The Phoenix Curse
They sat beneath the apple trees, making the most of their precious time. Shay reached up and plucked an apple, holding it out to her.
“My father’s insisting on holding a ball. He wants me to select a bride.”
Eleanora swallowed down the lump in her throat. She took the proffered apple and held it to her nose, inhaling the sweet fragrance, intent on hiding her emotions.
Shay cupped her cheek gently. “I only want you, Nora.”
“But what of my curse?” she cried. “My mother never bore a child. What if I can’t? You’d never have an heir. You know the nature of my coming into the world, that I was born of my mother’s phoenix flames as she died. If I can’t have a child either, I’d have to die to give you an heir.”
“I don’t care about an heir,” said Shay vehemently, pulling her into his arms. “We were always meant to be together. All I want is you.”
“Yes, but you are also forgetting that I am little more than a servant. I lost the title of Lady Ashworth when I supposedly died of the same illness as father.” Her breath hitched. “I died when I was twelve for all the world knows. Who is ever going to believe that my stepmother’s kitchen rat is the true Lady Ashworth?”
“I think we should go and talk to my father.”
“Talk to the King,” gasped Eleanora. “‘I can’t walk into the palace looking like this.” She stepped out of his embrace, suddenly remembering how dirty she was.
He looked her up and down. “Perhaps not,” he said, “When I see you, I see far beyond the ragged clothes you wear and the soot on your nose. I see beyond your beauty. I see the goodness of your heart and the pure, shining light of the phoenix in your soul. How could I ever take another for my wife when perfection stands before me?”
Eleanora rubbed at the smudge on her nose, a tear sliding down her cheek. “You really think your father can help?”