The Adventures of Ratha James Part Ten
It was then that Eric St. Clare entered the little sitting room bearing a tray laden with hot tea and little sandwiches. Neither his countenance or movement betrayed any modicum of distress as he made his way into the room and sat the tray on a low table before his womenfolk, but Amalee saw the aching pain in his carefully schooled gaze as he took in her wasted form. He said nothing, but handed her a cup of steaming tea with a hand that shook only slightly. She thanked him with a wordless nod, which he returned solemnly. She did not know how to begin again, how to say what must be said and neither did he, but the love in his eyes was enough for now. But his stoicism shattered completely upon seeing the tears still shimmering in Madeline’s wide corn-flower eyes.
Without a moment’s hesitation Eric strode to where Maddie sat, pulled her to her feet, and wrapped her in his strong arms. He whispered to her softly, cradling her to his chest as he ran a hand through her hair soothingly, and she allowed herself to finally give way to the barrage of tears that had been choking her for so long. She convulsed with the force of her grief as the terror, disgust, and disbelief flooded over her anew. In that moment, she would have surely broken were it not for Eric’s arms around her, lending her his strength.
With his back to his wife, only Amalee was witness to the anguish tearing across his handsome features. He bore the look of a brother broken by grief, but determined to be strong for his sisters. His eyes found hers and she knew he longed to pull her into the embrace as well, to wrest away her sadness and wrap her in the love they all bore one another, but understood somehow that this was not what Amalee wanted or needed just yet. But still, there was an intensity in Eric’s eyes that left Amalee certain that he would blame himself always for the hurt and damage done to his wife’s friends, to the women he considered his sisters. She shook her head almost imperceptibly. No, she thought, willing him to hear her. You protected Joona. She was yours to protect.
He closed his glassy sea-blue eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. His hand still stroked Maddie’s golden hair soothingly, and when he again opened his eyes, he appeared calmer, more in charge of his turbulent emotions. Amalee hoped he somehow understood her. She would not have his soul scarred by this tragic turn of events.
“I just,” Maddie sniffled, feeling truly safe for the first time in so many months. “I could not…”
“Ah Love, I know. I know,” Eric murmured, shifting so that he could see his wife’s face. He motioned towards the floor above them and Joona nodded with a loving smile. “You are exhausted Madeline, you should rest awhile. I’ve a room with a delightful view of the ships,” he said, leading her from the sitting room towards a long, elegant staircase. Amalee watched them depart, Maddie’s soft form supported by Eric’s resilient one, and wished her friend a restful, undreaming sleep.