Tainted Saint, Chapter Sixty-TwoMature

It was later that day, while Cassandra was purchasing more soap and other needed supplies with her hard-earned coins, that she ran into the very last person she'd expected to see.

"Really, Morris!" Cassandra exclaimed, stooping to pick up the coins she'd dropped in her surprise at seeing Lizzie's former beau. "You've simply got to stop appearing when I least expect you!"

Something had changed in Lemuel Morris' eyes. Yes, he looked weary, and yes, he still looked somewhat downtrodden, but there was something else in his eyes.

Something akin to hope.

"I've come to talk to you about something," Morris said, relieving Cassandra of her two baskets of food. Since when had he been a gentleman? He met Cassandra's eyes. "I've come to convince you to go back to the castle."

That was it. Morris hadn't so much as greeted Cassandra before he'd sprung the challenge upon her. "That's why you've come?" Cassandra asked, disbelieving.

"Yes. I have no intentions of doing anything but seeing you." Morris nodded to the last basket of supplies that Cassandra was holding. "Can I get that for you?"

"I've got it, thanks."

"That's honestly why I've come," Morris continued. "You really do need to get back to the castle."

"You're not acting like yourself," Cassandra said, swiftly changing the subject. "Take the groceries, for example. You've never helped me carry anything before! Why are you helping me carry the baskets?" Your eyes look different, too, she thought, though she didn't voice this last observation aloud.

"Can't I help you carry your food without my motives being questioned?" Morris responded good-naturedly. He stepped aside so that someone carrying an armful of laundry could pass in front of him.

That was the last straw. Something was up. "Okay, Morris. Come on. Why are you being like this?"

"Cassandra Persephone Morrow!" Morris exclaimed, and Cassandra winced at the use of her full name. "I know you're trying to distract me, but I'm not going to leave until I've said what needs to be said. You're fooling yourself, trying to make yourself believe that you belong in Nicu. You don't belong in Nicu. You know where you belong, and it's not here."

"And you traveled all the way to Nicu to tell me something you think I already know?"

"Cassandra." Morris' voice was so urgent that Cassandra stopped in her tracks and turned to face Morris. He, too, had also ceased walking. "There are two reasons you need to get back to the castle. The first reason is, you're not doing yourself any good by being here. I care about you, Cassandra, because you're my friend. Yes, I know that sounds completely sentimental, and I know it's not like me to say things like that, but hear me out. I don't need to tell you that you don't belong here. You already know that."

Cassandra's eyes filled with tears at the passion in Morris' voice, and she turned so that her emotions weren't visible. "And the second reason?" she murmured softly.

"The second reason, though the first should be enough, in and of itself, is that Amadeo is absolutely distraught without you. Everyone says they've never seen anyone care so deeply about anyone. He weeps for you, Cassandra - he weeps! The King of Nicu weeps because he wants you to be with him! Try as you might, Cassandra, you can't convince yourself that you're not wanted. If the King loves you, then surely, you must be of some significance!"

The End

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