Chapter 34

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This is it--the conclusion of the story! Please see the special message at the end of the chapter--some important info and a surprise! 

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Lots of bad things had happened to me in my brief life. But I'd never had my heart broken before. Nadine came into the exam room a few minutes after Dietrich left. She sat on the bed and held me, and I cried all over her pretty poplin gown. 

"Hush now," she crooned after awhile. "It was going to end badly no matter what. Better now, before you became any more attached to him."

I pulled back, wiping my eyes with the handkerchief she'd given me. "It's not just that. There's something wrong with him, but he won't tell me what it is."

She gave me a pitying look. "Maybe facing the Peacock made him realize he had to do the right thing by you. It's not easy, especially if your heart wants something different."

I gave up trying to explain. She was only going to see things the way she wanted to see them. She loved me, but she hadn't approved of Dietrich and me to begin with. 

But I knew what I'd seen on that stage. I knew what I'd felt when his magic exploded through me. And I knew that his behavior today was more than a presul rejecting an apprentice because of an attack of conscience. 

In saving me, something had gone deeply wrong. And no matter how my heart ached right now, and no matter how he treated me when he returned from Caerdydd, I would do whatever I could to find a way to help him. 

I owed him that much. If not for him, I would be dead. 

Suddenly, I felt like such a baby. A self-centered one, at that. Dietrich had saved my life, and now he was clearly paying some inexplicable, possibly dreadful, price. If he was pushing me away, it likely was for a good reason. He was trying to be strong, for my sake. 

I had to trust his character. The demon on the stage that night had not been him. It couldn't have been. 

I had to grow up. I had to be strong, too. It was the only way to help him.

And sitting in a clinic bed sobbing because a boy left me was not being strong.  

It was time to go home.

Lucy insisted I stay until after tea, to make sure I was fully recovered from the drug and the concussion. The five of us enjoyed sandwiches, biscuits, and scones along with tea, and in spite of the ache in my chest, I soon was drawn into their lively chatter and banter. Broken heart or not, life was forging ahead, and it beckoned me to enjoy it.

Two hours later, a carriage arrived to return us to the theater. Raymond, Thea, and I said our goodbyes to Lucy. I hugged her tightly, thanking her again for taking care of me.

Nadine settled again into a chair in the reception room. 

"Aren't you coming with us?" I asked her.

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