Tobih stuck his hand into the small bag and pulled out two pieces of paper that were bent around something bulky. He passed one to me and waited for me to open it. When I did there was a star-shaped chocolate chip cookie inside of it. “I’ve been saving these for a special occasion, but yesterday you said you wanted something sweet. I didn’t have enough to go around, so I thought we could share them together.” He sent his usual smile my way and unwrapped his as well. He waited for me to bite into mine before he would do the same with his.
I smiled, “Thank you, Tobih. You’re so kind to me.” Taking another bite, I held it over the paper to catch any crumbs. We sat there in silence and ate the pair of cookies.
Eventually he turned to meet my eyes again, “Do you trust me completely?” He asked, but I know he knew the answer. He waited for me to nod before continuing, “I’m about to tell you what happened,” and with this he surveyed the area, “but I need you to hear all of it. No, I need you to understand it, how I feel about it.”
“I understand, Tobih.” I assured him. His eyes didn’t move from mine and I could feel the power he hid behind them. Behind that sheepish grin was someone who was stronger than they let on, maybe even knew.
“Angel attacked me.” My heart sank as I heard the words I had so dreaded to hear. “You know how she gets. Sometimes Angel loses herself, like she’s not quite there. Her emotions control her more than she would like to admit.” The rain suddenly began pouring down. “I don’t blame her for what she did. I’m not angry and I’d rather put it all behind me. She can’t control it and I understand that. I hope others will as well.” He sighed and this was the first time he looked completely away from me, “It’s just as much my fault.”
“I’m having a difficult time believing that.” I cut in.
His reply was quick. “She told me she loved me,” his voice broke on those words. I couldn’t see his face but I had an idea of what it must have looked like. So she had decided to pursue him after all. That’s why she was in such an amiable mood just before leaving with him. That’s why she left with only him. “I couldn’t return her feelings.” Tobih buried his face in his hands, “I’m such a fool.”
I brought him into my arms, embracing him as hard as I felt I could. “No, You’re not a fool at all. Sometimes you have to sacrifice the happiness of your friends to keep the both of you happy. Would she have been happy to find out later that you didn’t have those same feelings for her?”
“I could have learned to love her, she deserves it, doesn’t she? I could have given it a chance, to have given it time.” He was sobbing his words into my shoulder. I pet his head again in an attempt to help calm him down.
“I can’t say I know any better, but that doesn’t seem like the way to start a relationship to me. She attacked you for not returning her feelings, I-”
“Please, don’t fault her for that. She’s not that kind of person, she really isn’t. She’s confused, she’s just confused…” The pleas rung out against my shoulder and he gripped the hem at the bottom of my top. “It’s no different when she worries about you doing something stupid. If you can’t hate her for attacking you, then don’t hate her for doing the same to me.” But I did feel resentment towards her. There’s an obvious difference between someone hurting you and someone hurting your loved ones. “She’s so ashamed of herself. For once she acknowledged her fault. For once she apologized. There’s pain in her eyes, Claire. She needs you and Ragnvaldr more than ever right now.”
I sighed, just as he had earlier, “You have a knack for finding yourself trouble.” My hand still swept through his wet hair. I did know Angel. I did know it had to be something she regretted. He told me she had apologized for it. It was as if I suddenly knew what the tense feeling was in her after her return was. “I can’t promise I will ever trust her with you again. I don’t even want you out of my sight, Tobih. Just look at yourself,” I ran my hand across the scratches and bruises on his arms, “She could have killed you.”
“She didn’t do as much damage as it looks. I tripped over a pile of rocks during our scuffle. Save for two, her attacks were mostly aimed at my armor.” He sat up, his eyes were red and despite his best efforts to dry his cheeks before sitting up, it was clear that he had been crying. He took the shorter tuft of hair between his finger and thumb and then touched the scratch across his cheek, which had turned an angry red from the salt in his tears.
I ran my finger across it again and made my way to the hair that had been cut. With it in my hands I lamented, “I’ll have to style this for you so it doesn’t look so odd… I’ve always really liked your hair, I’m a bit sad to see it like this.” I was sad to see him like this. I wasn’t so willing to forgive and I certainly wouldn’t forget, but I couldn’t cause him any more pain and drama right now. “As for Angel, she’s going to get a serious talking to.”
“I’m here so let’s get this over with,” Her voice rang through the humid air. I quickly turned to face her, the norn who had silently crept up in front of us.
“You.” The anger welled up inside of me. I felt the fire within me growing stronger and stronger with each second. I didn’t know what to say and at the same time everything wanted to come out at once. Before I knew it, I was already standing with my fists clenched. It wasn’t long after that that one of those fists had made contact with her ribs. I fear that if I had been any taller that I could have reached her face.
She faced away from me, bearing through what pain I had caused her, “I deserved that.”
“No, you deserve much more than that. What were you thinking?! You could have killed him. You have jeopardized any friendship that you had with any of us!” I gritted my teeth after shouting at her. I couldn’t hold back my words.
“You are right. And I wasn’t thinking. I lost control.” She didn’t even try to fight back. She couldn’t even look either of us in the eyes and so Angel stood facing away from the both of us, her arms crossed. “Tobih.” Her voice was precise and uncharacteristically softened, “I can’t even begin to apologize enough for what I did to you.” She lowered her head and her hair covered her eyes.
Tobih stood up and walked to her. She backed away as he did.
I think it was at that moment that I truly believed that she regretted her actions. It didn’t make them any better but it did make her current intentions clear.
“Please don’t come near me right now.” Angel continued to be unlike herself. Tobih stopped in his tracks.
“Angel, I still trust you and I know you. I know that you handle things differently and I know that sometimes these things just can’t be helped.” He tried to calm her down and coax her to him.
“Just…. don’t.” She turned completely around. It was then that I noticed she had come out unarmed. The sword that never left her person was missing. “I do not know how to deal with any of this right now.”
“I’m sorry, Angel.” He called out loudly. Her hands tightened into fists. I kept my guard up for Tobih’s sake. I could still feel the fire inside, but seeing her this way had calmed my anger a bit. Tobih didn’t move from his spot.
“I wish I could say that this is the most shame I have felt.” Her voice quavered, “But I can say that this is the second worst shame I have brought upon myself.” She stood there quietly. After a bit she finally spoke up again, “How can I live with myself? I was so afraid. I still am.”
Tobih finally moved towards her, “Even if you tell me to go away, I could never leave you, Angel. I won’t.” He hugged her from behind. Angel raised her arm and I readied myself instinctively. Instead, she turned and placed her hand against the back of his head and held him close to her. Under her breath I could still hear her apologies to him.
“Claire, I hope that one day I can prove myself to you again.” She shot a glance to me along with her words.
Even though I considered her words, I had a hard time bringing my anger against her down. “I hope so, too.”