Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Eleven

Adelina sat up slowly, shielding her eyes from the sun. She looked around the room after a moment, letting her eyes readjust. It had been nearly a month since Sarah had started working for her, and Adelina was starting to get used to this routine. Before, she had woken up late, when someone came in or when she felt like it. But now that Sarah was here, she woke her up on time every morning by opening the windows before the sun rose and letting the sun wake her up. 

At first, she had been frustrated. She was used to getting her sleep. But she hadn’t said anything about it to Sarah because she didn’t want to embarrass her. So she just put up with it. Eventually, after about a week, she had grown to like it. It gave her more time in the day, and it forced her to go to bed at a normal time so that she wasn’t tired the next day. Something about the routine soothed her. She didn’t feel so confused and flustered when she woke up. She felt more put together every morning, even when her sleep was filled with nightmares.

That had been why her sleep routine was so abnormal in the beginning of staying here. She had thought she had worked through the nightmares in the first two years- they hadn’t bothered her for a long time. And then, suddenly, as soon as she was back home, they returned. Not all of the time, but enough that she didn’t want to sleep. Enough that it haunted her for hours when she woke up. Nothing could help them but time. Time that she didn’t have to be wasting on ridiculous dreams and memories. 

Now that she was going to bed and waking up at the same time, her mind was clearer, and it was easier to get over the dreams. She felt well-rested enough to deal with them. She didn’t feel so overwhelmed. 

“Good morning, my lady.” Sarah walked in, carrying a tray of food. 

“Good morning, Sarah.” Adelina stretched. “How are you feeling this morning?” 

“Better, my lady.” Sarah answered, setting the food down on the table next to Adelina’s bed. “It wasn’t so bad this morning.” 

Adelina smiled, lifting a plate off of the tray. “Good. I’m glad.” 

As she ate, she considered what the past month had held. She had visited the town several more times and talked with Claudia and Maude. Nobody had recognized her yet, though she had seen a few people that seemed vaguely familiar. She had found her mother’s rose garden greenhouse, but she hadn’t been able to get inside. It was guarded by some of Haimon’s men, so she hadn’t even tried to get inside. She would wait for another time, when they were needed elsewhere. 

Their progress towards finding proof of Drustan’s father’s treachery had come to an achingly slow halt. There were more whispers around town, and they needed to be more careful than ever. They had all been on the lookout for information, but no one had really heard anything. 

“You seem preoccupied this morning, my lady. Are you alright?” Sarah asked, dusting off one of the bookshelves on the other side of the room. 

Adelina nodded. “Yes, I’m just… tired, is all. I’ll be fine once I wake up a little more.” She took a few more bites of her breakfast. “Are Anissa and Edwin awake yet?”

“Yes, Master Caspell has already left for the castle building site.” 

Adelina raised an eyebrow. “So early?”

“Yes, I believe that he wanted to get a head start on things- Baron Haimon is putting more pressure on him to keep things ahead of schedule. Or I believe that is what I heard him telling Mistress Caspell earlier.”

Adelina nodded. “It is understandable that he would want to get there early.” 

“Does it take long to build a castle?” Sarah asked suddenly, turning and looking at Adelina. 

Adelina shrugged. “I’m not sure. But I believe that this is to be a very large, expensive castle. So it takes longer to build.” 

Sarah nodded slowly. “Why does Baron Haimon not give some of his own knights to help with the building process? Master Caspell’s men can only do so much in so little time.” 

Adelina sighed. “That is a wonderful question, Sarah. I wish that I knew the answer. Unfortunately, I think that Baron Haimon is much more worried about warding off an attack than getting this new castle built. Which means that he is very worried about an attack.” 

“Have there been rumors of an attack to cause this worry?” Sarah’s face became anxious. 

“No.” Adelina shook her head, eating more of her food. “None at all. Baron Haimon, however, believes that it is important to be ready at any moment.” 

“I suppose that is good.” Adelina could see that Sarah was thinking hard. 

“Did Ellian tell you none of this?” Adelina asked- then bit her tongue. “I’m sorry, I should not have brought him up.” 

Sarah shook her head, smiling a little. “No, it is okay. I want to be able to talk about him freely so that I get used to it. Then whenever I see him again, I won’t feel so afraid.” She sighed. “In truth, Ellian and I didn’t talk much. He told me that I was beautiful and that he loved me- and he would sneak me small things, like books to read, when I wasn’t working. He was so kind to me. I had heard the rumors that he wasn’t really as nice as he seemed, but I didn’t want to believe it. And then, a month after I met him… this happened.” She motioned to herself. “And I knew that the rumors were true.” 

“I’m sorry. I can imagine that this must be difficult for you.” They hadn’t had much time to talk in the past month- they had been too busy getting Sarah adjusted and trying not to get noticed. 

“I got myself into this- I need to be prepared for anything that comes with it.” She took a deep breath, her face decided. “My actions have consequences. I have known that from the beginning.”

“Knowing does not necessarily make it easier, though.” Adelina pulled the covers off, standing up and walking to the window. 

“No, it does not. But it prepares me better.” 

Adelina turned. “I didn’t think that preparing for a situation made it any better.” 

“Preparing helps a lot.” Sarah smiled. “It means that you can think through everyone else’s perspectives and better understand where they are coming from.” 

“And do you believe that you know where Ellian was coming from?” Adelina asked, the words coming out harsher than she meant for them to.

“No, maybe not.” Sarah nodded admittedly. “But I don’t think we are talking about Ellian and I anymore.” 

Adelina looked up quickly. “What are you talking about?” Her voice was high and nervous. 

Sarah smiled a little. “I would have to be blind not to notice that your situation has more to it than you and your friends have told me. And I would have to be blind and deaf not to notice the tension between you and Lord Drustan.” 

“Lord Drustan and I…” Adelina started. 

“You don’t have to tell me everything, my lady.” Sarah spoke before she could finish. “I don’t need to know everything. But with what little information I do have, I can say this- your situation seems to be harder than mine. In a different way, but still harder. But- and forgive my forwardness, my lady- you do not make it easier on yourself.” 

“I’m sorry?” Adelina stared at her- she didn’t care about the fact that Sarah was being forward. She just couldn’t understand what she was saying. 

“I’ve been watching the past month- watching and keeping quiet. I have talked to the other servants and I have heard the rumors that go around. And I see the way that you look at Lord Drustan- and more importantly, the way he looks at you. You both care for each other, even if it is clear to everyone but you two. But you avoid each other when possible, and you  won’t speak to each other. You glare at him while he spends half the time doing the same and half the time looking at you like you are his world.” 

“He doesn’t-” Adelina could feel her cheeks turning red. 

“He does.” Sarah smiled pityingly. “My point is- and forgive me for being forward- that if someone looked at me the way Lord Drustan looked at you, I wouldn’t push them away like you do.” 

Adelina laughed bitterly. “Drustan and I do not get along. He doesn’t look at me like that. It’s something different. And I don’t glare at him.” She paused. “I just… don’t look at him nicely.” 

Sarah laughed. “I practically faint myself when he looks at you- if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.” 

Adelina’s cheeks turned an even brighter red. “I think you are exaggerating.” Why did everyone keep saying that? 

“Your face says otherwise.” Sarah smiled, turning back to her dusting. 

“Drustan and I disagree on a lot of things. Of course, I wish that we agreed on things, but it’s outside of my control.” Was it though? Or was she just lying to both Sarah and herself because it was easier?

“Did something bad happen between you two?” 

Adelina was silent for a moment. “Years ago, yes. His family was involved in something that hurt me very badly.” She bit her lip. “And I’ve been working on forgiving him ever since. Not doing a very good job of it, but working on it.” 

“Is he sorry?” 

Adelina nodded. “Probably more sorry than he needs to be. But I can’t seem to let it go.” 

It was quiet, and Adelina could see the thoughts processing in Sarah’s head. “Are you a religious woman, Lady Alexandria?” 

Adelina was taken aback. “Somewhat, yes.” 

“Do you believe in God?” 

“Yes.” 

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

Adelina nodded. “Yes.” 

Sarah paused, her brow furrowed. “And does the Bible not say that we should forgive others because Jesus forgave us?” 

Adelina thought for a moment. “Yes.” 

“Then why is it so hard for us to forgive other people?” Sarah looked up at her, her face troubled. “Why, when someone wrongs us, do we not forgive them? If God did it for us, why can we not do it for others?” 

Adelina sighed. “I wish I knew the answer to that, Sarah. I know it’s supposed to be hard, but I don’t know why it has to be this hard.”

“According to the Bible, I am supposed to forgive Ellian for leaving me like this. But why? Why should I have to forgive someone who has hurt me so badly?” 

“I think it’s because when we refuse to forgive someone, we hold a grudge against them. And the longer we hold that grudge, the more it weighs on us. We change.” She couldn’t find the words to describe it. “We become this… entirely different person that we don’t even recognize anymore. We tear ourselves apart inside with this hatred for the other person.” Adelina looked down, taking a deep breath. “And eventually, we wake up and find that we should have just forgiven them instead of letting our anger ruin our relationship with them.” 

Sarah looked over at her. “You sound as if you are speaking from past experience.” 

“Past experience? Not necessarily.” Adelina paused. “Maybe current experience.” She walked to the door. “Thank you for talking with me, Sarah. I think I have something that I need to do.” 

Sarah nodded slowly. “Would you like to get dressed first?” 

Adelina looked down at herself and paused. “Yes. I can do it myself though- I don’t plan on wearing anything extravagant today.” 

“I will finish tidying up and cleaning your room then.” 

Adelina walked to the wardrobe and opened it, pulling out a dress and quickly putting it on. She didn’t have time to worry about looking nice. She needed to get out of the house to think. 

“You’re going to rip your hair out.” Anissa appeared in the doorway. 

Adelina struggled with the buttons on her dress, trying to fasten them without getting her hair caught in them. “It would be much easier to handle if I did.” 

“Stop.” Anissa walked over and began buttoning the dress. “Let me help you.” 

“Thank you.” 

“What are you all worried about today? You look preoccupied.” 

“I’m not.” Just because people kept saying it didn’t mean that it was true. “I’m just thinking.” 

“Really? Because generally when I’m just thinking, I can button my dress without nearly strangling myself or pulling all of my hair out.” Anissa smiled, raising an eyebrow. Adelina could tell Sarah was smiling in the corner.

“Well, I have a lot of thoughts.” Adelina shrugged, walking towards the door. “Some that I need a bit of time to think about, so I will be back soon.”

“Where will you go?” Anissa asked. 

“The river, if you need me. I’ll be safe, I promise.” 

“Are you sure it is wise?” 

Adelina nodded. “I’m sure.” 

Adelina left the room before Anissa could say anything more. She would explain everything to Anissa soon but right now, she needed to process her thoughts alone. Talking to Sarah had opened her mind to new possibilities and thoughts that she needed to fully explore. Going down to the river would allow her to do that. If only the river didn’t bring up so many memories of Drustan.

***********************************************************

Drustan stared at his father. “You want me to take who on a picnic?” 

“Lady Jessenia. Her father is a nobleman somewhere near here.” His father motioned flippantly, as if it weren’t important.

“Father- Lady Jessenia is nearly a child. She’s six years younger than me. That is far too young!” His father couldn’t really be serious could he?  

His father looked up for the first time, his eyes dark. “Is that a problem, Drustan? Your mother is six years younger than me.” 

“Yes, but you were four and twenty- she was eighteen. I am twenty. Lady Jessenia is only fourteen! She is a child- she won’t even make eye contact with me, let alone talk to me. How could my marrying her have any benefits?” Drustan was sure it had many benefits for his father, but it had absolutely none for him. 

“Calm down, boy. Nobody said anything about marriage. All you need to do is entertain her for a while and make her and her father believe that you are interested. Once I have what I need from him, you can do whatever you like with her. I don’t care, just as long as your reputation remains intact.” His father glanced up at him, seeing the distaste on his face. “Don’t act like the thought of such a beautiful young lady doesn’t appeal to you. She is quite a lovely young lady when you get to know her. And while I’m sure her personality isn’t half as lovely as her face, that is of little concern.” 

Drustan’s eyes narrowed in disgust. “It doesn’t. I won’t do it, Father. I won’t lead a child into thinking that I am interested in marrying her when I am not. Not someone as young as that. Maybe if she was older, and I could consider marrying her eventually, I would think about it. But I will never marry Lady Jessenia, and I’m not going to make her believe I will. Can you imagine how upset her father will be when he finds out that you had me lead his daughter on and tricked him into helping us? He’ll be furious and go to the king, and then everything you’ve ever done will come to light.” 

“You will do what I tell you, Drustan. I will take care of the rest- you don’t need to worry about any of what comes after.” His father looked at him darkly from under lowered eyebrows. 

“I draw the line here, Father.” Drustan crossed his arms. 

“You don’t draw the line anywhere. You are heir to my title- if you want to keep that inheritance, you will do what I tell you. You have no choice.”

Drustan had to physically bite his tongue to keep from saying something he would regret. “I honor your wishes on many things, Father, but on this, I cannot. You know that I wish to make you happy and proud, but I cannot do this thing. Even you know that it is too far.” Not that his father had not gone further. But maybe his father was feeling sympathetic today. “I beg that you would not make me do this.” 

His father rolled his eyes. “You always were too soft when it came to women. You think that love is the only way to pick a spouse. Any woman that would want to marry someone like you must be a fool.”  

What kind of father talked to his son- the person that he was supposed to love and teach and correct- like that? Drustan had put up with this his entire life- it had been easier when Clay was alive- but it had never cut him this deep. He couldn’t put up with it anymore. Not considering everything that he knew now, and hearing his father’s words. 

“She may be a fool but at least she won’t be a child.” Drustan turned on his heel and left the room, not bothering to bow or pay his father any respect. 

He was still feeling the effects of Adelina’s absence, even when she was only just a ride away. She was the first person who had ever cared about him. She had shown him a love unlike anything he had ever experienced. It wasn’t just because she was the person he pictured himself marrying, but because he had never truly experienced love from anyone until her. Clay had treated him well, and had probably even loved him at some points, but that was often drowned out by their father’s pressure to be masculine and hide their emotions. Showing love to each other or their mother was viewed as weak and foolish. Their father had done his best to force that into their heads their entire lives. 

If his father had never killed Adelina’s parents, and everyone knew she was alive, his father wouldn’t pressure him to marry random women. He would practically trip over himself to get Drustan married to Adelina. 

“Arguing with him is pointless, you know.” His mother stood in Kingsley’s playroom’s doorway. 

Drustan stepped inside and shut the door behind him- the last thing he needed was his father hearing them. “And how long ago did you learn that? When you were married and he started beating you? Or when you started fighting back?” 

He knew he shouldn’t take his anger out on his mother, but she was just as guilty as his father. She hadn’t stepped in for years, even though Haimon had stopped beating her after she gave birth to Kingsley- or whatever his brother’s name really had been. 

She shook her head. “Don’t blame this on me, Drustan. Your father is set in his ways. He won’t just let you go against him like this. You will have to follow his wishes eventually.” 

Drustan pursed his lips. “No, I won’t. I am the heir to his title and his land and everything he owns. Without me, he has nothing. You and I both know that. Who knows how long you and he will live- in the time that it takes for Kingsley to grow up, someone else will have taken everything. You know it, I know it, and Haimon knows it.” 

“Do not address your father so informally.” Her voice was sharp. 

“He is not my father.” Drustan crossed his arms. He had taken this for years and he was tired of it. Knowing what his father had done to Adelina and her family only solidified it. “He has never been my father. And he will never be my father.” 

“Watch your tongue, Drustan. I realize that you are upset right now, but you go too far.” 

“I’m not doing this anymore, Mother. I’m not going to keep doing everything that Haimon tells me to do. I will play the part of the good son in public but I won’t do it here. Not where everyone knows how broken we all are because of what Haimon has done. I have done it for my entire life, but I won’t anymore. And I won’t make Kingsley go through the same things that I did.” 

“Don’t bring Kingsley into this, Drustan. He has nothing to do with this.” She pursed her lips- but there was something else. A fear in her eyes. “You’ve never spoken to me like this before, Drustan. What is wrong?” She reached towards him but he backed away. 

“Kingsley has more to do with this than you are telling me. I know he does. If you think that after all this time, I can’t tell that you are lying to me, you are wrong. I’m your son- I’ve seen you through the grief of losing Clay, the pain of Haimon beating us, everything. I know when you are hiding something from me.” 

“There’s nothing more to tell you, Drustan.” She was still lying to him- if he hadn’t known it before, he knew it for sure now. 

“Fine. Don’t tell me. I’ll find it out for myself.” 

He shook his head, turning and storming out of the room, leaving the castle.

It was an overcast day and he was sure that it would start raining soon, but he couldn’t stay inside now. He needed to get out. 

“Where are you going?” Marie ran up to him, the wind blowing her skirt around and 

“Anywhere but here.” He answered, not looking down at her. 

“What happened?” She kept following him. 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” 

“Clearly you need to.” 

He didn’t answer- he didn’t have to explain himself to her. 

“Drustan!” She grabbed his arm. “You can’t go out there like this- it’s going to rain and you are obviously very upset about something. You shouldn’t be out there alone right now.” 

“Leave me alone, Marie.” He glared down at her. “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” 

“Just tell me what happened.” 

He pushed past her. “Drop it, Marie.” 

There was only one person that he wanted to talk to right now, and it definitely wasn’t Marie. They were close, and he loved her like she was his sister, but he didn’t want to talk to her about this. She could figure it out easily if she really wanted to. He didn’t need to tell her everything. 

She didn’t come after him, but he could tell that she wanted to. She didn’t like being ignored or brushed off. Right now, however, he really didn’t care. He would apologize to her later when he could take the time to do it. Right now he needed to get away. 

His resolve still stood, even after everything his mother had said.  He would never regard Haimon as his father again. He would never ever believe him again. He would never ever trust him again. He would never listen to him again. He would do what he needed to in order to inherit the title, but that was where his loyalty ended.