Through the glass, I can see him in the library. Hunched over, bent knees, yet that smile I’ve come to know so well remains stretched upon his face. We moved to a smaller palace, one that feels more like home and has no bad memories tainting it. It’s fenced in just in case we face anymore threats, and the children have endless room to play. There are two guest houses, both for mine and Stellan’s family, and they all visit regularly.
“Sorry, Piper – what was that?”
“I said, why are you standing there?”
I chuckle. Always more blunt than her twin sister Arietta, Piper is a headstrong blonde that no doubt takes after her father.
“Just lost in thought,” I say, placing my arms around their shoulders. “Let’s go say hi.”
Even from outside the glass door, I can hear Stellan laughing. Jack is a boisterous toddler, and one who never fails to offer a hug each morning he wakes up.
“No, Jack!” Stellan laughs. “That’s not food!”
“Food!” Jack shouts, flinging his little arms up in the air.
“I said that’s not food!”
“Trouble?” I laugh as we make our way in.
Stellan looks over and brightens. “My girls!”
“Papa!” Ariette and Piper cheer, rushing forward to hug him.
“How was town?” Stellan asks, kneeling down to their height.
“Good, papa!” Arietta beams. “We gave out lots and lots of food!”
“And I taught little kids to sing the ABCs!” Piper cuts in.
“Well it sounds like you had a very productive day,” Stellan encourages.
“Did you?” I ask as I bend down to give Jack a kiss.
Stellan smiles. “That depends, my dear Lyric. Does a pajama party count?”
He makes his way over to me and bends down, speaking softly to my stomach. Our fourth child is on the way, and we’ve already prepared the nursery. The kids are excited beyond belief, and they ask me nearly every day, “when is baby coming?”. Stellan thinks it’s hilarious, and so do I, really.
“Papa, do you really have to go?” Arietta asks softly.
Stellan’s smile falters, but he perks up for the children’s sake.
“I do, but I won’t be gone long.” He assures. “You’re going to have a girl party!”
“Not when Jack’s here,” Piper says, sticking her tongue out. “He smells.”
“I smell!” Jack cheers.
Stellan gives Arietta a big hug. “I’ll be home before you know it. And you’ll be busy helping your mom out with the baby. Soon you’ll wake up and I’ll be making you breakfast like I was never gone.”
“Pancakes and bacon?” Arietta asks.
“Pancakes and bacon,” he assures.
“Pancakes!” Jack cheers again.
Stellan gives Piper a hug as well, murmuring assurances in her ear. She’s less emotional than Arietta, but we both know she’s hurting. Jack is too young to understand what’s going on, but he’ll feel the loss as well.
“Come on,” Stellan smiles, holding hands with the girls. “We don’t want to be late!”
“Papa, s’cold,” Jack whines as he clutches Stellan’s neck.
“I know, my boy.” He says. He attempts to comfort the small child, but it’s hard with cold, unforgiving armor encasing his body.
“Pancakes?” Jack asks, looking at Stellan with watery eyes.
Stellan boops his son’s nose. “Pancakes.”
When Jack wiggles out of Stellan’s arms, he comes over to me.
“I’m sorry,” he says earnestly.
I shrug. “You promised. And this will be good for both kingdoms. When you come home, the five of us will be waiting.”
“I’ll miss you every day I’m gone,” he whispers, holding back tears.
“Take care of yourself, okay?” I say, meeting his green eyes for what might be the last time.
“I will. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than with you and the kids, and I’m coming home. I swear it.”
“Stellan!” A light voice calls. “Lyric! Goodness, it’s been so long.”
I turn to find Raina, prim and polished as ever, walking over in the foggy morning.
“Raina,” I greet, hugging her as best as I can with my stomach.
“I’m so sorry we have to do this,” She says honestly.
“You’re the rightful leader of your kingdom,” I assure her. “This is necessary.”
“And you’ll be my very first ally. I’ll take care of your husband, Lyric. He won’t get into any trouble with me around.”
I laugh as best as I’m able. “I don’t doubt it.”
We all say a final goodbye, hugging and crying. The girls are in tears, begging Stellan not to go. It makes me just as emotional, and I hold myself back from joining in. It seems as if everyone else has gotten their happy ending – we’ve locked Tucker away, Ming is out travelling the world, and from what I’ve heard, Luke has custody of Salem, much to Kara’s dismay. Yet here I stand, losing the one thing I fought so very hard for.
As Raina and Stellan walk away to join the rest of their combined army, a tear slips down my cheek.
Will this be the last time I see my husband?