Fie Eoin Friday er, Rebecca Stories Friday! I’ve been in Archein all week long with Rebecca and Lane because of the 200 word challenge, and since there is currently a tie on last week’s FEF poll I decided to post a little more of Rebecca’s story. We have seen what happens to Veriss in the end, but this little scene explains more about it without going into the bleak details. Plus: Lane! Cause Laney-boy is my favorite (don’t tell Gar)
Rebecca Baine sat with her back to the white city and her face to the river where it had all started.
No, that wasn’t fair. It had started years before when she decided at the tender age of nine that she would become a Balesi – whatever the cost. This river had been her first mistake, her first true test of “whatever the cost”. This river had cost her all hope of a secret life; last night cost all of her honor and pride. And Rebecca, who was once the second-best apprentice in her class, was now seventeen and knew that she was broken last night more deeply than any other wound could break her.
Rebecca Baine, the fiery sly child who fooled the Council for six years was finally cowed, but she had permission to be an apprentice again and test for her guns.
She was sitting at the river trying to decide if she regretted what she had done. The head of the Council hadn’t taken anything important from her – she had given what he was really seeking to Lane Morgan only a few hours before – but Veriss had come away with her honor and pride. And Lane, well, Lane would be crushed if he ever found out what she had done.
Rebecca jumped as someone touched her good shoulder. She had always been a bit jumpy; a person with as many secrets as her was always jumpy. Breathing a sigh of relief at the owner of the hand, Rebecca pushed her short dark blonde hair back from her face and looked up at him.
“Sorry,” said the uncharacteristically sheepish voice from Lane Morgan. She supposed she had been waiting for him here by the river where they met. “I didn’t see you at breakfast,” he continued, “I thought you might be… I was worried that…” He trailed off with a blush and she had to remind herself that he would be thinking of what they had done together, and not what happened to her later that night.
Rebecca moved over so he could sit. “I hate going to breakfast the morning after I dance. Everyone is staring and telling me how beautiful I am. As if I’m ugly and clumsy all other nights.”
“They don’t get to see you as Rebecca that often,” he pointed out as he sat down next to her. “And you are beautiful.”
“Don’t start that nonsense with me. You know I won’t be won over by flattery.”
He smiled in his ‘I know what wins you over’ way that was just too familiar to Veriss’ smug grin.
“Besides, they are letting me rejoin the apprentices. I will be in class tomorrow. Our false courtship ends today.”
Rebecca turned away from him as she said it, but she still caught the look of surprise that replaced his cheeky grin. Lane recovered quickly, knowing firsthand what kind of liar his best friend was and also what kind of men the Council was made up of. Fate could work as hard as it might, it would never sway those men to change their minds about a woman Balesi.
He grinned again, probably thinking he caught her in a lie. “When did you speak to the Council then? As I remember it you were a little busy with me last night.”
Without a pause to consider Rebecca said, “This morning before breakfast.”
She watched as Lane’s face fell and her heart broke for him although she remained outwardly stoic. “They said they would take their chances on my failing. I’m becoming too difficult to keep under their control as Rebecca.” She shrugged at his hurt and confused expression. Better she break his heart this way then by telling him the truth.
“But… last night… I thought…” Lane struggled for the right words and brought his hand up to brush her shoulder. Rebecca jumped again and flinched at her own reaction. She was never this jumpy with Lane.
“What’s wrong, Rebecca?” He turned to her with concern, careful not to touch her again. “Did I hurt you last night? I tried to be careful, but it was my first time.”
Rebecca was torn between laughing and crying – as if Lane could ever hurt her! She couldn’t remember a time he hadn’t pulled back from a punch or thrown her a little too softly in practice. She let out a soft laugh, “No worries, Lane, all my bones are still well intact.”
She brought her newly healed right arm up in an arch to demonstrate. Lane accidentally broke her collarbone four months back while roughhousing, which was how the Council found out she was a girl in the first place. That was why they banished her from the apprenticeship, and that was why she agreed to the terms of having a chance to test for her guns before she knew what her end of the bargain would entail.
Lane’s concern didn’t disappear with her laughter. “I thought after last night,” he tried again, watching her face, “maybe you would decide to stop your quest for the guns.” He didn’t say ‘and be with me’ but she knew it was there just under his words.
“Oh Laney-boy,” Rebecca smiled gently at him. In truth she had been ready to give up her double-life as Robert Baine, Balesi apprentice, after Lane left her rooms last night. “There is one problem with that; I’m of marriageable age as Rebecca.”
“Yes, and you could have married me.”
“No, Lane. You’re only fifteen. You aren’t a Balesi yet. While you were in class my father was showing me off to real Balesi; trying to make deals with their fathers to set my future in stone.” Rebecca glanced at Lane who was clearly in shock – it had not occurred to him that Donald Baine would choose anyone else to marry his daughter off to. “Thank Gan he didn’t make any agreements yet,” she said as a truce.
“But we were openly courting!” Lane cried. “Everyone saw us together!”
“I know,” Rebecca replied calmly. “That was the whole point; to buy me time.” Lane flinched at that – she wasn’t even going to admit that she had enjoyed courting him. It was going to all be for her damned guns; everything always for the damned guns. “But people were starting to talk, my father was getting restless, and we would have very easily been written off as young lovers and disregarded.”
Lane sat dejected, head in his hands, silent for a long time. Finally he brought his head up and crossed his arms over his knees. “So we are back to Robert and the endless lies and deceits?”
“It seems so, yes.”
“I hate Robert.”
“You’re best friends with Robert.”
“I’m best friends with you.” He caught her hand and kissed the back of it gently as she jumped again. “One last day of courting?”
She pulled her hand away and stood, brushing off her skirts. “No. No more courting. I need to get ready; I need to focus. I’ve been out of practice for too long.”
“But, Rebecca.” He caught the hem of her skirt so she wouldn’t walk away.
“I’m sorry Lane, but this is the life I chose long before I met you.” She pulled her skirt away from him and walked back towards the imposing white gates of Archein.
And don’t forget to vote in last week’s poll! We’ll be back on the normal FEF schedule next week!