Anselm went away for a bit, after I told him about my visitation with the goddess. He said he needed to speak to someone and that worries me. I’ve been journaling a lot, thinking about what she said, about tangled threads and being too long away from the sea.
But my days are as pleasant as they’ve ever been though. I get up at dawn with Athena and train, and then I study history or strategy, and then I have afternoons to myself, because I don’t have to study magic. This afternoon, I found my way to the orchard. I climbed up and pulled out a book. I started to read, lost in the same fairy tales I was that day nearly a month ago when then twins came.
I heard some whistling and glanced down seeing Tristan walking through. I grinned and grabbed a lemon and tossed it at him. He laughed and looked up at me.
“This feels familiar,” he said. I nodded and climbed down. It might be Athena’s influence, but I wouldn’t even dream of my leggings and baggy old shirts anymore. “Are you here being productive, or was your only mission to pelt me with citrus?”
“I was reading,” I said, and handed him the book. He flipped through it.
“Fairy tales?” He said. I nodded. He laughed and shook his head. “You never cease to surprise me, Princess.” His eyes were holding mine, and that tiny voice in the back of my head, the one I’d been pushing so hard to ignore for so long roared forward.
I love him. There’s no escaping it, anymore, no appeals to my duty as it might be. No distant princes I’ve never met and might never meet. There’s only him. He’s the sun.
“Lisette,” I said quietly, “please. Call me Lisette.” He swallowed.
“Gods,” he whispered, and moved away from me. “I can’t do that.” I stared at him.
“Why not?” I chased after him. We reached a hill, he looked at me. “Why can’t you call me by my name?”
“Because if I let a crack in the walls,” he exhaled, “if you’re not my princess, if I’m not serving you, protecting you,” I swallowed, suddenly I understood.
“Say it,” I whispered, “please, Tristan, please it might be easier if we just,” I went to take his hands and he stepped back. “I love you.” He stared at me. “I do, I don’t quite understand it, but I’ve never felt this way about anyone and,” he stopped and looked at me.
“I love you too,” he said, “but it’s impossible.” I swallowed and looked at him. “I’m not,” he looked down, “I’m supposed to protect you, I’m suppose to be lead your army, I’m not supposed to,” I laughed a little. “What’s funny?”
“You always do exactly what you’re supposed to do, don’t you?” I whispered. He smiled.
“I used to, yes,” he said. “But since I met you, well…” I nodded and we walked a little longer this time in silence.
“Can’t you do both?” I whispered. He looked oddly at me. “Can’t you protect me while loving me?” He sighed and touched my face.
“Princess,” he said softly.
“Lisette,” I corrected him. I felt like every hair on my body stand on end as he touched me.
“Lisette,” he whispered. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t think,” I looked at him. I swallowed.
“Pretend,” I said softly, “I’m not the princess.” He laughed. “Pretend I’m Lisette, I’m an orphan that Olivia and Caleb adopted on a whim. I’m who I say I am.” He nodded. “What then?”
“Then,” he whispered, “I’d tell you that you’re not like anyone I’ve ever met before. That I spend every morning, wondering when I’m going to see you, spend every night wondering what you’re thinking of and hoping that it’s me.” He pulled me close then and I swallowed, “and that all I want in the world right now is to kiss you.”
“So kiss me,” I whispered. He smiled.
“Is that an order?” He teased. I nodded. “But you’re an orphaned farmgirl I met by coincidence. I’m nearly a captain of the royal guard, you can’t give me orders.” I giggled and couldn’t stop myself then and kissed him.
I’ve only been kissed once before, by Aaron. I was twelve. It was uninvited and neither of us liked it much. (Well, him probably because it ended with me punching him and running away, but still…) This was different. Tristan wrapping his arms around me and kissing me back was everything.
“This is all just pretend, though,” I whispered. He looked down at me and shook his head.
“No,” he said, “no, it’s real.” We kissed again and I lost my breath.