Cassandra awoke in a really good mood. For aside from some lingering thoughts of a very disturbing nightmare she had just had, she felt generally refreshed.
As was her custom when first waking, Cassandra stretched her arms out-wide and arched her back while yawning loudly in an exaggerated fashion. This was as much meant for Calvin’s entertainment as it was for hers. For he seemed to always truly enjoy her carrying on so, but when she looked over at his chair by the door, he was not there.
Cassandra let out a blood-curdling scream when the thought hit her that her nightmare just might have been real. This brought servants and soldiers rushing into her bedroom from all directions.
“Has something bad happened to Calvin?” Cassandra begged for an answer.
“That is yet to be determined, my lady. For it all depends on what you want.” This came from a familiar voice from the back of the crowd that had formed at the foot of Cassandra’s bed.
Cassandra called out with a shaky voice, “Calvin?”
When he stepped to the front of the crowd, Cassandra sprung into Calvin’s arms, and he held her oh so very tight as she sobbed quite uncontrollably. After a few moments, she leaned back and looked deeply into his eyes as he leaned down and kissed her in the way that troubadours sing songs about.
By the time the kiss had ended, they were alone in the room. Without saying a word, Cassandra stepped back a little and started unbuttoning Calvin’s shirt. When she saw the heart-shaped birthmark upon the center of his chest, she gasped, “My Prince?”
“Yes, it is I,” he gently answered.
Cassandra immediately recoiled, but he caught her by the shoulders before she could get more than an arm’s length away. Tears welled up in her eyes and were soon streaming down her face.
For what seemed like an eternity to her, Cassandra could not do anything but cry and look at him in horror. For she had no idea if any of this was real or just a continuation of the nightmare about the stoning she thought she had awakened from.
Cassandra finally asked him, “Was any of it real?”
“Oh yes, it was all very real,” he answered.
“Even the part about Calvin being held in the dungeon, and you being stoned to death?”
“Well, not exactly. For Calvin and I have always been one and the same person,” he answered.
Cassandra was instantly overwhelmed with shock and disbelief, and all she could manage to mumble was a meek, “What?”
“My full name is Prince Calvin. Well, at least that is what it is at this time. For it will change to King Calvin if we wed, of course, but I much prefer being called just Calvin,” he replied.
Cassandra did not say a word. She just stared at Calvin, and then slowly turned her head to look out of the window near her bed.
As if on cue, a couple of bluebirds landed on Cassandra’s windowsill, and started singing. Quickly afterward, a bright red male cardinal landed on a branch of a dogwood a few feet away and added some harmony. The choir was fully assembled when three yellow canaries announced their presence from a magnolia in full bloom just to the south of a stand of silver leaf poplars, and Cassandra felt herself being lifted above her troubles.
All too soon, a knock on her bedroom door brought Cassandra crashing back down into her own pit. Fortunately, it was not the bearer of more bad news. For it was just one of the kitchen staff bringing breakfast, and Calvin took control of a covered cart she had rolled down the hall.
“I know that you have many questions, but it would sure make me feel so much better if you would sit down and eat something first. For it has been quite some time since you last ate anything,” Calvin said with great concern in his voice.
Cassandra was about to motion for him to take it away when she caught a whiff of what was on the cart, and her stomach immediately sounded its approval. For the cook had prepared little cornmeal cakes stuffed with sliced ham, onions, green peppers and three different kinds of cheese.
As was her prerogative, Cassandra changed her mind. For it was, after all, one of her favorite dishes.
When Calvin saw that Cassandra was going to try to eat some, he exclaimed with a big grin, “Good! For I was sorely dreading having to tell the cook that I had her go to all of that trouble for nothing.”
That brought a smile to Cassandra’s face, but she was not really in the mood for conversation yet. So, they enjoyed the cakes, along with a carafe of freshly-squeezed orange juice, while listening to the delightful concert being held in their honor.
They continued to just listen to the songbirds singing for almost an hour after they had finished eating. Cassandra also watched a pair of very young bunnies played tag on a lush green carpet of Bermuda grass under a massive live oak that was covered with Spanish moss in the middle of the yard. Calvin kept his eyes trained on her.
Suddenly, Cassandra’s eyes welled up with tears once again, and with a voice cracking with emotion, she asked, “How is it possible for you to still be alive?”
“When the hogs were let in, they refused to approach. My body was then brought before my father, and he brought me back to life,” Calvin answered.
“How can this be?”
“Nothing is too difficult for my father to accomplish, but would it not be better to ask about the reason why rather than how?”
“Okay.” Cassandra’s voice was little more than a whisper now. “Why?”
Calvin took a deep breath and answered, “It has to do with obtaining something truly special for the both of us.”
“Well, I wanted you to know beyond any and all reasonable doubts that I loved you enough to die for you. For with our marriage being prearranged, I did not want you to have any concerns about just how much I truly loved you.”
“So, this was all about you wanting to prove yourself to me?”
“Not entirely,” Calvin answered. Cassandra just stared at him.
After clearing his throat, Calvin continued, “Please understand that I know that your character is beyond reproach, and there is no questioning of your resolve to always honor your marriage vows to the best of your abilities. Furthermore, I know that you do indeed genuinely love me and your love goes far beyond any and all reasonable expectations of honor and duty. Nonetheless, I have always wanted to receive a very special kind of love. For it is relatively easy to love someone who can provide everything you desire—both materially and emotionally, but it takes a very special kind of love to want to stay with someone who has wounded you deeply. After all that I have subjected you to, that would be the kind of love I would be receiving from you if you would still have me as your husband.”
After taking some time to absorb what she had been just told, Cassandra asked in a distant tone, “So, this was also about me proving myself to you?”
“That is certainly one way of looking at it. Can you forgive me?”
Cassandra again looked out of the window and spied the two tiny bunnies still romping about under the huge live oak. She sighed out of envy over their apparent innocence.
Then Cassandra saw a rather large snake on a low hanging branch just above where the bunnies were playing, and her heart filled with terror when the snake slid off of the branch and landed a few feet behind them. She was about to cry out in an attempt to warn the bunnies of their impending doom when they scampered off before the snake could move close enough to strike.
Cassandra continued to watch as the snake slithered off into a patch of tall bluestem grass, and she thought of the minister who had brought the charges of royal disrespect against her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the two bunnies kicking up their heels like nothing traumatic had just happened, and this made her wonder about what the future may hold for her and Calvin.
In the same distant tone she had used before, Cassandra asked, “Whose idea was it?”
“My father and mine,” Calvin answered.
With the tone of Cassandra’s voice becoming a little chillier, she asked, “Was the minister also in on it?”
“Unwittingly,” Calvin replied.
His answer caught Cassandra slightly off-guard. So, it took a few seconds before she could ask, “What do you mean?”
“My father and I were well aware of the treachery the minister harbored in his heart, and this is why we made sure of him knowing about the arcane statute, which had been left standing in order to facilitate our plan. Therefore, it can be said that the minister did indeed have his part to play, but the truth is that he had no idea what had been set into motion,” Calvin explained.
“I cannot imagine going to such great lengths,” Cassandra replied with her voice trailing off ever so slightly.
“What I have always wanted for us both was well worth paying the price, and you have already said that you wanted it all.”
Cassandra then knew what she should do, and without saying a word, she jumped out of her chair and landed in Calvin’s lap. The next step in her plan was to engage in a kiss that would make the one they had shared before look like a simple peck on the lips.
Their wedding took place at the time it had been previously scheduled, which was later that summer. Both the bride and the groom looked radiant, and the festivities lasted for days. Needlessly to say, theirs was a love for the ages, and they lived happily ever after as two hearts beating as one and never missing a beat.