Behind the Palace was the most beautiful set of gardens I had seen in my life. There were seven sections, each containing plants of the same colour of the rainbow, except indigo which was omitted (presumably due to its closeness in shade to violet) and the last section was pink. The farthest section to the left contained the reddest roses and tulips in what must be the whole of Thrift; the next to the right was devoted to orange, full of marigolds and orange trees (for it was not only flowers that grew in this enchanting place); the next consisted of yellow daffodils and sunflowers; and so on and so forth up to pretty pink peonies. My mind was soon a whirl of colours too amazing to be real. In my dreamlike state, all became romantic as if Adam and I had become the subjects of a beautiful, expressive poem.
"Thank you for showing me this," I breathed, simultaneously awed, inspired and incredibly grateful.
Adam smiled. "I'm glad you like it. But ... there is something much more wonderful than the sight and scent of all these plants, something that radiates more profound feeling and evokes more pleasure (in my case anyway) and something, finally, that is a thousand ties more special and valuable."
"What?" I whispered.
Adam's smile became mysterious. "A lone gem in a sea of rocks."
His answer didn't make sense. His voice had been so intense and I had almost expected it to be me after his behaviour today and all that had been said at the table during supper. I deduced that ‘a lone gem in a sea of rocks' must be a metaphor, but then I found myself thinking ‘Let's not be presumptuous, here."
"What type of gem?" I asked, half playing along, half curious and genuinely believing he was talking about a stone.
"Sapphire," Adam replied without hesitation.
A Dolphin... He was being metaphorical. Everybody knew that rubies were the stones associated with Phoenixes, topaz with Eagles, emeralds with Dragons and sapphires with Dolphins.
"Who?" I asked impulsively, now needing to confirm my suspicion, despite my lack of similar feeling for him.
"You honestly don't know?" he asked, looking confused.
"I ... have an idea."
Adam faced me straight on and put his hands on shoulders. He gazed deep into my eyes and I was certain before he spoke. "You."
He watched me, waiting for a response, his serious expression becoming one of pain as I didn't do anything.
I saw in his eyes (in those gorgeous brown depths) a loved that mine just didn't reciprocate. He was trying to give me his heart, to make me claim possession of it, to end the torment I was putting him through but I just couldn't do anything. Despair overwhelmed him and he let go of my shoulders, sinking to his knees. He looked at the ground.
I said the only thing I could think of. "It is early days yet. In fact, it's not been even one day that we've known each other." I patted his shoulder awkwardly. "Don't be sad."
He looked up, a glimmer of hope in his eyes. "You could grow to love me?"
I hesitated. "I cannot say."
When he looked down again, I hurriedly said "But nor could I say the opposite: that I could never love you. I already feel affection of a friendly nature for you: that could easily develop into something more. We're in no rush - let my feelings take their time."
"Of course," Adam said sincerely, looking up at me once more. He took my hand and kissed it before rising to his feet. "I was most foolish and impulsive: such affairs require great thought before a wise decision can be made. And while we wait, my feelings for you can bloom into love of the profoundest nature so that when you can say you return the sentiment, I can be the most soulful lover Thrift has ever seen."
I nodded, quite overwhelmed.
"I await your heart's decision. In the meantime, I am at your mercy. Do with me as you will."
"Such a thing makes me feel uncomfortable, Adam. Please try, for me, to contain your feelings."
Adam nodded. "As you wish, ... Selena." It was the same pause he had made in the parlour of Wavia Palace: the pause of the wonderstruck and admiring.
I gave a small smile. "Thank you."
"So... shall we walk somewhere else then?"
I nodded again.
Adam led me to the central garden. There was a circular hedge as a border cut into different shapes, some of which I could identify as elephants and peacocks, with a gap for the entrance into the area which was full of different types of grass. There were trees planted to form another circle inside the hedge: sycamores, horse chestnuts, even a small willow. We walked through the gap between two trees directly in front of the entrance. The centrepiece of the garden was a stone fountain. Rising out of the base, which was like a massive bird bath, was a stone eagle perching upon a marble pillar. Water sprayed upwards around it, the peaks reaching the level of the eagle's knees.
Suddenly, a strange gust of wind blew a string of maple leaves up and around the eagle's head, finally settling above the statue in the shape of a five-point star.
Remaining in this shape, the leaves began dancing around the garden: twirling, rising, falling and at one point moving in a circle so the star looked to be spinning. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, especially because of the magical surroundings. I noticed the water spouting up higher to reflect my amazement.
I turned to see Adam using one hand to direct the leaves (element control was a process of the mind, similar to thought) while the other clutched a rose from the red garden. Brow furrowed in immense concentration, Adam let go of the rose (his other hand stilling in the same instant) and sent it floating towards me. I stood motionless watching it, not knowing whether to cry and run up to embrace Adam or turn my back and flee from the heartbreakingly beautiful scene.
The rose gently rose upwards to the level of my face. I closed my eyes as the petals touched my cheek. The rose spun around, caressing my skin. After a few seconds, the motion stopped. The petals remained in contact with my face for another few seconds and then they moved away. I opened my eyes to find Adam standing centimetres from my face. I looked down to see him holding the rose, stroking a petal, possibly imagining it was my skin.
Suddenly, Adam thrust out the rose as if he couldn't bear to hold it anymore. I took it and then stood there looking into his eyes for a few moments. I looked away, feeling uncomfortable.
"I've got one more thing to show you," he murmured.