|To Forgive and Forget|
|Summary:||Josse encounters a girl in the darkness, and learns Rose hasn't really thought things through.|
|Related Logs:||All logs related to Lady Anonymous|
|The Stonebridge Gardens|
|Pathways. Roses. After midnight and the moon is new. Watch your step!|
|31st day of Seventhmonth, 288 AL|
After all these years of sharing sleeping quarters, one would think Josse would be used to such a thing. Perhaps it was the lingering excitement of the tournament and the extra noise, or perhaps the new moon, or perhaps just indigestion…whatever the reason, the septon is out wandering in the middle of the night. The inky darkness of the town gardens promises some peace and quiet, apart from the soft sounds of his robes as he moves. His hood rests on his shoulders, hands folded idly behind his back and eyes down on what slivers of the path he can see as his eyes struggle with the lack of light.
"Who's there?" It's a quick, feminine whisper from the dark close by. A slender shadow moves, silk rustles, and the faint scent of lavender and clover touches the breeze. She's been here longer, her eyes as adjusted to the lack of light as it's possible for eyes to be. "Josse?" It's uncertain, definitely a question — perhaps the distinctive outline of the robes is all she sees.
Josse stops, his feet drawing together. Before his mind registers the voice as familiar, the hairs at the back of his neck have stood up and his shoulders have tensed just a little. "Yes…" The slight uptone makes it sound half like a question. "Seven guide your way, who's there?"
There's a soft laugh — sad and wry — breathed as though it's half a sob. "Rose," replies the shadow, and a hand reaches to touch his arm. "It's Rose. I'm right here." She pauses. "He's not coming," are the words that follow, when she can voice them. "Is he?" This, despite sounding a question, somehow is not.
"Oh for goodness' sake." Josse breathes out a little relief, his hand settling over hers where she's touched his arm. "Rose, I-…Rose?" His eyes squint in the darkness, glancing her over. "He? He…you mean…?" Of course she does. "What are you doing?"
Rose ducks her head, wincing. "I don't know," she confesses in a tiny voice. "I… I thought… I wasn't thinking. He wrote, and it was so… such a letter, as sweet and sincere and romantic a thing as you would never imagine our Jarod capable of putting to paper. I thought… we had this once chance. To meet. A new moon, so dark he wouldn't — and I don't know what I meant to do from there. Perhaps only to say goodbye." She covers her face with her hands. "Please don't scold me, I know I've gone mad."
There's a second where it looks like Josse might literally be swallowing said scolding, eyes glancing up at the dark sky and then back down to her. "I don't know what you meant to do either, though if you think I believe for a second it's 'say goodbye' then you are mad." He exhales quietly. "Jarod is laid up in a tent recovering from bravely going face-first into Ser Anton's breastplate. If that makes you feel any better."
"I was there," Rose replies, dryly, turning and seating herself on one of the ornamental stone benches along the path. Her hands knot in her lap. "He wouldn't have let some cracked ribs stop him from coming, if that was what he wanted." Her eyes lift, and though her expression isn't entirely visible in the dark, the wounded rebuke is clear in her tone. "And of course it doesn't make me feel better. I would far rather he break my heart hale." There's a snort and then a breath. An audible swallow. "It might have been goodbye," she protests, though not sounding entirely convinced herself. "A love that can never come out of the dark… what is that?"
"You could face him in the daytime," Josse reminds her, with a slight edge. "That there would be consequences for it is true, but don't go mixing up 'can't' and 'won't'." He sits down on the front edge of the bench facing her, still barely able to see her face. Aware of her voice, and her outline when she moves. "I can't say what Jarod was thinking. I meant to speak with him about all this but there was other company and it didn't work. Do you even know if he got this note?"
There's a soft intake of breath. She hadn't thought of that, it seems. "No. I don't know. I… the boy I've used as a courier has been reliable, so far…" There's another pause. "He'll turn me out if he knows, Josse. Knighthood, alas, is the one thing he's truly disciplined about. We wouldn't… couldn't be together any longer. I'd have no place in Terrick's Roost anymore."
"I understand," Josse says, with weight in his tone. "But yet you were willing to risk it here. If he knew your voice. The way you smell, the way your hands feel. Do you even have any idea what you really want?"
"Yes," Rose whispers to her hands, head bowed. "I want him to love me. Enough… enough to keep my secret. And let me be what I've always dreamed." Her hand lifts to brush at her cheeks. "I might as well want the moon on a silver chain. He loves Isolde. Rose — I — would only ever be a pale substitute, even if I could… even if I could be known to him."
"Lady Isolde?" Josse's voice has an unmistakeable slight surprise in it. "What makes you think that?"
Rose shakes her head. "The way he looks at her. What he says. What he doesn't say." She blows out a breath. "He once said he had never envied anything that was meant to be Jaremy's… save one. It didn't take a maester from there. And when I asked him plain if he did, he skewered me for it, as though I'd accused him of fucking her. Struck a bit of a nerve."
"Lady Isolde is to be married and that is that," Josse replies, shaking his head. "Everyone has someone that they've loved — the first. The magic of it being…the ignorance that it would ever end." The septon clears his throat quietly. "Is he the first man you've loved?"
"Yes," she replies, wistfully and with no small amount of rue. "From the moment I first laid eyes on him. Every day a little more. There was a time…" She breathes deeply. "There was a time I thought I could bear it. That… being his boon companion would be enough. I've never cared about his whores, not a one. But that he loves, as I love him… it eats at my heart like poison." She shakes her head. "I'd thought… that perhaps… if he came to know me, he might — " She makes a sound of frustration, a mewling growl, and strikes her fist against her knee. "She's so pointless and helpless and vapid. All she is is beautiful! It's so unfair!"
"Now he's writing romantic letters to a woman whose face he's never seen." In pointing this out, Josse's voice stays soft. "It can't all be about beauty, can it?"
"I don't know," say Rose, just as soft. "I'm not sure I know anything anymore. You're right — a thousand times right — this, tonight… foolish, reckless, bound for disaster." Her hands knot in her lap once more. "I should thank the Seven he didn't come."
"Perhaps." Josse glances down at his hand, moving his thumb back and forth in the gap between his index finger and his leg. "You're more impulsive than I remember you two years ago. Usually people go in the opposite direction."
"Not in all things," Rose says, the rueful smile on her lips audible in her voice. "Not in all things. I am a cautious warrior. It's why I prevailed in the melee. I am a careful squire — it's why I serve my knight well. But in love?" Slender shoulders rise and fall. "I have never been in love. But apparently, in it… I am a fool." She scoots a little closer, then rests her head on his shoulder. "I'm sorry for disappointing you, Josse," she says, with every indication of sincerity.
For someone that never seems to initiate contact like this, Josse seems quite comfortable with it. His own hand stay on the bench on either side of his legs, but he turns his head more towards her forehead. "What makes you think that you do?"
There's a soft, melancholy laugh. "I get the feeling you trusted me to be more… grown-up about this than I'm being."
Faint amusement threads its way into Josse's soft-spoken voice. "Do you, now."
She nods against his shoulder. "Yes. I do."
Josse's shoulder moves slightly as he chuckles — the only hint of it, as there's no sound. "Show me a human being that is grown-up about their first love and I'll eat my boot."
And there's a giggle. Faint, but without question the sound of a girl. "I will have to look very long and very hard for that person," Rose replies, kissing Josse's cheek before sitting upright again. "When I find them, how would you like your boot served?"
"Don't even worry about that bridge. We'll never cross it," Josse replies. "Don't worry so much about it, Rose. We get these reprieves sometimes, and sometimes we even learn from them. But there's only so much you can do about love. If we could control it it wouldn't be love at all. So forgive yourself sometimes. And…" he adds on, shrugging one shoulder. "…forgive Jarod."
Strangely, it's this that finally breaks her. Drives home that whatever she imagined might come of this night… will never be. There's a quick, desperate little gasp as the first sob tears her chest. A soft mewl as she struggles against her tears. "I've already forgiven him," she whispers, barely able to force the words past the painful closure of her throat.
"Okay. Now pick up," Josse says, leaning forward until he can see her face clearly, tears and all. "And go from there."
Rose nods, sniffling and wiping her sodden face on the sleeve of her gown. A girl, perhaps… but certainly not a lady. "I've done harder things," she says, though there's a hint of doubt in her tone. Then, quickly and impulsively, she hugs Josse tight — getting his shoulder soggy as a few more tears leak past her tight-shut lids. "Thank you, Josse. Again and again. Thank you."
"You're getting your sleeve wet," Josse observes, sounding almost apologetic on her behalf. "Now come on. Let's get you back to your inn before Jarod does decide to roll himself off his couch tonight."