Chapter Eighteen

I spent all day Friday packing, and I told Devin and his wife of my plans after lunch. They didn’t seem to be surprised by this news, and they assured me that if I ever needed a home that they would save my chambers for my use.

It touched me deeply that they were so gracious to me after everything. I thanked them profusely, but they brushed it off.

“It’s nothing,” Devin insisted, smiling. “You need to finish packing, don’t you?”

“Er, yes,” I said. I do, actually. But-”

“Get to it,” he said with a gentle smile. “Go on.”

“And if you need any help, don’t hesitate to send for someone,” his wife told me.

“Alright,” I said, leaving the room. As I made my way out, I heard his wife sigh.

“I’m going to miss her,” she said. “Morgan always seems so organized and orderly, and she knows a rather lot about medicines.”

“You’ll be fine,” Devin told her. A stab of loneliness and jealousy cut through my heart at the tone of intimacy in his voice.

I shouldn’t be hearing that, I thought, making my way back to my chambers. I closed the door behind me, feeling a bit sick to my stomach.

I had no idea what to think of marriage anymore. So many mixed thoughts and feelings were swirling around in my mind and in my heart, and it was only confusing me more.

One side was telling me that marriage was no good. You would commit your life to one person, leaving behind everything you knew and loved, and you were expected to give your all to that person.

Besides, hadn’t I seen for myself what it had done to women I knew? My father had cast off my mother and Cyric had lost interest in Kellan when a male child hadn’t been produced. Could I bring myself to trust any man after seeing that? To submit to him? I didn’t know if I could.

I paused in my packing as I thought through everything. Answers were what I wanted, answers to all of my questions about marriage, morality and my future, not necessarily in that order.

“Quam ob rem relinquet homo patrem suum et matrem et adherebit uxori suae et erunt duo in carne una,” I quoted quietly. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife.”

I longed for the intimacy with another being- a closeness so near it was as if the two were one. There was no denying that desire existed.

In my mind, I knew that the Lord had created man and woman for one another. I knew that marriage was a holy union, the symbolic act of how God cared for His church, a show of perfect love. So why do I hate marriage so much? I asked, annoyed by myself.

The answer came easily. Because you can’t trust men. You don’t believe their “love” actually lasts. But surely Gavin’s different. He still cares for you after all of these years.

I sighed and resumed my packing, this debate carrying out in my mind. By the time I went to bed I had everything ready to leave, and I fell asleep quickly.

In the morning, I rose before first light and dressed myself before I summoned a servant to take my trunks down to the wagon. After they were gone I took the chance to dress the still sleeping Mordred.

I carried him down to the dining hall, where Gavin and his younger two children were waiting. His eldest son had left with Cyric, who was trainging him to be a knight. Gavin smiled when he saw me, and he stepped in to take Mordred from my arms.

“Eat,” he told me quietly. “It’s a long journey.”

“Lady Morgan?” his youngest son said to me, studying me curiously. “Could I ask why you’re coming with us?” I glanced down at the boy. He had to be about ten or eleven, and I could see that he had begun his knight’s training.

“Because your father asked to me come,” I answered, taking a seat the the nearest table. He shot a curious glance at his father.

“Pappa?” he asked.

“Lady Morgan and I were good friends before I married your mother,” Gavin explained hurriedly. I could see the polite skepticism on both of their faces. They were so obviously Leslie’s children, with that look.

“But why were you friends with a nun?” his daughter, the middle child of the trio, asked.

“I wasn’t always a nun,” I said. Mordred stirred, and I returned my attention to him. “Good morning, sunshine.”

“Sister, where am I?” he mumbled, only half awake.

“Don’t you recognize the feasting hall?” I asked him, taking him from Gavin and setting him on the bench, steadying him. “Here’s some breakfast. Eat up.” He stared at the trencher of food I had placed before him for a moment before he started to pick at it.

“Lady Morgan,” Gavin’s daughter said. “Is it true that you were mother’s companion?”

“Yes,” I said, glancing at Gavin, who had blushed slightly. “But that was a very long time ago. Besides, I was Kellan’s companion first.”

“Aunt Kellan had to have a companion?” she continued to question me, looking shocked. I smiled slightly, remembering how Kellan was when we were younger.

“Far more than your mother ever did,” I said, an odd feeling coming over me. I had been sad to hear of Leslie’s passing, but talking of her to her children seemed to make it more real. “Leslie was perfectly behaved. She made me feel scandelous.” Gavin’s blush deepened.

“Alright, children,” he said. “That’s enough questioning for the moment. Do you have everything ready for the trip?”

“Yes, father,” they chorused. I smiled slightly.

“Maybe I could tell you more stories about your aunt and your mother later,” I said, taking the scraps of Mordred’s breakfast and finishing it as Mordred stood up to go play with the cats Devin kept to keep the rodent population down.

“Mordred, come along now,” I called. He sighed as he stood and returned to m side.

“Shall we go?” Gavin asked, taking me by the elbow as he escorted me out.

“Of course,” I said, catching Mordred by the hand. “Off we go.”

The carriage ride to Gavin’s lands was a long and bumpy one, as the road was packed dirt instead of the wide stone roads that the Romans had left. The day was cold, and there were several warm bricks in the bottom of the carriage for us to keep our toes warm on.

I huddled close with the children under the woolen blankets, trying to keep warm. It was a relatively quiet ride, although several times I tried to persuade Gavin to take a blanket, or to warm himself.

“You’ll catch your death of this cold,” I told him, offering him one of the spare blankets. “Do try to keep yourself warm, Gavin.”

“I’m perfectly fine, Morgan,” he said, refusing the blanket.

“Stubborn, aren’t you?” I commented. His children giggled slightly at my frutration.

“I will never let it be said that I took blankets from a woman and children,” he said. I gently smacked his arm.

“Yes, what a wonderful thing to be said at a eulogy,” I said tartly. “Gavin was chivelrous to the end- he refused to take a spare blanket from his children and a friend. Do we need this blanket?” I turned to address this question to his children.

“Not at all,” his daughter said. “I’m as warm as I’ll ever get in this weather.”

“Same,” his son said. “Just take the blanket, father.” Gavin shook his head.

“I am fine,” he said stiffly, snapping the reigns to speed the horses on their way. “Besides, we’re almost there.”

“Fine,” I said, turning my back to him. “See if I care if you lose your toes.”

“You care,” he murmured so only I could hear. “You care more than you’ll ever admit.”

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