Chapter Two- Joeté

A few days after we returned, I was practicing with my bow and arrows at the targets in the field. I hit the bullseye again and sighed. This wasn’t enough to make things interesting. I needed something to get my blood pumping, something to keep me active and distracted. Distracted from all the memories and thoughts rushing through my mind, and from all that was going on around me.

 I jogged over to the exercising area and stepped up on one of the platforms. I backflipped off and landed soundly. One of the warriors came jogging up and tossed me a sword. We both got up on the platform and got ready. I tensed and then relaxed all my muscles. 

“Go.” I whispered.

Both of us walked the circle and then advanced a little. I advanced inch by inch until our swords were within reaching distance. I hit his sword with all my force and it almost flew out of his hand. He countered and pushed me back a step. Soon our blades were flashing in the sun as we hit the other’s sword repeatedly, both trying to get the most blows in. 

“Let’s change the game a little.” I laughed before lifting my leg and kicking his stomach as hard as I could. He flew off the platform and landed in the dirt a few feet away. I backed up a little, waiting to counter his next move. He bounced up quickly and ran, jumping back on the platform. I swung for his legs and he jumped to dodge them, but as he came down, I circled my leg back around the other way and tripped him. He landed on the platform loudly and smiled. He put his hands up and shook his head. 

“I give up.” He stood slowly, studying me. “You haven’t softened at all, in case you were wondering.”

“Thanks Menoa, but there is still so much I need to relearn or perfect.”

“Well, regardless, you are probably still the best in the valley, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” Suddenly the horn from the watchtower sounded. Both of us whirled around and looked up at it. The man in it was pointing to the edge of the woods. I squinted, trying to make out who it was. The only sound for a moment was our slightly labored breathing and the wind that was coming from all around us. I listened for a moment, waiting for the sound of a horn to see if the person was Antioch. Drifting faintly through the rushing wind was the sound of Joeté’s horn. I whistled quickly for my horse, Chaga, to come. As soon as she was close enough, I jumped on and galloped full speed toward the man of my dreams. I studied him, trying to see if he had changed. I mentally stopped short while still going full speed physically- there was someone with him- a girl with him. Something was wrong. I could tell he recognized me and out of the corner of my eye I could see Cat behind me, but the look on his face wasn’t happiness. It looked more like regret and sadness. He still swung out of the saddle at the same time I did before our horses had fully stopped and returned my embrace wholeheartedly. The woman on the horse looked confused. I put my hands on his face to make sure he is really there, real and alive in front of me. I clutched him, never wanting to let go.

“I can’t believe you are here. We all thought you were dead!” I covered my mouth with my hand, trying to keep myself from crying, but to no avail. Tears streamed down my face as I stepped back and watched as Catania ran straight into him, almost knocking him over. When she finally let him go, he dropped to one knee in front of Respato as we did when we first came. Then he rose and, helping the extremely confused girl off his horse, whispered something in her ear. She also dropped to one knee, although her knee didn’t quite touch the ground and it was only for a second before she turned back to him. 

“Who are these people and what is happening Joseph?” It was like an explosion had gone off right in the middle of our circle. She had an English accent and she used his alternate name. I could practically feel the tension 

“Everyone, this is Hannah Jeekis, from England.” He started off hesitantly.”My fiancé.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Fiancé? I thought that I was his fiancé. The joy I felt only moments before died in my throat. I felt my smile falter as the tears turned from joy to confusion and then stopped altogether. Catania looked from Hannah to Joeté, to me, and then back at Joeté. 

“Your what? F-f-fiance? What are you talking about?” Catania sputtered angrily. I sent her a warning look, trying to tell her not to say what I knew she was going to. I didn’t want this girl- no matter who’s fiance she was- to know about Joete and I yet. She understood and continued in a different direction. 

“You got engaged? Without telling me? Without me around? Without asking me or trying to contact me?” Her eyes filled with tears, but none fell. “Some-”

Hannah interrupted her before she could finish. “Who is this girl? What right does she have to talk to us like this?” Catania’s face turned bright red, and she looked like she was about to jump on Hannah. Her assumption that she was included in this discussion would only fuel Catania’s anger. I slowly and gently closed my hand around her wrist, ready to restrain her.

“Hannah, please just stay silent for the time being. You aren’t helping the situation.” Joeté stepped slightly in front of Hannah, glancing at my hand on Cat’s wrist. “She has a right to be angry. It may not make sense to you right now, but it will.”  

“Some brother you are.” Catania finished, glaring at him the entire time. She turned and stomped off. Joeté must have noticed the look I gave Catania before because he looked uncomfortable. 

“We are all extremely glad to have you back Joeté, even if your loving little sister doesn’t show it,” I told him, pulling Cat back quickly. I said one thing, but my tone and manner said something entirely different and he knew it. “We’ve missed you so much since you were kidnapped and taken away from us by those brutal English soldiers!” I looked pointedly from Joeté to Hannah and stared at her. 

Joeté cleared his throat and started introducing everyone. “This is my sister Catania and my best friend Antepi”- at least he acknowledged me as his best friend- “Her brother, Matthias, and… some lady I don’t know,” Matthias whispered something to him. “Matthias’s wife Hypoleta, and their daughter Sahara. My chief, Respato, and Antepi and Matthias’s niece, Senepha. That pretty much covers everyone.” He finished. I nodded coldly to him and turned, swung into my saddle, and pulled Cat up. The two of us rode swiftly to my house without looking back. 

Once we were there, Catania’s tears started flowing openly but I forced myself not to feel anything. 

“How could he do this? Get engaged when he knows he was never open to go with other people!” She rubbed her temples. “How could he do this to you?” She burst out angrily. 

“He didn’t do anything to me.” I pointed out. “He probably thought I was dead. The part that surprises me is that she is English. I feel dishonored, not because he got engaged to someone else while he was engaged to me, but because he got engaged to an English woman. Hannah Jeekis.” I shrugged. “Interesting name.” I paused and turned her name over and over in my mind. Something wasn’t right about it. “The name Jeekis also sounds familiar. Jeekis, Jeekis, Jeek- oh no, oh no, no, no. General Adam Jeekis. He- he wouldn’t dare!” I got angrier as I spoke and thought out loud. Catania crumpled into a chair as understanding dawned on her face. I stormed out of the house and down the stairs to where Joeté and Hannah were talking with Respato under Respato’s hut next to mine. His back was turned away from me. 

“Joeté!” He turned. “You wanna tell everyone who your great new fiancé is?” He cringed but didn’t answer.  “No? Then please, allow me.” I turned to Hannah swiftly. “Hannah, who is your father?” I glared at Joeté but he only sighed and looked at her pleadingly.  

“General Adam Jeekis?” She said it questioningly obviously failing to see Joeté’s looks of warning. An audible gasp spread through the crowd that was standing nearby. Joeté sighed again quietly and hung his head. 

“We aren’t dumb, Joeté. Did you really think we wouldn’t figure it out? That we wouldn’t recognize the name of the man who ruined our lives? You care so little for your people that you would betray us so blatantly and hope we didn’t notice or we wouldn’t care if we did? You are so wrong! We did notice, and we do care.” After I had made my speech, I turned and smacked Joeté as hard as I could across the face. “That was for my family.” 

Joeté came after me. “Antepi! Wait.” He grabbed my arm, forcing me to stop. I turned quickly.

“How could you?” My voice cracked and I had to lower my voice. “I was willing to accept that you got engaged again. But this? This hits a whole new level of disgust.” I turned away and sucked in a big breath. I had to keep the tears down- I had to. I ran up the steps and closed the door behind me. Leaning against it, I sank to the floor. Catania looked up at me.

“Did you give him what he deserved?” She asked quietly, her face streaked with tears.  

“Let’s just say he will have a big red, black, and blue handprint for a couple weeks. And a stinging pride.” She laughed a little as I said it.

“And the people? Do they know?” She lifted her eyebrows, her blue eyes bright and glassy.

“Everyone knows that Joeté’s beautiful, amazing new fiancé is the daughter of our biggest enemy.” 

“I just can’t believe he would- even could- do something like this! It is completely unlike him!” She said. “I barely even recognize who he is now.”

“Things change, and people change.” I sighed helplessly. “Joeté could be a completely different person than the man we used to know, and we will have to get to know this new man in front of us.” 

“How are you so okay with this? He is your fiancé, not hers! You could walk out there and claim him right now, and nobody would stop you. She would have to back off. She couldn’t stand against you when she is among so many people that would stand with you and not her.” There was a moment of silence before she spoke again. “Do you not love him anymore?” She shot the last question at me accusingly. I turned away and started making dinner. 

“I do love him. Of course I love him. But if he proposed to her in the first place, then that is his choice. I can’t change that for him. And I don’t have time for this right now. If he proposed, then that means I no longer hold that place in his heart, even if he does in mine.” I took a deep breath. “I have to keep training- in the time we were away I got out of practice.” 

“Oh no, you are not doing this! Not again! You are not pushing down your feelings and pretending you don’t care!” She sat up straight in her chair. 

“Why should I care? It’s not that big of a deal.” I shrugged and tried to make myself sound indifferent, but knew I was failing, and badly. The light coming from the doorway got dark. I turned and saw Joeté standing, leaning against the doorpost. Cat slumped back into her chair and I turned back around to continue making dinner. 

“How are my two favorite ladies today?” He asked smoothly, his usual suave attitude resumed. His guilty look from earlier was still there, but he was trying to act like nothing was wrong. The red handprint on his cheek stood out against his tan skin.

Catania snorted and glared up at him. 

“Don’t you mean your two least favorite ladies? The ones you lied to, deserted,” she started counting them off on her fingers, “got engaged while still engaged to one of them. Maybe I am wrong or crazy or something- it is entirely possible after all the time I have spent without my brother. He kind of kept me down to earth, made sure that I use logic,” she interrupted herself and pulled herself back to her main point, “anyway, from the way all that looks, it really seems like least favorite to me!” 

“Catania!” I looked at her sharply, but I when I turned away, I was trying to hide a smile. I walked over to Joeté, smiled sweetly, pushed him back, closing the door in his face. I turned back to Cat and grinned “Exactly what he deserves. A door in the face for all the times we have had to close someone else out because of lack of food. And for all the times that you had to go to bed hungry.” I laughed lightly and after she understood what I meant, she laughed too. I knew it was unfair, but he needed to know how badly he had hurt me, and how much it had affected me.

“Very funny.” We heard from outside the door. 

“Why don’t you go be with your new fiancé? I’m sure you’re dying from not  being near her every single second of every single day like you were with your last fiancé!” Catania shouted angrily. I shot a disapproving look at her, but she shrugged. We heard a sigh and then the creaking of him going down the steps. 

“Catania, just because he did this doesn’t mean that he isn’t still your brother. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you. And you can still love him- you don’t have to treat him this way.” I looked over my shoulder to judge her reaction. 

“Why are you not angry about this?” She blurted out. I turned around and looked at her, surprised. I saw the hurt look on her face, walked over, and sat on the bed that was next to her chair. 

“You think I’m not angry? That I wouldn’t give anything and everything  to be somewhere else, for him not to be here?” I threw my hands up helplessly and sighed. “I imagined thousands of ways that we would meet again. This was definitely not one of them. The truth is, I would rather he be imprisoned and in danger than be here like this right now. That sounds really morbid when you say it out loud, but you know what I mean.” She moved over in the chair and I got up and sat in it with her and put my arm around her. “I wish with all my heart that I could tell you this was some crazy nightmare that we could wake up from. I wish I could tell you that everything is the same, and that everything is going to be okay. That everything will suddenly change and everything will go back to the way that they were before the attack. But that day changed our lives forever. And we have to learn from that. We have to get stronger because of it. That doesn’t mean we will always be strong. This is one of these times that we can’t be strong enough. If I am being honest, I don’t know what God is doing right now. I don’t know why He is doing this to us. This is just His way of testing us.” I looked at her, making sure she understood that I was serious. “That doesn’t mean I like it.  That doesn’t mean I don’t wish that this was just me. I wish this was just affecting me- that you weren’t part of this horrible mess. That this wasn’t your brother we are talking about- but it is. It is and there is nothing we can do about it.” I sighed.

“So I want-” I thought for a moment- “no, I need you to act like nothing is going on. Joeté is all you’ve got left, Cat. The only family you have. I don’t want to lose your only family because of this.” I looked into her eyes, trying to show her how serious I was.

“What about Hannah? Teps, I know for a fact that there is no way I can act normal around her! She is so different. She has nothing in common with me, and she doesn’t know me. She probably didn’t even know I existed before today!” She protested, sitting up straight in her chair. She fell back into her chair and sighed. “Things were so much simpler when you two were engaged.”

I ignored her last comment. “I’m not asking you to. And for the record, you don’t know her either. She could be completely different than we are expecting. You have to give her a chance.” She raised her eyebrows skeptically and I shrugged. “Regardless, you can be as cold to her as you like! I can’t control you or tell you what to do- although I still think you should be nice to her at least until you have a solid motive. All I am asking it that you make up some other reason, like she is English or he got engaged without asking you. I really don’t care what reason you make up as to why you don’t like her. You can say that it is because of her hair color for all I care.” I laughed a little and threw up my hands. “But she can’t know about me.”

“Why not? What is so wrong with her knowing? If anything, she should know so that she knows the past of the person she is getting engaged to.”

I sighed. I didn’t necessarily know the answer myself, but this was the way that it needed to be. He would have told her by now if he wanted her to know. “Because as much as I don’t like her, adjusting to life in Antioch is hard enough without knowing that your fiance’s ex-fiance is here. That would automatically make this a competition for her. And while I would relish showing my skills and completely showing her up- she doesn’t need those type of problems. She is in a new environment and I don’t want to make this any harder for her than it already will be. The people will look down on her automatically for her nationality and for her ancestry. I don’t want to make it any worse. If I act out, then everyone else will think that it is okay to treat her badly. I know that they will stand behind me, but that is exactly what I don’t want. I want her to feel welcome, regardless of my past. I want her to feel like she has a home here. Because when they get married, she will have a permanent home here. I want her to be as comfortable as possible. And you know that I would do that for anyone. And I would hope that I taught you about politeness as well. If I imprinted nothing else on you during this past year, I would hope that I showed you that generosity is one of the greatest gifts you can have.” I paused. “Right after godliness and holiness.” I shook my head to clear my thoughts. “So please, do not tell her.” With that I got up and walked out, leaving her to get her dinner out of the pot.