Novel Monday: Following the Trail – Chapter 11

POD Following the Trail Ebook Cover 04
Description:

As her older sister’s wedding begins, Keiko struggles to cope with a level of society she has never prepared for. Raised a peasant, Keiko is now a member of nobility. Despite that, she longs for the simplicity of her rural peasant life but her family’s choices mean that Keiko will never go home again.

Worse, everyone at the wedding assumes that Keiko will marry her future brother-in-law, Ammad, despite Keiko’s fascination with the visiting Lady Tamami.

Following the Trail is a sweet romance where cruel gossip and sheer determination create a trail to a new life that promises everything Keiko could ever want.

Following the Trail

By Meyari McFarland

POD Following the Trail Ebook Cover 04
Description:

As her older sister’s wedding begins, Keiko struggles to cope with a level of society she has never prepared for. Raised a peasant, Keiko is now a member of nobility. Despite that, she longs for the simplicity of her rural peasant life but her family’s choices mean that Keiko will never go home again.

Worse, everyone at the wedding assumes that Keiko will marry her future brother-in-law, Ammad, despite Keiko’s fascination with the visiting Lady Tamami.

Following the Trail is a sweet romance where cruel gossip and sheer determination create a trail to a new life that promises everything Keiko could ever want.

Following the Trail

By Meyari McFarland

11. Responsibilities

“Do we have all the paperwork for the nikkah naama?” Ammad asked. “The contract, financial documents, agreements of duties?”

“Drink your tea,” Shizuka said, pointing sternly at the steaming cup that Ammad had abandoned to rifle through stacks of paper they would need to sign today. “Their Majesty’s representative hasn’t arrived yet. Father and Mother aren’t here yet, either. You have time to eat.”

Ammad sighed as Nabeela passed the cup of tea back to him. Her smirk was entirely too smug for this time of the morning. Sadly, Father’s smile was nearly as annoying while Shahzad looked as though he wanted to laugh and Father’s new apprentices openly grinned at him.

Fortunately, the servants were gone already, off setting up breakfast for the guests and arranging entertainment for them throughout the day. As much as Ammad wished that he could spend the day dealing with normal matters, such as the eight treaties that sat on his desk or the three legal cases that needed to be reviewed, he already knew that his day was destined to be split between Their Majesties’ representative and wedding socializing.

It was the socializing that he resented. Ammad sipped his tea, rifling through the paperwork with one hand. Even with Lady Tamami, Keiko and Rina’s help, he knew that there would be endless commentary on which young person he liked the most and how ‘wonderful’ if would be if ‘one wedding begat another’. If Waseem said that again Ammad might just scream.

“Food, too,” Shizuka said, pushing Ammad away from the table with the paperwork. “Ammad. Eat something!”

“I will, I promise,” Ammad complained. Nabeela’s stern look prompted a wince. He allowed Shizuka to guide him to the table where their food was laid out. “Is there a reason I’m being bullied today?”

“Other than questions about where you disappeared last night with Keiko?” Shizuka asked. She snorted at his glare. “No. You didn’t eat breakfast yesterday. Today will be incredibly busy so lunch is unlikely. And I know you’re going to be occupied with the guests when the dinner buffet is running. Eat your breakfast so that I don’t spend all day worrying about you fainting from hunger.”

Ammad took a deep breath, bit his tongue against the urge to tell Shizuka that he didn’t need to have her fuss over him, and sat down with his family. It wasn’t a complicated breakfast, thank goodness. Naan, cheese and sliced strawberries made the centerpiece with tiny bowls of miso soup laden with salty seaweed, an addition to breakfast since Shizuka’s acceptance of Nabeela’s hand.

Once he sat, Shizuka moved around the table so that she could sit next to Nabeela, their knees brushing together. Father smile at that and then raised an eyebrow at Ammad. Rather than answer immediately, Ammad drank his miso and then carefully chewed the seaweed.

“Ammad,” Father said.

“Yes?”

“There was a question asked,” Father said, his smile going a bit stern.

“I’m aware of that,” Ammad said, a little annoyed. “Except that the question itself was incorrect. I didn’t leave the ballroom with Keiko. I left it with Rina who wanted to learn about the terraces in the garden. Metchosin Manor needs to implement something similar before the manor slides into the sound.”

“But you had dinner privately with Keiko,” Shizuka said, blinking at him.

“Not privately,” Ammad sighed. “That was what the gossips said? Lady Tamami and Rina were there as well. It was not a private dinner by any means.”

He was met by six pairs of startled eyes, all staring at him as though he’d said something incredible. Ammad set down his miso, shifted a little away from the table and rubbed his face with both hands. His teeth ached from clenching his jaw shut.

When Ammad dropped his hands they were still staring, the apprentices with dubious expressions, Father and Nabeela with a good bit of scorn. Shahzad frowned as if he wanted to question Ammad in detail of what had happened at the dinner.

And Shizuka had her head tilted to the side as she blinked repeatedly.

“What?” Ammad asked. He didn’t apologize for the snap in his voice.

“How did you end up at dinner with Keiko and Lady Tamami if you went out to look at the garden?” Shizuka asked.

“They went out as well, separately,” Ammad said. “I have no idea why. Neither of them said. Though Keiko was quite determined to bring Lady Tamami in and feed her something. Which, Father, apparently Lady Tamami does not eat at buffets. At all. She finds them irrationally nauseating.”

“That explains her avoidance of breakfast,” Father said. “I’d wondered about that.”

“Rina and Keiko both were rather ah, annoyed at Lady Tamami for not eating.” Ammad chuckled. “According to Rina it is a common thing for Lady Tamami.”

Shizuka stood, hurrying out into the hallway and then off towards the kitchen. When Ammad started to stand to go with her, Nabeela frowned and gestured for him to sit back down. She wagged a finger at him, not quite scoldingly but close enough that Ammad’s cheeks heated.

“Let her do her job as Lady of the Manor,” Nabeela said. “She’ll make sure that Lady Tamami doesn’t go hungry.”

“What happens when I do marry?” Ammad asked. He snorted at the surprised look Nabeela and Shahzad gave him. “This is a serious question. So far we’ve split the duties up, Nabeela. You and Shizuka handle all the social aspects of the Manor. Shahzad takes care of the bookkeeping things. I handle the legal and political matters. But if I marry my spouse will be expected to take on your duties, Nabeela. Or at least Shahzad’s duties. We haven’t discussed at all how we’ll handle that.”

“Perhaps because you’ve shown no signs of choosing a spouse,” Father murmured but he nodded his agreement while sipping his miso.

Apparently, neither Nabeela nor Shahzad had considered the question. Nabeela’s hands shook when she picked up her miso to sip it. She was considerably paler than normal, eyes staring at nothing. He would have bet almost anything that she didn’t taste the miso at all.

On the other hand, Shahzad looked somewhat hopeful at the thought of giving up his duties. That was enough of a surprise that Ammad peered at him. He blushed and fussed with the placement of the strawberries on his naan, waving one hand as if trying to dismiss Ammad’s question.

“Do you want to continue to do the bookkeeping, Shahzad?” Father asked. “I can train one of the apprentices to do it. Or perhaps have Shizuka’s mother do it. She is quite competent. Her references are impeccable.”

“That,” Shahzad said, pointing at Father without meeting anyone’s eyes. “I trained to handle Mother’s duties but. Well. I rather hoped to do something different. Watching Shizuka at her studies, listening to the things she’s learned, that she hopes to accomplish, I. Well. I’d rather learn to be a doctor.”

He all but whispered the last sentence, face so red that his ears and neck glowed along with his cheeks. Shahzad stared into his plate so he missed Father’s delight and Nabeela’s sudden grin. Even the apprentices smiled at him, nodding approvingly. Ammad ruffled Shahzad’s hair, getting a shy laugh that made Ammad grin.

“I think we all agree that would be wonderful,” Ammad said. He nodded towards Father when Shahzad finally looked up. “A researcher like Shizuka or something else?”

“I liked it better when she was learning urgent patient care,” Shahzad said, more confidently now that he could see their approval. “And when she did the local health checks. I always did enjoy going out to see the people with Mother.”

“Then we shall start you in the medical training program,” Father said. He smiled as he reached across the table to pat Shahzad’s hand. “You should have spoken sooner. I have been blessed by three talented, intelligent children. Seeing you reach your full potential is the best reward a father could have.”

The door opened. Shizuka slipped back in, her frown transformed into a content smile. Apparently Lady Tamami’s food problem had been dealt with. She settled down next to Nabeela, picked up her miso and then stopped with it halfway to her mouth.

“Is something wrong?” Shizuka asked.

“Shahzad was inspired to become a doctor,” Ammad said, nodding to him and then grinning as Shahzad groaned and fussed with this strawberries again. “Though he’s thinking of focusing on urgent patient care and health checks instead of research.”

“That’s wonderful!” Shizuka exclaimed. She beamed at Shahzad, sipped her miso and then looked at Ammad. “Though I still wonder how the rumors about you and Keiko got started if you haven’t spent time alone together.”

Ammad groaned. The others laughed, even the apprentices who really hadn’t been there long enough to have the right to laugh in his face that way. He was going to have to deal with this all day. Possibly the entire week until the wedding and then after that until all the guests were gone.

Rather than answer an unanswerable question, Ammad ate his breakfast and then bowed politely to Shizuka before returning to the paper-work. Thankfully, his family let him go. Shahzad joined him after a couple of minutes, helping Ammad sort everything into the proper sequence, with stacks for Father to sign, Mori, Nabeela, Shizuka and their Majesties’ representative, whenever he arrived.

By the time they had that properly arranged, the apprentices had disappeared on errands for Father. Nabeela and Shizuka had slipped away to focus on their guests and wedding preparations. And Ammad could relax, at least a little bit.

“She is nice,” Shahzad said. “Keiko.”

“Stern,” Ammad said. He shrugged. “She seems like a lovely young woman, Shahzad, but I truly have no interest in her. Marriage will happen when it happens. I want to have a marriage like Mother and Father had, one where we’re partners, working together. And, well.”

He paused, staring at the painting of the garden that hung on the far wall. Honestly, he wasn’t that interested in having someone to be a partner in the business of running Breding Manor. What he wanted was someone to make that business happier, more fulfilling. Someone who could make him happy to wake up, happy to go to bed.

That wasn’t something that he thought would happen with Keiko. She didn’t make him happy when he saw her. As lovely as she was, Keiko didn’t reduce his stress or make him feel as though life was better.

Unfair, Ammad knew, to hold that against Keiko when they’d only just met but he liked to think that he was a fairly good judge of character. Keiko wasn’t someone who would fill that hole in his life, no matter what everyone else seemed to think.

“She doesn’t make me happy,” Ammad finally said with a rueful smile at Shahzad’s surprised look. “I want a spouse who makes me happy, Shahzad. As lovely as Keiko is, she isn’t the right person for me. I’m sure I’ll find the right one eventually. There’s no rush.”

Shahzad nodded thoughtfully. “Haruka makes me laugh.”

“You,” Ammad said, tapping Shahzad’s nose gently, “are entirely too young to be thinking of marriage. And that young lady is going to be incredibly popular. She would be for her personality even if she weren’t quite so beautiful.”

Shahzad nodded and laughed, his cheeks flushing for a second though it faded as there was a shout outside the door followed by the clatter of bowls falling to the floor and shattering. They both looked towards the door, Ammad with his heart beating faster, Shahzad with his brows twisted together from worry.

Their Majesty’s representative stood at the door, face entirely grim, clothes covered with dust and what looked like an entire tray’s worth of miso. Ammad hurried over, taking the representative’s arm. The man glowered, mouth working though nothing came out. When Ammad glanced out the door, he glimpsed one of the apprentices desperately scrambling to pick up the fallen bowls of miso while the other mopped at the floor with a napkin.

“What in the world happened?” Ammad gasped. “Come in, please. Let me call a servant and get you something else to wear.”

Find this Story:

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If you can’t afford to buy the story, please consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these stories. Thank you very much!

Find this Story:

On Amazon $5.99 ebook or $14.99 TPB

On Smashwords $5.99 ebook

On CreateSpace $14.99 5″ x 8″ TPB

If you can’t afford to buy the story, please consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these stories. Thank you very much!

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About meyari

I am a writer of erotica, science fiction and fantasy. I've been writing for years but have just sold my first erotica novel and am working on self-publishing my non-erotica. I love sewing, collecting dolls, reading, and a great many crafts that I no longer have time to do. I've been happily married to my husband for 20 years.
This entry was posted in LGBT Issues, Manor Verse, MDR Publishing, Novel Monday, Self Publishing, Writing Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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