Chapter Sixteen- Wanepi’s News

Before we get to the chapter, I wanted to quickly slip in today’s countdown verse! It’s a short one- that really doesn’t make any sense without context- but still good!

Matthew 1:22

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Now onto today’s chapter:

Several weeks later, I was healing fine. My leg had completely healed and I almost never walked with a limp, except when I was very tired. My arm still hurt, but Mica said that it could be that way for a long time. 

I was walking to dinner with Joeté and Hannah when a horse and rider came galloping into the valley. The crest on his saddlebags indicated he had been sent by the king. I ran up to him as he pulled his horse to a sharp stop. 

“What happened? What does the king need?” I asked quickly. The man unrolled the scroll in his hands. A scroll? Philippe never sent scrolls. 

“King Philippe I hereby invites the whole family of his fiance to his union with Wanepi Teviana Perivia Anyama Antioch in three days time. On the morning of October Fourth, 1803, King Philippe Louis The First will be joined in marriage to Wanepi Teviana Perivia Anyama Antioch. They have requested that Matthias and his wife and daughter, Titro and his wife and son, Antepi, Renaglo and his daughter as well as Joeté attend the wedding. Catania, Joeté’s younger sister is also welcome. 

Signed, 

King Philippe Augustus The First and Wanepi of Antioch”

“They are getting married finally?” I smiled and I could see Joeté smile out of the corner of my eye. We had been waiting for this day for so long. Finally, Wanepi would get to marry him. 

I looked at Joeté but he was looking at Hannah, whose face was a mixture of happiness, confusion, and disappointment. I looked down. 

“I’m sorry, I got a little ahead of myself.” I turned to the messenger. “Rest a little while and then return to the Capital to tell the king that we would all be thrilled to come to the wedding, with maybe a few additions. We will leave tomorrow at noon.” Hannah looked up at me and smiled. “Just this once I think it will be alright.” I smiled back at her. Joeté nodded at me gratefully. I nodded back.

“Hannah, why don’t you go tell the others to get ready to leave tomorrow. I need to talk to Joeté about something.” I said. 

Hannah nodded and ran to Matthias’s hut and Joeté turned to face me. 

“What is it?” He asked, clearly confused. Things had been a bit tense between the two of us. We had only talked once or twice since the battle. I had been trying to stay as far away from him as possible, though it was difficult in a tight knit community. 

“It’s Catania. I am not sure that she should come to the wedding with us.”

“What do you mean? She will want to come, and I don’t see why she shouldn’t. They put her on  the invitation.”

“Because Joeté,” I looked around, exasperated, “Respato is there. And I know that if she goes, she will find some way to see him. I don’t think that right now is a good time for that. It will either upset her to see him in prison, make her more angry with us, or both. Neither of us want that.” He nodded slowly. 

“She isn’t going to be happy about it. She will protest.” 

“I know, but it is going to protect her, and help her. Later on she will realize that it was for the best. She won’t realize it until much later on in life, but it is for the best. She may feel hurt now, but in the end, it will help her more than hurt her. I don’t see any other way to make her get over him.” 

“I don’t want to, but I agree. She has done nothing but sulk ever since the battle. I don’t want to have to do this, especially because it is Wanepi’s wedding, but it is a choice that I think we have to make. We might have to make things worse to make things better.” We both nodded and went to the hut that Catania and Joeté shared. 

She sat in a chair, staring off into space. When we walked in she looked up at us, then started ignoring us again. We both sat down on either side of her. 

“Cat, can you listen to me for a moment?” She turned toward me as I spoke. “I need you to check on one of the prisoners this week. I need you to see him everyday. He is one of the men that I fought during the battle. He is a French- Englishman named Tyler Morran. He was willing to talk to us. I talked with him a few weeks ago and he said that he would be interested in becoming an Antioch warrior. He is skilled and knows what he is doing with any weapon. I need you to determine his level of difficulty on each set of skills. Weapons, riding, and hand to hand fighting. Can you do that for me?” When she looked away Joeté looked at me with confusion. I shrugged and mouthed ‘I had to think of something’. Catania nodded. 

“I can do it. I need something to take my mind off things.” 

“Thank you Catania.” Joeté said soothingly. “We need more men to build ourselves up and recover from the attack.” The two of us stood up and Catania leaned back in her chair again, ignoring us yet again. 

I sighed. This wasn’t Catania. Catania was happy and bouncy- not sad and listless.

Once we were outside Joeté let out a loud breath.

“She hasn’t been the same. She sits like that almost all the time except when someone that she actually wants to talk to comes. That excludes you and I.” 

“It’s her choice. If shutting us out is how she is going to deal with it- that is just going to have to be how it is. But now, we have a wedding to prepare for!”

 I grabbed his arm and pulled him towards Matthias’s hut. Inside everything was excitement as everyone rushed around and talked about how happy they were. For the first time in a while, we had something happy to look forward to rather than something daunting and dangerous. 

Titro, Gracia, and Pasha were all grabbing their things and heading back to their hut to get ready. 

Hannah was standing in the middle of the chaos, excitement clearly visible on her face. She had started living in the spare room of Matthias and Leta’s hut. She ran inside the room and you could hear her grabbing clothes and stuffing them in her bag. 

I yelled a quick goodbye and rushed down the steps. Senepha came running after me, Renaglo not far behind. Her clothes were still in my hut and Rengalo had been staying in my back room. The three of us ran as fast as we could to my hut. We all grabbed our bags and stuffed clothes and accessories and necessities inside. I grabbed my mother’s diary and my father’s journal that I had been reading in the time when I wasn’t allowed out of my bed. I stuffed them into my bag and pushed them to the bottom. I lifted my bag and carried it into the kitchen. I set it on the table and stepped into Senie’s room. 

“How’s it going? You almost done?” I asked. She giggled. 

“How much do I need to bring? I need to bring my prettiest dresses, and my little tiara, and my favorite blanket.” She went from her small wardrobe to her miniature dresser that my father built a long time ago to her bag that was on her bed. 

“First of all, you don’t need to bring a lot, because I am sure that Wanepi will have had some dresses picked out for you to wear. They will be so fancy that you will just stare at them for hours and hours.” She giggled again and twirled around. “And second, all that stuff sounds like it would be very good to bring.” She finished putting everything in and I grabbed her bag. I set it next to my bag and picked her up. “Let’s go see how the others are doing. We are going to Matthias’s hut, Ren!” I shouted back to Renaglo before skipping out the door and down the steps. 

Once we were inside, we were surrounded by chaos. Hypoleta and Hannah had never been to the Capital before, so they were both nervous. Matthias had already packed all his things and was helping Sahara pack.

“Which dress do you think I should wear, Antepi? I was thinking about the long silky one that I had before I moved here.” Hypoleta asked me before moving back into her room and looking at more dresses.

“Don’t worry about clothes. Wanepi knows how we are. She will already have clothes in our rooms for us to wear. They will comfortable and appropriate for court.”

“Well that solves that problem. I will still bring a few dresses, just for lounging around.” I nodded my agreement. 

“Did you tell Catania?” Hannah asked.

“Well, no.” I hesitated. “She isn’t going to be coming with us.” I looked down. Hannah looked confused.

“But if she doesn’t know, how can she turn it down?”

“Joeté and I made the decision not to tell her. We think that if she is there, she will try to see Respato, and that will just make everything harder- on everyone.” 

Hannah nodded slowly. “Won’t she be upset when she finds out that she missed the wedding?”

“It is a risk I am willing to take. She has sat listless and done nothing for almost a month. If she gets upset then maybe it will do her some good.”

“I’m not sure about this.” She said.

I didn’t really care what she thought, but I held back a retort. “It is the only way to help her get over him. If she sees him again she will just get mad again. I would rather her be mad that she missed the wedding than be mad because we had to lock up the man she cared about.” I smiled sweetly. “And I really don’t care what you aren’t sure about. Okay?” I raised my eyebrows and nodded. 

She shot a glance at me, but ignored the last part. “If this is what Joeté thinks is best, then I guess that it will be alright.” 

I rolled my eyes when her back was turned. We were closer now, but she still seemed to think that I had no opinion on what happened to Joeté and Catania. The fact was that I had taken care of Catania after the battle and knew her better than anyone, even now when she wouldn’t talk to me. She was like my little sister, and thankfully, Joeté recognized that and allowed me to have some say in everything. 

“Oh, thank you for accepting that. I was definitely depending on your opinion.” I knew it was harsh, but I couldn’t stop myself. I hadn’t had anyone to let my sarcasm out on in awhile. I was going a little stir-crazy.

Leta looked between the two of us. She could see the tension emanating from me. “Hannah are you almost done? I was thinking that maybe we would go and see how Gracia is doing.” Senie and Hara came running out of Hara’s room where Senepha had run after I set her down. 

“We want to go see Uncle Shasha! He always gives us piggy back rides and spins us around!” The two girls shouted almost in unison. 

“Oh you mean like this?” I reached down and scooped the two girls up and spun in circles. “Is that what you meant?” I asked breathlessly from both spinning and laughter. 

“Shasha does it better.” Sahara giggled.

“Oh does he? Well Sahara, let’s go see him and see if he really does do it better.” I grabbed the two girls by their waists and threw them over my shoulders. I walked with a swing in my step, swaying the girls side to side. 

“Be careful Antepi! You don’t want to hurt them!” Hannah called as Hypoleta and her caught up to us. 

“They will be fine Hannah. I would never do anything to hurt them.” I turned my head slightly but kept going. 

Matthias came charging down the stairs and ran right behind us. He picked me up with the two girls still on my shoulders. The girls screamed and giggled. I laughed and held onto the girls as Matthias carried all of us, bouncing us around. Joeté ran up next to us and started walking with us. Once again, we were a happy group, everyone joyful and excited. We had something to look forward to, and we looked forward to it wholeheartedly. Renaglo soon joined us and all together we walked to Titro and Gracia’s hut. Once inside we watched as Gracia finished packing and Titro grabbed his bag from his room. Shasha brought his bag out and set it next to his father’s. 

“Everybody packed?” Titro asked. Everyone nodded.

“I see no reason why we can’t leave now. They will already have the rooms prepared. They get all the rooms ready and then send out the  invitations or summons, so we wouldn’t be rushing them at all.” I looked from Renaglo to Matthias to Titro questioningly.

“Last one to get their horse ready gets to take both the little girls!” Titro called out.

Then it was chaos. Everyone was trying their hardest to get to the door first. Most of them went to the stables to grab their horses and prepare them first, but I ran to my hut and grabbed my bag first. Once I reached the stables that Chaga and Amor were in, it only took me a few moments to saddle up Amor. I had decided to take him this time because he needed to have more exercise and I hadn’t ridden him in a while. I strapped my bag behind his saddle and led him outside. 

“Done!” I yelled as loud as I could. There was a groan from all the people in the other stable. Thankfully, Chaga and Amor were bedded down in a different stable than all the others. Joeté came out next with Parsh. 

“Done!” He shouted. Yet another groan came from the stable. The two of us laughed. He had done the same thing I did and gotten his bag first. 

“I am really happy for Wanepi and Philippe.” I said quietly.

“Me too. They have been waiting so long for this, and I honestly cannot believe it is finally happening.” He looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “So, do you want to tell me why you’ve been avoiding me for the past month?” 

“I don’t know what you are talking about. Avoiding you? No. No I’ve just been… busy.” I tried to pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I was failing miserably. 

“Come on Tepi.” He kept his tone lighthearted and his face lit up with a smile, but I could tell he was serious. “I don’t understand why you have been staying away from me and every time you see me, you try to either go to another place or something similar to that. Ever since the battle, you have been distant and almost cold towards me. Now you try to act like everything is normal, but it isn’t. Something happened either during the battle or right after, because there is no other explanation. Even when you found out that I was engaged, you still treated me as a friend, not someone that is just an acquaintance.”

“I am trying to save us both from a lot of hurt. You are marrying Hannah. That is the end of it.” He looked at me, confused.

“Is that what this is about? Hannah? I thought you two were friends now.” 

“We are but that doesn’t change the fact that you said you couldn’t live without me.” I looked up at him. “Why did you say that?” 

He froze a little. “I didn’t think that you were awake or could hear me.” He said finally.

“I was awake enough to hear what you were saying, but that was about it.” I looked at him out of the corner of my eye. “You didn’t answer my question.”

He looked across the valley, his tone matter-of-fact.“I told you before Antepi- Hannah isn’t the woman that I wanted to marry.”

“Then why are you? Jeekis is in the dungeon. He can’t hurt you from in there.”

“Because I still have a duty to Hannah.”

“You had a duty to me but that didn’t seem to bother you.” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. I paused. “I am sorry- I didn’t mean for that to come out.” I turned to face him now. “Don’t you have a duty to yourself too? Leading Hannah on is getting you nowhere.”

“It is easier than acknowledging that I was never in love  with her.” He looked over at me.

“Well, she already knows that, so you don’t really need to worry about that anymore.” I answered sarcastically.

Just then Titro and Shasha came running out, both pushing each other back, trying to be the first to reach us. Titro touched my arm just before Shasha touched me. 

“Done!” Titro shouted as loud as he could. Followed by Shasha’s slightly less loud. “Done!” 

Soon everyone came out in a flood, each trying to get ahead of the other. Hannah was the only person left in the stables. She walked out, leading her horse behind her. She looked slightly harrowed and more than a little overwhelmed, but that was nothing new. She usually looked that way after having to saddle her horse by herself. 

“Hannah’s taking the girls!” Joeté shouted, laughing. Everyone knew that Hannah and the little girls didn’t get along very well. “I am not riding next to her.” I heard him say under his breath, only loud enough for me to hear. I laughed and put my hand on his shoulder. 

“Neither am I.” I replied quietly. I raised my voice above the din. “Alright everyone, listen up!” Everything became quiet. “Joeté, Titro, and I will ride at the front. From there on, you will ride in rows of three. Matthias, Pasha, and Renaglo, please take up the back. Hannah and the girls, Leta, and Gracia will take up the middle row. You will stay at our pace. Do not go out of line. Any villages we pass, you cover yourself with your cloak and put your hood up. You do not talk to anyone that stops you. Joeté, Matthias, or I will do the talking. You may talk when we are not near a village or other travelers. If we keep at a steady pace then we will reach the palace by nightfall.” I looked around. “Is everyone clear on what is happening?” Everyone nodded. “Alright, mount up everyone!” I lifted the two little girls up into Hannah’s saddle once she had mounted. “You two be good alright. When I say we are getting near a village I want you to wrap yourselves in your cloaks- and no talking. Can you do that for me?” They both nodded solemnly and I smiled and winked at them. I walked over and swung myself up into my saddle. 

“This is going to be an interesting ride.” I murmured to Joeté. He nodded his agreement. Everyone fell into their rows and we set out. 

I pushed Amor to a canter and the others followed suit. I decided not to take the back way with so many people. It might have been faster with three of us, but with nine of us, it would just cause problems. 

We arrived at the castle without any problems, although there were a few times we had to ask Hypoleta and Hannah to quiet down. Gracia didn’t talk much, knowing that silence was the best thing we needed right now. When we rode into the courtyard, stable boys came running from everywhere each grabbing a bridle as we dismounted. 

Joeté came over and helped me down, although he knew I didn’t need help. He gave me a pointed look before going and lifting down the girls. I looked after him, confused. Why had he done that? He knew I never needed help getting off my horse, and why do it before helping Hannah, who obviously did need help? It didn’t make sense. 

I shook my head to push the thoughts away. I untied my bag from behind my saddle and slung it onto my shoulder. I walked into the palace, the others following behind me. Hannah, Hypoleta, and the little girls looked around in awe at the huge columns that lined the hallway we were in. One of the housekeepers came up and greeted us.

“Lady Antepi, Lord Joeté.” She nodded politely to both of us and then nodded to everyone else. “Please, right this way. We anticipated your early arrival, although you hadn’t sent the messenger back to us yet. We knew that you two were especially fond of coming early and unexpectedly.” She smiled. She had been at the palace since before I could remember. 

“Thank you Louisa. You know us too well.” I turned to the others. “This is Louisa, one of the housekeepers. You will do anything she tells you, and she will answer any questions you have.” I faced the front again. “Please notify the King and Wanepi of our arrival, Louisa. I know the way to our rooms. I assume the entire hallway is ours?” 

She nodded. “There are cards on the doors.” She glanced at Hannah. “Although I will assume that Catania’s will be otherwise occupied.” I nodded. She walked off down a different hallway while Joeté and I led the way to our usual rooms. 

“Everyone look at the names on the doors and whichever one has your name, that is your room. I believe the two girls will be with Matt and Leta. Hannah, whichever door says Catania, that is yours.” I looked down the hall at all of them searching the name cards. “One other thing. Do not go anywhere without either Joeté, Matthias, or I. We have been here multiple times and know where most things are. If you go somewhere without us or one of the servants, then you will, more likely than not, get lost. It will take hours to find you. If you do for some odd reason get lost, stay in one place and yell. Sound carries in the hallways, so you will eventually be heard. Let’s try to avoid that.”

I walked into my room and set my bag down on a small table. I looked around. Nothing had changed. I opened the wardrobe to see what Wanepi had picked out for me this time; something had definitely changed. The dresses were all vibrant colors of blue with only a few different colors on the side. I pulled out a beautiful baby blue one and put it on. It was different from what I usually wore, but it  would still be comfortable. It had long sleeves, with almost off the shoulders, but not quite. It had three layers of skirts that made it go out slightly at the bottom. The edges of the skirt were a slightly darker blue, giving it a nice fading effect. I kicked the air; still moveable and not too constricting. On a small table there were multiple tiaras; each had diamonds covering the top, but none were very extravagant. I put one with a significant amount of diamonds on, and it fit perfectly. I felt strange dressing up and putting a tiara on, but compared to what other ladies of the court wore, this would be a farm girl’s dress. And that suited this warrior just fine. I stepped out of my room quietly and started down the hallway. 

“Antepi?” I turned around. Joeté was looking out of his room. “Are you going to see them?” I nodded. He stepped outside and came to stand next to me. 

I noticed him glance at my outfit before looking just next to my face. He was avoiding looking straight at my face for some reason. I glanced at his outfit, not surprised to find him wearing normal clothes. He was a little more willing to wear clothes that were acceptable in court than I was.

 “I’m coming with you. If you were to have a sudden weakness attack, it would be hours before anyone found you.” I rolled my eyes. 

“We both know that you just want to see Philippe.” I turned and walked swiftly down the hallway. “We can try his meeting room first, and then his quarters.” Joeté nodded and we made our way down the hallways. At his meeting room we could clearly hear his voice talking loudly over those of his advisors and ministers of state. One man came out, running his hands through his hair. He looked up and saw us, relief flooding his features. 

“Lord Joeté, Lady Antepi. I’m so glad you are here.” He looked back to where the door was still slightly open, then turned back to us desperately. “Please talk some sense into him! He is all worked up and nervous about the wedding and won’t listen to anyone!” He gestured toward the door and Joeté nodded. He walked in and said in an authoritative voice. 

“Everyone exit the room.” Everyone stood up swiftly and some of the men almost ran out of the room. 

Philippe looked at us questioningly. “What exactly do you mean by barging in like this?” I glanced quickly around the room. Wanepi sat in a chair on Philippe’s right, her head in her hands. She was clearly embarrassed by Philippe’s actions. 

“We are trying to save the sanity of all of the members of your council. You really need to loosen up my king.” I walked over and stood in front of his desk, leaning on it casually. Wanepi looked up with relief and stood up. 

“They are right, Philippe.” She said softly. “You have been driving yourself so hard these past few days. The Council of Lords is sick of it and you know it. Why don’t you just take a break until after the wedding?”

“I can’t just take a break. My country needs me.” He looked from her to me, a bewildered look on his face.

“What your country needs is a little bit of happy news. Like their king getting married happily.” She looked at him seriously. “Jean Claude can handle the affairs of state for the next few days. Why don’t you take all the men of Antioch on a tour of the palace? It has been a while since you have seen them.” Joeté put his hand on Philippe’s shoulder.

“Come. We will go get the others.” Philippe stood up reluctantly and went out with Joeté. Wanepi sighed and I put my arm around her. 

“It is going to be alright. In eight days you will be happily married and the Queen of France.” She smiled ruefully.

“Ever since we decided the date for the wedding he has been rushing around like a madman trying to make sure everything is perfect and all his relatives will be able to come. He didn’t even send your invitation out! I did that and then he put his signet ring on it. He had no idea what it was!” I laughed.

“Well it will only be a few more days and then your coronation and then after that you two will be relaxing in Antioch surrounded by the biggest bodyguard this country has. You can ride horses, climb trees, go to Fire Dances. You will be able to show Philippe what it was like in ways that he would never understand without seeing it for himself. He can experience what it is like to need to work for himself. It will be fine and he can relax a little.”

She sighed. “Him, relax? I am not sure if he will ever be able to come off of this relaxation drought.” I laughed. 

“Well we can hope for the best.” I hugged her tightly. “I missed you. I know I just saw you a month ago, but we are both older now and it has been hard not having someone to talk to.” We started walking towards the door.

“Did Cat come?”

“No.” I sighed. “Joeté and I both felt it best that she stays home. At least this time. I know that she will be upset about missing the wedding but in the long run, it will help more than hurt.” She nodded.

“Who did come?”

“All three of the boys, Joeté, Gracia, Hypoleta, Hannah, and the two little girls. You will get to meet the three newest members of Antioch society. Sahara hasn’t been able to stop talking about meeting you since Senepha told her about you on the way here.” I paused a moment. “And of course, Hannah. Wonderful, wonderful Hannah.” 

“Oh, I am sure that will be wonderful.” She turned and opened the door to her room. “How are things? With the two of them?” She paused a moment. “And the battle? You never did write to me about it. I have been so anxious.”

I smiled and looked down at my arm that still had the metal band on it. 

“I am better now. At the time I lost a lot of blood. So much has happened. I almost lost my arm and they would not let me out of my bed for weeks. Titro and Gracia and Shasha came back. Life is so different. Honestly, I am terrified of everything that is changing. You know, I am so used to being strong. To supporting my family, supporting Catania, and supporting Senepha. But now, Cat won’t even talk to me and Renaglo is taking care of Senepha more than I am. I feel lost without something to protect and support. Something to be strong for. I have tried so hard to not react and let everyone know, but it is hard. So many things have fallen on Matthias and I since Respato left.”

She rubbed my arm. “Change is scary. But it happens and there isn’t really a way to avoid it. You have done such a great service to France, but almost getting killed is something that will be hard to just bounce back from.” She sat on her bed. “What has Joeté said about all of this?” 

I sighed. “Well the day of the battle, I passed out afterward. Joeté carried me back to the others and he thought I was asleep. He said something that I didn’t understand at the time. I asked him about it today when we were waiting for the others and he said that I knew that Hannah wasn’t who he wanted as his fiance. He feels that it is his duty to marry her, regardless of what he feels. I told him that he has a duty to himself too but he just doesn’t want to hurt her. Even though he doesn’t love her like that, he does care what happens to her. She and I have made our peace but she still is her and I am and always will be me. And our personalities and pasts, presents, and futures do not agree. Especially my past and her future.” I smiled wanly. 

“Then she is just going to have to deal with it. No one can change the past.” A knock came at the door. “Enter.” She called. A maid stepped in and curtseyed.

“My ladies. I have been sent by the ladies of Lady Antepi’s entourage. They request that you meet them at their rooms. King Philippe- long may he live- and Lord Joeté are already there waiting. King Philippe-  long may he live- seconds the request.” Wanepi and I simeotaneously rolled our eyes.

“They request us? Royalty? I am insulted really.” I laughed.

“I never have had someone request my presence other than Philippe. Especially not some commoners.” Wanepi giggled. “We will accompany you back to the rooms.”  

The girl nodded and held the door open for us. We walked quickly down the halls back to my room, arm in arm. When we finally got back to them, the maid opened the door to the tea room that was in the same hallway. Philippe had that room put in place so that anyone that stayed there could go there to talk with everyone and wouldn’t have to gather in one bedroom. 

“Lady Wanepi, the lady of our palace, and Lady Antepi, the savior of France.” She announced. 

I rolled my eyes slightly at the last bit. Philippe had that added to my title no doubt. Everyone looked up at us from the different tables around the room. Gracia stood up and curtseyed deeply. The others all followed suit, except Joeté and Philippe, the only two people in the room who ranked higher than Wanepi and I. Wanepi walked over to Gracia. 

“Please, don’t. You are family. You never need to curtsey to me. You far outrank me, despite my title.”

Gracia shook her head. “You are the future queen of France, Wanepi. You deserve all the respect that I can give.” Wanepi nodded but I could tell that she didn’t want to agree.

“Please everyone. A quick bow or curtsey is fine. You do not have to hold it forever.” She laughed and everyone else quickly followed suit. Everyone sat down and Wanepi and I joined Philippe and Joeté at their table. “I honestly do not think everyone needs to show such respect to me. Most of them are my family anyway.” She shook her head, laughing. 

I noticed the little girls watching us and whispering. I motioned them over with my hand. They both came running over giggling nervously. 

“Hi Tiana Wanepi. It is very nice to see you again.” Senepha smiled brightly. I could tell she was trying very hard to be polite and careful with her words. 

“Hello girls. How are you two today?” Wanepi asked kindly. Both girls seemed to relax.

“Very well, thank you. My name is Sahara.” Sahara spoke with more confidence than she had shown when she walked up.

“It is so nice to meet you Sahara. Antepi has told me so much about you.” 

“Senepha has told me so much about you. You are just as beautiful as she said. Although I already knew what you looked like mostly because you look so much like Aunt Tepi.” She giggled. 

“Alright girls, why don’t you go finish eating your cakes and then Wanepi and I will show you around the palace?” I said, herding them back towards their table. “Maybe King Philippe and Tiano Joeté will even come.” They nodded smiling and peeked at Philippe. 

He smiled at them and they laughed and ran back to their seats. 

“Someone is in a better humor.” I took a sip of tea after I said it and looked up at him under lowered lashes. 

I pretended to look innocent, but I knew that Philippe understood me. His mood earlier had been disagreeable and had made things hard on everyone, and he knew it. 

“Thank you, Antepi. Your observation is very useful.” He answered sarcastically.

“Will the two of you come on the tour with us? The others could come with us. I originally planned on bringing just the girls, but everyone will probably wish to come.” 

Joeté nodded. “I will come. If I don’t I will probably be scolded till the end of our visit for not ‘socializing and spending time with people’. I believe that is how my lovely fiance put it.” He smiled ruefully. 

“I will accompany you all. I am supposed to be relaxing, am I not?” Philippe answered.

“Exactly. We will start right after everyone finishes eating.” Wanepi stood up. “Everyone, please hurry and finish your tea and cakes, we are going to take a tour of the palace once everyone has finished.” 

It seemed as if everyone finished the rest of their food in one bite. One by one they all stood up and waited by the door. I walked over and opened the door. 

“My King, would you do the honors?” 

Philippe nodded and led us all into the corridor. He proceeded to show us the entire palace, which took at least two hours. By the time we returned, we were all exhausted and everyone- including myself-  was ready for bed. We all slipped quietly into our rooms and there was silence everywhere. I opened the doors to my balcony and looked over the countryside again. 

“It’s a beautiful view, even at night.” I looked over, startled. Joeté was  standing on his balcony. I nodded. “Are you going to see Respato tomorrow?” I nodded again. “Are you sure that is smart?” I nodded again, not looking at him. He sighed. “Do you think we made the right decision?”

“So many questions.” I pretended to scold him, then sighed, trying to decide how to answer him. “I think that it differs with how you look at it. If they weren’t coming back with us to Antioch, I would say we should have let her come anyway. But they are coming back, so she will still get to see them.” I shrugged. “Besides, Wanepi has always said that she wanted to have a second ceremony in Antioch.” I sighed and shook my head. “The truth is, I don’t know if it will be worth it.” 

“I suppose you are right. I just don’t know if this is going to make her even more upset with us. If we had let her come and watched her closely, then we could have still accomplished the same thing.” He looked down at his hands that were spread out on the balcony railing. 

I shrugged. “We made a decision that we thought was right at the time. We get to decide if we think that decision is right now. And I think that it is. I made that choice and so did you. And I am not going back on it. I still believe that it is right.” 

He nodded. “Nothing we can do about it now.” 

“You know you never really answered me before.” I paused, choosing my words carefully. “She already knows that you didn’t love her when you first became engaged. She knows everything. So why do you keep pretending that she doesn’t and trying to hide it?”

“I don’t know. I know that she knows but something in me thinks she doesn’t really realize it. But seeing the way that Wanpei and Philippe look at each other… it just makes me want to have something like that. Something that was true and right.” 

I nodded. “I get it. I mean, who wouldn’t want what they have? Even with all the stress of his position, he still makes time for her. I have always wanted something like that. Even when I was younger, it was what I dreamed of.” 

“You dreamed?” He laughed a little. 

“Yes, I dreamed.” I rolled my eyes. “I wasn’t all about fighting at some point in my life. After you left though I gave up on that idea. I still think it would be nice, but it just doesn’t seem like it could ever happen for me anymore.”

“So you’ve given up on love?” 

“Not given up, just put it on the bottom of the list. There is no one that I know I could picture myself with. Not anymore at least.”

He grimaced and laughed a little. “I suppose that’s my fault.” I shrugged. “I’m sorry, Antepi. Sorry for all the pain I have caused you. I know it isn’t easy to just move on.”

I shrugged again. “I’m used to it by now.” 

I opened the door to my room and went back inside. Things were too complicated and I wanted things to be the way they used to be. I fell onto my bed and immediately slipped into a dreamless sleep.