The atmosphere was tense as Rowena sat eating breakfast the next morning. She didn’t know what Artem had told the others, if he’d said anything, but she didn’t want to speak first in case she regretted it later. She hadn’t spoken to Artem since he’d stormed out the evening before. She had been asleep when he’d come back, and had left for the main room before he had woken up. If he was still mad at her, she wanted their first meeting to be somewhere public, even if they were surrounded by criminals.
Ishak noticed the change in Rowena. She was very quiet, she wasn’t eating anything and her eyes kept flicking back to the staircase on the other side of the room. It worried him.
‘Are you alright Ena? You seem a little… distracted this morning.’
‘Pardon?’ Her eyes forced themselves to look away from the staircase where she was watching for Artem’s arrival, and to Ishak.
‘I said are you alright?’
‘Yes, just had a bad night’s sleep,’ she lied smoothly, turning back to the stairs.
‘Are you sure, because I’m positive that staircase isn’t that interesting.’ Rowena blushed and hid behind her hair. ‘Is everything OK between you and Artem?’
‘Of course,’ she replied a little too quickly. ‘Why shouldn’t things be alright?’
‘No reason. I just can’t think of another reason for why you are acting so jumpy.’ When Ena refused to respond to this, Ishak pushed further. ‘If you don’t tell someone about it then it’ll just get worse, you do know that. And I’m sure you don’t want to tell Hans or Jem or Erik your darkest secrets.’ The thought of talking to Erik about what had happened between her and Artem actually made Rowena shudder. What was it about that man that repulsed her so much?
‘But what makes you think I would want to talk about it with you?’ Her tone was unnecessarily sharp and she immediately realized she’d done it again. ‘I’m sorry that came out completely wrong. What I meant was, you’re Artem’s most trusted friend, so I’m not sure that you should be hearing this from me.’
‘But I’m your friend too aren’t I? And I don’t care what Artem thinks about you talking to me about things, whatever it is. He’ll get over it.’ He smiled encouragingly at Ena, waiting to see if she trusted him.
‘It’ll sound so stupid now,’ Rowena said, trying to avoid telling the truth.
‘I’m sure it won’t,’ Ishak said in such a reassuring voice, Rowena had to talk.
‘We fought. Last night, I said something about him not being a ‘hard-core’ criminal and he took offence. I hadn’t meant it like that, it was only a joke. But then he started attacking me,’ Ishak’s eyes widened as she said this. ‘Not physically,’ Rowena clarified, ‘just verbally. But I lost my temper and said some really hurtful things. Artem left with a black cloud over his head and I haven’t spoken to him since.’
‘Did he come back?’
‘Not when I was awake, but when I left this morning he was asleep in bed.’
‘Well from the sounds of it, neither of you meant what you said. You’ll patch it up.’
‘But how can you know he didn’t mean the things he said? He might really think of me as a useless snob who doesn’t care about others.’
‘Artem isn’t cruel by nature, and you aren’t a useless snob. He was just angry and tired. He’d been in meetings all day so was probably stressed too and what you said was just the last straw. He’ll apologize.’ At that moment, Artem reached the bottom of the stairs, his hair looking ruffled, like he’d not arranged it before coming downstairs, and his shirt had been thrown on carelessly. His eyes scanned the room and finally rested on Rowena.
‘I’m going to go back upstairs,’ Rowena said, standing up. But before she could escape, Ishak took hold of her arm and forced her to sit down again.
‘You are going nowhere. You’re going to stay put and make things right with Artem, then you are going to have something to eat.’
Rowena realized that she had no option. Artem was already half way across the room, moving towards her, and if she struggled Ishak was a lot stronger than her and she wouldn’t be able to shake him off. She instead she resigned herself to her fate, nervously biting her lip.
‘Morning Ishak,’ Artem said when he reached the table. His hands were clenched tightly together, showing his nervousness. ‘I was wondering if I could have a word alone with Ena.’
‘Of course,’ Ishak said, standing up to leave. Rowena pleaded with him with her eyes but he either didn’t see or ignored it because he left. Artem took the seat Ishak had vacated next to Rowena. ‘Look, I’m really sorry for what happened last night. I overreacted and I didn’t mean what I said. I will understand if you don’t forgive me but I’ve got something for you to say sorry.’
Rowena looked on with interest as Artem held out a long silver chain with a heart shaped locket on the end of it. She held out her hand tentatively and Artem placed the locket in her palm. It was real silver and felt smooth in her hand. It was very simple, with no ornamentation or fuss.
'Thank you,’ Rowena said. ‘I’m not sure what to say.’
‘Say you forgive me.’
‘Then you are forgiven,’ she smiled, leant forward and pulled him into a hug.