I love the autumn. It is the best season as the cooler air blows in off the ocean and at least a few of the trees turn vibrant colors. Okay, sure, most of them stay pretty green year round and we never have what you might call winter exactly but still; it's the best. And the best part of it? The Renaissance Festival up at the Castle. Now you think I'm a dork probably but I love any excuse to dress up and relive a bit of history - complete with festival food like turkey legs.
And this year I wasn't just going as a visitor - I was in the cast! The Festival has strict age rules due to the long hours on the weekends but I was seventeen now and had been cast as one of the princesses!
Which meant I walked around a lot and attended shows as an 'official royal family member'. Most shows would work whoever showed up into the skit; which meant Festival goers would recognize us when we walked around during the day. I was thrilled!
Better than that, James was working the Festival as well for credit for some class. I was sure it would be a great opportunity to spend time together. And put Erik totally and completely out of my mind. Totally.
"Now good folks!" James bellowed across the small field. "Our fair Princess Genevieve has come to partake of the sport - who will join me to entertain her Highness?"
The assembled crowd chuckled but no one volunteered.
"Come now, surely there is a brave knight amongst you!" James said. "Or are you all lasses?"
I snickered, James was always good at goading some guy into a challenge.
"I must apologize your Highness." he said, kneeling before me and kissing my hand. "None of these gentlemen are up to the challenge." he smiled at me before turning back to the crowd. "A disappointment to be sure."
"I'll do it." someone spoke up from the back of the crowd.
"I do believe our luck has changed Princess!" James said standing. He scanned the crowd for the owner of the voice. "Come good sir! Her Highness demands entertainment and sport!"
I saw him before James did. I suppressed the groan well enough as Erik strode confidently to the field.
"Ah, yes, I think you will do nicely." James said with a cocky grin. He turned to the audience and lifted his arms. "A cheer for Sir Erik!" he bellowed. The crowd dutifully cheered as a page ushered Erik to a small changing station to put on a bit of padding and a basic costume. They would also give him a few brief instructions on the fighting - a fight with blunt swords.
James entertained the crowd with a few jokes while we waited for Sir Erik to return. When he did; James called for another cheer from the crowd as always. "For the Crown!" James bellowed.
"For the Princess." Erik said quietly, looking my direction. He smiled at me one last time.
And then the duel began.
I jumped to my feet more than once and I'm sure I shielded my eyes. I'd played with the blunted swords before and knew they were perfectly safe but I couldn't help but cringe.
Erik was good - I'm not sure where he learned to fence or stage fight but I could tell from the look on James's face that he was really having to work at this one. Usually he had to fake being challenged by the opponent. Most of the men who challenged him were ready for a fist fight and had no idea what to do with a sword other than swing it wildly.
James often gave in; for the good of the show and to keep the challengers happy - he was an actor after all. But I knew he wouldn't give in to Erik unless Erik soundly beat him. The audience let out many oohs and awws as the duel continued. It wasn't until James managed to disarm Erik, sending the sword into the grass several feet away that Erik conceded. In spite of his loss, the crowd jumped to their feet in applause and James encouraged them. Shifting his sword to the other hand he and Erik shook hands. The rest of James's show was tame in comparison but I remained until the end. I gave him a quick kiss before walking through the crowd. It took me fifteen minutes and several pictures to get free of them.
"You know, that wasn't a 'Me Tarzan, You Jane' thing..." Erik said from behind me.
"What?" I asked, very confused.
"Two years ago; first day of school - Todd and I fought over you and you told me not do the Tarzan thing again. I wanted to assure you that..." he motioned toward the field where James had started another show. "That wasn't a Tarzan thing. He just seemed to need a challenger."
"Right, okay." I said looking back at the fountain. "You were good. Did you taking dueling lessons before too?" I asked.
"No, but I've done some stage fighting before. Not as much as James it would seem but enough I guess." Erik said.
"You know you're supposed to give that back." I said, motioning toward his costume.
"Yeah I know, I just kind of liked it." Erik grinned. I couldn't help but laugh then. "I love that laugh." he said a little sad.
"You look good as a knight." I said. "I better get back to being Princess Genevieve. Don't forget to return the costume." As I walked past him, our hands brushed each other.
I couldn't help but look at him then, to really see him there; as much as I'd tried to push him from my mind, there he was. It took every fiber of my being not to grab his hand with mine and to keep walking. But I did. "Can't have both." I said softly. Erik may have heard me because he looked at me curiously, but I didn't wait to see if he would question me.
I retreated into the Castle. There were parts of the Festival that happened indoors but most things were outside so I was happy to find the throne room empty. As I sunk into the chair, I couldn't help but think of the Halloween party that had happened in this very room last year. Where I'd first met James.
"Ginny?" Nai'a said, having just poked her head in the room.
I looked over at her wearily. "Hey Nai'a" I said with very little enthusiasm. Nai'a sat in the throne next to me. "How's Timothy?" I asked. I knew that since he's mom's death, he and Nai'a had gotten closer.
"Coping." she said. "I think he'll be okay; his father isn't handling it so well."
I nodded. I was sure I should say something more but I just couldn't figure out what it was.
"How are you?" Nai'a asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Um, tired." I said lamely.
"Of juggling two guys?" Nai'a said with a grin.
"I'm not juggling two guys." I defended myself with as much fervor as I could muster. "I kind of wish I was..."
"I don't think James and Erik are the sharing type." Nai'a said.
"Yeah, that's the problem." I said with a chuckle. "I could come up with a schedule...at least until James leaves."
"When is that?" Nai'a asked.
"December." I said. "Then....well I don't know what happens then."
"I think you know what will happen." Nai'a said. "Look, I don't know your relationship with Erik that well; but it's clear that when James isn't in the picture there's some chemistry between you two. If James is gone off to Yale....he'll be out of the picture pretty permanently; not just on the other side of town."
"And then Erik and I would..." I trailed off following her line of thought. If James wasn't here - chances are Erik and I would eventually get together some way or another.
"Right; and James seems like a great guy - you don't want to hurt him like that...." Nai'a said. She turned toward the door and looked confused. "Did you just hear the door close?"
"Yeah." I said looking around. The throne room was empty now, maybe someone had been lost and just opened it and then left again. I shrugged it off. "So you think I should break up with James before he leaves?"
"I'm just sayin' - you're not the cheating type but you and Erik...seems like it's gonna happen whether you want it to or not." Nai'a said. She grinned then. "And I'm pretty sure you want it to....at least a bit."
I chuckled, I couldn't deny that. "Thanks Nai'a" I said. "I miss having a girl friend around."
"No problem girlie." Nai'a said. "Looks like it's coming on sunset, better get outside Princess." she said with a laugh.
"You're right!" I said. I hurried out of the room and went up to the roof of the Castle. There would be fireworks just after sunset and most of the fair goers and cast came up to the roofs to watch them over the ocean.
"I've been looking for you." James said, placing a hand on my waist.
"I was in the throne room." I said. "Remembering last Halloween when I met the mysterious mobster." I said with a smile.
"I remember that night. There was the pretty, but sullen, Queen." James said with a smile.
"Yes, I was pretty." I teased.
"Ginny." James said, sounding serious again. "I love you and I would like to stay with you in spite of the challenges." I started to say something but he put his finger to my lips. "But I don't think that's what you want." he said softly.
I was stunned and I'm sure my mouth was hanging open. He pulled my hand to his mouth and kissed it softly.
"As much as I love you; I'm pretty your heart belongs to someone else right now." James said.
"I'm so sorry." I said as tears stung my eyes. "Nothing happened since we started dating...."
"I know that Ginny, you wouldn't do that." he said. "I want you to be happy and I don't think I'm it for you at this point."
That was it, he was giving me up because I was too much of a chicken to do it myself. I started crying then and then tears wouldn't stop. James wrapped his arms around me once more and held me closely while I cried.
We watched the sun descend on the ocean; but all I saw was the water in my own eyes.
"Do me one favor?" he whispered into my ear. I nodded because I didn't trust myself to speak. "Wait until I'm gone."