I had no idea how much I would struggle with this task. It was hard to come up with a "Love at first sight" kind of situation that didn't sound cliche to me. I think it was hard because I don't believe in "love at first site". I believe you can be physically attracted to someone at first site, but I don't believe that is love. Luckily, the guidelines included something to the effect: "the scene where one of your main characters realizes--Wow! he could be the one!" So, that is what I went with. In my normal "I have to know more" vein, I actually wrote several scenes in connection with this one and started building a complete story. Perhaps, I will work on it as a short story. Mmmm, food for thought. Anyway, here is my bit.
His ship landed in the early morning hours. Hadassah watched the lights and smoke in the distance from her window until the air cleared and the only light left was the misty salmon of sunrise. The hours passed sluggishly with nothing but her thoughts to occupy her mind. The lunch hour came and went, and no one brought any news to her. She sat slumped against the window casing with her eyes closed.
A commotion below caused her heart rate to quicken as she opened her eyes and quickly clamored to her feet. Her legs ached from sitting so long. Slowly the courtyard door began to open and the soldiers strutted in. The air filled with their triumphant voices as they chattered among themselves. The warrior king was still unaccounted for. Finally, after ten minutes of parading men, he walked through the archway—conqueror of worlds, destroyer of lives, and her husband. For years she feared and hated his name, and her own world was uninhabitable because of his war. She should hate him, and yet, seeing him standing there relief came unbidden at seeing him whole and unharmed. She began to realize an unwelcome truth. The last few months of his absence had taught her what her true feelings really were. She longed for him to reach out to her, touch her, hold her. She had fallen in love with the enemy.
Darius glanced up and caught her standing in the window. His smile set her heart trembling uncomfortably. He waved before walking into the palace. She turned back to her room, the rooms of a Queen. Now that she knew he was safe, the exhaustion overwhelmed her as she collapsed in one of the chairs. She brushed at the tears sliding down her face. She still did not know what she wanted out of the situation. The chime of the door startled her. She stood quickly and turned in time to see her waiting maid step through the closing door behind Darius. Hadassah’s heart quivered at the sight of him standing in her room. He breathed quickly but quietly, and she knew he hurried to get here so quickly. This realization caused her body to tingle. Perhaps he wanted to see her as much as she needed to see him?
Darius ignored the room, focusing on Hadassah standing before him. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled with moisture. Had she been crying? His heart dared to hope. Walking slowly, he closed the distance between them, almost stopping when the tears began flowing down her cheeks again.
“Hadassah, what is wrong?” He wiped a tear with his fingertips and felt her lean into his touch for just a moment before pulling away.
She paced a step or two, and then returned to stand before him again wringing her hands. Could she speak her mind? Her chest felt tight and her knees weak, but under it all lay the fear of never knowing what she felt. Seeing the concern on his face gave her the courage to speak.
“I think I’m falling in love with you.” The whisper managed to reach him and joy lit his face as he reached out for her hands.
“That is a good thing, right?” The hope in his voice ripped her heart wide open and she crumpled to the floor as the sobs broke loose. Darius knelt beside her, never letting go of her hands, even though she tried to pull free.
“No, no. I don’t want to love you. I should hate you for all you’ve done, but all I feel is relief that you returned home safely.” She stared at their hands as the words tore some of the pains and confusion out of her chest.
Darius’s pulled her in and folded her close to him. Hadassah allowed herself the luxury of pretending for a moment that he loved her and it was permissible for her to love him. His hands began tracing patterns on her back, sending tremors through her body. Afraid of the new sensations, she pulled away and retreated to the window.
“Please…” Even her voice trembled.
“Have I forced myself on you before, even though you are legally my wife?” He crossed to stand by her, but refrained from touching her again.
“No.” Suddenly that hurt too, and she tried not to sag under the weight of it. “Why not?”
“Did it occur to you that I am not that kind of man?”
“No. You destroy worlds because you feel like it, why not take that too?” She finally turned from the window to look at him, confusion plain on her face. “I don’t understand. You personality contradicts everything I have ever heard about the King of Shussan. For years I’ve been told that you are…” She could not continue with the traits that did not fit him.
“What? A cruel, power hungry megalomaniac who wipes out entire populations just to mine their world?” His voice trailed bitter daggers through the air.
“Yes.” Another whisper.
Darius turned and walked a step or two toward the door before turning back to her. His face, lined with sadness, pulled at her heart. “I am not my father, but even a king must be careful and patient when changing imperial policy.” He turned and walked to the door.
“Wait, please.” Hadassah moved across the room as if she could physically prevent him from leaving. Her heart raced when he paused with his back to her. “Please, I don’t understand.”
“There is so much that I can not tell you. Know this, I gave you my heart the day you walked into my life and spoke the truth, in spite of the peril to you. What I do now is for you.” Another step and the door opened for him, allowing him to walk away taking her heart with him, leaving her only confusion.