Part 8 - Morning Coffee
Allana stretched as she walked, arms raised towards the sky, and sighed. Pain, pain, pain ... was all she could feel. Especially her arms, although she couldn't tell if that was due to sword practicing or having to carry Elian.
The cold air of the morning made her shiver and long for the warm Summer days that were yet to come. However the sky was clear, promising a sunny day, and despite everything else she couldn't help feeling ... happy, she concluded with a smile. She couldn't remember the last time she'd felt like that - free, light and honestly looking forward for the day to come.
Allana knocked on the heavy kitchen doors, not wanting to invade or disturb other people's work, and the same round woman she had seen the other day came to receive her, smiling invitingly as she led her inside.
"Good morning, child. Where's Kahor?" she asked, looking for her outside, and Allana smiled.
"She won't be long now. I left first," she replied the nice woman. The truth was Kahor had overslept, and that she had had to shake her awake three times before she could get her out of bed. But there was no need to explain all that.
Adira smiled, a strange knowing smile, and signaled for her to follow.
"And how's it been? Have you managed to adapt even a little to this place?"
"Oh, everything's fine. Everyone is very nice."
"Good. Kahor is a good girl." she added stopping near a staircase. "I'll go downstairs and get the baskets of bread. The milk jars are on that corner," she said pointing the right direction. "Our master smith made them some wheeled supports, so it will be easy to carry them to the door."
Allana nodded in understanding and, as the woman vanished down the stairs, followed her indications, finding the milk jars without fail.
There were other girls, on the other side of the kitchen, still tidying the rest of what had apparently been last night's big party. In Everlyn there were never parties, or receptions, or celebrations, she remember as she watched them go about their business. And, with a sigh, she went back to her own duties.
Pushing one of the jars she noticed Adira had been right and that they now moved effortlessly. All she had to do was guide them towards the door, where the same cart as the day before awaited. As she passed she couldn't help noticing the Knight sitting at a table, holding his head between his hands; and then it was too late.
Immediately averting her gaze, Allana considered going on has if she had never seen him. But then, and against her better judgment, her feet were already moving towards him, her heart suddenly beating too fast against her chest for her to simply ignore it.
"Good morning ..." she practically whispered and he raised his head, looking at her with such a surprised expression that she almost thought he'd seen a ghost.
She smiled as a warm surge filled her body. Her name, in his voice, sounded always strangely beautiful, almost magical, even though he had been careful to say it in a murmur so that no one else could hear him.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, peering towards where Adira had vanished, expecting to see her return at any moment.
"Fine ... I mean ... more or less. Oh, I'm so sorry about last night! And if I said something ... I mean ..." She looked at him in disbelief, even more so as she noticed his embarrassed expression.
"You mean you don't remember?"
"I do remember!" he told her immediately, blushing before her amused expression. "I remember taking you to the chapel ... and that ... we talked about the images ..." he said, obviously struggling to recall last night's events, and finally sighed in defeat. "I know you took me to Elipson's. Thank you."
"I couldn't think of any other place ..." she told him, apologetically, and he nodded.
"I'm really sorry. And well, please don't think that what happened last night ... well, it's not like I usually drink. It was only one glass!" he went on, trying to explain himself. "But Elipson is right. I should've known better. But tell me. How are you dealing with all this Knight stuff?" he wanted to know, changing the subject, and couldn't help smile as her face seemed to come alight.
"It couldn't be better! I've learned lots of things. And I've never felt happier in my entire life!"
"Elipson tells me you have talent."
"Really?" she asked, excitedly, and he nodded.
"Her words, not mine. And it's all you, since she doesn't know who you are." Allana blushed with satisfaction and Elian held her hand; her small, frail, but callous hand, and kissed it softly. "But if anything happens, if you ever need any help, or if you just want to end all of this, please come to me! Promise!" he urged her and Allana nodded, once again lost in his dark gaze.
"Ah! I see you've found it!" Adira said, putting down a large basket of bread, and Elian released her immediately, as Allana discreetly stepped away from him, blushing with embarrassment.
"Can you please pass Elipson my message?" Elian asked, seeming almost too used to making up halfway conversations, and Allana nodded, not knowing what else to do.
"Oh, please, Young Master! Do you feel no shame? Getting in the way of working people!" Adira scolded him almost as if he were a misbehaved teen, and held Allana's hand, pulling her away. "Come! If you start indulging our beloved Prince he'll never let you to go."
Allana laughed, making up for her embarrassment, as sure as she could be that the nice woman had noticed something weird and had interpreted it the wrong way.
"And let's get this food loaded, before some Knight collapses from hunger!" she went on and then turned back, to where Elian was sitting. "And your Excellency? If you're feeling well enough to chitchat, can you please give us a hand?"
Elian laughed, getting up, and pushed one of the milk jars towards the door.
Kahor arrived not long after, just as they were loading the cart, and immediately fell on her knees, in an endless thread of requests for forgiveness. After all, as she herself pointed out, she had not only been late but the Crown Prince had been doing her job! Only Adira could make her stand up, declaring without even blinking that His Highness needed the body work, since he was becoming a lazy Prince. And then the cart was loaded and the two girls led it towards the dining hall.
Elian stood at the kitchen door, still smiling as he watched them go, although his dark gaze couldn't seem to capture anything else but the small blond figure as she laughed at something the other girl had said.
"And from where does our Young Master know that girl?" Adira asked, appearing at his side and handed him a cup of dark coffee for his hangover. Elian accepted her offer, smiling softly towards the round woman.
"Denar and I gave her a ride here. She was lost on the road," he answered, the same way he had answered so many other times, and Adira crossed her arms, looking at him sideways.
"I see ... This road of yours ... It wouldn't be the road to Everlyn, would it?"
"Adira! What are you talking about?" he almost jumped out of his skin and she smiled, patting him on the shoulder.
"Oh, it's nothing, Young Master," she told him turning to go back inside. "Please don't forget I've known you since the day you were born. There's no way you'd be able to deceive old Adira," she added and he couldn't, for the love of him, deny what she had just said. "And please hurry up. I'm sure you have lots to do today."
Elian sighed, drank his coffee with a grimace, and kissed the woman's face before leaving.