The part of me that was thrilled was eventually drowned out by the part of me that was exhausted. By the time we finished, I’d never felt so drained in all my life. Duncan offered to help me up the stairs to my room, and while I could’ve used it, I refused to let him. I had to learn to master this stuff on my own.
I didn’t want people like Duncan and Finn, and even Tove, risking their lives to protect me. Or even if they weren’t risking their lives, I didn’t want to need them. I was stronger than the rest of them, and I had to take care of myself.
I knew I couldn’t master everything overnight, but I’d work as hard as I needed to until I was as strong as everyone believed I could be.
After a long stretch of training, I took a short break, and then we had a defense meeting. Tove, Duncan, and I went, along with a few select guards, and Elora. Both Finn and his father Thomas were already in the room when we arrived. I said hello to them, and while Thomas responded, Finn ignored me. Again.
The meeting didn’t amount to much. Elora filled us in on what was happening. No more Vittra had broken in. Loki hadn’t escaped. She went over the guard shifts with the trackers. I wanted to ask about her plan to barter with the Vittra over Loki, but Elora shot me a warning gaze, and I knew now wasn’t the time to bring it up.
When the meeting ended, I wanted to head to my room, take a long hot shower, and go to sleep. Just before I hopped in the shower, I realized I was out of body wash and went to the hall closet for more.
My brain felt numb and seemed to be short-circuiting. For some reason, I could barely feel my extremities, like my fingers and toes. A migraine pulsed at the base of my skull, and the vision in my left eye was a little blurry.
Training today had been harder on me than I had allowed myself to admit. Tove offered several times to take a break, but I’d refused, and it was catching up with me now.
I think that’s why I lost it when Finn walked past me again without saying hello. I’d walked down the hall, wrapped in my robe, to get the body wash, and Finn happened to be making his rounds once again. He walked by, I said hello, and he wouldn’t even nod or smile at me.
And that was it. That was the final straw.
“What the hell, Finn?” I shouted, whirling on him. He stopped, but only because I’d startled him. He looked at me, blinking and slack-jawed. I don’t think I’d ever seen him look so caught off-guard before. “Of course you won’t say anything. Just stare blankly at me like you always do.”
“I–I—” Finn stammered, and I shook my head.
“No, really, Finn.” I held up my hand to stop him. “If you can’t be bothered to even acknowledge my existence, you shouldn’t start now.”
“Wendy.” He sighed, sounding exasperated. “I’m simply doing my job—”
“Whatever.” I rolled my eyes. “Where exactly in your job description does it say be a dick to the Princess and ignore her? Is that in there somewhere?”
“I am merely doing my best to protect you, and you know it.”
“I get that we can’t be together. And it’s not like I’m so weak-willed that the simple act of saying hello to me will cause me to jump your bones in the hall.” I slammed the closet door. “There is absolutely no reason for you to be so rude to me.”
“I’m not.” Finn’s expression softened, looking pained and confused. “I…” He lowered his gaze to the floor. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to act around you.”
“Why would you think that ignoring me would be the best way to go?” I asked, and to my own surprise, tears brimmed in my eyes.
“This is why I didn’t want to be here.” He shook his head. “I begged the Queen to let me go—”
“You begged her?” I asked, and that was too much.
Finn did not beg. He had too much pride and honor to beg for anything. And yet he’d wanted to be away from me so badly, he’d resorted to begging.
“Yes!” He gestured to me. “Look at you! Look at what I’m doing to you!”
“So you know that you’re doing it?” I asked. “You know and you’re doing it anyway?”
“I have so few options, Wendy!” Finn shouted. “What do you want me to do? Tell me what it is you think I should do.”
“I don’t want anything from you anymore,” I admitted, and I walked away.
“Wendy!” Finn called after me, but I shook my head and kept going.
“I’m too tired for this, Finn,” I muttered and went into my room.
As soon as I closed the door, I leaned against it and started to cry. I don’t even really know why, though. It wasn’t that I missed Finn. It was as if I couldn’t control my emotions. They just poured out of me in epic sobs.
I collapsed in bed and decided the only cure for this was sleeping.
It took Duncan twenty minutes to wake me up the next morning, or so he told me later. He tried knocking first, but I didn’t hear that at all. When he moved on to shaking me, it still didn’t wake me. He’d been convinced I was dead until Tove showed up and splashed cold water in my face.
“What the hell?” I shouted, sitting up.
Water dripped down my face, and I blinked it away to see both Tove and Duncan holding their heads. My heart pounded in my chest, and I pushed my hair out of my eyes.
“You did it again, Princess,” Tove said, rubbing his temple.
“What?” I asked. “What’s going on?”
“That brain-slap thing you do.” Tove grimaced, but Duncan had already dropped his hand. “We scared you into waking up, so you lashed out in your sleep. But it’s fading now.”
“Sorry.” I got out of bed in my drenched pajamas. “That doesn’t explain the water, though.”
“You wouldn’t wake up.” Duncan explained what had happened with wide, nervous eyes. “I was afraid you were dead.”
“I told you she wasn’t dead.” Tove cast a pointed look at him and stretched his jaw wide, working out the aches from the slap I’d accidentally given him.
“Are you okay?” Duncan moved closer to me, inspecting for injuries.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I nodded. “Other than being wet. And I’m still tired.”
“We’ll skip training today,” Tove informed me.
“What?” I turned sharply to him. “Why? I’m just starting to get stuff down.”