Part 40: link
“I’m going to go get some firewood,” he tells her once they are back. Gwen is taking her shoes off, sitting on the bed.
“A fire would be nice,” she says, managing a smile.
“Make sure you take something for your head,” he tells her just before he leaves the room.
Alone, she takes a moment. I cannot believe him. I don’t even know what to say, how to broach the topic.
She sighs and drops her head into her hands.
Gwen stands and goes into the bathroom. She turns the tap on to fill the tub. As she undresses, she sees the door staring at her. Scowling, she stomps over to it, closes it tightly, and locks it.
She pins her hair up, then sinks into the tub while it is still filling, resting her head against a towel she’s rolled up and placed on its ledge. Closing her eyes, she attempts to clear her head, concentrating on the warm water surrounding her body, enveloping her almost completely in the large tub.
I’m sure she knows we used to go out,
Gwen hears Sophia’s voice echoing in her head.
Gwen, was it?
she thinks with a smirk.
And Arthur. What. The. Hell. What was that hesitation before he said ‘fiancée?’ What was that ‘how nice to see you?’
She hears a knock at the door.
“I can’t hear you, the water’s running,” she calls.
“The door’s locked.”
“What?” Oh, I hear you fine.
Why is the door locked?
Arthur is puzzled. He came back from getting firewood to find Guinevere’s shoes and a closed bathroom door. A locked
He waits until the water turns off.
“Yes?” she answers. Don’t even ask. Don’t you dare ask.
Maybe she was using the bathroom and locked it because she knows I don’t want to know about that.
“You forgot to unlock the door, love.”
“I didn’t forget.”
“I didn’t forget.”
Why has she locked me out?
“I just want to be alone right now, Arthur.”
“Yes. I really don’t want to talk to you at the moment.”
“Gwen, is something wrong?”
“Hallelujah, he finally noticed!” she shouts sarcastically.
Arthur slides down and sits outside the door.
“Guinevere, please talk to me. Whatever I did, I’m very sorry.”
“Arthur Pendragon, an apology doesn’t count for anything if you don’t even know why
you’re apologizing!” she yells, frustration bringing tears along with it.
He leans his head against the door. Surely she can’t be… can she? I didn’t… did I?
“Will you please open the door?”
“I’m in the bathtub.”
“I don’t want to have to talk to you through a closed door.”
Arthur slumps against the doorframe, his head in his hands. He leans his head back, hitting it gently on the wood.
He closes his eyes and sighs. Think.
His eyes open and he notices a small hole in the center of the doorknob. Aha.
He stands and jogs to the kitchen. He rummages through a drawer, hands passing over rubber bands and pens and paperclips and notepads and spanners until he finds the item he is seeking.
Returning to the bathroom, he pokes the small metal rod into the hole in the doorknob, popping the lock. He opens the door quietly and walks in, a concerned look on his face.
Luckily a layer of suds covers her body.
Gwen glares at him through glassy eyes tinged with red. “How did you do that?” she asks. He holds up the tool, a thin metal rod about three inches in length with a loop in one end.
“Came with the doors,” he says. “Gwen, I…”
“You are a coward and a hypocrite,” she interrupts him, stopping him dead in his tracks.
“Excuse me?” he asks, surprised.
“No. I won’t. Not until you explain your behavior tonight. At the restaurant. With her.
“Guinevere…” he doesn’t know what to say.
“I… I don’t know why I was nice to her. I don’t know. I was so surprised to see her. And then when she called to us, I, um… I guess I kind of panicked.”
“And she looked so… miserable. Married to a man old enough to be her grandfather. I just didn’t have the heart to be cold.”
“Oh, yes, because we must always pity people that choose
poorly,” she says sarcastically. “You even said that you figured she had married some rich old lord. And that’s precisely what she did. It was her choice
to do that, Arthur. You know
she is a gold digger. She is simply reaping what she has sown.”
“True,” he admits quietly and looks down, twirling the lock tool between his fingers.
“Do you still have feelings for her?” she asks point-blank.
Arthur looks right into her eyes. “No. Absolutely not.”
“Then what the hell?” Frustrated, she leans her head back against the towel and raises her hands to her forehead, fingers massaging in tiny circles.
“Arthur. You were perfectly happy to intimidate Lance when we ran into him.” Her face is pointed at the ceiling, eyes closed, talking as she massages her temples. “You even praised my calm and cool demeanor with him. So let me ask you: how would you have felt if I had been as friendly towards him as you were to Sophia? Hugging and playing nice; letting him kiss me on both cheeks?”
He squeezes his eyes shut and winces, realizing his stupidity, knowing full well that he would not have been able to handle seeing Guinevere warmly hugging Lance. Remembering the scene he almost created in the bridal shop. He walks to the tub and crouches down next to it. “Was I really that bad?”
“’Sophia, how nice to see you,’” she mocks his tone. “’This is my… fiancée, Guinevere Thomas.’ After
I had to remind you that I was there. Nice pause, by the way.” Gwen glowers at the bubbles in front of her. Another tear slips disobediently from her eye and she angrily wipes it away.
Arthur drops his head, resting it on the cool rounded edge of the bathtub. “Oh, God, I was a complete prat, wasn’t I?” She’s right: Coward. Hypocrite.
“No. You were a total ass. You’re just lucky you didn’t accept her invitation to tea.”
“I got the hint that you weren’t up for that by the way you very nearly broke the skin on my arm,” he tries a smile.
“Well, at least I managed to injure you a little. That’s worth something,
I guess.” She picks at her cuticles, not looking at him.
Arthur heaves a great sigh, feeling exactly like the total ass that Gwen has named him. “I have no explanation for my behavior tonight. No excuse. I was an idiot and I was wrong to treat you that way.” He adjusts his position, trying to get her to look at him.
“Guinevere, please know that I love you. Only you. What I had with her wasn’t even love, in retrospect. I didn’t even know what love was until I met you. Honest.” He reaches over and strokes her cheek lightly, with one finger, timid, testing.
She says nothing for several minutes. When she finally looks at him, her eyes are pained, pleading, but the anger is melting. “Why, Arthur? Why do you love me? I need to hear it.” A whispered question.
“I love you because you are always you. You don’t put on airs or pretend to be something or someone you’re not. I love your sensible, intelligent mind. I love how you know little tidbits about almost everything. I love that you like action films better than chick flicks. I love that one of your closest friends is an old man,” he smiles at this, and places his entire palm against her cheek. “I love that I can say anything to you; that I can tell you everything. I love that you have no tolerance for idiots like Vivian.” She finally smiles, tears running down her cheeks. “I love that you are an amazing cook, even though I’m afraid I’m going to get fat eating your cooking. I love that you love cars. I love how you smell. I love how you
name. I love your soft brown eyes and your soft brown skin. I love how you bite your lower lip when you are thinking hard about something.” He runs his thumb along her lower lip, and her eyes close. “I love you because you don’t try to change me, yet you still make me a better person. I love you because you are everything I need and everything I’m not. I love you because you are the missing part of me.”
He leans over and kisses her, and when she accepts his kiss, he sighs heavily, almost crying with relief.
“I’m sorry, Guinevere. I know why I’m apologizing now, and I’m so sorry,” he whispers, resting his forehead against hers.
“I love you, Arthur,” she whispers back, leaning her chin forward to kiss him once more. She leans back and he wipes the tears from her cheeks with his thumbs.
Gwen stares at him a moment, then says, “Well are you going to join me or not?”
She has never seen a person get undressed that fast before.
Arthur steps into the tub and she scoots forward to allow him to sit behind her, so she can nestle into him.
“Wow, you like hot water,” he says, exhaling, letting his body adjust to the temperature.
“What’s the point, otherwise?” she says, leaning back against him, her head on his shoulder.
“How is your head?” he asks, suddenly realizing that perhaps it wasn’t bothering her at the restaurant after all.
“It actually was fine at the restaurant,” she chuckles a little, then continues. “But it is starting to trouble me some now. I imagine the stress didn’t help it any,” she says. “I didn’t say that to make you feel bad, honest,” she adds quickly, feeling him slump slightly behind her.
“Sorry.” He reaches up and rubs his fingers along the sides of her neck, down to her shoulders, willing the tension out of her. She leans forward to give him better access.
Arthur finds some soap and soaps his hands up, making them nice and slippery, and he returns them to her neck, using the soap much the same way Gwen used the lotion on his neck earlier that evening.
She sighs, feeling his strong fingers on her neck, shoulders, between her shoulder blades, and down along either side of her spine.
“You have a beautiful back,” he says, running his hands up her back, his palms flat against her skin.
“That is the second most bizarre compliment you’ve given me,” she tells him.
He laughs. “What was the first?”
“When you told me I had cute toes.”
“You do,” he says, then finds her feet with his under the water, rubbing against them.
He rinses the soap off her back and neck and pulls her back to him and he places a few kisses along her neck. I like her hair down, but when it’s up I can do this a lot easier,
he thinks, knowing she likes her neck kissed.
Gwen turns and kisses him, and he groans and holds her to him as if he never wants to let go. She has her hands on his chest, her palms flat against him. She runs her hands up to his shoulders, just feeling the contours of his muscles against her palms, his skin warm and wet.
Arthur slides one hand beneath the water, resting it on her hip briefly before moving to her rear. He pulls her closer. She squeaks.
“Did I hurt you?” He asks, pulling away.
“No, I just…” she rests her head down on his shoulder.
“… not tonight, Arthur. Sorry,” she says to his chest.
“Are you sure?”
“Well, I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but it’s okay, really.” He pauses. Then, carefully: “Can I ask why?”
“It’s my head. Honest this time.” She kisses him.
“Oh good. Well, not good that your head is hurting you. Good because I was afraid you were still mad at me.”
“No, I think I’ve punished you enough.”
“We should get you some Tylenol and into bed, love,” he tells her.
Part 42: link