“I don’t know about this Sirona, are you sure?” I sipped the Ervio wine in my glass and tipped my head to the side considering my friend. I trusted Ailsie and two bites into our meal I had told her everything about my capture, torture and rescue. The truth all of it, I had finished with most of the contents of Elethor’s letter, leaving out the choice bits about where to meet him, saying only that he wished to see me once more.
“Ailsie, I love Aalairius, truly I do, but I have to be honest with myself, though I forgot him for a time, I never stopped loving Elethor, and he never stopped loving me… Aion told me to love them both and I do, I’m just not sure how it all goes together.” I waffled my hands back and forth in the air, suddenly at a loss on how to explain it. She searched my face and her shoulders sagged. She leaned back in her seat and continued to look at me her dark eyes showing how she mulled the entire situation over; finally she cut another bite of her food and chewed thoughtfully. I did the same.
“How do you get yourself into these situations Sirona?” she finally asked the skepticism clear in her voice and manner. I took another sip of wine and savored it slowly thinking about it.
“When I love, I love completely. Aion said to me, ‘There is much love in your heart despite your pain, Sirona I am telling you now to love them both. For both will need you for what lies ahead.’ I don’t know what he meant by the last Ailsie, to be honest it scares me a little but I do love them both, Aalairius for the life he has given me despite knowing nothing about me…” she interrupted me.
“Hey now, that’s not your fault, you didn’t know anything about you except your name going in, and what you do know and what you’ve learned over the last couple of years you’ve shared with him right?”
I nodded slowly saying, “He knows about Elethor, to a certain extent. That he was my friend before the Cataclysm, he even knows I’ve seen Evensong out there, but he doesn’t know about my time in Asmodae or that it was Elethor that put me back into his arms.” I took a swallow of my wine, a little larger than I had intended and set my glass down on the heavy wooden table. I looked anywhere but at my friend, my unease with myself probably very clear to her. She sighed and continued eating, thoughtfully. I had lost my appetite.
I felt scrutinized and uncomfortable but when I looked back up at my friend her eyes were downcast on her meal as she cut another bite. I frowned and asked her,
“Ailsie do you feel that?” And she looked at me with a bright smile that I knew to be false and said in a low voice.
“That you are being watched?” Of course I do. He’s at the bar, eleven o’clock. I cut another bite of my own food and chewed and smiled back at her, before glancing toward the bar and there he was, unabashedly staring. He was lovely and somehow familiar but I could not place from where. His hair was long and the brilliant color of flame, but his eyes were hidden beneath dark glasses. He stood against the bar in a dark suit that he both looked at home in as well as out of place at the same time. I quickly averted my gaze before he could catch me looking and continued picking at my meal.
“Do you know him?” Ailsie asked.
“I want to say yes, I mean he’s familiar to me like I have seen him before but… no I don’t think I know him.” I finished my wine and pulled the napkin from my lap and flopped it onto my plate to hide the mostly uneaten remnants of my meal.
“Excuse you!” Ailsie snapped as the stranger we’d commented on pulled up a chair close to me, turned it about and straddled it hugging the back nonchalantly peering closely at me, examining me and thrusting me well outside my comfort zone. I leaned away from him but now that he was closer he looked so much more familiar like I should know him… and I was almost certain I did know him, but for the life of me I just couldn’t remember.
“Do you know me?” he asked and his voice was a light tenor that was low in volume and near brought tears to my eyes to hear.
“I know you sir, but I don’t know you. I’m sorry…” and then he took off his glasses and looked at me with soft green eyes and I remembered. The restaurant slipped away, melting beneath the wash of memory that put me back into a time that was years ago, but still far more recent than the Cataclysm that took Elethor from me.
I remembered this man, the feel of his skin beneath my palms as I laughingly pushed him back after a lingering kiss. The crisp cold of the waterfall falling around us… I covered my face with my palms and shook my head. Hands gently gripped my wrists and pulled them away and the stranger smiled a little sadly at me. I blushed a deep crimson, feeling the flush creep from my neck to the roots of my hair.
“I see you remember something then.” He said with a genuine smile. “My name is Fenin, does that help?” He asked, and I remembered a little more, he was so much faster than me on foot and noiseless in the wood as we tracked the scout through the Tursin grounds… he pulled the string back on his bow…
“Sirona what’s the matter? What are you doing to her!?” Ailsie demanded flame swirling at her finger tips.
“Nothing Ailsie, he’s not doing anything I’m remembering things, flashing back is all… he’s jogged my memory.” I closed my eyes tight as the images swirled up, painting the inside of my eyelids in vivid color, the inside of a tent during the deepest part of what passed for night in Elysea, an exceptional kiss and wandering hands. I put my hand on his chest and pushed him back in the here and now and forced it all down trying to ground myself.
“We were lovers.” I choked out.
“Before your… accident, yes.” He said quietly.
“It wasn’t an accident.” I said. “They told me I’d been tortured, badly and for a long time. That I’d lost my memory as a way of my mind to protect its self from the awfulness of what was done.” I looked at him sharply. “If we were lovers, before… why didn’t you come to see me in the infirmary?” I asked. “I never remember seeing you there and I remember everything since I woke up.” He smiled and moved a lock of my hair behind my ear.
“I did, but you were asleep. The healers told me it was a bad idea and that I should let you go, let you heal. That if it were meant to be, you’d find me, but I knew you never would.” His smile broadened. “I am very happy to see you here Sirona, to see that you’ve recovered, even if not all your memory has returned.”
I swallowed hard. This was so much and so strange all at once. “Why did you know I never would?” He bowed his head a little sadly.
“I’ve never held still very long, nor did I stay with one woman very long…” He had the grace to look embarrassed before he went on “…in fact we weren’t together very long at all, just a few short months, and your heart was already spoken for. You’d get this funny look and when I’d ask all you would ever tell me was ‘I love you Fenin, but my heart can never really be yours.’ I was fine with that, really what we had was good but it was short and both being soldiers it wasn’t going to go anywhere. We were more than friends but what made us work was we were friends to start and promised to stay friends if it ever went south. We never guessed that when it went south it wouldn’t be either of our doing. When the Asmodians, they took you, I wasn’t there. I was with the party that rescued you, and brought you back though. I’ve checked in on you from time to time, since the infirmary let you go, maybe once or twice a year. Lately you’ve just looked so unhappy and I’ve wanted to know why. I promise not to bother you again after this; I just wanted to make sure you are okay.”
Ailsie sat down and crossed her arms, watching me carefully. I looked from her to the man and back before finally staring at my hands which were covered by one of his.
“I’m okay.” I said finally. “Aion works in some of the most mysterious ways. Thank you for telling me all this Fenin, I’m sorry I don’t remember more of you.” He touched under my chin tipping my face up to look at him.
“You remember enough, if you ever want to know more, you can find me through the Legion’s Board.” He went to get up and I stopped him.
“One last thing?” I asked and he nodded.
“If not you, who did my heart belong to?” I asked.
“You never said, just that he had died. I thought he was some human but one night when you were pretty drunk I asked you again, and you said he was a Sorcerer, a Daeva you had trained with, and that he was lost when the Tower of Eternity had fallen. You were pretty drunk though and I thought you had to be pulling my leg, there aren’t that many Daevas around old enough to remember the fall aside from the Seraphim Lords themselves.” Ailsie looked at me her eyes wide.
“She is that old.” Ailsie said quietly. I knew Ailsie to be one of the older Daeva, she had ascended around two or three hundred years after the Tower’s fall… To think, I had felt so young and inexperienced around her before my memory had begun to return. Fenin looked surprised before he slipped his glasses back on.
“Take care of yourself Sirona. If you ever want to talk, come find me.” He said finally when the silence between the three of us had grown long. I nodded to him and he took his leave. I looked back at my friend who chewed her lip thoughtfully.
“Come back to my place I want to talk about this some more.” She said finally.
“I think that was Aion’s way of showing you I wasn’t crazy.” I said. “Because only He knows, I’ve needed someone to talk to and to believe in me Ailsie.” I watched her shoulders sag.
“I’m sorry Sirona; I didn’t want to believe all this. It’s too much, I don’t know how you do it, how you’ve been doing it. I can’t imagine how this must be for you.” She trailed off and we sat across from one another in silence.
I didn’t know how I was going to do this either, I loved Elethor, but I also loved Aalairius with every fiber of my being. Now all I had to do was find a way to love them both and be happy. Wasn’t that what Aion said He had wanted for me? What any Father wants for his child, for them to be happy… Right now looking at my friend across the table in the Dancing Dove I realized that Aion had set before me one very tall order. I loved them both completely, but how to be happy? It was then that Ailsie said it…
“Well Sirona, you love them, and I know that when you are with them you are happy, I guess the times in between where you are sad are there to make sure you cherish the happy when you get it.” She smiled encouragingly at me and paid for our meals and another bottle of Ervio wine, holding out her arm in a crook for me. I smiled at her and linked my arm with hers and we strolled out of the public house and down the lane towards her dwelling.
“Tell me more about tall dark and…” she looked carefully around us and whispered for my ear alone “… tall dark and Asmodian.” I laughed and as we walked let my mind fill with images of Elethor both the way he had been before… and the beautiful man he was to me now.
I had a lot to tell my friend…