Chapter Twenty Eight and Epilogue

Chapter Twenty Eight- No More Secrets

I sat down on one of the chairs. Wanepi paced the room, her arms wrapped around herself. 

“He’s going to be okay Wanepi. He’s strong and he’s young. He’s got a lot in his favor.” 

She stopped and looked at me. I was surprised at how angry she looked. “You don’t understand Antepi. This is the exact thing Emma had. And Emma died from it. No one knows how to cure it or make it better.” 

“Yes, but you already said he’s past the worst of it.” I pointed out. 

“Yes, but this is when Emma died. She was so weak that she couldn’t fight any sickness off, no matter how small it was.” 

“But Philippe is young and he is strong- Emma was getting older. She had much less strength than he did.” 

“You just don’t understand that kind of loss.” She turned away and faced the wall.

I stood up slowly, trying to contain the fire starting inside me. “Please tell me you don’t mean that. Please tell me that you know that isn’t true.” She couldn’t be serious, could she?

She spun around. “You weren’t there when she died. You didn’t watch her take her last breath. You didn’t see her weak fingers trying to write things down for me to do. So that I could learn her trade and be like her. You weren’t there when I had to set out on my own to come here- no one to call family. You weren’t here when I had to gain the trust of the King before I could practice my medicine.” 

I was taken aback. “I wasn’t there? I wasn’t there?” I emphasized the I. “What about all the things you weren’t there for?” It was too late to stop the explosion inside me from coming out. 

“You weren’t there when Joeté proposed to me and I was scared because I had no one to talk to about it. You weren’t there when they attacked us. You weren’t there when I had to watch our parents die. I watched them get slaughtered. You weren’t there when I saw Carsho killed. You weren’t there when I had to watch my fiancé be dragged away from me as I desperately tried to crawl to him. You weren’t there when I had to flee for my life. You weren’t there when I had to provide for a sixteen year old girl by myself.” I could hear my voice getting louder without any effort. I hadn’t meant to, but this time, I was really mad. And I couldn’t hold it in anymore. “You weren’t there when I had to protect my identity and pretend the whole thing never happened. You weren’t there when I had to come back to find half the people I loved dead. You weren’t there when I found out that Matthias had been keeping a secret from us for over six years. You weren’t there when Joeté came back. You weren’t there when I had to endure his fiancé’s anger over the fact that I existed. You weren’t there when I had to shove my feelings down again so that he didn’t know how hurt I was. You weren’t there when I had to arrest one of my best friends because of your orders. When I had to be loyal to my country, and destroy my relationship with Catania. You weren’t there when Cat wouldn’t talk to me for a month. You weren’t there when I had to pretend that didn’t break my heart.” I took a deep breath and shook my head a little. “You weren’t there when they attacked again. You weren’t there when I had to lie yet again to Catania for her own good and make her miss your wedding. You weren’t there when Adam threw a knife into my arm, almost causing me to lose it. Do you have any idea how agonizing that was?” I spat the words at her, then held up a hand to stop her from interrupting me. “You weren’t there when Jeekis got in my head and I thought that everything was my fault and that all the pain and hurt that had happened was my fault.” I shook my head, trying so hard to contain the tears that were welling up. “And I was there, Wanepi. I was. You forget because you were too heartbroken to remember it. You would run into the other room and cry anytime anyone came to the hut. I watched her die, right beside you. But you? You weren’t there for so many things in my life- and why? Because you weren’t my friend? No. Because you ran away when we tried to help you. You ran when we tried to give you a home. You weren’t there for me my whole life- and you dare to tell me that I wasn’t there for you? I tried to be! I tried to include you, and treat you well. I tried to be there for you when Emma died. But you shut me out and pushed me away. I won’t take the blame ofr that anymore.”

 I turned and walked out the door. As I opened it I saw Titro, Matthias, Renaglo, Joeté, and Catania standing outside. But for once I didn’t have the strength to be mad. 

“I’m going to assume you heard most of that?” They all nodded. I closed my eyes and nodded. “Alright then.” I turned and hurried down the corridor to the roof. 

I leaned against one of the pillars and closed my eyes. The cool breeze brushed against me. I heard footsteps behind me, but didn’t open my eyes until they were next to me. 

“You draw the shortest straw?” 

“No. I chose to come. Believe me, I had some competition.” Matthias laughed a little. 

“How much did you hear?” 

“Just a bit.” Matthias eased against the opposite pillar. 

“Like?” 

“Like when you started listing all the things she wasn’t there for.” 

I laughed. “You and I have very different definitions of what ‘a bit’ means.” 

“Doesn’t matter what it means. We still needed to hear it.” I looked out over the trees. 

“Doesn’t mean I wanted you to.”

“Doesn’t mean we didn’t.” He turned to look at me. “What happened to no secrets? Being open and honest with each other?” 

“Matthias, I have been honest. And I didn’t have to tell you for you to know that it upset me when Joeté came back with Hannah.” 

“Antepi, why do you keep telling us the bare minimum you have to, and then when you get upset or angry, it comes out?” 

“Because when I am upset or angry, I don’t have as much control over myself. I don’t think about what I let out.”

“Teps.” There was a warning in his voice. 

“Okay, okay.” I yielded a little. “Matthias, we lost everything. I lost everything I ever loved. You still had Leta to go to. I had nowhere. I wouldn’t be human if that didn’t shake me to the core. But I have learned to push it down. To be stronger than the pain. And I can’t,” I bit my lip to keep it from trembling, even as I tried to convey how strong I was trying to be, “I can’t let that wall down. I can’t open myself up again.” 

“Why not? We will accept you for whoever you are. We love you.” 

“Because every time I have opened up, and let my guard down, I get hurt. I held onto the hope of Joeté coming back and let myself weaken, and I got hurt. Each time I have let my guard down with you and the rest of them, I have gotten hurt. People are always going to hurt me, so I’ve learned not to rely on them for comfort.” I sighed a little. “And I am better.” I shook my head. “Don’t think I’m not. Every time you think I am being vulnerable, I am only acting. I’m showing a false front that will give you all the assurance that I have opened up fully, when really I’ve only opened up the tiniest bit. But it’s out now- and nothing can pull it back in.” 

“I’m glad that we heard you.”

“That makes one of us.” 

“Stop being so strong.” 

I turned to face him, letting him see the tears that I had kept hidden since we had started talking. “Strong? This is strong to you?” I searched his eyes to see what he thought and could see only pain. “This isn’t strong Matthias. This is weak. I can’t stop feeling like this and I hate it.” 

He came over and wrapped me in his arms. “And that’s okay. You are safe with us. No one will ever judge you or hurt you for being human Antepi.” I nodded into his shirt and for the first time, I felt free. Like some weight was lifted off my shoulders. 

“God- thank you for my family. For the people that I can trust. I couldn’t do this without them.” I silently prayed. Matthias stepped back and started walking back down the path. As I watched him go, I was confused as to why he was leaving me. Then I saw Catania passing him on the stairs coming up.

Catania walked up the stairs quickly and practically ran to me. She threw her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly. I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. I could feel the sobs shaking her body as she cried. I knew that hearing what I had said had affected her greatly. 

“It’s okay.” I whispered. “It’s okay.” She let go and sat on the bench, wiping her tears. 

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay to cry.” I squeezed her arm as I sat down next to her. 

“No, I’m sorry for everything. I shut you out because I was angry with you for taking Respato away from me, I was angry at Joeté for leaving me, I was angry at Meisha for agreeing with you. I was just so angry. I promised myself I would never close myself off and that I would tell people when I was upset, but I was too angry. When Respato told me he cared about me, I thought I was floating. I had never had someone tell me they cared about me besides Liam, and I thought that it could actually work this time. When you arrested him, I knew you were right, but I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe that the person who had made me feel so special was responsible for all the pain I felt.” 

“Nobody blames you for being angry Cat. No one is upset that you were hurt by it. It broke my heart to have to take him away and lock him up.” 

She interrupted me. “Antepi, why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me when all of those things hurt you? And that you still had panic attacks?” 

“I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. I was too afraid of what you and everyone else would think of me. I thought that if you all knew what was really going on with me, you would turn away. And the panic attacks? I didn’t think you cared enough to worry whether I told you or not.” I shrugged. “I think that part of me still views you as a little girl. A little girl that I have to protect no matter what happens. That’s why I never went to you with my problems- that’s why I was so strong. Because I wanted to spare you the pain of carrying my burden along with yours.” 

“But I am not a child anymore, Antepi. I could have handled it- even if I couldn’t have handled it, I would have because I care about you.”

“And I know that now. You didn’t push me to open up, so I guess I just assumed that you only wanted me to talk to you because you felt bad about me not having someone to talk to.”

“I made mistakes Antepi- I should have been there for you. I’m sorry.” 

“I forgive you. I do.” I stood up and moved back to the pillar. “I think the person I can’t forgive is me. I can’t forgive myself for what has happened. I know that what I did was right, and that it was the right decision, but I should have explained to you better what was happening. And I don’t think I can ever really forgive myself.”

“I know you can. You are so much stronger than you know.” She smiled. “I have to go, but I’ll be back soon. I think someone else wants to see you.” I gave her a tight hug before letting her go.

I watched her go down the steps and Joeté come up after her. 

I sat on the stone bench and tried to wipe the tears away, but they just kept coming. I laughed at myself for not being able to stop crying. 

Joeté sat down next to me and looked at the view. 

“How is Wanepi?” I needed to make sure she was okay. I had said more than I meant to. 

“I’m not sure. Titro and Renaglo stayed back to talk with her, while Matthias, Cat, and I came to talk to you.” 

“Good to know.” I tried once more to wipe the tears, and once more I was unsuccessful. 

He turned to face me, and I turned my head to look at him, while still keeping my body facing forward. He sighed. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you say how badly it hurt you to have me engaged to someone else? I would have broken it off, if only because you and Cat weren’t okay with it.” 

“No,” I smiled ruefully and shook my head, “you wouldn’t. You would have wanted to- but you wouldn’t have. You are too good for that.” 

He looked down at his hands and sighed. “You’re right. I wouldn’t have. I wish that I could say I would have. I wish with all my heart I could say that. But we both know I can’t.” He looked back up at me. “But that’s the past now, Antepi. We aren’t engaged anymore. And I’ve tried to show you that you aren’t my second choice anymore. But I don’t know if you have even noticed anything.” 

I smiled. “You know that I’ve noticed- you are just saying that for effect-” He smiled a little, nodding in admittance. “We’ve talked about this more than once and you know it. But now I’m ready. I truly have no more secrets. And I’m ready to live and move on.” 

He nodded and smiled. “I am too. I think before now, I thought I was, but never really was. But I am now. I’m so ready.” He smirked. “It’s about time.” 

I laughed, trying to dispel the tears of joy and sadness spilling over. “I would have to agree.”

He stood and pulled me up. “Come here.” 

I laughed and wrapped my arms around him. “Thank you. For waiting, for understanding, and for everything you have ever done for me.” 

He laughed a little and I could feel his body shake. “You’re welcome. I don’t think I could have done anything else. You know, it is strange. Everything that has happened to us, I mean.”

I leaned back and looked up at him. “What do you mean?” 

He looked out at the sky that had turned dark blue in the hours that we had been at the palace. The stars were coming out, twinkling against the midnight blue sky. “All the problems we had, all the trials we faced, everything, it happened for a reason. It was God’s plan for us. We will always find our way to the people we love the most, even when we are countries apart. And God already had it all planned out. It is just crazy to me.” 

I smiled and looked down. Something caught my eye, but I pushed it away. We weren’t officially engaged and I didn’t want to assume anything. “It is all a part of the strange and wonderful ways that God works.” I said, looking up. I closed my eyes for a moment and sighed. “I need to go talk to her. I need to apologize and see if she is okay. I said things I never meant to.”

He nodded, still looking at the sky over my head. “But first, I need you to promise me something. And mean it this time.” He looked down at me. 

I sighed and looked away. “Yes?” I asked, already knowing what he was going to say. 

“No more secrets. Of the bad kind anyway- if it is something that concerns others that they asked you not to tell, that is different, or like a birthday or something-” he cut himself off- “anyway, stop hiding the way you feel. You can tell me those things. I understand that you are human. So stop hiding things from us that we need to know. We can’t always guess the way you are feeling. If you don’t tell us, we aren’t going to know. So promise?” He paused a little. “I can understand not wanting to tell your siblings everything, although they might not agree with that. But I want you to be able to trust me with anything.”

I sighed and nodded. He put his hand under my chin and turned my face to look at him. “Yes. I promise that I will tell you when I am upset, or something is bothering me, or anything similar to that.” 

He smiled. “You will thank me later- I know it.” He kissed my forehead. “Now go talk to your sister.” He released me and I hurried to the steps. 

I felt so light compared to this morning.

 I knocked on the door and stepped back. Titro opened it. I could see the concern in his eyes. I nodded and smiled a little. I could tell that he was in a lot of pain from worrying about me, but I tried to reassure him with that smile. 

“Can I talk to her?” 

He nodded and opened the door wider, but I could tell he was searching my face for a sign to tell how I was. “I am okay, Titro.” I said quietly. 

He let out an audible breath and pulled me into a quick hug. I hugged him back and took a deep breath, feeling even better. 

“I need to talk to her.” I whispered.

He nodded again and stood back. I slipped into the room and Renaglo stood from where he was crouching next to Wanepi in a chair. They both left the room and I sat down in the chair near hers. 

“Do you want to talk?” I asked quietly. 

“Yes.” She answered, but didn’t continue. 

“I am sorry.” I ventured. “I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that. I should have been more considerate.”

She shook her head. “Why are you so good? It is so frustrating. You know more about Emma than I ever did. You know how to cure my husband. My husband trusts you with his entire kingdom and not me. You don’t have any hard feelings for Hannah. You willingly run into battle to protect the people you care about. You stick up for what you believe in. And it is so hard to compare to.” She sat back against the chair, arms crossed. Her breathing was loud against the silence as I considered how to answer. 

“You have nothing to compare to. You are not me. You don’t have to be me. We are two very different people and you should see that. You are perfect for you and no one can change that.” I smiled at her, even though she wasn’t looking at me. 

“I shouldn’t have gotten angry with you. I’m sorry. I was just so scared that I was going to lose him, and I couldn’t do anything about it. And when I saw that you were able to help him and you knew what to do, it irritated me. I thought that Emma trusted me with everything, but really she knew me well enough to know that I would crumble every time I saw that sickness again. She knew I was in too much pain to think about it. And it annoys me that she didn’t trust me enough. So I got angry at you, even though there was no reason.” She looked over at me. “I’m sorry. I should never have said those things. I knew as I was saying them it was wrong. That I was just saying it to try and justify my actions.”

“Wanepi, that wasn’t you speaking.That was the anger.” 

She shook her head. “The mouth speaks what the heart feels.” She quoted. “It was me. I knew what I was saying, and in the moment, even though I knew they were wrong, I meant it. I own up to that entirely. I am ashamed of it, but I own it, and I know it.” 

“I forgive you. But please forgive me. Regardless of what you said, I was too harsh. I wanted you to understand the pain I was in, but I took it too far. I shouldn’t have gone that far. I wanted to teach you a lesson and show you that you didn’t have as much reason to be upset and sad as I was because you hadn’t lost as much.”

She nodded and smiled. “I forgive you. And trust me, it was a lesson I needed. I was only thinking about myself, and you snapped me out of it.” She glanced at the closed door. “So what happened to you? I mean, after you left?”

I rolled my eyes. “Always digging for that information.” I smiled. “But, Matthias and I talked, and sorted things out, so that was good. Catania and I talked, and things are getting better. We have a long road ahead, but we have taken the first steps to forgiveness.” I paused. 

“And?” She prompted. 

“And Joeté and I may have talked and may have talked about being ready for something more. And I may have promised to not have any more secrets.” I smiled and bit my lip. 

She leaned forward. “Did he ask you to marry him?”

I burst out laughing, but most of it was just nervousness. “No! Really Wanepi- it isn’t like we are ready for that.” I giggled a little nervously. 

“Well do you want to be? And do you love him?” She gasped. “Did he say he loved you?” 

“Wanepi! Calm down, it is just the beginning.” I laughed. “Maybe I want to be, but that isn’t really my decision, and I wouldn’t want to assume.” I took a deep breath and sighed. “And maybe I love him-” I held up a hand and closed my eyes- “no- I am going to regret this, I know I am- but I know I love him. But no, he did not say he loved me. And he has no reason to have said it.” I shook my head. “You are much too into my love life.” 

She laughed. “Since mine has already reached its climax, I have to keep interested in something.” 

I rolled my eyes. “You are a mystery.” I laughed. 

A knock  sounded at the door. 

“Enter.” Wanepi said.

All the boys and Catania walked in. 

I looked between all of them, confused. They all looked a little upset. 

“What is wrong?” I stood. “What happened?” 

Suddenly they all broke out laughing. Wanepi and I looked at one another and then at the group. “What is going on?”

Joeté stepped forward. “Nothing- we were just having a debate about something and needed to come in here to prove it. Can we see your necklace for a moment? We need to make sure of something.”

I still had no idea what was going on, but I took it off and handed it to him slowly. It was the necklace with my old engagement ring on it, but I couldn’t see why they would want to see it. 

He stepped back and turned to the others. “See, I told you.”

They all nodded in agreement, but Wanepi and I were still oblivious. 

He stepped forward until he stood right in front of me. I raised my eyebrows. 

“Can I have my necklace back?” 

He nodded and handed me the chain. I looked down at the ring still in his hand and raised my eyebrows. Why wasn’t he giving me my ring back? 

Everyone in the room was laughing, but I couldn’t understand why. 

“Antepi, since you seem to not be understanding,” he smiled, “I will explain why I didn’t put the ring back on the necklace. I will give it back, but on a few conditions.” 

I raised my eyebrows even higher. “Yes?”

“One-” he grabbed my hand- “it goes here.” He pointed to my ring finger and everything became clear. I closed my eyes and blew out. I smiled ruefully. He laughed a little, but I could tell he was nervous. “And two- you agree to what it means.” He sighed, a little frustrated with himself, as far as I could tell. “What I mean to say is, Antepi, will you marry me?” 

I laughed and nodded. “Yes. Yes, of course.”  I laughed again. 

He put the ring on my finger and wrapped me in his arms. I felt so safe and like nothing could ever harm me when I was in his arms. I felt arms wrap around me from behind me and suddenly I was enveloped in the arms of my family. 

“Okay, I can’t breath.” I said. “Everyone let go!” Everyone backed up laughing. One at a time, all three of my brothers hugged me, and then Wanepi and Cat hugged me at the same time. I smiled and could feel my face turning red. 

Wanepi and Catania shooed all the boys out of the room and we all sat down on the bed. 

“What happened to make things change so quickly?”  Catania leaned forward on the bed. 

“Well that is a long story…” I smiled softly. 

Epilogue  

I wrung my hands out and took a deep breath. I stood in the middle of my hut that would soon belong to Joeté and I. I took another deep breath and looked around. Everything was in order for us to leave for Spain tomorrow. 

I was dressed in an all white dress that was similar to what I wore at the Capital. It was smooth all the way down with a jeweled belt at the waist and a jeweled neckline. I had a small tiara on the top of my head and gold bracelets on each wrist. I had found my father and mother’s wedding rings in one of the boxes and wore them around my neck. They weren’t wearing them the day of the attack. I still wore my golden band around my upper arm, but it was almost healed entirely. The scar was fresh and looked a little ugly, but it would fade with time. 

Catania came out of the back room in her dark red dress. It was very similar to mine, but it had a plain belt and plain neckline. She wore a ring around her neck as well. She said Respato had given it to her the day I took him back to the Capital, but she hadn’t been able to wear it before now because she was too upset. I knew she wanted him to be here, and so did I, but he had made his choice. And as much as it saddened me, I had needed to make mine. 

She smiled. “You look beautiful.” 

I laughed and smiled back at her. “Thank you. So do you.” 

She grinned, showing her dimples. “Not as beautiful as you. I don’t think that is possible.” 

“Alright, alright. Enough with the complimenting. We have kept them waiting long enough.” Gracia spoke from the doorway. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the small bump on her stomach. 

She reached out and I took her hand. She led me down the steps to where Titro was waiting. His smile was the one that broke me. I covered my mouth and tried to keep the sobs from escaping. He wrapped me in his arms and stroked my hair. 

“It is okay. I know you are scared. I know you are afraid of change. But this is the best change that will ever happen to you- I promise.”

I nodded. “I know. And I don’t know why I am crying. I know I am afraid, but I am so happy. I was hoping they would cancel each other out.” I smiled through the tears. 

He kissed the top of my head. “It is okay to cry. Even I cried on my wedding day.” He grinned and I did too. I could vaguely remember that happening, but only a little. “Let’s go.”

He led me to the church where Matthias and Renaglo stood outside with Hypoleta and the other kids. They all walked into the church ahead of Titro and I. Because my pasha was dead, the boys had agreed- without my knowledge- that Titro would walk me down the aisle. 

Wanepi wasn’t able to make it to my wedding- Philippe was still recovering from his sickness, and she didn’t want to leave him. And while it made me sad not to have my sister with me, I could understand why she wanted to stay with her husband. 

When I caught sight of Joeté, I could feel all the butterflies suddenly disperse in my stomach. I felt as if everyone around was frozen as I walked towards him. I could see his eyes fill with tears too and it made me feel so amazing. Finally, It was happening. 

As we held hands and Spake read the vows, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Joeté. He looked so handsome, even though he was only wearing his usual long sleeved shirt and pants. Something about him seemed different- happier. I hadn’t seen him like this since before the attack.

Finally, Spake finished reading our vows and looked between the two of us. 

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.” He smiled and stepped back.

And I finally got to kiss the love of my life. 

The End   

That’s all everyone! I hope that you enjoyed The Warrior’s Daughter, and I can’t wait to share my future projects with you all! I wrote this book when I was 13, and it obviously needs a LOT of work, but I am really glad that I got to share it with everyone 🙂