The entryway was shallow and dark, its doors drawn closed and the lights therein- if they existed at all- had been silenced. There were no windows in this dining room; it was a womb deep in the mountain, in more ways than one, a closeting feature among a network of similarly dark and secretive rooms. If the dark entryway was mysterious, then the main room it connected to was pragmatic almost to a tasteful fault. Impeccable, bright lighting hung in mock-chandelier formations from the ceiling, and dotted the table in the shape of miniature glass lamps, their bodies fluted so that light could pour through in slivers of blonde and pearl. A long runner connected the two ends of the table, drawing a line between the two unoccupied end seats. Sabin sat nearer to Aubrey than that- they faced each other across the narrow end of the table.
* * *
“Hm?” Her humming response echoed in the dark room.
“Are you going to marry him?”
The pause was shorter than Sabin had anticipated, and was surprised to find that she turned to face him before answering.
“I don’t think that’s a very fair question.”
His brows furrowed. He felt a pinprick of anger, and didn’t know why. Like anyone who experiences a sudden, strong emotion, he tried to explain it by quickly formulating a cause- and someone to blame. No one wants to be the root of their own negative emotions. Some people, after a time, are able to reevaluate and discover that what they ‘d done was a matter of transference, trying to create a cause for an effect that was stronger and more vulnerable than they could have anticipated. Sabin was one of those- the events of his past had been carefully excavated in a long history of self-archaeology; there were few things in his past that had gone astray that he didn’t somehow, or in some part blame himself for. This instance would be no different- however, at the moment, the unexpected emotion was too strong for him to shoulder alone, and so he struck out.
“To be frank, I resent that.”
Her head tilted, and the moonlight struck her forehead in a way that made the right side of her face disappear into shadow. “Oh?” She said it coolly, inviting an argument.
“Oh.” He repeated, mimicking her coolness with an added air of disdain. “Aubrey, it’s a question that you have to have asked yourself.”
“But did you have to ask me?”
“Yes. I did. I do.”
“Do you want to marry me?”
Sabin took the statement as he thought it was meant- as a mock, a challenge, and a way to possibly pause his anger with the gag of confusion. He shook his head as if it were filled with frustration that could only be released with that singular motion, and rubbed his fingers viciously against his temple. His nails grazed his forehead.
“We’ve already talked about this, Sabin.” Her voice was quieter now, sadder, and Sabin wondered if he’d misinterpreted what she’d said before.
never got an answer.”
“You never got an answer.”
Sabin was surprised at that. These days, so much was catching him off guard. He’d not been so unsettled…since her. “Do you have an answer, then?” He said, a puzzling emphasis on the word ‘answer’, rather than ‘you’. He wondered how that occurred.
“He is my fiancé.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
She sighed. “Nothing is ever settled between us.”
He didn’t want to know whether the ‘us’ referred to them… or to Aubrey and Moreau. He was silent, not knowing what else to say. He didn’t have to worry- it wasn’t long before her sighs punctuated the room and acted as a precursor to what was on her mind.
“I just don’t know where I’m going to go from here. What he did… what he was going to do. I don’t think I can love a man who would do that to a child.”
“You don’t love him.” He’d meant to say it as a question, and was surprised to hear the words leap from his mouth, a fully formed, almost determined statement, a hope. Aubrey turned her eyes up to him, and he felt the warmth of her breath transported from his chest to the tip of his chin. He was alarmed- in a good way, if there is such a thing- at how eager he thought his eyes must look. He almost opened his mouth to blame it on the moonlight, but before he could speak, she turned back to the view and placed her palm on the pane. She breathed as if it were cool to touch, pulling back a fraction before exhaling heavily and stretching all fingers out flat on the glass, eking them further apart slowly. Sabin imagined her will focusing on those fingers, forcing them outwards and lengthwise to touch every corner of the window, to consume the glass and the blue view beyond.
“Did I say love?”
He blinked. “Yes.”
* * *