Better Worse 22

The rest of the day would pass as uneventful, Lotor and I managing to avoid one another. Even for an arranged marriage based on necessity, this was not normal. It was a time when Lotor and I should have been getting to know one another, all to better attempt to forge a relationship based on tolerance if not love. But neither of us was ready to respect the other, and we all but spit in the face of newlywed tradition.

We would have no honeymoon. Nor were we ready to take the steps needed to deepen a bond that neither of us felt. We were doing exactly the opposite of what we should, neither one of us caring much about appearances at this time. I couldn’t bring myself to have a kind word for Lotor, not even with the knowledge that the baby I carried limited the time we had for such foolishness.

I was being stupid and stubborn, jeopardizing my reputation with my foolish pride. How would anyone believe Lotor had gotten me pregnant soon after we were married, if I didn’t even make an attempt to be civil towards him? And yet I kept telling myself I could wait just one more day, even as my symptoms became more noticeable. I was sick often, having to make excuses to cover my nausea and dizziness. The people that lived and worked inside my home were not stupid. They would figure it out, no matter how well I covered.

Perhaps it would have been wiser to go on a honeymoon with Lotor. Away from the castle, away from Arus, we wouldn’t have had to fear the eyes of the people on us. We could have pretended easily that the child was conceived while on that trip. But neither my father, nor myself trusted Lotor enough to let him outside of the castle. Lotor had yet to accept his situation, the prince all too quick to look for chances that would allow him to escape this marriage. I didn’t know what he could do when Lotor was currently penniless, but a man that determined might just find a way.

It made me bitter that Lotor wanted free of me. That he could take it in his head to demand sex in one breath, while actively plotting his escape in another. I really was nothing to him if he could use me so. I wish that knowledge could help me hate him, but it only served to hurt me. My chest actually tightened in pain, and I was not looking forward to retiring to our bedroom in a few minutes’ time.

If I could have, I would have put off sleep for the rest of the night. Already I pushed it, the hour growing late while I lounged in the library. I was actually curled up on a
chair, an open book on my lap. But I couldn’t concentrate on it’s words. I just kept wondering, worrying over what would happen tonight when I did return to the bedroom. Would Lotor make another hurtful scene? Would he have to be subdued and taken to the castle dungeons? Or would he behave himself, and allow me some peace this night? I didn’t know, and the worry was making me just as sick as my pregnancy was.

I was chewing on my lip, when footsteps approached me. I didn’t think it would be Lotor. He didn’t care enough about me to come looking for me, especially not now! I gave a sickly smile to my father, noting his own expression was strained. It instantly set me on alert, the book falling off my lap as I sat up straighter in concern.

“Father, what’s wrong?” I asked. He would give me a shake of his head, as though he wasn’t sure where to begin. That sick feeling continued, I was fearing I knew what he had come to talk to me about. “I was just about to retire for the night.” It wasn’t entirely truthful, but I thought to appease him with the knowledge that I would go and face Lotor in our bedroom.

“Stay a minute, daughter.”

“All right.” I nodded, watching as he bent to pick my book up off the floor. He’d actually look at the cover, seeing it wasn’t some story book, but a text book. I couldn’t claim to have paid attention to the study of it, but at least it appeared I had made an effort towards my education.

“Allura…” He’d sigh then, the weight of his upset apparent in that sound. “Why are you not with your husband?”

I didn’t have an answer that was good enough for him. Instead I would shrug and look away. Again Alfor would sigh, but he didn’t sound angry. If anything he was concerned for me, concerned for my marriage and the appearances that had to be kept up. It made me feel awful to know I was disappointing my father yet again.

“You two can’t continue this way.” He said to me. “You can’t keep avoiding each other….”

“I know.” It was a quiet admission. “There is a lot more at stake here, than my hurt feelings….”

“Indeed there is.” But he didn’t need to list those things, for I already knew. I couldn’t bring scandal to my family, couldn’t allow the child I carried to be viewed with contempt for it’s less than ideal conception. I had come close to ruining everything, and not just for myself and my family, but for Arus as well. My innocence and naivety, my misplaced trust in Lotor had almost led us to war with Doom. People had died for my mistakes. It seemed only fitting that I spend the rest of my life atoning by being trapped in a loveless, friendless marriage to Prince Lotor.

“I’m sorry.” I whispered, feeling even a dozen apologies wouldn’t be enough. “I will try to do better. I…I will make this work with Lotor. If not for my sake, than that of any children we might have.” I carefully worded that last sentence, still wary of anyone who might pass by and eavesdrop on the conversation I was having with my father.

Alfor was quiet a long moment. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ve failed to do right by you….”

My eyes widened at that. “Father, what are you saying?!”

“You are unhappy.” He said. “Anyone can see that. Maybe….maybe I shouldn’t have let you marry Lotor.”

“There wasn’t many other options available to us.” I reminded him. “You made that clear to me when you presented Lotor as a choice I could make.”

He sighed heavily. “I wanted to kill Lotor. Sometimes I still do.”

I tried to make a glib comment. “You might have to fight Avok for that right.”

He snorted then. “Your cousin is hot headed and brash. And would only be more so if he knew the truth behind this marriage.”

“It’s a good thing he doesn’t know!” I exclaimed. “Avok knowing would only worsen the situation…he’d never be able to keep quiet about the wrongs Lotor has done me….”

“It is his inability that makes him unsuitable to truly rule.” My father said. “He needs to temper that fire within him, needs to learn there is a time and place for anger.”

“He is young yet.” I pointed out. “He might yet mature, given enough time and circumstance.”

“For his future kingdom’s sake, I can only hope so!” exclaimed Alfor. Talk of my cousin had distracted him from his worry where I was concerned, though it was not completely forgotten. I could see in his eyes how troubled he was, and it made me wonder if my marriage was that dire a situation to have my father cast doubts on the choices he had presented me with.

“Father, we can only make the best of an unpleasant situation.” I touched his hand now. “I can’t say I was happy to marry Prince Lotor, but given my other options, this truly was the only choice I could make.” I couldn’t risk saying anything more, not when a servant might happen by. But we both knew Arus was a world that did not look favorably upon unwed mothers. If I hadn’t gone to a convent, I would have had to marry beneath me to a man who would most likely use my shame against me again and again. There would have been no chance of passing off the baby as another’s, not when it would have inherited at least some of Lotor’s Drule features.

“But can you truly be happy with him?” My father asked. It left me wondering where this concern had come from, even as I couldn’t quite reassure him on that front.

“No.” I said. “But I am aware of the mess I made, and the things I must do to rectify it.” With that, I allowed my father to help me out of my chair. He couldn’t even tell me otherwise, both of us knowing I had played a part in nearly ruining my life. My innocence was no excuse for what I had allowed Lotor to do, for what I had allowed myself to believe. I should have known better than to fall for a man’s charms, to let myself be seduced so easily. When I think about all that could have happened, I know I have gotten off relatively easy.

“How are you feeling?” Alfor had tucked my arm around his, and was escorting me out of the castle library.

“As well as can be expected.” Came my answer.

“You barely ate anything at today’s meals.” He noted.

I could only shrug. “Haven’t been very hungry.”

“You must try to take better care of yourself.” Urged my father. “All this stress you are under, it cannot be good for you.”

I was under a lot of stress, but my most pressing matter at the moment had nothing to do with my appetites and everything to do with what Lotor may or may not attempt this night. I wondered if he was off somewhere drinking himself into a stupor, if he would dare repeat his drunken molestations of the night before. I shuddered at the thought, even as my nipples seemed to tighten under my blouse. They reacted to the sensory memory of Lotor’s mouth sucking insistently on them, a traitorous response I hated.

Fortunately my father was unaware of the perverse reactions of my body, and the memory I was struggling with. I somehow managed to keep a composed expression, only half listening as my father led me towards the stairs. His suite with my mother was on a different floor from the bedroom I now shared with Lotor. But he didn’t stop at his floor, seeming intent on escorting me to my bedroom. Perhaps my father thought to somehow protect me from whatever Lotor had planned, or maybe he just wanted to make sure I didn’t bolt for the nearest exit rather than be alone with Lotor.

Unable to know for certain my father’s true intentions, I was unhappy when we reached the bedroom. He wouldn’t try to enter inside, though he did take the time to peer past the doorway. My room was empty, but we could hear the sound of the shower signaling Lotor’s presence in the bathroom. My uneasiness increased, but somehow I managed to kiss my father’s cheek and say goodnight to him.

I closed the door behind me, holding in my sigh. The room itself was unchanged, not a single item out of place. I frowned at the still made bed, and came to a decision. Lotor would not be sleeping in it besides me.

With that thought in my head, I walked over to the side closet where the spare bed linen was kept. I’d bundle up sheets and a blanket, and carry them over to one of the arm chairs by the window. The chair was comfortable, but would not make an adequate bed, but I didn’t care. Let Lotor feel even a smidgen of the uncomfortableness I felt in his presence!

I was unfolding a sheet, preparing to drape it over the chair when the shower stopped. I felt panic flare in me, but I kept right on with my task, arranging the blankets and the one pillow onto the chair as though that would entice Lotor to spend the night on it.

I had the pillow in my hand, when the bathroom door opened. I refused to look up, angrily fluffing the pillow when the door slammed shut. That loud sound got a reaction in me, my gaze immediately traveling towards Lotor. He was staring at me, clad only in tight draw string pants. On another man, on a human they would have been baggy, but on Lotor they practically were a second skin. It wasn’t his choice, his wardrobe had simply yet to arrive, leaving Lotor to make do with whatever human clothes the castle seamstresses could modify to fit his larger Drule frame.

His hair was still wet, and slicked back. A few droplets of moisture beaded on his bare chest. I think I focused on the drops rather than hold his unsettling stare. Nor was I ready to break the silence that stretched out between us, though to myself I could acknowledge the tension his focused stare was causing within me. I think my cheeks must have flushed with color, and the pillow I had fluffed now doubled as an ineffectual shield.

I wanted to ask why he was staring at me, wondering just what his game was. Did Lotor have seduction on his mind, or did he think to send me fleeing from the room by his stare alone? Either way I was uncomfortable, and loathe to let go of the pillow.

“I hope you don’t expect me to sleep over there.” Lotor at last spoke, his voice lacking any true emotion to it. I couldn’t even say he was amused, his piercing stare never wavering from me.

“The chair or the floor, it doesn’t matter.” I was pleased I didn’t stammer, my voice holding a strength I did not feel. “Just so long as you don’t expect to get into that bed with me.”

“Oh I expect more than to just get into bed with you.” Lotor’s purred out retort had anger spiking within me. I actually lifted my gaze to his eyes, and gave him the fiercest glare I could manage.

“If you think to do anything more than sleep this night, you are sadly mistaken.”

“We shall see about that, won’t we?” It was an unequivocal challenge, one that had me bristling in response.

“You have no right to expect anything from me!” I hissed, mustering up all my haughtiness. “Least of all that.”

“You are my wife.” Lotor reminded me, with a patience he had not previously exhibited. “You not only made a commitment to me, but to that child you carry.”

“Do not think to use this child to get your way in this!” I retorted. The look he gave me spoke volumes of how Lotor would use just about anything at his disposal if it meant satisfying his sexual needs at long last. “You are fortunate I even allow you to spend the night in the same room with me. You can forget about any need of yours being fulfilled by me!”

“You cannot possible mean for us to have a sexless marriage!” Lotor exclaimed.

“Why not?” I demanded. “It’s not as though we have a love filled one.”

“You do not need love to have sex.”

“Yes, it’s a lesson you taught me well.” I was bitter then, my eyes growing wet as I fought not to remember the day my world had been shattered by him. I expected cruelty from him, completely unprepared for the softening of his gaze.

“My poor Allura, I’ve hurt you terribly.”

I blinked rapidly in response, completely caught off guard by his words. “Yes.” I whispered in agreement. “You have….” The most upsetting thing was I knew he wasn’t sorry at all, his soft gaze a completely calculated move. He was up to something, and I knew it wouldn’t be anything I would like.

“You’re wallowing in the misery of that hurt. But you have to see, it can’t continue indefinitely.” He moved now, his eyes boring into me as Lotor talked. “You have to get over it, to forgive and to forget it.”

I flinched in response to his words, my hands tightening on the pillow I still held. “You would like that, wouldn’t you?!” I accused, and at his nod flung the pillow at him. Lotor’s arm came up, the soft pillow being smacked away mid air. It didn’t matter. The pillow itself couldn’t have done any real damage to him. “But Lotor? I will never forget what you did to me!” Nor did I think it possible to forgive him either.

“And that is what truly tortures you, isn’t it?” Lotor demanded. “You can’t forget, not just what you see as a betrayal, but all of it. Every moment we spent in the gazebo, every pleasure filled second we enjoyed together. I made you feel in ways you had never felt before, I made you come alive with passion!”

I stared at him horror stricken. He had struck an accurate mark on my soul. I couldn’t forget, not just the pain of his betrayal, but also the happiness I had felt out in the gardens. The love I had allowed myself to think he had felt for me, and the sexual awakening that had marked my emergence as a woman more thoroughly than a dozen celebrations could have accomplished.

Eyes burning with tears, I let out a dismayed sound. I didn’t speak, but then Lotor didn’t need to hear words to confirm what he had said as truth. It was just too bad he didn’t understand the source of my pain, that he thought it all about lust not love.

“Allura….” moving with cat like grace, he stalked on silent feet towards me.

I began to shake, my whole body trembling, one whispered word escaping me. “Don’t…”

He didn’t heed my plea, and I seemed rooted in the spot for his approach. “We can have that moment again.” Lotor was saying, hands reaching for me. “I can bring back those feelings, give you what no other man can….”

“You cannot.” I protested, even as he pulled me against him. He didn’t understand, didn’t want to, thinking this all about the pleasures of the flesh. To Lotor the heart simply did not matter, and I would never again fall for his lies where love was concerned.

I wanted to sob, so tired and broken in the moment. I had had my suspicions, but this moment confirmed then. The Lotor I had been in love with, the boy that grew into the man I had had my first girlhood crush on? He had never existed. I wished then I had paid more attention to the reputation he had gained, the womanizer he was known as. Disgust filled me, I was hating on the fool I had once been.

“Lotor, no…” I said in a shaky tone of voice. “You can’t give me what isn’t real….what’s never been real…”

For one stark moment, confusion glittered in his eyes. And then he was pushing past it, as though what I had said did not matter. He still didn’t understand that what I wanted, what I longed for with every fiber of my being was the Lotor I had thought genuinely loved me. The Lotor who would have been happy to marry me, the Lotor who I had thought had respected me.

This Lotor was none of those things. He would use me and leave the first chance he got. Even with that knowledge, it didn’t stop my breath from being stolen away when Lotor bent down and brushed his lips over mine. A tear actually slipped down my cheek, what remained of my heart breaking at the sweetness of his kiss. I tried to speak, but I wasn’t sure he heard me.

“Damn you.”

I actually leaned into him, my hands hesitantly reaching for his shoulders, clutching him there for support. It wasn’t the kiss that weakened me so completely, thought it had a hand in that. It was all of it, my overwhelming disappointments and memories of the night in the gazebo. Of the happiness I had felt that had mattered more to me than any pleasure Lotor had been giving me.

His mouth was moving over mine, lips soft but insistent, Lotor exerting enough pressure in an attempt to get me to yield to his demand. I made a protesting noise, and then was half swooning as he lifted me up in his arms. He never stopped kissing me, as though he understood that once I caught my breath I would stop him. The tear that had fallen was followed by many others, a silent testimony to my anguish.

Dizziness came over me, and then I felt the softness of the bed at my back. Lotor’s kisses became even more ardent, his body moving to cover mine. I both wanted to stop him and didn’t, my indecision on the matter allowing Lotor to take further liberties with me. He shifted over me enough to slide his hands under me, searching out the ties to my blouse. I knew what he was doing was wrong, knew that he was attempting to prey on my feelings in order to satisfy his own needs. He didn’t care at all about me, or about this marriage. As his fingers loosened the ties, I stretched out beneath him, arm reaching for something, anything that I could use to get him off me.

I would hear the satisfying crash of the vase, followed by Lotor’s pain filled yelp. I attempt to wiggle out from beneath him, the jagged pieces of my fragmented heart cutting into me as thoroughly as the glare Lotor sent my way. He knew his attempt to seduce me had failed, and I readied myself for the tantrum that might follow.

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