Continued from Oh Shit.
Edaline returned to her father’s house as an unwed woman. Her maidenhead broken, she had little hopes of a new marriage, and her father treated her coolly, while her mother coddled her. There she waited for the man she didn’t expect to come. The days became weeks, and she began to lose hope. Should she return to her husband? For a few days, she debated it, and even began to pack. If he didn’t accept her return, she would be without hope for a future that lacked shame.
She stopped packing. She needed answers too badly. She would remain, and she would wait.
As she stopped packing and began to unpack her belongings again, she sighed. She felt both hopeful and completely hopeless. He would come. He wouldn’t come. He’d just leave her again, like he did at the altar.
She felt ill.
Suddenly, she heard the clear, unmistakable sound of a flute. She threw her curtains aside and stared out in wonder as her former betrothed marched gaily at the head of a large parade of happy people in the colorful, plain clothes of the common-born. As they had many times before, her eyes stung. Marc came not to beg forgiveness, but to bring others and make merry. She had no idea what sort of message he intended.
Marc sat on a barrel as he continued to play happy songs for the dancing commoners. He paid little mind to where he was, and the wind gently rustled his messy hair.
Edaline’s father stormed from the main doors of the keep and marched down to Marc. “What is the meaning of this? Who are you, and why are you filling my streets with-“
The man on the flute stopped playing. “With merriment and happiness? Because you can’t, if they flock so.” He winked and began to play again as the nobleman fumed.
In short order, Marc was arrested as Edaline watched in shock. Why was her father so angry? She bit her lip and hurried down from her bedchamber to try to talk her father into the release of the noble-turned-vagabond. As she approached, she saw how red his face was. He was enraged over the exchange in the square. Edaline bit her lip. This would be difficult. Images of sneaking to speak with him while he was trapped danced through her head, but she shook them away. She would not sink so low!
Instead, she approached her father with a politely lowered head. “Father.” she spoke quietly and waited for him to notice her.
Finally, he saw her. His fist was raised, and he became quiet. His daughter looked up at him and noticed his fist. She flinched away and covered her chest, suddenly irrationally frightened. Quickly, she backed away, her movements evasive and suddenly meek.
The man’s gaze softened, and he lowered his hand. He spoke softly. “He truly did beat you, didn’t he?” His red face slowly became pale as he realized how cold and harsh he had been with his own flesh and blood when she came to him for rescue. Slowly, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms. “I’m so sorry.” He held her tightly as she became tense. There was no trust.
Adaline didn’t answer. She hung her head and began to pull away. She was so shaken, she couldn’t recall why she approached him, and hurried away.
Her father was left staring after her. His daughter was irrepairably broken. She would never marry. She would never enjoy the embrace of a man. Inside, it felt like something became closed forever, and the stink of failure filled his nose. He failed his only child, and the blame for her fear was entirely on his shoulders. Slowly, he walked away, defeat in his posture.
A nearby voice spoke up. “No woman deserves that, m’lord.” The voice was regretful. “Such a shame she did not escape him in time, isn’t it, Earl Herrod?”
The girl’s father looked up and scowled. The man with the flute was in front of him, and not a guard in sight. “How did you escape my guards?”
“They let me go, Earl.” He laughed. “Are you going to try to arrest me again?” He tilted his head to one side, his mask obscuring his face and giving him an owl-like appearance. “Now, I have a promise to keep, m’lord. Do be so kind as to include me in your dinner plans, will you? I will provide excellent entertainment.” His tone was cool as he brushed past the stunned man and walked in the direction Adaline fled.
The man with the flute didn’t bother to knock on her door as he arrived, but simply walked in and bowed. “My lady.” He smiled at her. “Would you care for some music?”
Adaline looked up and stared in surprise. She expected him to be in the dungeon. Slowly, she nodded, her mouth agape.
“Please, close your mouth before a big flies in.” He winked and sat on her bed, then began to play. The song was an old one from her childhood that was only rarely played anymore because it wasn’t in style anymore.
When he finished his song, she pulled his flute gently away from his mouth. “Please answer my question.” She begged. “Why did you abandon me?”
Marc looked up at her. He sighed. “I just got scared and ran off around noon. I got lost on my way back. I was too ashamed to approach anyone, because I only found my way home at midnight. I took my flute and my boots, and I left.” He scowled. “Would you like another song?” He still wore the same uniform he stole on her birthday.
Adaline stared at him. Such a mundane explanation was behind more than a year of torment. She didn’t know if she should be angry, sad, or happy. She slapped him and began to cry. “Idiot.” she choked out. “You’re an idiot! If you just told someone, you would have been forgiven!”