–  The King’s Race  –


The King's Race by Cole Parker

a short story by

Cole Parker

Anton wants to run the race of his life, wanting to be special for a certain someone.

I’m Anton, and this is my story, but it needs to begin with a bit of history, one that’s been explained to me and all the other boys in our town.

In the distant past, before cars and planes, trains and steamships, before the internet and radio and TV, small countries were isolated.  Their peoples weren’t world-wide travelers; more often than not, they didn’t even travel much in their own country.  They identified themselves as part of their own city or town or village, and only after that with their country.  If the country was small, it was common for there to be one major city and then many small communities.  Because travel was difficult, the towns were self-contained and self-sustaining, just as was the country itself.

Everyone knew everyone else in the town, but few knew anyone who lived in another town.

The king in those far off days became concerned that the folks in those villages and towns might not have a strong nationalistic pride in their country.  He wanted his citizens to understand that they were part of a grand country, for that’s how he thought of it.  He’d set out once when younger, when he was still a prince, to get a feel for his country and his people.  He’d visited a lot of the close-by and far-off towns and found that few people had any idea who the king was, what he looked like, or even where the country’s largest city was, the city where the palace was located.

When he became king, he felt he should do something to make the people aware of who they were, something to make them happy they were citizens of their country, and that it was a good country of which to be a member.  He decided it wouldn’t be of much value to send out a proclamation informing them of who they were and why it was good to be who they were.  No, he thought it would be better if his people could be actually involved in some sort of event that would be a national event, an event unique to his country, an event everyone in the country could get excited about.  It would be one that would be unique for our country and make us all more proud of who we were and make us feel good about our own national identity.

This was long ago when men were thought to be the strength of the country and women were second class citizens, as they were around the world.  The country changed over the years, despite the hopes of our older sovereigns to keep things the same.  Progress is difficult to hold in check.

Time passed.  Women rose in stature, travel became common, the internet blossomed and we lost our parochial nature.  We moved into the twenty-first century along with the rest of the world.  Many of the quaint ways of our ancestors were forgotten.  But we did retain the event that had made us unique, had once given us a national identity and made us recognize and be proud of belonging to the country of our origin.  We did retain that.  Our people enjoyed it too much to abandon it.

Its inception was the doing of that long-ago king.  No one remembered exactly why it had the rules it did, or why the king imposed those rules.  There were conjectures, of course, even some titillation, but no one knew the facts surrounding the event for sure.  Still, we stayed with it the way it had been done through the centuries.  It was our thing.

What it was was a race for the boys in the towns.  There was no national competition as travel around the country wasn’t practical in those days.  No, it was just town by town, village by village.  The king would visit each one every year, and three races would be run.  The competitors would be boys, and every qualifying boy in town would be involved.  There were three races because those qualifying were in one of three age groups: they were 10-, 11- and 12-year old boys.  The boys would run a race of 200 quibbles and do so in the nude.  The three boys and their runners-up would be awarded national celebrity and be lauded the entire day for their prowess.

That brings us to the present.  I wasn’t one of the stronger boys at the group home where I lived and so probably not in the town, either, but I was 10.  This would be my first town race.  I wasn’t one of those boys good at the physical games we all played.  I could only do one thing well—one athletic thing—and that was to run.  I was a good runner.  Some of the boys said that was because I was always running away from things, ‘things’ meaning them.  Maybe that was why I was fast, maybe not, but there was no question about the truth of the matter: I was a good runner.

This wasn’t my first race to attend.  I’d of course seen these races, run once every year, all my life.  All the townsfolk came out to watch and cheer, and for one day, the nine boys were the heroes in town.  I always thought being naked in public would be a great embarrassment, but the boys who raced never seemed to feel shy about it.  Maybe it was because it was our grand tradition, or because so much fuss was made over them before the race and all throughout the day of the race that their moments of nakedness just seemed not to matter.  

For the younger two age groups, maybe their lack of embarrassment was because most 10-year-old boys look pretty much like all other 10-year-old boys, and the same could be said about 11-year-olds.  Or maybe it was because none of the adults seemed to be in any way disturbed or even interested in our nakedness.  In any event, through the years, I’d never seen anyone, boy or adult, looking upset or embarrassed about the boys showing their all.

It was a little different with the 12-year-olds, but that didn’t concern me at all.  I had a couple of years before I’d have to worry about that.  Now, for the first time, I would be naked in public, in front of people I knew, who knew me.  And the surprising thing was, while I thought I should have feelings about it, like anxiety or embarrassment, maybe even a little bit of fear, instead, as we got closer and closer to race day, I became more and more focused on the race itself.

I didn’t have much in my life.  I’d been an orphan since I could remember, living in an orphanage with a group of other children.  It was nice, I guess, but I had little to compare it with.  We all had the same things, the same clothes, the same toys to share, the same food to eat.  We all slept in a large dormitory.  At times it felt like we were all the same person, and the need to set ourselves apart, to prove our own identity, was strong.  Yet we had very little opportunity to do that.  We all tried to be special in some way, though.  I did too.  What I was best at was running.  I was the fastest boy in my age group at the home.  I worked hard to accomplish that. It was the only way in which I was at all special.  I had no idea how I compared to the other boys in the town.  I was about to find out, however.  We were 10-year-old boys all looking forward to this year’s race.  It would be our first.  I already said that, but I was that nervous, thinking about it.  I know I also said I wasn’t, but I was.

The day came, and I was in my age group waiting for the race to be called.  I knew the other boys from our home, of course.  Most of them were good friends.  I didn’t really know the town kids as our schooling had been in the orphanage.

When we were all in a group and were told to undress, we all just did it and, somehow, while I was doing it too, I simply didn’t give it much thought.  My heart was racing with the anticipation of the race.  That was what I was thinking about, I’m sure what we all were thinking about, and the fact everyone in town was seeing what there was to see when we walked out and headed for the race site didn’t even enter my mind.  Well, hardly at all.

All the 10-year-old boys, me among them, lined up for the race when the time came.  Townspeople lined both sides of the 200-quibbles long raceway in the flat, grassy meadow just outside town.  They were calling at us as we were waiting for the signal to begin, shouting encouragements, calling us by name, hyping us up.  No one was calling my name, but then, I had no parents to do that.

I didn’t need the encouragement, however.  I was already hyped.  There were twenty-seven of us competing.  Not only did I know my housemates, I also knew I could beat them.  I had no idea what to expect from the other kids.  I tried to control my breathing, tried to take steady breaths and let my heartbeat slow down.

We were spaced out with our toes on the line, not yet leaning forward.  I was shaking my arms to keep loose.  We each had a lane marked with chalk.  The rules were quite specific.  We had to stay in our lane, and running outside our lane, or any contact with any other runner, would take us out of the competition not only this year but forever.  For any contact considered by the judges to be intentional, the penalty would be even worse.  This was to prevent a runner who knew he couldn’t win from helping a friend win by interfering with a fast runner.

We all wanted to win, or at least come in among the top three.  Those three were awarded large gold medallions and their pictures and news of their races were distributed throughout the land.  The medallions were attached to long colorful ribbons and hung around our necks and worn all day long to celebrate our great performances.  The winner received the largest medallion, and the other two were smaller in succession.

Not only did we receive the awards, but they were hung around our necks by one of the nobles of the land.  We were still a monarchy.  A benevolent one, thankfully.  Originally the awarding had been done by the king himself.  That had changed over the years.  Now, no one knew before the race who would be giving us our medallions each year.  Last year it had been the Lord of the Exchequer.  The year before, the queen herself.  This year we all wondered who it would be.  Rumors always flew for weeks beforehand.  They were seldom accurate.

I was ready.  As we waited, I looked down the line both ways at the other boys.  I’d never seen most of them naked before, but strangely, or perhaps because we were all naked, the sight of us strung out along that line in the nude just didn’t look all that odd.

“Take your marks . . . get set . . . ”  BANG.  The starter’s gun fired and we took off!  200 quibbles is a hard race.  A quibble was slightly longer than a yard.  The distance was too short to go into a long-stride lope, too long to sprint the entire distance.  Not if you’re 10 at least.  But I did have an advantage.  I’d been running that far, being chased because I was always in front, for the past several years as we boys in the orphanage trained for this race.  No one had ever caught me.  Now I was running the same distance.  And I, because I could, was sprinting.  I thought I was in front, but could only see a few runners, those whom I had in my peripheral vision.  I wanted to look each way, but didn’t want to slow down.  I wanted to win.  I had to win, to show who I was!  I wasn’t going to be beat.  I wouldn’t be beat.

But some of the town kids were bigger than I was.  Maybe they got better food than we did.  Maybe they trained just as hard.  I thought I might lose and ran harder.

I think the distance did the others in.  The best ones were sprinting like I was.  Maybe the difference was, I knew I could do it the entire distance, and maybe they were learning just how hard it was to do that.  No one at the home could catch me, and it turned out that no one in the town could, either.

 I won.  The second and third place boys were town kids, not the ones who chased me; the orphanage boys, my friends, were the ones who'd helped me become a fast runner by chasing me.  But even if we weren’t friends, the three of us high-fived each other and had huge grins on our faces.  We were led to the awards stand and climbed up to the platform where the ceremony would be held.  There we saw three more platforms, small and elevated to three heights, and I had to go up and stand on the top one.  Behind the small, step-like awards risers was a curtained enclosure from where the awards presenter would emerge.  Standing where I was, for the first time I did feel conspicuous in my nudity, but also a thrill because everyone was cheering for me and I even heard a few calling my name.

Then the curtain was pulled back, and as we turned to face the person emerging, a hush fell over the crowd.  Stepping out into the light was a young girl, one we all recognized in an instant: Princess Cecilia.  Everyone knew her by sight.  She was beautiful, serene, and just our age.  The daughter of the king and queen.  One of the most famous and revered people in the kingdom.

I’d hardly been aware of being nude before.  Now, so suddenly it was like jumping into an icy lake, I was aware.  Entirely aware.

She nodded to the crowd who’d begun cheering her after their moment of reverent silence, then turned her face to us and said in her lovely voice, “Don’t be nervous.  I’ve done this many times before and seen many naked boys. You’re no different from them.  It’s my honor to meet you three.  Please don’t be embarrassed.  I’m not.”

Her manner was so nice, so natural, so friendly, not a bit aloof or regal, that I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had all fallen in love with her in that instant.  She placed the ribbons holding our medallions around our necks, running her hands down the ribbons all the way to the medals, smoothing the ribbons against our chests.  She whispered something private in each of our ears.  What she said to me was, “You ran beautifully.  I hope I’ll see you up here again next year.”

We were all on cloud nine after that.  We went back and got dressed, and then walked around town as we were supposed to do, wearing our medallions and accepting congratulations from everyone we met.  The ice cream palace gave us free treats, whatever we wanted, as did the candy store and the bakery.  At each place, we were laughingly warned not to eat too much and maybe we could stay fit and they could treat us again next year.

All the boys in town were coming up and talking with us, even older ones, patting us on the backs, telling us how well we’d done, and the girls . . . .  The girls would kiss us on our cheeks!  Some of them would touch us, like they were checking that we were real.  I could tell the other two boys really enjoyed that.  As I’d been the winner, I seemed to get more of that than the two other boys.  Kids were all over me, especially the girls.  I didn’t know how to handle that as I had had no experience being anyone’s hero before.  I didn’t like it all that much, from the girls.  But then, I was only 10.  Maybe I would next year.

I realized I liked all that attention from everyone in town.  I liked it a lot.  I’d never had any of that before.  I decided while falling asleep that night that I wanted to do that again—win the race and have everyone make a big fuss over me.  That meant I had to keep training.  I’d be 11 next year, and my competition would be bigger and older.  I would be, too, but who could tell how much?  Right now I was one of the smaller ones; I knew that now that I’d seen the town kids my age.  Could I win again?

I wanted to, and it became an obsession during the next twelve months to run a lot.  I worked on both endurance and speed.  I ran alone; I didn’t want anyone to see how much work I was doing, and I didn’t want anyone doing it with me.  I managed to get a stopwatch and began timing myself.  I really wanted to win again.

The day finally came for the race.  I was ready.  What I wasn’t so sure about this time was the getting naked part.  I was 11, and I’d grown some down there, and I was a little more self-conscious than I’d been the year before.  In all the training I’d been doing, the fact I’d be naked again in front of the entire town had never entered my thoughts.

The group of us were taken to the same place as last year and told to strip off.  Everything.  I glanced around as I undressed and it looked to me like the others were having some thoughts about this, too.  At 10, it wasn’t difficult.  At 11, some reservations were setting in.  I had a moment to wonder what it would be like when I was 12.

At the starting line, I wasn’t as nervous as the year before because of all the training I’d done.  I was really fit.  I was pretty sure none of the other 11-year-olds had worked as hard.

The gun went off and so did I.  I started in a sprint and maintained it through the 200 quibbles.  I took quick looks left and right and saw I was ahead, with only a boy far to the right of me even close.

I won!  The cheering was just as loud as the year before.  The boys who’d won second and third places climbed onto the awards platforms with me and we all acknowledged the roaring crowd, then turned to look at the curtained enclosure, wondering who’d give us our medallions this year.

I was surprised and delighted to see Princess Cecilia step out again!  It was very unusual to have the same person handing out awards two years in a row.  When the old king had stopped performing the ceremony, that tradition had fallen by the wayside.  Now the duty went to different people every year.  But we were getting Princess Cecilia twice.

She looked even more beautiful this year.  She was wearing a diaphanous white gown that shimmied as she walked gracefully to us.  With the sun behind her, it appeared we could see right through it, and we could see the shape of her perfect body with a simple gauzy overlay of translucent cloth.  She was magnificent.  I really didn’t think she had anything on underneath, such was the vision in front of me.

She repeated last year’s performance, hanging a beribboned medallion on the third, then on the second place boy, rubbing her finger lightly down the ribbons to be sure they were flat against each boy’s skin.  I could see a finger tracing the edge of the ribbon, brushing against the skin the ribbon lay upon.  The ribbons were longer this year, perhaps because we were older and expected to be taller, but they were lengthened to the extent the medallions themselves were hanging below our belly buttons.

Princess Cecilia’s fingers traced all the way down to the medallions.

She was a beautiful girl, and she was touching each boy within inches of his boyhood.  She had touched their skin all the way down, sensuously touched it, and we were 11.  I saw what was happening with both the others, the effect her beauty and touch had on them, and was glad I would be last.  I had time to take hold of myself and resolve not to allow that embarrassment to befall me.

The princess spoke briefly into each boy’s ear as she had last year.  Both boys were already blushing because of how their bodies had betrayed them, and whatever she said did nothing to reduce the blushes, but they did result in both boys growing radiant smiles.  She had one, too.  We all had our backs to the crowd so the princess could be seen facing our townsfolk, and no one but us and the princess was aware of the state the boys were in.

Then she came to me.  My medallion hung just as low as theirs did.  I felt the fingers brushing my skin, and it was only with the greatest strength I could find that I was able to prevent what had occurred with the other boys.  My resolve won the day, and I stayed soft.

When she’d hung the medallion, she spoke into my ear, and she said, “You’re truly a beautiful boy.  And you run like the wind.  I hope and pray you’ll be on the stand again next year.  Tell me you will, and I’ll try very hard to be here to see you win.”

What could I do?  It would mean another year of training, but just her smile was enough to make that worthwhile.  “I’ll do my best,” I whispered back to her, and she said, “I really like you.  You’re special, Anton.  I do so hope you’ll be on the stand to receive this medallion next year.  I so want to see you win again.  Good luck.”  And then she put one hand on each of my bare shoulders and kissed my cheek.

That was it.  She took two steps back, looked at me for a moment with her warm, blue eyes that seemed to reveal her innermost soul, then turned and walked away.  We boys were applauded and cheered, celebrated and cosseted.  We dressed as quickly as we could, but before we could, while walking back to our clothes, a lot of girls did a lot of touching and even caressing.  Even the boys were patting us on the back and who knew where else because there were so many people of all ages and the thick crowd was smushing of us all together.  The condition the other two boys were in after the princess’s attention was now something all three of us had to hide with our hands as we made our way to the privacy of the changing area and the comfort of our clothes.  I think some of the girls were touching that one part on purpose.  From the grins on their faces, I was pretty sure of it.  A few boys were grinning, too.

It wasn’t till I was in bed that night that I wondered how she could have known my name.

12.  12 and naked outside with the whole town watching!  I wasn’t even sure I could run, I was so embarrassed.  Nervous, too.  Doing this wasn’t much of anything when I was 10, and while I was a bit jittery at 11, I was able to put it out of my mind pretty easily by thinking about the race.

But now I was 12, and the parts I didn’t want to uncover had changed, and I even had the scrawny beginnings of something above that, maybe even enough that Princess Cecilia would be touching it.  She’d be sure to notice it.  When they talk romantically about a girl running her fingers through your hair, I am pretty sure they don’t mean that hair!   They couldn’t!

I was changing, developing, but still near the beginning of all that, and did I want everyone in the whole darn town to see?  I did not!  Why didn’t they let us skip a few years with this stupid race?  Maybe at 16 or 18 I’d be caught up with all these changes and accustomed to what I looked like, at least enough that I could take some pride in my development.  Maybe then the gawkers could look at me and nod at each other and say, ‘He’s come right along, now, hasn’t he,’ and sort of nod at me, looking me over, and get an answer back something like, ‘sure has, yep.  Surely has.’  But not now!  I hadn’t changed that much, but was starting to, and I was embarrassed by it all!  I now saw a lot of naked boys because at 12 we had school in the town instead of in the orphanage, and we had gym class, too, with showers!  So I knew all the boys my age now, and I was well aware that, even with having what development I had down there, I was behind the curve.  And everyone in the whole blasted town was going see that?

I’d given serious thought to being sick that day.  You had to have a doctor’s certificate, though, saying you were unfit to run, to be excused.  I guess a lot of 12-year-old boys over the years had had the same thought I’d had, the same concern, and maybe for the very same reason.  Maybe that was why they’d come up with the certificate business.  The town, though, wanted everyone running.  Tradition, I guess.  Or maybe they didn’t want to think they were a town with a lot of squeamish boys in it.  They wanted to think they were a town full of boys who wanted to strut their stuff like men.

Well, some of us didn’t have much stuff to strut!

While thinking all that, I also thought about running but not winning.  Then I’d just be another boy, I’d be able to go get dressed while everyone’s eyes were on the awards being given, and scant attention would be paid to me and my yet-to-be-significant development.

I’d thought about it and had been torn.  Not winning would have been the smart thing to do.  Just get the race over with and be done with it.  Everyone would be talking about the winners, not the losers.  This was my last year anyway, and I’d already won twice.  I seemed to have everything to gain and nothing to lose by not trying my best in the race, or even coming in as part of the top three.

But that just didn’t set well with me.  I guess I had more pride than body shyness.  Those two competed, pride and shyness; pride won.  I wasn’t going to throw the race.

It was more than just the pride of winning, though, that was my spur, and it wasn’t even the fact that very few boys in town had ever won all three of their races.  Sure, there’d been some.  This race had been run for hundreds of years.  But there’d only been a handful of three-peats, and those boys’ names were on a plaque in the town square.  That would be great, being memorialized.  But that wasn’t the main thing I was thinking about.

What was in my head that I couldn’t shake loose was Princess Cecilia.  I had no idea if she’d be there or not for the awarding of the medallions, but I could still hear her mellifluous voice whisper her hope to see me win next year.  Next year was now; this year.  The way she said it, I was sure she meant she wanted to actually see me win, and she could only do that by being there to witness it.

I tried not to think about it too much because I knew having anything at all to do with the princess was hopeless, but I felt a deep attachment to her.  Silly, but there it was.  Boys can dream, do in fact dream, and I dreamed about Princess Cecilia.  She was ravishingly beautiful, and she seemed so friendly, so warm, so caring.  Her smiles at me were always brighter than those she gave the other boys, her eyes radiated more heartfelt emotion at me.  I wanted to see her again, and I didn’t want to disappoint her by not being there.  If I was going to run, I was going to run to win, and to win for her.  For the few seconds I’d have alone with her.  In front of the entire town, with her alone.  That would be enough for me.

“Okay, boys, time to strip down.  You know the drill.”

I saw I wasn’t the only reluctant one this year.  It took us longer to reach the naked stage this time.  I guess the man in charge of us was used to this.  He didn’t get impatient.  What he did was allow for it by asking us to undress a little earlier than we’d done the previous two years.

I checked out the other 12-year-olds, even though I was well aware of what they all looked like.  There was more difference between us now than there’d been when we’d been 10 and 11.  Some of us had developed more rapidly.  Some of us hadn’t developed at all.  I was very glad I wasn’t one of those.  I felt bad for them.  I was kind of in the middle.  I decided right then not to worry about it, or even think about it any more.  I was what I was, and that was that.  I was accustomed to the town seeing me naked, and it would happen again today for the last time.  So be it.  I did wonder if the non-developers would be so cavalier in their thinking as I was.

When we were all naked, we were led to the field where the race was to be run, people cheering us on as we walked.  We all lined up.  I didn’t know if I’d win this year.  I’d been pretty sure the other years, but along with the changes going on, a lot of us had grown a little taller, a little stronger, and who knew if some hadn’t grown faster as well?  I’d kept training.  I enjoyed running, I enjoyed being fast and in shape, and so I’d trained not just so I’d have the opportunity to bask in the princess’s glory for a few minutes again.  I liked how I felt when I was in shape.

I shook my arms and did everything else I’d done before, just before the race began.  Except this time, I couldn’t help but stare at the other boys a bit more than I had then.  Other boys had been on my mind a lot lately.  It was hard to shake off those thoughts and feelings.  Especially when I was in a whole group of naked boys, and some of them were dead cute.

“Take your marks . . . ”

Whoa!  I had to clear my mind in an instant.  I got in my stance, and the gun went off.  I did too, like a shot.  200 quibbles.  A sprint, all the way, legs pumping, heart the same, breathing in and out like an organ’s bellows.  About halfway through I took a quick glance to both sides.  I wasn’t alone this year!  And I was already going as fast as I could!

I wasn’t.  I found a bit more.  I sped up.  I’m not sure how; I’d thought I was running full out.  But speed up I did.  Now I could feel it.  Legs, heart, breathing, even my arms pumping forward and back, all told me I was going too fast, doing too much, couldn’t keep it up.

The tape at the end of the run was coming up.  Just a bit more.  A bit more!  The hell with my legs, heart, wind, arms, whatever.  I pushed forward with every ounce of courage I had, pushed ahead on courage and willpower alone.  And I hit the tape a microsecond before anyone else.

I collapsed onto the grass.  A race aide came over, and I waved him off.  There were other boys down, too, and they needed help more than I did.  I was spent, but I knew I’d recover, and in a short time, too.  I was spent, but felt wonderful.  I’d done it.  I’d done it!!!

When we were all up, we walked up to the platform, then continued up to the award risers.  I was on the top again.  I was still breathing deeply, and my nudity being on display didn’t really bother me much now.  I thought of it and just didn’t worry.  Let them look.  They might be thinking that I might be somewhat of a slowpoke, developmentally, but man, could I run.  At least I hoped that would be what they were thinking.

We stood looking out over the crowd, waving and accepting their cheers, and then, finally, we turned around to face the curtained enclosure.

Part of the reason for my deep breathing was because the princess, if that’s who it would be, would be coming from behind the curtain soon.  The more I thought about that, the more excited I was getting.  Then I looked at the others, the other 12-year-olds.  They were getting excited, too, but obviously for different reasons than I was.  I was looking forward to basking in her loveliness, her charm, her warmth.  Just being close to her, just feeling her breath on my cheek when she was whispering in my ear.  The other two were looking forward to meeting her with something else in mind, because each of them was showing more than incipient growth down below, and the longer we waited, anticipating her appearance, the more noticeable it became.  They were both more than at half-mast when the curtains opened.

And there she was!  Flowing robes, back lit so there was a golden umbra outlining her body, her still slender and petite body.  At 12, she was still as radiant as before, and the sun behind her seemed to make the whole of her glow.

She walked forward, looking at us, but no, she wasn’t looking at us.  She was looking at me.  Only me.  Her head never moved, and though I couldn’t see her eyes yet, I could see that her head was pointed directly at me.

Closer she came, and closer, and then she was facing me.  And I gulped.  Because it wasn’t the princess.  It was the prince, the princess’s twin brother, and he was as beautiful as she was.  More so, even, because he was a boy.  A radiant, beautiful, lovely boy.

My competitors saw that and their hardening stiffness withered in a moment.  And to my ultimate shame, I went the other way!  My change was just as dramatic as theirs, too.  Soft to completely, utterly, unmistakably hard in about three seconds.  As hard as I’d ever been in my life.  Right there in front of him.

The prince noticed.  I could see his eyes now, and where they were focused.  Then he raised them to mine, and with a mischievous grin, said with his soft voice, “She told me you were fast, fast as lightning.  I see she was right.”

And then he laughed, laughter which sounded like tinkling drops of ice falling on the petals of a wind chime.  He laughed and gazed into my eyes, and I was in love.  Totally in love.  Forever in love.

He stepped away from me and awarded the medallions to the others, not bothering to smooth the ribbons as his sister had done, and dismissed them after doing so, leaving me alone with him.  Alone with him and the crowd of onlookers.

With me, he did press the ribbons against my chest, trailing his fingers down to the medallion, even touching below that briefly.  This did nothing to soothe my savage beast.  That had risen to the vertical, risen to touch my stomach, almost to touch the medallion.  One of the prince’s fingers flicked just below the medallion; it just brushed lightly over the tip.  I shuddered.  He did, too. 

“My sister told me you might be the one,” he breathed to me.  “She’s been looking.  She was fascinated by you.  She said you didn’t react to her like the others she’s given awards did.  She said she saw emotions in your eyes, but they were different emotions.  She thought maybe you were the one I’ve been hoping for.  So hoping.  One who was just like me.  I think she was right.  You are as beautiful as she said you were.  Would you come back behind the curtains with me so we can . . . talk?”

“Of course, your highness,” I said, breathless and almost in shock.  “Anything you wish is yours.  But, I’m naked!  I can’t be in your presence this way.  It wouldn’t be proper.”

“Oh,” he said, that mischievous grin reappearing, “I can fix that.  I’ll get naked, too!”

The End

As always, my sincere thanks to my editors. You do a marvelous and mostly unsung job.

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This story is Copyright © 2018-2023 by Cole Parker. The image is Copyright © by Alena Ozerova | Adobe Stock File #57785391. They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story and has licensed the image. No other rights are granted.

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