Sarah stood. Jason took hold of her right hand in his left. Griffon didn’t look pleased as he looked from one of them to another. ‘I hope you have an explanation for this Phoenix.’
‘The mission is almost over and Sarah’s a Friend,’ Jason began but Griffon interrupted him.
‘More than a Friend I think.’ Griffon crossed his arms, looking pointedly at their hands.
Jason sighed. Sarah stepped forward to be beside Jay. ‘How long have you known Jason?’ she asked Griffon. She had a small hope that knowing more about their relationship might help her understand exactly what was going on.
‘Since he was a babe,’ Griffon stated, not changing his stance.
Sarah looked at Jason, eyebrows raised. ‘He’s my mother’s second cousin,’ Jason stated flatly.
‘Oh,’ Sarah’s suddenly connected some pieces of his life, ‘Walter, your weapon’s teacher and.’
‘Rosaline’s father,’ Jason sighed.
Griffon eyed Sarah as she turned back to him. He seemed startled at her knowledge. She continued, ‘So you’re well aware of when Jason started disappearing then.’
‘Aye,’ Griffon nodded. Jason tugged Sarah’s hand slightly, so she swallowed her next thought.
‘Do you remember, when I was younger, the reason I told you I disappeared?’ he asked. Griffon again nodded. ‘Well this is her,’ he indicated Sarah.
Griffon looked over Sarah with a critical eye. ‘This is the girl in pants who liked to hang upside down from trees?’ Sarah had to smother a giggle at that apt description of her younger self.
‘Yes,’ Jason replied. ‘Every time I have disappeared it has been to visit her; only the last time she ended up here.’
‘That still does not explain the rings.’
Sarah took a step toward Griffon. Somehow she had to make him see this was the logical course of action. ‘I have lost everything I have ever known. Jay is all I have left. What else can I do? I may act like one of the boys, but,’ Sarah sighed, ‘I am female.’
‘I promised her mother I would take care of her,’ Jason stated, pulling her back to be beside him.
Griffon eyed them both and shook his head. ‘How many know about her, aside from Eagle, Wolf and our troops?’
‘Mary of The Drunken Horse and the Scout Coordinator in Forton.’
‘And how many know of your intentions towards her?’
‘Just you and Mathew.’
‘None of your other men?’
‘I am not that careless.’ Sarah could feel Jason tense at the accusation.
‘Let’s keep it that way,’ Griffon stated. ‘I’m sending Richard home,’ he continued. ‘With his injuries the road will be the better route, and he won’t be much use in another fight. Send her with him. She can stay at my place for a while and wear Rosaline’s old clothing. Martha would certainly welcome the help.’
Jason’s tension eased and he sighed. ‘Thank you.’
‘I still think you ought to have sent her to your mother,’ Griffon said shaking his head. He turned and left.
Jason made to follow him, but Sarah kept a hold of his hand. He turned to face her. ‘Jay?’ She stared at him intently. There was just one thing she had to know. ‘You’re not giving up your life’s dreams for me, are you?’ Jason opened his mouth to speak but she continued, ‘Because if you are I can find another way. Hell I’ll make one if I have to.’
Jason quickly glanced back towards the camp. Sarah could clearly see that the horizon was lightening. She kept a hold of him, staring at him. There was no way she would let Jay’s dreams fall through the cracks just because he felt some duty to marry her.
Jason looked into her eyes. Then without warning, he pulled her close and kissed her. There was no denying the emotion that flowed between them. All too soon Jason pulled back. ‘You are my life’s dream,’ he whispered. Then, as suddenly as he’d kissed her, he let her go and marched back to camp.
Sarah watched him leave, stunned. Gingerly touching her lips, Sarah whispered ‘I love you.’ She stayed under the tree, watching him. He rolled up their beds and got the fire rekindled. Meandering off to see if she could find some herbs, Sarah looked back at the tree. It was a Willow; just like the trees that had made their Grove. A smile slowly spread across Sarah’s face. ‘Under the Willow tree the Grove shall always be,’ she whispered.
<END PART I: SARAH'S PHOENIX>