“Only when you are very, very quiet,” he said finally. She looked up, forehead creased into a frown,
“I don’t understand, why do you play with me so?” Lars’ interest turned to a passing child, he answered absently,
“That is two questions, we agreed you could have just one.” Julia could have screamed with anger at his response and she did somewhere deep down, but as she looked at him, his smug expression threatening to cloud her own judgement, she chose another approach.
“You haven’t answered the first.” He looked at her again, brown eyes boring into hers,
“Yes, I did, it cannot be helped that you refused it.” Julia opened her mouth, closed it again. Then, through gritted teeth,
“You care for me only when I am very quiet? So shall I remain silent so that your precious love can wash over me?” Keeping the sarcasm from her tone was not easy, but she plodded on, “I suppose it is best to assume that as I speak, your affection wanes?” He looked at her, obviously amused,
“You can assume whatever you wish.” Julia fought to keep her frustration at bay, but it proved too fast for her,
“I cannot return to my father without an answer, will our families be joined or not?” Lars simply laughed,
“Now the count is three. I think you might have asked the wrong one first.” It was Julia’s turn to look away. Her eyes rested on the stump of tree, that acted as a public seat for anyone tired on long days. Her voice was quieter when she spoke again,
“I told him,” she began, then stronger, “I told him I would never take one who did not truly care for me, but now, with all that’s happened . . .”
“You cannot pick and choose,” Lars finished for her. Julia nodded. She didn’t need to explain. Her father would not live through spring and in their little town, a woman left alone was a dangerous thing. Lars took her hand, gripping it tightly,
“It will be as you wish.” He let go, nodding at her resolutely.
“Does this mean . . . ? She ventured, wanting him to say anything other than what he already had,
“It means whatever you need it to.”