Lying in bed alone, staring at that empty space until she can’t see anymore. Rolling over so she doesn’t have to look at it, drawing the covers close to try to stay warm when the cold is overwhelming. I know how she’s felt for the last several months. But I can’t pretend to know what she’s feeling now.
Of course I shouldn’t have done it. But having done it, I shouldn’t have told her.
I can explain how I felt at the time, what led me to it. I can try to tell how angry I was that a man like (I thought) Bareris was could be dead while a simpleton like Corael lived. I remember how resentful I felt, that the happiness I had worked so hard for had been taken, while Cearalaith sat blissfully ignorant of how fortunate she was to have had things handed to her. To have had me handing things to her for so much of her life! My anger and resentment wasn’t such that I set out to seduce my sister’s husband… but when the opportunity presented itself, I did not hold back.
I can explain how much I hated myself, then. What a failure I felt like. How it stung when people called me soft for weeping over my husband. How I wondered if I could have saved him, had I been more of the warlock I used to be, instead of the woman I had become. How in a way I was looking to prove to myself that yes, I still had it – and if it was wrong, all the better; I deserved to be hated and reviled. That was the proper way of things, I believed… and sometimes still do.
I can explain all of that. But it excuses nothing. It justifies nothing. I was wrong. I betrayed my sister.
And ultimately I betrayed a man I should have called my brother.
He was not easily conquered – ironically, simple men rarely are, so dearly do they cling to their principles. But I often boast that I can do and/or have anything I want eventually, and once again I was able to prove it. Why yes, I still had it.
I was being truthful when I told Cearalaith that he was my friend… but he wasn’t at that time. That came later, when he showed me compassion and kindness despite the abuse I continued to levy on him. When he saved me from a Twilight curse at great risk to himself, although it would have been smarter for him to let me die. How his face twisted with confusion when I asked him why he’d done it. “Because you’re my sister,” he said simply. “I can’t leave you behind.” Not Cearalaith’s sister, not his sister-in-law, his sister. After everything I’d done to him.
After that, I began acting the sister that I should. He accepted me, as he always had. We didn’t consciously ‘end’ the affair. The relationship simply changed, and for the better. Of course that first night I had sworn to Corael that I would not tell Cearalaith what had transpired between us – a throwaway promise, meant to grease the wheels – and I initially meant to keep it then simply because it was safer for me too. But ultimately I kept it for a different reason, despite the guilt I ultimately felt. Yes, one could argue that she deserved to know… but I had betrayed both of them enough, and I felt there was nothing that could be gained by her knowing that could possibly outweigh what they both would lose. The chapter closed.
And it should have stayed closed. I should not have told her. I would not have told her, had I not been caught so off-guard. I should have carried that knowledge and that guilt to my grave. In truth I didn’t take her husband; he was still hers. But I’ve now taken her memories of him, and with him gone it’s essentially the same thing.
I don’t know how to talk to her. Not that she will listen right now anyway. And I cannot blame her.
But Corael, if you are out there somewhere: I am sorry. I know you would have done anything to protect her, as I would have – and yet I think I managed to hurt her worse than anyone else ever has, and I made you an accomplice in it. I will still protect her, as much as I can… and if I can, I will someday find a way to make things better. I promise.
Rest well, my friend… my brother. What I did to you and your wife was unconscionable. I am sorry.