Kellan stared at me in shock for a moment, trying to comprehend what I had just told her. Suddenly it seemed like she understood.
“You’re… you love Gavin?” she asked faintly, her eyes wide. I nodded guiltily. “Oh, lord, Morgan.”
“I can’t stop myself,” I said, feeling like it was a weak defense. “And he cares for me, even though he’s heard what I think of marriage and childbirth.”
“He cares for you?” Kellan asked with her voice still faint. “Morgan, you do know how to make a proper mess, don’t you?”
“I suppose I do,” I said glumly. “If it’s any consolation to you, we are both aware of our duties to the family.”
“Oh, Morgan,” she said, laughing suddenly. “Only you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused by her change in mood.
“Only you, who despise marriage, would fall in love with someone who is engaged to be married to your cousin,” she explained. “Only you would feel so strongly about your duty to your family that you’d let your own happiness be denied.” I sighed.
“After the wedding tomorrow, I need to figure out where I’m going and what I’m doing. Aunt Mary and uncle Cadman won’t let me stay on until I’m sixteen as a companion for the twin, and I have no desire to marry anyone but Gavin,” I said.
The twins were two years younger than Leslie, and they were currently ten, although their birthday was fast approaching. Kellan sighed and gently placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Well, what other options could you have?” she asked.
“Only marriage is coming to mind,” I said.
“And that’s obviously not much of one for you, is it?” she asked thinking. “Well, I suppose there’s always one of those nunneries.” I looked at her startled.
“A convent? But I’m too old for the schooling they offer,” I said thoroughly confused. Kellan laughed again.
“No, silly,” she said. “Besides, you could teach one of those convent schools, with as much reading as Leslie says you do. No, I meant that you could take on a nun’s vows of exclusive service to God and to the world. It would get you out of marriage, and if anyone could handle the discipline those women have it would be you.”
“Me, a nun?” I asked nobly. The picture seemed different but not all together objectionable to me. “Would your parents permit it?”
“Mother would be thrilled if you were to choose that. I fear it has always disappointed her that not a one of her sons chose the priesthood,” Kellan assured me. “Come now. It’s late and getting a bit chilly out. We can’t be ill tomorrow.”
“Of course not,” I said, letting Kellan pull me back into the tower. We made our way to my room quickly, not speaking. I opened the door, and then turned back to face my cousin. “Thank you,” I said, hugging her.
“You took care of me,” Kellan said. “And on this side of it, I can say that I owe you so much.” She waited as I closed the door.
My sleep that night was rather restless filled with nightmares about marriage, nuns and Gavin. I woke at dawn with the firm distaste for marriage back. As I dressed for Leslie’s big day I decided that if there was any definite way to escape marriage, a nunnery would be the key.
I readied myself with a heavy heart and entered the chapel with the rest of the family. Quietly I took my seat, dreading the preceding events.
The ceremony dragged on, and I tried to not listen to the vows that Leslie and Gavin were making. The thought of him holding or cherishing her filled me with an ugly jealousy. Finally it ended and we moved on to the feasting and dancing.
After all of Gavin’s duties as the groom had been fulfilled and while Leslie was otherwise occupied, Gavin snuck over to me. I had been sitting alone, watching the proceedings with an aching heart, and his appearance surprised me. We had tried to avoid speaking to one another in public, for appearances sake.
“Morgan,” Gavin said, slipping into the seat across from mine. “I’ve been trying to think of some way that I could stay with you, and I have a proposition.”
“Oh?” I asked, studying him. “And what might that be?”
“Take a place in my household,” he said. “Be my lover.”
“No,” I said, offended that he had thought that I would do such a thing. His face fell and I hurried to explain myself. “What position would I take? You have no children for me to play nursemaid or governess to yet. I am of noble, nay, royal blood and am not fit for a position as a serving girl. Furthermore, I refuse to be the reason a marriage is ruined and that vows are broken for.” I paused for a breath.
“None of that matters, Morgan,” he said. “Please, I want you to be with me.”
“No,” I repeated flatly. “We’ve carried out our duties so far, and now that the stakes have been raised, I don’t intend to stop.” I stood and turned to walk away, but he caught me by the wrist.
“Just know that if you ever change your mind, I will be waiting,” he said before releasing me. I closed my eyes for a moment, willing the tears back as I made my escape.
From there, I wondered around the palace. My mind kept replaying that conversation and I cried until I could cry no more.
Somehow I made it back to my room and I crawled into bed without undressing. Sleep came quickly, but was accompanied by nightmares, so I decided to sit up the rest of the night.
In the early hours of the morning someone knocked on my door and I gave a start. I rose to light a candle or two before answering.
“Come in,” I said, arranging one of the small reflector plates so that it would catch the light of the candles. Kellan opened the door and stepped inside.
She was carrying a small tray that held two mugs and a candle, and she carefully set it down. In the dim light I could see that she wore a traveling gown.
“I was afraid that I’d woken you,” she said, carefully picking up the candle from her tray and using it to light the lamp that sat on my desk.
“You didn’t,” I said, watching her. “Are you leaving today?”
“Yes,” she said, offering me one of the mugs. “Cyric wants to leave at first light, but I wanted to be able to say goodbye to you.”
“I see,” I said, taking a seat. She settled herself on one of the other chairs, looking around the room. A slight smile appeared on her face when she saw my mother’s trunk.
“Do you remember how I wanted to get rid of that the day that Father made you my companion?” she asked me, taking a sip out of the other mug. “You told me that if I touched it, or any of your mother’s things, that you would tell father about what I’d done with Deverall. I always wondered what you’d seen.”
“I only saw you kissing, and him touching you rather inappropriately,” I said. She sighed.
“Father would have been furious,” she said. “It’s probably just as well that I listened to you.”
“You’re admitting that you’re in the wrong?” I asked. “That’s a first.”
“Just this once,” Kellan said with a smile.
“So, tell me,” I said. “Is your husband treating you well?”
“Cyric is wonderful,” she said with an even wider smile. “He understands that I enjoy adventure and whenever possible, he takes me with him. And Morgan,” She added, blushing slightly “It’s not common knowledge yet, but I’m expecting.”
“You’re pregnant?” I asked surprised. I glanced at her thin frame looking for the proof. She laughed and stood up, turning slightly. Indeed there was a small bulge. “How long have you known?”
“About a month,” she said, smiling proudly. “But I wanted to tell my family in person.”
“Oh, Kellan, that’s wonderful,” I said hugging her. She laughed again and sat down.
“Mother was ecstatic,” she said. “After all, this is her first real grandchild.”
“Very true,” I said, looking at my cousin. She had changed so much since she’d been married three years ago. Obviously she was much happier now than she’d been then, and I was happy for her.
Now my concern was to try to obtain a little piece of that same happiness for myself. If only my fate would be that simple.