A flirt and a friend (Chapter 21)
Kin is talking some nonsense about a bill he wants to bring to the floor, but I’m not listening. Instead my concentration is on the laughter coming from the other side of the table.
I had planned to introduce Ivy to Luke privately before dinner, away from observing eyes. I thought it would smooth over any awkwardness and I could explain it to Ivy, somehow. Explain that Luke is my lover.
But instead she had to endanger herself walking who knows where in an unfamiliar city. I’ll need to replace Garth. The level of incompetence of my staff is outrageous. I gave him the simplest of jobs and he had to go and fuck it up. When he grabbed Ivy, I nearly lost it. I fist my drink trying to calm my anger.
Now Luke knows about her. I look at him leaning towards Ivy like he is sharing some secret with an old friend. He took the news shockingly well. I thought he would be angry. I thought he would throw a fit. I thought he would be the one I would commiserate with over our fate. Instead, he simply smiled and congratulated me like I hadn’t just said she was forced on me by my meddling parents, like I hadn’t just told him that our relationship is forever changed. Perhaps he knew that at some point I would have to get a female. Perhaps he understands better than I the expectations of someone in my position- expectations that I have been defying for the past five years.
I can only imagine how Ivy will take it when she finds out about him.
I see Ivy laugh and then reach out and pat Luke’s arm. I feel anger rising. Really anger? Yes, damn it! The sickening feeling bubbling within me can only be that. Anger is safe.
I turn my head towards Kin yammering in an effort rid myself of the feeling.
“Alex told me that Yandhude is asking for 1 million in assistance”
“Can they really call themselves a free city if they need bailing out every other year?” I reply.
Kin shrugs his shoulders, “After Parthaga fell I’m sure our allies could demand anything they wanted in the name of security and the Mayor would be for it.”
I purse my lips. Everyone is reading far too much into Parthaga, the poor city King Munter conquered last year. Capturing one small poor measly town next to his kingdom did not make the monarch a hero nor did it make him a threat. Harringshude was a much larger and more successful city with over a hundred of years of democracy, plus it was reasonably far away from the land-grabbing monarch.
I take a sip of my liquor.
“Well, the vote will have to wait- next week’s schedule is full of debates on temple funding” Alex, Kin’s sectary cut-in reminding us.
The normally sweet almond-scented liquor turns bitter in my mouth. I feel my frown deepen and my forehead produce wrinkles. Of course I had to be reminded of the fucking temples. I don’t know what it will take for me to be rid of the blasted thing. Can I ever be rid of it? I want to drive to the market square, enter through the front doors of the goddess temple, turn over every bed and statue, and then burn it to the ground before I dismantle every stone block so I never have to see even the remains of the fucking building ever again.
I take another sip of my liquor, counting on it to dull my senses and wash away the bad memories. It’s not enough. I tip the glass up and down the little that remains of the liquid and then signal to the server behind me to refill my glass.
I see on the corner of my eye Kin giving Alex a disapproving glare, a look Alex returns with one of confusion. I try to snap out of it, yet I’m unable to break out of the cycle of thoughts that run through my mind. I can taste the musty air, feel the darkness creeping in around me, the mold down the walls, the smell of sweat, the feel of sin under my fingertips…
My dark thoughts are interrupted by giggling from the other end of the table. I turn to see Luke, Ivy, and James having the time of their fucking lives. Ivy’s eyes are glassy and I see the tell-tale signs of red at the end of James’s ears. No doubt Luke has managed to be the life of the party once more with a little help from old friend alcohol.
I take my fork and stab in into the latest meat dish put in front of me. I put the fork in my mouth and bite down hard. Luke sees shit, real shit every day. But he easily slides into a happy-go-lucky persona when the situation calls for it. How he can easily overcome those horrors, I don’t know. I am haunted by just one night.
I shake my head at my own stupidity. I have seen Luke when he is having his nightmares. He sweats. He screams. He tosses. The happiness is just a front, a good one, but a front that masks the darkness within.
“Ya know. You should introduce Ivy to Senator Brouse’s female. She’s been here…” Kin turns to Alex “what three years?”
Alex nods in agreement.
He continues “and she’s well adjusted. Even has a two year old.”
I consider it and look over at Ivy. Her rich brown hair is dangling around her face which is lit up with joy. I don’t know her; not really, I haven’t taken the time to get to know her. I’m not sure I want to know her. Knowing her reminds me of the past that I want to leave behind. Yet I feel responsible for her, I should be helping her adjust to the new world, not ignoring her.
And, with the way she is laughing at Luke I think she is doing better adjusting without my interference.
Perhaps I can pass of some of this adjusting to others. Gods know that last time I tried to help someone through it it ended badly.