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As soon as she saw his face, she knew something was wrong. His eyes were red-rimmed and swollen. His shoulders slumped as he looked at her with the eyes of someone trying to commit something to memory, lest it be forgotten.
“Garith, what is it?” she’d asked in alarm.
“I couldn’t leave without telling you goodbye.” His voice caught in his throat.
“Goodbye? You are talking nonsense. Do you not want to go with me to Thalmas? I guess I assumed you would come with me.” She couldn’t understand why he was acting so strangely. Sure, they had suffered their share of tense moments, as at times his feelings for her could make things awkward. They always managed to work through them, though, and remain close. He was her closest, dearest friend, and she couldn’t fathom how lonely she would be in Thalmas if she didn’t at least have him and Jessa. She was leaving behind her home and her family. She had never considered leaving behind Garith.
“Emariya, they need me at the fjord. They have no smith there, and my father is needed here.
Reeve is sending me with the wagon first thing tomorrow.” His voice was quiet, but the emotions raging behind his eyes were anything but.
“Isn’t there anyone else? I could talk to Reeve—I’m sure someone else could be found,” she said, dismissing the notion. Surely her brother would indulge her this. Granted, he had never approved of her close friendship with Garith, but he should agree to let him go with her.
“Is there anyone else who could go marry themselves off to Thalmas?” Garith said with an unusual bitterness. Normally she could count on Garith to make her smile. Seeing him wallow in such obvious despair shook her to the core. He almost never snapped at her like that.
“You know there isn’t,” she snapped back.
“Look at us then. Irreplaceable. Two of a kind, for being one of a kind.” He grinned the sheepish little boy grin that he’d shared with her all her life. There was the Garith she knew. Still, his humor did a poor job of hiding his heartache.
Seeing his hurt poorly disguised beneath humor chased her irritation away. She never could stay mad at him for long. “I don’t want you to go.” Her lip trembled. “I will worry—the fjord isn’t safe.”
“And I don’t want you to go. The road to Thalmas isn’t safe.” His voice was barely above a whisper. Tenderly he reached out and smoothed back a pale blonde hair that had escaped her braid.
“By my going to Thalmas, Thandrel’s Fjord may become safer.” The fjord was dangerous right now. Didn’t he know that? She couldn’t bear the thought of what could happen to him there. No one was speaking about it, but everyone knew that many who went to the fjord wouldn’t come back.
“By my going to the fjord, all of Warren’s Rest may become safer.” His voice was teasing now, trying to make her smile.
Emariya knew he was trying to comfort her, and that his humor was only his way of trying to make her laugh, but right now she wanted none of it. She was desperate to make him see, and didn’t want to laugh. She wanted to scream and cry. Just the thought of having to say goodbye to him was making her heart break into a million pieces.
They both knew she would never love him the way he loved her. Not that she could have acknowledged it, even if she did. She loved him the way she loved Reeve. Not at all romantically, but still desperately. Truly. Completely. And this boy whose love she couldn’t return, but whose friendship and companionship she couldn’t fathom being without, was leaving her. She had never had to say goodbye to someone she loved before; they had always just been gone with no warning.
Her despair overflowed and she lashed out. “Garith, I need you with me! Are you really going to leave Jessa and I on our own? Are you that angry that I am to wed the prince? You know we can never—”
Garith had interrupted her. “Damn you, don’t you think I know that!” he hollered, his teasing good nature gone. “Don’t make this harder than it is. This isn’t my choice, Emariya. I went to your brother, and I begged him to send me with you. I promised him I would keep you safe. And he said I would only be a distraction to you. I don’t know, maybe he’s right and maybe he’s wrong, but I know you are a distraction to me. He said I’m to go to the fjord, and if he’s anything like you, there is no use arguing if he’s made up his mind.”
Emariya sighed. Then she put her head against his chest and cried until her eyes were as puffy and swollen as his. After she cried herself out, she looked at him, pleading. “Don’t go,” she whispered.
He kissed the top of her head before determinedly turning and walking out the door without another word. She listened to the sound of his boots disappearing down the hall. Each step was farther away, and soon the two of them would be farther still.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Fantasy author Kelly Walker was born in Trappe, MD but she now calls Fredericksburg Virginia home. She has an unhealthy appreciation for chocolate, and a soft spot for rescued animals. Her only formal training as a writer is in a lifetime of reading. She loves the fantastical, and the magical, and believes a captivating romance can be the most realistic magic of all. Kelly, her husband and her two children share their home with three dogs who walk her, and two cats who permit her to occasionally share their couch. She is the author of the Souls of the Stones series for Young Adults. (And the young at heart.)
CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR: http://www.kellywalkerauthor.com