A prince chose a peasant to be his wife, for she was the most beautiful woman in the land, and he desired her very much.
At the wedding, an old woman approached them at the altar and placed a curse upon them.
“The first year of this marriage the prince will forget and the second the bride will forget. Only then shall you know the truth of your love and the truth of each other. And whether there is regret or not is up to you.”
The prince laughed at the old woman’s superstitious ways and had his guards throw her out of the castle and into the woods. But the bride worried in her heart that the old lady’s words were true. Yet still agreed to the marriage, for she was newly in love, and she believed that love would never change, that the truth of love is there for all to see. That the truth of love is pure.
So for the first year of their marriage she did everything she could to make their love as perfect as possible, for if her husband was fated to forget it at least their happiness could live on in her memories. And afterwards, forever afterwards, she could share with him the great tales of their romance and their joy, and in this way give back to him the time they had lost. She believed that, through her telling, and the strength of her heart, their love could be regained, become stronger and deeper, sweeter and more sincere.
In this way the first year went by, in love and happiness, and with no small amount of joy. On the night before the first anniversary of their wedding, they lay together in bed, and between them lay their daughter, born earlier that day. They named her Anniversary Eve, and held her close all night. And as they slept they dreamt of the years to come.
The prince awoke the next morning to the realisation he was a father now, and over the coming days discovered he had new responsibilities and obligations which could not be avoided nor delegated away. In the tired days that followed sleepless nights, he often wondered where the reckless days of his youth had gone.
Even his wife’s love for him had changed. Where once there was an eagerness within her when they met, now there was little more than an acceptance, indeed an expectation, of his presence. He had moved from the foreground to the periphery, and the clear focus of her love was now not him but Eve.
His wife was older, too, he noticed. Less radiant, less joyous, less carefree, less, less, less. And every night the child would keep him awake and every day he would find himself feeling slightly unhappier than the day before.
He remembered one day the words of the woman at their wedding, and knew suddenly they were true. For it felt like only yesterday that his romance was in full bloom, when he and his bride-to-be were together endlessly, devoted to nothing but each other, lost in love, and lost together. Now, when his wife talked of those days, he found he did not recognise her memories, nor himself in them.
A great anger grew him in when she spoke of their past. Where now was his freedom to do as he wished, to go where he may, to be alone when he wanted, together when they needed.
So his bitterness grew. And if he was rude to his wife, what would it matter, for did not the old crone say that his wife would remember nothing of it? And if he felt pity for himself, what could his wife expect, for while he had lost the good years of his life, she had taken them as her own.
The second year of their life together passed with increasing rancour. They did not celebrate the anniversary of their wedding, nor even the birthday of their daughter. And if truth be told, they did not even remember they had forgotten.
She woke suddenly to the sound of her husband berating her. His unkind words escalated throughout the day, and that night sleep came to her as a relief. But the next day was the same, and the next day, and the next, and she wondered how it had ever come to this. The only joy in her days was the time she spent with Eve, who had grown so fast she felt a sensation akin to vertigo when she held her, so huge did the child seem now compared to the tiny newborn she still imagined her to be.
She thought one day of the old woman’s words, and a moment’s clearness came over her, and she saw, for the first time, as plain as can be, the truth of her and her husband’s love, and the truth of each other, and the differences in their hearts. And she did indeed feel regret.
She took Eve in her arms and together they left the castle and went out into the woods and were not seen again. Where it was they went from there the prince never did know, and together his bride and his daughter lived happily ever after.
The prince, alone, did not.
1. Written in May, 2016
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