When we left off in Part 4 of The Girl with the Heart of Gold Carrena had asked the king, “Does fear get you more of what you want in your life or less?”
And the king could not answer. He could only stand in front of her and stare with wide open eyes as the sun slipped away from the turret windows and eased beneath the far distant horizon.
And memory invaded his mind and one, tiny, precious tear escaped an eyelid.
“It’s you,” the king whispered, staring at Carrena. Another tear eased up over his eyelid and slid down his cheek. and then another and another and another until his eyes shimmered and his face was washed in tears. “Tereza. It’s you.”
Surprised at his words, Carrena took her hands off the soldiers arms and stepped towards the king. There was a gasp from the everyone around her. No one took a step toward the king without permission. No one. At least no one who had ever lived to tell the tale.
But the king didn’t notice. He just kept repeating, “It’s you. It’s you.”
“How do you know my mother’s name?” Carrena asked. “Did you know her?”
The king blinked. “Your mother? Tereza was your mother?” The king could feel a strange sensation inside the walls of his chest. A loud humming sound filled his mind and he felt like his body was tingling all over. He couldn’t remember ever feeling it, even before… No. He would not, could not go there. He looked at Carrena again and demanded, “Was Tereza your mother?”
“Yes, but she died when I was a little girl.” Carrena added as she reached beneath her blouse to pull out a golden locket that hung on a delicate chain around her neck. “Do you want to see her picture?” she asked the king. “She was very beautiful.”
The king took a step back. “No. No. I can’t,” he whispered.
He closed his eyes but the tears kept flowing. The pounding in his body was growing stronger. The humming in his head louder and louder and the tingling in his limbs sharper.
Around him, his minions didn’t know what to do. They feared he would collapse but they dare not touch him. and then it happened. The king began to crumble to the ground.
No one moved, except Carrena. She raced to the king’s side and caught him as he fell.
“Come quickly,” she called to the knight. “Help me ease him to the ground.”
The knight broke through the phalanx of soldiers who stood waiting to imprison him and rushed to aid Carrena.
Gently, he helped her lower the king to the ground.
The king was unconscious to the activity around him. Huge, gasping sobs wracked his body. Tears poured out of his eyes and every part of his being shook.
Carrena knelt beside him where he lay on the ground. She placed one hand on his back and began to rub it. “It’s okay to feel sad,” she whispered to the king. “Tears are the words the heart cannot speak.”
And then she began to sing. “I walk in beauty now. Beauty lies before me. Beauty lies above me, behind and below me.”
The king stopped weeping and gasped, “That song. She used to sing it!” And he began to weep even louder. “Why did she leave me?”
“Who?” Carrena asked. “My mother?”
“Yes!” wailed the king. “They came and stole her from me and I searched and searched and could not find her. And they took my daughter with her. She was just an infant. A tiny, precious baby. And they took her!”
All the staff and minions and soldiers and knights stood in silence around them. They had heard of this story before. But never had the king spoken of it. And none of them had been in the castle at the time. The king had killed everyone whom he blamed for the loss of his wife and child. No one had survived.
“She used to sing that song,” the king whispered as he gulped for air between his tears. And then he stopped talking, sat up and look at Carrena intently, his eyes boring into hers. “What is your name?”
“Carrena,” she told him as she unhooked the locket chain from her neck and opened the locket to show the photo within to the king. “She was my mother.”
The king looked at the photo in the locket and gasped. “No. No. It cannot be.”
Carrena stared at the king where he sat on the floor. He didn’t look that scary or fierce. He just looked very, very scared and sad.
“When I was a little girl my mother told me stories of you,” she told the king. “Lots of them. She told me you were the kindest, most loving man in the world. She told me your heart was so big all the world felt safe in it.” She gestured to the king’s staff standing straight and tall, their eyes not looking at the king but staring straight ahead. “I have wanted my whole life to meet my father with the loving heart and instead I find a man whom everyone fears. Does this make you happy?”
The king shook his head from side to side. “They broke my heart. They broke my heart,” he repeated.
Carrena reached forward and touched the king’s hands where they rested in his lap. “My mother always told me that a broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart. What they did was wrong, but you have chosen to keep your heart broken in pieces. Is that what you want?”
“No!” cried the king. “I want Tereza back!”
“So do I,” whispered Carrena gently. “But she cannot come back. She is gone but the love she felt and knew and shared so freely is always here. She taught me that. For years we lived locked inside a castle turret,” and Carrena stopped and motioned at their surroundings. “Much like this one and always, my mother told me that no matter what was happening in the world around us, Love was always the answer. I was only five when she passed away and I still remember her telling me that if there was one thing my father would have wanted it would be that I never give up on Love. Have you given up on love?” she asked the king.
“She is truly gone?” the king asked.
Carrena looked into his eyes. “Yes. But she is here,” and she reached forward and touched the place on his chest where his heart pounded. “She is always in our hearts.”
Quiet, gentle tears flowed down the king’s cheeks. “You look just like her,” he told Carrena. “You have here beautiful blue eyes and sweet, gentle voice.”
“And she always told me I have your heart of gold.”
And the king sighed and the people awoke and from that day forward, the lands began to flourish, the cattle began to give birth and the crops to ripen. Streams began to flow clear and flowers began to bloom in riotous colour all around the kingdom. Carrena married the knight and the laughter of children rang throughout the castle as the sun continued to shine and the moon to rise.
And for eons to come, the story was told of the girl with the heart of gold who melted the king’s stone cold heart. Even a heart of stone can be warmed in loving hands, the people would say. And so it was. Always and forever.
The Whole story.