'Associating with the Enemy'

At the edge of the gardens of the Dolphin Palace, Their Highnesses sat in this shade of two adjacent trees whose branches interwove like the fingers of lovers. Vanessa was overcome by a sudden serenity in a strange mixture of acceptance of the consequences she faced is she were caught ‘associating with the enemy' and her sense of immersion in tranquillity and Nature.

"This is a pleasant spot," she stated, gazing about her at the rest of the gardens and the Palace, and beyond those to the meadow whose fringes were located roughly a stone's throw from her position.

"It is indeed."

She noted in her companion's tone a calmness similar to her own but which sounded more profound, as if there were a deeper beauty to the scene that Henry was appreciating which for some reason she could not see. She felt a stab of jealousy. It was unbeknownst to her that the deeper beauty was located inside her herself - she could not have fathomed such a thought. She was asking questions such as ‘Why should she be denied the more pleasing experience? Was the garden rejecting her as Henry's family did? Was she resented in even the most idealistic setting of her enemy's land?'

"Do you think this is wrong?" she asked Henry, suddenly the vulnerable stranger again.

Henry was bewildered. As far as he was concerned, the moment was perfect. Why on Thrift should Vanessa be thinking of such trivial, ridiculous things? But he detected a hint of anxiety in her voice and, without commenting on her question, replied, "No, I cannot say I do."

Vanessa was troubled. Why should doubts arise in her and not in him? Was she less intrigued in Henry's viewpoint than she'd thought? Had she, in actual fact, no right to be here? She did not wish to deceive this young man whom she so greatly respected - regardless of whether she agreed with him or not.

She stood up, stating "I think I should leave."

Henry was puzzled. Had he said something which had annoyed or offended Vanessa? Did she grow bored of his company? He stood up too.

"Is there a reason for this?" he asked.

Vanessa realised how her sudden desire to depart must seem.

"I am sorry," she said, blushing. She averted her gaze as she murmured "I do not believe I am the one you seek to include in your revolution."

Henry's brow furrowed confusedly. "You believe we should hate each other?"

Vanessa hesitated. "No... But it is difficult - one grows up with these firm ideas and ... one tries to cling to them - for survival, you understand."

The admission resulted in Henry's better comprehension of Vanessa's feelings so that he was able to reply "I understand."

His calmness posed a contrast to her distress. "Life is simple or it is complicated. When faced with the choice, there are few of us who would opt for the latter."

"You aren't angry with me?"

Henry shook his head, smiling. "That would be counter-productive."

Vanessa felt guilty, even though it was merely a possibility that she disagreed with Henry's views. It seemed to her that such a decent, well-intentioned person needed like-minded friends and, even if he had them, more could only be a benefit.

"Henry, I have tried. And I promise I will continue to try. But I am not yet in a position which I would allow me to fully devote myself to your cause."

Henry was startled by the emotion in Vanessa's voice. "I know. And I have said that I understand. You need not be anxious."

He reached out and cautiously stroked Vanessa's arm, unsure of what her response would be.

Vanessa was filled with greater sadness. "I must go," she murmured.

Henry removed his arm as she turned and left. He hoped Vanessa would not feel negative for too long. He also hoped, a little further down, that she would decide she did support his cause. It was strange that as he was thinking this his motive was a desire for them to be closer. Strange since he already considered Vanessa a friend...

I shivered and realised the water around me was now tepid. I shut the book, feeling drowsy despite the cool water and stood up and got ready for bed. When I was in my nightgown and my hair was brushed and my teeth clean, I switched off the light in my room and climbed into my comfortable bed.

It was only a moment before I fell asleep that I remembered I didn't deserve such luxury.

The End

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