Friday, November 19, 2010

Kiss Of Death (Part 3 of 3)

Johnathan’s lips brushed her nose, then her cheek. As his kisses neared her mouth, a pounding at the door startled them both. Johnathan motioned for Rosemina to be still.

“Woodsman! Open your door, by order of the Queen!”

Rosemina was at once frightened and relieved. The guard at the door was surely here to escort her to the gallows, yet he had very likely saved the Woodsman from meeting the Prince’s fate. Rosemina stepped away from Johnathan, covering her traitorous lips with one hand. How could she have thought to kiss him when he had been so kind?
“Woodsman!” The guard shouted again.

"Cover your face," he spoke softly to Rosemina and gestured to the bed where a small pile of blankets sat folded at the foot. "All will be well. I promise you."

“Wait,” she begged as the guard again pounded on the door. It was not only her face that would belie the truth of her identity, but the satin and velvet of her garments. With her hands moving as quickly as her heart, Rosemina wrapped herself from head to toe in the gray and brown blankets of homespun and wool.

Just as she lowered a thin piece of gray wool over her face, the Woodsman opened the door, for fear the guard would burn his meager home to ashes.  As the guard pushed Johnathan aside to enter, Rosemina could see through the fibers before her eyes that the Queen had again ordered his helmet sealed at the neck. Her kisses would be no defense against this man. It would take the magic of the Queen’s sorcerers to unbind that metal.

“Please,” Johnathan opened his hands before him. Empty as they were, Rosemina now knew they saw the world as clearly as did her own eyes. “Forgive me, good sir, my wife is ill and tired and wishes no visitors. What is it the Queen desires of a humble Woodsman and his wife?”

Rosemina found it difficult not to gasp and fidget as Johnathan spoke. Again she thought of the Prince and his beautiful smile as he said the word ‘wife.’ Only a few moments after, he was dead.

The guard loomed very near Rosemina. She could see as little of his face as he could of hers, but she was certain he scowled behind the metal shield. Much as she wanted to, she did not move lest her wrappings fall away and reveal the riches hidden beneath them.

“Your wife, you say?” When the guard spoke, his breath was strong and sour through the grate. Rosemina stifled a cough and wondered that more people weren’t killed by kisses. Surely a mouth that rotten was every bit as poisonous as her own lips. “What’s wrong with her face?”

“As I said, she is quite ill. The – light. It’s too much for her eyes.” The pause was a small one, but noticeable and Rosemina coughed in the hopes of convincing the guard of her illness. But it was not enough and the guard demanded she remove her shawl and turn her face to him.

It took very little imagination to know the guard’s lips curled back over his rotten teeth as Rosemina slowly removed the cloth from her head. “Now, prove she’s your wife,” the guard said and Rosemina shivered. “Kiss her.”

“No,” she whispered as Johnathan took her face in his hands, but he whispered over her lips that all would be well. But Rosemina was not convinced. No man in his right mind would have moved to kiss her so quickly. There was no doubt in her mind that Johnathan had been compelled.

His lips fell on hers before she could draw another breath to protest and even as the warmth of them soothed her, she felt that this kiss was no different from all of the others. Again she cast her wish to the sky, Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. Let that soul be his, but even as she did, she remembered the smell of roses and despaired.

If she could have made that kiss last a lifetime, she would have, for his lips were sweet as honey. But Johnathan, who was perhaps more aware of the guard’s gaze than Rosemina, pulled his lips from hers. It was done, her fate and his sealed with a kiss. She would either die today or a Woodsman’s wife.

Rosemina drew a deep breath, looked into Johnathan’s clouded eyes, and again dared to hope.

Thank you for reading!  Remember, if you'd like to read the full story, check out our archive.  We'll be taking one week off for Thanksgiving, but starting Nov. 29th, come back for individual short stories by each of us!
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