Sharing the same year of birth as Lear's youngest daughter does not bring Edmund peace.
He does not count her an ally. She reminds him too much of his lucky, unworthy brother - too obedient, too calm.
Though no more than fourteen, she still carries herself with the serene grace befitting someone far older of her status. He would be loathe to admit it, yet it is this that makes him nervous under her watchful gaze, the pompous wench - as though she had two decades on him in age rather than two months. He makes it a habit to avoid her, and the task goes splendidly to plan until one balmy summer evening, at her eldest sister's wedding feast.
She seats herself beside him under the gnarled tree from where he watches the festivities at a cool, detached distance. They are quiet, not speaking for several moments, before she breaks the silence.
"Why do you not join the celebration?"
"I fear I am not one for finding humor in such events, my lady," he replies, slightly acidic tone ebbing the formality of his words. To his surprise, instead of chiding him, or storming off to leave him be, the girl turns to study him, raising an eyebrow archly.
"More's the pity - nor am I."
His stomach dips, in a not unpleasant manner, at the bitter shade her normally gentle voice darkens with.
Interesting development, indeed.
She mistakes his silence for disapproval, and continues, eyes now averted, "Speaking publicly of such things as frivolous and unnecessary would make me appear quite the jealous little wretch, you see."
"And are you not?"
A most unladylike harrumph escapes the girl, and in this instant, she becomes identical in age to him once more.
"Jealous? Yes, I believe it so. Jealous, perhaps, that it seems I do not share the same priorities as my lord and sisters."
He does not reply, merely inclining his head in a respectful nod. As they continue to spy unobserved, she holds her forearms in her lap, twisting her hands in an idle manner. The flesh of the undersides of her wrists is not littered with gleaming gold and jewels, but bare and pale - ghostly and tempting and at this moment exposed to only him.
Edmund is curious if the blood beneath her wrists burns bright as the tarnished copper of her hair. The strange knot in his stomach curls ever tighter.