The Assignment

I opened my eyes. It was light and I should have been up earlier, but my bed had never been this comfortable. It must have been these new bedclothes Gwydion had brought yesterday. They were exquisitely soft and felt as if I were lying in a field of feathers. So I snuggled further into the warm covers and closed my eyes again.

It was nearing noon when I woke up. I looked outside, saw the sun's position in the sky and shrieked. Gwydion would be here soon and I was still in bed!

I jumped out, made the bed quicker and neater than ever before. For though I'd known Gwydion for about a month now and it felt like a thousand years, nobody had changed the policy that having a gentleman in a messy house was improper.

I gathered some apples off the trees outside and washed them in the stream. I put them in a vase on the table. Then I swept the floor and put on my good green dress. Finally, as I was braiding my hair, he knocked on the door.

'Can I come in?' his voice asked from outside.

'Please, do,' I answered.

In the mirror I saw him opening the door and coming in. He smiled at me and I smiled back.

'Hello, Inessa,' he greeted me.

'Good morning, Sir Gwydion,' I said, turning, curtseying.

Gwydion laughed.

'I plead, Inessa, that you call me Gwydion,' he told me.

'Very well, Gwydion,' I said with a curtsey.

We had some of my beloved herbal brew and talked for a while. Then he asked me to help him with something. I asked him what. He explained to me that he needed me to place the breadcrumbs of one slice of bread in a circle, with the quarter of an apple in the middle, under the majestic, though fruitless, apple tree on the other side of the stream, every night.

'What for, Gwydion?' I asked as I got up to clear the table.

'It is a ritual that brings forth a special herb I require,' he explained, standing up himself.

I smiled. I knew just a little of herb lore, but I understood that his simply couldn't be.

'Very well, I shall do what you ask of me,' I said.

'Thank you, Inessa!'

'It's my pleasure, sir Gwydion.'

'Please, don't call me Sir,' Gwydion laughed.

I made a notion to curtsey, but he stopped me.

'No more of that curtseying, either,' he said, laying his hand on my arm.

He looked into my eyes and took my hand. I looked into his, a little intimidated. He took his other hand off my arm and stroked my cheek with it. Then he drew my face to his and closed his eyes. I suddenly understood what he intended to do and pulled away. He opened his eyes and looked at me.

'I- I'm sorry, Inessa,' he exclaimed.

He put his hands over his eyes.

'I'm really sorry, that was most rude of me,' he said.

He fell to his knees and looked up at me.

'Please, do forgive me,' he pleaded.

'It's alright, Sir Gwydion,' I said, looking away.

'It would be best for you to go now.'

I wasn't looking at him, but in the corner of my eye I saw him get up, take his basket, and finally I heard him opening the door to leave.

'I hope I shall still be welcome here tomorrow,' Gwydion said quietly.

How could I say no, when my heart was screaming yes? But I was a dignified lady and all I did was give a slight nod. Then the door closed.

The End

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