Oft times as not, when Diana allowed herself the luxury of indulgence, if she closed her eyes tight and let her spirit soar, she could see the castle sitting in all its splendor in the meadow with wildflowers spreading a colorful array around it. She would breathe in and the scent of the flowers would invade her nostrils and fill the empty spaces in her heart.
Or, had it been her imagination, after all?
No, she had not imagined it. It was quite real … she’d made sure of that. Then, when she learned the truth, the bottom fell out of her universe with an explosive and heart-wrenching roar. And her soul cried.
Still, if she closed her eyes real tight, and let the memories slowly seep in, she could see it. And remember. There. Against the green backdrop of the forest. Against the pale blue blanket of summer sky bunched with puffed-white clouds, the castle stood, tall and strong, beckoning her to enter, the sun embracing it with its golden glow, wrapping it up like a cherished gift in its warmth. Like she had once been.
She’d run through the maze, holding tight to his hand, laughing at the sheer joy of it all. The joy of loving and being loved. That’s what she wanted to remember. How she wanted to remember. That time of fulfillment when she’d thought life and love had passed her by. But always, reality came crashing in with the force of a hundred cold and biting winds and snatch her back like she’d been doused with ice water. Then, she’d be filled with such longing that her very soul ached.
But, long for it she did.
Oh, how she longed for it with every breath she took, with every part of her being and soul. Longed for that brief moment in time of bittersweet love. She would like to find that path again and quit pretending she wouldn’t walk it given the chance to do so one more time.
Sometimes, her memories would unwittingly take her by the hand and walk her gently toward what she coveted but was too unbending to admit it would be so easy to do. Her pride was bruised. Pride goeth before a fall and she had fallen hard. But she’d rather return to that dreamland if she could only let herself. And pride be damned.
She should leave that door closed. Though sometimes she’d find her memories turning the knob. Memories haunting the doorway and lingering. Waiting. Tempting her to return to that place she left behind. Like ghosts, the wafting shadows would rise and fall as though alive, breathing her pain, the memories were so clear.
There she was, her temper on the rise, throwing the platter of food on the silvered armor and it sliding off like slick oil, the laughing eyes burning into her soul through the visor. Or, the poetry written only for her in his descriptive hand. The snow-white rose, edges tinged in red as if dipped in blood and left to dry. And then, the hurt and anger when she found out the depth and length of his deceit.
But through it all she remembered.
Him. Even now, when all was silent and still, his laughter would ring through the hallowed hallways of her mind. And her pulse would race. Her heart would sing. Her eyes would open wide, a tender smile upon her lips, ready and eager for the sight of him, for his love. And there, there waiting, would be emptiness, spreading its arms of loneliness like some gaping maw ready to devour her. And her heart would shatter into a million pieces.