaring at him by the time I finished those heated whispers. Lotor’s look was unreadable. I had no way of knowing how he felt about my refusal to abort the baby I carried.

“The child is a mistake.” He finally said. “Think Allura! What kind of life could we give it? When it’s parents don’t even like one another? We won’t even be able to make ourselves happy, let alone this child!”

“No…” I whispered it, then all but screamed. “NO!” That drew the attention of everyone in the room. Lotor let out some vicious sounding words in Drule, then grabbed me by the arm. He didn’t even try to explain to the onlookers what was going on, just dragged me out of the room. We got a few steps out in the hallway, and then I began beating my fists against him. “Let me go!”

“Do you really want an audience for this discussion?!” He demanded.

“I don’t want this discussion at all!” I hissed. “I will be keeping this baby. You and I WILL marry, and by all the gods you worship, we will not only make a home for this baby, we will make it happy !”

“You hope for the impossible!” He snapped.

“No, the real impossibility was my believing you loved me. But Lotor? Never again! I will never, ever fall for your lies and manipulations!” I was shaking by this time, jerking my arm free of his unresisting grip. He had the oddest look in his eyes, as though he wanted to challenge what I had just said. I didn’t want to give him a chance to follow through though. “I suggest you prepare yourself, Lotor. The wedding will happen. With or without your blessings!”

With that said, I turned my back on him. I was still so angry, visibly trembling as I stalked away from Prince Lotor. I didn’t feel one bit happy about what had happened, and I felt even less satisfied when I heard him snarl something at my back. I didn’t turn around though, knowing the confrontation would be endless if I continued to allow him to bait me. But I was still upset by what I had heard him say, Lotor having hissed about how he would find a way to stop the wedding. I could only wonder and worry what would happen if that claim proved to be true.


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