Arabesque: Chapter 13

2/23/2017 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

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I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

About the book

Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 

Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.

Image source
Chapter 13

Nora and Tatania managed to confine me to my bed, if not my room, for days after I had regained consciousness. They were relentless in their efforts to keep me bedridden. The entire palace was informed that I had taken ill after a riding accident, so I could not leave my room without concerned servants and courtiers informing my wardens.

I usually avoid complaining, but I have never known such boredom. Although Tatania provided an endless supply of books from our library, I was restless. I needed to see Henry. Why had he been so kind in his recitation of our battle? Was he truly recovering? Did he suffer any permanent injury? Did he retain any memory of our encounter? Would he remember what I had said?

I was finally released from my imprisonment, only to find that Henry had "gone to the country," which meant he had been taken outside the palace walls to recover in order to avoid the suspicion of both of us "taking ill" at the same time. It was another full week before his return, and I thought I would go mad.

This anxiety hardly escaped Tatania. "Now that Henry's back, would you like me to fetch him for you?" she teased. "I'm very good at fetching things now, books especially. I think it may be my calling in life."

"And to think it took this long for you to discover it," I snapped.

She grinned, probably assuming my mood was a sign of vitality due to her stewardship over me. "Yes, quite a pity. Just think of all the time I spent worrying over how useless I seemed. To know would have been such a comfort."

We walked the terrace path, far above the gardens. The gardens were carpeted with the new growth of spring. Its scent wafted up to us. My eyes wandered as I tried to enjoy its beauty.

"...and just when I was about to catch him, Alec came bumbling along and snatched him. Now he's even more insufferable! He claims to have rescued me. Rescued me of all things! I could have chased down a runaway horse on my own, without his help. Once Bella had calmed down a bit he'd have listened to...Anna?"

My glazed eyes snapped to her. I tried to remember what she had been saying, something about Sir Alec and her horse? I muttered an excuse, and convinced her I was listening, an ecclesial skill in surviving politics and court life.

I watched the path past the gardens, to the outer wall, then beyond, searching, although I doubted I would find him there. Would he be pleased to see me recovered? Did he wish to avoid contact with me? Would the king assign a new training companion to me? I doubted that Henry would make such a request, his sense of honor and duty would forbid it. If he was reassigned, it would be the king's will, not his own.

"...honestly, he had no business catching me in his arms like that! I could have recovered on my own. I always trip during a ball, everyone knows it. He didn't need to draw attention to the fact! Now he jokes that I am a damsel in distress and looks for any excuse to humiliate me."

She froze. I looked, altered by the sudden silence. Sir Alec was approaching.

"Uh-uh, not happening," she hissed, then practically ran in the opposite direction. She mouthed a goodbye as an afterthought.

"Princess," Alec bowed. "Was that not your charming sister just then?"

I nodded. "Yes, indeed, but she felt ill quite suddenly and has taken to her rooms."

He shook his head. "What a pity. I hope she has not caught the same malady that befell your highness."

That is unlikely, I thought. "No, I do not believe so." I forced a smile.
"That is a relief. The entire palace prayed for your swift recovery. I am pleased to see you so well, but I must admit, I have been concerned that the Lady Tatania would take ill as well, and then the court would be deprived of yet another it its jewels."

What a strange man, I thought. His remarks were either blisteringly sarcastic or disturbingly sincere.

Before I could reply, a warm voice pricked my heart. "Your highness," Henry bowed. Sir Alec."

I couldn't speak. I nodded stupidly.

"Henry, my good fellow, so happy to see you've returned. How was the country? Make any decent conquests out there?"

Henry stared blankly. His glance shifted to me.

"Oh, how daft of me. You can hardly speak of such things in the presence of a lady. Please forgive my thoughtlessness, Princess."

Neither of us replied. I tried to be still, not to fidget. Henry shifted from one foot to another.

"Yes, well, I have things to need to attend to," Alec said, breaking the awkward silence, then took his leave.

I glanced at Henry, my head bowed. He was staring at his feet. He looked up, I looked back at the intricately tiled floor. I absently noticed the tile pattern was nearly as complex as my emotions.

This is ridiculous. This is Henry! You've been waiting to see him and now, will you not even look at him?

My chin to raised, my eyes met his own. I blinked to clear my head. How could simply looking into those dark brown eyes completely disorient me?

"Princess Anna," he started, his voice unsteady. I held back an involuntary sigh as he said my name. What was wrong with me? "Would you care to join me for a stroll through the gardens? I am told there is a particularly beautiful blossoming of Acacia this year."

"Of course, Henry."

As we walked, I wanted to study him, but forced my eyes to the wall instead. I concentrated on the stonework. I had never fully appreciated how intricately the palace was decorated. The geometric arabesques of the wall and ceiling were even more complex than the tile. I had, of course, studied the history of the palace's architecture, but had never given it thought beyond those lessons. The square was a prominent repeating pattern. To my people, this art form had practical and religious meaning. The square represented different aspects of life and nature. It was to remind us of balance in our lives. Balance between man and nature, between our time and pursuits, family and work, recreation and obligation. If any side was not balanced, the structure would become unstable.

How like my life. Balance seemed unobtainable. Even now, I sought distraction rather than facing my fears. My fists clenched.

We did not speak until we reached the gardens. I am certain they were even more beautiful down among the flowers, but I hardly noticed.

Henry walked quietly beside me, his familiar scent filled my lungs and muddled my senses. Surely he could not mean for us to continue our association in silence.

I braved a glance at his face. A breeze had blown a lock of hair across his eyes, hiding them from me. I held back my hand that itched to sweep it away.

He gestured to the Acacia grove at the heart of the gardens, had we truly been walking that long?

"They are quite beautiful," I acknowledged and looked at him from beneath my eye lashes.

He was looking at me. "A beautiful sight, indeed."

Had he meant me or the blossoms? I could not ask such a question.

He cleared his throat awkwardly and asked, "Are you well recovered, your highness?"

"Yes, thank you. And yourself?" I asked politely.

The stiffness of our interaction was excruciating. This man had saved my life, and I his. We had each confessed our love. Why could we not talk as easily as we once had? I longed for the easy comradery we had once enjoyed.

"I am glad to see you recovered," I said. I could not continue so stiffly. "You were not quite so well when last I saw you," I teased, hoping he would acquiesce.

"Nor were you," he laughed. "The last I saw of you, you had obtained a nasty gash to the back of the skull, and looked as fierce as a lioness guarding her cubs."

I smiled, "And when saw you last, you were delirious with fever and looking a bit more ragged."

I bit my lip. His fever...did he remember?

"Yes, so I have been told."

"You do not remember, then?" I asked.

"Bits and pieces, yes."

I swallowed. "May I ask which bits and pieces?"

"I fear to answer, you may think me a fool."

"I have never thought you a fool, Henry." Oh how I loved the taste of his name on my lips.

"That may change yet," he hesitated, then looked so deeply into my eyes that I was sure he saw my soul laid bare. "I scare remember, but one image remains irrevocably in my mind. An angel came to me, the most radiant of the heavens. She washed my fever away with her tears, bound my wounds in her glory, and comforted me with the most precious and tender of kisses."

I studied my feet. He remembered much more than I had expected.

"An angel, you say?" The heat in my cheeks betrayed the false calm I tried to exhibit.

"Yes, I would think it just a dream but now, long after I have awoken, her parting words still sing sweetly to me. I would have her know my gratitude." 

Not begging my leave, he softly took my hand.

I felt the unsteadiness of fever once again upon me. His dark eyes held the deepness of the heavens. I was lost to them.

He lifted my hand, pressed it gently to his lips, then departed.
More coming soon! Read Chapter 14 here or more about my projects here.
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    Arabesque Chapter 12

    2/16/2017 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

    Image Source
    I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

    About the book

    Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 
    Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

    Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.

    Image Source
    Chapter 12


    Ignoring the searing pain in my limp arm, I washed and redressed Henry's wounds. The gash in his leg was the worst. Already oozing puss, the ragged edges were bright red and swollen. If Henry did not get proper treatment soon, the infection spread, and he would eventually succumb to blood poisoning.

    I knelt, hunched over his body, stroking his dark blonde hair as I'd dreamed of doing so often before. I sobbed, begging him to stay with me, to guide me as he always did. "Henry, you've always known what to do I help you? If I leave you alone..." I couldn't admit out loud how I was failing him.

    I kissed his hand, and held it against my tear wetted cheek. His blazing warmth evaporated the tears. He moaned, and shivered. His breath was labored and his eye lids fluttered with fevered dreams. I helplessly pressed my forehead to his. The comfort of his skin washed over me, as a calming warm bath.

    "Henry, please," I whispered. "I cannot lose you like this...with you never knowing." I shuttered. "Henry." I brushed his hair away from his face, caressing it. "I love you, Henry." I kissed his forehead as I'd never before dared.

    "Coward!" A voice hissed.

    I jumped back and raised Henry's sword. There was no one.

    "Anna Niala Ballenden di..."

    "No!" I screamed. I didn't know how it was possible, but somehow the voice knew. I could not let that name be spoken aloud.

    "You are a craven coward," the voice whispered.

    My eyes darted around the abandoned room.

    "Like your father," the voice burned in my head. I shook as the room spun.

    "He doesn't know your secret," the voice accused. "Your own protector, your confidant. You claim you love him, yet you are too scared to even tell him your true name."

    I braced myself on a chair.

    "I can't..." I whispered.

    "You are too cowardly to tell him of your love until he is too weak to hear your words. Like your father, you lie and manipulate, deceive and use people like pawns on a chess board."

    My shaking knees buckled. I shook my head in denial.

    "Pretender," the voice chanted. "Liar. Manipulator."

    "It is necessary," I whispered hoarsely.

    "Ah yes, the excuse of all who deceive. Just as road to hell is paved with good intentions, your lies will be your destruction, this you know. They already tear you apart."

    "I have no choice." I fell to my knees.

    "There is always a choice," another voice whispered like a soft breeze, barely noticed.

    "No, you are a cowardly puppet, thrown into a war you cannot control. You have no choice. You can't win. They make you dance to their tune. You break your bones at their whim, deny your heart at their behest...and in their service, you have broken your own mind."

    "There is always a choice," the other voice sang familiarly.

    My eyes shot open. This wasn't real, yet it felt as real to me as Henry's touch. I was at war with myself, and in my weakened state, exhausted and overwhelmed, the thoughts I had strived to repress had broken free.

    I was a coward. I deceived those I loved. I felt beaten, and helpless, and put upon.

    "There is always a choice," the familiar voice rang out. "Even if your only choice is to be happy or sad."

    I remembered. It seemed so long ago...Isabel's voice said, "No one can force us to do anything." That was right. I had chosen this life, no one had forced me into it. There is always a choice, but sometimes we don't want to think that because we don't want to face consequences that we don't like. I chose this life because I couldn't bare the alternative, but it was my choice and there was great power in that ownership.

    I felt hope. Somehow, we would be alright. I lifted my pounding head, and laid it wearily on Henry's shoulder. It felt like home. I took his hand in mine, and lost the consciousness my broken body and mind had been clinging to.

    I awoke in my own room with a start. Where was Henry? My aching body assured me that this was no dream. I tried to sit up and noticed wounds had been bound and tended to.

    "Princess Anna," Nora exclaimed, rushing to my side. She peppered me with questions. I assured her I was well, and asked if I could see Henry.

    "You won't be leaving that bed for a while, yet, Princess," Nora scolded and walked toward the door. "The king's not accustom to taking orders, but he almost took ill because he wouldn't leave your bedside. He'll have my hide for a rug if I don't tell him you're conscious."

    She returned shortly, closing the door behind King Nicolas and General Ashenhurst.

    The king's relieved smile shone brightly in his eyes. He held my hand and stroked my hair softly. "Anna, we thought..." he shook his head, relieved.

    "Where is Henry? Is he..." I couldn't utter the words.

    The king scowled, but did not answer.

    "Henry will be fine," the general smiled.

    "But how? We were..." I stopped, my head spun.

    'We waited hours after you were expected, then left to find you," the general answered.

    "It was nearly too late," the king growled, glaring at him.

    "But as luck would have it, my boy had that church well stocked. It was just a matter of finding the crate with the medicine you needed. When we found you, you and Henry were both stricken with high fevers and on the brink of blood poisoning."

    "Henry is going to be alright," I sighed with relief. The only thing that mattered.

    "Not when I'm through with him," the king said darkly. "He was to protect you. He gave us his assurance. I should have prevented this foolish venture..." he ranted.

    "Your majesty, Henry saved my life. He couldn't have helped what was my fault. I acted foolishly and caused us to be ambushed by bandits. Henry acted bravely, taking on the whole group together as I cowered. H killed the last fiend after I'd been rendered unconscious. He saved both our lives."

    The men looked at me skeptically. "Well, that is most certainly interesting," the king said, eyebrows raised. "That boy claimed that you took on the band single handed, then dragged his useless carcass across the Raleran district to shelter, where you selflessly tended his wounds while you nearly bled out!"

    I blushed at Henry's exaggeration. After I had rejected his love, he could have spoken unkindly...I would not have blamed him if he had recited every fault, every mistake that had been made plain that night.

    "Perhaps, once they have recovered, we will get a more accurate and unbias account of the matter," said the general.
    More coming soon! Read Chapter 13 here or more about my projects here.
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      Save Our Dad: This IS The Update You've Been Looking For

      2/15/2017 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

      August 2016, when we thought we were going to lose Erik's dad, Den
      You're not gonna believe this! I'm still trying to process it...

      About six months ago, we moved our family from Utah to California to Save Our Dad (read about Den's fight against cancer). It didn't look good. In fact, as you can see from the picture above, he looked like death.
      Den snuggling with Kylo (our cat) while Daisy (our dog) demands tummy rubs
      The general advice we were given was to make him comfortable and to say our goodbyes, because once cancer spreads to the bones, you usually have less than a year to live (especially if you're as weak and emaciated as Den had gotten).
      Den, eating his daily Kozy Shack tapioca pudding and snuggling with our cat (Emo Kylo Ren) and our dog (Princess Daisy) while trying to figure out a Wheel of Fortune puzzle.
      With lots of prayers, chemo, puppy and kitty snuggles, and a whole bunch of Kozy Shack and homemade tapioca pudding (thank you for the amazing recipe, Alton Brown!), Cheetos Puffs, and Big Daddy Ice Cream Sandwiches, he got back up to his target weight. And, as we were able to announce in October, the cancer started shrinking.

      I haven't gotten to post many updates this winter because we've been fighting colds and trying to keep Den healthy. A bad bought of bronchitis gave us a scare, but he's finally back up and running, which, in Den's case, means back to playing pool at the senior center. 

      Den's had six rounds of chemo now, and the last PET scan showed the cancer was not only gone from the bones, but that only one cluster of lymph nodes was "active" (suspicious). 
      This was great news! It looked like there was only a small area with cancer still, so the upcoming biopsy would tell us what sort of treatment he needs and we'd plan from there. 
      The biopsy was actually a bit scary, and not only because of his medium risk status for surgeries. If you're squeamish, skip this paragraph. They put a scope/camera down his esophagus, then put a needle through the wall of the esophagus, into the suspicious lymph node to collect the tissue sample.
      Den, in the hospital, after the biopsy
      When the news came, I couldn't stop crying. The biopsy was completely benign. They'll be doing scans every few months to be sure, but for now, Den is cancer-free!!!
      A cancer-free Den!
      Some might be wondering why we're so astonished by this, isn't chemo supposed to get rid of cancer? Well, yes, but not only has this been a very short treatment period, but, aside from a weakened immune system, he had very few side effects from the chemotherapy (he was able to eat the entire time while actually gaining weight, and never once had to be hospitalized, as we were told to expect!) Not only that, with his heart problems and other issues, treatment options were extremely limited. We are so blessed to have been able to get a treatment that was right for him, actually worked, and worked quickly!
      We are so thankful to everyone who has shown so much love and support these last few months. We could not have made it without you! Here's a video message from Den:

      #makingcancersuckless #lymphoma
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        family fun

        An Epic Valentine's Day

        2/15/2017 Laura Watkins 0 Comments

        As far as Valentine's Days go, this one rocked! We started with a wonderful morning at our LDS Temple in Oakland, which is where Erik and I got married fourteen years ago. (Learn more about our temples here.) In fact, it's also where his parents got married and mine too!
        Fountains, bridges, and palm trees lining the courtyard in front of the Oakland Temple
        Any temple is a wonderful place, but this one is extra special to us, and being there just felt right. I always feel so much happier after a visit. The Oakland Temple is one of my favorites because 1. Look at it! I love the Asian inspired design, the gardens, etc.:
        Oakland Temple grounds seen through one of the bridges (Image Source)
        Flowers in bloom on the terrace garden of the Oakland Temple
        2. It's full of memories. Not only did my parents and pretty much Erik's entire family get married there, but...
        Erik sat me down on this bench, overlooking the bay, got down on one knee, and popped the question
        When we were dating, Erik and I spent a lot of time at there doing wonderful work inside the temple, wandering the terrace gardens, and sneaking kisses on the stairs. It's also where Erik proposed to me. 
        Den sat on the bench (pictured above, the bench you can barely see on the lower right corner), and told us how being there reminded him of our wedding, his other son's wedding (they also got married there), and his own. Such a special place!
        That afternoon, we got to set up our Valentine's Day spread. 

        Our poor daughter was really upset this year because it's her last year in elementary school and they wouldn't let her class do Valentines! But she really enjoyed our little party, so we hope that helped a bit.

        My Hallmark Kiss Kiss Bears collection minus the Christmas ones that broke ages ago :(
        We finished off Valentine's Day with homemade Belgian waffles topped with berries and hand-whipped (because I couldn't find the beaters for the mixer—guess what...Erik found them in 2 seconds after he got home! Grrrrr) whipped cream. So good!
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          The Facepalm Project

          2/07/2017 Laura Watkins 2 Comments

          We all have times when we just don't know what to say...all you can do is put your hand over your face—aka the facepalm. But what can you do when people are ridiculous, stupid, or downright rude? 
          Captain Picard Star Trek Patrick Stewart Facepalm
          My amazing grandma taught me that humor can be an incredibly powerful tool in diffusing a stressful situation. From sibling rivalry to arguments with my husband, adding a bit of humor or choosing to see the hilarity in a situation has been a huge help over the years.  Some of my best memories came from fighting with my sister, then suddenly joking together. 
          Calvin and Hobbes Facepalm

          I can't tell you how many times I've seen posts on social media where I just didn't know how to respond. The only reply I could muster was a facepalm. Especially with the political climate lately, I've found the need to express my speechlessness growing. After using the same handful of memes over and over again (no pun intended), I wanted to make it more fun—to branch out. And it became a game.
          Elrond Lord of the Rings Facepalm
          One of my friends, a super funny author named Dennis Gaunt (read more about Dennis and his books here) has at least two posts a day that make me either laugh so much I have to tell someone about it or are so silly (in a fun way) that I HAVE to reply with a relevant facepalm meme. You might be able to imagine what a meme a day is starting to turn into...

          Dr Doctor House M.D. Facepalm
          I didn't realize how much I'd began to rely on my facepalm meme collection until I moved and lost access to my images (which wasn't huge, but, apparently, essential). Thus, The Facepalm Project was born. I've started collecting my favorite facepalm (and related) images for times when you just don't know what to say.
          Star Wars Princess Leia Facepalm
          Ranging from movies, tv, and celebrities to animals and art, this collection is growing.
          Sir Sir Ian McKellen holding a Picard Facepalm sign
          Of course, I had to share my wealth! I hope this collection also helps you find more humor in your life, and maybe even turn a stressful situation into something fun.

          Please enjoy and use wisely. Click here to peruse the entire collection or keep scrolling to see featured highlights of the collection. If you would like to contribute to the collection, leave a comment below.
          Stargate Daniel Jackson facepalm

          Yzma The Emperor's New Groove Facepalm
          Eleventh Doctor Doctor Who facepalm Matt Smith
          General Iroh Avatar the Last Airbender facepalm
          Stephen Colbert Report Triple facepalm gif
          Greuze Girl With a Dead Canary painting facepalm
          Hogan's Heros Shultz, Klink, and Hogan triple facepalm
          Jackie Chan facepalm what?? WHY??
          Lion Facepalm
          Marvel X-men Magneto facepalm gif
          Mulan Disney Princess facepalm
          President Barak Obama facepalm
          Sam Supernatural facepalm
          Scully laughing facepalm X-files
          Sesame Street Burt and Ernie facepalm
          Tommy Lee Jones "Are you serious seriously that stupid?"
          Wonder Woman Facepalm
          Click here to check out the entire collection!
          Read more about my projects here.
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            Disclaimer: All images are property of their respective owners.