Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Fairytale Ending
Giselle’s voice was hoarse from screaming into the night, yet it was all in vain. No one was coming to rescue her. When she went to the ball that evening, she never expected to end up in a ramshackle room. Her only instruction from the wild-eyed prince was to spin the room full of straw and leaves into gold if she wanted to see her family again. The prince slammed the door in her face without letting her explain her fear of a case of mistaken identity. She wasn’t the same maiden who had done such a feat in the village over, she was merely the only daughter of of a widowed blacksmith. She barely knew how to spin wool into yarn and was still baffled as to how she’d ended up in this predicament. Giselle hadn’t even really wanted to go to the silly ball, her father’s stern lecture about never finding a proper husband finally spurred her to go. And look at where it had gotten her? Left for dead in a blustery cold shed with absolutely no hope of becoming the alchemist the crazy, youngest son of the king had wanted her to be.
After banging on the door for what felt like hours, her resolve finally dwindled like the candle that had long burnt out on the table beside to door. She sat heavily on the chair and stared at the spinning wheel hoping inspiration might strike as to what she should do now. But it didn’t. Instead the exhaustion overwhelmed her and she leaned her head down on the table and slept, dreaming of elves and trolls, gnomes and pixies and a room filled with gold.
The creak of the door startled her awake. There standing before her, being framed in the early dawn light was a stranger, hooded and foreboding. Her chair tipped over, falling to the ground in a clatter while she struggled to find her feet. The man’s wicked grin was all she could see of his face from beneath the cloak he was wearing. It appeared sinister and caused her to shiver with fright.
He must have sensed her terror, as he raised his hands in front of his body, whispering he wasn’t going to harm her. Slowly inching into the small room, his towering build soon made the space feel even smaller. Her back was flat against the wall and she had nowhere to run. Even with his attempt at soothing her panicked nerves, she shook with fear, her eyes darting to find a way out of the cramped space.
Flicking the hood down, she was immediately relieved. She recognized his face in an instant, even though she’d never spoken to him. He was her father’s apprentice, and the man she’d been swooning over for years. Alistair’s strong build always reminded her of one of the King’s noble steeds, sleek and compact muscles hidden behind his beautiful facade. His dark hair fell to his shoulders in unruly waves, framing a strong jaw and crooked nose. She’d always fancied his deep blue eyes that seemed to be alight with wonder. Based on her observations from afar, he was as kind as he was handsome. Yet he seemed extremely shy and always kept to himself, never really taking any notice of her. So his appearance in her hour of need was surprising.
“Your father grew worried last night when the carriage never returned after the ball.” His voice was deep, but the tone was gentle, as if he still thought she was fearful of his presence.
Giselle gazed up into his sparkling blue eyes and replied in awe, “How did you find me? I was screaming all night, but I thought no one would ever come.”
He picked up the fallen chair, urging her to sit, suggesting she might be prone to swoon. “I’m surprisingly good at listening when people think there’s no one around. There were people who heard you, but since this is the Prince’s land, none were willing to rescue you for fear of losing their heads.”
Her mind whirred, and a question soon blurted from between her lips, “Yet you have no concern for your own?”
“Your father’s wrath if I returned without you would be a worse punishment than anything the Prince could think up.”
For the first time since she was captured, her face broke out into a grin. “Tis true. He does have a wicked temper.”
“Aye, he does, but I don’t wish to be here when the Prince returns either. Are you okay to walk for a bit? We’ll need to scale the wall to get to my horse.”
Nodding her head, she stood and shuffled along behind him out into the crisp morning air. They walked for a bit in silence before her curiosity got the best of her. “Did my father promise anything to you as a reward for finding me?” She dared not wish for what her heart hoped, and stood looking at his back waiting for his reply.
Glancing over his shoulder he saw her abrupt halt and walked back to where she stood. “If I told you he offered me your hand in marriage would you flee into the woods and back to your captor or be pleased?” His bashfulness endeared him in her eyes, and she could only return a timid smile and a single nod.
His face beamed at the simple gesture, but he spun around quickly urging her forward as they needed to get back home quickly before the Prince discovered her missing.
Just as he finished helping her clear the wall, they heard the frantic thundering of hoofbeats. In the distance she could see them racing towards them from her perch on top of the wall.
“Come on, we need to go.” He hopped off the wall, and turned to catch her as she jumped down. His fingers softly drifted over her bare arms, sending shivers of attraction through her body. She couldn’t help but wonder if Alistair felt the same about her? Had he longed to court her? Or was her Father’s reward something he begrudgingly accepted to get in his good graces?
Her musings were interrupted when he offered his hand to help her onto his horse. They quickly mounted his steed and galloped off towards the village, not knowing what fate might await them when they arrived.
“You realize I’ll have to flee to another kingdom, don’t you? I don’t believe I’ll want to wander the streets alone evermore.”
His grip tightened against her waist as they continued on, his silence at her observation was cause for concern. She’d been watching him from afar for so long, she knew his face was likely a mask of concentration and seriousness. When he finally spoke, it was barely above a whisper. “Aye, your father mentioned something similar. The Prince’s footmen had requested your attendance at the ball, which made him wonder what they wanted from a simple family, as yours. When you’d gone missing last night, he began making plans.”
She tilted her head back to try and glimpse his face, but the jolt of the horse made it nearly impossible to sit anyway other than forward. “And what suggestion did father have?”
Slowing the horse down to a canter, he replied, “he offered to send us to live with his sister and husband until things have been sorted out here. He was even willing to help me set up a blacksmith shop of my own if we like living there.”
“We’ll be going together?” She suddenly realized how serious Alistair had taken her father’s reward. Feeling a bit cheeky, she continued, “And was I to have any say in this matter?” Even though the pair were still in grave danger, the thrill of being so close to her heart’s affection had her pulse racing.
“If your life is in danger, I should hope you would agree to anything we need to do to ensure your safety. But yes, if you would rather stay here in hopes of the Prince’s attempt at recapture, then fates be it, but I will be there with my sword in hand to spoil his plans.”
The grin that bloomed across her face could probably be seen all the way up at the castle. She could only dare hope her affection was returned by her heroic rescuer. “Then we shall go. Won’t you miss your family? Your friends?” Her stomach was now resting comfortably in her throat waiting to hear what he replied, because while she would miss her father desperately, there was little else holding her hostage in the tiny hamlet.
Alistair stopped the horse abruptly and spun her around to face him. Taking her face in his colossal hands, Alistair gently kissed her cheek and whispered that the only thing that would keep him from going with her was death. “Yet I must confess...”
She waited patiently for him to finish his thought. “Aye, what is it?” A boldness she’d never had before allowed her to cup his cheek and kiss him softly on his weathered lips, hoping he’d see how she cared for him.
Alistair accepted her kiss, but didn’t allow it to linger. He opened his eyes and admitted, “Your father was so desperate for your return, I fear I may have manipulated him into offering me your hand in marriage.” His breath came out in shallow pants as he continued his explanation. “I have loved you from afar, knowing a lowly apprentice with no family would never be accepted by your father. So when he was bereft with worry, I told him if I rescued you, he would need to accept our match in return.” His eyes flitted away for a moment as he whispered, “If you would have me, that is.”
“How could I refuse you? You’re my very own knight in shining armor.” Teasing him with another brisk kiss, Giselle spun back around in her seat and told Alistair they needed to get going. “It’s going to be hard to find the good Pastor this early in the morning.”
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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com