“So.” Darian crossed his arms. “You’re leaving.”


“I’m aware.” Lou remarked dryly, and turned, as if she would leave right then and there.


Wait!” He blurted out, and she paused but didn’t turn back around, and for a few horrifying seconds he thought she would ignore him and keep wading through the long yellow grass and it would rustle and close behind her like a closing curtain at the end of a wonderful play and she would be out of his sight like she had never been there to begin with, and he just couldn’t let that happen, couldn’t let something so important end so quietly.


But he needn’t have worried. She turned and waited, a dash of pale green against a pale blue sky and rolling golden hills.


He opened his mouth. Closed it. And opened it again with renewed desperation. “Do you remember when we first met? In the gardens? And you pushed me into the fountain after I called you something nasty?”


Lou hummed. “I can recall something along those lines.”


“And you said it would take all the great powers of the world an eternity to fix me up? You remember that, don’t you? Because you thought I was a—”


“—idiotic, insatiable, immature little brat who didn’t know his friends from his foes.” The corner of her mouth rose ever so slightly. “That hasn’t changed.”


“Yes! You’re right, you’re right. I am still that brat.” He took a few steps forward, the grass rustling around his knees. “And I can’t— Please, Lou. I don’t know how to run a kingdom.”


She took a few steps back. “I beg to differ.”


“No— you don’t understand. All the best decisions I’ve ever made had you involved in them. Please—” He struggled to find the right words to make her stay, stars-be-damned. “Please.”


Lou sighed, deeply and slowly. 


“I really hope you wouldn’t take this so personally, Darian.” She said. 


She gestured to herself, “A road needs her traveller.” Then she pointed to him. “And a kingdom— it needs you. Don’t you see?” A patient gesture of her hands and another weary sigh, like they were back in the study again and she was explaining taxes while he stared out through glass windows and refused to listen. “Our paths are set to diverge here, Darian. This is how it’s meant to be. There’s no point in dragging on the farewell.”


“Our paths are only diverging because you’re leaving, Lou!


“And what else do you expect me to do?” She challenged. “Reside in your court? Give up my way of living? Be mocked and scorned as a foreign little girl, who would eventually lose the king’s favour, all to serve someone who could replace me at any given moment, who’ll grow tired of me as soon as he finds someone prettier, cleverer, wittier?” She raised her chin and stared him down. “I expected a lot of things, Darian, but I never expected you to be so selfish.”


He flinched, and they both fell silent, the whish-whooshing of the grass and the faint whisper of wind the only sounds to soothe their open wounds.


“I’d never grow tired of you.” He spoke, eventually to the white lace fluttering at the edge of her billowing sleeves. “And it’d be impossible to find someone prettier or wittier, for there’s none that exist in this world.”


“How sweet of you.” She said, dryly. “That’s what all men say, until they do find someone else.”


“No, Lou—” He tried to take another step, but she only took another back. “I’m serious. You know how I used to spend my days before you came along. What if I go back to partying and gambling and doing god knows what else?”


“Then that’s out of my control.” She said, firmly. “The rest is up to you.”


“What if the kingdom falls into ruin because of my actions?”


“I have faith that it won’t, and so should you.”


“How should I know which is the right thing to do?”


“Listen. To yourself, and to others. It’s really not as difficult as you think.” She smiled slowly, as if against her will. “Any more questions?”


He’s run out. And they both knew it, because she turned to leave, but he lunged to grab her hand before she could. “Wait, Lou.” 


And like before, she turned back and waited again, this time much closer, much harder for him to let go, and now he’s standing there with her hand in his and he’s opened his mouth and he’s trying to say something, but the words were getting stuck, because it’s a strenuous, terrible, gruelling thing, to try to tell anything to someone who was leaving you behind, who was willingly striking an end into something that had never quite begun.


But Lou was always much cleverer than he ever gave her credit for. There was no need for him to put it into words. She could feel that something ending as acutely as he could.


So all she did was pull him in and wrap her arms around him, letting him bury his head into the crook of her shoulder as she rubbed comforting circles into his back, and when she felt hot tears sinking through the fabric and onto her skin, she said not a word, just held him tighter as he swallowed his sobs.


When he spoke again, the words were small and muffled. “Will you be back?” Is this really the end?


“Maybe.” She began swaying them from side to side, in time to the rustling grass, leaning to one side and then to another. “Don’t worry, Great King Darian. I’ll remember you and your idiocy and your insatiability and your immaturity and your little brattiness for eternity. In return, you have to think of me too, from time to time. Alright?”


He nodded. And then he let her go with a lighter heart, a calmer mind, and the reassurance that no, this wasn’t really the end, because she had said ‘for eternity’ so plainly and sincerely that it had to mean nothing but the truth.


After all, eternity means forever—and there’s really no end to that.

Writer – Amy Zuo
Editor – Areeba Zabrina
Artist – Maryam Nawaz 

–May 2024–

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