Bjorn looked at his frightened wife with a slightly dazed expression.
He felt renewed contempt for Walter Hardy and shame crept in at his own behaviour toward Erna.

   “I-its all right, I d like it, it’s just a little…”

   Unable to find the right words, Erna reached out a hand and cupped Bjorn’s cheek.
Her hand looked so small against his face.

   The fear had risen in her after feeling Bjorn’s arousal and the smell of alcohol on his breath.
She knew she did not have to fear the man, because she knew very well that Bjorn would never hurt her, but all the same, the feelings came up unbidden.


   Erna plucked up a little more courage and stroked her fingers through his fine, silky hair that tumbled between her fingers like fine sand.
He just sat there and frowned at Erna.
He did not try to stop her.

   “Just, slow down a little.
Can you do that, for me?”

   Bjorn looked at her blankly for a moment and let out a long sigh with a laugh.
It was funny.
This situation, this woman.
Most of all, he didn’t hate anything about it.

   Instead of answering, Bjorn wrapped Erna’s hand around his cheek and kissed her wrist, where he felt her pulse beating.

   He found himself thinking about Walter Hardy and all the lecherous wretches back home.
Clambering over themselves like wolves fighting over a helpless doe.
They ranted and drooled over Erna, who had been thrust into the marriage market. 

   “Thank you, Bjorn.”

   Erna put her hand on the back of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
Bjorn lifted his head and Erna smiled.

   “I’m fine now, please continue.”

   As if to prove her resolve, Erna put strength into her arms and pulled Bjorn onto her.
She whispered soft words of provocation.
Bjorn was dazed for a moment, but then let out a hot sigh and laughed.
It was like he was drunk without actually drinking.

The whole affair, which had started in a hasty display of half adorned clothes, ended in an intimate atmosphere of red haze.

   Bjorn stayed inside Erna until they had both cooled and their breathing returned to normal.
He even kissed he flushed face and stroked her wild hair.
Every time he did, Erna would look away, avoiding eye contact.
She was like a well behaved seductress, her ambivalence was both cheeky and cute.

   Bjorn got up from the bed and left Erna behind.
Erna stuck like a viper and grabbed his arm.
He turned to look at the tiny woman.

   “Don’t go, Bjorn, would you sleep here with me?” Though her eyes were soft and pleading, her voice as strong and clear.

   “Rest, Erna,” Bjorn said and gave Erna a kiss.

   “Come on, lets rest together.”

   Normally Erna would have left it at that, but she felt a stubbornness build inside her and she was showing no signs of backing down.

   “Erna, I’m uncomfortable sleeping with someone else.” Bjorn removed her hand from his wrist, but she only grabbed him by the hem of his shirt with both hands.

   “Me too.”

   “Then you understand?”

   “Yes, but we’re a couple, shouldn’t we do things together even if they’re uncomfortable? They say that a marriage is a journey two people take together down a thorny path.”

   “Who says that nonsense?”

   “The Archbishop did.”

   In that moment, Erna looked like she was going to cry.
She was being persistent and clung to it.
Bjorn forgot his irritation and smiled.

   “Erna, that’s a plausible sophistry from a man that has never walked a thorny path his entire life.”

   “But he’s married to God.”

   Even though she was talking nonsense, Erna was as serious as ever.
Bjorn wished he could lay a whole bush of thorns on the Archbishops bed and see what he made of it after that.

   “Lets try a little, please?”

   “Why should I?”

   “Because you are my husband,” Erna said firmly.

   “What does a husband mean to you?” Bjorn’s question contained doubts.

   “It means family, my lover, my closest friend.
Its a lifelong companion that supports and loves, they provide dependence, love, hope.” Erna said without hesitating.

   “Did the Archbishop also say that?” Bjorn made up his mind to dress the man in thorns.

That’s my opinion.” That clear answer quickly quashed the chance of war between religion and the royal family.

   After standing there for a long moment, looking up at the ceiling, Bjorn let out a long sigh.
Erna flinched, expecting him to get angry, but she didn’t let go of his shirt.

   “So, if we’re planning on sleeping together, are you also planning on bathing together?”

   “Yes?Ah…” Surprised, Erna let go of him.
“Y-you can go now.”

   Bjorn just stood there and stared down at the young woman.
It was because her eyes were filled with such innocence, but also something new, a strength that wasn’t there before. 

Impulsively, he leaned down and hugged her.
She hugged him back and then realised what he intended, but was too weak to fight his grasp.
He lifted the woman like she was nothing and carried her off to the bathroom to run the bath.

   It was a deep autumn night when the thorny path began.

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