“Nora?” Elder Mazie’s gentle voice pulled me from my thoughts. Standing behind the large table in the front of the room where four other Elders sat in silence, she lifted her blonde eyebrows and looked at my boots.
I really didn’t intend on them seeing me like this, but I forgot to shift my attire after falling into the soldier’s arms. I blamed Charles.
“Are you returning to the living world?” she asked, giving me a chance to explain.
I didn’t want to lie, so I morphed back into the unflattering light blue tunic and matching pants and tried to control the blush creeping up on my face. “I’m sorry,” I said being sure to avoid eye contact.
“Nora, we’d like to talk to you about your future role within our society.” Rollin, the leader of the Elderhood, spoke with a grace I envied. His deep voice resonated with little effort yet felt like a welcomed blanket on a cold night. With brown hair that framed his chin and small wrinkles around his eyes, the middle-aged man looked down at me like a scorned pupil. “We know you’d like to take on more responsibility.” I nodded. “And we also know that you’ve lost a few of your charges recently.”
Swallowing the anger inside, I nodded again. “I’m sorry for that,” I said, barely audible in the giant room. None of the Elders at the table reacted.
Elder Rollin smiled. “I’m sure you are.”
Something about his tone sent my nerves on edge. I shifted from side to side, attempting to still my frantic heart and also trying to get the sandals to sit on my feet the right way. I already missed the boots.
“We’ve been discussing this among ourselves,” Rollin gestured to the four other Elders at the table, “and we think it’s time for you to have your own ward.”
My own ward? Like what I’d been to Theron? A newbie who needed guidance, mentoring, and companionship…and in our case love? I couldn’t be that for somebody else. My heart hadn’t completely let go of my past, and now they were asking me to take on one of the biggest responsibilities in our world. What if I failed?
“You are ready for this,” Elder Mazie stated with a certainty I wish I agreed with. Her shoulders squared as she tucked her long blonde hair behind her ears. Eyes bore through mine like she was trying to make me believe her.
“Yes, but we also want you to meet with a new advisor.” Rollin smiled down at me and I shivered. They’d learned about Theron and me after he left. I hadn’t been placed with anyone else since, and I’d figured that was for my punishment.
I cleared my throat. “When will I meet them?”
“In two days time, he will be here. There are still many things for you to learn, Nora, and we all believe your new advisor will suit you well. Certainly better than your last one.”
I cringed and briefly wished I could crawl under one of those white chairs. But I didn’t want them to see my weakness. “No, I mean my ward. When will I meet my new ward?”
Everyone at the table smiled and I thought they looked a little too eager. “Well, right now,” Rollin said.
The large doors behind me swung open in dramatic fashion. I needed to learn how to manipulate our environment like that. For a second, only the hallway revealed itself. I swear I heard Charles’ clothes swishing away but a moment later I was too shocked to care.
The solemn soldier with the chiseled chest walked through the door.