My brother and I enter our parent’s room.
“So you’ve decided,” father says.
“Yes,” Paige answers, “I’ll become Prince Matthew’s aide.”
“And I’ll be staying with the Keeper while I’m still recovering,” I add.
“There are nasty rumours around the incident,” father states.
“I’m aware of that.”
“There’s a way to dispel them.”
“What do you think about the Keeper?”
“Wha… what do you mean?” What does he have to do with everything?
“Just answer the question: what do you think about him?”
“He… he’s an oddball. But I enjoy being around him. He’s…”
“I see…”, father interrupts me, “how about we invite him to our estate for a week or two?”
“I get what you’re thinking, but his manners…”, mother tries to protest.
“It’s for teaching him those manners,” father interjects as he glances at the door, “he said it himself: he didn’t grow up among Ailuranthropes. From meeting him in person, my guess is he’s half Neotes.”
So we’re being overheard. “I don’t know how you could discern it, but yes, he’s half Neotes,” I answer.
“I see,” mother adds, “and by doing that we can hit three birds with a stone.”
“Three?” I ask.
“Teaching him manners, spreading new rumours to counter the unfavourable ones and make your bride candidate back down,” mother answers.
“So you were trying to get me…” I protest but then stop… They know.
“How do you even know that?” I ask.
“So you’re not even denying it?” father asks.
“I don’t see the point in it right now. I’d rather hear how you feel about my need for recovery.”
“You’re my son. I am worried about you. Just because I don’t show my emotions doesn’t mean I don’t have them!”
“What are you talking about?” Paige asks.
“There’s the undeniable fact,” father says, “Pat is in love with Swift!”
“What?! Is that true brother?”
“I…” I’m stuttering. Do I love Swift? I can feel myself blushing.
“He hasn’t even realized it himself,” mother jokes and giggles, “you’re just like your father. You’re showing it all over.”
“I…” I’m still stuttering, “I guess I’ve never realized it… Wait, I’m showing it all over?! But that means…”
“The others probably know. I don’t know about the Keeper. My guess is he just thinks that’s how you are. Do your best to confess to him!”
“As if that’s so easy…”
“That’s a common thing among Ailuranthrope high society. That’s why we usually go under the pretense of arranged marriages. If the initial reactions of the children a favourable we plan for marriage. Well, that doesn’t work for same-sex marriages. It’s no big deal, since you can’t produce an heir Paige will probably inherit our house. In the worst case, you just need to adopt a kid.”
“That… goes against everything you taught us!”
“It’s all on the surface. That’s why rumours are so powerful in Ailuranthrope high society. Make sure not to discuss it like this in public.”
“I understand,” Paige and I nod.