Emma danced around the plaza, her long skirt twirling like waves of emerald and turquoise. Golden chains circling her wrists and ankles dangling and clanking cheerfully as she swiftly skipped at the sound of clapping hands and a flute. Her long dark waves brushed her sun-kissed bare shoulders, the wind rushing through her hair.
“Emma!” She heard someone calling her name as the streets were drowned by the loud thumping of galloping horses. The guards were coming. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, but unfortunately it could only mean one thing: they had to run, and run fast. Emma felt a hand close around her left wrist, pulling her hard. She didn’t need to turn around to know that it was Traian, taking her some place safe. She had known him all her life, they were destined to be together, and she trusted him blindly, so Emma followed him deep into the forest.
But the guards kept coming closer, their strong horses chasing after them. Traian ran faster, docking under tree branches and side stepping rocks on the ground. She mimicked his every move, holding his arm tightly. It wasn’t until they had reached a stream that ran along the woods dividing it that the galloping had stopped. Traian pulled her into his arms and whispered in her ear in thick Romanian so no one would understand what he was saying, his voice husky, his breath ragged.
“I’ll take you south and we’ll stay near the sea. Nothing’s going to harm you Emma, I’ll never leave you…I couldn’t, I love you.” He said, trying to sooth her. But then, a sword shot from behind the trees, cutting through Traian’s dark shirt and sinking deep into his flesh, his left arm drenched in blood.
“Alerga!” Run, was the last word she heard him say before she disappeared into the dark forest, leaving Traian behind. A lump constricted her throat making it hard to breathe, but she knew Traian would be alright, he was strong and skilled. Besides, she couldn’t let the guards get her, or else…
It was dark and Emma was exhausted, she had no idea where she was and she kept tripping with her skirt, which was completely torn. The tree branches casted ghastly shadows and she found the rustling of leaves rather unnerving. Seeing a silhouette approaching her, Emma tried to run faster but tripped once more with her once beautiful skirt, its bright colours now faded. The man lurking behind the trees came closer and Emma recognized him immediately. It was the guard that had injured Traian. He was tall and lean, his dark hair contrasting against his pale skin. He had a strong jaw and angular features, black eyebrows and a thick curtain of lashes shadowing his blue moon lit eyes. And his lips, they were full and slightly parted turning into a smile at the sight of the lost gypsy lying at his feet.
He walked closer, offering his hand to help her stand up. Emma took it without hesitation and faced her death sentence. However, she wasn’t expecting to see such kindness in his eyes, the way they looked at her with adoration.
“May I ask what your name is?” the soldier asked, as he took in the girl’s beauty. He couldn’t believe that such a lovely creature could exist, and now that he had found her, he couldn’t let her go. But that wouldn’t be fair, her soul was to be freed, otherwise he would only be weighting her down instead of letting this butterfly, his butterfly, soar high into the night sky.
“Emma” her soft lips murmured and the guard got closer still.
“Oh, beauteous Emma.” He whispered against her lips and, as they locked into a kiss, he reached for his dagger and swiftly stabbed her in the chest. Now she was free, he thought. Now no one could hold her back, not even him.
But she was so lovely and her beauty would go to waste, so he decided to lay her body next to the stream, crossing her arms over her chest covering the wound, and pretend she was asleep. And every night he’d go and watch her sleep whispering sweet words of love, lulling her into yet another dream. She was his, and forever would be.
Under the shade of the trees a dark restive figure stands, waiting for the perfect time to avenge the murder of his beloved one, for he knows Emma is not asleep but dead.
–Adriana Martinez Traslosheros.
*Inspired by the poem “To Emma” by John Keats.