When Dan was done reading the letter, Nolwazi touched his arm. “What does it say?” she asked.

Before responding, Dan folded the letter and put it back in its envelope. Jefferson could have said all of that to his face, and he could have said it more frankly, without dancing around his threats with pretty language. But there was always the veneer of elegance, always the showmanship. His mask was not only the one that covered his face.

Dan knew Jefferson better than many people in the Aquamarine, but he still thought in many ways the rumours were accurate: a monster really did dwell in the basement, and that was all one needed to know.

“Daniel?” Nolwazi asked.

Instead of responding to Nolwazi, Dan turned to her. She looked worried, but her hand on his arm was steadying. He wanted to be angry, but he also knew that Jefferson was telling the truth. Nolwazi deserved his love, more than his love, and Dan even wanted to give it to her. Just looking at her, he knew he loved her. But she was not the woman he had thought she was. Maybe Jefferson had changed her. Maybe Dan had always assumed she was more innocent than she really was. But then again, he had always known she was clever and very practical. He had simply assumed she would never use her cleverness against him.

While Dan was looking at Nolwazi, he wanted to run away from her, now. He wanted to get some space between them, perhaps only for a day or two. They needed space. They needed very badly to work things out, to figure out what they both wanted. But they would not be able to do that. Jefferson wanted things solved quickly, and so did Nolwazi, and Dan could not be selfish when Jefferson might hurt Simon.

After a while, Dan cleared his throat. “I love you,” he said. He then looked at her and thought, God help him because, when she blushed, she was the most beautiful creature in the world.

“I knew you did,” Nolwazi said, a little shyly. “And you aren’t angry with me anymore?”

“I forgive you,” Dan said while shrugging.

After speaking, Dan let Nolwazi hug him. “No,” he thought. “I don’t forgive you yet. I will someday, but not today.” But even as he thought, he knew that it did not matter very much. He could already see how quickly he was going to allow himself to forget. Soon, he would be telling his brother he was back with the woman, and that time to stay. Soon, he would be asking her to marry him, and he would want her to marry him (it was all he had ever wanted), only …

While Dan was thinking, he could feel his body shaking in her embrace. But as he was about to cry, her lips touched his cheek, and then she whispered in his ear. “We’re going to be all right, Daniel.”

“All right,” he thought, and he wanted to believe that.


Tell us: Do you think Dan was right to forgive Nolwazi?