Chapter 19, Part 2

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Her thoughts turned to other matters...the quiet being one of them. It had been weeks since the house was so still. But there was no serenity in the silence...no joy in the calmness. Everything seemed so empty now, as if the very soul of the house had fled. She sighed, trying to recall what she had done in the days before Simon. In former times, when her father had gone to court, she had missed him terribly, but she had occupied herself with various tasks to pass the time. For a moment, she considered going out to the garden or the orchard. But those places held new memories now. A deep meaning that had taken root there, among the trees and fragrant blooms. In the orchard, they had shared their first real kiss. Among the garden flowers, under the evening stars, they had shared a tender and romantic night. Even the great hall would hold reminders of him. He would be everywhere she turned. She sighed, deeply and raggedly. The man she loved had not been gone half a day, and already she missed him.

Lord, she thought. How does Mama do this? How does she not go mad with missing Papa?

Perhaps it was unwise to remain alone in this way. Perhaps it would be better to commiserate with someone who understood her suffering. She rose from her seat and left her room, moving toward her mother’s chambers.

She knocked, and a moment later she was surprised by the sound of Thea’s voice, bidding her to enter. When she came in, she found Thea and their mother on the bed together, resting against the pillows. Thea was leaning on Cassia’s shoulder. They were both sniffling, and teary eyed. Evelyn was hesitant to add her own misery to theirs...and yet, she was hungry for their comfort. She took a small step back.

“I am sorry to disturb you,” she said, turning away. But Cassia called her back.

“Evelyn, do not go. Come, my darling, and sit with us.”

She needed no encouragement. She crawled into the big bed, moving carefully as she found a place beside her mother. It was just the three of them. Her, Thea, and their mother... huddled together and bonding over their shared heartaches.

This, Evelyn realized, was the source of her mother’s strength...to rely on those they loved. Not to suffer in solitude, as men would do, but to find solace in one another, assuring themselves that soon, their men would return to them, safe and sound.

*****

Simon looked around at the colorful circle of nobles gathered together.  With a deep sigh, he brought his goblet to his lips, sipping his wine as he went through the motions of being a court member. His expression was calm, belying the edginess he felt bubbling inside. They had all been summoned here to discuss the possibility of a conflict. And yet, here they stood...partaking of wine and food, conversing gaily amongst one another. Minstrels played while eligible young maidens danced, displaying their charms for the eager men who might be seeking a bride. It was all a haughty show of grandeur...and it bothered Simon to no end. He clenched his jaw to keep from cursing.

But Sir Guy had no qualms about speaking his mind. His face was dark with anger, and he stood with his arms crossed, muttering his displeasure.

“Bloody foolishness. If there is to be a war, why can it not be discussed without this useless display of show? My remaining years are few, and yet I must give a portion of them to this?”

Simon was not surprised by Guy’s reaction. From the moment they had set out, he had been this way...ill of mood, saying very little except when prodded, or when he failed to contain his temper, as now. The other court members were careful in approaching him, if they tried to approach at all. Their questions were mostly met with silence and frosty looks. Simon understood Guy’s anger. The earl had a family at home, one he had been forced to leave behind. The wife he loved most dearly was carrying a child, and he could not be there. It was no wonder that he chafed in angry helplessness. Looking around at their fellow nobles, Simon felt a similar sense of unhappiness.

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