I immediately regretted the words that came out of my mouth as soon as I had said them. Courtney's face had immediately crumpled and her eyes had filled up with tears as she fled from the room.
I didn't know what to do. On the one hand I was meant to be watching the door so no one would disturb Alexandria and Aiden, but on the other I couldn't let Courtney run off like that thinking I didn't care.
I followed my instincts and ran after Courtney, praying that no one would want to go outside before I got back. I knew exactly where Courtney would be, hiding in her room, the door firmly shut behind her. I followed in her footsteps along the corridor and up the grand staircase to the first floor, then along another corridor to her bedroom door.
'Courtney?' I said softly, knocking on the door. 'Courtney, can I come in?' There was no response so I opened the door anyway, treading carefully into my friend's personal space. 'I'm so sorry,' I said, approaching Courtney's bed where she was curled up in a tight ball. 'I wasn't thinking. Tonight has been a rough night, with my father finding out about me and Luke and Alexandria and Aiden. Courtney please say something. I feel like an idiot talking to myself.'
'Is it my fault?'
'Is what your fault?' I sat down on the edge of the bed, gently placing my hand on Courtney's shoulder.
'Is it my fault that my father hasn't arranged a marriage for me?'
'Of course not. How can that be your fault? It's your father's decision whether or not to arrange a marriage for you. It just turns out that your father isn't as strict as mine.'
'But is it because he doesn't want me to be forced into a marriage I don't want, or is it because he doesn't think he would be able to find someone who would want to marry me?'
'That's stupid Courtney. You are beautiful and clever and a wonderful friend. Any man would be lucky to have you. And Nathaniel is pretty keen on you.' I felt Courtney laugh, the bed moving slightly. 'So don't put yourself down.'
'Thanks Aislinn,' Courtney said, sitting up and hugging me. 'That's what I needed.'
'Want to go back downstairs?' I asked. 'I'm meant to be watching the door for Alexandria and I will be in big trouble if someone has decided to get some air.'
'OK then, I'll clean myself up and join you downstairs in a minute.'
I hurried out of Courtney's room and back downstairs. I could hear the commotion in the hall as soon as I reached the grand staircase.
'Oh no,' I muttered, breaking into a run. 'What's happened now?'