Weeks went by and Sela found that she enjoyed the company of this illusive, charismatic man who she defiantly called “Ben.” Although it seemed to be reciprocal, Sela suspected that he was most likely an Übermensch: someone who feels so superior that they are bound by neither law nor morality.
After they dined, they stood on the veranda and Sela watched as Ben overlooked his vast empire. They spoke only of the meals and occasionally, the stars. There was no touching, no lengthy glances and the quest for each other’s identity seem to have faded into the background, at least for now.
They were once interrupted by Earl, who had apologies with an urgent message. When Ben excused himself, Sela could hear words like “product and delivery.” After thinking she heard Ben raise his voice and say the word “Sycophant,” she never saw Earl again.
Earl had not been one to “get to know,” and it was as if Ben had just changed a floral arrangement in the foyer. It was of no concern to Sela, as it had been with Roy. She had free reign of the mansion and didn’t need to be “watched” anymore.
Still, she wondered what happened to Roy and she was worried and she knew something.
Roy had, in strict confidence, told her that the King had once been on trial for murder. He hadn’t offered details and Sela hadn’t asked but quietly wondered if that was the reason for his isolation from the world. She also wondered if it was true. Roy was enamored with her and possibly by telling her that secret, it might make him look more like a knight in shining armor.
Ben was charming, a good conversationalist and Sela was surprised with how she looked forward to spending time with him…but was it true? Was he a murderer? Or was he just accused of murder and was found to be innocent? He didn’t look like a murderer but what did a murderer look like?
Sela had obvious bouts with depression. She still craved the idea of escaping the confines of the mansion. Sometimes she would cry uncontrollably. As she sobbed, Ben would stand beside her but offered no hug or even a hand on her shoulder. He knew why she was crying. She wanted to know who she really was and more importantly, why no one had ever come for her or even looked for her.
Ben was uncharacteristically compassionate when he told her that maybe she found her way to him because it was meant to be. He smiled and in an almost protective way, said “you could have suffered a far worse fate.”
Although Sela smiled, she hadn’t forgotten how she had been found and how long it took to recover. “A far worse fate?” How much worse could it have been?” she thought.
She didn’t know that she was still under suspicion. The things Sela mourned for were the things that had become an obsession for the King. He was good at placating her vulnerability but his ulterior motives were always on the surface. He didn’t believe in coincidence as he had almost playfully suggested to Sela.
Months went by and the games and mutual manipulation continued, with each thinking they were holding the winning hand.
They grew closer and they were both excellent thespians but for Sela, it was becoming more and more difficult to resist this man of absolute, near perfection. When he took her hand one night, they locked eyes and almost embraced.
Sela pulled away and said “we can’t do this. I have to know if I belong to someone. I feel like I belong to someone. Don’t you see? If we begin a relationship, I would feel a sense of betrayal until I know for certain, that I don’t belong to someone. Please understand.
He leaned over and whispered in her ear, “I understand.” Sela smiled and said “thank you.”
Unbeknownst to her, he had played every card, called in every chip, made every threat, made every offer that couldn’t be refused, and money had flowed like a rapid stream until one day, his efforts paid off. It had taken more than two years but through a source called the “chameleon,” the King discovered exactly who Sela was.
The next night as they dined, the King looked at Sela and said “I have something to tell you.” Sela timidly asked “what?”
Looking for the slightest expression of surprise or fear in Sela’s eyes, he took her hand and said “I know who you are.”
To be continued_____________