The Prince gave Rosemina’s hand a reassuring squeeze and she turned to him just in time to see his face go slack. “My lord?”
Without a word, the Prince collapsed dead at her feet.
A stunned silence befell the spectators. Rosemina stood frozen, gazing down at the Prince’s body, willing him to wake. Surely, he was playing a trick. He had been protected by the kingdom’s finest physicians and most powerful sorcerers. If anyone were to break her curse, it would be him.
When the Prince didn’t rouse, the Queen ordered her men to arrest Rosemina. But Rosemina was light on her feet, and the men were clad in heavy armor. She pushed her way through the crowd and headed into the forest. She ran as fast and far as she was able, until she came upon a small clearing where she fell to her knees and wept.
“Hello,” said a voice from the shadows of the wood. The figure of a young man came toward her. Rosemina shied away, not wanting to meet the eyes of anyone, let alone another man. “Don’t be frightened,” he said. “My name is Johnathan.” The man held out his hand.
“My name is…Magnaline.” Rosemina pulled her hood up over her head and tried to shield her face. She knew that if he were to see her, he too would be compelled to kiss her. She would not send another innocent man to his death. “Don’t look at me. Please.”
Johnathan laughed. “I wouldn’t dare,” he said as he stepped out of the shadows. Johnathan was plain but handsome. His well-groomed hair fell over his ears in light brown waves, but the feature that stood out to her most were his eyes, cloudy grey and unfocused.
“Yes, but even I know that you’ve been weeping. I don’t live very far. If you’d like, I could offer you a meal and a place to sleep, and return you safely to your home in the morning. ”
Rosemina knew, as horrible as it were, that if this man proved to be untrustworthy she needed only to kiss him. Having nowhere else to go, and not much light left in the day, she accepted his offer and followed him to a quaint little cottage nestled deep within the forest.
Johnathan prepared a small meal for the two and readied his own bed with clean linens for Rosemina. He hadn’t asked why Rosemina had been crying or where she had come from, but she felt after the kindness he’d shown her, that he deserved to know her story. “My name isn’t Magnaline,” she said.
Rosemina detected the amusement in his voice. “You know who I am, don’t you?”
“I’ve heard tell of a girl so beautiful that no man can resist her kiss.”
“And you’ve heard of what becomes of such men?”
“I have. And I know that this girl was summoned by the Prince only this morning. One can only assume the lady’s curse remains unbroken?”
A wave of sadness overcame Rosemina at the mention of the young Prince.
“Rosemina?” Johnathan reached across the table and caressed her cheek. “May I?”
“Yes,” she whispered. Johnathan moved his hand down her chin. He felt her jaw, her nose, her brow. “You are beautiful,” he said. A tear fell from her cheek onto his thumb. “Come.” Johnathan stood and pulled her to her feet.
“No,” she said. “You mustn’t.”
He smiled. “I cannot be compelled to kiss you, Rosemina.” He held out his hand. “Perhaps I could be the one to break this curse.”
Rosemina hesitated. If she took his hand, he would pull her to him. He would kiss her, she was certain. She wanted more than anything to break her curse, and he was a man who could not be lured by her beauty. A man who could kiss her of his own free will. But if it didn’t work, could she watch him die at her hand?
“I promise you, it will be worth it,” he said. “For the both of us.”
So distraught and full of longing, Rosemina made her wish again, Let there be one soul whose life would not end with her kiss. Let that soul be his. She stepped closer to Johnathan and took his hand.
He wrapped his arms around her. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to hope. 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!”
Come back Friday for the conclusion by Natalie!
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