Audric stretched his arm over his head. This wouldn’t be easy in the slightest. He had to tell Astra. He peered over the door frame, watching her talk Justine’s ear off. Probably about how bad of a partner he was. Audric couldn’t blame her. He felt bad for acting the way that he had, but things were never going to be easy for them. He made that clear to her. If she wanted easy, she could have stayed in Lucky Palms with the rest of the humans. The matters he had to deal with were much more pressing. He had the lives of millions in his hands. He took in a deep breath. He wasn’t being fair to her. She deserved more. If he told her the truth and she didn’t like it (he knew she definitely wouldn’t like it), it’d be a choice he had to live with. Love was forbidden, and it now made sense why.
“Astra? May I talk to you for a moment?” His feet had carried him to the couch she had been seated on for the past few days. She hadn’t even come to bed. Not that he had either, but she was pregnant. He was just being stubborn. He could take a bed in the guest room no problem, she needed the comfort now more than any time.
Astra straightened up and gave him an empty smile. Fake pleasantries exchanged so that she could benefit from the safety of his protection. “What is it, honey?” A term of endearment he had never heard her use before today. So then, this was it. An eternal life of forced cohabitation. But it didn’t have to be this way. Not always. He ushered the girl into his office with as big a smile he could manage. It seemed to say, “Everything’s gone to shit, and I’m falling apart.”
Astra took her time standing up. Her belly didn’t protrude as one would expect a pregnant woman’s to. Was that the magic surrounding this place? Each of her foot steps were purposeful, a deliberate stalk towards his study. Once inside, she closed the door lightly behind her, as if not to disturb the peace.
“We need to talk. Have a real conversation like adults. Not the children we’re being now.”
“Oh, so now it’s okay to voice my opinion?” She sent a glare his way. “I may not be your wife by title but I thought we both knew what this was. Guess I was wrong.”
“I am the dimension watcher,” Audric told her. “Billions of people are counting on me to protect them and save their families. This is no joking matter. I must make terrible decisions to keep you and the people around you safe. So that we may have a home for our kids in the future.”
“If you felt that strongly and knew this would happen, then why? Why did you court me?”
He could feel his patience thinning. It wasn’t exactly like she fought him on his affections. “I gave you two choices. Me, or someone else. You chose me but crawled into bed with someone else. I still welcomed you into my Haven. But those ten years? Don’t pretend like you didn’t beg for me. I simply obliged your wishes despite everything you had done to me and Dionysus.”
“Because I love you, Audric!”
“I don’t doubt that you do, but I can see how unhappy you are here. You want to be with your family. Your dad.”
“I’m pregnant with your child,” She told him simply. Because what else was relevant now? That she had wanted him to give up the mission for her? Of course not.
Audric shut his eyes tightly, fear washing over him in anticipation of her answer to his next question. “Do you want the babies?”
“Of course I do! I’ve always wanted kids.”
“Astra…if I walked away right now, would you still want our child? Or, what about Dionysus’ child? Do you want your life back?”
“I give you what you ask of me on the basis of true love and this is what I see?” Astra gasped at the beautiful green woman in front of her. Noticing Astra, she continued,”Oh darling on the basis of your true love. Not mine.”
“Astra, this is Quinn. She gave us the child we wanted.” He glared at the woman. “I was expecting you later.”
“I think I came just in time to save this train wreck.” She put her index finger to her lower lip. “Woman to woman, Astra, answer me as truthfully as you can. And in turn, I will help you.”
“This is not your dimension, Quinn,” Audric told her harshly. “Don’t prance around like you own the place.”
Quinn rolled her eyes. Looking at Astra she said, “I swear I don’t know how you deal with this man.”
“He’s infuriating,” Astra responded. “But I love him all the same. I wish he’d include me more in things like this. You know, warn me about visitors. We seem to have a lot of those here.”
“I can imagine.” Quinn laughed. “This Haven is massive. Mine is much smaller, but of course, it’s just me. Anyway, Astra…tell me. How lonely do you feel?”
“Lonely?” She blinked, astonished by the question. She locked eyes with Audric. “Very lonely.”
Audric let out a pained sigh. “That is not my intent at all. I’m sorry.”
“Do not apologize to her,” Quinn said sharply. “You gave her ample warning, did you not? You apologize for something you do that wrongs a person, but not if you told a person that you would do it and they accepted it. I’m not siding with Audric, but Sweetheart, you could never fathom how much pressure is on our shoulders. Words alone could give you no idea what we have to do on a daily basis. I half suspect this dimension would be doing better if this man didn’t have to babysit you.”
Astra was furious. “You have no right to come here and say these things to me.”
“I have every right,” Quinn said bluntly. “This dimension affects mine and mine affects this one. How do you think Jeffrey Bennett came along? My dimension.”
Astra felt her heart beat rapidly in her chest at Jeff’s name. Not that she had any affections towards him, but towards what he represented. A loving husband who would stop at nothing for his family.
“I’m going to cut to the chase.” Quinn spoke again. “Audric, you need my help. That’s why I’m here. I get it. But I refuse to help if you’ll always be a few steps behind me.” She looked at Astra. “Honey, those kids are not growing from your life force. You can clearly see that your stomach is not getting any bigger. Those babies will one day, just be. So I ask you, Astra, do you want to lay claim to those two very powerful witches?”
Audric gasped. “Both of them?”
“That’s what I’m reading, yes. Those kids may be what help change the game for this dimension. Power like that is incredible. Astra…” Her voice was soft, motherly. “Things from now on out will be difficult. Even ore so than they’ve been before. If you cannot be the force these kids need to strive than it is okay to step down.”
“Both of them, Astra,” Audric said. “Dionysus’ child as well.”
Astra shut her eyes tightly, tears falling from her lids. Quinn continued, “Sometimes the best thing a mother can do for her children is let someone else take care of them.” Quinn pet Astra’s head affectionately. “I know that from personal experience. Those kids can do great things. Audric needs them here.”
“So what are you saying?” Astra asked, wiping some tears away. Audric watched silently, curious as well.
“I give life. I can allow you to leave this Haven and live a life that you have always wanted. A white picket fence, a cooking competition, you name it.”
“I want Audric,” Astra mumbled.
“But you’re hurting this dimension-”
“She is not!” Audric cried angrily, cutting Quinn off.
“She is. Audric,, as dimension watcher you need to make the decision that is best for your dimension. Being selfish is NOT an option. You’d be doing both you and her a favor. She could live wherever she wanted, and start over, Another shot at a life you can’t give her. Astra, you will always be lonely if you stay with Audric. His dimension will always come first. And when it is fixed, he will be gone. A love no more.”
Tears were streaming down the shy girl’s face because hes knew it was true. She was already feeling it herself. “I need to think about it.”
“Astra, you do not. Stay with me,” Audric pleaded. “We’re stronger as a team.”
Quinn looked from one to the other. Astra, devastated. Audric, terrified. “You two have a lot to discuss. But I’m not leaving until matters are resolved. So, fix it. I’ll be roaming this massive place.” She left them with more than just a few things to think about. She had given him the opportunity to make things right for his dimension and he couldn’t do that on the lies that his and Astra’s relationship were built upon. He loved her more than anything, and so, he had to set her free. Again.
Audric took a seat on one of the expensive green living chairs. Telling the truth was always the hardest part of a relationship. Because the truth hurt. Astra sat down next to him, a safe enough distance to display a look of contempt and understanding of what was to come. “If you can’t handle me, what makes you think you can handle two kids?” She asked bitterly.
“Justine will be here with the children. I will teach them everything they need to know about the dimension. I will never abandon these kids. This is my promise to you and them.”
Astra laid a hand onto her stomach. “Is this goodbye?”
“That’s up to you,” He replied. “I…I’m going to tell you something that I have been withholding since we’ve first met. And, if after that you’d like to stay, that is up to you. Of course, I love you. If you stay, we can make this work. But if you hear what I say and hate me, then so be it. You have my permission to live a more fulfilling life without me.”
Astra’s breath caught in her throat. The truth about what? What hadn’t he told her? She could feel her insides twisting but she nodded. “Okay, speak to me. No more lies, right?”