Chapter 22

Finally done with the dressing, the princess heaved out a sigh. She now allowed the unpleasant mixture of disappointment, bitterness, anger and sadness to overtake her. The fatigue and the distracting pain did not matter anymore, as Anna felt she would not be able to sleep anyway, various thoughts now turning in her head. It was clear to her that Carl didn't say everything – and she knew perfectly well what the thing he has chosen to suppress was. Sometimes I wish I didn't know people so well- The thoughts of being left alone again were mingling with her recent memories.

A timid knock on the door woke her up from the uneasy slumber she has finally given up to.

"Come in," Anna uttered the words reluctantly. There was only one person she wanted to see at that moment. Maybe he could explain… "I can't sleep anyway," a smile lit up on her face, when she saw Gabriel entering the room. She covered herself with sheets. "You know, usually no man enters my room at this hour," the princess grinned, her eyes, however, giving out no such bright emotions.

Gabriel sat down beside her, sharing the same feeling. "I need to tell you something I don't think you will like, Anna, but-

"Rome? I'm afraid I know it all... Sometimes I feel you still underestimate me. And I hate it when you hide something from me…"

Van Helsing looked at her with distrust, his eyes insensibly travelling down her bare shoulders. Anna gave him a wry smile. "I think it would be better if you two left as soon as possible." What must be, must be. "What about tomo- today?"

Anna! Gabriel grabbed her hand, stupefied. The princess frowned in pain, but didn't take her hand away, looking at him closely. She felt she needed to calm him down, to assure him of her feelings. Not allowing him to speak, she continued. "Of course, it will be painful for me. You cannot imagine- I cannot imagine how I am going to cope with it. She quickly chased away the thought, realising she did not want him to see her tears – not this way. "The sooner you leave, the sooner you come back, isn't it so?"

"You're right, Anna. I will be here with you in no time. I will write to you!" These words meant a lot, as he hated correspondence. Anna shrugged, and Gabriel smiled at her, only then noticing that some wounds in the hand he had been holding began to bleed again. The princess noticed it the very same moment. A painful hiss escaped her lips. "Not again."

"It's all my fault, love. I will help you, if only you allow me."

The princess rolled her eyes. "Stop talking nonsense. Please, do whatever you think is necessary." Her voice fell silent, as she closed her eyes. Having said everything, and once again hearing her lover promise he would remain faithful to her, the princess felt happy. Now there was no reason for her to continue fighting the fatigue, and when Gabriel and Carl came back to her, she was almost asleep. "We will try to be quick, Anna."

"Yes, please." Having to go through the procedures again was not what she was happy about. However, she did enjoy having Gabriel by her side. Only Heaven knows when we will meet again.

When Anna finally opened her eyes in the morning, it was way past breakfast time. It seemed like this was going to be a perfect day. Getting up, she looked at her hands – they didn't hurt anymore, however, the princess shook her hand insensibly, involuntarily comparing her bandaged hands with those of warriors – they looked exactly as she had imagined... back when she had the time to read fictional literature just for her pleasure, not having to worry about things that were happening around her. How long ago was that?

Anna sighed, quickly chasing away the unpleasant memories. Then she remembered the thing she learned the day before…and it was even more unpleasant. I will manage. I am strong enough. You keep telling me that I am.

Anna felt there was no use in waiting, and, having put on the first dress she found suitable, quickly hurried out of her room which now seemed so dull.

Finding both men downstairs, she greeted them, not showing any emotions. The princess wanted them to think she was not affected by what was soon going to happen... and they appeared to accept the rules of her game – the exchange of greetings and meaningless phrases seemed right and proper enough, even though deep within none of them was nearly as indifferent to the goodbye that was approaching as they were trying to show.

They were smiling and telling jokes right till the very last minute. The smile was shining on Anna's face even when they were already outside. Having said goodbye to Carl, she only had to survive one more thing. "I will be back as soon as I can," Gabriel assured her, putting his hand on her shoulders. It was enough to make the princess giggle nervously. "Go," she whispered, managing to keep the smile on her face. "Go now." Before I begin to cry. "Don't say anything."

Gabriel was also feeling uncomfortable. He could see the princess was trying her best in not showing her emotions, and he knew he should not try to talk to her, as much as he wanted to tell her he loved her. "Go, just go. I'll be waiting for you," she smiled at him, before turning towards the castle.

That night, she was crying. Something has ended – but she knew every end brought a new beginning.

The End.

A/N. Thank you for reading, your opinions would be greatly appreciated! ;)

The yet unfinished sequel to this story is called A New Day ;)