Morris closed his eyes and leaned back against the hallway wall. "I can't believe I'm saying this," he muttered.
Cassandra, impatient to hear what it was that was so important to her friend's most loyal patron, leaned forward, her fever somehow seeming far less significant in the face of Morris' tears. "What is it, Morris? You know I won't judge you."
Letting out a long sigh, Morris gave a mirthless laugh and shook his head. "Sorry," he said, voice filled with self-deprecation. "I can't believe I lost control like that."
Cassandra smiled sympathetically.
"It's just that...oh, I don't know, I just..." Morris sighed again.
"Take your time," Cassandra said. She coughed slightly but tried to appear as healthy and attentive as possible for Morris' sake.
"When I went away to pursue a better life," Morris began in a strained tone, "I went to work at the King's castle. I was sure he wouldn't accept me, but he immediately welcomed me and found me a position in the castle stables. It wasn't a glamorous position, but it provided what I needed. He was always kind to me, calling me by my first name. I haven't been called 'Lemuel' in so long, I'd almost forgotten it was my name."
Cassandra didn't understand where Morris was going with his story, but she listened nonetheless, sensing his need to speak his mind. Trying to ignore her aching head, she coughed again and attempted to discreetly wipe her nose.
"I thought I was there to stay, Cassandra," Morris continued, his handsome face averted and his expressive eyes closed. "I really thought I'd found a safe place. But the streets called me back. I couldn't erase Lizzie from my memory. So I came back, but I hate myself for it." He shook his head. "The whisper of the old life just wouldn't leave me."
"Why are you telling me this?" Cassandra asked, feeling overwhelmed by a wave of heat. Shuddering, she struggled to concentrate on Morris' words.
"I'm sorry. You're so sick, and here I am, rambling on like this," Morris muttered. He sighed. "I'm sorry, Cassandra."
Cassandra smiled. "It's alright," she said, though all she wanted to do was curl up and fall asleep. "You can keep talking."
"I'm almost done, I swear," Morris said. "And then, you'll know why I'm here." He drew in a long breath, then continued. "I want to go back, Cassandra. There's an anniversary celebration in a few days' time - one for the King's closest friends - and everyone who is associated with the King - even his stable hands- are welcome. I want to go and see how he responds to me. If he welcomes me, then I can pursue the issue of working for him again." He paused. "But that's not all. Cassandra, I want you to accompany me."