Winter – Chapter 16 – 01

                Aoife held the blanket lightly around her shoulders as she perched on the lodge’s porch rail, watching the sun go down over the trees.  The chill in the air was the familiar breath of winter, not the sunny, smoky feeling of autumn.
                It’s too early for that.  Too early for winter.
                Too early for a lot of things.
                Too late for others.
                The floorboards creaked behind her.  Her fingers tightened around the edges of the blanket.
                I’m not ready for this.  I can’t do this.
                I have to.  Be gentle, but be firm.  This can’t keep going the way it is.  Something has to change.  You have to tell him.
                You don’t have any choices left.
                “Supper’s ready,” Gray said softly from behind her.  “Kes said you haven’t eaten all day.  Not going to let you get away with that.”
                “Just not hungry,” she said, staring out at the trees.  Why couldn’t you all let me leave when I said I wanted to?  This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.  I’m not supposed to feel what I feel.
                This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.
                Gray leaned against the rail next to her.  “You’re not, huh?”
                She shook her head.  “No.  Not at all.”
                “Are you in pain?”
                Yes.  The pain wasn’t the physical kind, though.  That, at least, had faded.  “No.  I’m just not hungry, Gray.”
                “You have to eat,” he said firmly.  “If you don’t, you’re just going to get sick again.”
                A shiver wracked her and she touched the mostly-healed wound in her side.  It had taken too long to mend.  She’d been too weak.  Then the shock of Phelan…
                She closed her eyes.  He’s fine.  He must be.  He’s strong.  He’ll be safe.  Doesn’t matter where Teague sent him or what he got asked to do.  Everything will be fine.
                The tears still came.  Tears she didn’t want Gray to see.
                His arm closed around her shoulders and she squeezed her eyes more tightly shut, bowing her head.
                “This is a mistake,” she whispered.  “You can’t be in love with me.”
                He stiffened slightly.  It was the first time she’d been able to say the words and it made her feel like she’d just ripped her own heart in half.
                Gods and monsters.  This shouldn’t be happening.
                “Why not?” he asked.
                “Because I was sent to find someone else.”
                Gray’s fingers, impossibly gentle, tucked under her chin.  He gently guided it up, turned her face toward his.  “Open your eyes, Aoife.”
                The sound of her name on his lips made her shiver.  She almost didn’t dare look at him.
                But she did.
                Gray brushed a tear from her cheek with his thumb.  “Does it matter?  Can’t we change our fates?  Make our own choices?”
                She felt tiny and too young, too fragile as she stared into his eyes, saw the concern, love, devotion rising and falling like the tides.
                “What if it’s the wrong choice?” she whispered.  “What if it ruins everything?”
                “What would it ruin?”  Gray asked.
                “The future,” she said, her voice tiny.  “The king.  The kingdom to come.  Everything.”
                His brows knit.  “Then I would say that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be the way you think it was.”  His thumb brushed along her cheek again, carrying away another tear.  She felt a chill, then warmth.  No one had ever touched her that way, made her feel the way he did.  It was terrifying and comforting all at once.
                “You wouldn’t have been brought here if you weren’t meant to choose your own fate andmake your own choices, Aoife,” he said softly.  “Follow your heart.”
                He sounds like Mairéad did all those years ago.  Mairéad, Teague’s first love.  Mairéad, who he’d had given his life and his crown for.
                Mairéad, dead for thousands of years, drowned in a tarn as her grandson watched.  Phelan had been too late to save her.
                Will you be too late again, big brother?  Or is it already too late for us all?
                “What if I’m wrong, Gray?  What if we’re wrong?”
                A shrug.  “We’ll find out sooner or later.  Will you come in, please?  Eat something.  All of us will feel better if you eat something.  You’ve got to be starving.”  His palm skated along the side of her face, tender, concerned.
                She leaned into his chest and started to weep without knowing why.
                He gathered her into his arms and held her as the sun went down and the ghosts began to whisper in the trees.  It was a night for spirits and shadows, secrets, dreams.
                The ways between the worlds were thin that eve, and that left more than enough room to let old, dead hopes in.
                Hope that she’d promised herself she’d never dare to feel again.
                Gods and monsters, she thought as she pressed her face against the soft flannel of Gray’s shirt.  Am I ever in trouble now.
                With his arms tight around her, she decided she didn’t care.

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This entry was posted in Book 2 and 3, Chapter 16, Story, Winter, Year One. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Winter – Chapter 16 – 01

  1. Stephan says:

    Another great opening to another chapter; great writing!!

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