Caleb heard a soft clicking at his window. He pulled a pillow over his head, but the clicking just got louder. He was going to kill whatever had decided to spend the night on his window sill. He angrily ripped back his curtains, but instead of finding some small bird or rodent tapping away, he saw Maddy perched on his window sill. Panicked, Caleb stumbled a couple of steps back. Maddy gestured to the latch until Caleb finally came back to his senses and pulled the latch open. Maddy quickly swung half the window open, and jumped quickly and quietly down to Caleb’s floor.
“What in the hell are you doing here? My parents have forbidden me from interacting with the class, you know that!” Caleb whispered harshly but quickly.
“I know what your parents said you were and weren’t allowed to do, but I didn’t think that would actually stop you from doing whatever you wanted.”
Caleb started at the harsh tone coming out of Maddy’s mouth. He hadn’t expected her to sneak into his room to tell him off. “Well, obviously, you were wrong about me, so why don’t you just leave me be. I don’t know if you heard, but tomorrow they are announcing that I am to marry Princess Annemarie. I will be the new king when Annemarie takes the throne.”
“Yeah, I heard. Best wishes on your engagement and what not.” Maddy spat back, before bringing her hands up to her face, and rubbing her eyes. She let out an exasperated sigh. “No, no, no. Maddy calm down. Look, Caleb, I didn’t come here to fight with you. I came here to lay it all on the line and to try to convince you to come with me.”
“Come with you? Where?”
“Come with us, actually. I can’t tell you where in case I am terribly wrong about you. But we’re going. We are going to help Liam. We don’t know how yet, but we are getting out of dodge, and we are going tonight.”
Caleb faltered a moment. Why would she be inviting him? It was very obvious that the group was going to be fine without him. Maddy and Beth both had the same specialty, so if any cure for Liam was going to be found, Caleb was just a redundant expert. Maddy was just going to go off and marry Jon, and the two of them would go off and make wonderful little high ranked babies that someday would marry into the royal family the way he would. Caleb turned away and stared at his wall, trying to clear his head of the sudden anger that had built there. “What in the world would you need me for?” Caleb asked aloud after a moment.
“You’re right. We don’t need you, but I definitely want you to come.” Caleb turned back and saw that Maddy was extending her hand out towards him. He didn’t want to take it. He didn’t want to be stronger than she expected and break through her defenses to see the way that see would be picturing him with simply a mild interest, or worse, to see the way she idolized Jon. “Please, take my hand. Let me prove it.”
Caleb turned away again from Maddy again before he closed his eyes. That way, when he saw what he hated, he wouldn’t have to lay eyes on Maddy ever again. He thrust his hand out behind him, and felt Maddy’s soft fingers slip into his grip. Images erupted behind Caleb’s eyes. They were all him. Eleven years old, and begrudgingly removing his Lord Heir charm, already thinking he was better than his teachers. Thirteen years old, laughing with Jon, holding Liam in a head lock and ruffling his hair, just moments before the tables were turned, and Jon and Liam had him pinned, laughing so hard he almost stopped breathing. Fifteen years old, shirtless, looking ashamed as Maddy’s hand very softly tracing the circle scar on his shoulder. Sixteen years old, kissing Maddy softly on the cheek following the Festival of Music. Just a few moments ago, staring confused out the window, hair half sticking up from when he had been trying to sleep. And now, back turned to her, shoulders tense, anticipating seeing the worst through her eyes. All of these pictures were colored, tainted with Maddy’s opinion of him. Her opinion of him was far more positive than Caleb had ever seen before in his life. And now, watching his shoulders pull even tighter with what he was learning, she was absolutely terrified that he wasn’t going to turn back to her. That he was going to spit on her and order her out of his house, as he technically had every right to. That fear was stronger in her mind that even the fear that he was going to take her in, tell his parents they were planning to escape with a cursed man.
With a sudden jolt, Caleb dropped Maddy’s hand and snapped his eyes open. He stared at his wall, suddenly very, very aware of every bit of air between Maddy and himself. The woman standing behind him, for some completely unknown and entirely absurd reason, loved him.
“Caleb?” Maddy’s voice was soft, almost fragile. For a moment, Caleb could feel Maddy’s fear pulsing through his veins. Then he was just himself again. And he was absolutely elated, his own fear evaporating entirely out of his body.
He turned around and faced Maddy. “You have an exit strategy, I assume?” Maddy grinned wider than he had ever seen in his entire life.
“Of course I do. Put on a shirt, and pack a bag if necessary. We have a rendezvous in thirty minutes. We will be stopping to see Master Isoc before leaving, in case that influences what you wear.”
Caleb made his way to his dresser to start collecting things, before he realized that he didn’t have anything to pack in, and he couldn’t quite ask the maid to pack his bag for his run away from home. For a moment, he froze, and then he turned wide-eyed to face Maddy.
Maddy laughed, and crossed to Caleb’s bed. She ripped one of the pillow cases off his pillow and held it out to Caleb. “Pack in this. Quickly though. We’ve got a lot to do.”