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Life a little while

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It was several days — nearly a week, actually — before Emma found Ysabo again. She was nearly finished changing the sheets in one of the upstairs rooms when she realized she had forgotten a pillow. But when she opened the door to the linen closet, she found not bedclothes but the other Aislinn House, and an equally-surprised Ysabo looking back at her.

"Ysabo!"

"Emma!" The other young woman's face lit up. "I hoped you'd find me soon."

"I'm sorry it took me so long," Emma said. "Things have been so busy here, with the wedding and everything. But what happened? I did ask Mr. Dow but he just said you would tell me."

"I hardly knew myself, at first," Ysabo said, "but I'm free to ask questions now. Queen Hydria is back. And the rituals are over — all the rituals." She smiled; Emma didn't think she'd ever seen the princess so happy.

"Queen Hydria?"

"I should start at the beginning," Ysabo said.

By the time the tale was done, Emma had completely forgotten her chores.

"And that's it? He's gone?" she asked.

"So Blagdon says." Ysabo smiled again. "And we're free, at last."

"Does this mean you don’t have to marry?" Emma asked.

"Certainly not Zandros, or whatever that awful knight's name was," Ysabo replied. "Perhaps not anyone. I haven't asked; maybe I should." She smiled at Emma again. "And you? What of life in Sealey Head?"

"Oh," Emma said, waving her hand vaguely, "things are the same as they’ve always been. Miss Beryl and Mr. Dow are to be married at the end of summer. And I believe Mr. Cauley and Miss Blair have just announced their engagement — but you don't know them, of course. I apologize."

"What of you?" Ysabo asked, her eyes twinkling. "You have no suitors coming to pay you visits?"

Emma flushed. "Oh, not me."

"You wouldn't leave Aislinn House, would you?" Ysabo asked, suddenly serious.

"Never," Emma said, more fiercely than she'd intended, turning to look Ysabo in the eye. The princess's eyes were so beautiful; she had never really noticed before. They had always been so sad, both of them in their own ways.

"Good," Ysabo said, and Emma was surprised to see a hint of pink creep into the princess's cheeks as well. "We’ll always be friends, won’t we?"

"Always," Emma said. She reached out her hand and Ysabo took it, and they sat in silence there for a time, until Ysabo was called away by her mother — there was to be a feast tonight for the full moon, and preparations had to be made.

"I'll look for you again soon," Emma promised. "Tomorrow or the day after, maybe."

"Until the next time," Ysabo said, and she smiled one more time before disappearing down the corridor as Emma closed the door. When she opened it again, there were only linens behind it, and she returned to her work, a new lightness in her step.