While you may see "an older single," I see something different.

She walks the long, high-ceilinged corridor. She looks to the right and to the left; her pace is steady even when she retraces her steps. Her gaze is determined, even when her eyebrows rise in intrigue or when she gasps in delight or fright at the scenes she encounters. She’s been walking for a while, but she shows no signs of faltering or even of weariness. She passes through many corridors, enters into different rooms, ascends and descends staircases, turns and then turns again. She hears the faint voices and laughter of those already seated and enjoying their bountiful repast, royally prepared and served. They didn’t find the way there themselves. A servant had accompanied them there upon their arrival here, the king’s palace.

Ah, the king’s palace. From the age of eighteen, they begin lining up to enter. Many dream of this day for years beforehand and prepare extensively; for others, it seems this day took them completely by surprise. Either way, there’s no way to know who will be led straight to a room and who will be taken on a walk before being allowed to settle at last. Some push and whine in desperate attempts to be guided first, but the servants seem to have their own method of deciding, as they calmly select and direct, not paying attention to behavior or dress.

She had also wanted to be first, long ago. Among other reasons and feelings, it had beckoned as the most secure of options. She hadn’t even entertained the thought that she wouldn’t be seated immediately, or at least very quickly upon arrival. She had heard of those “walkers,” but they were an odd part of society—inside the palace but not yet positioned—and she didn’t know how to place them, so she sort of dismissed them from her reality. Now she herself is a walker, and she can’t understand how she had never recognized this absolutely beautiful existence. Nobody understands why she says it’s a beautiful existence, and even her fellow walkers dismiss her, often with anger.

It’s beautiful because she knows the king is overseeing her steps. While he had commanded his servants to escort the others quickly to their destinations, for some reason he wanted her walking. And that excites her. Sure, it’s draining, lonely and at times frightening because hey, she doesn’t SEE the king—but she knows he’s aware of every step of her journey. How is she so sure? Because it’s the king’s palace! Nobody wanders aimlessly in the palace of the king! The king controls who enters and who exits and everything that happens in between. Everyone has a purpose and a destination. If the king is watching her walk and he doesn’t intervene, that means he wants it that way. From time to time, a servant will appear and hand her some royal provisions or offer a kind word. She thanks him and the king in the same breath. After all, the servant is but the arm of the king.

Why does he want her to walk? She does not know. At first it had made her sad and confused. Does she not deserve to sit? But that couldn’t be it; everyone knows that sitting has nothing to do with worthiness. Was she possibly so unimportant that she had been forgotten about? No, in the eyes of the king, the differences in status were minor, even non-existent. Was she simply not destined to ever sit? That’s silly, of course she will sit, but for some reason, she was chosen to be seated later. She does not know the reason, but she does know that the king chose this. This realization spreads a warm blanket of comfort over her, and the gentle yet secure embrace gets stronger every time she revisits that conclusion. But she generally doesn’t have much time for those thoughts. She’s occupied, rather, with walking.

Oh, and what glorious discoveries she encounters as she walks! Every sense of hers is repeatedly thrilled and gratified with the exotic and luscious sights, sounds, smells and feels. Over the hum of those reclining in contentment, she marvels at her luck. Soon, she too will be seated. But now she is absorbed in the antiquities and opulence of the palace of the king. She sees paintings, crowns, furs, swords, coins, birds, chains and jewels. She strolls through the garden, reads through the library and converses with the royal staff. She begins to get a glimpse of the inner life of the king. History fuses with the future to deliver a most tantalizing present to her, as per the king's indirect yet explicit command. Each encounter changes her just a bit inside, where it really counts. She gets a little wiser in the rooms, just a tad more humble in the corridors, and a smidgen more confident as she climbs. Her emotions get straightened out as she turns corners, and when she falls down the steps, she is pleased to see the effect that the palace has had on her. She now gracefully rises, suddenly so similar to a princess, and seeks out a solution so that no one—she as well as others—shall fall again. She calls out her gratitude to the king, unsure of his location but certain he is within earshot. She is well aware that it is solely her extended time in his palace that has enabled her to so seamlessly transform failure to far-reaching success.

Her face radiates with understanding. This wasn't chance; this had been the plan of the king from the start. Not wanting her to be satisfied with merely sitting, he mindfully had her walk the palace in hopes that she would contemplate and absorb her surroundings until she discovered the soul behind it all. And thus empowered, she would reveal that soul by transforming darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness.

She still doesn't know why she was chosen to walk the palace while others were left to sit, without this privilege. She bursts with gratitude and her walk spills over with love, leaving droplets of joy in her trail. She smiles at the distant sounds of gladness. She is happy they have found peace in the palace of the king. She, too, has found peace in the palace of the king—for she has found the king himself.

Dedicated to M.U.M. and C.S., for turning on the palace lights for me .