Hello everyone! It's time for the first WEP Challenge of 2021! This year our challenges are inspired by pieces of art. We take our inspiration now from Gustav Klimt's THE KISS.
If you'd like to join in on the fun, check it out here!
The Wedding Kiss
The gown glimmered with thousands of crystals. Every movement caught the light of the room in new, spellbinding ways. Twelve layers of white tulle puffed out around Sophia so her petite frame dominated the small room. Her stylist flitted about, making minute adjustments, reminding her of a tiny bird she used to watch through her bedroom window as a child.
Thoughts of childhood flitted through her mind in much the same way. The modest furniture in her bedroom left her with splinters that plagued her for days before she finally managed to pluck them out. Her threadbare blanket kept some of the chill away, but it wasn’t uncommon for her toes to be numb in the mornings. The ancient furnace in their home struggled to keep up during the coldest months. “Be grateful for what we have,” her mother reminded her each time she made a fuss. “Many people have far less.”
Sophia knew that to be true. A neighbor down the road lost a baby to malnutrition one brutal winter. The town’s homeless hid away in nooks and crannies, trying to hide from the enforcers that wouldn’t hesitate to haul them away. Sophia never knew where the enforcers took them, but once someone had been taken away, they were never seen again.
So yes, Sophia had been fortunate. Her parents scraped by well enough to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. It wasn’t easy, and she suspected they each resorted to things they weren’t proud of to make that happen, but she would never dare ask nor judge.
Her hand fluttered to the heart-shaped locket around her neck. She closed her eyes and wrapped herself in the warmth of the image contained within. She hadn’t looked upon it in years, but she remembered it vividly. The faded photo featured her parents not long after their wedding, wrapped in a blanket while her father planted a loving kiss on his bride’s cheek. She longed to look at it again and run her fingers over the rough, creased surface, but she couldn’t. A smattering of her parents co-mingled ashes now rested inside that very locket, and she dare not disturb their rest.
That kiss had been so loving and tender. Now here she was, about to share her own first kiss with her husband-to-be. A soft knock at the door told her it was time. She popped the breath mint into her mouth as she opened the door.
Her escort, some stern guard whose name she didn’t know, linked his arm with hers and guided her into the nave. Sophia could hardly make sense of the vaulted ceilings or the crowd of thousands crammed into the pews or how long the aisle was. She could only focus on putting one foot in front of the other so she wouldn’t stumble in the high heeled shoes, so alien compared the shabby pauper’s shoes she once wore.
The groom finally came into view, his large frame and chiseled features intimidating to anyone who crossed paths with him. Sophia wondered if his taste for violence was satiated by the way he treated his subjects, or did that violence spill into his private life? Did he intend to treat her kindly, or would he punish her harshly for any perceived transgressions? She doubted any tenderness awaited her in their first kiss as husband and wife. Not like she saw in the photo hanging around her neck.
She took her place beside him.
So many people had spoken of how fortunate she was. “Of all the people who could catch the king’s eye! A nobody from such a poor region. She’s about to have a life of luxury she never imagined.”
It was true that she’d never envisioned the kind of luxury the king enjoyed. His palace was larger by far than the village she called home her whole life. The fact that his entourage ever passed through had been unlikely enough. The news of the plotted insurrection reached a royal informant, and the king came to her town to ensure the executions of all involved went off without a hitch. The audience surrounding the gallows was an odd place to find a bride, but Sophia could hardly complain. Against all odds, he caught her eye, and within no time at all, she’d been swept away in the whirlwind of it all. She would be wed to her handsome king soon enough, and her destiny would be guaranteed.
The priest began to speak. Sophia’s heart raced as she listened just closely enough to react when necessary. The words ran together, and the world was brought into sharp relief once the fateful words passed the priest’s lips.
“You may now kiss your bride.”
Sophia took a deep breath and bit down on the mint as her new husband leaned in for his prize. She tried not to think of the thousands in attendance watching this moment, or the millions more that had tuned in to watch from around the world as the liquid in the center of the mint gushed into her mouth. The minty coating did nothing to mitigate the bitter taste of the poison, so when her king parted her lips with his tongue, he must have tasted it immediately.
The despot who relished in the poverty and suffering of his subjects wrenched away and stumbled back as Sophia fell to her knees. Her vision blurred while guards rushed in to assist the king.
Sophia smiled, assured their efforts would be futile. Her system would shut down faster. She’d gotten more of the poison, after all. Still, only a drop or two would do the job. The king would die without an heir and chaos would follow, but that was fine. She’d gotten her revenge on the man who ordered the executions of many she loved, including her parents. She touched the locket tenderly as she rested her head on the stony floor and drifted away.
Word Count: 1,000