|A Confidence Amongst Friends|
|Summary:||Katrin goes to see Serica and the two old friends catch up.|
|Fresh rushes cover the floor of this guest room. A large four post bed sits of centered in one corner. Heavy curtains are pulled back upon entrance to show a lush, light blue velvet coverlet over a feather down mattress. Golden wheat stalks are haphazardly embroidered on the soft fabric's surface. A small table to each side of the bed who's surfaces each hold a candle stick and holder. Another table modest in size, is set to the center of the room with two small soft cushioned chairs seated at its left and right. A couple of shelves are set about the room to house the private book collection of whomever resides, a wardrobe sits in one corner for the guests belongings. A window who's heavy coverings are pulled back by day, let a warm sunny glow in. By night, they are loosed and cast the room in complete darkness.|
|August 14, 289|
The room is quiet, save for the soft murmur of voices near the window; the lady Serica and her handmaid Vesta, a swarth woman of some three decades or a little more. One with gray in her hair and a fine hand with a needle, not to mention some remarkably droll near prudish opinions that seem to compliment her Mistress' just fine. The door is closed, as it always stays, and while she'd ventured free of the room yesterday, those who one might ask could say that for the week the girl has been there, she's only been seen out thrice.
There's a soft knock on the heavy wooden door, and outside is Katrin, carrying a covered basket with who knows what kind of goodies inside. Her maid stands with her but consciously out of the way, allowing the Haigh girl to show up at the door on her own.
It's Vesta who moves to answer the door, laying her mending aside with a kindly smile as she crosses the room and gently tugs open the frame. There are no visitors here. Only Roddy, Harold's man-at-arms whose become her new guard and constant companion frequent this room aside from Harold. "Oh Lady Katrin," the servant breaths, with a rosey cheeked smile, grateful and hopeful all at once, "Won't you do please come in," she continued, making the invitation on Seri's behalf before the girl could come up with another excuse for being under the weather so's to avoid company.
"Thank you," Katrin murmurs as she steps inside. "Seri, darling, I have decided that you have been hidden in this room for far too long," she says brightly to her friend. "You need to interact with a friend and that would obviously be me, so do not even think of denying me this." She beams. But behind it is a look of pure stubbornness and determination.
"I'm not hiding," the girl defended, as Vesta stepped aside and cleared a way, gesturing for Katrin to join Serica at the table if she so desired, "I just…haven't felt like going out is all." A small lie. She did feel like going out. She felt like going home and every day she didn't, was an effort. "But look at you! As fresh and vibrant and rosey as I have ever seen you. Are you enjoying Highfield?" And it kills her, it does, how easy it is to speak a full string of words to those she knows when…she can't handle two sentences with a stranger now.
Katrin strolls over to the table, dropping the basket down and placing a kiss on Serica's cheek before having a seat. "It is… interesting," she admits slowly. "But Serica, I have never seen you where you hide in your room all day and all night. I grow concerned for you, my friend. Why do we not go riding tomorrow? A few of your guards, a few of my guards and then we shall be so well protected that no one could complain about it."
Seri reached an arm up to offer a light hug and a matching kiss in return, before she chuckled at Katrin's response to Highfield. "Aye. Yes, I would agree with you. My husband instead would say that it's simply beautiful to watch something grow." Frown. And then, a little playful scoff. "That's because I went and hid in the village instead. But…I do not think I'm up for a ride. A walk, perhaps? If I get on a horse I'll just want to go home and never leave again."
Katrin's steady gaze settles on Serica and she shakes her head. "It is wondrous to watch something grow from nothing, especially if you have a personal interest in seeing its success, but… for you and I, we are not so blessed with that. But the land is still open and inviting, something that we could both be drawn to." She frowns. "We could walk." Her eyes linger on the Charlton woman momentarily before clearing her throat. "I brought a whole variety of things to try and tempt you, Seri," she muses.
"I have an interest in Kellen," Seri offered, "And truly, Katrin, I can not wait for you to see my home. The manor is smaller than this, much smaller, with a staff of four, no other nobles around for hours." No one to tell her she couldn't work barefoot in the garden and clean for herself. It was heaven. "But you're right. The land here is lush in its ruggedness, even if its ripe with Charltons." On a chucle her brow arched at Katrin's statement. "Tempt me to..what exactly? Though if you've a miracle cure in there to stop me from feeling like a disappointment because I'm not cultured and don't turn my nose up and argue politics, I'll take it."
"I cannot wait to see it myself," Katrin replies with a smile. "It would be quite nice to go to a place where I do not have to behave in a certain way…" She looks towards the door with a scowl. Serica's final words return her gaze to the woman with a sharp stare. "Who is making you feel like a disappointment?" Her words are softly spoken but there is a dangerous glint to her eye. "Your Lord husband? A Charlton here? You are far from a disappointment, Serica. You are a FREY. Do not let them belittle you."
"That's the one thing I love about it, Katrin. There are no expectations." And she looked…almost at peace about it too, before she watched Katrin's temper expand. Heard its edge and still…managed to smile. "See. There. That. I've never had the same fire you have. And he does not mean to. He says to give him children and he is happy. To tend Kellen and he will be pleased but…things started so very dreadfully, Kat. I feel stuck in the shadow of it, Frey or not. His family has been wonderful, it's I who feel I don't quite fit their standards of finesse."
Katrin breathes in a slow breath to bring her temper back under control. "What happened, Serica?" she asks quietly. "What has changed you from the girl I knew so well at the Twins? What happened between the two of you?" She reaches out to clasp the girl's hand in hers, fingers gently twining. "I never remember you being so doubtful of yourself."
Seri exhaled, a hand smoothing at her skirts where like Vesta, her mending lay forgotten. "I don't know," came the reply, not entirely full of truth. She has suspicions, but she won't speak them. It wouldn't be proper. It's not his fault. "We were just, different is all. He's a wonderful man though, Katrin. Truly he is. Thoughtful and kind. Compassionate. It's not his fault." And giving her friends hand a gentle squeeze in response, she attempts to change the topic. "I have heard you'd a gentlemen follow you all the way here, is that true?"
Her sage green eyes narrow ever so slightly as Katrin regards Serica. She's a master of detecting lies or subtle changes in the inflection of a voice. She sighs and lets Seri have her lies, however. "I have found him worthy of respect in the short time I've known him, but not if he is making you unhappy. I worry for you, my friend." There's a pause. "Yes… but you saw Ser Martyn on the day of your arrival."
"He wasn't riding with you," Seri murmured, "I wasn't sure if his trip was one of business or pleasure." But a smile bloomed all the same, soft as it was timid. "You're lucky to have someone who cares for you so deeply." Said and meant, before she sighed and after a pensive pause, added: "And do not let my discontent rest upon Ser Harold's shoulders. He is a good man, truly. We're just generations apart. Now, let's talk of something pleasant instead," she encouraged.
Concern rests across Katrin's face but she lets the topic drop. "Ser Martyn is a very good man," she says quietly. "I have become quite fond of him in our time together. He is… well, he requested that Lord Patrek Mallister send word to my House regarding a betrothal between us," she admits. "At the moment, we await an answer."
"Oh Katrin!" Serica's face bloomed into a smile of genuine happiness then and she gave the girl's hand a fierce squeeze for it. "But that's wonderful news! Truly." A pleasant and distracting though, as she reclined, a hand settled against the curve of her stomach. "What do you think that your father will say? Or more…what do you want him to?"
Perhaps unexpectedly, Katrin's eyes fill with tears. A hand hastily reaches up to dash them away before they can actually all. "I don't know, nor do I really know what I want to happen. Oh, Seri, if you only knew, you would likely be so disappointed in me." She shakes her head.
Serica blinks, caught off guard by the sudden change of emotion and she shifts, moving to perch on the arm of Katrin's chair, wrapping an arm around her shoulders while her hand brushes gently through her hair, helping keep it away from her face. "Shhh, there there. It's alright. I promise. And I could never be disappointed in you Katrin. Don't be sad, please? I stay sad enough for the both of us." Bittersweet joke, that. But joke all the same.
"I have been risking such a pleasant and happy marriage for the thing that we were always taught to avoid at all costs," Katrin says in a little voice. "Love. It is such a terrible thing. I would not recommend it if at all possible." She lets out a very gusty sigh. "In your wanderings, have you met Lord Rafferdy Nayland?"
"Better to have love than hate. Or civil politeness, Katrin. Trust me, I married without love and look at me." A little shrug followed, but the girl tipped her head to press a light kiss against the top of Katrin's crown, before she slipped away from her perch and back towards her chair. "No. No I don't think that I have. But..you have I imagine."
"We are in love," Katrin admits quietly. "I first met him when Ilaria and I were sent to Stonebridge. He was… so very different. So confident and sure of himself. It was very easy to love him," she muses with a smile forming. "But my Father denied his betrothal request. He did not like the number of rumors that circulated regarding our relationship. Our lack of propriety. At the tourney in Seagard a few short months ago, we… well, let us just say that I will not be going to my marriage bed untainted."
"Oh." Seri said, very quietly trying to take every thing, most particularly the piece at the end which turned an oh into an "Oh my." And then, a very small tinsy tiny piece of laughter followed, "Oh Katrin, at least you find some care in it. I took a sleeping draught for a month just to avoid Harold." She shook her head, "Is there no chance that your father might change his mind if Rafferdy and yourself were to present a more appropriate face to the public?"
Katrin shakes her head, "Father is stubborn, but Rafferdy appealed to my uncle. He has not said no, and now all we can do is wait." She frowns, plucking at her skirts absently. "But with a Mallister dangled on the table, I do not know what will happen. The stories talk o how romantic it is to have two noble men fighting for a lady's hand but in truth, it is a nightmare. I want nothing to do with it."
"Then, maybe you should just make a decision yourself? Though I wager you hear nothing until this nonsense over Stonebridge is settled. To match you to a Nayland would be…," Seri shook her head, "A Mallister would make more sense, particularly given your current location."
A soft laughter escapes Katrin's lips as she shakes her head. "I have tried," she complains. "I made my desires known to Ser Martyn but he still persisted in his affections and desires. And his sweet nature has just grown on me. He is constantly there, a support when I feel low, a joke when I want to laugh. Truly, Seri, he is perhaps the best man I have ever known. And I love him for it. But I do not know if it compares yet to the burn I feel for Lord Rafferdy."
"You have your answer in your own words, my friend. But a thing that burns…can only consume and leave naught but ashes behind in its wake. And when it fades, if you burn for him so much, when the months pass, or the years, imagine how you'd feel if he took a mistress." Seri shakes her head, "Better to be content with affection and support. That one will see your children watched over."
Katrin shakes her head, "I do not think that Rafferdy would ever take a mistress… not him. I know there are many rumors and stories of him, but he is faithful and good." she sighs. "It is unfair. Everyone has been willing to let something grow between myself and Ser Martyn under their watchful eye but not with Raff. Our relationship was admonished from the beginning and we have not had the same opportunity to grow in each other's company or become accustomed to each other's personalities."
Seri pursed her lips together in thought, drawing in a quiet breath and trying to figure out what to say. "You say you love Rafferdy but,…" And with that, Seri blew out a snort and gave up. "Oh Katrin, I can't even begin to take a guess. I do not love my husband as he does not love me but we are content. As, perhaps we'll ever be and he will be happier still when our child is born. My life seems so very simple compared to yours. My heart is not involved."
"It's a complicated mess, isn't it?" Katrin complains. She just scowls a little. "Not what I had anticipated or hoped for. I would just like to see a resolution and soon. I feel as though my life has been on hold now forever and until I get an answer, it will continue to be put on hold."
"As I said," Seri sighed; hand cradled thoughtfully around her middle, "I would not expect an answer until the mess with Stonebridge come to a head. Until then…," one shoulder dipped in a light shrug, "Try and find happiness as best you can, where you can. You may be lucky with whomever you find yourself married too. Both care for you. There's some manner of choice of want even on your part. Not every one is so lucky, Katrin."
"I am being selfish, I know," Katrin sighs. "To complain over such a thing, especially when you have just finished telling me of your own troubles." Her eyes narrow. "Seri, are you well?" she asks. She makes a gesture down toward her own stomach and then focuses on the Charlton girl.
Serica laughs outright then, with the way Katrin slipped back into the present. It's not her fault, it's just.. "My darling Katrin, I can tell that you're more than a little worried and all sorts of stressed. You shouldn't apologize for that. It just means that you're thinking of your future, ther's no other acceptable excuse for you completely missing the fact that I told you I was pregnant just a few moments ago."
Katrin perks with absolute delight, sliding out of her seat to cross over and plant a kiss on Serica's cheek. "Oh, Seri, I am so pleased for you," she says, expression elated. "I am ever so happy then that you have found your way to Highfield. I would like very much to be here for you as you progress through the pregnancy."
"Well, my news was simpler," Seri replies, though her smile remains, and she returns the cheek peck with one of her own, "Yours was more dire. If there's anything I can ever do to help, I won't…lie for you, but should a old married woman such as myself make an acceptable chaperone er you need one, then I *will* turn a blind eye." She offered, before adding as an after thought, "And I should like to have you with me, but I do not intend to stay here for the duration, either."
"Simpler perhaps, but one with far more happiness to it," Katrin says warmly. She gently tucks back Serica's hair. "Whether here or there, I promise to be present for the birthing," she assures. "Even if it is just to pace and wear holes in your husband's floors while you are in labor." She smiles. "I will be glad for however long you remain here at Highfield, however. I am happy to have you close by."
"You're a wonderful friend, Katrin," the little Charlton replies and reaches out to catch Katrin's hand after it slips through her hair to give a small squeeze. "But…please don't wear holes in the floors. I don't expect he'll be there to see them very often, but I will. As I said, we're not…as perhaps, empassioned as you." She chuckled, "Now..please, I've been a terrible host. Would you care for some wine?" She doesn't drink it, but Harold does and as such, there's a bottle or three on hand.
Katrin chuckles, "I will try not to. For your sake, at the very least," she promises, eyes rolling. But she shakes her head. "No, Seri, I am just fine. But I brought you some treats in hopes of wanting to encourage you out of this room. I hope that you will enjoy them."
"I want to leave it," Seri confesses, voice small, "But…he thinks so much of his family and so highly and I have disappointed him before…more than once. I'm afraid that I might do so here and then he would never forgive me. And then that builds into panic and then my chest hurts and…," she trailed off with a sigh. Victim of severe anxiety attacks. "And then I can not risk it at all. But bribary will get you everywhere," she added, tempering the subject with a smile.
"Seri, he would not wish you to cower away in here, I am sure," Katrin says gently. "Such stress and anxiety does nothing good for the child growing inside of you. Just take it one day at a time." She smiles. "Remember, I am quite adept at politics and making nice with those who I would just as soon hate. Come out with me and socialize a bit. I can be there to ensure you do not bring about any shame to yourself or your husband." The basket has all sorts of sweet treats: fruit tarts, cookies, small cakes, even fruit dipped in chocolate.
"Honestly, Kat, I think he'd wish that I was back in Kellen, so he would not have to deal with me." There's something stark and rare and honest in that statement that threatens to depress her before she forces it away and offers up a smile. "But I…I would like perhaps, to go out with you sometime. Just…promise you'll forgive me if all I end up doing is sitting there in silence. Though…in the meantime, I think we ought to share what's in that basket." She grinned, nose twitching, stomach rumbling at the notion of a well done tart.
"You needn't worry, I will ensure that you will be alright," Katrin promises before she shakes her head. "I should be returning to my room for now. But enjoy the treats for now." She beams happily. "I will come see you soon, Seri, and drag you out for some socialization."
Seri eyes the basket and looks back to Katrin with a grin, "I'll try not to get fat in the meantime," she teases before rising to her feet and moving to lean in and offer a warm, very heartfelt hug. "Thank you for coming though, truly. I only wish that I could be as much help to you as you have been to me this evening."
"You never even need to think twice about it," Katrin murmurs quietly. "You are my friend and I will always be there for you, Seri." She hugs her friend tightly. "One day at a time. We will both get through these times."