Summary: No one is immune to jealous thoughts or spiteful anger, and the queen of Numara was no exception. That didn't stop her from wishing she was, especially when those thoughts involved her husband.
Author's Note: This one isn't as funny as the first two, be warned!
The Emotional Maladies of Ming
It was a terrible habit he had, wandering off for great swaths of time and leaving no word as to where he was or what he was doing. Ming supposed she should be used to it - knew she should be used to it - but that didn't seem to make any difference. On those days where she had no idea where her husband was or what he was up to, a sick sort of worry came upon her.
He always wandered back home, fine and unconcerned as he usual was. Either he had imbibed a bit more than he normally did these days and had slept off a stupor on the beach, he'd gotten himself invited to some sort of gathering, or he'd simply discovered a new tangle of streets and shops and lost himself wandering for miles in some far flung patch of Numara. It wasn't as though he were off baiting monsters or spelunking in forbidden caverns!
But the fear persisted, despite logic's protests. Fear that in those times they were apart, in those times where even Jansen's trio of attendants couldn't tell Ming with any great certainty where he was, that something horrible had happened. She knew it was madness. The gnawing, nagging doubt as to where Jansen was and what he was doing. It only grew worse when discreetly dispatched guards or couriers were dispatched only to return with apologetic, empty handed gestures.
Sometimes, the fear would begin to sharpen and redden, edging towards anger. Because he was most likely simply off drinking with someone, letting the time slip by and enjoying himself while she waited, worried and alone and without knowing for sure. He hadn't even the simple courtesy to send a messenger! And he knew how she worried. It wasn't as though she didn't tell him, every time it happened. He didn't spare a thought to it (so her increasingly irritated mind would inform her). And besides that… what right did he have, to leave her alone in the first place? What right did he have to go galavanting off with whomever it was this time, leaving her to the long and difficult duties of tending to Numara, and then an empty bedroom at day's end?
She hated those feelings worse than the fear. What right did he have? Every right in the world, and she knew that. She was no tyrannical harpy, insistent he throw away any aspect of his life that didn't include her. She wanted him to live life to the fullest, to do whatever he needed to remain happy. It was only an odd, sick sort of jealousy that seized her from time to time. Not the jealousy of a wife fearing her husband's unfaithfulness - that thought never once entered her mind - but simple jealousy that he was with someone other than her, enjoying himself with someone other than her.
It was one of the few differences between them that Ming felt was somewhat impossible to bridge. She had been alone for a longer time than Jansen could even conceive of. The true weight and breadth of a thousand years was simply something a mortal was unable to comprehend. The idea of it, of course, but the reality? Only one who had lived it could really understand. And for a thousand years - more or less - she had taken great pains to eschew any personal or intimate relationships. And then came Jansen, and it was as though floodgates had been opened. She loved him so much it hurt, and that sort of love could easily turn jealous and possessive. It didn't help that despite establishing friendships and taking pains to be more personally involved, she didn't really have anyone but Jansen. Kaim and Sarah had taken the children back to the northern cape, and it wasn't an easy thing to come forth from isolation.
And of course, there was the simple fact that she had never been in this position before. She had only books and second-hand stories to give her an idea of what married life was truly like. And added to that was the mixed blessing of her and Jansen's courtship. They had never been apart for more than a handful of hours, really. She had grown used to having him there for her at all times.
In her most bitter and irrational moments, the thought came that he simply didn't love her as much as she loved him. The shame she felt following that thought made her feel physically ill. What a terrible thing to think, even in anger! But spiteful thoughts were treacherous things, and always found some way of making themselves known. And she couldn't claim she was a saint, despite what her people might call her. She was a woman, and while she rarely gave voice or visage to the darker thoughts that passed through her mind, they were there.
At least those times when her fear gave way to anger were few and far between. And then, of course, when she had worn herself out pacing the length of their bedroom - stopping occasionally to watch intently and sadly hopefully out the window - Jansen would return. And no matter what emotions had Ming tightly in their grip, they melted away the moment she saw his face, heard his voice. It was as though they were phantom things, spirits of the mind rather than of the flesh, and they fled back to the strange netherworld from whence they came when confronted.
What was left was only a memory of foolishness.
But the memory did remain. And so Ming would stand by the window, smiling softly at her husband, and choosing her words carefully. She knew well how easy it was to misspeak, to give him the impression of anger or something else that was not there. Or worse, have him feel she was blaming him or resenting his extroverted life. He would think she wanted him to change, and that was the last thing she wanted. Yes, it frustrated her when he was out of reach, but if he didn't seize life the way he did he wouldn't be the man that she loved. That was far more important that what amounted to a minor inconvenience. But she still felt the need to say something.
"I couldn't reach you," she would say, striving to be casual. But the slight hesitance in her tone said it all. Jansen's face fell and he scrubbed the back of his neck and cast his eyes downwards like a sheepish schoolboy.
"Geeze, I'm sorry…I was gonna send a message, but this guy's cart had tipped over and then we ended up going and hitting a public house, and…. I'm sorry, sweetheart. I mean, I did bring a messenger, but a friend of mine needed to get in touch with his girlfriend…. And you know I'm just messing around in the city somewhere…."
"And you know how I worry." She couldn't help the words, though there was no malice in them. It was a gentle reminder, as it always had and always would be. And really, beneath all the mad emotions that came when she was alone, that was all she wanted. Just for him to remember, at least occasionally, to give her some notice or general idea as to where he was or how long he'd be gone.
"I know, I know…man, this is one big orobourous of suck, isn't it?"
Ming had to laugh. Not only at the sentiment, but at hearing it come from Jansen's lips. She covered her mouth and shook her head and soon Jansen was nervously joining her. Now, she could hardly even remember why she had felt so upset. She never could, afterwards. It was a cycle, in a way, but it was theirs. It was borne of who they were and how they lived, and it wasn't something that was likely to change. And all in all, it wasn't that terrible a frustration to bear.
"No," she finally said. She crossed the room and put her hands on his shoulders, looking up into his still-apologetic eyes. "It's just…us."