Chapter 8- The natural route
"The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power."
A rosy pink sky greeted me as I opened my eyes. I nearly groaned when I noticed the two moons in the sky. I was back in The Hidden Realm. This was the second time I'd been here in the last three days. The Great Mother's and my conversation was a bit awkward and eye-opening. To say I was shocked when she wanted to discuss Thomas was an understatement.
I knew I shouldn't have snuck in the daytime nap. I was beginning to dread falling asleep, expecting to be pulled into the sacred space of our deity every single time I shut my eyes.
Before sitting up, I took the time to enjoy the smell of the grass around me and the singing of the trees. I found peace in the way the wind caressed my skin and the gentle color of the fading night. I closed my eyes and replayed my previous visit and thought about the decisions that came after because of it.
I played with the hem of my ankle-length dress as I sat waiting for someone to show up in The Hidden Realm with me. I was always brought here when someone wanted to speak with me. It was either Meylee the only Priestess left or The Great Mother.
It turned out to be The Great Mother. I looked up from the hem of my thin, white, cotton gown into depthless sea green eyes. Her long brown hair was tightly braided down her back, freely swinging at her waist. Her smile was true and kind as she watched me.
"I hope you are well, Child of mine," she said.
"I am well, thank you. If I may ask, why am I here? It's been six months since I saw you last."
Her green sea glass eyes penetrated mine as she watched me. She walked around the white stone temple for a minute before speaking. Her soft yet commanding voice broke the silence that had ensued. "Would you care to know the path your life would have taken if you had not been selected for the game?"
What was she getting at? No one should know their future. Or did it matter since it no longer was my future?
She smiled, knowing she had me hooked.
I hesitantly nodded my answer.
She glided closer until she stood in front of me. Her index and middle finger rested to my temple but nothing happened. Just as I was about to comment on it, my world exploded. Brilliant white light surrounded me, blinding me to everything around me but two figures in the distance. I moved towards them until their features became clear and I realized I was looking at myself and Thomas.
Thomas held me from behind, arms around my waist. He whispered something into my ear and I giggled swatting him away playfully. He pulled me back to him and kissed me unabashedly. I did nothing to reject his advances. The scene fast forwarded to Thomas and me at the pond behind my home. He was on one knee with the blue sapphire ring he'd given me. He was asking me to marry him and that time I'd said yes. He pulled me into his arms and swung me around. The next vision was of us on our wedding day. My mother sat in the front row shedding silent tears as my father walked me down the aisle. My face radiated pure happiness upon seeing Thomas. His face mirrored my own.
The scene changed to Thomas and I running around after two small children in a meadow, one boy and one girl. The girl had his brown curly hair and my smile and the boy looked more like me instead of Thomas but he did have the same mischievous grin as his father.
My heart could take no more of the onslaught of memories that would never be. What made it worse was that I felt everything my other self felt for Thomas and her little family. She was happy, content, and so in love with her best friend.
"Enough," I cried out.
The white light receded and I was back in the white stone temple.
Why would she show me that? I wondered, wiping away tears for a life that would never be mine.
"Because it could still be yours," she said eerily answering my thoughts. "I chose Thomas for the game because he is a worthy man and would make you happy. I felt terrible for the way things turned out because of my daughter and her schemes. She derailed your life from the natural route it would have taken. I just wanted you to see he could make you happy before you decided to send him home."
She had been keeping an eye on the game as I had expected.
I opened my eyes again and inhaled deeply. There was no point in dallying in the grass anymore. It was time I found out why The Great Mother called for me again.
The white stone temple was the same as ever, pristine and warm. The Great Mother sat on the throne at the head of the circular room. "I am glad you are here, Child. I have news that I thought I would share. Your parents will be joining you soon. I thought you would like the time to prepare for their arrival."
Tears spilled freely and a smile broke across my lips. My parents were coming home. I didn't know how or when but She would not lie.
"Why are you telling me this? I thought you didn't like to meddle in things such as territory disputes," I asked thinking about the rumors of a Terran coupe and the possibility that that was the reason my parents were taken.
"I don't know, but I find myself greatly invested in the way your life plays out. I will not say any more at this time. Although, I do wish you the very best. I will be seeing you soon, Child," she said before I was awoken by Viktorya.
"Nap time over, Lazy," Viktorya said playfully.
For once, I didn't hesitate to wake up. Instead, I bolted out of bed and began spilling everything The Great Mother had relayed.
"We need to head to the throne room."
"But She didn't say it would be now," Viktorya pointed out.
I sighed. That was true. "You're right," I admitted.
"I'll let you know if I hear anything. I promise," she assured me.
"Thank you, Viktorya," I replied. "I guess I should get ready for the councils class on politics and strategy."
She nodded before leaving to attend to matters of the Queendom while I headed towards politics for dummies.
The pounding in my head was only getting worse. It began as a small ache in the space between my eyebrows and spread to the back of my head. As soon as Councilman Little ended his class I jumped at the opportunity to hide away for a few minutes before I had to attend to whatever else needed my attention.
I fell into the soft recliner in the corner of what had become my office and softly rubbed the arches above my eyes. The ache was painfully satisfying.
Georgiana poked her head into the room before fully walking in and making herself comfortable on the loveseat across from me. Her round belly showing a bit as she attempted to stretch and find a comfortable position on her back. After a few attempts, she settled for laying on her side, arms tucked beneath her head.
"I am so ready for this little one to be born," she smiled as she caressed her belly affectionately.
"And I'm ready to meet my goddaughter," I added fondly.
She smiled as she continued to rub her protruding stomach. I was happy for my best friend. She had a man who undeniably loved her and a baby on the way. Her life was perfect, without drama. A lesser version of me might have been jealous by her happiness but it only brought me a sense of relief that Georgiana's life was mostly stable and worry-free.
Georgiana turned to face me and no doubt noticed the sappy look on my face. "Don't worry, Penelope. You'll get here," she assured me.
I couldn't help but ask myself when.
I tried to return her reassuring smile but it fell short. I felt so far from a chaotic free life that it felt it would never happen for me. I was in a game where five men were competing to be my husband and running a Queendom while going on dates with all of them. That was not the perfect example of a chaos-free life.
"I think I need to pick a husband before I get there," I replied, trying to make light of the situation.
She laughed. "I would say so." She undid the tight bun that held her golden halo of curls captive. Massaging her scalp, she continued, "About that. Are you any closer to picking someone?"
I sighed. "I think I did something I might not be able to take back," I said, thinking about my time with Thomas earlier today.
She raised a brow and waited for me to explain. After telling her about my vision from The Great Mother and relaying the details of this morning I waited for her opinion.
"Quick question. Do you want to take it back?"
"I honestly don't know. I know it's selfish of me to do this to Thomas. I know how deeply he feels about me but I don't think I can forgive myself for not giving us a chance now that we have one."
"But what of Tobias and Rowan? Or even Cane for that matter," she asked, playing devil's advocate.
She was right. Hadn't I just kissed Tobias one night and Thomas the next morning? I didn't like the person I was becoming. Playing with people's emotions was not something I wanted to do and right now it felt like was playing with these men. I had cut the competition down to four but if I was honest with myself it should have been less. It was a mistake I had to fix and preferably today. I was ready to move towards the next chapter in my life.
"Thank you, Georgiana. I don't know what I'd do without you," I said quickly as I stood up.
"I didn't do much," she chuckled.
"Maybe not, but unknowingly or not, you helped me see something I was stupidly ignoring."
"Well, I am always here," she smiled.
I was about to rush out when she asked me a question. "Do you mind if I relax here a bit before heading home for the day?"
"Not at all. Take as much time as you need," I answered, thinking it odd that she'd asked.
But the thought quickly vanished as I left the room in search of those that I'd say goodbye to before the day was over with.