Learning To Love - Chapter 16
A/N: I am so sorry I have not updated for so long. Thank you for all of the reviews, they mean a lot to me, and I will do my best to update more often.
Nothing soothed Andromache as she tried to sleep, not even the soft words of Sofia could calm her nerves.
"Would you like me to sing to you, like your mother would do when you were a child?" asked Sofia kindly.
"No," murmured Andromache, and she stood up from the bed and began to walk out to the balcony. She then halted suddenly, and turned to her handmaiden. "I am sorry, Sofia, I know you are only trying to help. I am fine, really I am. You may go to your own chamber now."
Usually Sofia would have protested, but she looked at her Princess now and knew there was no question that Andromache wished to be alone. And so she obediently left.
Once she was sure Sofia had left, Andromache walked out onto the balcony. She was greeted by the cool night air, and looked up to the heavens to see thousands of stars twinkling down on her.
She closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled the fresh sea air, hoping it would calm her, but it did not. Nothing calmed her.
Anxiety flowed through her and she felt sickness rush through her and want to escape, but she forced it back down. She was so terrified that Cassandra would tell Hector that she had left the city without an escort. Her and Hector had come so far, and she knew he would look upon it as a betrayal of his trust if he found out.
It was not only Hector learning of her solitary ride to the beach that she feared, she also feared how he and others would react when they learnt of the news that Cruesa was with child.
Deep down Andromache knew Hector would be overjoyed and that he would never question why she had not provided him with children, but she knew others would. She knew that the gossips of the city would talk of how she may be unable to have children, how she could have been cursed by the gods, how awful it must be for Hector to have his best friend and sister have a child before him.
All of these thoughts whirled through Andromache's mind and each one felt like a wound to her heart. She could even almost imagine the pitying looks Hector's family would give her, the long sorrowful glances they would direct at her.
They very thought of it all made her want to scream at the world; she wanted nothing more than to scream at the world and escape from it. And as she looked out past the city walls and to the great ocean, she wanted nothing more than to see Hector's ship sail across it to her.
She had considered what would calm her, what would appease her, and instantly the thought of Hector returning flooded into her mind. She knew she missed Hector, but she had never expected to miss or long for him so much.
"Return home to me soon, Hector," Andromache quietly whispered, her lips barely moving as she looked out across the sea and uttered her prayer, "please come home to me."
In between pacing out on the balcony and in her chambers, Andromache grew tired and finally retired to bed. Her sleep was not peaceful though, instead she was still constantly tormented by Cruesa's news and Hector's absence.
When she was awoken by Sofia, she was surprised she had managed to sleep through the night and that the sun had already risen.
"You would not believe what has happened!" Sofia gleefully said as soon as she saw Andromache's eyes slowly open.
"What … what has happened?" Andromache asked groggily, and she rose up in her bed.
"Prince Hector and the army have returned!" Sofia said, and she watched for a surge of joy to leap across her Princess' face, but there was no emotion.
Instead, Andromache leapt from her bed and pulled a shawl around her arms. She then ran through the chamber and left it.
Sofia could not believe her eyes as she saw Andromache leave, still in her nightgown, and only a thin shawl to cover her. She immediately raced after her, but Andromache had already disappeared from sight, leaving a trail of bewildered and curious servants looking in the direction she had fled.
Andromache's legs carried her faster than she had ever run. She wanted to stop and gather her thoughts, but something in her urged her to carry on. It was as if her only thought was seeing Hector and nothing else, not even how she was inappropriately dressed, mattered.
Soon she reached the hall that led to the great entrance room and she felt a last rush of adrenaline pump through her. As she neared it, she saw the glimmer of breast plates catch the sun's rays.
"Princess Andromache!" a voice gasped, but Andromache did not even register who had said it. She did not care, not now, because as soon as she reached the hall she saw Hector, and when he heard his wife's name, he looked around and soon caught sight of her.
The first look they both shared caught the attention of everyone in the hall. It was a look that held a thousand words, a look that described everything to the ones involved, though revealed nothing to those who overlooked.
Andromache felt as if she had never felt happier in all her life, and a broad smile widened across her lips as she gazed at Hector. She felt a rush of excitement flood through her body, and she slowly walked up to him, desperate to touch him, desperate to be held in his arms.
"Oh, Andromache," was all Hector could utter as he held out his arms for Andromache, and she ran to him. He wrapped his arms tightly around her, determined to never let go, and rested his chin on her head.
He closed his eyes in ecstasy, wanting to cherish this moment forever. He knew he had missed his wife, he had felt a part of him missing while he was away, and now he only felt as if he realised how much he had missed her now that he held her in his arms again.
"I have missed you so much, Hector," declared Andromache, and she pressed her head against Hector and tried to ignore the hundreds of eyes that looked on her and her husband. She blocked out their faces, none of it mattering to her at this moment, now when she felt so safe.
"I can see that," said Hector, and he looked down to Andromache and could not help but smile to see she was still wearing her nightgown. Instead of being embarrassed or shamed by it, as he knew many other men would feel, he felt proud and so happy to have married Andromache.
A small laugh escaped Andromache's lips also as she looked at her attire. She tried to wrap the shawl more tightly around her, but Hector stopped her.
"You look beautiful," whispered Hector, his words caressing Andromache's face, "and I am honored that you wished to see me so much."
Andromache lowered her head, still somewhat embarrassed, and she inhaled deeply then looked back up to him again. "You probably have a lot to discuss with your father," and she looked around the room now and took notice of all the faces, "and I should return to our chamber."
She started to back away, but Hector stepped forward and took her arm. He motioned for her to stay there, and looked around the room until he spotted Aeneas.
"Aeneas," called Hector, loudly enough for the whole hall to turn and look at him. "I wish to accompany my wife to our chambers, after that I will meet my father. Will you please let him know?"
Aeneas looked to Andromache and smiled kindly. "Of course, Hector." He nodded in Andromache's direction, and then headed off to send word to King Priam.
Hector turned to Andromache once more, offered his arm to her, and then they slowly made their way to their chambers.
"I don't think I realised how much I had missed you until I first saw you in the hall, just now," said Hector, once they were out of earshot of any eavesdroppers. He looked across to Andromache and saw her blush slightly, and it warmed his heart. He had missed the blush in her cheeks.
"I should not have been so eager," Andromache said, and she laughed at herself, "but … but I wanted to see you so much." Her laughter had now dispersed, and she stopped and looked to Hector. "I am almost ashamed to admit how much I have missed you, but I did miss you … I missed you so much, Hector."
Hector felt a sudden rush through him, and without even thinking about it he spoke the few words he had spoken before, but only when she was sleeping. "I love you, Andromache."
It took Andromache's mind a few moments to register what she had heard, and her eyes widened as she soon realised. She took a few steps back from her husband, as if to almost escape from what he had declared, and she saw a flash of hurt cross his face, and she stepped forward.
"Hector …," breathed Andromache, and she could not continue because she felt at such a loss of what to say.
"Sshhh," Hector calmly said, and he took Andromache's face in his hands and stared directly into her eyes so she could not escape him. "I do not expect you to love me in return; you never have to, Andromache. What we have now is more than enough for me, it will always be more than I deserve."
Andromache tried to protest, though she did not know what she would say. She tried to pull Hector's hands away from her, but he did not relent.
"No, Andromache," said Hector, his tone a perfect mixture of softness and sternness. "You do not have to say anything."
"Hector, I am sorry … I just …," said Andromache, her voice escaping her almost like a cry.
He shook his head slightly, and a small smile came across his lips. "Andromache, do not even worry yourself. I do not ask you for to love me in return, I never ask for that because what you have showed me means so much to me already." He then laughed slightly. "For you to even like me is remarkable."
Andromache could not help but join Hector in laughter, and after a moment she reached up and kissed his lips. She kissed him gently at first, and then she felt a rush of want and desire pass through her and she kissed him more firmly, more passionately. Almost as if she felt she would never feel his lips against her again.
All too soon they pulled away from each other, each of their breaths slightly more rapid than before, and both of their faces showing broad grins.
"You should go and see your father," said Andromache, "he is probably expecting you – you could have taken me to our chambers and returned by now."
Hector reluctantly nodded in agreement. He slowly stepped forward to Andromache, noticing a stray strand of hair blowing across her face, and he gently took it within his hand and neatly tucked it back into place.
"I have missed doing that so much," he said softly.