For a glorious, shining moment in time, you were happy. Your wedding was cause for weeks of celebration in Philip. You walked down the aisle, escorted by your father, in a beautiful gown of your own design, under the loving gaze of your golden prince, your heart so full of love and joy that your long struggle to be together was over. You were the crown princess, Prince Wilfred in your bed every night, sharing yourselves with one another, talking excitedly of your future together, what changes you were going to work for to make the lives of the people better.
You hadn’t even made it to your one-year anniversary before the affair started.
At first, you tried to deny it. To play off Wilfred’s frequent out-of-town trips without you as him just being considerate. After all, this whole royalty gig was still new to you. The learning curve was steep for someone who hadn’t been born to the life. Whenever he was home, he played the role of the attentive husband; kind, smiling, even coming to your bed from time to time. Your first anniversary passed, and the talk of heirs began to grow stronger. The King and Queen dropped hints at dinner. The press wondered aloud when there would be news of your womb quickening with life. It had been a whole year, after all, and the Crown Prince and Princess had a duty to uphold. It was just stress that kept him away.
Wilfred hadn’t been to your bed, nor you to his, in months. Your innate joie de vivre slowly seeped away through the cracks of your broken heart. You stopped designing clothes, started taking your meals in your suite, and only came out for state occasions where your presence was absolutely necessary. You never saw Wilfred anymore, and you’d long since stopped asking Claude anything about him. You could no longer take the half answers and the pitying looks, which only told you that Claude was aiding and abetting Wilfred in his affair.
You limped along in a fugue state for another year, before finally reaching out online. You needed human contact, even if it was only over the internet. You found a support group for spouses that had been cheated on, and it made you cry to find women in similar situations, women who understood exactly how you felt. You were very careful to never give away any revealing details. After several weeks, the group started encouraging you to seek divorce, but that wasn’t really an option. After a while, you had to speak with the group moderator, a professional marriage counselor by trade, and be completely honest about your identity and why divorce was not an option. She gave you other coping strategies, recommended you start a meditation practice, recommending a spot outside whenever possible.
You began wandering the gardens of the chateau, eventually stumbling across an older section with a small cottage hidden away, deep inside. This became your healing spot.
You’d been coming to the cottage for a few weeks, more so recently as your third marriage anniversary loomed.
One day, you’d finished your meditation and were sitting on a bench, just admiring the flowers, when a gardener happened by.
“Your Highness?” He asked, respectful but curious. “Why are you all the way out here?”
You sighed and offered an almost-smile.
“It’s peaceful and private here. I can be alone, away from prying, pitying eyes.”
His own eyes, a mellow golden brown, the color of fine whiskey, held nothing but compassion.
“I guess being royalty ain’t all it’s cracked up to be?”
This time, your smile was bitter.
“You can say that again. Four years ago, if I’d had a crystal ball, I would have made a very different decision.”