I found her curled up on the couch, hugging a tasseled pillow to her chest. She wasn't crying. It has ben hard enough to stand and watch her life change so dramatically in a matter of weeks. I square my shoulders before I enter the room.
“Are you all right?” I offer a mug of hot chocolate.
It is strange to see life lines etched on her face as she turns just enough to smile. The mother in me refuses to leave it at that, so I hurry to the kitchen and back, to tempt her with chocolate cookies.
The smile broadens. “I'm not ten years old anymore, Alma.” Her eyes twinkle. “I'm nineteen. Is there something you want?”
My fingers react, stuffing a cookie inside my mouth to give me an extra moment to think. “You didn't answer my question.” I counter.
Her dark head swivels back to the window. “I am fine.” She murmurs, one finger absently stroking the ceramic mug.
I try again. “Are you afraid?”
“Of what?” She shrugs again. “Fear of failure? Of disappointment? Of embarrassment?”
“No.” I set my mug on the coffee table. “Just the scared kind.”
She laughs. “Life is so...twisted, Alma.” Her knuckles turn white as she holds the mug in a death grip. “One day you're living life, enjoying it, content and completely loved. Then it's all gone. Everything.”
“Even the love?” I gently pry the mug from her fingers. She lets me take it from her, but continues staring stubbornly out the window.
“It takes more than love to live a life.” She murmurs. “And love doesn't fix everything.”
I hold her hand, squeezing it gently. “Does it have to fix everything? When I was little, I hated thunderstorms. I would run into my father's study, climb into his lap and bury my head in his shoulder to drown out the thunder.” A single tear trickled down Carly's face. “It never stopped the storm, but it helped.”
“Do you still have his armchair?” She pulled her hand away to swipe at her face.
A touch of warmth reaches my cheeks. “Yes. Even though he's gone, I can still feel his arms around me every time I sit there.”
Carly's shoulder's quiver. “At least you have something to remember him by. I don't have anything. Except an empire I can't touch until I'm twenty-one.” Her head jerks around to glare at me. “My whole family dies in a house fire that the intergalactic police can't explain. I inherit everything they worked for and nothing that was close to them, unless you're count paperweights at the office.” Angry tears stream down her cheeks. “And now I find that I'm married to someone I've never met and there's nothing I can do about it.” She sniffles. “I don't think you understand.”
I offer her a tissue, wiping her face when she refuses. “If you don't stop crying you'll meet him looking like that. It's the year 2321. There is no law against an arranged marriage being put into action if the deceased has left a daughter behind.”
Carly is on her feet in a hurry, her five-foot, eight-inches towering over me. “You expect me to believe that my father, the modern emperor of Nigutash, would make an arranged marriage for me?” Light green eyes filled with contempt. “You overstep yourself, nurse.”
“You are afraid.” I whack her gently with a pillow. “Sit. Before you release an overactive imagination to fight your fears.”
“Thank you. Now, your father chose Ameran Dubree, skilled pilot and graduate of the Lightfast academy. He arrives here in half and hour after his last debriefing.” I reach over, tipping up her chin. “He is also a follower and survivor of Tel'kryn.”
Her jaw drops. “That's impossible.” Her whisper turns hoarse. “All followers...were killed by Grandfather's order.”
“Not all of them.” I smile. “That is why your father left such strict instructions. You will find Ameran a most suitable partner. Both in royal life...and matters of the Tel'kryn.”
Spots of pink accent her face as she whispers an apology I wave aside. “Our creator does not break His promises.” I murmur, folding her into my arms. “He is always listening. His hand has been in your life since birth. You need only trust Him.” I kiss her forehead.
We need only to trust Him.
Tel'Kyn is Nigutashain for “Religion”
Tel'Kryn is the “Christian Religion” Banned by law to prevent rebellion.
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