A week's fun with two older ladies at the cottage.
" She stood up and walked away.
I got up and followed her. "Lanissa, wait."
She turned. "What are you going to do? Grab me or something?" There were tears in her eyes. "We've been married for a couple of hours and the only time we've been close to each other you kept trying to squirm out of my embrace."
"Lanissa, it's just that..."
"'Just that.'" She snorted. "I'm such a fool!"
I felt a rising panic. If she walked out of the marriage now...
But it wasn't just that. Those tears in her beautiful golden eyes had shocked me. I'd only ever seen those eyes of hers so utterly fragile one other time in my life, in those moments before the play.
I ran to her, took hold of her wrist. She shook herself free and turned blazing eyes on me. "It's too late," she said. "Dramatic gestures aren't going to accomplish anything."
She stalked into the bedroom. I followed her, expecting her to have thrown herself on the bed. Instead she was at the far wall, taking something down off it.
Wait. The crossed swords. I took a step back. Dragonewts were a warlike race, but surely Lanissa wasn't planning to...
She turned, a sword in each hand. She saw my alarm and a grim smile appeared on her lips.
"Scared?" she said. "I thought you were braver than that. I mean, you've married your people's mortal enemy, right? That's pretty courageous, I would've thought."
She threw one of the swords at me - no, to me. I caught it.
"We missed one the most important parts of a dragonewt wedding, you know," she said, advancing on me. "Traditionally, bride and groom fight a show battle to demonstrate that their strength is equal and that they're compatible. You know how to use a sword, right?"
"Thank god," she said. "Well, I think I've made a huge mistake marrying you. You have to beat me, or else I'm flying straight out that door."
"But the war, Lanissa!"
Her face turned to a mask of rage, but there were tears in her eyes as well. "I don't give a damn about the war, you fool! Now defend yourself or die!"
She flew at me and I raised my blade just in time to ward off her attack. Her blow slid off my sword, and my hands burned in agony from the shuddering impact.
She wasn't holding back! I'd thought this was all for the sake of drama. I was wrong.
She attacked again and again I barely warded off the blow. I almost tripped over my own feet. Feet. Your stance. That's right. What did the instructor say? Stay on your feet or you die.
Lanissa's blows came thick and fast. She was well-trained, but her anger made her overcompensate. Desperate, I capitalised on this weakness. She was far stronger than me, after all.
"Lanissa!" I cried over the sparking blows of our blades.
"Shut up!" she said. "Fight back or I'll kill you!"
"I don't want to hurt you!"
"Too late, you fool, too late!" Her voice was a sob. "Why do you hate me so much?"
"I don't hate you," I said, dodging a stab from the side and pushing myself back away from the corner of the bed.
"Liar," she hissed. "Liar. I thought... I thought that you were happy to marry me. But this is all just a job, isn't it? An obligation, some selfless sacrifice?"
"Shut up, shut up, shut up!" Blows rained down on me and I stumbled backwards. "God, I'm such a fool. I thought you were just shy. But you really do hate me, don't you? Even back at school, you hated me. That's why you wouldn't talk to me before the play. You knew what I was going to say, didn't you? You knew how I felt!"
Her sword flew at my face. I stepped aside but it nicked the edge of my ear. Sharp pain lit my anger and I stopped playing the defensive game.
"What the hell is your problem!" I shouted at her. My attack took her off guard and she stumbled backwards, her sword raised to ward off my flurry of swift but unruly blows. "That stupid goddamn play!"
"Yes!" she spat back. "That stupid goddamn play! Do you know how excited I was to be on stage beside you, how hard it was to get all the kids to vote for you and-"
"I knew it," I said through gritted teeth.