LOVE

As other people in the kingdom of lesser importance slaved away in the blistering heat, trying to earn enough money to feed their families, Katherine sat beside her pool, being fed grapes by her eager-to-please servants.

Katherine felt so alone sometimes; though surrounded by loved ones, living a life of luxury that many would envy, and getting everything she desired, she felt as though no one understood her. Occasionally, though she knew it was selfish of her to think in such a way, she felt as though her parents were trying to buy her love; giving her everything she requested, however impulsive, supplying her with everything she so much as expressed a slight interest in, though never actually seeming to care. It was as if they just wanted to keep her quiet and out of their way. Sometimes she felt like no one could really see her, or understand how she felt.

Every now and again, Katherine let her mind drift to the servants, who would be mucking out the pigs while she ate whatever luxurious meal had been made for her in the kitchens that day. She felt herself drawn to one boy in particular, whom she learned to be named John. Though working in such a disgusting environment, he never lost his hope or charm, and could always be found joking and chatting with the other men. Katherine found him endearing, and often wondered how she would have felt about him, had he not been a lowly servant for her family.

Katherine caught herself fantasising about a life with the servant boy, and quickly dismissed these thoughts; for how could she disobey her father's wishes in such a way? However, the thought of her father and his dislike of relationships between people of different ranks in society didn't stop her mind from wandering to John.

As the days and weeks went by, she found herself gazing out her bedroom window each day, hoping to catch a glimpse of John while he worked. She grew to learn his routine; up at dawn to collect the eggs from the chickens in the morning, then on to make breakfast for all the animals, feeding each animal, mucking out the pigs pen at noon, and on to to doing odd jobs until dusk fell.

Unsatisfied with mere glimpses of the servant boy, Katherine decided to take a walk past the animal pens one morning, when she knew he would be feeding the animals. She struck up a conversation with him, careful to make it seem casual, and not as though she had been desperate to talk to him the minute she had lain eyes on him. They began talking, and she discovered a lot of things they had in common, such as their dissatisfaction with their lives, their feeling of incompleteness, and their shared love for nature.

Katherine made plans to see him again the following day, careful to make sure her father wouldn't find out about the secretive meetings.

Time passed, and the two began to find out more about each other. Katherine found herself falling in love with the servant boy. She liked everything about him; how he could make her laugh, and yet how he could be such a gentlemen at times.

Katherine loved how compassionate John was; how kind, caring, understanding, and especially the way he shared her views on life. Both thought the prejudice within society was unjust, and both were eager to share their thoughts on anything and anything they thought the other might find interesting.

Time went on. Weeks had gone by, months even had passed, and Katherine thought she ought to tell him exactly how she felt about him, however unrequited her love may be. She was delighted to discover that John felt the same way.

They devised a plan to run away together. Katherine went about her daily routine as usual, though she was very quiet about her plans, so as her father would not find out about what she was preparing to do. Unbeknownst to Katherine, her beloved had accidentally let slip their plans to a fellow worker, who, being loyal to his employer, informed Katherine's father of everything his daughter plotted to do.

The following day, Katherine struck up a conversation with her father, when he brought up the subject of John. Faking a confused expression, though secretly afraid her father had discovered her plans of escape, Katherine pretended not to know who her father was talking about. Her worries were confirmed when her father, truly angered by her insolence, began to shout at her. Katherine found out that her father knew of the relationship between her and the servant boy, and that they were going to run away. Katherine's father gave her an ultimatum; if she chose to run away with the servant boy, he would disown her, and she would be dismissed from their family entirely. However, if she chose to stay with her family, she would never be permitted to see the boy again. Katherine, distraught by the idea of losing her beloved, fled to her room, upon which she sobbed uncontrollably. Eventually, her tears subsided, and she eased into a deep sleep.

Without Katherine's knowledge, her father decided to take matters into his own hands, and, in the dead of the night, he sought to kill John in cold blood. John woke in the nick of time, and Katherine's father halted, though warned John to leave, or he couldn't be held responsible for his actions, such was his fury. As he left, he informed John under no uncertain terms that he would never again be welcome in their home. Distraught, John promised Katherine's father that he would never return again, on the condition that he would find it within his heart to forgive his daughter for going against his wishes, and loving a poor servant boy like him.

As Katherine left her room the next morning, she walked down the stairs with a heavy heart, aware that this could very well be the last time she saw her father, as she had made the decision to run away with John, leaving behind her family in disgrace forever. Seeing her father waiting for her in the kitchen, Katherine mentally prepared for the outburst of anger that was sure to come. Instead, as he announced to her that he had banished John from the kingdom, she stopped dead in her tracks. Shocked beyond belief, she turned on her heel and ran from the castle in distress, ignoring her father's attempts to reconcile her.

Katherine ran and ran, the wind whipping through her hair, the stream of emotions tearing through her mind, until finally she dropped from exhaustion. Raising her head, she realised she had come upon her favourite lake; the very place she had often visited with John. The place where she had spoken with John many times, had endless conversations with him, laughed and cried with him, and made plans to escape the country with her beloved.

Katherine felt a gaping hole in her heart; the place where John had once filled, his love for her supplying her with reason to live. Katherine knew that if she continued her life now without him, knowing what she she could have had, how very happy she could have been with him, her life would be fruitless. She fell to her knees, raised her head to face the heavens, and wept openly.

Loud sobs emanated from Katherine's throat, and tears streamed down her face, leaving salty tracks on her dirt-covered face, and collecting in little rivulets at her nose and chin. She didn't bother wiping them off; instead, she let them fall, truly helpless without John's love.

Katherine clutched at her chest, her heart beating furiously, angrily, endlessly. She felt a sudden loathing for this; for why should her heart beat when his no longer could? How could her pulse fasten when he was not there to cause it?

Katherine opened her mouth and screwed shut her eyes, silently wailing, and raised her arms upwards. Knees still bent, she tilted towards the lake, and allowed herself to drift in; she would drown in his memory, eternally crying at the bottom of the lake.