Part 2553 – A Haunted (??) Room.

Maelin smiled. The way Isellta can charm people into wanting to help him and protect him…It should be some form of magic. She gently smoothed his hair back into place. But it isn’t. “What are you going to do?”

Isellta looked down at the hair pins. He turned them in between his fingers, watching the red stones catch the light. “I guess I’ll have to give these back to Her Majesty.”

If I were Jay, I would seize this opportunity and beg him to break it off with Preyuna. But we’ve already had that conversation. He has given me his answer…and I understand it. Whether I like it or not, I do understand it. “Too bad they didn’t work out. They looked very pretty in your hair.”

His hands went still, but he kept his gaze lowered. “I am sorry, Maelin.” he said softly. “It’s the only choice I can make.”

“I know.”

He peeked up at her. “You will let Jay know that I’m sorry?”

“I will.”

He smiled. “Thank you.”

“Just remember that if you ever change your mind—”

Isellta closed his hand around Preyuna’s hair pins.

“—Jay and I will always welcome you back.”

“I know.” he said. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

He lowered his fist to his side. “I’ll be back later for something to eat.” His smile faltered and fell. “I am sorry.”

Maelin took a breath to say something.

Isellta ran off before she could speak.

****

Isellta ran all the way back to Preyuna’s room without tripping or stumbling or getting winded. However, he didn’t take the time to celebrate that victory.

He entered the room.

There was a silent stillness in the air. A kind of patient waiting, like a cat waiting for a mouse to come out of hiding.

Isellta knew that he was not the cat. He would never be the cat.

He glanced around, searching for her. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled.

The door is going to slam shut. She’s going to be behind me. She’s going to grab me. She’s going to force me to hrrash ka kae with her. I don’t want to. But what can I do? I surrendered myself to her. But my body is my own, not hers. But I surrendered myself to her. Can my body really be mine if I surrendered it to her?

Preyuna was nowhere in sight.

Isellta should have been relieved about that, but he was not. Instead, he felt as if he were walking through a firing range. Yay! He dodged one bullet. But there were one hundred and fifty-nine more bullets flying through the air.

He was going to get hit.

Again and again.

It was inevitable.

Isellta tightened his grip on the hair pins and walked over to the darkened vanity table. He could almost feel her presence behind him, almost hear her footsteps on the floor. Her eyes were fixed on him. Her hands were reaching for him. Any second now, she would grab him.

It was a certainty.

It was inevitable.

Isellta averted his eyes as he stopped at the table. He didn’t want to see his reflection. He didn’t want to see her lurking behind him.

He set the pins down.

She’s standing behind me. She’s standing behind me. I know she’s standing behind me. I know it! She’s reaching for me. She’s going to grab me. I can’t. I CAN’T!

He turned and ran out of the room.

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