After Mr. Duke told me he was leaving, I couldn’t think about anything else. Even losing my job couldn’t make things worse.
Sleep wouldn’t come to me; I would’ve taken Primrose for a midnight walk, but she was enjoying her dream. I needed air.
Why couldn’t I go with him? How could he leave without explaining? Didn’t our time together mean anything to him…?
I knew he loved me, no matter how many times he said he didn’t. Or was that just what I wanted to believe?
But he was so kind to me, so gentle when I needed it the most. I knew I could always rely on him, that he was always thinking of me, even if he was complaining about me in the same breath…
I had to find him. But where could he have gone…? How would I ever find him again…?
The night breeze rustled nearby flowers, stubborn ones that bloomed despite the drought.
You know where he is.
I immediately called Dru. Even if it was late, she was probably up punching things.
If I followed him, someone would have to take care of Primrose while I was away…unless I took her with me, but then I’d have to stop by Mom and Dad’s, and I didn’t want to burden Mom with having to take care of Primrose, or my silly boy problems…
But Dru didn’t pick up.
It was late, but she didn’t pick up the next day either.
So I ended up relying on a different family member to take care of Primrose…
“She’s really well-behaved,” I said. “I promise she’d be no trouble at all…”
“…I’m not certain the master of the house would appreciate canine fornication in his own kitchen,” Leopold said.
“Oh,” someone said softly. “It’s Batty’s friend.” My cousin Ophelia glided into the kitchen, still in mourning clothes.
“Your dogs have met, Ophelia?” Leopold asked.
“Batty gets so excited whenever we walk past Lyanna’s house. …Used to walk,” she corrected herself, a distant look in her eyes. “He must’ve missed her so much…look how much he loves her.”
“…Master Straud most certainly would never–”
“Never what?” Rhys interrupted; his voice had become instantly recognizable after him talking so much during makeup applications. “I’d be delighted to welcome any guest of your sister’s–two-legged or not.”
So that was one less thing to worry about while I searched for Mr. Duke…
Now the only hard part was finding him.
It hurt a little, not stopping by to say hi to my parents. But I had to do this…and soon. Why the urgency, though? I missed him, of course, but there was something else pushing me…
I found him exactly where I thought I would, in the ruins I’d always followed him to when I was little. He didn’t hear me creep up on him…
He was muttering to himself, as he always did when he was alone, but I couldn’t completely make out the words. Snippets drifted on the wind: “I can’t…no…must…weasel…”
I hid behind a crumbling pillar so he wouldn’t see me. He probably didn’t want to see me ever again…the pain of my teenage years returned in full force.
But I didn’t leave the ruins. I waited until nightfall (and even peed in a bush) and followed him when he left. To my surprise, he headed straight for my house…
…Where I found him talking with Dru.
Dru. Was this why she hadn’t answered the phone or responded to my texts? Were she and Mr. Duke…having an affair? Well, it couldn’t be an affair if Mr. Duke and I were never together, but…had he fallen for my sister?
I couldn’t blame him, not when Dru was so strong and independent.
I barely registered the addition of two more people. Maybe this wasn’t a late-night liaison after all, but I had to get closer. Why was Mr. Duke here?
…And why was that tree glowing?
And then my twin started going into the tree…
“Dru!” I yelled.
But she was already gone, swallowed by the darkness.
I’d wanted to find Mr. Duke…but she was my sister. She’d always be my sister.
So I followed her.
“Weasel,” Mr. Duke shouted. “Weasel, stay away from there!”
I loved Mr. Duke, I really did. But somehow, I knew I was meant to follow Dru no matter what.
And so I followed her into the strangest place I’d ever seen in my life, outside of a dream…
“Weasel, get back here at once!”
But why should I go back, when he didn’t want me…? He’d never wanted me…
But Dru had always wanted to be near me.
And then I got distracted by strange blue lights…
And Dru vanished.
But I’d find her again, I knew it…
This place was like a labyrinth in one of my old favorite stories, where a prince had to find a princess trapped in the center…
And there were traps and monsters and… I shuddered.
…Was that a door?
I’d always liked gardens, but this one was overgrown and poorly tended, filled with brambles and neglected stone statues of lonely fairies. The flowers had sharp thorns, but the blooms themselves were beautiful…and familiar, somehow.
But the deeper inside I got, the darker it became, the thorns sharper and the brambles thicker…
I wanted to call out…but the name I longed to say dissolved on my lips.
He doesn’t want you, Lyanna. He never will. Why won’t you understand that?
A thorn scratched my arm, but not deeply enough to draw blood. And then I wasn’t in the overgrown garden at all.
I stood before a palace surrounded by tranquil, vibrant gardens…so I went deeper. There was something here, something I needed to find. But I didn’t know what…
Turn back. This place was never meant for you.
But how could I leave such a beautiful place…? I felt like I was meant to be here all along.
And then I caught a glimpse of the strangest person I’d ever seen…
“My queen,” he said with a gentlemanly bow and a flutter of enormous butterfly wings. “It has taken you far too long to arrive here.”
“Naturally; for who else would suit a king as pure and good and generous as I? You belong at my side, and mine alone.”
But I had a reason I couldn’t be at his side. I belonged at someone else’s…but whose? I couldn’t remember anymore…
When he took my hand, I didn’t pull it away…
“You were a fool,” he said, his voice surprisingly cold for such a pretty face, “if you ever thought you were meant for a lesser fae.”
I felt like a princess in a fairy tale being whisked away…
But the air got colder the higher we rose, and soon I was shivering.
He finally deposited me close to the spires of the tallest towers of the palace…
“You little fool,” he said. “How could you have ever let him deceive you?”
“…Who?” I tried to think, but the harder I thought, the farther a certain name drifted away…
“No one,” he said. “You need only think of me.” He leaned in closer, but I involuntarily turned away.
He lifted my chin. “Why do you look so miserable, little fool? He never deserved you.”
“But I loved him,” I whispered. Loved who? “He was always the only one I wanted…”
“Silly human. You’ll soon forget him, just as you were meant to…” His lips came dangerously close to mine.
“Weasel,” someone yelled. The voice warmed my heart, as strained as it was. “Unhand her!”
“…And why should I do that, my friend? My only friend, my traitorous friend, my thieving friend…”
“Because,” pleaded the most beautiful man I’d ever seen, “I love her. I love her, and I want her for myself.”
The man holding me vanished, as if he’d never been there at all.
And then the other man landed beside me. “Don’t let those words go to your head,” he muttered. “I only sought to conquer my nightmare–”
And then I remembered everything. I knew exactly who he was–and how he felt. I threw myself at him without hesitation. “Mr. Landon!”
“Weasel.” He looked away. “Lyanna.”
“I knew I could always rely on you,” I whispered. “I knew you loved me.”
“Mind the wings–they’re incredibly delicate. Must you hang all over me like a slug crossed with a sloth?”
“You loooove me,” I sang, like I was a little girl again.
He grunted. “I suppose I best shut you up the only way I know how…”
And he did.
Our first kiss might’ve only happened in a dream…but at least now I knew it was a dream we shared.
And when we woke from that dream, I pretended to sleep a little longer…
He didn’t seem to mind.
Don’t forget Dru. But something told me that Dru didn’t need my help, not yet. And it was only for a few more minutes…