I am writing this entry under low-light conditions. It is cold, I am wet, and my son is slumbering in a sleeping bag on the other side of our fire pit.
We are in the woods. We are camping. We are playing. We are having fun. That's what he says, anyway. I'm not so convinced.
Today started out with a plan. Grayson must have been bushed after yesterday's long trek through the snow, as he was still asleep and unwilling to rise when I got up with the rest of Pubton. I took advantage of this by doing what I'd wanted to do for several days: have another chat with Evangelina.
Prior to Kierkegaard's attack and… everything… else… associated with it, Evangelina had proven an uncooperative prisoner. She ate little, she wouldn't talk much, and when she did it was to bark out orders or demean whomever was unlucky enough to have to serve her food.
After the attack? Evangelina's much nicer. She's still quiet, but she accepts her meals with a measure of manners, holding back her usual slew of barbs. I heard her and Bora having a somewhat genial conversation yesterday, even if Bora did most of the talking. And when I walked into Evangelina's room this morning, the first thing she did was express her condolences over the death of Robert.
"He was a good man. I loved his shrimp."
I smiled. "I thought Jeffrey forbade people from havin' anything that wasn’t on the menu. Don't remember shrimp bein' on there."
She flushed. "Yes, well, a bit of extra money takes you a long way."
I told Evangelina everything. I told her about The Baron, how he'd used me to spy on Driscol, his public demise and secret return, and my descent into the hole. Evangelina expressed further condolences for my death, which I accepted with a chuckle.
"He must have been in there, then." Evangelina fidgeted inside her cell, staring out the window. "You said there was a coffin. In the hole. Driscol… he must have been inside. I tried so hard to discover what became of his body, but…"
I shrugged. No way of knowing, now. "Yeah. 'n for what it's worth, I'm… sorry. I helped that bald bastard when I shoulda stayed outta Driscol's… your brother's… his way. He was a better guy'n I figured he was."
Evangelina laughed, a little harshly. "My brother was a bastard. As much a bastard as I am a bitch, and perhaps a little more so. His ideals were noble, his goal was noble, but his methods… weren't. Neither were mine. We would have been better on the throne than King Jeffrey, but not by as much as we might have thought."
Neither of us addressed the fact that we were speaking of Driscol in the past tense. As though he were already dead. Discussing whatever he'd become was not an option.
"Now his outside looks like his inside. Rotting and rotten."
I turned. Grayson was standing in the doorway, spinning an apple on his finger. He tossed it through the bars, and it landed beside Evangelina. She stared at it but wouldn't touch it.
"How is your neck, dear lady?" Grayson asked, striding to the bars and peeking his face through. "Are you still sealed? The witch is more potent than she lets on. Though I suppose she would, at the very least, be stronger than her student."
Evangelina bit her lip and said nothing. She picked up the apple and rolled it back through the bars.
Grayson laughed. "She thinks they owe her more. She thinks wrong. She will be punished for her transgressions… when I feel the time is right."
He turned to me. "Come. We're going camping. That's how I want to play today."
Shooting Evangelina a sympathetic glance, not at all surprised that she'd been taught by June and not doubting Grayson's word on the subject, I followed my son out of the room. The door closed behind us.
We gathered our things, including a slew of warm clothes. Libby, upon hearing where we were off to, insisted that I keep her son in healthy order. Grayson happily assured her that he would be fine as he fidgeted his way into his snow pants, laughing as Libby planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. He waved as she left the pub to repair the chicken coop, as five of the birds came back today.
"Do you want that woman?" Grayson asked.
I smiled. "Y… your mom? 'course I want her. I love her. She's my wife. Silly question, Gray."
"No." He pointed up the stairs. "Her. Evangelina. If you want her, you could have her. I can make it happen. Would you be interested?"
I paused, incredulous. I'd never thought of Evangelina in any capacity beyond 'noble', 'enemy' and 'prisoner' before. Possibly 'witch'. I was very relieved for a resounding 'No' to burble up in my head.
"Oh." Grayson smiled, without need for a further answer. "Right. You want the dark-skinned one."
Bora. I glanced across the pub, watching as Bora cleaned a glass in the kitchen. I forced another 'No'.
"Of course you do." Grayson's smile grew, his eyes radiating joy. "How hideous."
Grayson is asleep. We trekked through the forest in silence for much of the afternoon, me wishing that I'd asked someone else along, knowing at the same time that Grayson would not have permitted it. This is a week of bonding between father and son. Supposedly a happy experience. The kind of thing I wished for with Eve, so long ago.
I don't want it with Grayson.
He terrifies me.
In the same way Kierkegaard terrifies me.
The fire's fading. I'd better get under my covers and sleep. I doubt I'll look as content as Grayson in my sleeping bag - the cold barely seems to touch him.
Dragomir the Camper