How Does She Know?
Spoilers for everything. Well, duh.
"Look into your heart for the answer."
- Lady Alandra
Alandra did not look up or turn her head. She was very aware of the sound's origin. She merely listened as it approached her from behind.
Slowly coming closer. Metal clicking on polished marble floor.
The young woman pictured the winged hardwood doors, always open at this time of day. Inviting as they may be, she was mildly surprised. The small, beautifully decorated chapel rarely attracted visitors. Save herself, of course.
Definitely not this visitor. She turned her head, nodding a greeting to Sabatt.
Sabatt, in response, inclined her head and moved into the row behind the one Alandra occupied. She sat down in one smooth, elegant motion and put her cane across her knees.
"Is someone looking for me?" asked Alandra, keeping her voice low as not to disturb the peace of the place. It was ridiculous. They were alone in the chapel.
"The Castle hasn't burned down yet, don't you worry."
Alandra had expected one of Sabatt's usual mocking remarks – she was long used to them. She smirked briefly. "That's a relief. And what are you up to?"
"Charming. Do I look like I'm up to something?"
"You always do. No matter my efforts to dismiss the thought." She was perfectly able to respond in suit.
"Really. Tell me, then, what would you expect me to be up to?"
"Plotting. Always plotting." Another smirk. "I would like to be able to tell."
"It will have to remain my little secret until you figure out a way to look inside my head, won't it? It's not nearly as interesting as what is rattling around yours at present, I expect."
Alandra shrugged weakly. She made no effort to deny the obvious. She had been sitting inside the chapel for several hours now, spending her time trying to follow her own impossible trains of thoughts. She felt she hadn't made much progress. She was still running in circles, and the answers to her questions seemed to always slip from her mind as soon as she believed she finally pinpointed them. It was unnerving. Frustrating. Pointless.
Sabatt shifted slightly, leaning toward her with one of her more prying expressions. "Are you going to tell me or do we play a guessing game?"
Brief anger shot through Alandra's mind, but it didn't even last long enough for her to shoot the woman a warning glare. She sighed. The hours spent in silent pondering hadn't stilled her mind or doused her doubts; maybe it wasn't such a ridiculous notion. Maybe she simply had to voice her concerns to make sense of them. Maybe …
"It's Marcus," she muttered. "I just don't know what to do with him lately."
Sabatt didn't look surprised. She wouldn't be, thought Alandra.
"Of course it's Marcus. Has he done anything out of the ordinary lately?"
Alandra found herself scoffing. Sabatt watched her intently. "No, nothing out of the ordinary. It's just … he's just …" Alandra threw her hands up. She didn't even know what to respond. He was just being so …
… childish. She nodded tersely. "Yes, that. He's always giving me his puppy eyes, but he doesn't even try. I mean, it's like he's completely oblivious towards his clumsiness! He's turned into a walking hazard. Does he really expect me to clean up after him all day? He doesn't even seem to notice. Then he gives me the puppy eyes and expects me to act as if nothing had happened."
One side of Sabatt's mouth went up. Alandra could easily tell she was amused. And probably rightly so.
"I don't think he expects any such thing from you, Alandra. He has always been a walking hazard. And you, as his commander, were always inclined to clean up after him." Alandra was about to deny this accusation, but Sabatt continued.
"And this, I believe, is exactly the cause of your gloom. You're going to marry him – the boy who has been under your command for as long as you know him. And you suddenly realise he is no longer your inferior but going to be your equal. On all accounts. Marcus hasn't changed; only your perception of him has. You expect him to be an equal match – something he cannot become over night. You want him to take responsibility, to act more mature, you want a reliable partner instead of a clumsy little boy. Isn't that so?"
Alandra closed her mouth. She only now noticed she'd been staring at Sabatt, slack-jawed, too. She took an audible breath. Sabatt's head was cocked to the side. Alandra nodded meekly. "Yes," she said in a similar voice. "I think that … somehow, you may be right. Can't I expect him to lay off the immaturity now that we're going to …" She took another breath. Saying the words seemed so difficult all of a sudden. "We're going to be a married couple? Is it too much to expect? We're going to be a family, Sabatt, sooner or later; he has to take responsibility at some point. I can't drag him out of every hole he manages to get himself into, he has to –"
Again, Sabatt interrupted her. "My dear Alandra, you're having the blues over things yet to come. Highly impractical. Expectations, expectations." She chuckled. "Lay them off. Right away. This is not how to make your marriage work."
The anger returned. "Is it so wrong to have expectations about the man you're going to spend the rest of your life with? I'm not asking for much, Sabatt."
"Oh, but you are." Her smile was irritating. "You're asking him to lay off everything that defines him, you're asking for Marcus minus the traits that attracted you to him in the first place. Because you're afraid he's going to ruin your life, not live up to your expectations, and make you look like less than you feel you deserve to be by putting himself and you into awkward, embarrassing situations."
Words failed her. Alandra stared, mouth agape.
"Now, allow me a word of advice. If you're looking for someone who is utterly loyal and devoted to you, someone who never questions your motivations or decisions, someone who will always adore and comfort you without ever asking a single thing in return, get a pet dog. I've seen you two do impossible things together, and it's because you believed in each other. Marcus would go to the moon for you if you believed he could do it. It's the only reason you're both still alive now. And if you stop believing in him, even for a moment, then it's all over."
Sabatt got up, slowly lowering her wooden cane until the metal tip touched the ground.
She leaned on her walking aid, gaze fixing Alandra. "Don't be a fool. You were offered the greatest gift of all, the greatest gift any man could ever give, and you're about to question everything over useless ifs and whens. You rarely get a second chance in life. Believe me, Alandra, I know this. Seize yours and allow him to grow with you. He will not disappoint you. He may make mistakes, you will make mistakes, but this is what life is about. You're tossed into an ocean and you swim. Or you drown. Don't drown."
She gave a friendly nod. "Now excuse me while I take my leave before you notice the awkwardness of me telling you this."
She turned towards the illuminated doors.