A week moved so quickly I could barely take it. There were a few negotiations, a lot of planning our next step and mostly just soaking up every minute with Eric that I could.
It did not help matters that Tristan was planning his wedding and Marina and Lefty were walking around like someone died.
“It’s six months,” Eric said, “at the most.” He kissed my temple as we lay in bed. “He’s acting like we’re leaving forever.”
“Does he have to go with you?” I asked. “Maybe he could stay, if it is only going to be six months.” He sighed. “I’m worried Marina might cause a hurricane or something if she gets too depressed.” He laughed.
“No, he has to come,” he sighed, “to resign his commission if nothing else. Although I hope he doesn’t, he’s too good a sailor to give it up.” He kissed me. “I don’t want to go either, by the way, but it’s necessary. Daniel will insist.” He stood up. “Only one more tide and then we go.” I joined him and wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed my forehead into his back.
“I love you,” I said. “I can’t wait to see you again.”
The next morning we all stood on the dock, I was ready, we’d said everything there was to say. It was a strange reversal, I realized.
I’d grown so used to Marina’s calm, her ability to stay neutral in public, that seeing her in Lefty’s arms weeping as they got ready to separate while Eric quietly kissed my hand and smiled at me felt wrong. I’d expected her to break down later. But that she couldn’t control it now, was breaking my heart.
I should have let her go with them. I’d said I would, and now was going back on it, and I was relying on her seeming unending reserve of compassion to forgive me.
And I thought of the Marina of my Dreams, the shadow Brayton had conjured. That was in her too, cold, and powerful and calculating, and that Marina would be my enemy, the Marina who is drained of that goodness.
We stood together and watched them sail away, and she straightened.
“Marina,” I said gently.
“Don’t,” she whispered and turned away. “Not now, please don’t.” I nodded as she walked towards the manor. I exhaled and returned to the palace. Aaron and Athena were both waiting for me.
“I’d rather you two weren’t spending every moment haunting my steps,” I said sharply.
“To be fair,” Aaron said, “that is her job.” I laughed.
“I’m fine,” I said gently. They looked at each other. “I am. If you’ll recall I’ve been left before and that was more permanent.”
“And you took it so well!” Athena said. I looked at her. “You won’t get rid of me.”
“Fine,” I said and threw up my hands. They sat down and went back to whatever they had been doing before. “When do you leave?” I asked. Aaron looked at me indulgently.
“Lisette, I have to be there for harvest, you know that,” he said. I pouted and crossed my arms. “And I’d appreciate my wife being with me.” Athena beamed at him.
“You’re both insufferable,” I said, “my betrothed just left me, and now I’m losing you too.”
“We’ll come to Dovetail after harvest,” Athena said, “Probably about in time for your wedding.” I smiled, that felt nice to think about. “How’s Marina?”
“She didn’t want to talk to me.” I said. Athena nodded. “Maybe you could try.”
“Tristan should be the one to talk to her,” Aaron said. We looked at him. “Don’t look at me like that you know I’m right.” We frowned, he really was.
“What’s he right about?” Carolina walked in. She smiled softly. She’d settled into training, and even her small apartment in the barracks remarkably well. She’s still uneasy around me, I can’t blame her.
“Do you know where Tristan is?” Athena said. She frowned. “We’re worried about Marina, and sometimes,” she drifted off.
“Of course,” Carolina said softly, “my mother and sister are due today, he’s with your grandfather, getting the last of everything settled.” I nodded. “Did the prince get off alright?”
“He did,” I said. “When you see him,” she nodded. I realized suddenly that we understood each other. I was grateful for it. She was going to love him, I could stop worrying.