Alisen stayed downstairs for a very long time after Rudolph had left. The dark sky was beginning to fade, a light pink smearing across the clouds.
I know I am nothing to Rudolph. Isadora is all there is for him, all that he sees. I...I know I am something to him though. That is the problem. I know that he cares so much about me...it is just that he doesn't care about me in...that way. Oh, how I miss Willem. If Willem were here beside me, I would lean my head upon his shoulder and he would put his arm around me and I would feel so safe.
Alisen wiped a stray tear from her cheek with her index finger, before stretching hugely and tiptoeing upstairs to Lilia's room. Passing by the room Rudolph was sharing with Quin, she hear a faint noise, and her breath caught. It had been very quiet in the house and this sudden noise, although it was very quiet, was enough to startle Alisen to bits. With her heart thudding, she pushed lightly on the door to the boys' room. It was dark in the room, as the shades were drawn tightly over the single window, and Alisen was barely able to make out the sleeping figure of Rudolph. He was in the bed nearest to her and she could see his blonde hair glimmering in the faint light. There was another sound, and Alisen feared her heart would skip right out of her chest. She turned towards the far bed, and saw Quin sitting on its edge, head in his hands, weeping.
Alisen moved closer to Quin, hands shaking. She barely knew this boy, who had rescued her and Rudolph from a plight of hunger and extreme discomfort in the forest. She timidly lay a hand on his shoulder, and he whipped backwards, striking her with the back of his hand. Alisen pulled her own hand to her face in shock, and could feel her cheek was wet from not her own, but Quin's tears.
Neither of them spoke, and for this Rudolph continued in his slumber. Quin stared at his hands, and at Alisen. His chest rose and fell quickly, and Alisen saw that he had been frightened by her sudden interruption. He had struck out in surprise, not anger.
She kept her right hand on her burning cheek, and with her left, she beckoned Quin out of the room. With great surprise to Alisen, Quin followed her out onto the landing, and then down the staries and out the front door onto the chilly porch.
"Quin. Isn't it?" Alisen regretted that her voice sounded scratchy from the long sleepless night, and slightly choked from the surprising encounter.
"Yes. And you are Alisen." Quin's voice was strangled, as he swept away the remaining tears from his face that was red with shame from the slap.
"Please, talk to me. Please tell me why you are upset. Is this all about Isadora? Seems everything is about her these days..."
"Yes. And you...you like her?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I really do like her."
"Impressive. You and Rudolph in love with the royal." Alisen didn't even try to keep the scorn from poisoning her words. However, she noticed that her words had registered as confusion on Quin's face.
"What? Why do you refer to her as 'royal'?" Quin looked at Alisen sideways, and she understood that he did not know about Isadora's origins. Do I tell him? Is it my place to tell him? I do not owe her anything...She has taken the heart of Rudolph, and it seems she has also enchanted Quin. Alisen felt bitter. She felt hatred towards this girl who had what she wanted. And what did she do? She ran away. Ungrateful brat. Alisen made up her mind. She opened her mouth to speak.