Were Attolia a fanciful woman, she might think that Eugenides is here and now placing himself among the ranks of the legends by stealing time for her.
She is not, however, fanciful. She is a queen without enough space in her mind for such thoughts, and more importantly, a queen with more than enough things to do this afternoon, including two meetings and a number of financial questions which need to be battled into submission.
She informs Eugenides of this, rather tartly. Of course, he just laughs.
“You have to eat,” he says from where he lies, sprawled indolently on the warm garden grass. He spears a slice of bread from the basket beside him and holds it out to her.
“I have it on good authority that you forget to eat far more often than I do,” she says. But she takes the bread, a light crisp kind that she eats almost every day. It’s very good.
Mouth still full of the buttery crust, she glances back at her attendants to find that they have dismissed themselves. It’s probably Phresine’s doing. The only person still present is Costis, who brought her to the queen’s garden; now the guard nods with a hint of a smile and leaves his king and his queen alone.
Attolia swallows carefully and settles on the grass, her skirts spreading out around her; the hem brushes against her husband’s loosened hair. Eugenides nudges the prettily carved basket towards her; it is, she discovers, filled with an ill-planned assortment of breads and fruits and cheese and a miniature amphora of what appears to be olive oil. It is not the only miniature amphora.
“It’s too early in the day for wine,” she says, attempting to be stern. Eugenides waves his hand vaguely and brushes his hair out of his own eyes. It is enough to make her bite her lip.
“Have a few sips,” he says, as if her argument is an annoying obstruction that will go away if he doesn’t pay any attention to it. He knows, and she knows that he knows, that that is not in any way a workable tactic.
“That would be inadvisable,” she says, peeling one of the oranges and popping a segment into her mouth. It is already a bit ripped at the edge, so she doesn’t bite, just lets the flavor overflow until it saturates her tongue.
“It would,” Eugenides says, propping himself up on his elbows. “Have some anyway.” She raises an eyebrow with far less calculation than usual, and he sighs petulantly. “I assure you, I didn’t bring enough to addle your wits.”
“Are you quite certain about that?” she asks, breaking off another section of fruit. She’s sure this isn’t the first orange she’s had recently, but she isn’t entirely sure when she ate the last one. Possibly it was coated in sugar, and that is why she does not quite remember it. “You can’t know how much wine it takes to addle me, seeing as you have never seen me addled.” At least not by wine.
“Exactly,” he says, “and therefore I know exactly how much wine does not addle you, and I can know perfectly well that this won’t do it.” He shifts a bit, almost aimlessly, but when he leans back his head is almost in her lap. His hair has fallen into his half-closed eyes again, and she doesn’t brush it away, but she does reach for the amphora.
“You and your foolish ideas,” she almost chuckles; the breeze brushes a loose strand of her own hair across her face.
“What about them?”
“Nothing,” she says, clinking the amphora carefully against the goblets he so foolishly brought out. “Ought we to have a toast?”
He opens his eyes, half sits up again; she rests her hand gently on his silk-covered shoulder. “I hadn’t prepared one,” he says, relaxing a bit. “Did you have one in mind?”
“Not particularly,” she says, handing him a goblet and raising her own. “To foolishness, perhaps.”
“To foolishness,” he agrees with a smile; he sips once, then settles the goblet on the grass and collapses into her completely. She drinks again, a little bit deeper, and rests the tips of her fingers softly against his cheek. He’s smiling.
Were Attolia a fanciful woman, she might think that he is making a habit of stealing peace, first in grand heists to bolster countries and now in tiny pickpocketed moments to drop into her lap. Instead, she simply smiles and closes her eyes too, tasting the bread and the orange and the wine, and listens to the birds and the wind and her husband breathing softly in the warmth of the sunlight.