The King of Kalbem: Chapter 13 - The Budding Flower
Updated: Sep 29
Chapter 13: The Budding Flower
“You should call on Caroline, my friend,” Will said as he shoveled dirt.
“Call on her?” Daniel gulped as he marked the places for the posts.
“You must be bold and daring. You won’t reap the rewards if you don’t take the risk.”
“I will take the risk,” Daniel paused, “in another year or so, if things are going well.”
“At least just ask her for a walk,” Will persisted. “How deep do these holes need to be?”
“We don’t want the structure to fall, so we need to make sure they are solidly posted into the ground. Make it five spans. How would I ask Caroline for a walk?”
“When you see her next, just say, ‘Caroline, would you have time for a walk later?’”
Daniel started writing, “Good, now give me a play-by-play of every possible answer she could give and what I say to each one.”
Will sighed, “I can’t tell you every possible conversation; you will have to improvise.”
“My improvisation seems to lack a lot as I usually freeze or hide.”
“I’ll give you a basic outline. If she says yes, then schedule it, and if she says no, then say, ‘Very well’ and wish her a lovely day.”
Daniel’s eyes were wide, “Just shrug off a ‘no’ like it’s nothing?”
“It’s not the end of the world,” Will shrugged.
“Of course it isn’t the end of the world,” Daniel agreed. “It’s a rejection; that’s so much worse!”
“Rejections are hard, but the survival rate is exceptionally high.”
“Are you sure you have accurate calculations?”
“You will survive if she says no.”
“Will I? How are you so sure?”
“Look, Daniel, rejections are a way of life. Besides, they aren’t always solid and sealed rejections; I have been rejected many times by the girl I’m now married to. If a girl says she can’t go on a walk with you, it doesn’t mean she hates you and wishes you would die of the plague; she could have responsibilities, not be feeling well, or any number of various reasons that don’t include you being the most lowly being she’s ever met.”
“I think hating me is the most likely possibility,” Daniel assured.
“You want to hear a story about Kat and me? The first time I asked Kat if I could escort her to a ball, she said in a rushed tone, ‘What? No, I can’t,’ and ran off. Then I saw her at the ball with Sir David. How does that story sound from my perspective?”
“You had the guts to ask that girl to marry you?”
“I didn’t always have the guts, but I did it anyway. Now, let me tell the story from her perspective. After every hint she could give me to ask her to the ball, a few days before it, Sir David asked her. Giving up on me asking her, she accepted. The day before the ball, she was acting as midwife for Lady Rachel. I asked right as she was rushing to get some towels, so she had no time to explain and rushed back to deliver the child. At the ball, she was very good to her escort, but she wished it was me. Do you see what I mean that things aren’t always as they seem? She rejected me, but it was because someone was giving birth in the other room, and I was a coward.”
“Could you ask Caroline for me?”
Will slapped his forehead and breathed in more patience, “Maybe conversation is too much for you. Perhaps we could start sending letters to her.”
Daniel perked up, “That’s a great idea! Because I can’t freeze up on those and you can help me write them!”
Will agreed and during lunch they settled down to a letter:
Thank you for all the kindness you show me. I enjoy seeing you at the shop every morning. May I walk you home sometime? I’m glad you like the table.
Daniel dropped the letter off at her house and came back to work more on the task.
After playing with the children that evening, Caroline approached Daniel, “Hi Daniel.”
“Hi,” he replied.
“I got your letter.”
“It’s fine, I wasn’t offended. I just wanted to say that you may walk me home.”
“Really?” Daniel asked excitedly.
“Sure,” Caroline wasn’t sure why this was such a big deal.
“Sweet!” As Daniel rushed off to tell Will, Caroline walked home.
“She said you may walk her home and you ran off?” Will gasped.
“Is that bad?” Daniel asked.
“Daniel, when a lady agrees for you to walk her home, you do it.”
“Wait, did she mean right then?”
“When else would she mean?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t really think it through. I was just excited that she didn’t reject me.”
Will sighed, “Let’s try this again.”
The letter left at her house the next day read:
Sorry about yesterday. May I walk you home when you come to pick Sarah up?
After playing with the children, Caroline again approached Daniel, “Hi Daniel.”
“Hi Caroline,” he replied. He then started mentally congratulating himself about how smoothly he said that without stuttering and making a real smile that didn’t look like he was afraid. Then he noticed her walking off.
Will walked up to him, “Why did you stand there and say nothing for a full minute?”
“Was it that long?” Daniel asked. “I was just excited that I said, ‘Hi Caroline,’ so well.”
Will gave him another talk and they tried again. The letter the next day read:
I apologize I didn’t quite understand that it was okay to walk you home yesterday. May I walk you home again today?
After playing with the children, Caroline approached Daniel, “I have a question. Why do you keep asking to walk me home and then not do it?”
“Wait, does this mean I can or can’t walk you home right now?” Daniel clarified.
“Yes, you may walk me home right now.” Daniel looked at his notes and began walking with her. “How come you write notes asking to walk me home and send them to my home? Isn’t that a bit counter-productive?”
“Notes are easier than talking.”
“I’ve noticed,” Caroline chuckled. “Though talking is usually more efficient. I thought men liked making things efficient.”
“Yes, but you are a woman.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Efficiency isn’t even a consideration when dealing with women; I’m not ready to fine-tune my program like that.”
“Daniel, you don’t have to be so paranoid with me like you always are. I’m not that intimidating.”
“That’s as ridiculous as saying you aren’t pretty.”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “Good night.” She went inside.
The next morning, as Will gave Caroline his letter for Kat, he stacked it with a letter from Daniel:
Thank you for letting me walk you home last night. Would you let me walk you home again tonight? See, this time you aren’t reading the letter at home, so it’s less ironic. Aren’t you proud of me?
Caroline approached him after he played with the children with a smile, holding back laughter, “Sure, I’m proud of you, Daniel. And yes, you may walk me home again.”
Will was in earshot this time and gave Daniel a gentle shove in the right direction. “You’re talking to me, right?” Daniel said as he unintentionally began walking.
“Yes, Daniel, I’m talking to you.”
“Just making sure.”
“You know what you should try tomorrow?” she suggested. “You should try asking to walk me home by actually asking me instead of writing.”
“I don’t know if I could do that.”
“You might say no, slap me, or yell at me.”
“I’ll give you a spoiler; I won’t do any of those. But you need to actually say it.”
“What if I freeze up? How long will you wait for me to find the words?”
“How about thirty seconds?”
“That might be hard. Could you wait for sixty?”
“Is fourty-five, okay? You can just say it; it’s not too hard. You can even write it down if it helps.”
“Good idea,” Daniel wrote it in his notes. “So you’ll walk up, I’ll say, ‘May I walk you home?’ you’ll say ‘yes’, and then we walk?”
“Yes,” she smirked, “just like that. Good night.”
The next evening, Caroline walked up to Daniel with an expectant look. Daniel looked at her for a few seconds. “You have thirty seconds left,” she whispered.
“Oh,” he realized and looked at his notes. “May I walk you home?”
“Yes,” she replied.
He smiled triumphantly and began walking with her, “Wow! You’ve never followed the script word for word before. Will’s scripts never turn out the way they are planned.”
“Imagine that,” she laughed. “I guess I’m better at predicting me than Will is.”
“No kidding. I should ask your advice more often.”
“You’d be amazed at how far my advice could get you.”
“So you could tell me what I need to do to impress you! Wait, can you do that since we’re talking about you?”
“Yes, I can,” she smirked. “Ask me for a walk tomorrow and we can discuss this.”
“That would be most helpful.”
“Good night.” She walked inside.
“Oh no!” he said to himself afterwards. “I told her I’m interested.”
* * * * *
Edmund walked with Will and Dominique after dinner. “Need some privacy?” Will whispered to Edmund.
“Just stay where I can see you,” Edmund insisted. “I will not shirk my duty as your protector.”
Will nodded and sped up to wander several paces ahead of Edmund and Dominique.
“My lady?” Edmund took her left hand. “May I speak with you?”
“Of course,” Dominique squeezed his hand. “What is on your mind?”
“You are, and have been ever since we came here.”
“I hope that isn’t a bad thing.”
“The farthest thing from bad; I feel like you are the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met. I’ve been more happy with you than I’ve been since my family passed.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “However, you are saddened that this can’t last because of your duty?”
“Yes,” he sighed. “My job doesn’t allow for a personal life. I wish I could have one with you, but my duty is to my king. It would be forward of me to look seriously between us, but if we became serious, it wouldn’t be fair to you as I would spend so much time and risk so much danger in my job that…” He didn’t finish his sentence.
“I understand,” agreed Dominique. “I share your affections towards me, but I also understand how you feel about your duty and mine.”
“You know that we can’t court after this. I really wish we could, but… do you understand?”
“I wish we could too, but I understand. The question is what we are to do while you are here.”
He hesitated, “I don’t want to waste your time, so if you’d like I will back off.”
“You are not a waste of time,” she assured. “Even if this won’t last, I wouldn’t want to miss out on the lovely experiences we can have for the next sixteen days.”
“Thank you for being so understanding, and for being so good to me,” they had stopped walking by now. Edmund caressed her cheek, “You are an incredible lady; I wish circumstances allowed me to formally court you.”
“We can’t change our circumstances, so we will make due with what we’re given. We might as well enjoy what we have while we have it.”
“Indeed,” Edmund affirmed, pulling her close. “And right now I have a beautiful maiden in my arms who loves others above herself and never complains about her circumstances.”
Dominique blushed, “And right now I’m being held by a noble man who puts his kingdom above his personal desires and lives to protect the innocent. How did the present become so wonderful?”
Edmund smiled at her and the two spent a minute looking into each other’s eyes. He leaned closer slightly, then withdrew a little less, then leaned in slightly more, and paused. She smiled, so he reached in and kissed her. As they slowly drew apart, their smiles brightened the darkening twilight. “I was hoping you would do that,” she whispered.
“Me too,” he hugged her. She hugged him tightly, as if any extra space in her arms would cause him to fall through the ground.
Will was sitting on a rock watching this whole exchange. Kat is going to be so disappointed that she missed this; Will chuckled to himself, especially since I got such a perfect view of that first kiss.
After a few minutes, Edmund drew back, “I’m afraid it is time to go, my lady.”
“Thank you for this,” she replied. “Could we go walking every night?”
“I would love that,” he smiled, then looked deeply into her eyes, caressed her cheek, and kissed her again. They both took a deep breath and Edmund looked over at Will, who had heard them and was walking ahead towards the house.
As they walked, Dominique turned to Edmund with a sly grin on her face, “I’m flattered. You haven’t done that before, have you?”
“Is it that obvious?” Edmund teasingly raised an eyebrow.
“Maybe,” Dominique drew out the word. “I imagine being the royal bodyguard doesn’t lend itself to a social life.”
Edmund chuckled, “Indeed it doesn’t. I have had more social interaction in the past few weeks than I have in the past few years.”
Dominique started to giggle and then suddenly turned serious, “I hope you feel like family to my family; I know it’s a feeling you miss.”
“I do feel like family to your family,” Edmund squeezed her hand, “excepting you. I wouldn’t kiss a sister like that.”
She giggled and gave him a hug, “That’s okay. Good night.” She winked and went to her room.
After Edmund closed the door to the room he and Will stayed in, Will clapped his hand and said, “Well done, Edmund! Is she a good kisser?”
Edmund smiled, “I don’t really have the basis to know that, would I?”
The men exchanged laughs and went to bed.
They were woken by Cameron, who was practically on top of Edmund. “Hey, Edmund,” Cameron whispered in an unquiet voice, “did you kiss Dominique?”
Edmund opened one eye in a squint. “Yes?” he replied groggily.
“You are number four then!” Cameron informed. “Roger says she’s a really good kisser, so hopefully you enjoyed that. And Dominique was dancing around her room like she had just been given chocolate. She was so happy. I think she likes you.” With that, he scurried out of the room.
* * * * *
“Well done, adventurers,” Edmund congratulated, “we saved the world again. Meet me here again tomorrow; the world may need us again.”
The children dispersed and Caroline approached Daniel, who was holding Sarah’s hand. “Could you ask me to walk after dinner tonight?” she asked. “Something tells me we’ll need more time today.”
“How do I ask you after dinner?” Daniel replied.
“Come to my house, knock on the door, and ask me for a walk.”
Daniel gulped. “Okay.” He turned and walked away.
An hour later, Daniel found himself standing in front of Caroline’s door. After a few minutes of mustering his courage, he finally closed his eyes and knocked.
Caroline answered the door, “Oh Daniel, how nice of you to stop by.”
Her waist-length hair wasn’t up like it usually was and her tight curls framed her heart shaped face as they draped over her shoulders. He gawked with a stupid looking smile for a few seconds.
She cleared her throat, “Is there something you want?”
“Yes,” Daniel startled, then paused, “is this when I ask you for a walk?”
She nodded with a suppressed smile.
He cleared his throat, “Well then, would you like to go for a walk?”
“Yes, I would,” she replied and closed the door behind her.
“So,” Daniel nervously started, “how was your day cooking at the palace?”
“Quite enjoyable, thank you,” she replied. “The castle has so many wonderful resources; I can cook masterpieces.”
“You certainly can.”
“It’s nice to have something one can take pride in. Like you have with carpentry.”
“I’m not that good at it.”
“Don’t say that; you may have just insulted half the carpenters in the kingdom.” Daniel didn’t know how to reply, so he said nothing at all. Caroline thought for a moment, then said, “Tip number one when dealing with girls: when you don’t respond to something we say, we feel ignored.”
“I wasn’t ignoring you,” he defended, “I just had nothing to say.”
“I guessed that, but it would be good to get into the habit of at least giving an acknowledging grunt.”
“Like this? Oog!” Daniel grunted.
Caroline laughed, “Make it more affirmative.”
“Much better! So what questions do you have for me?”
Daniel pulled his notes out of his pocket, “What are your current thoughts or feelings towards me?”
“Good question. I would say they are definitely positive. Not romantic in nature, but I see you as an old friend. I look back fondly and sometimes even wistfully on those years when we were so close. Why did you stop interacting with me after you became a carpenter?”
“I started to like you.” Why are you being so honest? Daniel asked himself.
“I was starting to like you as well,” she sighed, “until you stopped talking to me. After a year or so I got over it.”
“Wow, you were interested in me?” Daniel was sincerely shocked by this.
“Well when you actually treat me like a human, you are delightful, smart, capable, and very sweet.”
Daniel nervously laughed to himself, “Yeah, about treating you like a human…”
“Just tell me; we’re past the point of embarrassment.”
“How am I supposed to treat you like a human when you’re a woman?” he blurted at her.
She gave him a funny look, “Biologically speaking, women are classified as human.”
“Yes, but women are so different. I don’t know how to act around them.”
“We’re not so different that you can’t talk to us and have conversations without the constant fear that we’ll turn into a fire-breathing monster and eat you.”
“How did you know I felt that way?” Caroline gave him a funny look. “Am I that obvious?” he asked.
She swiveled her head up and down slightly and turned it into a nod, “Yes.”
“Honestly I’m surprised you haven’t slapped me or yelled at me or something already.”
“Why on earth would I do either of those?”
“I don’t know, because I’m annoying, awkward, or breathing?”
“Awkward, I’ll give you. Trust me, it takes a lot more than that to upset me.”
Daniel was silent, then realized he needed to say something, and grunted, “Mhm.”
Caroline smirked and tripped over a root, catching herself with a stumble.
“My fault!” Daniel blurted. “My path was slightly skewed, so you had to correct it by walking where I was going… so the root was supposed to be in my way… my fault.”
“I’m fine,” she assured, then continued, “What is next on your list of questions?”
“What should I do to impress her?” Daniel read.
“The advice I will give you on that is: be my friend again, and you may impress me without trying.”
“Really? So what do I do to be your friend again?”
“How about you ask me for a walk every day? And then just talk to me like you used to.”
“How do I talk to you like I used to? You’re intimidating. And you’re a woman!”
“Look, I won’t ever yell at you, I won’t slap you unless you act in a vile manner, and I won’t reject you without explanation. Does that help?”
“Knowing factually and believing are two different things.”
“Well, let’s just practice being friends on our evening walks and maybe it’ll come true.”
Over the next week of the task, Daniel and Will would work all day while Dominique and Edmund tended to their needs, then they would play with the children of the village, have dinner, and then Daniel would go walking with Caroline, and Will would tag along on the walks of Edmund and Dominique, composing his next letter to Kat.
Edmund and Dominique were developing a deep affection for one another and always kept bright smiles when they were near each other. Daniel and Caroline were slowly, but surely, becoming more friendly every day and even were able to spend longer walks engaged in conversation.
The structure Will was making for the task was coming together as the foundation was solid, and all the construction was in place. There was still much to be done, but it had taken shape, and the children were all very excited about it. Daniel and Will decided that when the structure was complete, they would spend the rest of the allotted time carving intricacies into the play ground’s structure.
Kat sat helplessly at the castle wishing she could be with her husband, but honoring his wishes for her protection. She took time in the garden every day to pour out her heart in her letters she sent home with Caroline every evening. She missed him dearly, but all seemed to be going well for now.
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