"He's slipped away!" were the first words to greet Cassandra's ears, as her eyelids fluttered open and her consciousness returned.
They were the only words needed to cause Cassandra to leap from her bed, despite her growing illness, and try to run over to where Amadeo lay. Someone whom she did not bother to look at, however, restrained her - and because of her lack of strength, she was easily kept back from the King.
"I need to see him," Cassandra panted, her body straining against the hands that held her away. "I need to see him," she repeated, and a groan of complete misery escaped her lips.
"Now is not the time to be disobeying orders," one of the servants grunted, propelling her back to her bed. "Now you lie down, and don't make us tend to you. The King alone requires our full attention."
Normally, Cassandra would have responded in both guilt and indignation to the servant's rude words, but she was too beaten down to reply. Instead, she managed to sit up on her bed, watching the goings on in the room.
The doctor was trying to force the medicine down Amadeo's throat, but even in his state of having "slipped away," Amadeo refused to drink the medicine. His refusal was unnatural. If he was unconscious, then shouldn't he be able to be forced to drink the life-giving potion? There was something greater at work.
"It's hopeless," one of the nurses said. The words flew across the room and hit Cassandra squarely in the soul.
And then, the very thing for which Cassandra had been hoping against happened. The door opened, and in strode Marcos. His eyes were glinting with some unreadable emotion; his hands were clenched so tightly into fists that his knuckles protruded awkwardly. In one fluid movement, he grasped the vial of medicine from the counter and waved it in front of Cassandra.
But his words were not mocking; his eyes were suddenly unchallenging. His voice allowed for all sorts of heartbrokenness and despair. Yet there was still a confident urgency in his tone.
"You need to drink this."
Cassandra was nearly positive that she was delirious again, but Marcos shoved the vial in her face. "Drink it!" he exclaimed. "You need to drink it! Don't you see that he won't? He's been like this for three days, Cassandra - fading in and out of consciousness. If you don't drink it, then his death won't have given him what he wants. He wants you to live, Cassandra." And then, tears overcame his voice, and he called out with a tremor in his tone, "For the Love of Amadeo, Cassandra, please - choose him!"
Three days. Amadeo's life had been forfeit for three days. There were two choices, but really, there was only one. If Amadeo really and truly believed Cassandra worth dying for, then she must honor his wishes...she must. There was nothing else she could do.