Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Fifteen

The next month passed slowly and Adelina had never felt happier. Her desire for vengeance for her father seemed to pale in comparison to her love for Drustan. They had spent as much time together as possible, while still being careful not to get caught. He used the excuse that he was helping Edwin with the building, and they would spend the day together in the meadows. She would return to the house for dinner while he actually worked on building some of the castle, adding his own modifications to the plans. When it was finally finished, it would be personalized enough that the two of them could live in it once they overthrew his father. 

Everything was perfect. Adelina had never thought she would be loved so much, but Drustan continuously showed her just how much he cared for her. He protected her, he took care of her, and he listened to her. He laughed with her, cried with her, and had serious conversations with her that no one else would. 

This was the relationship that she had dreamed of for so long. She had thought that she had found it with Drustan the first time, but she knew for sure now that this was her perfect relationship. The time apart had made them even stronger- they had both grown up, and matured. Nothing would tear them apart now. 

“Adelina?” Anissa snapped her fingers in front of her eyes. “Are you paying attention?” 

Adelina blinked a few times, bringing herself back to the present. She was supposed to be focusing on this meeting, but she couldn’t stop wishing that she was back in the meadows with Drustan, rather than sitting next to him at a dull meeting. 

“Yes, I’m paying attention.” She took a deep breath. “What was your question again?” 

Anissa gave her a sharp look, but sat back in her chair and didn’t say anything. “Have you been able to visit the people in the village again?”

“No, I haven’t had the time.” Adelina looked down at her hands, blushing a little and smiling. Drustan smiled slightly also.

Edwin and Anissa’s faces were serious, no hint of humor in their eyes. There was a strange look of concern in Anissa’s green eyes as well.

“Well, if we could ask that you visit them again soon and see if you can learn anything, we would greatly appreciate that addition to the cause.” Edwin said, his words slow, as if he were thinking hard about them. 

“Yes, of course. I am planning on going again soon.” Why were they acting so strange? They knew that she was spending time with Drustan- and they knew how important that was to her. 

“And I have been gathering more information from home- I haven’t found out much, but I have been trying.” Drustan spoke for the first time in a while. “So we are still gathering information, just not as quickly, or in the same way. It just hasn’t been our priority recently.” 

It was silent in the room and the air felt heavy. 

Anissa spoke quietly. “Let me ask you both something: do you still want to do this?” 

“What do you mean?” Adelina laughed. “Of course we still want to do this.” 

“Forgive my skepticism, Adelina, but it is not an ‘of course’ question. You have barely brought up the next step of the plan in a month. You are detached and silent in meetings.” Her voice was beginning to rise. “You don’t seem to want to do this anymore, Adelina. We started this mission for you, and it is beginning to look like you want us to finish it alone.” 

Adelina was taken aback. Where did this outburst come from? She hadn’t mentioned anything like this before- why was it coming out so suddenly now? Adelina couldn’t deny that she had been distracted lately, but she had never once thought about abandoning their plan. 

Before Adelina could answer, Edwin spoke. 

“I believe that what Anissa is trying to say is that she and I are putting our lives on the line for you, and it appears that you have ceased to understand the gravity of that. If you no longer want to finish this mission that we willingly began for you, then we would like to know that so that we can protect ourselves. We both are incredibly happy for you two, and we are glad that you two have found each other again. But we have our own family to look out for.” He looked over at Anissa. “And we have to put that first, if you are no longer going to put this plan at the forefront of your mind.” 

Adelina looked between the two of them, then at Drustan. “You two were the ones that told me I should not seek vengeance. Now you are telling me that you want me to prioritize it over my own happiness?”

Edwin sighed. “Adelina, we told you not to seek vengeance- we never told you to stop seeking justice. They are not the same, and you can have love and happiness while also obtaining justice.”

“You both know that we are thrilled that you are not seeking the same things that you were coming for when you first arrived.” Anissa smiled slightly. “You have changed significantly since then, and we could not be happier about it. But as we said before- if you are making the decision to stop seeking justice, we need to know. We want justice for your parents as well, but we will not do it alone.” 

Drustan shifted in his chair and Adelina could tell that he was uncomfortable- as she was- but she had no idea what to do in order to ease the tension. 

“We support whatever decision you make, but we want it to be your decision.” Edwin was quiet. “Not Drustan’s.” 

“What do you mean by that?” Adelina narrowed her eyes. 

Anissa sighed. “Can either of you deny the way that you have been acting the past several weeks? Any time one of you makes a decision, the other automatically agrees with it- even though I know that sometimes, you don’t agree. You two went from voicing your opinions- and fighting when they disagreed- to agreeing with everything, even when you are practically lying to each other.” 

Adelina chewed on her lip, sinking lower in her chair. Anissa was right- she had been agreeing with Drustan in nearly everything, just because she didn’t want to risk fighting him. It usually turned out for the best, but it was hard when she never voiced her thoughts. And she had known that Drustan was doing the same thing for her, but she hadn’t wanted to address it. It would have blown over eventually, when the two of them got tired of always pleasing each other. But she wasn’t entirely sure that wouldn’t have ended in a fight much larger than what it would have been if they had both been honest with each other. 

“Our point is that we want this decision to be one where everyone truly does what they want. Not one where the first person to speak gets their way. Anissa and I are more than willing to continue in this plan as long as everyone else will.”

“I want to continue.” Adelina answered quickly. “No matter what, I will always want to continue. Nothing could possibly change that, ever. And while yes, I admit, I have been letting a few things go in order to keep the peace, I would not have let anything large like this go. This is my decision, and I made it two and a half years ago. It has not changed, and it never will.” 

“And I agree with her. Not because I have to in order to avoid a fight, but because I want to.” Drustan nodded, finally speaking. He stroked his beard solemnly. “I am sorry if we made it seem as if your sacrifice was not important. We both fully understand that you are risking your lives here, and that is something that is to be respected.”

“We just don’t want you two to make a decision that you may regret.” Anissa answered, smiling sadly. “Your parents were good people, Adelina. We don’t want them to die in vain any more than you do. And we wouldn’t be very good friends if we didn’t try our hardest to look out for you and come alongside you.”

“God tells us to keep each other accountable.” Adelina nodded. “That’s what you’ve been doing for the past five months. I know that. And I don’t blame you for that. I could never blame you for that. I’m sorry if I haven’t been the most understanding and gracious about that.”

Edwin nodded. “I think we all need to remember that we are a family, in our own way. We are going to disagree on some things, and we are going to have arguments. But it is our ability to work through those problems that brings us together in the end.”

“I agree.” Drustan answered. “No more hiding things from each other- we all need to be completely honest. That means honesty within the couples, and within the friends. That is the only way that we are going to succeed here.” 

Anissa smiled. “This was what I missed. This unity and camaraderie. It is what sets us apart from Haimon and his men. We have a loyalty and bond that they don’t have.”

“What, are we going to win with the power of friendship?” Adelina laughed.

“I was going to say the power of family, but friendship works too.” Edwin smiled, joining in on the joke. 

Anissa rolled her eyes. “You both know what I mean- our loyalty to each other and to our cause sets us apart. We cannot be bought with any sort of money or power. His men can be.” 

Drustan had been watching everything, a slight smile on his face, when suddenly, his eyes widened. “Anissa’s right- his men can be bought. They aren’t loyal to my father, because he has done nothing but order them around. They may, however, be loyal to someone else.” 

“That would take a lot of money, though, Drustan, that we don’t possess.” Edwin answered, confused. 

“No, I see what Drustan is saying.” Adelina nodded slowly, a smile growing on her face. “Who has been their true leader for many years? Who has spent time with them personally? Who has looked out for their needs when Haimon hasn’t?”

“Drustan.” Anissa smiled too, and the plan that was slowly forming between the four of them began to take form rapidly. 

“So if we can convince them to be loyal to me- the one who is loyal to them- then we will have extra power when we do overthrow my father.” 

“We need to make a list of people that we know will follow you, and ones that we know will refuse.” 

Drustan nodded. “We can start the refusal list with Ellian.”

“And begin the acceptance list with Bartholomew.” Adelina finished confidently. 

Drustan looked over at her, his eyebrow raised. “Are you sure?” 

Anissa nodded. “Bartholomew will do anything as long as he knows that it is for Adelina, just like Andrew will when we get him on our side.”

“And he is the closest thing that I have to an older brother.” Adelina confirmed. “He’ll do it.” 

“Then I will speak with him as soon as possible.”

Adelina couldn’t help smiling- this plan was going to work. They had setbacks, but this time they were going to finish this. They had to. 

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

Drustan knocked lightly on Adelina’s doorframe, peering through the open door. 

She looked up from her desk where she was writing. “Are you already done meeting with Edwin?” 

He nodded. “It was a short talk.” 

“How did it go?” She looked slightly nervous.

“It was alright- better than I expected, to be sure. He said a lot that I can’t remember about the importance of honesty in a marriage, and the importance of keeping our focus in a situation like this.” 

“I suppose he is right.” Adelina smiled softly. 

“Yes, he is.” Drustan sighed and sat down. “I’m just not exactly sure I wanted to hear it from him.” 

“I know how you feel.” Adelina scrunched her nose. “It feels strange, receiving advice from our best friends, who are the same age as we are.” 

Drustan nodded. “I know we need it though. It wouldn’t be so hard to hear if we didn’t.”

“True.” 

It was silent for a moment before Drustan took a deep breath and dove right into what was sure to be a hard conversation. 

“So I thought that we should talk about what they were saying…” 

Adelina smiled ruefully, setting down her pen and turning full to face him. “I agree.”

“I want to start by apologizing for hiding my true feelings from you- I should have been more honest with you, and made sure you felt as if you could be honest with me. I’m sorry that I didn’t try harder. You deserve better than that.” He walked over to her, placing his hand on her shoulder.

Adelina smiled softly. “I forgive you, so long as you will forgive me for the same. I was so afraid of losing you again that I was willing to lose myself in you. And I don’t think that is healthy or right. So I apologize as well.” 

Drustan nodded. “So now that we have the apologies out of the way… how are we going to fix this going forward?” 

Adelina sighed. “I think that we need to be honest, even at the expense of each other’s feelings. As long as we both understand that we still love each other, and aren’t going to let our differing opinions get in the way, then I don’t think it would be so bad. We used to openly mock each other’s opinion, and we still love each other, and are still together. I think that we can last through respectful disagreements.” 

“I think that you are right. And if we can’t… then I think that we have some bigger issues to work on than just our honesty with each other.” 

“Exactly.” Adelina smiled. “I don’t want to argue with you Drustan- it is one of my least favorite things to do. But I don’t feel that I can sacrifice my own personality just to avoid conflict.”

“I know. I feel the same. We didn’t even realize that we were forcing each other to do the very thing that we don’t want to be doing. This isn’t going to be easy, but I know that it is necessary.” 

“And there is a difference between compromising and letting the other make all the decisions. We can willingly compromise on certain things without hiding our opinions.”

“Exactly.” 

“And I am apologizing now if I seem to be focused on other things for a while. It doesn’t mean that I love you any less. I just think that,” she paused, looking down at her hands, “what Anissa said today was hard for me. Because I have stopped focusing on getting justice for my father. I was so intent on being with you, and being as happy as possible that I lost sight of what is so important to me. And that was my own fault- not yours. But I have to do this, or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

“I understand. And anything that I can do to assist you in this, I will. I couldn’t live with myself if I lived happily while I let my friends and people suffer at the hands of my father. I know how important this is to you, and I would never try to get in the way of that. Your parents and your brother deserve justice, just as my father deserves to be put behind bars permanently. If I had the power to do that in my hands, as I do now, and I gave it away… it’s as you said: I would regret it for the rest of my life.”

“And when it is all over, I promise, I will be able to focus more on being with you. Obviously, we will have many duties, since we will need to take care of the people, and change a lot of things. But those will be much easier to focus on if we are doing them together- and we will be able to focus on each other more if we are together.” 

“It will take a while to get rid of the mark that my father has left on this region.” Drustan sighed. “But I have no doubt that we can do anything, as long as we have God and each other on our sides.” 

Adelina smiled. “I’m so thankful that I found someone like you. And that, despite my best efforts, you stuck around.” 

Drustan winked. “Well, I was happy to stick around. Although I do believe there was a time that all you wanted was to get rid of me.” 

She laughed. “I think that was the ‘best efforts’ part.” 

He smiled back at her, equally as thankful in his own heart to have found someone as amazing as Adelina. God had shown him over and over how perfect she was for him, even when they were struggling. He could only pray that she was the perfect person that God wanted him to spend the rest of his life with. 

“I’ve…” he tried to figure out how to express this the right way, “Adelina, I’ve never had a good example of a marriage to model myself after.” This was a slightly different topic, but he felt that it needed to be said. “I had your parents but even they weren’t the most affectionate towards each other. Maybe it’s because they were older. I don’t know. But I want to promise you this: that I will try my absolute hardest to love you unconditionally, as God calls me to.” He  And I will never, ever treat you as less valuable than you are, as my father has done to my mother. I won’t follow in the footsteps of all the marriages that I have seen growing up.”

She smiled and was about to answer when the door to her room opened and Sarah stepped in. She stopped in the doorway, her eyes wide. 

“I’m so sorry- have I interrupted?” She began to turn. “I can go take care of some things down in the kitchen.” 

Adelina stood. “No, Sarah, it is alright. You can come in. Lord Drustan and I were just having a discussion about our plans for the next year or so. We are simply talking about what will happen when I move back into my own home. Which brings up a subject that I would have been meaning to discuss with you. Come inside.” 

Sarah turned back around, still clearly nervous. “Yes, my lady?”

Adelina smiled. “I will be moving into my new home around the time that you are due to have your child. You are more than welcome to move with me, when that time comes. However, if you wish to stay here for a time and recover, Edwin and Anissa are happy to have you. And even if you wish to never come and live at my new home, they will take you on as one of their workers. It is up to you.”

Sarah was silent for a moment, considering what Adelina was saying. “Ellian still won’t be able to find me if I come to live at your new home?”

“Ellian will never come anywhere near my new home.” Adelina answered firmly.

“You never have to see him again if you do not want to, Sarah.” Drustan said. “Even if he does find out where you are, he will not be able to come near you without your permission.”

 “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. We will never force you to see him, and he won’t be able to force you to either.” Adelina smiled softly. “We want to protect both you and your baby, Sarah. You are both incredibly important to us. We will never put you in a position where you may feel unsafe.”

“Then I believe that, if the baby is born, I will come with you immediately. If they are not born yet, I will wait until I have them to come with you. I have heard horrible stories of women who were too active at the end, and ended up losing their baby.” 

“We will do anything possible to prevent that from happening.” Adelina assured her. 

“We only want what is best for you and the baby, Sarah. Whatever you feel needs to be done in order for that to happen, we support.” Drustan added. 

Sarah’s eyes began to water but she tried to smile. “I’ve never had someone care about me like this. Not even my mother cared so much for me- not unless she needed something from me.” She looked between the two of them. “I can never repay you enough.”

Adelina smiled. “We don’t expect you to repay us, Sarah. We just hope that we can help you have a better life.” 

Sarah nodded. “Thank you.”

“Of course.” Drustan answered, then took a deep breath. “Sarah, would you mind giving Alexandria and I a moment or two? We just have a few other things to discuss.” 

Sarah looked between them again, this time with a little bit of confusion. “I’ll just go back down to the kitchen.” She answered slowly, then left the room. 

“She’s going to start getting suspicious.” Adelina admonished, laughing. 

“As if she isn’t already.” Drustan shrugged. “We’ll have to tell her the plan soon enough. It would be best, in her state, to ease her into it. But I sent her away for a reason. We weren’t able to finish our conversation.” 

Adelina nodded slowly. “Is there anything specific that you haven’t told me you disagreed on, that I can change now?” Adelina asked. 

Drustan thought for a moment. “I don’t believe so. Most of them were small decisions that the outcome wasn’t necessarily that important.” He paused, realizing that she wouldn’t have asked that unless she had things that were bothering her. “Is there something that you let go, that you didn’t want to?” He combed his brain for what it could possibly be. 

She sighed, nodding a little. “There was just one thing.” 

“And what was it?”

“And it isn’t even a big deal- it was one of those decisions that could go either way, and the plan would still work out just fine. It was something that was more for my own personal sake.”

“Adelina, you can tell me what it is. I won’t get angry with you. We are working on our compromising. And if it isn’t a big deal, then I’m sure that I’m not going to care about doing what you want.” 

She chewed on her lip, looking down at her hands in her lap. “I want… I want to meet my brother.” Tears began to fill her eyes. “I want to meet Asher. And I know that you and I talked about it, and you didn’t think that it was the best choice. But I want to know him, Drustan. It has been two years since I have truly seen him, and I want to see my baby brother. I have already missed so much of his life. I don’t want… I don’t want to miss a moment more.”

Drustan nodded before she continued speaking. “Alright. I understand- you don’t have to explain it to me.”

“Really?” She looked up at him. 

“Of course.” Drustan smiled, wiping a tear from her cheek. “You will meet your brother as soon as possible, Adelina. I promise.”