I awake to a knocking on my door, smiling instantly upon see the Jarrah walking into the room holding a tray with a loaf of bread and cup of water.
“Your highness, I bring you breakfast complimentary of the house.”
I giggle. “Thank you, my prince. Why’s there a piece missing from the bread?”
“Prince got hungry on the way,” he smiles sheepishly.
“I see,” I say, grabbing the tray and placing it on my lap. Jarrah sits on the stool next to my bed, watching me with a sort of giddy smile.
“What’s got you so excited?”
“Well, Arnie said you’d be better after four weeks. And it’s officially four weeks today!”
“Four weeks?” I croak.
I can’t help it, but all I can think of is that Isaac has been dead for four weeks.
A month without him.
I think of his face every day, trying to keep it a part of my memory forever.
“Everything alright?” Jarrah asks.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say numbly.
“I thought you’d be a little more excited.”
“Jarrah, go get yourself stabbed and then tell me how exciting it is that it hasn’t happened in a month,” I say tiredly.
“Point taken. Get it? Point?”
“Too soon,” I smile slightly. “What are you really excited about? You’re bouncing like a five year old right now.”
“Well, there’s something I wanted to ask you. Or, rather, show you.”
He reaches into his pocket, and my eyes widen.
“We are not getting married, Whitley! Take your bread and go,” I screech.
“No, no!” he says quickly, pulling his hands out of his pockets and holding them up innocently, “that’s not it!”
“Oh,” I say awkwardly, “sorry about that.”
“Nice to know you’re so against the idea, though,” he mutters.
I fiddle with the loaf of bread in my hands, afraid to make eye contact. We sit there for a few minutes as I eat and he looks at the floorboards with keen interest. When I’m finished eating, I place the tray to the side of my bed, staring at his eyes, downcast and thoughtful.
“What I really wanted to say is,” he says, breaking the silence, “let’s run away somewhere.”
“What?” I sputter.
“Let’s run away. You and me. We could do it—go somewhere far and we’ll never have to hide anymore. There’s a train to Potomac tomorrow, and--”
“You’re talking about Paris,” I interrupt, “you still haven’t given up on that, have you?”
“I never will, Alice. I know it’s the best thing for me and you’re the person I want--no, need--there supporting me. I was hoping you’d be a little more excited about it...”
“How can I be excited about running off into the middle of nowhere when that’s all I’ve been doing for the past four years?”
“But it’ll be the last time you have to run. No one will get to you there. They can’t. The law will protect you. Us. We’ll finally be away from everything that’s ever troubled us. Don’t you want to start over?”
“For God’s sakes, Jarrah, listen to yourself! I’m barely able to walk at this point, neither of us have any money, I’ve been a nervous wreck ever since I lost Isaac, not to mention that you have absolutely no plan other than that you want to be a stupid artist on the other side of the damned ocean!” I growl, temper rising.
I take a deep breath, remembering that anger is a side effect of the wound.
Or maybe it’s a side effect of being me.
“Alice, I’ve had this plan in my head for the past four years. Farren Riddle is his name. He’s a rich bloke who finds talented people like me and works the whole thing out; for a profit, of course,” he says rationally, only angering me more with his calm tone. I want him to shout, instead of looking at me with a stupid smile that I want to smack off his face.
He reaches for my hand, but instinctively I pull it away.
“How can you trust him? You have no clue who you’re dealing with, face it! How can you know the offer still stands? What if he’s not around after four years?”
“Not around?” he chuckles, “the man’s been in business for thirty years. He started out as nothing, and now he’s on top of the world. He’s the perfect guy to get me there.”
“What makes you think everything is going to work out in Paris? What’ll you do if you end up homeless and penniless? Will he pay for your ride back, too?”
“Well,” he hesitates, “I won’t need a ride back. I’ll make it without my dad’s money, I’ll show him I never needed it.”
“Jarrah,” I say quietly, “is this about you, or your dad?”
“Alice,” he says firmly, “he has nothing to do with me any more.”
“He hurt you, Jar,” I say softly, “I know he did. You’re scarred and angry and Paris is your way out of your emotions. But trust me when I tell you that running from your problems only buries them deeper in your mind.”
“I’m not running, Alice! Why won’t you just listen to what I’m trying to tell you, instead of shutting me out? It’s like talking to my dad all over again, calling my dreams idiotic and ignoring me when I need you.”
I flinch at the comparison, knowing his father is the one thing that pains him the most.
“I’m trying to help you,” is all I can say.
He runs his hands through his hair in frustration, standing up and pacing.
“The train leaves tomorrow. Think about it,” he says blankly after a few moments, leaving the room without a second glance.
[A/N: Oh it’s that kind of chapter]
I sit there, awestruck at his sudden proposition. I knew it was something he wanted, but I never thought it would come to this, so soon and so real. I am in no way prepared to make this decision in the next twenty four hours. The scariest part is that I know Jarrah has made up his mind. I saw it in his eyes, full of excitement and thirst for adventure. It’s either I go with him, or stay here. There is no more time to stall the inevitable decision I have to make.
It’s a weird thought, how much my life can change in just a few short seconds. All I have to do is choose.
I could stay with Jarrah--go with him and see where the path takes me. We might end up happily married, living in another city away from our pursuers. Or maybe he could decide I’m not what he wants, or I could decide he’s not what I need, and I could end up alone and farther from home than ever. I look at how Marianna ended up, and only fear comes to my mind of being left behind the way she was; heartbroken and bitter.
“Ha! You’re nothing but cargo now that he’s escaped, and you bloody know it. He’ll get rid of you at the next chance he gets, just you wait. I’ve been getting drunk ‘lmost every nigh’ since he left me. I was hoping, always hoping, that he’d come back for me.”
I push the memory out of my thoughts, afraid of the truth I know it contains.
Maybe it doesn’t have to end up the way it did for her. I could stay here with Lewis and Jim, helping out the slaves to the best of my ability. The odds are not in my favour, and I know that I will eventually be caught. I’d be sent to a plantation, arrested, hung, or shot on the spot, but atleast I could live out the rest of my life saving other people’s and die at a ripe age knowing I made a difference.
I could even go alone. Maybe return to the home where I was kidnapped less than two decades ago, and have a fresh start with no one to remind me of the hell I have gone through. Get a job, meet someone new, who knows?
I’m afraid to make the choice for fear of facing any of these consequences.
I sit there for hours, considering Jarrah’s words and the chances of his plan becoming a reality. Finally, he comes in carrying a tray of food.
I accept it in silence as he sits on the stool next to my bed. I stare at the tray nervously, feeling the heat of his piercing eyes trailing my every move with full concentration. When I finish my food, I look up at him. My heart skips a beat, like it always does when I see him.
His sandy hair falls over his eye effortlessly, and his eyes are determined and focused. He wrings his hands nervously, and his lips are drawn into a thin line where a smile usually sits.
“So?” he asks.