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I scrubbed the plate harder, trying to remove the stain from last night’s meal. In front of me, in front of the kitchen sink, the sun was on the horizon; attempting to rise into the sky and shake off the silent stupor of the sleeping kingdom. I rinsed the plate and placed it beside me. As I turned off the running sink water and drying my hands, I heard Noveran groan in our bedroom. No doubt he was unhappy that the sun that shone through our window and, most likely, onto his face. I sighed and turned to prepare his breakfast.
As the eggs cooked and the cheddar cheese melted, I could hear the metal springs in our bed squeal in protest as he flipped over and heaved himself off our bed. I also heard him as he padded quietly into the room behind me. His footsteps stopped, and I could feel his breath down my neck as he wrapped his arms around my waist. His head found its way to my shoulder as his lips traced my jaw line. In the pan, the eggs sizzled, and the smell of suddenly burning cheese filled the air. Quickly, before I burned the food, I flipped it onto a plate and placed the plate on the counter. “There you go, Sleepyhead.” I teased, as I pulled away from him and sat down on a chair in front of our dining table. Noveran took his plate and slid into the seat beside me. He quickly began to gobble up his eggs.
“Aren’t you going to eat?” he asked through a mouth full of eggs. I shook my head. “I already ate.” I replied. His eyebrows furrowed together as he gave me a confused and worried look. “You didn’t sleep last night.” He stated. I shrugged. “I slept for all of an hour. Then, I woke up because of a nightmare and found I couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up and started to clean a bit. I ate about an hour ago.” I explained. “These nightmares seem to keep occurring. If they continue…” he trailed off. I placed my hand on his shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile, though I could tell he didn’t buy it. “I’m fine. Really.” He gave me a look of doubt. “You look like the living dead, Areina, baby. There are purple rings under your eyes that are staring to look etched in.” he disagreed. He pushed his plate away, which was only something he did when he was upset or worried; in an attempt to show me how worried he was about me.
I ignored it, but got up to rinse his plate. “I can do that!” he protested, but I was done before he had even finished standing. I leaned against the counter as I turned to look at him. It was apparent he had just gotten out of bed for his bronze hair was tousled, and he hadn’t bothered brushing it. It seemed he had grown three or four more inches during the night, if that were possible. As it was, he nearly touched the ceiling. I wondered when he would stop growing. His biceps even looked bigger this morning! He sighed. “At least stay home and catch up on some sleep today.” He begged. I shook my head. “I have a job to do, Noveran.” “We can deal without you for one day.” He argued. I shook my head again. “I’m teaching you and your fellow knights about herbs and healing techniques today.” My job was to attend to any injuries the knights of our kingdom have and to teach the knights any kind of first aid that would help them in life or battle.
I walked past Noveran’s disappointed and disapproving face and into our bedroom. I dressed in my boots, pants, and tight fitting fighting top. I grabbed my sword and attached it to my side. Women in Klair were forbidden to posses swords. However, the king had made a special acceptance for me. Since I was technically part of his own personal squad of knights, I needed a sword. Though I haven’t been knighted, I am considered a knight amongst the townsfolk because of how often I’m around the knights and their fighting techniques. Women aren’t supposed to be knights. Women are supposed to stay home and take care of their home, husband, and children. Most of the town’s women look down on me because of all the men friends I have. To them, I am the village whore, though I’ve only ever had sex with my husband. Another reason the women look down on me is because women are suppose dot do as their husbands tell them to and speak only when spoken to. However, I am resilient, strong headed, talkative, and not afraid to express myself; feelings or otherwise.
I strolled out the room and up to Noveran, who was still standing beside our table. “Ready?” he asked as his face still showed the disapproval of my decision not to stay home. I nodded. “Come on, then.” He grunted. He took my hand, pulling me out door. We walked around to the back of our house where the barn stood. Inside were our two horses. His was a white steed named Renaia. My horse was a black mare named Teverasu. Noveran pulled his saddle off the barn door as I led the horses out. Once outside, Noveran saddled up Renaia while I hoisted myself up onto Teverasu’s back. I hated saddles so I usually rode bareback. Once he was on Renaia’s back, Noveran and I were off, racing through the kingdom as the wind tousled and caught at our hair.
We rode through the town, passing houses, taverns, and markets. As we passed, children looked up to us in either wonder or fear. Men tipped their heads at us, while women glared or wrinkled their noses in distaste at me. When we reached the castle, we took to the side to go around and reach the back where the garden lay. The garden was were we and the knights would reside for the day. While Noveran tied up Renaia to a tree among a patch of trees, I urged Taverasu past the trees and dismounted. Behind the trees was a giant fenced in field with a stream in the back. Here, Taverasu could run free and enjoy herself as I worked. I walked briskly back to where my husband stood. We walked in silence to the garden. The silence lay heavy with tension between us, reflecting his black mood resulting from my decision to not stay home.
We reached the garden and I could see all the knights sitting in front of a stone bench, patiently waiting for me. I left Noveran behind me to sit with the knights as I broke into a crisp walk, eager to end the wait I had caused them to endure. Standing in front of them, I spied Noveran in the front row, his arms crossed and a scowl pasted on his face, but behind that scowl, in his eyes, I could see the worry. Though he seems tough and acts like he doesn’t care, he often worried about me, though he didn’t like to show it. I huffed a sigh, blowing my long black hair off the side of my face. I smiled coyly and began to teach about herbs.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We ate in silence, Noveran sitting directly across from me; his eyes watching my every move. We had gotten home only a little while ago and, once inside, I had gone straight to cooking his dinner. This night, we were having baked chicken and mashed potatoes. He put his fork down with a lud clang, something he never did when there was food on his plate. He continued to stare at me, his lips pressed into a thin, grim line while his eyes bellowed worry silently at me. I sighed. He was still clearly irate at my earlier decision, obviously worried for my health. His expression softened suddenly, and he began to speak. “Arenia, baby? You know how much I worry about you and that I only have the best interest for you don’t you?” he asked softly, almost sadly. I looked at him in confusion, my eyebrows furrowed. Where was this conversation headed? “Of course I know that.” I answered. “Then, why won’t you listen to me on issues concerning your health? I know you’re stubborn and hard headed, but please! Think of yourself once in a while! All you ever think of is everyone but yourself! Me, the knights, animals, children. Arenia! This will be the downfall of you if you don’t ever think of yourself!” Again, I sighed.
“Noveran, I have a duty to the knights of Klair, just as you yourself do. That being said, you know that knights are supposed to protect and help the weak, but being that as it may, even if I did not have a duty to the knights, I would still be the same way. Every living life is precious and holy; given to us by our maker; a gift, even. And if one life is lost versus ten, twenty, or more, then that sacrifice of that one life is useful in the end. Why end it with many when you can end it with one? Just as you are ready to give your life in battle to protect this kingdom, I am just as willing to give my life helping the weak, if need be. So, Noveran, do not criticize me for me for my choices for you are doing the same thing , only your path your path is paved with blood and glory, and mine is not.” He stared at me, dumbfounded.
I stood up, picked up our plates, and proceeded over to the sink when Noveran brought himself to speak again. “Leave it. I’ll take care of it. You do everything around the house, and I’m starting to feel useless around here. You go get some rest. Tomorrow the knights and I are going to teach you how to use a sword, and I don’t want you drowsy while we are sparing. You might get hurt.” I smiled a bit and walked past him to our room. Behind me, I could hear the water running and the dishes clanking together.