Unwanted and Unloved
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Content Warning: This chapter will talk about suicide and depression, and some very serious mental health issues. 

 

Anayla’s POV:

 

The Blackheart Duchy was one of the most unique situations in the entire Kingdom. Their family was unusually close to each other. In fact, even though the oldest were twin brothers, they didn’t even have a fight over succession rights. Each of the twins was willing to give up succession rights to the other. Although that may be because they both enjoyed the battlefield far more than a stuffy office. Anayla sighed. Soon, it’ll all be over

 

However, she noticed something peculiar about the Blackheart Duchy. Despite having record low taxes, they were somehow able to spend egregious amounts every year. Carriages, social programs, buildings, monuments, equipment for soldiers, somehow they could afford it all even though they only had a 10% flat tax on their citizens. Although that may sound like much, some nobility taxed their citizens as high as 60%. The Lupierze Duchy has a rather low 30% but that was only managed through horrific spending cuts on the Duchy itself. 

 

So how? How can they afford so much with such little taxation? The brothers are almost constantly on the battlefield so how? It was after digging around that she noticed the third brother. She almost scolded herself for her own stupidity. How can you miss an entire person among the lines of succession? But as she dug even deeper, she noticed that Raven’s presence was so far removed from the Duchy that even if you were to ask some of the Blackheart Duchy servants if he existed, they would deny it. He never attended parties, was almost rarely ever seen outside (the Blackhearts had a rather distinct appearance with their purple eyes and massive frames), and even the older brothers hardly mentioned him. At first she had thought that it was because of a family dispute, perhaps there was a strong hatred between the twins and the youngest. 

 

However, Anayla’s instincts were telling her something was off. Raven’s personal and social life turned up dry, but that didn’t mean there weren’t other ways to get information. Her curiosity got the better of her and she secretly began looking into the shops and mining ventures of the Blackheart Duchy. The first thing she noticed was that there were multiple chains of stores. Farron’s Clothing, a popular clothing store among commoners had almost 250 different shops scattered around. There were multiple very popular restaurants with different names, yet all of them had nearly identical menus, and the quality of the ingredients was almost identical (she had had a few servants test them and report back to her). In fact, the Blackheart Duchy had the largest array of stores and shops for commoners she had ever seen. When she had her servants question the on-duty managers and wait-staff at the store, almost none of them knew who the actual owners of the stores were. 

 

For the most part, she had pieced it together, Raven Blackheart was the one managing the finances of the Duchy. He was the shadow owner of these stores and her perfect candidate. 

 

See, Anayla was not looking for a husband because she was having difficulties managing the Duchy or because she was on the verge of being labeled a spinstress. No, she was looking for a husband because she was tired. Sick and tired of being alive.  

 

For almost her entire life, she had been the odd one out. Her parent’s barely ever talked to her. In fact, she could count the number of conversations she had with them on one hand.

Her brother and sister would torture her. Mocking her relentlessly, pulling on her hair, spilling stuff on her dresses. “Freak! Look at the freak! She’s crying. EWWW.” They were delighted by her suffering. Her parents did nothing to stop it. While her brother and sister would go out on family vacations and such, she would be left behind. She was not stupid, she could tell from the love and attention her siblings received that that would have been her had she not looked like this. It was especially bad on birthdays, when she would watch them get showered with gifts and get thrown the most luxurious parties. She wasn’t even allowed to attend them.

 

 “You can have one next time.” They always told her that, but she knew it would never happen. Why would they want her staining their image of the perfect family? After all, how would it look if a family of copper skin and dark black eyes went around a Kingdom filled with people with brown skin and brown eyes touting a girl that looked like her. In fact, the reason she didn’t die with the rest of her family was because they left her behind. They had headed out in the morning before she had even woken. It would be a lie to say she was used to the emptiness. No matter how many times they left her she still felt it, that sting when she knew she wasn’t wanted. When they died that day, Anayla rejoiced. 

 

Finally, she could explore outside the manor. She could be the one who traveled through the Duchy visiting her people. She had been so hopeful. Of course, she had made sure to fake crying during the funeral. What a joke that was. She had believed that her parents hid her because she didn’t look like them. But that wasn’t it. It was close, but that wasn’t it. It was because no one looked like her. And when people see something they don't understand, they shun it. The same looks her parents had given her, her own people gave her. Merchantmen to ordinary housewives, they all looked at her with the same eyes. Freak. It didn’t matter that she cut their taxes in half, or gave out generous social benefits, or paid out of the Duchies pockets to clean their streets and garbage. No matter what she did they wouldn’t love her. To them, she was just an anomaly. Her own servants would refuse to touch her or bathe her. They thought she was contagious. She spent her nights alone, ate alone in her room, did her work in an office by herself, and then went back to sleep. Her entire life, she had just been scorned, and now she was willingly dedicating it to people who hated her, paying people who didn’t even want to touch her. She couldn’t sleep. Her hair was always messy since the servants didn’t want to come close enough to her to comb it. She bathed in a small wooden tub with old soap and water she fetched herself. 

 

She had long ago stopped feeling sad. Instead she just felt empty. Why did she have to stay in a world that clearly didn’t want her? Why did she have to work day in and day out, staring at budget reports and political issues when all she got for it were stares and jeers. Why did she have to pay servants who wouldn’t even notice if she starved to death alone in her room? Why did she have to pay knights that wouldn’t even look at her, much less protect her? Why did she have to be so, so lonely? There were days when the loneliness would rise up to her throat like bile, making it hard to breathe. She would hyperventilate, clutching at her chest as her heart constricted from the pain. She would bang her head down on the desk and cry, her tears soaking through the papers. But she would always get up and power through

 

Every time she woke up she would regret the fact she didn’t die in her sleep. Every time she ate, she would regret the fact it wasn’t poisoned. Everytime she bathed, she did so in the dark, unable to stomach seeing her reflection in the water. In fact the Duchess’s room had all of the mirrors removed because of her aversion to her own appearance. When she fell ill from exhaustion and stress, she would pray the disease would kill her. When it rained she prayed that lightning would strike her. She knew she was pathetic. A stronger person would power through and would make her people love her, but she couldn’t. The only reason she hadn’t ended her miserable life already was because she couldn’t abandon the Duchy. As much as it hated her, it was still her home. She had to give it a proper successor. One that wouldn’t be such a disappointment to everyone. 

 

And that was where her scheme came in. She would send a marriage proposal to Raven Blackheart. If he refused, she would request he become her fiance regardless, and break off the contract later. She could make up some bullshit excuse, “... to get the advisors of the Lupierze Duchy from pestering me.” Of course it was a lie. The advisors that had supported her parents so confidently had abandoned her without hesitation saying “With you as the Duchess, the Lupierze is no more.” She had already stipulated in her will that if she were to die, “My fiance/husband will become the head of the Lupierze Duchy”. Whether or not he wanted to rule was not her concern. She had been forced into this misery without a choice. 20 years of it, of scorn, of hate, was it so wrong to force someone else into misery? After he signed, she would end it all.

 

The Blackheart main manor gave off quite a good impression. Neatly trimmed lawn, with various sculptures. Their manor was beautiful, with wide columns and heavy ceilings. Beautiful stained glass windows and countless gazebos decorated the wide open lawn. The floor was clean and elegant, and dozens of portraits of the Blackheart family lined the walls. She felt her already low self-esteem crumble a little as she couldn’t help but compare it to the Lupierze manor. 

 

This was the state of mind she had as she walked into the parlor room. Raven Blackheart. I wonder what kind of man you are. Even though she had thought she had closed off her heart long ago, she still felt a little bit of hope. Maybe he is different. Maybe he won’t be afraid. She knew it was stupid. She had already met many different nobles, all of them were the same. Some were even frightened of her. Honestly it was funny. From being scorned to being feared, but it hurt just the same. 

 

As she walked into the parlor room, she saw him. Dark black hair with lightly browned skin. Beautiful iridescent purple eyes. She felt herself wanting to look away. I wish my eyes were that beautiful. She shook herself mentally. I came here on a mission. Do not fail. She continued observing him. A tall, muscular figure, cloaked in a well fitting purple suit. He was handsome, and in the darkest corner of her heart, she was glad she wore her black dress, even if she had forced the servants to put it on her. She saw him look up at her with an unreadable expression. Smiling, she introduced herself, “Thank you for the consideration. I prefer conversations in absolute privacy. Pleasure to meet you Raven Blackheart. I am Anayla Lupierze, the Duchess of Lupierze.” Silence, he just stared at her with that same unreadable expression. She tilted her head, waiting for him to say something.

 

“Yes, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you Duchess Lupierze. Forgive me for my previous rudeness, I was merely surprised.” Although his voice was low and gravel, Anayla felt her attraction to him wither. Ah, he was just surprised. That was just polite speak for ‘I was shocked you looked like that.’ She felt her heart squeeze as the hope she previously had rotted and died. 

 

As if realizing his mistake, “No that’s not what I-” Anayla just waved him off. It truly shouldn’t have been offensive. She was already used to this kind of treatment. 

 

“No, it’s quite alright. I’m used to the staring. Anyway, regarding my presence here I-” Anayla tried to get straight to the point but Raven cut her off with a shout. 

 

“No!” Anayla flinched from the surprise. Obviously noticing her discomfort, he continued in a quieter voice. “No, not at all. I don’t think you look strange. In fact, I think you’re beautiful.” Anayla could feel her cheeks redden. Her first compliment. So this is what flattery is like. No wonder the other nobles like it so much. Still, he didn’t need to try so hard, she was already ready to give him the position. 

 

“I…um thank you, but flattery is not-” 

 

“It’s not flattery!” He shouted again but this time leaning forward. His purple eyes glew with passion. Quieting down again, “It’s not flattery, you are really beautiful. Your skin is like snow, so pure white and pristine. It’s nothing like what people say. And your eyes, they glisten like rubies. I can’t even imagine how stupid the person who said they looked like blood was.” He began raising his voice as he went on a passionate spiel. “I could stare at them for eternity. And your hair looks like God himself grabbed moonlight and blessed you with it. You…” He stammered off before delivering a finishing blow, “I’ve… I’ve never seen a woman as beautiful as you before.”

 

Anayla could feel blood rushing up to her face. Her face and ears felt like they were burning. “Hah…uh…um…I don’t…” after letting out a few disgraceful sounds. She hid her face behind her hands. Her brain was short circuiting, and she could barely form a cohesive thought as a giddy mixture of delight and shock overwhelmed her. She couldn’t help it. She had received her first compliment only moments before and now he was willingly closing the distance between them and spilling out all kinds of compliments! What was she supposed to do? 

 

Trying to control her raging blush, she took a few deep breaths and peaked out from behind her hands to see Raven hunched over in pain. “A-are you ok?” 

 

“Ah, yes I’m perfectly fine.” He let out a low groan and straightened up after fiddling with his pants for a few seconds. 

 

“Are you sure?” She said leaning over with her hand stretched out in concern. 

 

“Of course. I’m perfectly alright. No need to be concerned.” He gave a friendly smile, and gently held her hand before giving it back to her. He touched me without even flinching away or making a disgusted face… Anayla could feel hope a hundred times stronger than before. He really is different…

 

“A-anyway, regarding the reason I’m here, I hope you forgive my abrupt visit. The E-elders of the Duchy are…” Oh my god I forgot what excuse I was going to give. In her heart she cursed Raven. Damn you for making me like this. “I- uh, regardless. I had a few issues I needed to deal with and came to see you regarding the matter-.” 

 

“I accept.”

 

“P-pardon?”

 

“I said I’ll accept the proposal.”

 

“But it’s only been a few-”

 

“I accept” Anayla stared at him with a mixture of shock and confusion. Was he really so eager for power that he could compliment her so easily and accept marrying her? How could he stomach his disgust so easily? She could feel her heart fluttering as she desperately tried to regain her composure. Finally she let out a dumb “Ah, is that so.” and left. Forget being rude, the conversation had so many turns and ‘firsts’ for her that she was basically shell shocked. 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

When she had gotten back after the week-long journey she collapsed onto her bed and ran through that day’s events. Their meeting was short, yet she was still thinking, no, obsessing over it. For the first time in her life someone had looked at her without disgust. He had kindly held her hand. He showered her with compliments. She rolled around on her bed, conflicted. Could she really end it now, when she had finally met someone like him? If only he hated me, it would have been so much easier. She lay still on her bed, gazing at the ceiling as she quietly fingered her wrist, imagining the blade she hid beneath her bed drawing across it. She did this regularly, and today was supposed to be the day her dream came to fruition, yet she was hesitating. Every time she reached for the knife, Raven’s passionate compliments rang through her head, his eyes, not filled with disgust, but passion, as they gazed at her. Do I really deserve this kind of hope? She knew that the longer she delayed the harder it would get to follow through.

 

She let out another sigh and hid the knife back under her bed, before turning off the light in the room and curling up under her covers. For the first time in a long time, she slept soundly. 

One Month Later

 

Today was the day that Raven was coming to visit. He had sent a message around two weeks ago that he was interested in coming to see her in order to talk about the details of the wedding. It was rather obvious then that Anayla had spent the last two weeks a nervous wreck. She had gone to bed looking forward to waking up. She had a light jump in her step. Her smile was infectious. She could barely sit still and was constantly tapping her feet or hands. She looked like a child on their birthday. 

 

She smiled shyly as her face began to heat up. In a few hours she would get to see Raven again. Will he compliment me? Even the mere thought of a compliment from him sent her heartbeat racing and blood to her face. She held up a beautiful red dress in front of the mirror she had specially requested. Although she was afraid of having to force the servants into dressing her again, she was absolutely going to go through with it. Even if he didn’t compliment her, or even glance at her, she wanted to look her best for him. 

 

As she quietly admired the dress, she noticed the face in the mirror beginning to warp. She looked away, praying it was just a trick of the light. No, no! Not again! I don’t want to see you again. She hurriedly tried to break the mirror but it was too late. 

 

‘Hah,’ the face in the mirror scoffed at her. ‘Really, how pathetic. Did you really think a pretty dress could make up for your hideousness? Face it, he only wants you for the position.’ 

 

“No, no. No, that's a lie.” Anayla said, her voice quivering. Why? Why couldn’t I have one day to be happy, one day to fool myself into believing that someone wanted to see me? She could feel despair and fear raging through her heart. 

 

‘Happiness? Do you seriously think you deserve happiness? No, even before that, do you think Raven seriously cares about you? He’s probably just faking it anyway. Look at you. You’re a freak. You don’t deserve love. You’re better off dead.’

 

Anayla bit her lip and looked at the ground away from the face, struggling to hide the tears in her eyes. She wouldn’t respond. She didn’t care if Raven hated her deep down. If he just gave her one more compliment it was worth it. 

 

‘Look at me. Anayla, LOOK AT ME!’ The face in the mirror was screaming at her. ‘Let me show you what’s really going to happen.’ The reflection in the mirror began to distort into a beautiful wedding. It was her, in a white wedding dress, and Raven. An unrecognizable expression was on her face, and she looked as if she was laughing. They had tied the knot. They were celebrating. Yet Anayla’s heart began to fill with dread, it was always like this. As she watched, the happy vision began distorting again. 

 

“No! No, I don't want to see it!” She tried to look away but no matter how she turned her head the mirror stayed in front of her, showing her the ugly truth of her future. She closed her eyes and held her hands over her ears, tears now freely flowing down her face. Instead of dampening the pain, she became fully immersed in the vision, she was staring up at her parents, lying on the ground holding her face.

 

Her father spit on her. Did you really think I gave a damn about you? How stupid.” She could feel her mother’s disgusted gaze boring into her. Anayla clutched her head and began praying, sobs shaking her whole body. Her lips trembled as she looked back down at the ground. “Please,” her voice shaking, “please just let me be happy.” 

 

She felt a hand grab her by her hair and yank her up. It was no longer her Father’s face, but a twisted amalgamation of her parents and her siblings. It was everyone, from the merchants who were afraid to talk to her to the servants who refused to touch her. Anayla struggled in vain trying to pry the hand off her hair as she gazed into the eyes of a world that never wanted her.

 

“Nobody,” the twisted distortion spoke, “will ever love you. Nobody.” The face began to morph,  the eyes becoming that beautiful iridescent purple. It was Raven. He leaned in until his mouth was right next to her ear. She could feel him grinning. “Nobody will ever love you.” He repeated, his smile growing bigger. This time as a whisper: “Not even me”

 

Anayla collapsed to the ground as she snapped back to reality, her dress falling beside her. Nobody will ever love me. She repeated to herself as she lay on the ground in a fetal position. Nobody, Raven’s face appeared in her mind again. Not even you. She stood up and brushed herself off and wiped the tears off her face. It was time to end these stupid delusions. She strode over to the bed and grabbed the knife. She closed her eyes and held the blade to her wrist. The cold metal began leaching the warmth from her hand. Before she made the cut, a single thought flashed through her mind. Why is it so hard to be happy? 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

Blood, everywhere. Screaming and shouting filtered in through her ears as she lay collapsed next to the knife. She could feel as her consciousness began slipping away. It’s so loud. She could feel someone kneeling down beside her and attending to her wrist. At least someone noticed… She turned her head with much difficulty to look up at the person beside her. Purple eyes. He didn’t notice her gaze as he was busily wrapping her wrist up with a scrap of cloth he ripped from his shirt. Aw what shame, he tore his clothing up. As she lay on the ground, her mind foggy, the hollowness in her heart finally eased. So this is what it’s like when someone cares about you. She weakly lifted up her hand and gently cupped his cheek. She could feel his eyes make contact with hers. He looks afraid. With a weak smile and a voice so quiet it could barely be heard: “Sorry about the blood.” 

 

 

Author’s Note: As I was writing Anayla, I wanted to make her real. Not real as in a real character but someone whose circumstances actively forge their character. At first, I was like I'll only make her slightly pitiable. And then I was like, does 20 years of verbal abuse and neglect only lead to a 'slightly pitiable' person? And then I trauma dumped. So tadah! Here's our new mentally unstable (yet still adorable) female lead!

P.S. Please do not misunderstand this as the glorification of mental health issues in lieu of romance. These issues are very serious and if you find yourself dealing with similar thoughts on your self-worth please call the suicide prevention hot line. The only reason I wrote like this was because 20 years of trauma leaves deep scars.  

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