Chapter Thirty

            I found him on the beach. He was gazing out over the ocean, scanning the waves as far as the eye could see. I stood and watched him a moment; I wondered what he was thinking, what he would do when he saw me. I wondered if he was as aware of my presence as I was of his and was simply not ready to face me, or if he truly didn't know I was there.

            Though the sand beneath my feet crunched softly, he did not appear to hear; I told myself it was because of the noise of the waves. When I lifted my hand to his shoulder, he did not move; I told myself he must be numb from the chill winds. I spoke his name and he blinked, but did nothing else; I had nothing to tell myself then.

            Tears welled in my eyes and I removed my hand and stepped back. Did he hate me so much for leaving? I could not say that I truly blamed him. I had broken my promise never to leave him; I had broken his trust in me. How could I ask him to love me now?

            I felt my dreams crash down around me. The happiness I had felt when I went in search of Daelan was diminished. Now there was only the despair that comes from lost dreams. The life I had seen for myself and Daelan could never be.

            I turned to go – there was nothing left for me here – but then stopped short. I could not go without saying goodbye again. Daelan might not love me, but I had to tell him what he meant to me. I swung around again and froze. He was looking at me. His eyes were distant and blurred as if caught in a world far from this one. When I moved towards him, something flickered across his face so fast I could not read it. Then he was gone again, emotionless, distant. My heart broke.

            "Daelan," I said, reaching out to him.

            His eyes watched me, but I felt as though he didn't see me. "Are you real?"

            Was that him talking? His lips moved, but the voice was not the one that had comforted and calmed me so many times before. It was not the voice that had lulled me to sleep it was not the voice that had warmed my soul; it was not the voice that had broken the curse upon my heart.

            "Are you real?" he demanded again, this time in an anguished bellow that made my heart ache and contract with fear at the same time. There was a metallic hiss as he drew his sword and held its point towards me. For a third time, he asked me, "Are you real? If I cut you will you bleed? Or will you only disappear like all the rest? All the other ghosts and wisps of smoke that have come to me in her image? Will you bleed?"

            "Daelan," I sobbed as he took a threatening step forward, a thousand different emotions flickering in his eyes: anger, hate, despair, anguish, pain.

            "Will you bleed?" His voice was like thunder. I cringed from it, so afraid of him, the one I loved most in the world. I had done this to him. I had run from him and turned him into this.

            "Will you bleed?"

            I fell to my knees, hunched over and sobbing. "I will bleed," I gasped. "I will bleed, Daelan. Oh, gods, I will bleed."

            Something heavy hit the ground beside me and I gazed at Daelan's sword to my tears. I could not bring myself to look at him, for I was too afraid to see what was in his eyes. It would not be the love that I had imagined as still being there that last turn of the seasons, of that I was sure. Too much time had passed; too many things had not been said before I left.

            "Laralaine?" Why did he now have to sound so much the way he had before I had left? It would have been easier had he sounded different, like a stranger. Why did he have to say my name the way he did? As if I meant the world to him?

            "Oh, Laralaine." He knelt before me with a thud as though he had no more strength to stand. Still, I refused to look at him, staring fixedly as his sword lying beside me. His hands gently framed my face and tilted it up to him, but I screwed my eyes shut. To look at him would only bring me pain. To stare into the product of the torment I had brought on him would kill me.

            "Look at me, Laralaine. Please, just look at me," he begged.

            I could refuse him nothing. Not my heart, not my soul, not my life. I opened my eyes.

            There it was. The pain. The brokenness. The betrayal. It was the look of an abandoned hound, hurt and denied food; a starving pup who the parents of young children forbade them to play with.

            "I'm so sorry, Daelan." Tears rolled down my cheeks and I was powerless to stop them. "I'm so sorry."

            He shook his head slowly and his hands dropped away. I looked down at the sand and waited for him to get up and leave me forever. But he didn't.

            "Why?" he asked instead. "Why did you leave me?"

            My eyes closed, I wished with all my heart that he had not asked me that. He could have done anything else and it would not have brought as much pain to me as this did.

            "Did you hate me so much? Were you so desperate for your freedom?" His voice was rising, but it did not matter to me. All I could hear was the hurt in his voice. I wanted to take it away, wanted to erase my life from the sands of the universe and have it start all over again from the day I was conceived. I wanted to grow up the way I would have if Circe had never cast her spell. I wanted to fall in love with Daelan all over again, as the girl I should have been. I wanted the life I should have had.

            "You could have told me," he said. "I would never have held you against your will. I would never have forced you to stay with me. I only wanted you to be happy."

            I promise I will make you happy someday.

            "I did not hate you," I whispered.

            "But still you left."

            I nodded slowly, numbly. "I had to."


            I shook my head then. "I can't remember. I just needed to leave before…"

            "Before what?" he spat. "Before we got married?"

            "No!" My head snapped up and I stared into his eyes. They were so full of emotion that I felt trapped by them. "I would give anything to be your wife, Daelan. I would give anything to feel as if…as if you loved me." I whispered the last words so softly, I half hoped he had not heard; half feared having to repeat myself.

            He was silent for a long moment. At last, his hand came up to brush my hair back from my face. "Do you think, then, that I do not love you?"

            "I'm not sure. After what you said that day we fought…" My voice trailed off; the pain of that long ago argument still bore a slight sting.

            Daelan shook his head and leaned towards me. His forehead rested against mine and I felt a feathery rush at his touch. "I was a fool, Laralaine. Never think that what I said that day held any meaning. I let something from the past come between us and I was an idiot to do so."

            "Ronan told me what happened with to your father, Daelan. I'm sorry. I would not have asked if I had known it would pain you."

            His hand took mine and raised it to my lips. The familiar gesture warmed me and I found myself letting my guard down, leaning into him.

            "Daelan, there's something I have to tell you."

            I felt him stiffen, but he did not pull away as I feared he would, but there was a tinge of fear in his voice when he spoke. "What is it?"

            "I love you."

            Nothing. For a moment of eternity, he said nothing. I waited with bated breath for something to happen. For him to draw away so that the earth could swallow me whole or the sun come crashing down upon me.

            "I love you, too."

            Perhaps there wasn't really any difference when I opened my eyes; perhaps it was just the result of coming out of the darkness behind my eyelids. Yet the sun seemed to shine brighter and the sky looked bluer; the sea appeared to sparkle more than it ever had and the sand beneath me looked more golden than any I had seen before.

            And Daelan's eyes were once again the warm, loving brown that had looked upon me that first day we had met beside the sea.

A.N. Oh. My. God. I'm. Done. This. Story. It took me three hundred and sixty-two days, but I did it! *sigh* Oh my. I need a big bar of white chocolate now – though that won't be very good because I'm hyper enough from euphoria, but oh well! I'm done!

            Thank you to everyone who reviewed, especially those of you have been with me from the early days. lol. Sounds like a business anniversary or something. And for those of you who asked me to get this published, I'm working on it. I did find a publisher who accepts unsolicited fantasy and sci-fi manuscripts, but their minimum word count requirement is 80,000 and Laralaine's just over half that, so I either need to find another publisher or add a whole bunch of stuff.

            There are a few intrigues I had in mind, but didn't put down in this draft cause other stuff was happening, but there's one in particular that I'd like you guys to vote on: do you think (and please don't anyone faint when they read this) Laralaine should have Daelan's child while in Grailee?

            Now, I realized I'd have to screw around with a whole load of stuff to get that to actually work, but do you think it would be a good thing to put in there or not? Anyways, I don't know when or if I'll be posting the second draft, but I'm gonna start editing tomorrow or the day after that or when I start school and have the added task of avoiding homework and studying for tests.

            Anyway, thank you all for reading this story and reading this rather long author's note when I know you all probably want to bask in the warmth of the ending to literary work, but just one more thing. I know there are some typos and a couple of spelling mistakes in here, but it occurred to me the other day that the reason some people might find more than I do is because I use Canadian English and a lot may use U.S. or British English or whatever. So, that's why 'color' is spelt 'colour' and all that.

            Alright, I'll shut the hell up now. Go and review, please. Bye-bye.