“You will need to practice,” I responded. “I will be needing to practice because I can’t afford to fail.”
A light, almost flitting breeze fluttered through the trees and the flowers. But no wind stirred the branches as we spoke. Perhaps it was only our conversation and the sounds of our footsteps. Perhaps something else was on its way and it would not be long. “You may fail,” he said, his voice slightly more confident as he made to stand. “If you don’t succeed, do not come to me and brag about your success. If you are to earn my respect, you will do so without bragging.” I stood and he reached out to take my hand in his.
His fingers easily slipped through mine, and although I tensed at his touch, I could not bring myself to withdraw from it. “I did not come here to win you over, to make you my plaything.” He sighed. “I came here to see you. I want to know whether you will be a friend and brother.” “As you wish, my lord.” We stepped apart, and he took my hand once more in his. As he did, he smiled and I looked away, not knowing whether to smile or not. “So you really do not know, do you?” “No.” And then, in a voice only I could hear, I said, “I do not.” “It’s a pity.” He turned back to me, eyes bright with mischief. “You should know, I do not care for the rules of my house. But I was glad to see you.
I always thought you were a strange and unpredictable person, but I would not have missed that.” Even as he spoke the words, I realized that he had been thinking of myself – and I had been thinking of myself. For many months, I had been a cipher, someone he had seen often and then not seen again. A man who passed through the palace doors, but would not have recognized a man for whom he felt anything. Yet suddenly, we were not who we were. For I was no longer a young woman. I was a woman with a husband, and her husband was not one to be trifled with. “And I would not have missed you.” He touched my cheek and started to work out to get fit.