The King’s Wife
Tom Barry | Jessica Wilson
Isobel rode her horse hard along the bridleway that circled the great moat, far harder than she knew she ought, as if physical exertion, if not a modicum of danger, could drive the feelings of restlessness from her body. But the physical exertion only seemed to aggravate the aching within her.
She pulled to a halt and jumped down from the panting mare, thinking perhaps that walking might offer respite. As she wandered along the path she dwelt, as she often did these days, on her life and her marriage to the King. Her mind drifted to the burgeoning career in the art world that she abandoned despite her passion for painting and sculpture. Was she to blame for sacrificing herself and her own ambitions for the King’s needs, or was he to blame for letting her? No doubt it was the right decision, at least financially. In the last ten years The King had accumulated more money and land than his ruthless father before him, and, far more than he ever could have done without her to relieve him of every responsibility other than his own success and unbridled ambition. But what was success? What did it give her? What good were the money and the possessions, without life’s true experiences, whatever they were? Perhaps they were what her privileged circle of friends believed: the things that money bought, the comfort of a first class cabin, the occasional private jet when the fancy took them, the top table at the sought after social events of the English calendar. ?But what good were such experiences if experienced alone, or without the possibility of sharing the pleasure with someone with the lust for life to live them, not simply attend them? ?And such experiences must surely be enjoyed when one still has the vitality of youth, when the body still yearns excitement? Were not the old and the infirm, no matter how rich, content to see out their days close to hearth and home, with no more excitement than fresh air to breathe and a good book to read, and perhaps a tipple before bedtime?
Isobel felt the ticking of her own clock keenly and did not like what she heard. How much longer would she be able to ride as she had this morning, with the wind gushing through her hair? How many more summers would her body retain the firmness of youth? Her mind went again to the invitation on her dresser and she hated it for its impossible possibilities. She looked at her watch; the King would be expecting her back by now, no doubt searching for his passport or his train tickets or his shoelaces. She was needed elsewhere. She sprung onto Betsy and kicked her heels into her flanks, tearing off as if she wanted to cleave the air in two.
The King was waiting when she returned, pacing the great hall; he drained the glass that was rarely far from his hand of the red wine. It reminded Isobel of blood. He threw the glass to the floor. She knew there was only one way out when you were married to the highest in the land. She stepped toward him, picked up a shard of glass, and cut deep into her wrists. ?”I’ve decided to leave you” she said, before her body slumped to the floor.