The Kiss that Saved Her (Chapter 5, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 5

The cave was full of excitement because of the approaching holiday. Joanna
knitted sweaters for her friends as she wanted to make everyone gifts. The days
before Christmas were especially busy for David and he left for the town of
Randele daily to sell his wooden goods.
On Christmas Eve, they celebrated with a special meal of lamb seasoned with
salt which Dom purchased through a merchant as a special favor for his medicines.
The fire’s warmth radiated through the chill in the cave and they held hands to pray
before they ate.
The meal was jovial and the evergreen branches of Christmas filled the kitchen
with a fresh and tangy smell.
The group sang a sacred song and then exchanged gifts. She handed her gifts to
them one by one with David being the last one. She made a patterned scarf for him
to match his sweater using the green and blue dyed wool. For the rest, she knitted
plum sweaters. The stiff wool would keep them warm as the temperature dropped.
The smile on David’s face reminded her of his kiss. She thought him more
handsome today than yesterday, but was sure every day her opinion changed to
declare him all the better to behold.
“David must be your favorite, for you gave him a sweater and a scarf,” George
remarked.
“Now maybe he just needed both. You have a scarf, why are you complaining
George?” Dom asked.
“Well, all right, Dom,” George said.
Frank glanced at Louis and they both smiled and tried not to laugh.
David handed his gift to Joanna and she opened the box. He made her a wooden
flute and put a carving of a rose on the base of it. She gave him an embrace and he
held her tightly until she let go.
“Why, she doesn’t even know how to play the flute!” George grumbled.
“I made you a flute too.” David presented George a beautiful flute and his hands
clutched it with gratitude.
“Why, George, how nice. Does your flute have a rose on it too?” Frank asked.
“Are you going to complain if it doesn’t?” Dom said.
Everyone began to laugh, including David.
Frank, Dom and George bought Joanna a beautiful dress from the village shop.
Dom told her they picked it out after hours. The dress was made from cotton and
had a lace trim. The red trim looked lovely over the royal blue and white dress.
“Thank you for this wonderful gown,” she said wiping a tear of joy.
“We never meant for you to cry!” George said.
“Why don’t you try it on?” Dom suggested.
Joanna went to the back corner room of the cave to try it on. She quickly
brushed her hair and let it down. She reappeared to show them how much she
loved the dress. It was as well constructed as any made in Pantor. The dressmaker
was skilled and she admired his work as she spun around to show them the dress.
The others looked at David and his eyes opened wide as he beheld her.
“Oh my dear, you are the loveliest girl in the land!” George said.
“I couldn’t be prouder if you were my own daughter,” Dom said.
“She looks lovely, doesn’t she, David?” Frank asked.
They waited to see what David would say. Everyone had noticed the way that he
had been paying special attention to Joanna.
“Joanna, you look so beautiful,” David said, barely above a whisper.
Joanna was suddenly shy.
“Why doesn’t Dom play us a tune?” George suggested.
Joanna looked surprised. She was used to David playing the flute.
“I bet you didn’t know that Dom taught David how to play the flute,” George
said. He shuffled his feet as if he would dance.
“No, I didn’t know that,” Joanna said, her hands still holding onto her dress.
“Yes, and Dom is a much better player than me,” David said, “but he is far too
busy with his work to play for us.”
George and Frank sat on the floor that was covered with wool blankets while
Louis sat in his special chair near the fire. David sat down next to Joanna who was
sitting up against the wall of the cave. They listened to Dom play Christmas carols
on his flute. The flute was well worn with scratches, but the instrument sounded
the familiar notes thanks to the steady skill of Dom.
David moved in very close to Joanna. He put his arm around her and he held her
close. Her joy was complete. She understood he declared his love openly for her
tonight as the others must have seen him embrace her. The music ended and she
broke away from him.
“I suppose it is time for sleep,” Louis said. He tried to get out of the chair but his
leg gave out and Frank got up and held his arm.
“Thank you, Frank. I am having trouble walking with this leg.”
“I will help you; put your arm around me,” George offered. Louis put his arm
over his shoulder and hopped to the bedroom.
“I suppose we should get some sleep as we have Church in the morning,” Dom
said.
“Somebody will have to stay back with Louis. It is a two mile walk and his leg
is too weak,” David said.
“I will stay,” Joanna said.
“Are you sure?” Frank asked.
“Yes, I can’t go to town, it’s too…” Joanna stopped as she feared she revealed
too much already.
“Alright, my dear, it is settled,” Dom said. He sensed her fear.
*
The glorious Christmas day celebration concluded and the crowd became quiet.
The congregation acted in unison as everyone recited the prayers. The country
church was plain with small glass windows and heavy oak doors. Smoke rose from
the candles near the altar. The air inside was chilly until more people arrived. The
warmth from all the people bundled together made the oak pews a home.
Many people attended and they received a surprise when an elegantly dressed
constable from the capital city got up to address them. The silence of the church
expressed their curiosity at his message. He unrolled a crisp decree, which made a
crackle, and read:
“Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Bow,
daughter of the King of Marcus, has issued
this notice. The Princess of Bow, Her Royal
Highness of Tower, Princess Joanna, has
been killed by wolves. The funeral was held
and the Kingdom is entering an extended
period of mourning.
The crowd in the church gasped. Some audible cries were heard. The constable
paused; then continued:
“The other matter to be announced is
that with the Princess' death, the Kingdom
is entering into an unstable peace. The
defense of the kingdom requires the service
of more soldiers and therefore the Queen
has decided to collect a new tax on each
house beginning in the summer after the
first harvest. The tax records will indicate
when the soldiers will visit and the payment
will be rendered then.
He ended with a proclamation:
“All Hail the Queen of Bow, her Royal
Highness.”
The constable rolled the paper up and left the church through a side door.
David looked at Dom and Frank. George looked at David. The princess was
named Joanna.
*
Louis sat by the fire and Joanna cooked honeyed pumpkin for the Christmas
feast. They would enjoy the roasted leg of lamb along with rye bread that Joanna
baked. The food would become cold unless they arrived soon. She worried as the
hour grew late and the men had not returned.
“Do they usually stay late?” she asked Louis.
“Yes, they sometimes do.”
Joanna joined Louis near the fire. Before long, they heard voices and the door
opened; the men took off their sturdy winter shoes and shook out the snow. David
looked away and she wondered what was wrong. They were silent.
“How was Randele? Any news?” asked Louis.
No one moved for a moment then Frank said, “The Queen is collecting a new
tax this summer and it will be steep.”
Joanna could hardly believe what he said. Was she still in Bow? She thought
that she crossed the border. Was she mistaken? She was afraid for a moment. Her
heart beat rapidly at the thought of the Queen. If she was in Bow, then she must
cross the border to escape.
“How far away is the Kingdom of Ott?” she asked.
“We are not that far, probably ten miles northwest from here. That is the closest
border. You can go across without anyone finding out, but then you need to walk
maybe fifteen miles,” Dom told her.
Dom looked at Joanna. He studied her closely now. She was humble and a hard
worker. She had some odd expressions and she had no idea how to complete
simple ordinary tasks when she first arrived. Of course there was her beautiful
dress. Dom had many questions inside his head. If the Princess was dead, why did
the guards allow her to die? It was impossible to believe she was allowed to
wander alone into danger. A death of this sort meant that there would be no body
that could be identified as the Princess. It was conceivable that she could have
escaped and the story circulated in order to protect her. The report read by the
constable gave scant details. If Joanna was the Princess, then it meant they all were
in great danger, and it would explain why Joanna was so interested in the border
crossing. He realized that she must be the Princess. Dom understood some people
would kill for power, and from what he had heard about the Queen, he realized she
was one of those people. Dom realized that any crossing into Ott could not take
place until the break in the winter weather. It would be a dangerous journey.
David was looking at Joanna and while she smiled at him, he sensed a panic in
her expression. He felt a princess would never be like her. She was down-to-earth
and approachable. He rejected any thoughts of her being the Princess.
Joanna thought she would spare her friends any trouble. She must travel by
herself to Ott that spring. She had walked forty miles already and in the spring she
would walk the rest. She knew by the way everyone was staring that they must
have guessed her identity. She would deny it if they asked. If she concealed who
she was, when the soldiers came, they would say that they knew nothing about a
princess. Joanna had a duty to protect her friends as their Princess. She would
leave them in peace.
Joanna locked eyes with David. He looked at her and she was in agony at the
thought of being separated from him.
*
The New Year began and the snow made travel impossible. The mines were
closed for six weeks. There was a sense of urgency in the cave. David had plenty
of time to carve; he made many items. He carved more goods to sell because the
taxes would be steep. It was easier to sell wood boxes, bowls and cups during the
festival.
Joanna had a plan as well. She knew that silk was rare and her dress would sell
for a fair price. The money would enable her to cross the border and what was left
would go to pay the tax.
Dom confided to Frank, George and Louis his thoughts about Joanna. He told
them of his plan for her escape to Ott. She must cross the border before the soldiers
arrived.
On a crisp late winter morning, the men woke up and heard screams, and David
jumped up out of bed, lit a lantern, and ran through the cave to Joanna. She was in
a full nightmare, thrashing about, and she was calling out for help. He raced to her
side and called her name and shook her.
“Joanna, it was a dream, you are all right,” David pulled her close and held her
until she woke up and she looked up at him, startled.
“Oh, David, it was an awful dream! My heart is still pounding,”
“You are all right, my dear,” Dom told her.
“We all have bad dreams sometimes,” offered George.
“Is anybody interested in some breakfast? I will cook some creamed wheat,”
Frank asked.
“I'm interested,” Louis said.
Frank left to go make breakfast and the others followed him.
“If you need us we will be in the kitchen,” Dom said, and patted Joanna's head.
He nodded to David.
“Joanna, we all have bad dreams sometimes, but they are just dreams,” David
told her after the others had left.
“No. David, you don't understand, I had a dream that my kingdom was in
danger, in ruins.” Joanna sat up in her bed.
“Your kingdom?”
“I cannot tell you!”
David ran his hand through his hair. He smiled a small smile.
“You are not like me. You are so poised and hold in your emotions. I knew you
were different, I knew you were not like anyone I had ever met before. We have all
guessed it, after Christmas. We guessed at who you really are. But as the Princess,
you have a right to your father's throne. The Queen must be stopped, but the only
way is through you. If she goes through with her plans she will leave many people
desperate and near starvation.”
“If I am the Princess and not Joanna, the girl you know, we cannot marry.”
David looked at her. He realized their love was before them plainly.
“Then you know I love you?”
“Yes, and you know that I love you?”
The silent love was spoken and his heart would be heard.
“Will you marry me, Joanna?” David whispered to her.
“Yes! I will marry you.” Joanna whispered back.
The power of her words rippled through him. David kissed her parted lips. Time
bent its ear to listen to two hearts beat as one. His marriage proposal was answered
with her kiss as firm and bold as any love song his flute would play.
The quiet moment between the two had passed. David thought about Joanna as a
princess.
“What about your duty to the people?” David asked her.
“Who will follow me? The Queen has legions at her command. I would walk
back to the palace and be put to death. I do realize the Queen won't live forever. I
could return once she has died.”
“Will you be satisfied with a common husband?” David looked down at his
hands. They were the hands of a worker, not a prince.
He knew she had lived in splendor. He was a wood carver. She saw that his hope
faded at the thought of her as a royal princess. She would have to convince him
that they could be together as equals. She took his hands into her own.
“David, I have never been happier in my life than I am being with you!” Joanna
looked squarely into his eyes. “My life in the palace was comfortable, yes, but I
did not feel loved. I was resigned to live that life. Everything changed when my
stepmother ordered my death. It was the darkest moment I have ever faced.”
“Ordered your death? Is the Queen mad?” David uttered. He hadn't fully realized
what Joanna had endured.
“No, she is just evil,” Joanna said, and tears filled her eyes. Joanna could finally
tell him everything. She wiped her tears.
“She wanted to kill you?” David could hardly believe it. His fingers wiped her
tears away too.
“Yes, and had my hunter listened to her, I would not be here today.”
“I will never let her hurt you. I will keep you safe.” David held her tightly in his
arms, as if to protect Joanna.
“You already saved me. I was about to despair, but then I found you. I found
your love for me. I am so happy, David. It is all that I want, I want to be your wife,
a real wife, one who loves her husband.”
“You will be my wife.”
“I am so happy!”
“I am the happiest that I could ever be,” David stated. “Should we tell the
others?”
“Yes.”
*
The weather turned warmer around the time of the festival in Randele. People
left behind the hibernated state of winter. Frank and David loaded the cart full of
things to sell. Joanna brought a sack and hid her silk dress in it. She wore the
lovely dress that she received for Christmas.
Many rows of houses side-by-side cluttered the town. Cats darted out from
behind pillars on the porches.
The festival took place in the Great Town Hall, where merchandise was sold.
The wooden logs of its walls gave the spacious hall a warm feel. The stone
fireplace heated the room and the smoke of the fire brought back memories of the
castle when she sat at her desk to complete her lessons near the yellow brick
fireplace.
“Joanna, I will set up here to sell my things; you can shop if you like.”
David smiled at her as he handed her a few coins.
“Are you sure?” Joanna said. David nodded.
She wandered the crowded hall. Joanna peeked at her silk dress. The deep plum
color and smooth seams reminded her of her stepmother’s wedding dress and she
tried to forget the thought and shut down the memory.
She found, in the farthest corner, an old woman selling dresses and fine things.
Her table contained many exotic furs and laces. The woman seemed friendly. Her
thin frame and quick movements reminded Joanna that business must be
addressed.
“Do you buy as well as sell clothes?” Joanna asked.
“It depends, dear, what is it that you want to sell?” the old woman asked. She
circled around her table to reach Joanna.
The woman was nearly seventy and she flashed a smile, but her rotting teeth
made Joanna pity her. Joanna opened up her sack and pulled out her dress made of
rare silk.
“Oh my, I didn't know anyone around here could get this material.” The old
woman’s eyes narrowed. “How much?”
“Eighty pieces, it is worth at least a hundred,” Joanna said as she smoothed the
dress.
“That is a lot of money. I don't have that kind of money.” She put her hand on
her chin. “I will give you fifty.”
“Oh, no, I need more.”
Joanna set the dress down on the table next to the cart and the woman’s eyes
studied it. Joanna hoped she would buy it.
“Well, let me see, we can make a deal. I will give you fifty and some other
things. I have many beautiful items for you to choose from. I can show you some
things.”
The old woman looked around her shop area. She picked up a lace bodice; the
ivory lace was her best piece. She brought it to Joanna and draped it over her and
turned Joanna around to look in an oversized mirror attached to her cart.
“See how beautiful you look,” she said. When Joanna saw herself in the mirror
with the lovely shirtdress, she felt beautiful, but she had to be practical.
Joanna shook her head no, for she wanted the money.
“I will give you the fifty pieces, the shirt, and something else too.” She looked
around. She found a hand mirror that was decorated with semi-precious gems and
she handed it to Joanna.
“How about this mirror and the lace shirt?”
Joanna smiled. She held the mirror and saw her reflection. She would be able to
sell the mirror if she needed the money. It was an even trade.
“Yes,” Joanna said.
The woman took the silk dress, and gave Joanna the fifty pieces, shirt, and
mirror. Joanna quickly put them in her sack.
The shops closed before sundown, and then the food would be served, mostly
soups and stews as the commoner would not have the luxuries of the royal court.
The day’s profits were counted around the various tables. The musicians were
setting up in the back of the Hall. The harp stood in a corner and musical scales
were being practiced on the flute. Anticipation of music, food, and guests swirled
through the hall as some left and others arrived.
She saw David at his table. He did not see her yet as she was far off but the sight
of his face full of merriment and his strong arms — which she nearly felt around
her as she closed her eyes — caused her to gasp at the thought that he loved her.
David sold all of his wooden goods and he sat counting his money. A thought of
marrying Joanna filled his mind. He imagined his love for her was like breath;
equal to life itself.
Joanna returned to David with a soft hello. They spotted Dom as he made his
way through the crowd of people. So many people Joanna thought. Heads and
shoulders were all that she could see everywhere as bodies filled the room. The
people wore their best clothes and she thought of the people — some rich, some
poor, but they all shared the same desire for a peaceful life.
Dom reached them and said, “Now, listen you two, come with me. Where is
Frank?”
“Here,” Frank stated as he walked up to them. George gathered around the table
too.
They were all puzzled, but followed Dom to the rectory next to the Church.
They went inside where the Friar in charge was waiting for them. The rectory was
a stone building with a stone floor. The table in the room was small and led back to
a kitchen. The hallway between them was large. The Friar waited.
“What is this Dom?” David asked. He glanced at Joanna
“You want a wedding so here is your wedding!” His hands rose up in animated
excitement.
“We can't get married now!” David said.
“We can't?” Joanna saw his fear.
Joanna looked at the stone floor thinking the promise of a kiss would never
mean what it should without the will to marry.
“David, you're not getting, what do they call it, cold feet?” Frank asked.
“Are you?” she said.
“No, but this is a surprise,” David said.
Dom put his arm around David's shoulder. He turned him away from Joanna and
quietly said, “David, I have thought it through. Joanna will be known by your
name if you marry. This will protect her when you cross the border. I assume you
will go with her?”
David looked back at Joanna. She was standing with her hands together holding
her sack. She was lovely. His initial fear melted away.
David turned to Joanna, “We will marry tonight!”
She smiled, touched her head, and then said, “I should fix my hair.”
The Friar showed her a small room with a chair and lit candles and she put down
her sack. He closed the door. The candle wax melted into a liquid filling the room
with its scent. Joanna took out the small mirror and looked at herself and when she
saw her reflection, she realized that she had grown into a real woman. Joanna took
out a brush from her sack and used short strokes to brush her hair. She put a lip
balm made of crushed berries on her lips. She was ready.
When she opened the door, she looked at him and his eyes marveled at her
beauty. Everything he desired stood at the altar. All his nervousness left him when
he saw her.
Joanna had not been nervous, until she saw David. She took a deep breath. The
moment of discovery was at hand united to the familiar way she loved him.
The Friar, an old man with a bald head, took her hand and walked her to David.
He placed her hand into David's hand. He then draped a white cloth over their
intertwined hands.
He asked them, “Do you wish to be joined together in holy matrimony?”
They both said, “I do.”
The Friar asked, “David, do you take Joanna to be your wife? Do you promise to
be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and to
honor her all the days of your life?”
“I do.” His words spilled out his will.
The Friar turned to Joanna. “Do you, Joanna, take David to be your husband?
Do you promise to be true to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in
health, to love him and to honor him all the days of your life?”
She looked at David. A thousand words of love combined into two.
“I do.”
The Friar removed the white cloth.
“Do you have a ring to be given?” he asked David.
David was confused, until Dom stepped up and gave him a gold ring.
David carefully placed the ring on her finger as he repeated the words.
“I, David, take thee, Joanna,” he stopped and looked at her, and when he said
her name, she felt all the love that he had for her, “to be my wife.”
Joanna looked down at the ring on her hand. She had worn many beautiful
jewels as a princess, but the simple band of gold was the most precious piece she
had ever worn because David had placed it on her finger. She never understood a
symbol of love could manifest the invisible until she wore his ring.
Then the Friar told them, “I pronounce you man and wife.”
David gave her a small kiss. The others clapped.
The Friar led them to a leather bound book where he recorded the marriage.
David signed the document and then Joanna signed it. She took David's name:
Joanna Woodhouse.
They went back to the festival hall. The musicians played music that filled the
room with joyful melodies. Many couples married during the festival. The entire
Great Town Hall felt like a wedding banquet.
The group sat at a table in the crowded hall and Dom and George disappeared
for a short time. They returned with food and drink for David and Joanna. She sat
very close to David and his hand touched her back and then he kissed her.
“Joanna, will you dance with me?”
“Yes.”
He took her hand and led her forward. They found an empty spot on the dance
floor and they began their dance. She looked at him and he looked at her and the
joy that the two felt caused David to kiss his Joanna.
After the dance was finished, they made their way through the crowd. David
searched for the others but had trouble finding them. Joanna spotted Dom by the
front doors. He called for them and they pushed through the crowd to reach him.
He had arranged for them to have a room for the night at the boarding house across
from the town square and gave them the brass key.
They made their way to the boarding house. Melted snow made the path muddy.
They climbed the stone stairs and found their room. He stopped then pulled her
to him and she felt his heart beating fast and her own matched his. David gave her
a serious look and then his lips covered hers. His kiss made her aware they were
man and wife. The kisses flooded her and her body trembled at his touch. David
pulled away and smiled at her. David took the key and unlocked the door.

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