Stay anyways

For once, Fletcher looked uncertain. “I shouldn’t be here.”

Nemissa watched her son down in the courtyard, playing with the group of orphans. She didn’t respond to Fletcher fast, because she was too busy trying to understand what he meant. “You are always welcome in Castlehaven. You know this. Is there a problem?”

“A problem?” Fletcher pulled his ever-present cloak around himself. “You have been too kind. Your people even kinder. You know that the rest of the world would see me as a monster.”

“Maybe you are,” Nemissa said. “But what does monster even mean?”

“If only other peoples questioned the same concepts.” He walked away from the window, into the shadow. She recognized this tendency in him, something he did when he was even more aware of his separation from the living.

“Don’t worry about what they think. You are here. One of us, for as long as you remain.”

She turned from the window to look at him. He did not return her gaze. “You have no idea how I’ve longed to hear those words.” Nemissa could not restrain a growing smile, which faded at his next words. “Yet it changes nothing. I should go.”

Something twisted inside of her, something she hadn’t realized was there. At least, was still there. “At least tell me why. I’ve grown so fond of your company.”

“And I yours.” His shoulders slumped. “Perhaps too fond. If I stay, I will wish to overstep my bounds.”

Confusion overcame her, until he finally looked at her. A look she hadn’t seen in so long. A look she never thought to see again. It eased the scarring in her soul that she had thought she must endure forever.

Nemissa smiled. “Stay anyway.”

Perhaps Fletcher understood her then, because he no longer spoke of leaving.

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