The Strange Refusal

“What do you mean you won’t go with me?” I asked as my mouth fell agape. My arms spread wide.

For weeks—no, months—I battled dragons, outwitted trolls, survived sirens, and endured the rigid elements. All of it climaxed in this very moment. The moment where I gaze upon the beautiful princess, offer her my hand, and lead her away in the sunset to a happily-ever-after drove me to press on despite the miserable, near-death circumstances. I knew a helpless maiden was waiting for me. In all my challenges, I didn’t think I would face an outcome as tragic as this.

The princess crossed her arms and huffed. Her evergreen dress swayed ever so slightly. “I said I’m not going.”

“But, Princess Evelyn, I don’t think you understand.”

“I understand perfectly well,” she snapped while stepping closer. Her lavender hair fell in perfect ringlets. Her deep, plum eyes stabbed my heart like the sharpest of blades. Her fuchsia lips pursed, yet not in the way I hoped—to offer a kiss. She spoke with dramatic hand gestures: “You came all this way in hopes to whisk me away because I’m a hopeless wreck in need of a man to save me. Did you ever think once that maybe I enjoy my life here?”

Bewildered, I gazed around and noted the long, rickety bridge behind us. I crossed it to reach the castle. Luckily, the only fiend I encountered there was the fear of falling in the endless ravine. No dragons in sight. We stood outside her old, slightly tilted tower. At least she came down to speak with me.

My dented, dirty armor clanked as I ran my fingers through my dark, matted hair. There wasn’t a living soul in sight. My trusty horse, Middy, whinnied in the distance to protest my unspoken observation. I commanded her to wait on the far side of the bridge. How could Princess Evelyn find happiness here?

“You can’t be serious?” I asked utterly perplexed. My eyes locked with hers, unreadable and unwavering. “You can’t be happy here all alone. How do you even find sustenance to survive?”

“I am certainly not alone,” Evelyn said. “Watch.” At that she sang a wordless tune, calling a single dove from beyond the ravine. It glided over and daintily perched on her extended finger. “See?” She smirked. “The birds bring me whatever I need.”

“Please come with me,” I begged, bending on one knee. The grinding armor pierced my ears. “Just cross that bridge and we can start a new life together.” I grabbed her hands for emphasis, but she pulled away.

“Never! That bridge is filthy and covered in moss and much too rickety.” Evelyn wrapped herself in her arms and shivered, despite the warm sun beating upon us.

I stood up, unwavering. I could not give up after coming this far. “What if I called my steed to lead us forward? She could—.”

“Certainly not!” She shook her head. “I’m perfectly content here.” She dramatically collapsed as her dress ballooned around her, shaping her like a finely decorated cupcake. She buried her face in her arms. Her shoulders shook with the sound of sniffles. The bird cooed, now perched on her shoulder. I felt panicked.

“Have you ever seen a Pegasus? Middy can fly us to a better place. My castle is extraordinary and my kingdom would adore you. The servants would cater to all your needs. You won’t need the birds to–”

Evelyn bolted to her feet and ferociously grabbed my arm. “What did you say? Your horse can fly?” She leaned toward Middy across the bridge with her hand shielding her eyes. A loose stone tumbled down the ravine. Evelyn shrieked and jumped in my arms. I nearly lost balance and went tumbling myself.

“Of course, princess,” I replied. Her plump, fuchsia lips trembled inches from mine.

“In that case, take me away from this retched place!”

Pleasantly confused by her sudden attitude change, I whistled with two fingers. In response, Middy flew over the ravine and gracefully landed before us in a puff of dirt. I had never seen a princess scramble so quickly to mount a horse. Her limps clamped Middy like a tree trunk.

“Please, could you move quickly?” Evelyn asked. “I’m craving a roast. Birds don’t deliver such things, you know.”

I stifled a chuckle and mounted Middy along with the princess. Evelyn squeezed me from behind. Even with the armor, I felt short of breath from her tight grip. With a large flap of feathered wings, Middy lifted us into the air. Princess Evelyn squeezed my torso as we flew over the ravine and past the bridge. Her muscles relaxed.

“I never fancied bridges,” Princess Evelyn huffed. “How much longer until we arrive?” We had only been in flight for a few moments.

“Soon, my darling,” I reply as we fly and into the glorious sunset of our happily-ever-after.