Last day of classes, Year Four of the Addergoole School
Wren was excited, even a little bit bouncy, as she and Phelen left PE on the last day of classes. Summer break was coming! She would have all the time in the world to spend with Phelen, and by August, she would have had their baby, and he’d be back to liking the way she looked again.
She smiled at him as he came out of the locker room, and played with her collar, making the ring jingle.
He smiled back at her warmly, though there was something else there too; he seemed slightly off, somehow. “Hey babe. We need to talk.”
Her heart tried to leap out of her chest, and she maintained her smile with effort; it felt like the world was falling away from her, but he didn’t like it when she freaked out. We need to talk was never good. “All right,” she said calmly. He liked calm.
“Wren,” he said, taking her hand as they walked. It was a gesture she liked, usually, but in this case it only heightened her apprehension. “The year is over. We’re not the new kids anymore; soon there’ll be a whole wave of fresh faces, as surprised by everything as we were.”
“After the summer.” She clutched his hand a little tighter. “We still have the summer.”
“We do, yes,” he said, squeezing her hand. “And I think, now that the pressure of classes is over, it’ll be a time well spent adjusting.”
“Adjusting?” She looked down at her round belly, heavy with his baby. Maybe if she pretended she didn’t know where he was going with this, he wouldn’t go there? “I think we’re pretty well adjusted to this place.”
“Well, there’s the baby, for one thing.” Her heart leapt again, for a moment, before he finished the sentence. Maybe, maybe that would be all it was.
“Yeah.” She set her hands on the curve of her stomach with a smile. “I didn’t think I would be, but I’m kind of excited.”
“Of course you are. You’re gonna be a great mama. And to do that, your first responsibility needs to be to our son.”
Responsibility. She swallowed, hard, the warmth the praise sent through her conflicting with the panic at that R-word, only her orders keeping her from freaking out. “Phelen,” she murmured, “I…” Calm. Stay calm. “I need to be back in our room, please.”
“Of course,” he nodded in understanding. “We’re almost there.”
She clung to his hand with both of hers. “I like being yours,” she whispered, as the door to the suite shut safely behind them.
“I like having you, too. It’s time for my pretty bird to spread her wings and fly, though.”
She swallowed the first sob, but the second one made its way out despite her best intentions, and she cringed, looking at the floor. “I’ll just fall,” she muttered, and, even quieter, “I love you.”
“Wren, babe...” He stepped in closer, putting his arm around her. “I love you too. I’ll still be here for you, just... not like that. This is best for both of us.” She didn’t bother trying to control the sobs now, even if he did hate it when she cried. She shook her head no, no, it wasn’t better for her. He took care of her. He made everything make sense.
“It’ll be okay, Wren. You’ll have all summer to get used to it. I’ll still be around, still be involved with you and the baby. You’ve made such good progress. It’s time I let you think for yourself.”
She clung to him. “But I don’t do any good thinking for myself. Everything gets all muddled…”
“Wren...” He sighed, shaking his head. “We both knew what this was. I’ll always be your friend, but we never intended to be married or anything like that. I won’t be around forever. You’re going to have to learn to survive on your own. I’ll help you, for a while. You’ll be okay.”
She whimpered softly. She didn’t have any choice in the matter, did she? That was what she’d loved about being Kept: there were no hard decisions. Everything was very tidy and black and white. And now… now even being un-Kept would be black and white. Except she didn’t want it.
“I want terms,” she said, more hesitantly than she expected to sound.
“Terms?” His surprise was evident. “What kind of terms?”
“Cold-turkey sucks,” she told his chest. “You said you’d help, for a while. So…” She gulped back a sob, as her treacherous brain offered up images of him with another girl. Of course. As he’d said, it had never been intended to be marriage. “If you are going to…” She couldn’t quite say it, she just nodded sharply to fill in the blank. “Then I want to taper off. So that by September…” Oh god oh god… She trailed off into a quiet sob again.
“We can do this slowly, yeah.” He hugged her close, running a hand through her hair. “The only part that can’t be slow is the Bond. That’s really just a two-state switch.”
“I know,” she mumbled. “But you’ll help me get over it a little at a time?” Get over “it” sounded better than “help me get over you.”
“I will,” he nodded, his goatee tickling her forehead.
She giggled at the tickling, able to relax a little, just a little, with that assurance. “Promise?” she whispered.
“I promise.” He leaned down as the air popped, to brush his lips against hers. “See, you’re going to be just fine.”
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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