It was New Year’s Eve. I had just gotten home from a long day of volunteering at my art college. The bus ride back was unbearable. The cold was unbearable. I just wanted to curl up in bed and forget about all the things I had on my to-do list for the evening. But I knew I would freeze to death if I did not at least light the fireplace.
“Argh… that is the third time now!”
I groaned for the fourth time as I attempted to pick up the poker. I hated this part of coming home the most. The metal poker had been laying in my empty apartment for the entire day and was nearly frozen by the time I had come back. Even my frostbitten hands could not bear touching this repulsive thing. But however cold this lump of metal became, it was something I needed to keep around despite hating it with all of my being.
I stepped back to admire the masterpiece I had just created with that broken brush. The fire had started to burn bright. I toss the poker aside and made my way to the kitchen. I flicked on my large stone oven to warm up the kitchen as well and then started preparing hot coffee.
“Huh? Wait a second…”
Just as I had readied myself with my drink in one hand and a romance novel in the other, something caught the corner of my eye. The novel I had chosen looked familiar. I must have read it some time ago.
“This… when did I last read this? What was this story even about?”
An eerie feeling washed over me. I took a sip of my now mildly warm coffee and looked down at the novel again. “Forgotten Love” read the title.
“KHOFF- AH! What- what is this bullshit?!”
I read the cover again. I could not believe the magnitude of my mistake. No. Not that I had nearly extinguished the fire I had painstakingly put together with that spray of coffee. What I had done was far worse than a mere coffee spill.
“Forgotten Love.” If only I had not “forgotten” how atrocious this novel was. Normally, I would have enjoyed reading the typical fantasy romance. A tale taking place in the fantasy realm describing the valiant efforts of legendary individuals. Warriors fighting against all kinds of monsters and villains. All to save their damsels in distress.
I had always found these stories interesting. Not because of the great heroes, but rather the unfortunate heroines. The reasons for their misfortune always seemed so unnecessary. Rumours, petty revenge, the loss of a loved one, the patriarchy, the list goes on. Reading about these women always took a toll on my mind. But when they reached their happily ever afters, all my heartache was left forgotten.
I thought I would always be satisfied with their decisions. That is until I read this one tale. A tale of utter madness, anguish, and sorrow. “Forgotten Love.” The tragic story of a mistreated princess from the Rose empire. She was sold off into a marriage with the sole duke of the Lilan empire in the name of preventing all-out war between the nations.
From the time she was eighteen, to the eve of her 21st birthday, the former princess was tormented relentlessly by her husband’s family. From poisonings to staged kidnappings, there was nothing the ducal family had not done to create a rift between the new duchess and her husband. The duke, who was helplessly enamoured with his family, never suspected they were behind his wife’s misfortune. Even when she pleaded with him to trust her claims against his mother and sister, he simply said, “Lying isn’t a trait the duchess needs when speaking to the duke.”
I was on the cusp of losing my mind reading this story.
“B-but it gets better, right? It always does!” I thought holding back my tears.
So, I continued reading in hopes things would get better. After two years, the broken princess managed to flee from her husband’s hands. She took her trusted knight along on the journey, and soon 6 months had passed. She was happier than ever.
I thought that would be the end of it. But then the story took a turn. The former princess, now able to express herself without fear, had grown fond of the man who had been by her side since her escape. The knight who had risked everything to free her from the shackles of marriage. The second male lead. She confessed her feelings, and he smiled and promised her his love and loyalty.
“But that smile wasn’t directed towards her- huh?!”
I flew through the next few pages. The horror. I nearly threw up as I read what he did next. And so did she. The Lilan princess had had her fair share of betrayals in the past. But this was a new kind of despair. Enough so that she-
“WHAT?!? She went back to that bastard?!”
As the heartbroken princess wept in his arms, the duke’s lips curled up into a sinister smile. “I told you the world was cruel. I am the only person you can trust,” he said while stroking her bloodied hair. She nodded frantically and cried, “You were right! I am sorry! I should have never left your side!”
“Just do not throw a fit like that again. Do you have any idea how bothersome it was tracing your whereabouts-”
“BULLSHIT!! ARGH! What kind of sick message is this?!” I cried as I snapped the book shut.
I was beyond angry. The knight was the person even most readers thought would be her salvation. Her new love. No one could have predicted this outcome. Let alone the naïve princess.
The princess was devastated, and now questioned her ability to trust others. The only person she could turn to was the duke. The already insecure girl, who had barely managed to convince herself to run away after three years of abuse, was now trapped as her husband’s puppet.
“What a farce! What I would give to knock some sense into him-,” but I didn’t bother finishing that thought and put the book back atop my mantle.