Once upon a time, a young prince lived, a beautiful boy with blue and bright eyes, blond curls and rosy cheeks. He was five years of age and a bundle of joy. He was everybody’s darling and the apple of the eye of everybody around him. He was looked after, pampered and loved by his father, the king, and his mother, the queen, and all the courtiers and servants. They fulfilled each and every of his many wishes for no one liked to see the little boy cry. He had toys, plush toys and puppets, golden balls and golden rings, beautiful and precious. He played with his toys in his beautiful chamber and when the weather was fine he played outside. He played in a garden full of lovely flowers. And the sun shone down on him.
The years passed by and the prince grew older. He was not a small child any longer, but still a beautiful boy, now ten years of age. Not much had changed in the years that had gone by. The prince played in his chamber or in the garden from morning to evening until night fell. And every wish that he had was immediately granted as nobody wanted to see the beautiful prince dissatisfied. The prince had gotten accustomed to this habit. Whenever he had a wish or wanted something, he just raised his hand or snapped his fingers, and the courtiers and servants ran to meet his needs. The king decided to further the prince’s team spirit and wanted the prince to engage in sporting activities like bow and arrows, shooting the cross bow, or riding a horse. Five boys were chosen to train with the prince. They were carefully selected by the king’s counsellors and everybody hoped they would make friends with the prince. However, the prince did not like the challenge as competing with others discouraged him. He was used to be always the first, the one and only, and nobody was supposed to steal him the show. The prince was sullen and he complained loudly and treated the other boys very unkind. The queen intervened and scolded the king for making their son sad and unhappy. The king, fed up with her scolding, finally cancelled the training and sent the other boys away. The prince resumed playing in the garden. He played with his toys in his sheltered place.
The years passed by and the prince grew older. He was not a child any longer, but a handsome teen, now fifteen years of age. Not much had changed in the years that had gone by. The prince still preferred to play in the garden. The king had encouraged him to study and learn. He had sent teachers to the prince to give him lessons on all kinds of subjects. The prince, however, had soon felt bored. He did not like to listen to his teachers as he was not used to listen to others. He was not used to anybody giving him instructions which to him sounded like commands. He raised his hand like he had always done when he wanted or wished a thing and said that he desired that the lessons would be stopped as this was all frustrating him. The teachers tried to motivate the young man, but all their efforts were in vain. The prince did not listen as he saw no need in the lessons, and he also did not grasp a thing. He had spent fifteen years in his chamber or in his sheltered place in the garden. He had played fifteen years with his balls and his rings and his many puppets. He had no idea that there was a world outside of the palace, a world that looked different than his place in the garden, a world that was vast, much larger than the kingdom that was ruled by his father, the king. The teachers told the prince of the world, but the prince did not understand what they were talking about. Their words sounded to him like the words of a tale, only that their words did not please him. He did not want to hear of wars between nations or financial breakdowns or political things. This all sounded very depressing to him and the tales did not stir his fantasies and did not invite him to dream. He wanted to hear of mighty dragons that flew high in the sky and over wondrous countries. He wanted to hear of elves and dwarves and their magical kingdoms that were hidden in mist. He wanted to know where the unicorns lived and where he would possibly find a treasure. The prince did not engage in the lessons and finally the king gave in and stopped them. The prince resumed playing in the garden. He played with his toys in his sheltered place.
Another young man one day came into the garden. He had come with his uncle in order to visit the king. The young man found the prince playing with his toys in his sheltered place. The golden morning sun was shining down on him. The young man watched the prince for a while. He had never seen such a beautiful being. The prince was dressed in clothes of velvet and silk, precious, elaborate, and colourful. The prince reminded the young man of the noble and handsome knight he had read about in his favourite childhood tale. Golden curls framed the prince’s handsome face and rosy cheeks graced it. His blue eyes were so bright and the young man was stunned at the sight. Albeit unaware of it, he was able to see the inner light of a man. He was able to see his soul and his essence. The young man looked in wonder at the prince who was dressed so old-fashioned and played in his little realm, oblivious of all around him. The young man approached the prince and greeted him shyly. The prince looked up and clapped his hands at the sight of the young man who in his eyes was just another toy, something new he could play with. The prince cheered up and raised his hand. “I want you to sit down and look at me, and then tell me of a mighty dragon,” he said. The young man sat down and looked at the prince in wonder. The prince looked back at him expectantly. However, when the young man did not respond, a frown crossed the prince’s face. “I want you to tell me of a mighty dragon,” he said again, emphasizing his words. “I don’t know of a dragon,” the young man replied in confusion. “My name is Henry. May I ask your name?” he said shyly in an attempt to start a conversation. The prince grimaced and looked at him sullenly. He snapped his fingers and repeated his words. The young man gazed at the prince with surprise and again tried to make conversation. But the prince pouted and snapped his fingers once more, and then he stood and stamped his foot. The young man stood as well and made a step back. He shied away from the prince who behaved like a three-year-old. He studied the prince more closely and suddenly found that the prince looked less beautiful and that the light had gone from his eyes. The prince pursed his lips in annoyance. He frowned at the young man and scolded him for not obeying and fulfilling his wish. The young man made another step back. A shadow crossed his heart and he felt deep regret for the prince who was in denial and did not follow the light of his heart. “I must go,” the young man said. “I don’t want to waste my time with you any longer as life is short and my time is precious. I want to follow the light of my heart.” With this he turned around and walked away and did not look back at the prince.
An old man had been working in the garden and he had overheard the young man’s words. He stepped up to the prince and reached out his hand and showed him a handful of flower seeds. “Men are like flowers. They are bound to grow. However, not all seeds spring at the same time. Some lie dormant in the ground for another long and cold winter,” he said. The prince looked at the man. He did not grasp his words as he had never learned to speak in metaphors. His mind was simple and so were his thoughts. All that he heard was that the old man was speaking of flowers and he concluded that the man was the gardener. It annoyed the prince greatly that the man had dared to address him without being invited to do so. He frowned at the man, and then he turned around and left. He entered the house and retired to his chamber and there he turned back to his innocent plays.
The years passed by and the prince grew older. He was twenty-one years old and a handsome man. The prince had come of age. The king and his counsellors held a meeting and they found that it was time that the prince proposed to a woman who would make a good wife and a good future queen. Riders rode out and searched the whole country. A girl was found, eighteen years of age. She was a noble maid and she had manners and style. She was pretty and she had wits and was smart. Her wit would outweigh the prince’s dullness, the counsellors spoke behind the back of the king. The young woman was invited to come to the court and meet the prince and his parents. She accepted the invitation and she travelled far to introduce herself to the king, the queen, and the prince. The girl was welcomed warmly and received courteously. She spoke to the king and she had lunch with the queen, and then she spent an afternoon with the prince. She joined him in his sheltered place in the garden where he showed her his golden balls and his golden rings. He told her of the mighty dragons that flew high in the air. He told her of the elves and the dwarves who lived in wondrous realms that were hidden in mist and he told her of the treasure that he wished to find. But when the girl asked him to tell his honest opinion of the world outside, the prince didn’t reply and just looked at her in total confusion. She told him that she loved the poems of a popular poet, but the prince had never heard of the man. She asked him why he was dressed in old-fashioned clothes, but the prince did not understand and just gazed back at her. Whatever topic the girl raised, the prince had nothing to say. His talk was shallow and slow and it revolved only around his beautiful toys and the beautiful plays that he played. When evening had come, the girl rose to her feet and with a brief nod left the garden. She gathered her servants and then packed her things. When asked if she wanted to stay a bit longer, she shook her head and spoke aloud. “No, thank you. I have enough of the prince. He’s a simpleton and bore. I can’t stand his company any longer. I deserve better and I don’t want to stay. Farewell and my thanks for the invitation.” With this she left and climbed into her coach. She did not wave and did not look back even once. More girls were invited to meet the prince and possibly become friends with him. But they all declined, not one was willing to marry the prince, albeit the king and the queen offered them precious gifts and treasures.
The years passed by and the prince grew older and his father and his mother gave up on him. He spent his time in his chamber or in his sheltered place in the garden and he spoke to imaginary elves and dreamed of dwarves and mighty dragons. His servants sought to escape his company quickly. Nobody felt like spending time with the prince whose body had turned into that of a matured man while his mind was still that of a very young child. People felt uncomfortable and some even felt frightened and they shied away from the prince. The years passed by. The queen died first, and then the king, and the counsellors decided to not inform the prince as they feared the news would disturb him further. The prince, however, did not notice a change as he was so absorbed in his plays. A noble knight ascended to the throne and as he felt pity for the prince, he let him sit in his place in the garden whenever the prince wanted to play. The new king, however, reduced the number of servants that served the prince and in the end only one old man attended to him. The old man’s heart was big and he was kind and good-natured. He pitied the prince who had never grown and matured. He felt sorry for the poor man who had closed up his heart and had never opened his mind to anybody around him. The prince was unaware of it. The light of his heart had shown only once in his life when a young man had tried to get in touch with him. But the light had been weak and it had faded quickly. It had not enlightened his mind nor had it opened his eyes.
When the old servant died, nobody saw after the prince who still preferred to sit in his sheltered place in the garden, dozing and sleeping and subconsciously dreaming. He meanwhile preferred a soft slumber to playing with his golden balls and rings. Angels and spirits, who meant well with the prince, called out to him and tried to awake him. However, when the prince refused to wake up, the good spirits retreated and their voices grew quiet, and finally they left him for good.
That was when a very old woman stepped forward, mother of all, incarnation of mercy. She comes to a man when his friends have left him and no other man stays with him anymore. She comes when even angels and good spirits retreat and when a man is all alone and on his own. She attends to him and nurses him and she stays by his side and does not leave him.
The old woman sat down at the prince’s side. She looked at the sleeping man. She stroked his forehead and his temples and she spoke to him and she sang him a song: All flowers grow, each when the time is right. Some flowers spring and blossom early, some take their time, and some lie dormant in the ground for another cold and long winter. But all flowers grow when their time has come, and then they stretch to the sun and show their unique beauty. Thus she sang to the prince and she never lost patience with him. She sang the song often to him as time passed by.
And she sang it again at his grave.
© 2012 Dolores Esteban
First published at GA Gay Authors - Gay Quality Fiction