That night I opted out of dinner. I was still so angry with Annalise, and I couldn’t bear to see Tristan and everything felt wrong, when it had felt so right this morning.
I was lost enough that I did something I haven’t done in ages. I went to the small altar in my dressing room, which held three things. A portrait of my mother, a candle and a small bowl of sand from the beach at brightcoast.
I don’t know as much about this practice as I do about honoring the goddess. Because of my magic, and my education by sisters, that’s what I learned. I lit the candle, and I meditated quietly on memories of my mother and Brightcoast, but all I could do was cry.
There was a knock on the door. I stood up and wiped my eyes and walked over and opened the door. Annalise was standing on the other side, holding a plate.
“When you didn’t come down, I thought you’d be hungry,” she whispered. I nodded. She set it down on a table.
“You really shouldn’t have brought it yourself, it’s below the dignity of a queen,” I said softly.
“Not of a farmgirl though,” she said with a wink. I laughed in spite of myself. “I owe you an apology.”
“No,” I said softly, “no, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do,” she whispered, “I’ve been awful and taken you horribly for granted. You’re my family, and the only person who knows the deepest things inside of me, and I broke your heart, and let your greatest fear sleep soundly for six months.”
“You didn’t break my heart,” I said. “Tristan was very involved in that whole episode.” She nodded.
“But so was I,” she said. “You don’t have to forgive me tonight. But I needed to apologize.” I nodded, “and there’s someone else who’d like to see you.” She glanced at the door and then made her way to it. Then I sat down to eat and glanced up and saw Lefty leaning against the door. I blushed.
“I don’t think that you being in my bedroom is terribly appropriate,” I said.
“No,” he said and strolled in. “It isn’t.” I smiled as he sat with me. “A good Phanian girl would never let me into her room.”
“Good thing I’m Cammadie then,” I raised an eyebrow. He laughed. “I’m sorry I broke our date this afternoon.”
“Elodie said you weren’t feeling well,” he said. “A decent excuse, and I hope you’re feeling better.” I nodded.
“I am,” I said softly. He kissed me then, and I pulled away. “Not quite that much better.”
“No,” he shook his head. “But, the queen came up with an excellent idea. It seems this winter faire she’s obsessed with falls right at your birthday?” I laughed and nodded. “She thought you ought to plan it, something about a memory.” I smiled again.
“I like that plan,” I said, “you’ll help me? Something tells me that you’re awfully good at fun.” He smiled. “I can plan the ball, but the festival, normally that would be something that Count Aaron would do.”
“And with the Count away,” he said. I nodded.
“Maybe something you learned when you and the prince were up north?” I tried. He frowned.
“The northerners were not much for fun,” he shrugged, “hunting, but I think even you could come up with that.” I nodded. “We’ll think of something.” I smiled. “I think I’d trade the world for that smile.”
“The way you talk to me,” I said, “it’s like no one I’ve ever known.”
“I used to think my father was insane,” he smirked, “the way he talked about Aimee. Even before the king died and he was free to marry her. Like she was the moon.”
“And now?” I said, leaning on my hand.
“You flirt too well, Marina,” he said. I laughed. “Now, I think I am falling in love, and I have some understanding of that insanity.” I blushed. “I missed you tonight.”
“I’ll try not to be absent again,” I smiled.
“All right,” Prince Eric walked in. “We’ve gone far beyond the bounds of even lax Cammadie propriety,” I laughed. “Also as I’m royal and useless, I need help getting myself to bed.” I laughed and stood up. “Lady Marina.”
“Your Highness,” I said, I kissed Lefty on the cheek. “I should see to my own useless royal charge.” I crossed the sitting room into Annalise’s bedroom, she was already undressed and happily settled under the covers.
“Am I forgiven?” She said happily. I rolled my eyes.
“Yes,” I said and sat down at the edge of her bed. “A nice trick sending Eric in to break up the intimacy too.”
“Well, I remember you saying that William rushed you and it turned you off,” she shrugged. “See, I do listen to you.” I laughed. “Also, that was Eric’s idea. He’s quite invested in Lefty having a place in Cammadan, when,” she exhaled, “if, well, you know.”
“Right,” I nodded. “They’re gone now, if you’d like to send for Tristan.” She bit her bottom lip.
“No,” she whispered, “I mean, he said that he couldn’t tonight.” I nodded and left her, closing the door. I lay in bed before falling asleep and eventually heard him come in. I closed my eyes tightly and remembered that tonight someone told me he was falling in love with me.
I thought of how I am with him, how I’m able to flirt without being self conscious, how when he smiles it’s like someone turned on a light, how I spend every moment that he’s in a room trying to glimpse his eyes, and how safe I felt in his arms.
If this is love, I’ll take as much of it as I can.