The Lion's Heir

By: Lilly Pink

“It’s not that… it’s just…” she seemed to lose her train of thought, “I have eidetic memory. It’s kind of annoying sometimes, actually… everything I see I just memorize, it gets stuck up here.” She stabbed her forehead with one finger. “Most people call me ‘dizzy-brained’… it’s hard sometimes to keep all that information straight. I tend to be forgetful about the most basic things people don’t have problems with… like keeping appointments. But if you want to know the date they charged the Bastille, or how many pounds of rock they brought back from the moon, or…” She tapered off, embarrassed again.

“That’s an amazing gift,” he said, out of the blue, and it surprised her. “I mean… I suppose I can see how it would be hard to deal with. But if I had that ability, I would have done a lot better in school.”

Krista visibly relaxed at the poor joke and settled into the seat as he took off. Her big doe eyes seemed enraptured by everything, as if she was seeing them for the first time. An eidetic princess, he thought wryly. He wondered whose idea it was to pair up the men and women as they had.

“I don’t know if the mansion will meet your expectations,” he warned as they neared the estate. “It’s certainly not House Roseblood… but hopefully it will do.”

“Oh, I don’t care about that,” she said. “I may look like a noble, but I hardly consider myself one. As long… as long as you’re there, I’m sure it will be okay.”

“This is your first time away from home, isn’t it?” he said in a low voice.

She shuffled uncomfortably. “Erm… well, technically yes. It’s been scary, but… also amazing. Even though I objectively know how big the world is… 196.9 million square miles! You never really understand that number until you’re flying in a plane over it. It’s so exciting!”

Kyle smiled into the collar of his shirt, and saw her looking at him with anticipation again, like a kid on Christmas who suddenly got everything she wished for. But she wasn’t a child—she was a woman, through and through, even if the unique mental aberration of her memory had given her that naiveté. Kyle suddenly realized that her innocence was born, not from a lack of experience in worldly maters, but from the same sort of imposed exile that he had experienced early on. If my father hadn’t sent me to Cedarhaven to learn, I would probably be as simple-minded and curious as she is now, he thought.

“I have an idea,” he blurted. “We still have time before we need to be at the estate, and it’s a nice day. I want to show you one of my favorite spots.”

She merely nodded, and her brown braid bounced as she gave a close-lipped smile. Her eyes were wide again, impossibly large, and Kyle wondered if she was aware of how cute she was. Probably not, he thought, which was part of her charm.

He pulled the Miata over alongside the bridge that leaned over the water. There were two bridges in Cedarhaven, but the northernmost one was rarely used since only a few houses existed. The two of them got out, and Kyle casually climbed up the railing and sat down on the flat barricade that looked over the meandering water.

Krista was a bit more careful, using both hands and scooting along on her knees until she was beside him. “I’m… afraid of heights,” she squeaked, and Kyle held out his hand for her. She took it and he was surprised at the warmth of her fingers. Small and delicate, but strong as wire. “Wow, this is beautiful. It’s so… calm.”

“I’m not much of a nature boy, not like Cameron… but this is definitely my special place. I come here to escape sometimes.”

“Escape?” she cocked her head like a puppy.

“Oh! You know… from the responsibilities of nobility. I’m sure you’ve done the same thing? It can be so burdensome, trying to keep up with all the rules and etiquette. In a way, we’re worse off than lower castes. This is where I come to empty my mind, especially when my father…” he let the thought die. “What about you? Do you have any special places you like?”

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