“No matter what happens, I’ll be by your side.” I stepped closer to him, trying to reassure him. “Even if I care for…” I paused, still not wanting to admit how I felt about Loki. “Other people don’t matter. You are my husband, and I am with you in sickness and in health.”
“You really would, wouldn’t you?” Tove asked, almost sadly. “You would take care of me if I lost my mind.”
“Of course I would,” I nodded.
It had never occurred to me to leave Tove, at least not because of what happened the other night, or if he became sick and frail like Elora. Tove was a good man, a kind man, and he deserved as much love and care as I could give him.
“That makes what I’m about to say so much harder.” He sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“What?” I sat next to him.
“I realized how little time I have,” he said, “before my mind completely goes. Maybe twenty years, if I’m lucky. And then it’s gone.
“And I want to fall in love with somebody.” Tove took a deep breath. “I want to share my life with somebody. And… that somebody isn’t you.”
“Oh,” I said, and for a moment I felt nothing. I didn’t know how to feel about what he was saying, so my body just went numb.
“I’m sorry,” Tove said. “I know what you’ve given up to be with me, and I’m sorry that I’m not strong enough to do the same for you. I thought I was. I thought because we were friends and I believed in you as Queen that would be enough. But it’s not.”
“No, it isn’t,” I agreed quietly.
“So, Wendy, I think…” He paused, taking another deep breath. “I want a divorce.”
And then it happened. I started to cry. I’m not sure why exactly. A combination of relief and sadness and confusion, and so much else that I’d been struggling to hold in. I was happy and relieved but sad and frightened, and a million other things all at once.
“Wendy, don’t cry.” Tove put his arm around me to comfort me, the first time he’d really touched me since we’d been married. “I didn’t want to make you sad.”
“No, I’m not sad.” I shook my head and wiped at my eyes. “I’m overwhelmed. And you’re right. We should get an annulment.” I nodded and stopped crying almost as soon as I started. “Sorry. I don’t know where that came from.”
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Tove asked, eyeing me up.
“Yes, I am.” I smiled weakly at him. “It’s probably the best thing for us both.”
“Yeah, I hope so,” Tove nodded. “We’re friends, and I’ll always have your back, but we don’t need to be married for that.”
“True,” I agreed. “But I want to wait until after this is all over with the Vittra. In case something happens to me, I want you to be King.”
“Are you sure you want me to be King?” Tove asked. “I’m going to go crazy someday.”
“But until then, you’re about the only person I trust that has any power,” I said. “Willa would be a good ruler someday, but I don’t think she’s quite there yet. She can take over for you, if you need her to.”
“You really think something’s going to happen to you?” Tove asked.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But I need to know that the kingdom will be in good hands, no matter what.”
“Alright,” he said. “You have my word. We’ll stay married until after the Vittra are defeated, and if something happens to you, I will rule the kingdom to the best of my ability.”
“Thank you,” I smiled at him.
“Good.” Tove dropped his arm and stared straight ahead. “Now that that’s out of the way, I suppose we should get ready. We have the Chancellor’s funeral at eleven.”
“I haven’t prepared my speech yet,” I sighed and Tove stood up. “What should I say about him?”
“Well, if you plan to say anything nice, you’re going to have to lie,” Tove muttered as he walked over to his closet.
“You shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.”
“You didn’t hear what he wanted to do to you,” Tove said, talking loudly to be heard from the closet. “That man was a menace to our society.”
I sat on the bed, listening to my husband gather his clothes before he went to shower, and despite everything that was still going on, I felt as if this immense weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I still had no idea how to stop the Vittra and save everyone I cared about, and I had to write a eulogy for the Chancellor. But for the first time in a long time, I felt like there might be a life after this. If I could defeat the King, if I could save us, there might really be something to live for.
Willa wore all black, but the hem of her skirt only came to the middle of her thigh. At least she had classed it up a little for the funeral. My eulogy had gone over well, or about as well as a eulogy could go over. Nobody had cried for the Chancellor, and that seemed sad to me, but I couldn’t bring myself to cry for him either.
His funeral had been held in one of the larger meeting rooms in the palace. Black flowers and black candles decorated the room. I’m not sure who had planned the funeral, but it looked like a Goth kid at a Cure concert had thrown up here.
After they took the Chancellor away to bury him in the palace cemetery, most of us stayed behind. He didn’t have any family or friends, and I’m not entirely sure how he got elected in the first place.
The mood was decidedly somber, but I don’t think that actually had much to do with the funeral. All the guests in attendance were muttering, whispering, huddled in corners talking quietly, and they kept glancing at me. I heard the word “painting” floating through the air like a breeze.
I stood off to the side of the room, talking mostly with Willa and Tove. Ordinarily, any of the royals would be eager to make some kind of small talk with me, but today, they all avoided me. Which was just as well. I didn’t have much I wanted to say to any of them.
“When is it polite for us to leave?” Willa asked, swirling her champagne around in her glass. I think she’d already had a couple glasses more than she should have, and she hiccupped daintily before covering her mouth with her hand. “Excuse me.”
“I think we’ve been here long enough.” Tove scanned the room, and some people had already left. His mother and father hadn’t been able to make it at all, and my mother could barely move, so she was still on bed rest.