With the end of the school year fast approaching, I wanted to share my final story as a Junior at MSA. Yes, it is sad thing, but also it is a good thing. Life continues to move along in the midst of all this chaos. Honestly, I am quite proud of the piece. I think it is one of the most thought-out works that I have made. It is exactly how I want it to be. Enjoy! (it is a bit long, so sit back…relax…and stretch your neck!)
From the Queen
The sound of eager footsteps approached my door. Heavy breathing with a hint of wheezing travels through the mouth of whatever poor fellow had to run to my room. A ghost of a smile falls on my face before I throw on my emotionless facade when I open the door. Behind the door stands a boy holding a black, quill pen and light brown paper with the look of fear etched across his face.
The boy hesitated to talk. “Queen Alana, there has been a request for your signature by the king. I was told to bring you the document.”
“What is this document about?”
The boy gulped. “There has been a robbery in the market. They have the thief down in the sitting room waiting to be executed.”
I think over his words. A robbery in the market? It seems as if the current ruling of execution for thieves has not yet registered in the minds of the commoners. A wave of anger washes over me as I realize that the people of this kingdom refuse to obey our rules set as royals. I pick up the sides of my dress to keep from falling over the train. I push past him but stop a little ways later.
“Excuse me, boy. You say he is in the sitting room?”
The boy gulped harder. “Yes, your majesty. In the sitting room of the south living quarters.”
I make a swift turn, carefully maintaining my balance as I do. On my walk, I pass through the hall of looming portraits of all the past members of my family. I stop to let my eyes wander over my mother. Her portrait was the last one added to the collection after she died last year. When I married Charles, he gifted this portrait to me after her funeral. She was my family and now that I am a royal, she is a part of this family as well. I often stand and watch the picture. I look for anything that could give me answers on how to live this life the way it should be lived. She would have known. After my moment with her, I start my journey to the thief.
As I walk through the large, wooden doors, I see a man in the middle of the floor. His head hung low and his skin was covered in purple bruises. The other people in the room bowed down to me, greeting me in the same exact way. I nod my head with the intent of acknowledging them and immediately move my eyes to my husband. His eyes were already set on me, indicating he was watching me. I make my way to his side and lay a kiss on his cheek.
He smiles at me before laying a kiss on my lips. “My queen.”
With my lips tingling and my cheeks burning I turn to look at the man. His head is still down and his body looks even more slumped over.
“Did they beat him?”
My husband is many things. He is a nice, kind man, but he is also a king. He can switch off his kindness and replace it with a ruthless man in a heartbeat.
“Until he cried for them to stop.”
Sadly, I had to be the same way as queen.
“Did you sign the document, my love? I need to let the royal court know to prepare for his execution.”
I shook my head. “I wanted to see him first. I wanted to see the thief.”
The man on the floor shot his head up at my words. “I am not a thief!”
The guard standing behind him jabbed him in his side with his sword. “Shut up.”
The man simply kept talking. “I am not a thief. Don’t call me a thief.”
I scoff at his words. I look around the room to see everyone staring at me, awaiting my next words. Charles notices this and begins to talk, but I stop him.
“Then what are you? Are you a good man? Did you mistakenly steal from the market? Was it an accident?”
The man shut his mouth. That’s what I thought.
“I can not seem to figure out why people insist on stealing. We, as royals, have set rules. We have rules in place to keep these things from happening. Tell me why.”
Confusion fell on the man’s face. “Tell you why? Tell you why what?”
I released a frustrated sigh before speaking. “Tell me why people insist on stealing.”
He stuttered his reply. “I-I could not t-tell you why p-people steal b-but I-”
“But nothing. If you can not give me a reason, I will find one.”
I turned my back and lifted my hands to my face, bored with the conversation. I know the outcome…it is his death…and I have to be the one to announce it.
“Tomorrow at the crack of dawn you will have your head cut of-”
“Wait. Wait I-I have a reason.”
Silence fell in the room. He dared interrupt the queen? Charles grows in anger and is on the brink of killing the man himself. I calmly raise my hand to stop him.
“I can handle this, my love,” I swallow and clear my throat, “it is my job to do so.”
Charles steps back and signals for the other guardsman in the room to lower their weapons pointed in the direction of the man. I turn around slowly in anger and stare at the man. It is at this point when I realize that I do not know his name. Normally, in these cases I sign the document and let Charles handle the execution ceremony.
“What is your name?”
The man stares at me in disbelief before replying. “Joseph. My name is Joseph Willingham.”
“Well Joseph…you better have a good reason or so help me God…I will do more than cut your head off.”
The look that crossed over Joseph’s face stunned me in my place. He looked so scared…so terrified. My stomach dropped at this. I’d never seen anyone that scared of me. The boy who came to my room did not even look this scared of me. I looked down at my stance and saw how close I walked to him. I see how menacing I look. My eyebrows furrow and I take a step back forcing myself not to apologize. A queen never apologizes.
“I-I do have a good reason but… my queen…could I speak with you alone about it?”
I stared at him in confusion before looking around to see that everybody in the room was just as confused as I. I speak to him in a softer voice than before, feeling guilty about how I spoke earlier.
“Why must you speak with me alone? Whatever you can say, you can say in front of everybody here.”
He lets out a humorless laugh. “Well your majesty…you are the only one in this room who has not laid violent hands upon me.”
I stare at him for a while before I accept his request.
“You can speak with me alone. You have 10 minutes to tell me why you should not be killed while I am eating my breakfast tomorrow.”
I start walking back through the doors I came in, “Two guards pick him off the floor and follow me to my room.”
I don’t stop to look and see if they heard me…I know they did. As I walk back to my room, I walk in silence. My thoughts scream in my head as I think over the scene that unfolded in that room. This is the first time I will interact with someone waiting to be executed. This is my first time.
As we get closer to my room, we enter the hallway with the family portraits. I catch the eye of my mother and suddenly yearn for her comfort.
What would she do? Would she listen to his reasoning?
I did not have time to search for the answers to those questions as we passed through the hall and stood in front of my room. I open the doors and the smell of lavender settles in my nose. I tell the guards to get Joseph a seat while I go to my vanity and sit down.
Joseph stares at me as I stare at him. We watch each other. Him, I’m sure, in fear of what I could do. Me, in fear of what he could do. Once the guards brought in another chair, Joseph sat down and let his head drop. He released a deep, tired sigh.
“Joseph, let me remind you that you are only being allowed 10 minutes to talk.”
Joseph quickly lifted his head and began to speak. “I am not a thief.”
“Maybe try words you have not already spoken to me.”
Joseph releases another sigh before replying. “I am not a thief, but I am a father. I am a father to two girls, born at the same time. Twins.”
I think about this information only to realize that killing him would practically shatter his family. I refuse to talk, letting him have his 10 minutes.
“I didn’t steal from that market just to steal. I worked in the mines down in the Gutter before I was let off because of refusing to participate in the strikes they held. I could not participate, I would have been taken to jail. I needed money for food. I needed to feed my wife…my babies. I only took one thing. I took an apple. It was the only thing I could force myself to steal, I do not steal. I have never stolen anything before today.”
As I stared at him, I could tell that he was being honest. Tears pooled at his feet as he began to cry. My heart ached for him. I couldn’t let up easily on him. I needed to be sure I was doing the right thing.
I whispered his name in a comforting voice. “Joseph.”
He watched me walk to him and bend down to his level. He never looked away from me.
“We have rules. To steal is to be killed. We have no room for thieves under my rule nor the king’s, but… you are no thief. In order for an execution to not be administered, you have to have a trial with the royal court. My ruling will decide but they have to hear your story as well. This will be a first…we do not hold trials for thieves and yet…”
I release a final sigh before standing straight up. I motion for the guards to follow me outside the room.
“One of you take him to an empty room and have the maids come clean him up and redress him in cleaner clothes. For the other, go to the king and let him know we will hold a trial for Joseph. Tell him to gather the court. It will be held tomorrow,” I look back to see Joseph keenly listening to my words, “tomorrow at breakfast.”
With a deep sigh of relief, I see Joseph slump his body back over as his shoulders begin to bounce up and down. I bid the guards goodbye and watched as one of them took Joseph away. I close my door and lean against it in pain. A wave of sickness falls over me as it dawns on me how many people I may have wrongfully executed. The people I killed…the people I murdered for no good reason at all. As the thoughts dawn on me, I rush to the water closet to release the upcoming food in my mouth. With sounds of gagging and spit finally leaving the room, I slump over before laying on my back to ease my stomach. I sit in silence despite my thoughts screaming in my head. Tears pool in the dents of my face.
I can’t let it happen again. I can’t let them kill people like Joseph again.
I manage to peel myself off the floor and gather myself quickly. I look outside the window in my room and notice the dark sky shining bright with many stars. I remember my mom telling me that whenever I felt lost all I had to do was look into the stars and find my path. My neck strains itself looking up for so long, but it was worth it. I found the path…I found my path.
With a smile on my face, I close the window and climb into bed. Tomorrow brings change.
The birds wake me with their morning song. I stretch my stiff limbs and allow the maids to come in and dress me. After 20 minutes of silence mixed with the occasional grunt from me, I head out of my room in the direction of the room where the trial was to be held. On my journey, I pass by my mother’s portrait. While staring at the picture, a feeling of content settled in my stomach. I felt…at peace. I felt like I had the answers. I felt like I was doing the right thing. With a bidding smile goodbye, I left my mother and went to enter the room.
Like any day, when I walked in, everything stopped to watch me enter. Soon enough, heads and bodies bowed for me. The other 5 members of the royal court sat in high chairs overlooking the room. My husband sat in admiration of me. I could feel his eagerness to have me near him, so I obliged. I walked in confidence to the chair that sat beside him. With a quick kiss on his lips, I sat down and moved my attention to the man standing in the middle of the floor. It is Joseph. He looks scared…terrified even. His eyes keep moving between every person in the room except mine. I stare at his head until he feels it. When he does, his eyes slowly find me. I send him a quick, comforting smile. After he visibly relaxed, I began speaking.
“Today we gather. We gather to give a fair man a fair trial. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Wilingham and I want you all to listen to what he has to say. I feel a change in the air, my people. I feel good change coming and I think it starts here,” I look at Joseph, “The floor is yours.”
Within 10 minutes, Joseph tells the court and myself the same story he told yesterday. From the faces of the members of the court, his story had the same effect on them like it did on me. Even my husband seemed to have a change of heart. His hand squeezed mine, bidding me to look at him. His eyes held regret and guilt. He knew exactly why I called the trial. I give him a reassuring smile, my eyes telling him we will converse at a later time.
Once Joseph finishes his story, silence fills the room. Everyone turns to me for the next words to be said.
I speak lowly at first. “Everyone in this room has killed a man. We have all killed a man because we did not take the time to listen to his story.”
Heads started to go down. Eyes started to wander around the room. Guilt started to seep into the room.
“How many Joseph’s did we kill? How many more could we have killed?”
When no answer was given, I stood up.
“This will no longer happen. Every person to come in this place we call home will have a story. Every person deserves to be heard. From this day forward, each person convicted of a crime will have a fair trial and an ear to listen to their story.”
The same heads that were down picked back up at my words. Faces full of respect filled the room. I turned to look at my husband to see a wide smile plastered on his face. I send him a smile before turning around and going to stand in front of Joseph.
“As for Joseph Wilingham, you are to be set free to return home with the promise to have royal protection for yourself and your family for as long as you may live. I will see to it that your family receives monetary compensation for the pain and suffering we have caused you. On behalf of every person in this room, I am deeply sorry.”
Joseph covers his mouth with his hand in disbelief and falls to the ground.
“My queen! Oh, how can I give more thanks to you?”
I smile before replying. “You do not have to give me more. I know. Pick yourself off the ground and join me tonight for supper before you depart back home.”
Joseph slowly builds himself back up to a standing position before agreeing to stay. I soon release everyone to go back to their duties.
My husband and I stand in the middle of the room that was just filled moments ago. He holds me as I hold him.
“My queen. A noble woman with a good heart. You are so good, my love.”
I shake my head at him with tears in my eyes.
“Oh, my love! The people we killed. We can not bring them back and it hurts. It hurts so much.”
I break down and cry in his arms. He pulls me close while whispering words of reassurance into my ears. After sharing our moment together, he bids me goodbye as he goes to make the arrangements for Joseph’s family. Exhaustion finds me and I start back to my room. On my walk back, I stop at my mother’s portrait and send her a bright smile.
“Even in your afterlife, you manage to make me see all the answers.”
I continue my walk to my room and soon find myself falling into bed. With the deeds of the day done, my eyes close to welcome rest at the time a smile creeps its way onto my lips.
I may not know all the answers yet, but today was only the beginning.