He is not handsome.
I watch the man sleeping on his side, one hand under his pillow, as if he had a sword stored there, and I know it as well as the rest of the kingdom does. His face is twisted in such a way that it seems as if he always has a surly expression, almost grotesquely enhanced, like some churlish tavern pamphlet illustration.
No one could believe that a hero could be so ugly. They don’t have to believe it—they see his face only when it is covered by his helmet.
He is not like my husband.
My husband is handsome indeed. Blonde hair, the color of sweet hay. Dark brown eyes that see and understand so much—so very much that his heart is constantly breaking for it.
My husband sees everything. It’s hard to be someone’s focus point, when they see everything.
He is just as the kingdom sees him—glorious, gracious, good. Oh, he’s wandered. A truth my mother once told me: powerful men are difficult to keep in bed. Heartache isn’t for me. It’s my job to look the other way.
It’s my job to be the loving wife.
This isn’t a revenge thing, though. If I could help it, he would never know. I fool myself that he never will. My husband, who sees everything.
The man beside me stirs, restless even now.
My husband brought him to me, you know. His greatest friend. A glorious young knight, an indispensable weapon that would help with the bringing together of the people.
That’s all my husband wants. Peace. By any means.
I was almost jealous of my husband’s interests in this man. His eyes glowed at this friend of his in a way they never had for me. He had praised me countless times for my beauty, but this man with the twisted face was the key to the one thing he really wanted—uniting the people in God’s name.
What my husband couldn’t see, had never seen, was the way this young knight looked at me. He saw me when my husband never did—during war councils and strategy meetings, when I had little more to do than sit and listen and brighten my embroidery hoop—when my voice was not heard because it was never expected to be.
Through his imperfect face, his eyes were always on me. And he had something else to win my affection, too. You see, his love for me was only second to his fealty to my husband. His wasn’t simply the loyalty of a good soldier. He loved my husband almost as I loved him.
I don’t know what he’s doing, sleeping beside me. The uneasy way he moves in his sleep tells me that he doesn’t, either.
It is ecstasy and agony at once, having him here. Finally mine.
But my husband. This will pierce him to the soul.
I never meant to love them both. To be the dagger that cuts asunder the king and his knight, Arthur, and his Lancelot.
I never wanted this. But I cannot take it back, either. I don’t even know if I would, if I could.