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Don't Expect Me to Like It
"What?!" Genevieve Weldon was betrothed to be married, again. Needless to say she did not want to be. "You didn't even ask me. I've never met the man. I'm 16!"
"Eve." Her father, a widower and Lord of Weldon, although just and strong did not know how to handle a sixteen-year-old girl decades ahead of her time.
"I cannot believe you." Eve (her nickname) had promised herself she would not marry unless she wanted to and frankly she was convinced she would never want to. This being her third betrothal (she had successfully terrified the others into calling it off) she was starting to fray. This is when she stomped to her room and started packing. Yes, she was planning to run away. Where to? She didn't know. What could possibly go wrong?
"This isn't too bad." Eve was, well, odd. She talked to herself, and to horses and trees, anything that didn't walk away. It was going surprisingly quite well. At night fall she had started out. She had made it all the way past the outer walls and the farthest farms but inevitably something went wrong. The scene is a forest path, a beautiful, young girl, walking alone into the forest, and outlaws being rampant, she was taken, without a noise. A simple blackout.
Eve woke up relieved of everything valuable, somewhere she had never been. "What was that," Eve said pushing herself off the ground. Then she looked around. "Where in the world am I?" She was surrounded by heavily wooded forest and too stubborn to be scared. She scanned the forest, like the hero in every good crusade captive story does. She had almost finished a full circle when her eyes jumped back to a narrow path and a saddle pack of food. "Well, well. A horse and food for the taking." That was all it took for the horse to neigh in a warning to its owner. She paused, but knowing it was near nightfall –again- she had to find a way home. At that point she'd have set her betrothed on fire to get out of it, if she had to. She just wanted the comfort of the stable and the yelling of the housekeeper around her. She advanced toward the path, making certain she made no sound. Then she noticed the sound of a river, and the white sheen of a man's shirt. Disgusting, she thought, and shuddered at the horrible possibility the man was… bathing! She had to chance it. She advanced hoping for the best. Turning the corner no one was in sight. Jackpot! The horse was hers and what a beauty. A strong caramel brown stallion tied to a small tree by a stream. She approached, readied to mount, and…
"What are you doing?" A quick, strong voice and the sharp point of a blade pressed against her back. "Turn around." She did as she was told. The young man was not much older than her and –aside from being half naked and very handsome- looked almost as rich as she was- not that she looked it. "Who are you?" He demanded holding the sword perfectly still, aimed directly at her heart.
"I am Genevieve Weldon, daughter of Lord Weldon," She recited confidently. "And to answer your next question, I was attacked and need to get home right away."
"I'm sorry milady," He said quickly lowering and sheathing the blade.
"Umm…" Eve shifted uncomfortably for the man was still shirtless.
"Oh I'm terribly sorry," He stepped to the side unsteadied, grabbed his shirt, and darted into the bushes.
"May I inquire where you are going, my good man?"
"Yes, you may." He emerged from the bushes and hurried to collect belongings scattered on the forest floor.
"Then I'm inquiring."
"Yes milady. I too am headed for Weldon manor. I am sent with a message," He finally finished hiding his things behind a tree, and stood at attention in front of her.
“Good, collect your things. We will start straight away.” Eve was so eager to get home.
She was positive it was a short ride to the manor and was surprised to hear a snicker rise from the man. “Is something funny?”
“No milady, it’s just, well, Weldon manor is a day and a half ride at a full canter. It may take days now.”
“Now? Why now?”
“Well, you will ride as I walk, Milady.”
“It’s your horse, why should you not ride it?”
“Milady, it would not be proper.”
“Oh…yes…of course…I knew that.” She said trying not to sound dumb. “What’s your name?” Eager to change the subject she sounded annoyed.
“Pete.” He blurted quickly as if trying to convince her it was true. “Pete… milady.” He corrected after noticing a raised eyebrow, suspicious of the name, but interpreted as an etiquette reminder.
“Very well, … Pete, we will be on our way in the morning.” Eve, still not sure he wasn’t lying about the name, forgot to add the confident ‘I’m in charge’ edge to her voice, instead she sounded weary. "At ease," she said sounding more annoyed than in command. At that very moment her stomach gave a growl of hunger that would frighten a bear. "Oh, I guess I haven't eaten on a while," she remarked more to herself than to Pete.
"I've set a line, with any luck we'll have fish in no time," spoken like a true fisherman.
"Fish?" she said more sarcastically than intended.
Pete was turned around finding the line he had set. "Yes, do you have a problem with that, your highness?" He said it louder than he had intended, much, much, louder.
"What?" Eve was shocked, but the offense was cut short when Pete whirled around.
"Oh my word, I just said that out loud didn't I?" Unfortunately the apology was less effective when a fish that had just been caught whirled around with him and smacked Eve square in the face.
A squeal like none you have ever heard went up into the forest and the fish laded, conveniently, straight in the cooking pot.
"I -," Pete was cut off by a quiet laugh.
"Look," Eve said through a snicker, pointing at the already cooking fish. The snicker broke into a giggle and the pair exploded into a chorus of laughter that spilled into the night and lasted far after the cooking fire had been put out.
"Milady, Milady!" Eve woke to Pete rattling her shoulders. "Milady!" Eve opened her eyes but couldn't see anything.
"What? Pete, it’s the middle of the night."
"Come on. We have to leave," he sounded panicked, almost scared.
"It’s the middle of the night."
"I know. Now!"
By now Eve was sitting up and her eyes were somewhat adjusted. She looked around and saw the horse. It was packed up, the only clue that they had been there was the fact that they were still there.
"They're coming, come on!" She stood up and Pete grabbed the blanket she had been using and threw her a coat.
"Who is coming? What's happening?"
"No time. Get on." He had mounted. Suddenly there were yells and shouts and arrows whizzing past them. The horse bucked and took off. Eve ran.
"Pete," she yelled. Pete grabbed her extended forearm and yanked her onto the saddle. Eve struggled to stay on, the horse was at a full gallop, and she clung to Pete. They rode at a full gallop for what seemed like hours.
Finally the horse slowed. Pete looked so alert, so scared. "I think we lost them."
"Pete, what was that?" No answer. They were still moving. It was almost morning. Eve reached up and yanked the reins. "What is going on?"
"I – I can't tell you."
"Pete, what's wrong? My father can help you but I have to know what's going on."
"I can't," his voice cracked, his eyes watered. Eve realized that he hadn't let go of her arm yet. He got off and walked away, then back.
"You can tell me." Eve needed to be close to him, needed to be someone more than 'milady.' "Me, Eve." By now she was off the hours. He looked out at the trees, away from her.
"Eve, I can't," He had turned around and griped her shoulders with a desperate look in his eyes. He relaxed and hug his head, looking at the ground. "You'll hate me." His hands fell to his sides. He looked up, hopelessness and despair in his eyes.
"Not likely. The only people I hate are suitors, warriors, and royalty."
Pete mumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'Triple threat.' Eve didn't push him; she was starting to like this guy. If they were friends he was her only one.
"Its morning, we should just keep going."
"All right," she agreed, not just that they should keep going, but to keep out of his business to just be a friend.
The day wore on, by sunset Eve knew how to fish (well, sort of) and Pete could almost cook. They'd known each other for a day and a half but were old friends and they both knew it.
“Well the fish was almost edible,” Eve had helped and it was actually very good.
“It was almost big enough to eat.”
“Today, yesterday, the fish, your laugh. Everything.
“Well. You're very welcome.”
“It's late, we should get to bed. We'll be at Weldon Manor by high noon tomorrow,” Pete was hard to read but Eve could tell he was dreading getting there as much as she was. They were lying in a clearing staring at the stars with their heads together.
It was Pete's turn to wonder why he was being thanked. “For what?”
“For today. For being my friend, for the best day I've ever had. And whatever your secret is, it cannot possibly be that bad.” Eve gave a big yawn.
“Good night Milady.”
“Good night Pete.”
Eve fell asleep unsuspecting if the dread tomorrow would bring and wonderfully content to roam the forest with Pete forever, or at least tomorrow.
Eve was just starting to wake up when she heard voices.
“Peter, you promised your father, never to do this again,” It was a man's voice she'd never heard before.
“Rupert, be quiet, she’s trying to sleep.” That was Pete, but why had that man called him Peter?
“Your highness, this is disgraceful, taking advantage of a poor girl lost in the woods.”
“She's not a poor girl, she's Lady Weldon!” Pete sounded angry, he was almost yelling.
“Oh, she’s your betrothed! Well that makes everything better now doesn't it?” The man was speaking sarcastically. But Eve didn't get it, what was he talking about? Wait a minute. Eve was starting to be more awake. The words fell into place. ‘You’re Highness’ ‘She’s Lady Weldon’ ‘Your betrothed.’ Pete was Prince Peter, and she was betrothed to him.
At this she shot straight up. She looked around. Pete had moved her to behind a grove of trees. On the other side there was Pete and a man in armor surrounded by soldiers in signature royal armor, the Prince's guard. He was right not to tell her the truth, she did hate him. She got up, looked around and tried to sneak away but Pete spotted her. “Eve,” he ran through the grove and grabbed her arm. “Eve, Please.”
“What happened to ‘Milady’? What happened to the kind messenger boy who knew me for me?” By now she was shouting and circling him angrily while the guards looked on in disbelief and total shock that a lowly noble lady was addressing the second in line to the throne as Pete and controlling him with her words. “You lied to me. I knew you were hiding something, but this!” She stepped away.
“No, Pete. Oh, I'm sorry I mean your most royal highness.”
“Please,” His pleading voice cut through her. She hated him, she wanted to hate him but she couldn't. He had been her only friend, ever.
“Eve. Please let me explain.”
“When I heard I was betrothed, again, I ran away. I was going to walk into Weldon Manor all high and mighty, expecting an ordinary, king serving, snooty, noble lady, but I got you. Perfect, carefree, wonderful, I-hate-marriage you.” He was pleading. The look on his face was pure pain. “I cannot tell you how sorry I am, how stupid I feel.” Now he was pacing. He sat down on a rock and stuffed his face into his hands. “I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.”
“You dirty rotten liar. You . . . you . . .”
“Selfish, horrible jerk?” He guessed.
“Sad sorry little boy.” He looked up, he hadn't been crying. Hope in his eyes he took a chance. He got up and ran towards Eve, then stopped short. He reached out and took her hands in his. “I trusted you. I dared to let someone get to know me, the real me.” Pete kept staring at her hands in his. Eve took her hands out of his and hooked her finger under his chin, pulled his face up and looked him dead in the eyes. “I forgive you, but don't expect me to like it." She gave him a grin. Than a bear hug. Then a kiss.