"Do you think he will be alright here?" Williams asked Rand.
"Oh yes, Gordon's a good man with a good reputation."
Williams lowered his voice. "What I mean to say is…will he be safe here." He raised his eyebrows on 'safe'.
"Oh, from the prince?" Rand nodded. "Yes, yes I believe so. He should be."
Williams sighed in relief. "Good."
They both looked at the sleeping Clyde. Bandages that were once white wrapped around his bare chest and knee.
"God bless you Lieutenant Anderson." Rand whispered.
"May He keep you safe, Clyde." Williams added.
They backed out of the room, gave final instructions and a small pouch of money to Gordon, and went on their way.
For one month, Luke avoided Sarah at all costs; sticking strictly to his given kingly duties. When Lydia would come to him to find out what was wrong, he would turn her away and not answer her questions. He tried to wipe away anything related to Sarah, but try as he might, memories of her followed him everywhere. Walking in the gardens reminded him of their daily strolls, looking out the window to the sea reminded him how much she loved it, riding his horse reminded him of how much she loved Cimmeron and their rides through the forest, and so on. She seemed to follow him everywhere he went. Yet, he became angrier as the month went on; angry at himself, angry at Sarah, angry at everyone and everything.
It came to a climax one rainy day. In his rage, he could no longer focus on the paper work in front of him. Slinging his cape over himself, he stormed out into the threatening clouds.
"I'm going for a walk, Daisy." I say.
"What? In the rain? Not on my watch you don't." She huffs.
"It's not raining yet. Besides, I need to get out."
She sighs. "At least put on a coat. Will you at least do that, darling?"
I smile faintly. "Yes."
"Good girl." She replies, draping it across my shoulders. "Don't get too soaked."
I give her a hug and start down the hall. Walking out of the castle, I sit down on a bench in the East gardens. It starts to drizzle a bit. I let the tears fall freely. Why does Luke avoid me now, Father? I ask; covering my head with my hands.
I am with you always, Dear One. Remain steadfast through trials, My Love.
'It is so hard, Lord.' I whisper. 'So hard.'
"Still mourning him, are you?" I hear a male voice scrutinize. Looking up, I wipe the tears from my eyes and stand.
"No, actually. I have just been under a lot of pressure lately and…" I sniff and lower my voice. "And you've been avoiding me at all costs, so I don't know what to think. I thought I knew you."
"I could ask you the same question, Miss Anderson." Luke says, coldly. "I was considering asking you to marry me but it seems as though you had interests elsewhere." The rain starts to come down a little harder.
"What?" I ask, surprised and flustered.
"Oh, I think we both know what I'm talking about, Miss Anderson. I am sure you will never love another." He turns on his heels; muttering to himself.
"But I…" I say, confused. He walks away.
I sink down onto the bench and start to sob. The rain comes down harder and harder, but I don't care. By the time Daisy comes to get me, I am soaked to the bone and shaking.
The next morning, I have a high fever and continually shake even though I'm not cold. Everything is a blur. I hardly notice the people who pass through my room. They kneel at my bed all throughout the day; praying over me. Daisy and Lydia stay by my side the whole night as I toss and turn. Warm rags are constantly switched out for new, cold ones.
For one week I slip in and out of the fever. People come and go, rags are switched out, and medicine and broth is forced down my throat. Some days the fever is less fierce and other days it flames up again. By the end of the week, the fever is light and I can move around. The doctor suggests that I be taken to the cove for a few days. So, Daisy packs us up and we stay there for three days while I recover. The salty smell and the cool air help me greatly and my head begins to clear. I spend my hours sitting in the sand reading and praying.
Meanwhile, Luke could not stand it any longer. He needed to talk to someone about what he felt and why he felt it. Going down the hall, he found his father in the library and sat down.
"What can I do for you, my son?" The king asked.
"I don't know." Luke replied. "I just need to talk."
"Well, I'm always here for you." King George smiled.
Luke sighed, stood up, and walked to the fireplace. He rested his hand on the mantle and sighed again.
"I don't understand her father." He said finally. "Sarah, I mean."
"Well, women will always be hard to understand completely."
"Yes, but she acted as if she might love me. Did I read her motives wrong?"
"What on earth are you talking about my boy?"
"Clyde!" He said, frustrated. "She loved Clyde; not me, even though she acted as such."
"Oh my dear boy," King George exclaimed. "Why, Clyde is…or rather…was Sarah's oldest brother! Of course she loved him but not in that way."
Luke froze. "Her brother?" He said, dumbstruck. "Oh what have I done?" He grabbed his hair in distress. "Her brother?"
"Yes, Luke. Her brother."
Luke began to pace in front of the mantel piece. "I've got to find her." He said firmly and strode from the room. 'Where would she be?' He thought pausing in the hallway. 'The cove! Yes, she must be at the cove.' He hurried to the stables, tacked up Thunder, and galloped away through the gardens.
For the past weeks, General Williams had been ridden with curiosity and guilt. Clyde was recovering well, he made sure of that, but he wasn't sure how Clyde would do becoming another person. He wanted, no needed, to find out why Prince Luke had wanted him dead. He milled over it day after day, night after night but could think of no answer. Finally, Williams could stand it no longer. He would have to take the risk of finding the answer. So, he set out for the castle to find the truth of the matter.
I sigh and look out over the beautiful evening. Closing my eyes, I listen to the melody of the sea. How familiar it is, how soothing, how calming is its rhythm. The setting sun warms my cheeks, the cool breeze wraps around me, the water laps at my feet, and the crabs scuttle across the sand. 'Oh Lord!' I think in awe. 'Your creation is amazing.'
"Oh Sarah…" Daisy breathes. "Look."
I turn my head to where she is pointing. A pang shoots through my heart. I stand statue still and watch as Luke walks towards me, the sunset reflecting off his face. When he comes within a few feet of me, I drop my gaze to the sand; suddenly fascinated by a broken shell.
"Sarah," He begins, keeping his eyes on me. "I…I don't know what to say except that I am truly sorry."
I cock my head just slightly.
"Somehow you misplaced a letter to Clyde…your brother…on my desk and I got the impression that you loved him. I did not even think to ask you about it. I…I made assumptions."
I bite my lip to keep from crying. "You…you thought that I was in love with…Clyde?" I manage.
"Yes." He lowers his eyes. "I feel very ashamed. Especially for letting my anger out on you in the garden that one night."
I lift my head and stare at the fading sun while tears start to wet my eyes. Clutching my sides, I stifle a sob.
"I'm so sorry Sarah. I don't know what I was thinking." He sighs. "Obviously I wasn't thinking anything to have hurt you so. Is now the right time to ask for forgiveness?"
I let the tears fall freely now and nod my head. "I forgive you, Luke." I give him a weak smile.
"Oh darling." He exclaims, wrapping me in his arms. "I am truly, truly sorry."
We stand there in the approaching darkness. I sob into his shirt while he strokes my hair. After a while he adds, "And to think I ignored the Lord this entire time." He shakes his head. "I have been so blind."
I sniff and raise my head from his shoulder. "He used it though; to make me stronger. I needed this trial. It drew me closer to Him."
He nods slowly. "And taught me a lesson or two."
We talk long into the night; walking up and down the moonlit sand. It is only when the dark night sky begins to turn misty grey that he leaves. I wish that he didn't have to but he insists that I try to get some sleep. He swings his leg over Thunder and I watch him ride away from the doorway of the cottage.
When I wake up, the sun is already high in the sky and Daisy has cleaned up the remains of her breakfast. I lay here for a while; thinking and praying. Daisy walks in, so I stretch to make it seem like I have just awoken.
"Well, you must have been very tired to sleep this late." She smiles.
"Haven't you heard that a princess must have her beauty sleep?" I grin.
"Hmmm, then you must have recently become a princess because the last I remember 5:30 was a regular waking time for you." She counters.
I smile. "Touché Daisy, touché."
"Now let's get you dressed. I believe that you may be well enough to return to the castle." She smiles while pulling out a simple aqua colored dress. After I slip it and the matching shoes on, I help her pack the bags. She makes me a cucumber sandwich and once I have eaten it, we climb on our horses and ride to the castle. Upon arriving, she sends a handful of stable hands to retrieve our bags.
"Sarah! Oh Sarah!" Lydia cries as she runs down the hall to meet us. She grabs me in a hug. "Oh I do hope you're alright! We were terribly worried about you, what with that fever and all."
I smile. "I am doing just fine now. The fever has died and I am regaining my strength."
"Oh that's wonderful, Sarah. Just wonderful." Her eyes were shinning. I laughed inwardly. She must be wanting to say something.
"Well," I say, "what is it? Tell on."
"Luke told me all about it. Oh that sounds so romantic! Walking in the moonlight talking."
"Yes I suppose so, but pain came first if you remember all of what he said."
"Oh yes! It sounded very tragic. And to think that he thought you were in love with Clyde."
I nod. Daisy coughs. "Your Highness, I do believe that it is time for Sarah to settle down in her room. She isn't completely strong yet."
Lydia smiles. "Certainly Daisy. I'll come with you to your room Sarah."
"Thank you Lydia." I smile back.
We make our way to my room but are stopped by a desperate servant.
"Your Highnesses!" He gasps. "You are wanted in the throne room immediately. General Williams is here with news of Clyde."
At Clyde's name, I pick up my skirt and run as fast as I can.
"Sarah! You'll wear yourself out!" I hear Daisy call, but I don't care. General Williams was one of Clyde's best friends and counselors. If he has information about Clyde, I want to hear it. I burst into the throne room and spot General Williams talking with a shocked Uncle George and an even more shocked Luke.
"You have news of Clyde?" I ask hopefully.
"Yes, yes he does." Uncle George says.
General Williams clears his throat. "More than a month ago I received a letter from Prince Luke commanding me to find a way to kill Clyde. It didn't say anything else than that and gave no details. I thought over it with General Rand and myself and we came up with a plan to save him while also making it seem as if he were dead. The poor boy didn't know why he was supposed to die."
Anger shoots through me. I glare at Luke. General Williams holds me back when I start to lunge at him. "The problem is that he didn't write a letter with such a command. We've checked the records as well but found nothing that was sent from him."
I calm down a bit. "So what you are saying is that someone else in the palace with access to the king's insignia and Prince Luke's signature wrote such a letter."
"Exactly." General Williams nods.
"Have you thought of possible motives for such a letter? I don't think Clyde had many, if any, enemies."
"No, we had not gotten that far in our thinking." Uncle George says.
"Do you have any ideas, Sarah?" Luke asks.
I purse my lips. "If Clyde had no idea why Prince Luke wanted him to die, perhaps the letter was from…" I pause, thinking. Of course, someone who was jealous. The only person jealous enough to do such a thing that would hurt both Luke and me would be Veronica. She could have easily taken my letter from Clyde and placed it on Luke's desk. Since her father is in parliament, she would have easy access to the king's insignia and Luke's signature so she could easily forge a note addressed to General Williams; all to tear us apart. Apparently I had been thinking through things a little too long because Uncle George coughed politely.
"Oh, quite sorry." I smile. "I was just thinking."
"That was very apparent, Sarah." Luke laughs.
"You were saying?" General Williams nods.
"Oh yes, the letter could be from a person who was jealous that Luke and I were…" I pause and blush. "Were more than friends."
"I see…" Uncle George raises his eyebrows.
"And would you know of such a person?" General Williams asks.
"Yes," I say slowly.
"I believe I know as well." Luke adds.
"Veronica Jefferson." We say in unison.
"You mean to say Henry Jefferson's daughter?" Uncle George says in surprise. "That cannot be right. She's always been such a nice girl."
Luke coughs. "People are always nice to you when your position is the king."
"Oh, I suppose that is true." Uncle George admits.
"She has had this obsession over me for the past few years. Doing whatever she can to try and win me over so she can keep me to herself."
"Is that so?"
"So it is highly possible that she did it."
"Exactly." Luke nods.
"But we can't confront her without proper proof or evidence." I say.
"She has a point." General Williams agrees.
"Well, I propose that we all keep our eyes and ears open for such proof." Uncle George replies.
By this time in the conversation, Lydia and Daisy had caught up with me and stood listening. Now, we all fell silent and thought. It suddenly occurred to me that Clyde was alive. I turn to General Williams.
"You said Clyde was alive?"
"Yes." He smiles.
I clap my hand over my mouth and start sobbing with joy. He's alive! Clyde is really alive!
"He received some injuries from our plan but he is recovering at a peasant's cottage."
Lydia squeals and embraces me in a hug; we both burst into tears.
"He's alive!" I say, bewildered.
Luke smiles and gathers us both into his arms. "Shall we see what Millie has in the kitchen to celebrate?"
"Oh yes!" Lydia gushes.
We practically waltz out of the throne room leaving Uncle George chuckling.