After returning home, the days seemed to fly by. The first night, however, I do not think Ive ever felt time tick by as slowly as it had then. Amabel quickly found her way to the bedchamber and instructed the maidservants as to where she would like her belongings. I inspected the castle, happy with the grand blue and yellow Thomas picked for the tapestries and rugs that lined the castles walls and stairs. Expensive candles lined the hallways, the once dusty and cobweb ridden banquet hall shined bright under the new chandelier I had ordered before leaving.

I instructed the chef to make only the finest tonight, a welcoming feast for the new Lady of Aelis. I instructed the maidservants to prepare a bath, knowing Amabel, she was probably writhing in her skin by now without one the last few days.

I made my way up the steps after checking a few things in my office, happy to see that Thomas and Arion kept everything in shape while I was away. I strode up the steps and opened the door to the bedchamber, hearing a surprised squeak come from the opposite side of the room. I looked over, catching Amabel in her bath. Her hair was wet, falling down her body and perfectly covering her breasts. Her skin glowed, and I felt the heat brushing up my cheeks once more at the site. I cleared my throat as she began to cover herself with her arms, looking like an embarrassed water nymph, caught taking a midnight swim.

”No need to hide what Ive already seen, ” I said, trying to sound as carefree as possible. I saw her blush a deep red, and half-chuckled. ”Husbands and wives see each other naked all the time, do they not? Sharing a bedchamber, I would assume so. No need to hide. ” I tried to reassure her. She nodded slowly, grabbing the bar soap from the small table next to the bath and began to wash her hair. I watched her for a moment before turning to change from my armor into a pair of trousers and a tunic. I was pulling my belt on when I heard her get out of the bath, reaching for a towel. I waited until she had it pulled over her before turning around.

”I shall ask the maidservants to come help you get dressed. Ive asked the castles chef to cook something magnificent for tonight – a welcome home banquet, as silly as it- ”

”I don think it sounds silly. ” Amabel gave me a light smile as she sheepishly reached for a clean chamise. I watched as she carefully slipped off the towel and pulled the thin piece of clothing over her. I could still see through it, and I cleared my throat and looked away quickly as I could feel something stirring in me.

”Are wives not meant to get dressed in front of their husbands? ” She asked.

I nodded. ”Well, I assume they do. I was just – nevermind. I will call the maidservants to assist you in getting dressed. I will also have them bring dinner here, to us. Now that I think about it, shouldn our first meal in our home together be alone? ” I said. I didn leave room for her to answer before leaving the bedchambers to rush down the hall. I caught Anna, one of the servants and instructed her to help Amabel get dressed and then bring dinner to the room. She nodded with a smile and I rushed down to the wine cellar, picking a few bottles to pair with dinner. I spoke briefly with Wyse about the findings out in the woods, informing me that Arion will be in his chambers the rest of the night looking for any information he can gather on other monsters left for dead. I tsked, trying to wrack my brain on the reason why someone would leave valuables just laying on the forest floor. Of course, even if they were well off, why would they not want the money still?

I thanked Wyse before heading back up to the bedchambers. I paused for a moment, unsure if I should knock. Knock on my own bedchambers door? I felt silly just considering it, and took a deep breath before entering the room. Amabel was sitting in front of the mirror as Anna was combing her hair behind her, pinning it away from her face. She was not dressed, only wearing a night gown and robe. I raised an eyebrow as Amabel quietly thanked and dismissed Anna. I waited until the door was shut and was about to ask as she broke the silence,

”I saw no need to dirty another dress, if we are eating in here tonight. I wish to rest after dinner, if that is fine? ” She asked.

”You don need to ask me to rest, if you feel you need to, then do it. ” I shrugged.

”I see purple is still your favorite color, ” I pointed out, looking at the deeply shaded robe she wore over her night gown. I set the wine down, walking over to poke the fire that was started. I peered at Amabel from the corner of my eye, who was slightly blushing.

”I am surprised you remember, Silas. Its been a while since youve come to visit, I assumed you had forgotten about me, honestly. ” Amabel spoke quietly, as if she were speaking to herself. I felt that same pit in my stomach as from earlier, thinking back again to those days when I would spend summers with her family. After becoming a knight, and seeing the fear in her eyes when I returned from my first campaign, I honestly thought it would be best to keep my distance. She wasn ever meant to end up with someone as harsh or hard as myself, but Ill admit that when her father offered, I couldn refuse. Perhaps that was selfish of me, maybe someone else was better suited and would have came along. Still, her father was insistent that this was for the best.

”I didn ever forget, I was simply….busy. ” I trailed off, unsure of what else to say.

I watched as she nodded slowly, looking over my shoulder to the wine I had set on the mantle. ”You brought wine? ” She asked, changing the subject.

I looked over my shoulder to the wine I brought up, picking it up with a glass. ”Yes, I thought you may want to try it. Aelis is famous for the wine we sell, you know. ”

”Yes, yes…one of the many things I remember your father talking about on visits. He once brought a few bottles, if I remember correctly. I was too young to try it, but Ill admit I stole a sip or two behind his back. I remember it being too bitter. ” She laughed lightly as she took the glass from my hands.

A light knock on the door followed and I opened the door, Anna walking in with trays of food balanced in her hands. She set it on the small table and I gave her thanks as she left the room. Stuffed pheasant and thick stew with breads filled the air with their delicious scents and I handed Amabel a bowl and plate as I moved a small table next to the fire for us to sit and eat. We sat in silence for a while, the sounds of us eating and the fire cracking the only noise coming from the room.

I watched again as Amabel moved her food about her plate, taking small bites and sips as if to stall whatever she had going in her head. I could always tell when she was nervous, she would bite her lip or fiddle with whatever was in her hands. Finally, she finished eating and set her things to the side.

”Can I ask why, Silas? ” Amabel said quietly. I was surprised by her question, turning my eyes towards her.

”Why? ”

”Well, I suppose…I always assumed wed end up married, obviously our families were close. I always thought, though, it wouldn come after a long end of silence. You were so sweet, and spent days with me, then all the sudden stopped. It was as though nothing happened. ” Amabel picked at her fingers and I felt my jaw tighten. I don blame her for asking, but I felt like any answer wouldn be what she wanted to hear. I thought for a moment before answering.

”It wasn as if I forgot, of course…I just, changed, is all. ” I cursed myself again, begging for a better answer to come to mind. Of course I had changed. I went on my first campaign, drew my first blood. Again and again, my father didn think any amount was enough. It never was, until the day he died. I remember the conversation we had before he passed, telling me it was time to be a man, I would soon be taking his title, his duties. It was time to set aside childish play. I realized after he passed that he was right, I had no time for childish play or fantasies anymore.

”I have changed as well, we all do as we grow. But – you, something in you seemed…Im not sure. ” She finished, shaking her head as her eyes bore into the fire in front of us.

”Im sorry Im not the sweet, clueless boy you once knew. Ive worked hard to build this up, to build up a life, a town – I didn have time to speak of silly fantasies and throw rocks anymore, Amabel! ” My voice crept up as my anger bubbled over. I saw her shrink, and I clenched my jaw.

”Im sorry, I didn mean - ”

”I am tired, Silas. I think Ill lay down now, if that is fine. ” Was all she said before standing up and taking one more sip of wine, walking over to the bed. I saw tears brimming her eyes and I felt as though I could die, I hated being the cause of those tears. I ran a hand through my hair, wondering why I had to yell. I waited until I heard her breath soften before getting into bed after her. I studied her face as she slept, her features soft after the small argument we had not even an hour before. I reached forward, gently brushing a curl out of her face with my finger. I sighed and rolled onto my back, studying the ceiling, thinking of ways I could apologize to her, begging for sleep to take over.

Of course, it didn , and I spent the night being as still as I possibly could, wondering what Amabel was dreaming of now. When we were young, shed always race to breakfast so we could sit and speak of what she dreamt of the night before. I always thought it was silly, her trying to figure out what they meant. It quickly became my favorite part of the morning, listening to her ramble on about them.

I wonder if that part of her had changed as well with age.

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