'Ever After' by Meg McNulty
Easy to think you're in love.
When your blood is fierce with adventure and your heart is racing like a hawk on the wind, when your skin stinks of dragon breath and every muscle in your body aches and you see her lying there like an slice of perfection, all silk skin and ambrosia and lips that a fairy godmother couldn't make up.
Those lips. Damn, just thinking about those lips could get him hot again like that first time. Leaning over, tasting her breath. His gorgeous, golden prize. A piece of royal booty worth slaying dragons for.
Easy to think you're in love then.
Happy endings right? That's what it all was all about. You slay the dragon, you get the girl.
He stared up at the rising sun painted on the ceiling. He'd commissioned that for her - a romantic gesture. She said it was off centre. She got annoyed by things like that, stuff being out of place. Couldn't bear to look at it every day.
She got annoyed by way he laughed when the major domo fell over his cane. "Grow up Philip, you're a king now." And the way he wore his cloak slung over one shoulder. "A bit flashy don't you think?"
She'd say it in that royal way with just a lift of her eyebrows, lips a little tight. Never raised her voice. Never lost her temper. Just looked disappointed. Like her fairy godmother had waved a wand and turned the coach into a pumpkin.
And he wanted to grab her shoulders and shake her. Shake her 'til her hair tumbled out of that stiff little twist and fell around her shoulders the way it was when he'd first seen her. She had a hundred different shades of sunlight in her hair. He wanted to plunge his hands into it, let it flow like silk over his fingers and kiss her. Properly. Not have her turn away, present a cheek, princess-smooth.
He wanted to shout, "I slayed a dragon for you!" He wanted to shout it 'til the rafters shook and those grand tapestries fell off the walls and every friggin' courtier stuffed their fingers in their ears and screamed.
But he didn't.
He stood all stiff and red faced, like a school boy being told off. Saw the maids shooting him soft looks, feeling sorry for him. That's when he started to notice them. Last night the dark one had brushed against him when she poured his wine, asked if there was anything else he wanted.
In that voice.
And there was.
But not from her.
A soft snore made him glance sideways. Sleeping, she looked like she did when he'd first seen her. Enchanted. Young. Before she started carrying a kingdom on her shoulders.
And that was the problem with true love's kiss. It had a way of sticking.
Turning , he put an arm around his wife. Slaying dragons was easy.
Love, that was hard.