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TO BE QUEEN
by Christy English

Genre: Historical Fiction, France, Historical Romance

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I was my father’s favorite. I knew this from the day I was born. I seemed to take this knowledge in with my mother’s milk.

Men came to my father’s court in the early days, patted my head, and fed me sweets. They took in the stone walls and tapestries of my father’s court as if they might see beyond them to my father’s lands, stretching from the border of Burgundy to the sea. Those men leaned close to Papa and said, “One day there will be a son to rule all this.” But my brother died, along with my mother, and there was never another heir. I was left, the only child with the strength to follow my father.

I find the thought of my own death a comfort, now that I am so old that my skin is pale and translucent. Now that the loves of my long life, the father who shaped me, the husband who fought me, the son who was loyal to me alone, have all gone down into the dust. My father died far from Aquitaine, but Henry and Richard both lie buried in this abbey. Soon I will lie between them, my body separating them for the last time.

I raise my arm and think to see the sunlight shining through the skin of my palm, so thin have I become. And my back pains me now, as it never did when I was young and rode a horse for days on end, seeking something always, a place I never reached, not with all of my lovers, not even with Henry.

Death, my last lover, holds me closer than any man ever has. If the Church is right, I will soon burn for all eternity in a fiery pit, where demons cast coals on the flames and all who see me will mock me and laugh.

I have always loathed being laughed at.

I have little faith in the teachings of the Church. The priests and their followers seem to me a simple people, telling tales by the fireside to keep away the dark. I have never been afraid of the dark. My father taught me to look into it without blinking, so that I would be ready for whatever comes out of it.

If, as the Church says, I am to suffer the fires of hell, so be it. To avoid such a fate, I would have to repent of my life. That I will never do.