The day the queen eclipsed the king

Aug 24, 2017 By Clair McFarland

Once, there was a wise and benevolent king who ruled a vast, busy kingdom. Under his reign, people worked and loved, lived and died.

The king's laws and character stayed so consistent throughout the years, that the people hardly thought of him at all, except when they remarked upon the steadiness of his ways.

But, like all those whose lives smolder within the glare of power, he had developed a few eccentricities. Too many to list, in fact, but chief among them was the king's decree that forbade all of his subjects from looking directly at his face while he still lived.

The punishment for violating this law was so severe that no one ever dared raise their eyes when the king passed by.

Except! I'm forgetting to note the few stewards who oversaw the king's morning and evening routine. They were allowed to look at his chin - but no higher - when they approved the luxurious colors of his royal robe each day. And they were allowed to look at his fluid hairline - but no lower - when they lifted his opal crown from his head each night.

The king, because of his reclusive law, seemed distant to his people. The people thought him ancient, because of the grave indifference with which he ruled; he was not afflicted with the romance of youth, nor the cynicism of middle age.

But for all that, he was younger than most people thought, and something ached - in his insatiable core - for a companion, and for a thing like love, if his lofty monarchy would only permit it.

Even though the longing for that intangible thing gave him indigestion (and gas), he didn't simper and pine for it. No, he wasn't a king for waiting, but for doing.

So he ruled as he always had: alternating for the people the warmth of his indulgence against the chill of his frugality. This way, he could cultivate both confidence and toughness within their character.

But one day, the king saw that things had gotten weird within his kingdom. The people did not keep busy during the king's indulgence - nor did they rest their ambition during his frugality! And nobody seemed to see either phase for the gift it was, the gift it was royally intended to be.

The people were also listening to tasteless pop music and calling it "country," and gazing into screens and calling it "fun." It was madness!

The king did not know what to do. To descend from the lofty distance from which he governed would be interference, and the king thought too poorly of meddling politicians to become one himself.

But how to heal the people's insanity? He pondered in aimless melancholy.

At this time, only one of his subjects could sense his distress - and she found herself drawing ever closer to the king's court, as the weight of his listlessness resonated around and within her.

She was not beautiful. Sorry. I know some of you like your tales to have cute girls in them - and there's always Disney for you folks.

Our lady had been the apparent victim of some childhood malady that had turned her face into a pocked wasteland, but left it as pudgy as though it had never ailed.

She had in her eyes, however, the eerie clarity that lives in the eyes of women whose lives never reach a peak of beauty. And that eerie clarity counts for beauty in another world - a world where the music is what it claims to be.

While passersby wondered what ugly stick had beaten this maiden, she pressed closer to the king's sphere. By what right or reason she did this she knew not - only that she must. Then one day, she arrived.

When he rose and flung his royal robe of color across his shoulders, she strolled barefoot through his garden.

When he greeted the people with his morning salutation - a gentle nod amidst blaring trumpets - she stood in the throng unseen.

And when at last the king set his mind to the nourishment of all the lives under his care, she glided through the glistening palace halls, up the golden staircase, and straight toward the king's throne!

He looked up from his parchment, not because she'd alarmed him with some careless sound (she hadn't: she was deadly silent), but because that misty sense that he was being watched had bit into his own gut. And he saw her.

He was too kingly to think a first-impression such as "what an ugly lady," so what he thought instead was "how intentional she looks! As if she could conjure her own magnetism with a thought."

He said to her: "why do you trespass in the royal court?"

She looked at his face.

So long had it been since anyone had studied his face that he felt at once exposed and terrified! But the terror soon ebbed and yielded to a rush of intrigue - as it often does in the lonely heart - and all he knew to do was look right back at her. He studied her face, her poor, cavernous face; his eyes raced over every defect until they felt dry.

A lesser lady would have looked down in shame. But our lady did not. She bared those clear eyes, with all their concern and understanding, and she set her every feature forward as frankly, as unabashedly as she could, as if to emphasize the gravity of her hidden worth.

The king knew then, in those two minutes, that he loved her. So he did all one can do when confronted with an unlikely love: he, um, asked her to leave.

But it was too late. She knew of his love in an instant, for his was not a face trained to hide anything. (There had never been a need.)

The people who had, that day, the privilege of working near the king's court could see this encounter from below, where they stood in the gardens. They saw the king vanish from view as the lady stood before him, and they watched her as she raised her gaze to the level of his throne. And when she was neither smitten nor struck blind, they, too, knew that he loved her.

The lady said nothing to the king, and she glided away as silently as she'd come. The king watched her all the while, even as she slipped into the throng of people who would never truly know him.

In his heart, though no where else, he proclaimed her Queen. (Although she didn't write "Bohemian Rhapsody.")

Now and again, when things get crazy in the kingdom, the king finds his queen in the crowd, and he looks at her. In the beam of his love, she looks truly, radiantly... beautiful.

The people all know this, and when they see how the king's love makes the queen beautiful, they are reminded of greater things: of a love that transcends circumstance.

And they all remember that day - the day the queen eclipsed the king.

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