Of Freedoms and Roles
Why am I doing this? Why am I here?
It was a shared thought, even if they would never know it. Rexus stood across from Anton Clothiers, one hand buried in his pocket, turning over a key to the Raven’s safehouse, tracing it with each turn. His other hand rested on the head of his cane, and he watched for her closely. He was worn a fine doublet, the only hint of extravagance a silver silken cloth jutting from his jacket pocket – the agreed way for her to recognize him. He paced back and forth, stuck in an internal argument. Certainly, he had felt better to say these things – even if it had taken several drinks to get them said – but he had never been ready for a letter back. He had hidden it the moment it had been handed to him. He couldn’t explain why, at least not properly – but he had felt it was best to hide the correspondence, even from his allies. He checked his pocketwatch, then sat down on a nearby bench. He lowered his head and fought to remain calm.
Inside the Clothiers, Guinevere brushed her dark hair back and stared at the wall as the girls moved about her, marking in hems and stitching lines. She idly wondered if one of them was Maisie, glancing between the girls before noticing a ring similar to Corthos’ on the half-elf’s hand. Of course. Somehow, that seemed appropriate for Corthos. She spoke softly. “Maisie Menard?” The girl glanced up, looking at Gwen for a moment. “Yes, m’Lady?” Gwen smiled slightly. “From what I hear, you have the dubious fortune of being engaged to my brother.” Merry glanced at her ring, then back at Gwen, managing a nervous smile. “Your brother is….I mean, I should have put it together.” Gwen laughed in spite of herself, a nervous reflex for her situation. “Well. I would like to get to know you better at some point. It has been a long time since I had a sister with whom I could talk. I apologize for any rudeness, my mind was adrift…I am still in shock, personally. I had no idea that he was pursuing anyone.” Merry nodded, returning to her work. “No rudeness, Lady Thr-” Gwen tapped her shoulder. “Gwen. Please. Or Guinevere, if you must be formal. If you are to marry Corthos, you will be family. So there is no need for titles.” Merry nodded again, then stepped back and took a pencil, making some notes on her paper. “All done, Gwen. And, um….it was nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you, Corthos speaks highly of you.” She bowed slightly, and Guinevere returned it.
Five minutes later, she left the Clothiers, her eyes scanning the afternoon crowd. It did not take long for her to spot Rexus, and she controlled her steps as she neared him, her hands unconsciously moving to smooth out her dress like a nervous girl at her first ball. She stood in front of him, a wry smile on her lips. It was so good to see him again – to see an old friend. It made her feel young again, free from everything, like they had been before he had gone to the Academy – before Alasdair (Or really any Thrune), before Corthos had gotten into his troubles. She still remembered the last night before Corthos and Rexus had gone to the Academy – they had all sat under an awning in the rain, and there had been a time where Corthos had gone to get drinks for them. She could remember it all in vivid detail, the way that Rexus’ hand had brushed hers, the moment that they had leaned towards each other, slightly intoxicated and feeling like the world was theirs, the sudden pause when they had heard the door opening again….she sighed wistfully. “Rexus, is that you?” The man’s head glanced up, and he nodded, seeming dumbstruck.
Rexus fought hard to gain a word, any word, but found himself silent. His eyes glanced over Guinevere – a bit older, looking more tired and sad, but still beautiful and elegant. He stood in front of her, starting to bow before stopping himself and finding himself awkwardly out of place. He paused, his eyes on hers for a moment before the pair embraced tightly. He stepped back, speaking quietly, softly. “You….you look as perfect as the last day that I saw you.” His hand lingered for a moment, just out of reach of hers before he moved again. “I have a place, not far from here. Somewhere safe. Come, come, please – there is so much to be said.” She followed him through the streets, her mind racing. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing, she assured herself of that. It was just a moment spent with an old friend. So why did it feel like she was committing some sort of felony, why did she feel like she was sneaking about? She bit her lip pensively. There was no need for the concern. It was only because they were out and in the town, where Alasdair’s friends might see them – that was her only reason to concern. And it wasn’t as though she was hiding Rexus from him – at least, not overtly. Sometimes it was easier to simply not explain a problem, and he had so much on his mind lately…She almost walked into Rexus as he stopped in front of a small home, something that was more akin to a storage than a proper house. Inside were a few chairs, a handful of cots, and a large table – already set with Elven wine and two glasses.
She sat down at the table, taking a glass and smiling as Rexus poured it for her. “Rexus Victocora….you really must tell me, what have you been doing for these last few years?” He paused as he poured his own drink. “Staying into and out of trouble. Your brother is quite good at finding it.” She paused. “So Corthos knows that you’re alive and well, and he never thought to mention it? Rude.” Rexus laughed as he sat across from her. “I wouldn’t say rudeness so much as caution, for once. We met again somewhat by accident a few months back. In fact, he likely saved me from a beating at the hands of the Chelish Citizens, so it only seemed fair for him to stay quiet. Guinevere -” “Rexus, please. Stop being so formal. You’ve known me forever. It’s just….I’m not that formal of a person, honestly.” He cleared his throat. “Gwen. He has no idea that I wrote to you, and I don’t plan on telling him. I think it’s safer for all of us to keep this moment clandestine.” She nodded slowly. “Rexus…why now?” He paused, watching her reaction. “I have been married for years now. I have a life, a home, a position in society – I have so much. And it’s only now, after all of these years, that you say anything? If you’ve felt this way for so long, why have you waited to say anything? I cannot even entertain this fancy, this stray idea, because of where I have come in life.” Rexus paused her, raising a finger.
“Gwen – are you satisfied? Are you happy with what life has brought you? I said what I said only because I have to be realistic – death is a distinct possibility in what we are hoping to do. And I couldn’t leave it unsaid. But for years, I bit my tongue to keep the peace, because being near you was at least something. If I didn’t confess my love, at least I could keep you in my life close enough that I could still see you, still hear your voice, still listen to your thoughts. And even if I had, back then, would it have made a difference? You were already set to be married to Alasdair, and -” Gwen moved her hand abruptly. “Please, Rexus, don’t talk about him. Not now. Not here.” She didn’t know why she had felt so suddenly guilty at the mention of his name, and she took a deeper drink of her wine. Rexus took in breath slowly. “Are you satisfied with that life? That’s all that I need to know. If you say yes, I’ll refrain from bothering you again. But I couldn’t just pretend like this feeling didn’t exist.”
Gwen moved her glass in a circle, eyes watching the wine slosh about. After a long minute, she spoke again, her voice hardly above a whisper. “No, I’m not. And I doubt that I ever will be. But that doesn’t mean that I can just pretend like the last years haven’t happened. And it could always have been worse. I shouldn’t have come here, Rexus – we shouldn’t have met back up. Maybe sometimes it is better to just leave things unsaid.” Despite her words, she made no effort to leave. Instead, she sipped at her wine and watched the wall as she talked. “I’m not satisfied, because it isn’t my life. It is just some perfect little cookie cutter that I was pushed into, a mold that I was made to fit. And he isn’t a bad man, and he honestly loves me, but I….” She wiped a tear away. “I don’t. I think of what could have been. Gods help me, I sometimes think of what could have happened if Eliza had lived – she would have been the one married off, and I would have been able to have my own life. Instead, I’m just Guinevere Thrune, clever – but never overly so – and my role in life is to sit behind my husband dotingly, to warm his bed at night, to clean his home, all so that people I have hardly ever spoken too could feel safer in business decisions. I’m not satisfied, Rexus, but that’s life sometimes. You make sacrifices, and you hope that it was all worth it.”
Rexus leaned across the table, his thumb wiping a tear away from Gwen’s face. “I’m sorry, Winnie. I’m sorry about what became of your life, and I’m sorry that one of the first symptoms of my love was a damnable shyness that prevented me from speaking up. And you’re right, sometimes you sacrifice – but there are times that you have to stop and take care of your own self. If you aren’t happy, what would make you happy?” Gwen looked down, then back up at Rexus. “I don’t know, Rexus. I don’t even know anymore. But I suppose that I could try to find something. A choice of my own, a tiny little freedom, even if it’s a freedom I have to hide from the whole world. A little freedom is better than none.” Rexus nodded, and Guinevere leaned towards him. Her hand cupped around the back of his neck, pulling him close, fingers intertwined in his hair as she pressed her lips to his. They stayed that way for a long while before she stepped back.
“I don’t know what will bring me satisfaction, Rexus….but I know that I have a secret now, and a secret is a sort of freedom.” She adjusted herself, looking down and away as he stood. Rexus felt his heart racing, and he would have sworn it was likely to burst from his chest at any moment. He spoke haltingly, his breath taken away and his mind buzzing. “It was…good to see you, Winnie. I would, I mean, if at all possible I want to see you again.” Gwen nodded, her eyes avoiding his. “I pick up the dress in two days time. We should, perhaps, talk more then. If that is agreeable.” Rexus smiled, stepping to embrace her. “More than agreeable.” Gwen craned her neck up, lips almost touching before she turned her head, her hands nervously fidgeting with her ring. “Until then.” Rexus stepped back, bowing. “Until then.” She turned and hurried out of the safehouse, the door shutting behind her with a solid thud. Rexus slumped down onto the bed, heart still racing, a smile crossing his face broader than it ever had before.
The future held a new brightness, even if it was a small one. After all of the shadow, he only needed a small one.