Sorry this is short, but I haven't had much time on my hands. More to come soon...
Owen could see it so vividly expressed - the fast flickering of emotions that passed over Guy of Gisborne’s face. Surprise and disbelief. A flash of anger. That was followed by the familiar raising of an eyebrow and a ticking of a cheek muscle, which indicated a suppression of volatile feelings. Owen had spent the afternoon and evening preparing his words, and before Guy could utter a response, he presented his case.
“We have housed many a youngster over the years, have we not? We have trained young lords in their knightly responsibilities. Young Sebastian is a prospect for schooling with us. And it will please his mother to have him nearby.”
Guy scoffed, leaning forward in his chair. “And you believe Gilbert LaCroix will allow such a thing? You think he will willingly concede to his son being relocated?”
“He is unaware of Lady Isabella’s whereabouts,” Owen said. “With his mind not on that concern, I do not believe he will find a problem with our offer. And if we take on the responsibility of the transfer, the expense of moving him from one location to another, he will not dwell on the matter for long.”
A brief silence followed. After several moments, Guy finally spoke, and Owen could see that his father was doing his best to contain his emotions.
“You have given this considerable thought, it seems.”
Owen replied with a determined lift of his chin. “I have.”
It was a challenge of sorts. The last thing he wanted was to goad his father into a fight, and it troubled him to think that it would come to that. But he was a grown man, with his own desires and his own opinions, and if an argument was required to have his voice heard, then so be it. He watched, anxiously, as Guy rose to his feet and took to making his customary walk back and forth.
“Why do you do this?” he asked. “Why are you suddenly so eager to be of aid to Isabella? Before I departed for court, you were quite adamant about being shed of her. Upon my return, you have found a sudden sympathy in your heart? Such a conversion leads me to believe there is something more to all of this.”
As Guy came to a pause, Owen met his gaze. For just a moment, he thought to refute the charges. But it seemed so cowardly to remain in denial of what he truly felt.
“There has indeed been a change. One that I cannot deny.”
No words were said between them. But none were needed. And reading his father’s expression, Owen could see the frustration building. Guy took a step away, as if to distance himself. His words were sharp.
“Have you considered the consequences of such feelings?”
“I have," Owen declared. "But feelings such as these cannot be ignored. They cannot be denied.”
Guy turned suddenly, looking at him, speaking in a controlled but bitter tone of voice.
“You will lose this game if you continue to play it. She is no longer of your station. She is a criminal. There is a long list of faults against her. Must I name them every one?”
Owen took a step forward. He felt a slight flicker of tension at the awareness of what he was doing – confronting his father, whom he had always respected…and feared. But with each word spoken, he felt his confidence growing.
“I am well aware of the wrongs she has done. I am also aware of the matter of forgiveness. Is it not a right belonging to one and all?”
He expected the first stirrings of an angry tirade. Instead, Guy’s voice was calm, his hand raised slightly in a gesture of attempted reason.
“Owen, you must hear me. What you feel for her is one matter. How the world will react to such a revelation is something else entirely. You cannot form a romantic attachment to such a woman.”
The fatherly wisdom, well intended as it was, struck an angry nerve in Owen.
“Am I not permitted to love?” he demanded. “What right has anyone to forbid it?”
“The law will not allow you to marry an adulteress!”
Guy’s shout was furious…and Owen retaliated with equal passion and fury.
“I am well aware of the fact!”
“And yet you will have her as your wife, the consequences be damned?”
“What then? You intend to make a fallen woman your mistress?”
“She will not have me!”
His own words fell back on him then, his rage quelled in an instant by the confession. Turning away, his voice softened as he made the admission aloud.
“She does not love me.”
The tone between them quickly changed. All of the bitter tension evaporated. Guy’s voice, as dark in tone as it had been before, softened considerably.
“Why, then, do you go to such great lengths for her?”
With a shine of emotion in his eyes, Owen looked at his father.
“Because I want to see her happy. She is desperate to be with her son, and I intend to see her wish fulfilled.”
He looked away again, hoping that he would not be thought a fool for revealing such sentiment, and yet feeling that he could not help himself.
“There was a moment between us when she might have dared to love me. But fool that I am, I let my impulsive nature get the better of me. Now I fear I have alienated her forever.”
Hanging his head, he feared that he would now hear some lofty fatherly advice, and he was prepared to scoff at such an offering. But his father’s words were quite unexpected.
“I know something of unrequited love.”
Owen was stunned. Looking up, he saw that his father was not in jest.
“How do you know of it?” he asked.
Guy hesitated for a moment. Owen could see that his father was having difficulty, perhaps regretting the mention of some dark part of his past. But he was surprisingly calm when he began to speak.
“Before your mother, I was enamored of a beautiful woman. One who cared not for me, but for a man I utterly despised. Even after I learned of her true feelings, I was certain I would never love again.”
Guy nodded. “Once I met her, and came to know her, I found that she was all I desired in a woman, and more. She was, and still is, the greatest gift ever bestowed on me.”
“So you think I should forget Isabella?”
With a sigh, and a shake of his head, Guy replied. “Try as I might, I cannot tell you what to do. You are a man, and you will make your own decisions. I only pray that they will be wise ones.”
After a moment of silence, he started to walk away. But Owen had not been so distracted as to forget his purpose in all of this. Taking a step towards his father, he called out to him.
“Will you permit me to bring her son?”
It was several moments before Guy answered. “If you can manage the negotiations,” he said, “I will allow it. But you must wait until after your sister’s wedding. There is much to be done, and we all must be of aid.”
Suppressing his growing feeling of gladness and relief, Owen replied in as calm a voice as he could manage.
“Thank you, Papa.”
He watched his father go. Then, he rubbed his hands over his face, letting out a breath that he felt he’d been holding for hours. If all went as planned, Isabella would be granted a measure of happiness that no one else could give. Only he could make it happen. Despite the knowledge that she did not love him, he felt that with this gift, they might find some measure of peace between them. And that, for the moment, was enough.