Isellta’s mind was a knitter’s mess of thoughts and he couldn’t even start to untangle them all. He staggered and stumbled back to bed.
Preyuna did nothing to help him. She stood still, staring with icy calm at the bedroom door.
Isellta sat on the bed. He reached over and grabbed the nearest pillow. He hugged it.
He’s right about her. I know he’s right. She’s going to hurt me again. Even though I helped her, she will hurt me again. I know she will.
He laid the side of his face on the top of the pillow.
She will always hurt me.
“Was Mark right about you?” Preyuna asked without looking at him.
He raised his head. “What?”
“Is this all just a ploy? You rushing in to get him away from me. You being so gentle with me. You being so kind to me. Is it all really a lie to get what you want from me? Am I going to wake up some day and discover you’ve been a black knight all along?”
Isellta shook his head. ” I don’t know anything about black or white knights. It sounds like a human concept and I don’t know what it means. All I do know is I am not lying or pretending with you. What you see is real.”
Preyuna walked over to him.
Isellta tightened his grip on the pillow. “When he slapped you, I rushed forward because I had to stop him. He is terrible and unkind. If I did nothing, he would have kept hurting you.”
She sat beside him. Her crimson and silver hair lay in straight lines over her shoulders, shielding her face. The silver strands shined smooth and bright under the bedroom’s recessed lighting. Her black and gold striped gown contrasted with her hair color, but it didn’t look awful. It was a contrast, not a clash.
Her posture was straight, perhaps more from habit than deliberate choice.
Isellta released his pillow and set it on the other side of him. He gently pulled Preyuna’s hair over her shoulder, exposing the side of her face.
She looked at him with a neutral expression and a silent mind. But the hurt she felt was clear in her dark blue eyes.
“Even without a crown on your head, you are a queen. Nothing will ever change that. No one will ever take that away from you. Not even Mark Caten. It is in everything you are, in every strand of hair on your head.” He stroked the slapped side of her face. “No one should hurt you the way he does.”