take my hand and breath in deep, Saffron

Their story was always the same, the same book over and over again, its pages worn down and the cover torn. Grayson had never diverged from the storyline that was written from him. It was a repetition of the same beginning, same middle, and same ending. Every time he came back it was filled with promises of staying, promising to tell her if he ever planned to leave again, and promising that he would be there for her. All promises that was ultimately broken time and time again. You can only break something so much before itís barely recognizable, a fraction of what it used to be.

To be fair, he had every intention of staying last time. Saffron had forgiven him so easily even though he could tell she really didnít want to. He could see the hurt in her eyes, and he remembers it vividly. He knew he couldnít blame her if she didnít forgive him this time. He had been gone longer than before and looking far more worse for wear than previously. The problem that Grayson was facing was this time he didnít actively or even knowingly leave her, his friends, or the castle. He had been stolen away. His last memory before he woke up on the shore dying, dehydrated, and starving was that night. Only those memories were years apart and nothing but darkness to fill in the blanks. Till now, he had told no one but Tristan. And part of him knew he could have come to find Saffron sooner, hell he probably could have left the moment he found out she was back at the castle. But he kept telling himself he wasnít healed enough, he didnít have the stamina or the endurance to go. Only part of that true, the other (which took a while for him to admit to himself) was that he was scared.

Fear seemed to be waiting for him at every corner these days.

He was scared of her reaction to how gaunt and severely thin he was. Although he wasnít any better now, but it was a vast improvement to when Tristan found him. He was scared of what to tell her, how she would react, and if she would hate him. There was just so much fear that separated him from Saffron it took a while for him to wade through it.

And even now he wasnít ready, wasnít ready to make the travel, wasnít ready to face her, and certainly wasnít ready for the emotional impact this reunion might have on the both of them. But waiting wasnít something he could do anymore. He wasnít a coward; at least he didnít used to be.

So one morning he packed a bag with some food and water he borrowed from someone, since he didnít own anything besides the clothes on his back, and left camp. Era padded at his heels silently, she had gained her weight back far quicker than he was. Heíd been in the Kingswood long enough to become somewhat familiar with it. Although with the changing trees, he did wonder how heíd manage to get back. There was something so magical about the forest, he often wondered if it had a soul of its own.

Travelling seemed easy enough at first but as he went on he eventually realized how wrong he was. Grayson still wasnít in shape; he hadnít even started training again. Fear continued to spread infectiously in him. He still didnít feel like he had a purpose, or place amongst Tristanís men. Era politely reminded him that he would get there eventually. His honest response was always, maybe. Truth be told he didnít know if heíd ever be the same.

He didnít think anyone would recognize him but that was a chance he still wasnít willing to take. Not with all the turmoil. He knew some things but not everything. Grayson always headed back for his tent whenever people would start to talk about Mordred or Arthur. There were things he just wasnít ready to hear just yet. Grayson was still healing, both physically and emotionally. He didnít want the walls he was building to come crashing down before the mortar had set. So he just tactfully avoided those topics as best he could.

By mid-morning he approached the River Twinge, he stealthy weaved in and out of trees instead of taking a direct path. Occasionally heíd hear conversations by castle guards of patrol but avoided them with ease. Sneaking to the castle felt a lot like a time when he snuck out of the castle with Tristan to find Thoth. Back then he had always been so proud of his ninja-like capabilities. But now heíd consider himself sub-par at best. Perhaps the guards hadnít any reason to be on alert unless he gave them reason to.

Lake Lilith came into sight and he couldnít help the smile that spread widely across his face. Heíd done it, he made it, but that was only half the battle. Now heíd need to actually find Saffron, the success of that was slim to none and he knew he might end up having to go back only to try another day. But he was determined. Perhaps it was selfish of him to want to finally get these things off of his chest but the reasoning didnít matter to him. The closer he got, the more excited and anxious he became. He came up on a large rock along the shore of the lake just beyond the reach of the tree line and crouched behind it.

Damn, he thought as he heard the hustling of feet. About a hundred yards away he was a small group of people running around the lake. His fell back and hit the rock with a thump. Guess it was going to be too much for this to be easy. He peered to his left around the rock to stare at the small group and watched them. It became rather obvious they were out for a run, possibly even training. The formations were similar to those who trained back in the Kingswood. Grayson sighed heavily and turned to Era who was pressing against him trying her hardest to stay hidden behind the rock and petted her head. ďLooks like we might have to wait a while.Ē He admitted to her.

Era was just about to say something when her ears perked up and her nose twitched thoughtfully sniffing the air catching a scent. Her head snapped right, cocking her head as she tried to look cautiously around the rock, Grayson mirrored her.

Grayson didnít know he was holding his breath until his lungs were aching and begging for oxygen. It might have been the coppery-red hair that gave her away but there was no denying that who he was looking at was his sister. Grayson quickly pulled himself, and Era back behind the rock, gasping for breath as his throat felt painfully close to closing. Wanting to see her was one thing, actually seeing her was another. And for a fleeting moment he thought about retreating back to camp. Because ultimately he was just like their mother, only she was better than him. Grayson would leave only to come back. Serafina left and never came back. Which was worse? Because Grayson thought it was him. Heíd leave, sheíd worry, get settled into her new life only to have him come back and muddy it up again than repeat the process.

Grayson chanced another glance at her watching her as she moved down the bank of the lake at an even pace before retracting himself again. At least she was alone. There was only one small problem. There was no escaping now without her seeing him, and he could see the irony in being stuck between an actual rock and a hard place.


photo by Marvin Meyer at unsplash.com


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