Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Thirteen

“I miss going out like this.” Anissa picked another flower. “I don’t get to do anything like this anymore.” 

Adelina smiled. “I haven’t done it in a long time. I love that the weather is warm enough now that we can do things like this. And it’s nice having guards so that we don’t have to be constantly looking over our shoulders.” She smiled down at the flowers in her basket.

“They are a blessing, to be sure.” Anissa looked up at the sky. “Unfortunately I think that it will be a few days before we can do it again. Those look like dark rain clouds.”

Adelina frowned. “Can there just be one month were it doesn’t rain at all?”

“I believe you live in the wrong region for that.” Anissa smiled. “And don’t act like it is so unusual- you’ve lived here your entire life.”

“I know. And every year, I hope that it will be different. And every year, it disappoints me when it rains over and over.” 

“The good news is that rain means Drustan won’t come over much.” Anissa raised an eyebrow. It had been nearly a month since Adelina had told her about her feelings for Drustan, and Anissa brought it up nearly any time they were in private.

“I suppose that is a blessing. I still haven’t figured out what to say to him. And after he left so abruptly three weeks ago- and has barely been back since- I’m beginning to think that he suspects that my feelings have changed.”

“If he knew how you were truly feeling, he would be here all of the time, trying to get you to admit to it.” 

“Unless he doesn’t feel the same, and doesn’t want to go through the awkwardness of talking about it. Maybe he thinks that if he doesn’t come often, it will go away.”

“Either way, him not coming as frequently gives you time to think. Not that I think you should need it.” 

“I know, I know.” Adelina waved her away. “You think that I should just tell him.”

“You would make your life a lot simpler if you just did it. As is, you are so nervous to be around him that you barely participate in our meetings anymore. You are supposed to be leading the charge here- we can’t do it without you.” 

“I know- and I am sorry. I need to work on not letting my personal feelings get in the way. I just am so scared that I’m going to suddenly blurt out how I feel. I almost did when he came after I talked to you.”

“And it’s been two weeks of awkward and tense conversations since then. Clearly, if you are nearly blurting it out, you want to tell him- even if it’s only deep down. So you should listen to that small voice inside of you and just do it. What is the worst that could happen?” 

“This entire operation could become even more awkward and tense than the last two weeks. If he doesn’t feel the same, everything is going to be incredibly embarrassing and humiliating.” 

Anissa sighed. “I understand that you don’t want your feelings to get in the way here. I know that the mission comes first. I know all of your reasons not to tell him. But what about reasons to tell him? Why would you tell him?”

Adelina took a deep breath. “If I told him, and he feels the same way, I would have a chance at being happy again. I would have even more assurance that he was on our side. I wouldn’t doubt his loyalty so much.”

“Which he never gave you any reason to doubt in the first place.” Anissa reminded her. 

Adelina rolled her eyes. “He did hold a knife to my throat.” 

“After you held one to his.” 

Adelina smiled a little. “I suppose maybe I gave him just as much reason not to trust me as he gave me not to trust him. And he’s clearly trying to make amends, so I should too. I just can’t quite convince myself to let him back in.”

“I’m not saying whether you should or should not let him back in. If it were me, I probably would open up to him again. But it’s not me- it’s you. And I will never be able to fully comprehend your situation, since I haven’t lived it. So it is your decision, even if I don’t agree with it. I will support you, no matter what happens. And I will support you no matter what, even though I don’t show it often enough.” 

Adelina sighed. “I know you do. And deep down, I know that you are right. I should just tell him. He deserves that much from me, after everything that I’ve put him through these past three and a half months. He deserves my honesty at least.” 

“So when are you going to tell him? How are you going to tell him?” Anissa looked over at her with a sly smile. 

Adelina rolled her eyes, smiling. “I suppose whenever he comes over next. That would be the simplest option. And I’ll just tell him plain and simple. He and I have never been extravagant or excessive.” 

“You’ll just tell him that you love him?” 

“I didn’t say that- I’ll tell him exactly what I told you. I’m starting to develop feelings for him again, and I don’t know exactly where it’s going to lead but I wanted to be open about it.” 

Anissa raised an eyebrow. “That seems very sensible.” 

“I’m not a child, Anissa.” Adelina answered. “I don’t need to be romantic and whimsical about it. I can be mature and tell him straight to his face without having to worry about making it dramatic.” 

“Something tells me that it has less to do with not being a child and more to do with the fact that you don’t want to be embarrassed.” Anissa looked over at her. 

Adelina picked a few more flowers, then looked up at the sky. “I guess maybe that could be it. But my whole life has also been dramatic. Everything about it has been excessive or over the top- often not in a good way. I never felt like I needed to be that way with Drustan. He always let me know that it was okay not to be extravagant with him. He was okay with being simple. It was part of why being with him was so easy, and why I enjoyed his company more than anyone else’s. I was never worried that I wasn’t enough for him.”

Anissa was quiet for a moment. “I know that I can be critical at times. Probably overly critical most of the time. I shouldn’t be critical of your reasons for just being honest with Drustan and nothing more. I just want what is best for you.” 

Adelina smiled softly. “I know you do.” 

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

Adelina ran out of the stable and into the house just as the rain began to pour. Anissa had been right about those clouds- it would likely rain heavily for a while now. That was alright, though. It would give Adelina time to rest and focus her mind on planning the next steps of their plan. 

As she walked down the hall, she stopped at the vase of flowers that they had picked the day before. They weren’t quite as beautiful here as they had been in their natural habitat, but she still loved them. Flowers had always been something her mother was fond of, and she had passed that love to Adelina. Even though roses were her favorite, she had taught Adelina that all flowers were beautiful, no matter what they looked like. She had also taught Adelina about the functions of several of the different flowers in their area- functions that Adelina had forgotten about a long time ago. But the memories that she made during those lessons were still fresh in Adelina’s mind. Hours spent curled up next to her mother as they read books- and countless days working in her mother’s gardens together. 

She glanced up in the mirror above the flowers, smiling wistfully. If only her mother were here now and could see these flowers for herself. 

“Adelina, is that you?” Anissa called from the kitchen. 

Adelina walked to the doorway. “Yes, I just made it in from the stable.”

“Good- I was hoping you wouldn’t get stuck out there.” 

Adelina smiled. “I got inside right as it started to rain. I would’ve come in anyway though- what’s a little rain?”

Anissa smiled back at her. “The servants are going to begin preparing dinner soon, so if you want to go upstairs and freshen up, you can. It should be ready in less than an hour.”

Adelina nodded. “Okay- I think that I will go do that.”

“Oh, before you go- Drustan came back with Edwin from the building site.” Adelina couldn’t tell if the feeling in her chest was her heart dropping or soaring. “They are upstairs talking in Edwin’s office right now. I would wait a little bit before going in- they seem to be talking about something serious- but Drustan is stuck here until the rain stops. It would be the perfect opportunity to tell him how you’ve been feeling, if that’s what you want to do.” 

Adelina bit her lip and nodded. “Thank you for warning me- I’ll think about it.” 

She made her way down the hallway and up the stairs to her room quietly. She didn’t want Edwin and Drustan to hear her and potentially invite her into the conversation when she wasn’t ready to face Drustan. 

“How do you plan on getting back home?” Edwin’s voice drifted down the hall and Adelina stopped to listen. She knew she shouldn’t, but she couldn’t help it.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll stay here until the rain stops.” 

“And if it goes all night?” 

“My father will accept it if I tell him that we were working on building plans until late and I was unable to return because it was dark and rainy. He might even be happy that I was gone so long so that he doesn’t have to work around me.”

“I can’t tell if that is a good or bad thing.” Edwin laughed. 

“For me, it’s a good thing. It means I don’t have to keep up the act or pretend that I didn’t hear something so that he doesn’t get angry with me.”

“Well then I’m glad that God sent the rain, for your sake.” 

She could hear them both laughing and she smiled to herself. She hadn’t heard or seen them both happy in a long time, and she was glad that there was still some essence of the old times left. 

It was quiet for a moment before either of them spoke again and Adelina nearly walked away. But then she heard Drustan begin to talk again. 

“Where is she right now?” Was he talking about her?

“She’s downstairs with Anissa.” 

“How did she seem today? Did she seem like she was in a good mood?”

Edwin laughed a little and Adelina took a few steps closer. “She seemed like she would be open to talking to you, if that’s what you mean.” What did he want to talk to her about? “Anissa said that she’s seemed much happier recently.” There was a pause. “Are you going to tell her?” 

“I don’t know. Should I?” 

“This is kind of a big thing, Drustan. If you don’t tell her, she may be upset.” 

“But she’ll be upset even if I do tell her. And then where will we be?”

“She’ll get over it quicker if she knows that you’ve been open and honest with her.” 

“But what if she doesn’t? What if I lose her again? I can’t do that, Edwin. I can’t.” 

“You might not lose her if you tell her. You most certainly will lose her, however, if you don’t tell her.” 

“How am I supposed to tell her that I worked with my father and hurt countless people? How am I supposed to say that, Edwin? She won’t understand- all she will hear is that I was his right hand man for a year and a half. She’ll tune everything else out after that.” He paused for a moment. “I killed a man, Edwin. She will not ever be able to let that go.” 

And just like that, Adelina’s world was turned upside down.

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

“It was in self defense, Drustan.” Edwin was trying to make him feel better, but it wasn’t working.

“He was only coming after me because I was enforcing my father’s rules. If I had just resisted my father, this never would have happened.”

“But it did. And you’ve made amends. You were a different person during those times, Drustan. Don’t let the mistakes that you made then continue to ruin your life now. Learn from them- don’t wallow in them.”

“Maybe if I just wait a little bit longer, until I figure out how to say it to her.” 

“Drustan… if you don’t say something to her, your father will eventually. When he finds out about her- and we both know that he will- it’s going to come out and he’s going to use it against you. You have to tell her, Dru. And you have to do it soon.” 

“She isn’t going to understand, Edwin. She isn’t going to get it.”

“Adelina is reasonable, Drustan. Yes, she is blinded by her need for justice, but she can be made to see reason. If you tell her what happened, she will understand.”

“What if she doesn’t?”

“You can’t think like that, Dru. You just need to have a little faith. She was your best friend, and she can be again. But only if you are honest with her.” 

Drustan sighed. “I’ve spent so long hiding it, Edwin. Avoiding it, cowering away from it. I don’t know what it is like to be honest about it.”

“She deserves to know what really happened while she was gone.” 

“I know she does. I just wish that I didn’t have to be the one to tell her.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe once she knows that I am taking care of his family, she’ll feel better.” 

“That will help- and knowing that you are sorry at all will help too. You want her to trust you- you have to trust her too. Relationships are a matter of give and take. Maybe she’ll respond better than you think she will. I know there have been things in my relationship with Anissa that I haven’t wanted to tell her because I was afraid of her reaction, and then she reacted fine.”

“Did you ever tell her that everything she hoped you were, you aren’t? That you are a murderer?” He was being dramatic and he knew it but it was hard not to be in a moment like this. 

“Dru, you aren’t a murderer. Everyone knows that it was in self defense. No matter his motives, what else were you supposed to do? Let him kill you?”

“I think that everyone would have been a lot happier if he had.” It was true- everyone hated him and his father. They would have rejoiced at his death.

“No.” Edwin shook his head firmly. “Everyone would not have been happier. That man abused his family, and was a terror in the town. It would not have been better for you to die in his place. Don’t let yourself think like that. You are doing more for his family now that he is gone than he ever did for them.”

“How do you know that though? Maybe if he had killed me, things would have turned around for him. He might have become a better person.”

“We won’t know what would have happened, Drustan. Just what did happen. And I, for one, am glad that it happened this way. I’d hate to think of what life would be like if things had ended differently that day.”

Drustan took a deep breath and nodded. He couldn’t say how he was truly feeling. Edwin just didn’t get it. Edwin didn’t understand how hard it was for everyone to hate him- including his family. He didn’t understand how much Drustan wanted everyone to care about him and what happened to him. No one understood it. No one could ever understand it. He had to stop expecting them to.

“I know that this isn’t easy, Dru. But I also know that you are one of the strongest people that I know. You will find a way to come back from this. We are all here supporting you- and even if we weren’t, you wouldn’t be alone.”

Drustan sighed. “I know. I wish things had gone differently, though. Throughout my entire life in general but especially that day. I wish he had stayed home. I wish he hadn’t made that choice. I wish I hadn’t had to defend myself. Then maybe I would be able to look at myself in the mirror without loathing myself.” 

“I wish those things as well. But you have to do something about it if you want it.”

“I am trying. I want to do something about it. I just don’t know how.” 

“Pray, Dru.” 

“What?” 

“Pray.” Edwin laughed. “I know it isn’t a foreign concept to you. There’s only one way that I know of to help you with this. There is nothing that I can do to truly help you- and nothing Adelina can do to truly help you. The only one who can bring you real healing is God. Believe me, if I could help you, I would. But I know that I can’t- and you know that I can’t. It just doesn’t work like that.” 

Drustan was quiet for a moment, thinking over what Edwin had said. “Adelina’s father always talked about that. He told me that God was the only one who could truly save me from my father. He said God might use him and his family to help, but in the end, it was God. For so long, I didn’t believe him.” Drustan looked down at his hands. “I only truly started to understand and believe a few months before he died. And when he was gone… I lost it. I couldn’t believe it anymore. It wasn’t until a week or two before Adelina returned that I was so far gone that I had nowhere else to turn to but God. But I still feel as if I’m too far gone.” He couldn’t quite find the words to express how he was feeling. “Who would want a murderer? With all that I’ve done, why would God accept me?” 

“Because he doesn’t care what you’ve done, Drustan. He cares about what you do now.” Edwin sighed. “I wish I had all of the answers for you, Dru. Sadly, there are some questions I can’t answer. But I know this for sure- if you will go to him with a humble heart, God will accept you. And for what it’s worth- though this is far less important, I believe Adelina will as well.” 

Drustan nodded slowly. He knew all of these things- Rorick had told him this a hundred times. But hearing it all again as he was older felt different somehow. Something was tugging at his heart and he couldn’t deny it anymore. It had been easy to fight God when things were going well for him without believing. Now, things were different. Now, he didn’t have anywhere else to turn. He was at the end of his rope, with only one choice left to make. It wasn’t even really a choice either- he didn’t feel as if he had been forced into it because it was the last option. He went towards it willingly. 

It was silent in the room as Drustan bent his head and closed his eyes. He knew that Edwin was doing the same, even though he couldn’t see him. 

A peace washed over Drustan as he prayed, baring his soul before God. He laid out everything that he had done in his life- every mistake, every bad thought, every slip up- and asked forgiveness for all of it. He gave it all to God. All of the hurt, all of the anxiety, all of the bitterness. He wasn’t going to carry it anymore. Not when there was someone so much stronger and so much more able. It would take work to continuously surrender but he was ready. He was prepared to do that as often as possible. 

He thanked God for bringing him this far, and not giving up on him. Everyone else would have given up long ago- and did- but God hadn’t abandoned him. And if he hadn’t done it already, he wouldn’t now.

He exhaled slowly, finishing his prayer by asking God to give him patience and bless him with an understanding heart that was slow to anger and quick to listen. He let himself get carried away by his temper far too often- especially with Adelina. He needed to work on that- not only for the sake of his friendship with Adelina but also for himself and his new commitment to honor God. Deep down, he had never stopped hoping that God still loved him. That small hope had kept him going until now, when he knew for sure that God had not given up on him. 

He raised his head slowly, exhaling and looking over at Edwin. Edwin smiled back at him. 

“The Lord has brought about a good thing today. I can almost hear the saints roaring.”

Drustan smiled, feeling true joy for the first time in months. “I almost can as well.” 

Edwin stood. “We should go and tell Anissa the good news. She will be so glad to hear it- she’s been praying for you constantly, though she might not have told you about it. This will bring her an immense amount of joy.” He smiled wryly. “I’m warning you, though- there may be tears.” 

“I’m more than happy to have a positive answer to those prayers. And I can handle a few tears if they’re for a good reason such as this.” 

Edwin paused for a moment before opening the door. “Rorick would have been proud of you, Drustan. It is no secret that one of his largest goals in life was to see you turn from your father and follow Christ. This would have made him so happy.” 

Drustan didn’t bother to try to blink away the tears welling in his eyes. He had learned long ago that Edwin didn’t think him weak for showing emotion. “I wish that he could have been here to see this.” 

“He can see.” Edwin answered simply. “He may not be right here next to you, but he can see. And he is cheering with everybody else.” 

Drustan smiled and nodded, taking a deep breath. “Thank you for your encouragement, Edwin. I truly believe that God has used you as a tool for repentance in my life. I might not be here if it weren’t for your influence.” 

Edwin smiled again. “It has been my pleasure.” 

As he began to open the door, Anissa’s voice came up the staircase. 

“Adelina? Adelina, are you in your room?” Her voice stopped for a moment. “Adelina, why on earth are you standing here in the hallway? What’s wrong?”

Drustan froze, his eyes slowly meeting Edwin’s. He shook his head slightly. Please, God, no. 

Edwin opened the door, revealing Adelina standing in the hallway, grief shadowing her features. It only took one look at her to know the truth- she had heard everything they just said. And while God might forgive him for his past sins, Adelina most certainly would not.