“Well, here we are!” Lamorak said, flinging open the door and ushering Garnet into the room. “The main event, finally. Speak now or forever hold your peace, my love.”
Garnet paused in sizing up the room — the room that was Lamorak’s alone now, but would be theirs come the new year — and shot a baleful glance at Lamorak. “It is not time for that line yet.” She glanced at the bedroom again. “And I refuse to let you tell met that I won’t be able to redecorate this room at will.”
“Ah, but why would you want to redecorate it at all? After all, the most important part is right behind you.”
Garnet glanced over her shoulder. The shield? It wasn’t even in a proper Gwynedd shield, for all that it was in an approximation of Gwynedd colors. Then a finger tapped her shoulder.
“I was referring,” Lamorak’s blue eyes sparkled above his rueful grin, “to me.”
Lamorak grinned and ducked in to kiss her just where her shoulder met her neck. Such a vulnerable spot … and such a safe feeling, when he held her shoulders like that and caressed them. “So in all seriousness,” he asked, his breath stirring her hair until he rocked back on his heels, “what’s the verdict?”
Garnet cast a second glance around the room. “It’s certainly very … spacious.”
“That bad, eh?”
Garnet winced. “I didn’t mean to …”
“Relax, Garnet, I won’t be insulted.” Lamorak locked his arms around her waist and Garnet leaned back. This — this was what being able to breathe, safe and easy, felt like. This was the closest she was going to get to heaven while still on this earth.
He kept talking, so she tilted her head back and listened, letting the words wash over her while she could feel his chest vibrating in tune. “I haven’t done much to the room, you know. It was mine before Camford, but Aglovale cleaned it out pretty well when he took it over while I was at school. And he … well … if you think I’m utilitarian, you haven’t met him.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Garnet replied, for though she had met Aglovale, they had never discussed decorating or either of their tastes in it.
“Anyway, I came back home, and … well, I couldn’t bring myself to care, really. I had a bed, a desk, a wardrobe — what else did I need? I doubt I gave two thoughts together to the room — except, of course, during the Great Redecorating.”
Garnet snickered. Ah, yes, that project — the one in which Lamorak’s parents apparently decided that they had had enough of bare stone walls and floors and plastered, panelled and floored the entire castle within a space of a few short months. She was surprised even the vastly patient Lady Eilwen and Lord Pellinore had managed to survive that episode with sanity intact.
“And just between you and me …” Lamorak spun Garnet effortlessly and whispered into her ear. “I didn’t think much about it then, either. I just said yes to the first samples my mother showed to me.”
“Lamorak!” Garnet giggled. “Please tell me you don’t plan on doing that to me, too!”
Lamorak was suspiciously silent. Garnet leaned back to find a pair of quivering lips and two sapphire eyes that wouldn’t meet hers. “Lamorak!”
“What? Would you rather me lie?”
“I’d much rather you took an interest. You’re the one who has to sleep here, you know.”
“Precisely. And unlike some, I sleep with my eyes closed. In the dark besides. What do I care what the room looks like?”
“But it’s the first think you see upon waking,” Garnet pointed out. She absently ran her fingers through Lamorak’s hair. She wanted to know how he managed it, having curls like that while keeping them soft and so wonderfully smooth. Then again, he was a man … he was Lamorak. If she ever asked, he’d look at her in shock at the notion that curls didn’t just grow like that. Though he ought to know better, given how he’d never been much for running his hand through her hair. After all, that sort of operation was all too likely to end in pulled hair and stuck fingers.
“Ah,” Lamorak whispered, “that’s only for a bit more than a month. Then we’ll be married, and the first thing I’ll see when I wake up will be your lovely face.”
But even this — even resting her head on Lamorak’s shoulder, even feeling his strong arms around her, his cheek nuzzling hers, had its downside. There was always a pin to hand to pop her bubble of bliss. For there was nothing like being held like this to make her eyes go unfocused and fuzzy. And being so unfocused gave her a good idea of what would greet her in those mornings when Lamorak got up before she did.
That was the sort of thing that made her vision focus again in a hurry. “… Lamorak?”
“Er … I know you didn’t precisely enjoy the Great Redecorating …”
“Didn’t enjoy? I only got through it with copious amounts of liquid courage! You know that!”
“Oh, stop. Drinking just a little too much to ride back home and staying the night in Avilion or the castle to avoid the construction work when you could does not count as needing to drink your way through it.” Garnet tapped Lamorak’s nose. “In any case — Lamorak … I hate to say it, but … I’m really not that fond of the paneling.”
Lamorak sighed and broke away from her, but his hand still rested on her waist. “Let me guess. The floors and the ceiling have to go, too?”
She would have protested that she liked the floors, for she did, but the last bit caught her off-guard. “The ceiling?”
“Aye, the ceiling. Come now, if you’re going to change everything, you might as well change everything — that’s my parents’ motto!”
Garnet looked up — and blinked. “They … this wasn’t the ceiling used when we were little, was it?”
“When we were little, there wasn’t a ceiling — unless you count the underside of the floor above as a ceiling. Which I’m not sure I do.”
“I … see. If it makes you feel better, Lamorak, I wasn’t planning on changing the ceiling.” You’d have to notice the ceiling for that.
“Oh, thank the Lord,” Lamorak gasped. Garnet blinked. It almost sounded — genuine, not teasing. “That was the worst part of it. You have no idea what it is to sleep unsoundly, Garnet, until you’ve spent the night jumping at every little noise, terrified that a load of wet plaster was about to land on you.”
Garnet rather thought that she did have an idea of what it was to sleep unsoundly, given that she had slept — or not slept — night after night between the time her mother attacked her and when she was arrested. But she would let that lie for now. Or forever, if she could possibly manage it. She decided to take refuge in common sense. “Why didn’t you sleep in a different room, then?”
“Garnet, this was when Dindrane and her children were staying with us.”
Garnet blinked. Who on earth would redecorate on that scale when one’s home was being occupied by so many others? Then again … with Dindrane’s marriage in the last stages of the crumble, with Nimue and Gawaine and Gareth’s futures all so up in the air, and with all the struggle that had gone on with her and Lamorak’s betrothal … maybe the Gwynedds, Lord Pellinore or Lady Eilwen or both, just felt that they needed something they could control.
Or maybe there was an even more practical explanation at hand. Maybe helping Dindrane design her own house had awakened a similar urge in Lady Eilwen. And it may well have made sense to have all the workers working on the two sites at the same time. It wasn’t as if there was more than a lane to separate the two homes, after all.
But none of that was either here or there. “I … see.” Garnet plastered a bright smile to her face. “But how would you feel, Lamorak, about having … a seating area? Something else to take up all of this …” Garnet waved around the room, “Space.”
“As long as there’s a bed and a place for me to store my clothes, Garnet, you may do as you please.”
“You’ll regret that,” Garnet chuckled, even as she glanced around the room. She would need at minimum … warm wood paneling, she decided, something to go well with the floors. And tapestries, to break up the endless expanses of wall. She would write to Dannie about it as soon as she got back to Camford, or, if she got an invitation to the palace, she would hope that Princess Lynn invited Dannie as well. Dannie would be able to set her up with some good tapestries from one of her parent’s shops; Garnet was sure of it.
Come to think of it, Dannie could probably help her with a lot of this … she had one of the best eyes Garnet had ever seen, and she seemed to understand and enjoy the creative aspect of dressing and decorating in ways Garnet could only envy. Hopefully she would be willing to help …
“Uh oh,” Lamorak murmured. “I’ve created a monster, haven’t I?”
“Unleashed one, more –” A sleepy-sounding yip arrested Garnet’s attention. “What … was that?”
“Oh, I didn’t mention that Charity and Roland had another litter?” Lamorak blinked innocently. “That would be Asha, I believe.”
“Ash–” Garnet turned around and saw a sleepy, huge-footed puppy stumbling out of the cushion that was far too big for it. “Oh, for her coat! She’s adorable, Lamorak!” Garnet hurried over to pick up the little squirming ball of fluff.
“The name was Dilys’s idea,” he remarked as Garnet tickled the puppy’s tummy. “I just hope she doesn’t turn white or black before she grows up. That would match our family’s luck with the dogs, you know. Delyth still swears that we should have named Tarik Rabbit.”
Garnet chuckled, thinking of the dog with the rather … unusual ears, who was now owned by Morgan and Accolon. “Ah, well, this one will still be a cute little Asha even if she does get a milk-white coat — won’t you, sweetie?” she crooned, or as near as Garnet ever got to crooning. Asha yipped and wagged her tail.
There was a loud silence coming from behind her. Garnet glanced over her shoulder to see Lamorak smiling at her. No … smirking. But not in a cruel way. He was just amused … but she wasn’t in on the joke. “What?”
The smirk deepened; he took a step forward and caressed her cheek. Garnet suddenly understood all of Asha’s yipping and and tail-wagging. She felt a faint flush coming over her.
“I was just thinking …”
“Yip! Yip, yip, yip!” Garnet jumped and stared at the puppy in her hands. She yipped again, wiggled, and shot Garnet a look that could only be called “sad puppy.”
“Oh, you want down? Here …” Garnet let her down, and Asha wandered out of her hands and onto the floor. She shook herself, then looked up, eyes wide, when Garnet started to laugh.
“She’s just adorable,” she remarked to Lamorak as the puppy wandered off, still shaking out her fur.
“And my mother would approve,” Lamorak pointed out. “A woman who babies puppies, she would say, is only too happy to baby …”
“Oh … heh,” Garnet laughed.
“Don’t be nervous,” Lamorak whispered. He drew Garnet closer to him. She leaned her chin on his shoulder. “You’ll be a wonderful mother.”
“Lamorak, don’t …”
“You have my mother to help you,” he continued doggedly. “And Dindrane. And Lady Morgan, too. And you also have … well, you’ve had a wonderful example of what not to do.”
“Anything my mother would have done, do the opposite,” Garnet spat.
Lamorak shrugged. At least he didn’t say anything. For if he had — how was Garnet supposed to reply? Morgause had hurt Lamorak almost as badly as he had hurt Garnet.
Almost. Almost. She hadn’t had a lifetime to warp Lamorak.
As Garnet often did when thoughts of her mother rose from the grave she’d tried to bury them in, she reached for a distraction — any distraction — anything to slay the monster and continue on with her life in peace …
How lucky for her that she had such a delicious one to hand …
But there was a downside to distractions. There was, first, the fact that Lamorak knew that she was distracting herself and what she was distracting herself from. Or maybe she was distracting both of them. Certainly he threw himself into the kiss with all the passion of a man who didn’t have any shadows lying between himself and his beloved.
But there was a downside to passion, too. For it worked so very well that neither of them heard the knock on the door, or the door slowly opening …
“Oh, goodness gracious!”
Lamorak and Garnet sprung apart, Garnet backing away even when Garnet strode forward. Then Lamorak burst into laughter. “Jeannie! Oh, Lord! Sorry about that!”
Jeannie … Garnet peeked around Lamorak to catch another glance at the older woman. Wispy blonde hair flying around her face … a large, comfortable figure … an apron somehow perfectly white and starched to the point where it could stand up on its own …
“Garnet, you remember Jeannie, don’t you?” Lamorak continued, a hand against the small of Garnet’s back, guiding her forward. “Our nurse?”
Of course! Jeannie! The woman always in charge of supervising her and the twins, back so long ago when Garnet used to accompany her father when he came to meet with Lord Pellinore. Lamorak back then had only been the twins’ older brother: mysterious, far away, and just a little bit scary.
“Of course I remember,” Garnet replied, sticking her hand out for Jeannie to shake. Jeannie took it with a smile that Garnet would have called motherly, had she a mother who was able to smile at things that didn’t cause pain for others.
“It’s wonderful, seein’ ye again, Lady Garnet,” Jeannie replied. “Ye’ve grown up right pretty, if you don’t mind me sayin’.”
“Garnet,” Lamorak put his arm around her waist, “has never minded being told the truth.”
Jeannie clucked her tongue and waved her finger at Lamorak. “Now, m’lord! Ye ought to let the lady speak for herself. I must be apologizin’ to ye, Lady Garnet,” Jeannie added. “I tried my best to civilize this young scamp … but …” She shook her head and clucked her tongue. “Ye see what the results were.”
“What? Jeannie!” Lamorak gasped. “What could possibly be uncivilized about me?”
Jeannie’s eyes sparkled as she grinned at Lamorak; then she turned back to Garnet. “However, m’lady, in me defense, as Lord Pellinore would say … ye should have seen him when he was two. Why, half the time he’d be escapin’ from the nursery with his tunic still in his bed, and his napkin on his –”
“That’s enough!” Lamorak interrupted, slinging his arm around Garnet’s shoulder and holding her closer. “I don’t think Garnet needs to hear anything more, do you, Garnet?”
“Oh …” Garnet glanced at Jeannie, who was shooting her a smile that could only be called complicit. “I think I could stand to hear where Lamorak put his napkin …”
“It’s nowhere near as good as where Aglovale put his napkin, is it, Jeannie?”
“Lord Aglovale? Oh, m’lord, whatever else Aglovale did when he was young, he at least kept his napkin where it belonged!”
“But didn’t he put things into his napkin?” Lamorak pointed out.
“Oh, that!” Jeannie laughed. “Oh, m’lady, the stories I can tell ye! Little Lord Aglovale was a magpie-child, he was! Anythin’ that glittered — pop! Into the napkin it went! Why, he once made off with Lord Pellinore’s weddin’ ring — what a to-do that was!” Jeannie laughed.
Garnet chuckled. She would have to pass that story along to Kay — he would be able to use it better than she could. But in the meantime … “But I’m still confused. What did Lamorak used to do with his napkin?”
“He used to –” Jeannie cast a glance at Lamorak, who was shaking his head and waving his arms frantically. “Well, never mind that. We can share that story later. Sometime before the twins go off ter Camford, remind me, m’lady.”
“Before the twins go to Camford?” Garnet asked, mystified.
“Well, there ain’t much use for a nurse around the place when all the chicks are grown up and out of the nest, is there?” Jeannie laughed.
“Jeannie, what are you talking about? You’ll be raising Garnet and my children! Trying to civilize them, too — I wish you luck with that, Jeannie.”
“Now, now, m’lord,” Jeannie replied, “who gets to be the nurse is for the mother to decide.” She nodded to Garnet. “Lady Garnet might well want her own nurse to help her with her children. I wouldn’t dream of steppin’ up as a nurse if the mother wasn’t completely comfortable.”
Slim chance of that — first of all, Garnet’s first and best nurse had been Accolon, and she rather doubted he would want to do nursing again. And Jeannie … Jeannie had been the nurse to Lamorak, to Dindrane, to Dilys and Delyth. And she’d worked wonders there, hadn’t she? There was, perhaps, the matter of Aglovale to be considered, but nobody was perfect. And Jeannie seemed so … motherly …
If Garnet didn’t have it in her to be a good mother, then at least her children would be in good hands with Jeannie.
“I think,” Garnet murmured, “we might be able to come to an arrangement, Jeannie.”
Jeannie beamed. But she didn’t spend long beaming. “Well! I should be goin’ back to me work. It was wonderful seein’ ye again, Lady Garnet.”
Garnet nodded. “The same to you, Jeannie.”
Jeannie curtsied and bustled out of the room, pausing only to grab the feather duster she had dropped when she first came into the room.
“Our jewel girls will be in good hands,” Lamorak murmured.
“Our — what?” Garnet asked.
“Our … oh, hell, I said that out loud, didn’t I?” Lamorak smiled ruefully at her.
“You … did … jewel girls?” Garnet narrowed her eyes. “Is that what you said?”
“And our boys, of course,” Lamorak murmured. “But …” He pushed her hair from her eyes. “But our girls …”
“You said jewel girls,” Garnet repeated.
“Aye. I did. Garnet …” Lamorak sighed, then he shrugged. “Have you ever thought of naming your daughters for jewels?”
Garnet blinked. “You’re joking. You know how I feel about … my name.” After all, normal Sims named their daughters for other Sims. Garnet’s mother? Garnet’s mother named her for a thing.
“How do you know it was her idea?” Lamorak murmured. “Garnet … I’ve watched my father with my sisters. And I’ve watched your father with you. And let’s not even get into watching Tom with Elise. Did you ever think — maybe — it was your father who named you that?”
Garnet blinked. “I never … thought of that …” She had always assumed it was her mother — it was just like her mother, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?
“And think,” Lamorak snaked his arm around her waist and drew her closer, “of a little girl with your dark eyes — called Amber. Or blue eyes like Nimue — called Sapphire.”
“Sapphire,” Garnet repeated. “That … that could be pretty …”
“See?” Lamorak murmured, nuzzling closer to her. “Our jewel girls.”
Garnet smiled. “Our … jewel girls.”
It didn’t have half as bad a ring as she had thought.