I peeked into the grand hall toward our room on the first floor. It was one of the things I never fought the council on—to be separated from everyone else. Their Visionary was royalty. Fine. So Caleb and I stayed in the same room for every reunification. The kids stayed in the room next to us until they were old enough to start staying upstairs with everyone else by themselves. They got paired up with cousins of the same sex.
They loved it. It was like sleepovers. Ava was only six now, so it was her first year to sleep upstairs without us. Today was our next to last day. We were going home tomorrow. We had been pretty busy all day. I'd barely seen Caleb. Correction, I had seen Caleb for all of ten minutes. Even after all this time, my body still ached for him. We still went into withdrawals for each other. I looked at the door longingly, not sure if he was in there or not, but wanting to see him so badly.
"Mamma?" I looked down at the little boy tugging on my dress.
"Rodney? What are you doing down here?" I hoisted him to my hip.
"Visionary?" Paulo called from the table. No matter how hard he tried, Paulo was a good man, but a serial flip-flopper. He would be totally on board with change one year, then right back to tradition the next season. One little wrench in the cog and he was done. He couldn't understand that when you changed things, you were going to have bumps in the road. It was inevitable.
I smiled in allowance. "Coming, councilor."
Our last day luncheon was almost underway and then we'd be on our way home. I walked with Rodney to the table and looked over the proposition. The councilman on the end was asleep, his head leaned back on the chair with his mouth open slightly. He was dreaming about Christmas morning with his grandkids. They opened the train whistles that he handmade, whittled by his hands, and drove the entire house crazy with whistle sounds. But he was so proud.
Rodney tugged on the ends of my hair. "Do it, Mommy." He giggled before I'd even had a chance to do anything, the image of what he wanted playing through his mind. "Do it, please," he begged in a high-pitched whisper.
I smiled down at him and leaned in conspiratorially. We looked at the councilman as I flicked my finger up. The man's hair piece lifted from the front of his head just a little. I let it fall and then lifted it again. Rodney giggled so hard into his hands as I continued to dislodge the poor man's toupee a few more times really fast.
"Visionary," Paulo said wryly. I cut my eyes to him and smiled crookedly, a silent question there. "Are you…finished? If we sign these papers, we can be on our way, and the luncheon can begin."
"We're almost done," I spouted back regally and went back to show Rodney once more. "Ok. We're done now. Go find Daddy, sport."
"Right here. That didn't take long, did it?" I heard from behind me right before warm hands crashed into my hips. His mouth moved to my ear and my lips parted as his calm shot through my veins as he whispered, "I couldn't stand it another second without you."
Even in the room with other people, I leaned back into his arms. "Caleb," I said thankfully.
"Councilors, are we about done here?" he asked, and anyone could tell he was beyond peeved at the way this trip had turned out. We'd hardly gotten to see each other at all. They'd been particularly greedy of my time. That's what I was there for, I knew, but this had been one of those trips where the rules had outweighed the fun. They worried far too much about everything and instead of just leaving things up to my visions and the future, they insisted on the old ways of doing things. They were beginning to let their fear sway them again and not believe in the Visionary. So the entire week was spent in meetings and debate instead of revelry and splendor as it should have been.
"Now, Caleb," Paulo began, and I heard Caleb's answer before it came. I winced.
"You've kept her cooped up in here, and Gran, too, for that matter, all week. A Visionary on the verge of withdrawals because she's working too hard and long doesn't sound like a Visionary that's able to perform at the best of her abilities."
One of them sputtered, "She's doing just fine. Perfectly adequate."
Caleb chuckled. "I have no doubt that she's adequate, councilor, but think of how great she could be if you'd let her be fully energized instead of keeping her constantly on a short leash. All of you." He took my hand and stood next to me, his shoulder brushing mine. "I get it. You want to look brave, set an example and be leaders for our people. You think that anything but diplomacy and matters of business and politics makes you look weak. But the very foundation of our people was built on the bond between two people. I think embracing that would benefit our people way greater than trying to fight it for some show of wills."
Paulo turned his ring on his finger. He missed his wife and constantly thought about her. They talked in his mind all the time. He had to know I heard them, but didn't care or knew that I was a sap to my core and wouldn't mind it. He wasn't brave though. No matter what he wanted for himself, he always went with the flow.
Always. And the flow of the council usually went with whatever seemed the hardest. Without waiting for whatever they were going to say, Caleb put his arm around my waist and started to pull me from the room. "No offense, gentleman, but you've kept her from me long enough. Go spend the last day with your families before everyone goes home."
Gran came and took Rodney’s hand quickly. "I've got him." She grinned haughtily. "And I've got Ava, too. Go on, pretty girl."
"Thanks, Gran," Caleb told her, throwing a grateful smile over his shoulder for her. We picked up the pace as we heard the minds of the council begin to stop being so flabbergasted and start to think of something to say to stop us.
We sprinted through the hall like teenagers and I found myself giggling, especially when we reached the stairwell to find Kyle and Lynne were there, too. Kyle smirked at my surprised face. "Oh, come on. Do you really think the Champion would be able to pull off a ruse like that without some help?"
I ignored him with a smile and looked up at my significant. "Where are we going?"
"Does it even matter?" he said lovingly and leaned down to kiss my forehead, resting his lips there. "Just don't ever stop touching me," he whispered.