It is forbidden for a Methuselah to love a Terran. But how was I to know it would be so hard to stop myself. I always hated the Terran…I wasn't ready to worry about finding one that I might love. So far as I knew, such a creature could not exist. I hadn't counted on meeting someone like Sister Esther. She hadn't expected to find a Methuselah she could trust either. So how is it fate could bring two people who hated one another together?
"Esther?" I walked a short distance away from the red headed beauty, but I couldn't bring myself to look at her as I spoke. If I tried, I would only see her smile, and then I'd be too nervous to speak. That was how she made me feel, don't ask why because I haven't got a clue.
"Yes, Excellency?" I could feel her eyes on me as she spoke, eyes that shined so full of hope, so full of life. Such lovely eyes.
"Uh…" my cheeks flushed as I realized I really hadn't thought of anything to say. What had I been planning to do? Spill out my heart to her? I glanced up from the palace floor, towards the Terran waiting expectantly for an answer. Abel Nightroad had placed me in charge of guarding Esther's safety, and I couldn't even bring myself to look directly at her. "Umm…a-are you adjusting well to life as royalty?"
Stupid! I could have hit myself the question was so ridiculous! Esther had only recently found out she was a long lost princess of Albion. They called her their 'Star of Hope'. To go from being a sister of the Vatican to a ruler of a nation was obviously a huge change! But it was still such a stupid thing to comment on!
Esther simply smiled and glanced toward the elaborately decorated wall of her new home, "It's quite a change…but the people here are so kind. They make it easier to adjust."
"Ah…that, that's good." I murmured, smiling slightly in return. Her smile was so lovely, but something sad was hidden in its gentle arch.
"Do you think Father Abel is alright?" I blinked and turned to look at her, realizing I must have become lost in my own thoughts, as several moments had slipped past in silence.
"Of course." I tried to smile, but couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed that she would worry about Nightroad when we were here alone together. "He's a lot tougher than he appears."
Rumors had been circulating since Father Nightroad had returned from his apparent death. They said that Esther and he had feelings for one another. I tried to pay no mind to such gossip, but it was hard to ignore. It had been weeks since he left me here to guard Esther, and every time someone brought the Krusnik up in conversation, her eyes grew so sad that I could hardly bear to look at her. I could tell her heart was breaking with worry. It made me wonder if she ever worried like that for me when we were apart.
"Thank you, Excellency." She sighed in mild relief at me reassuring words, and I was glad that I could ease her pain.
"How many times do I have to tell you to call me Ion.?" I smiled as best I could as I spoke the words. She always addressed me so formally.
"Ah! Sorry." She blushed slightly as she spoke, and I could smell the blood as it rose in her cheeks.
It was such a sweet scent. Everything about this Terran woman drew me to her. But the Empress had her laws, and I was bound by them. I had to leave my feelings for Esther behind me, as hard as it might be. I was the Empress's loyal subject…
I found myself staring at Esther, and she looked at me with puzzled eyes, "Ion? A-are you alright?"
I drew in a startled breath as she spoke my name, and mumbled as a quickly looked away, "I'm fine!"
The words must have sounded harsher than I intended, because suddenly Esther stopped walking and stared at me, looking hurt. I looked at her, and she returned my gaze, eyes full of confusion and concern. I sighed, angry with myself for causing her pain! Frustrated with my inability to set aside my desire to be with her!
"Ion…" She bit her lip tenderly, looking away, "I promise I won't call you Excellency again, if it upsets you so much."
"That's not it." I shook my head, sending my pale blond locks dancing about my face. I felt the sting of salty tears in my eyes. Where had they come from? I couldn't start to cry, not here in front of Esther.
"Then what?" She whispered, and I could here that she was straining not to cry as well. Sweet Sister Esther, never wanting to cause anyone hurt.
"I," I looked up at her and paused. I wanted to tell her everything! To beg her not to cry! I wanted to let her know that she could never upset me! That she wasn't capable of hurting anyone, because she was pure beauty, pure hope…she was faith and trust and innocence and love and life itself! But she was also Terran, and so I couldn't say such things, "I can't tell you."
"You have to!" She shouted, and I could see the silver trickle of a tear streaming down her face, "Ion, I care about you! I want to help if I can, and I know that something is bothering you!"
I care about you! Those words spoken in her beautiful voice were simply too much! I reached a slender hand towards her and wiped her tear away, my voice was a whisper as I spoke "Then don't cry. I never want to make you cry."
Those bright eyes gleamed with tears still unshed, "Ion…"
I couldn't let her speak anymore before I had finished what I had to say, I placed a finger to her lips and silenced her, "Esther, I…I need to ask you…do you think that if a law…if it's unfair, then do you think you can be loyal, even if you break that law?"
I dropped my hand aside, my mind made up that I would tell her, whatever her answer, what I truly felt. She was silent a moment, considering her reply, "I suppose…it would depend upon the law."
"Yes, I suppose it would." I agreed, nodding slightly. There was a window to our left, and I let my crimson gaze slide over to it, taking in the scenery. A gentle breeze danced among the trees outside.
"Not all laws are fair, I know that." Her gentle voice continued, "But they should be honored…and if they are unfair, then you must try to get them changed. Do…do you think I have done something unfair?"
I blinked and looked towards her; she hadn't had much time to change anything in Albion. With a soft laugh I assured her I thought no such thing, "You are the most honest, most fair person I know. Other Terran might make laws that aren't fair, but I don't think you would."
"Then, why would you ask such a question?" She inquired. So simple a statement and I froze. I'd determined, as I have already said, that I would tell her how I felt. But it wasn't as easy as it sounds. I needed more time, I needed to know what I was going to say, and now I had to answer her! "Ion?"
"I…it-it's not you, I promise." I reasserted, "I would never accuse you of being unfair. I was referring to a law which I must abide by…the law of the Empress."
"Well, in that case, I'm sure you would never be disloyal. I'm not sure what law the Empress has in place that you think unfair, but maybe I can help you petition to get it changed." She gave me that sweet smile of hers, and I could feel myself flush once more.
"It must be in place for a reason." I sighed, "But it's making things so difficult…"
"I'm not sure I know what you mean…" Esther replied. Once more I dropped my gaze to the floor.
"There's something I must tell you, Esther. And please, let me say it before you speak!" I drew a deep breath, gathering my courage, feeling like a foolish child for being afraid to even speak, "Esther, before I met you, I hated Terrans…all of them. But you, you're different. You're different from anyone I've met before." I paused, turning to the window, "You're not like any Methuselah or Terran, you're smart, and kind, and brave, and wonderful!" I could smell the blood again as it rose in her cheeks at my outpouring, "The law says…it says that a Methuselah is forbidden from loving a Terran, but I can't help it." I looked up at her, tears in my eyes. Fearing rejection, fearing the fact that I knew I was breaking the Empress's law, "Esther, I love you. And I don't know what to do!"
Shining blue eyes met mine. And neither of us spoke a word. I wished she would speak, break the horrible silence. I had to know how she felt! If anyone was worth breaking the law, it was Esther.
"Ion…" Her voice was barely audible, even to my heightened senses. "I…I had no idea." I could feel the warmth of her hand as it reached up to touch my cheek. She smiled, "I'm sorry you felt you had to hide this, and….the law is unfair. No law should tell you who to love."
My breath caught in my chest, and I felt my heart in my chest, as though a hand was squeezing it, trying to crush it. Was she saying she felt the same?