Adam looked at me strangely. "Between a Dolphin and a Phoenix?" he asked.
I nodded. "But if the example involves a different sort of couple, I reckon the account will have the same effect on my thoughts and feelings."
"And what would that effect be?"Adam looked searchingly into my eyes, gazing so intently that I felt the need to look away lest he should see into my soul or at the very least my mind.
Adam misinterpreted my action; he assumed I was hiding something. But his response to this was most strange.
"Is there something you're not telling me?" he asked.
I looked back at him, surprised. "Am I obliged to tell you ‘something'?"
Adam's cheeks reddened and he looked away, embarrassed.
"No," he mumbled almost indistinctly.
I ignored his strange behaviour, assuming it was mere anxiety, and waited for him to overcome his awkwardness.
Adam murmured an apology.
"Don't worry about it," I insisted. "I know you're just concerned for me."
Adam nodded, looking grateful and relieved.
"So, the effects?"he prompted.
I shrugged. "Inspiration to be undeterred by the consequences of ridiculous rules and to stand up for what I believe in, a deeper understanding of love and greater confidence in my actions. Even just knowing something else about the world will be helpful to me."
Adam looked slightly anxious. "When you talk about inspiration, are you looking for a spark to light a flame of an idea you've been considering?"
"I'm sorry: I don't understand."
Adam frowned and hesitated. "Are you ... interested by the prospect of ... a relationship some people would frown upon."
Comprehension dawned on me. "Oh! No, that's not why I'm asking. It's just that I've always been curious. From what I've heard about love, it was almost fascinating that people said it could be deterred.
For a second, he looked ... inspired. Like I had probably looked when he'd been talking about realising his dreams. But the moment was brief and his expression was soon replaced by a content one which conveyed relief. It was evident he cared for me and I suspected it was as more than a friend. In fact, I suspected he was strongly attracted to, if not in love with, me.
Adam nodded. "I see. Well, there is a case of forbidden love which is quite well-known to everyone on and above Thrift. The story of Henry Waterfall and Vanessa Flame."
"They were royalty?" I asked, hearing my surname and recognising the other as that of the Phoenix rulers.
"Well that's what makes this case so significant, so memorable."
I stopped and thought a moment. If they were royalty, could the Dolphin be family?
"You ... er... wouldn't happen to know if Henry was/is related to me, would you?"
Adam's brow furrowed. "I'm quite certain he is: he's still alive, rumour has it."
He rose to his feet and strolled over to his desk. From somewhere within the pile of sheets, he pulled out a piece of parchment with dozens of lines and lots of writing on it. He brought this back to where I was sitting, sat down beside me and handed me the diagram.
To my surprise, I found myself staring at my family tree. It was abridged so you could only see Waterfalls and their spouses but it was still amazing. I found it difficult to imagine so much time passing, envisage the previous generations in my head. This single piece of parchment contained the history of Wavia's Royal Family, tracing the line back up to Rex Waterfall, the first ever King of the Dolphins.
I looked up at Adam. "This is amazing."
He took it back off me, smiling. He then looked at the diagram, his finger hovering over the writing and lines as he traced the line from my name up over my parents' names and finally stopping over a ‘Henry Waterfall', a man I'd never heard of before, who appeared to be ...
"My great-uncle?" I asked, astonished.
"But I never knew about him. Surely my parents would've told me of him? Surely Grandpa Simon would've mentioned he had a brother?!
Adam looked grave and apologetic. "Henry and Vanessa were treated as if they never existed. Not one of either of their family members came to their wedding and they were both disowned by their parents. I believe the punishment for a Dolphin and Phoenix who court is still the same."
"Oh how terrible," I murmured. I thought about my sister, Charity; how close we were; and how heartbroken I would be if she appeared to stop caring about me.
"They must have been devastated," I said.
"I, er, though you were going to tell me a story which had a ... happy ending," I confessed embarrassedly.
"Life often contains uncomfortable truths. While the Phoenix-Dolphin Conflict continues, similar tragedies will continue to occur."
I was startled to find I had tears in my eyes. "But they can't stop love!" I cried passionately. "Love is magical: it's what makes life bearable and worth living."
Adam shrugged. "It's obviously seen as something else when disapproved of."
"I don't believe it's different," I said. "I will never be deterred," I vowed.
And then I was crying again, and Adam held me like he had done before. I couldn't be gladder of his arms around me.
When we let go of each other, I boldly asked "Could you tell me the whole story?"
Adam nodded, rose to his feet and fetched a leather-bound book from his bookshelf. He brought it back and sat down.
The tile was oddly more like that of a novel than a history. It was called ‘Punishable Courting'.