Ch. 50.8 – Mary walked in uncomfortable silence beside Eli on the broad dirt swath left by the raths. She stole a glance at him. He smiled slightly, but didn’t say anything. Why didn’t he say something? Did he expect her to carry on a conversation? She’d never learned the polite ways of addressing princes, or the chit-chat between friends.
It was true that she’d been avoiding him — sneaking off whenever he happened to be where she was — because what could she possibly say to him?
But he’d saved her life. He’d given her back her voice. Guilt swamped her.
At last Mary gathered her courage. “Thank you for saving me.”
Eli turned to her, his face alight with gladness. “You’re welcome.” He gestured to the moon. “It’s a beautiful night.”
“I never thought I’d see the moon again. I used to dream about it, and then it got so I wondered if it was real or just something I’d made up.”
“All that is over now.”
“That’s just it. I know the trolls are dead. Defeated. Gone. But…” She tapped her head and chest. “In here, they’re a threat. I’m still in danger. I know our parents promised us to each other, but I am a mess. I may never be normal.”
Mary took a deep breath. “What I am saying is, although I appreciate what you did for me, I won’t hold you to an agreement made long ago without our consent. You don’t have to marry me.”
He studied her face earnestly. “What if I still want to?”
“Why?” She stared at him, shocked.
“Mary, you’ve only been free a little while. I understand that it will take time to get used to the world again, to living with people. And I understand that you have a lot of healing to do. I’m a patient man. I’m willing to wait for as long as it takes. The question is, what do you want to do now?”
She sifted through her thoughts. “I would like to go home and see my family, to see if my parents will still…”
“How could they? All they knew was Zelda, who terrorized them.”
“The Jub-jub birds have taken messages to Saltonia. Your parents want both you and Janine to come and visit them. Your brother and oldest sister and their families are excited to meet you.”
Mary looked down. “I can’t be under stone. Caves, tunnels, buildings. Even those with big windows.” She shuddered.
He grinned. “I guess castles are not in your future. I’ve always preferred wood anyway.”
They began to walk again. Her heart was a little lighter.
She tried to think of another topic. “Yesterday I saw a house on wheels, pulled by a horse. It was painted in bright colors. The people who live in it travel from place to place, always under the open sky. They sing and play instruments in each town where they stop. It looked… fun.”
“Then I will find one for you and buy it.”
She gaped at him. “You’d do that for me?”
“Of course.” He reached out and took her hand. “What else do you want to do?”
Mary thought about all she had missed in the years she had been a captive. She wanted to see the world. Swim with the mermaids. Climb trees. Fly on that dragon with Janine. She wanted to get to know her family, and Eli’s family and friends. Mary was beginning to think that she might want to spend her life with this man who saw what was inside of her and still was brave enough to love her.
She looked up into his kind eyes and saw the promise of a happy life. “Everything.”