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Just to give you a little background on this little short story of mine, my teacher had given us an assignment to write a piece of historical fiction; it could take place in any country, any time period, as long as it had facts and stayed relevant to the time period it was set in. This short story takes place during the Goryeo Dynasty in South Korea, and revolves around a court lady to the emperor and his family, and one of the emperor's sons.
It was odd to think that her life had taken such a turn. Kim Areum had grown up being in a position of wealth; she had grown up being in a position of political power and she wasn’t used to being treated as anything less than noble. She wasn’t used to being treated like a maid, even though that was pretty much what she had been whittled down to. She wasn’t exactly a maid, per se; she was a court lady, but they pretty much do the same thing as maids; they clean, serve food when needed, watch after the nobles, and things of that nature. She wasn’t just anyone’s court lady though. Oh no; she served the royal family of Emperor Taejo, Emperor of all of Goryeo.
She wasn’t supposed to be here. She was supposed to be at home… Well, she was supposed to be at the place she once called home, before her family traded her away. It’s funny what people of power will do just because they have the luxury to do it; it was funny to think that her own parents, a pair of blue bloods, would trade her away to gain even more nobility in their status.
Areum crossed her arms in front of her chest to lock in a bit more heat. The world around her was covered in a blanket of darkness except for the little stars that were beginning to peak through in the night sky. The palace was tranquil during the night. Servants were in their quarters, while the members of the royal family were winding down for the night to rest. Areum loved this time of day, as she didn’t have to run around to take care of her chores. Usually she would be in her own room right now, basking in the silence of the night, all while doing some writing by candle light. However, tonight was different; tonight, she was meeting up with him.
She wasn’t exactly sure how all of this started--how her and Prince Wang So began seeing each other--but a part of her had come to love spending time with him. Everyone else was scared of him, his own brothers included, and the rumors that involved him were nasty as could be; the fact that he was so intimidating in terms of his appearance didn’t seem to make things any better. Yet, Areum managed to see the soft side of him. She treated him like a normal person, and in turn it seemed that Prince So happened to take a liking to her.
Meeting up with him started off as a spur of the moment kind of thing; he would call her down to his quarters whenever she was making her tea rounds. He’d manage to find her when she was tending to the gardens, and pretty much whenever she would have some down time. Now, having a nightly rendezvous seemed more routine; it was also a bit more private as they wouldn’t have to worry about unwanted ears or eyes looking in on them. They could be together in solitude.
Areum’s eyes began to dart around her surroundings, looking for any sign that Prince So was around, all while she began to chew gently at her bottom lip. She was, anxious to say the least; she was always anxious whenever she got to see him. She never thought that anyone could make her this nervous, but it felt rather good; this was a wonderful kind of nervous.
Closing her eyes she took in a deep breath to calm herself down when a pair of arms suddenly wrapped protectively around her waist. She didn’t jump, nor did she become afraid, as the arms around her and the body that she leaned herself into was all too familiar; the body embracing her belonged to no other than the man that she had been waiting all day to see.
“I was starting to think that you wouldn’t show up.” Her voice was just above a mumble, a soft whisper shared between the two of them.
A chuckle followed suite as So’s arms tightened around her just a bit, all while his head came down to rest against her shoulder. His long ebony tresses nuzzled up against her cheek, tickling her skin a little. “What if I didn’t, hmm? What would you have done then?”
“I probably would have gone back to my quarters for the night and would give you the silent treatment tomorrow morning,” she joked with a smile.
“You’d give me the silent treatment? How cruel of you, Areum.”
She liked this. She liked being able to have him close to her. She liked that the two of them could be playful like this, as around his family--especially his mother and father--they couldn’t act like this; a prince shouldn’t socialize with a lowly court lady like Areum.
Turning herself around, Areum wrapped her arms around him all she wanted in that moment was to be as close to him as possible. It was safe to say that she could be extremely clingy, but she couldn’t help herself. She just felt safe in his arms; she felt warm and protected in his embrace. So didn’t seem to mind that she did; in fact, he encouraged it. Perhaps he enjoyed having her close as well.
Turning her gaze up at So’s face, Areum’s expression became rather sheepish as she saw So looking down at her; a sparkle of admiration wistfully shone in his eyes.
“What are you thinking about?” Areum inquired, one of her eyebrows rising up out of curiosity.
“You,” So stated with ease, “I’m thinking about you... I’m thinking about us.”
So nodded, his expression glowing with a smile, that sparkle of admiration still decorating his features
“Care to elaborate a bit more?” Areum asked.
“Run away with me,” he replied, that smile of his so wide it spread from ear to ear.
Areum’s eyes were quick to widen with shock while her jaw dropped to the ground in surprise. His words had her taken aback. That wasn’t the answer that she was anticipating. Run away with him? Was he crazy? He must be; he must’ve hit his head on something earlier, as he wasn’t thinking straight.
“I’m sorry… You want me to what?” she questioned; she had have to heard him wrong the first time.
“Run away with me,” he repeated. “We can leave tonight. We’ll go somewhere far away from here--perhaps to Baekjae or Silla. We’ll find a place of our own, a place where we can be together, and maybe we can even start a family.”
This was a lot to take in all at once. The two of them had discussed the far-fetched idea of starting a family together somehow, of being together as a real couple, but that was all those discussions were; they were just conversations of dreams and hopes that are too far for the two of them to reach.
“So… You know we can’t do that. You’re a prince, the palace is your home--”
“But it isn’t yours. This place isn’t your home.”
“It’s yours, though! You have duties to follow as a prince; you need to be here for your family.”
“They don’t care about me, Areum, you know that,” So interjected. The smile that once decorated his features had faded by now.
It was true that So had had a rough past with his family. His father and mother, Queen Sinmyeongsunseong, had sent him away when he was young due to an incident between him and his mother; the women was cruel to him as a child. She had no love for him, it seemed, and Emperor Taejo had no issue with following her qualms. They had sent him away to live in Baekjae under the king’s rule… they had treated him like a prisoner.
When he came back to the palace a few months ago it was a shock to everyone; they had welcomed him in, yes, but not with open arms--if anything they did it out of fear and reluctance. Even the common people who made up the palace’s surrounding population were scared of him; all of the rumors that surrounded So had spread to them, and they seemed to believe every word.
So is right; this place isn’t his home. He’s not treated with love and care by his mother, his father, his brothers, or even the common people who admire his family. Yet, he is still a royal; he is still a prince, and he has a path to follow. A path that shouldn’t involve Areum running away with him like he mentioned--it shouldn’t involve her at all.
“Please… I’m not asking for much.” So’s voice was light, a meer mumble, a gentle plea between the two of them. “I don’t care about my life here, Areum. I gave up on ever having a life here; I’m not the crown prince, nor will I ever be. I know I will never feel love from my mother, I’ll never be my father’s favorite, and my siblings want nothing to do with me. Trying to make a life here would be absolutely meaningless. Creating a life with you though… A life with you would be beautiful; we would be beautiful.”
A life with him would be beautiful… A life where the two of them could be together would be beautiful. A life where they could have children of their own would be beautiful. A life where they could get away from all of this would be beautiful. A life with Wang So, to Areum, would be the biggest blessing she’d ever received.
Leaning up on her tiptoes ever so slightly to reach his height a bit better, Areum’s arms unwrapped themselves from around So’s neck. Her hands came up to his face and gently cupped his cheeks; the pads of her thumbs caressed his skin, feeling how soft and smooth it is underneath her touch. Slowly but surely, she placed her lips against his, capturing him in a slow, gentle kiss.
Gestures such as kissing come naturally between the two of them; physical intimacy wasn’t a very big issue. However, this kiss was different; this kiss meant something more than the ones shared in their past. This one sealed a promise. This one placed Areum’s entire world into So’s hands, while So’s was placed into hers. This kiss represented a new beginning for the two of them, a beginning that Areum knew she wouldn’t regret no matter the outcome.
Pulling away from him she gave him a smile laced with pure love and admiration; her eyes twinkled at the sight of him and him alone.
“Take me away from here, please. I want to be with you.”
It was a simple phrase, but it was enough to brighten So’s features back up into a wide, ecstatic grin as he lifted Areum up off of her feet in a giant bear hug; he spun the two of them around as a chorus of laughter escaped the two of them out of happiness and excitement.
They were going to do this. They were going to run away. They were going to find a place of their own. It was going to be risky, as he was still a prince, regardless of if his parents truly cared for him or not. Areum could just picture all of the search parties of palace guards that would be out trying to look for him when the word spread that he was gone. Yet, she wasn’t going to let such a thought get to her. No, she was going to let herself be happy for once.
She wasn’t going to give up the opportunity to be with the man that she loved; they were going to be beautiful together, no matter the cost.
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1) “Care to elaborate a bit more?” Areum asked. I find it unlikely that a Korean would use this phrasing in an historical piece. Perhaps ... "I do not understand dear So. What are you saying to me?"
2) "I would have given you the silent treatment". Your readers will know exactly what you are saying, but once again this modern phrase (silent treatment) only works in a modern setting. In a feudal, Korean setting it seems out of place. Turning her face way and lifting her chin in mock pride she replied, "I would not have spoken to you at all."
3) “I was starting to think that you wouldn’t show up.” Her voice was just above a mumble, a soft whisper shared between the two of them. I can see an American teenaged girl saying this to her boyfriend while waiting in front of a movie theatre, but not between these two characters. "I thought perhaps you had forgotten that we were to meet."
Don't feel bad. I saw this in the movie, Gettysburg too. An officer says to his subordinate, "It will take the enemy awhile to get online". "Online" ? ... really? ... in 1863? He should have said "organized".
Your story is good. I enjoyed reading it and I agree with your teacher, you show excellent potential. Just watch out for those little things which people will criticize because I have learned from personal experience that they will find them, and will tell you about it *LOL* Good luck with your writing and please show us more of your work. I would look forward to reading it.
― Steven Wright