After Siana fell asleep, Alan started groaning in his sleep again, startling her awake. This time, before Siana could wake him, Alan’s eyes shot open, turned on her. Before she knew it, he was above her, pinning her down on the bed, unable to move.
“Alan…,” she stammered. As his hand went around her waist, he flinched as Siana groaned in pain. His eyes which had been blank flashed with life again. A series of emotions ran through them. First, surprise, then recognition, then shame and guilt. His weight disappeared from above her and she could move again. She rubbed at her arm which had been crushed beneath his body.
“I am sorry,” said Alan with shame heavy in his voice.
Siana didn’t know what to say because she was confused by what just happened. Alan kept wringing his hands and apologizing to her. She leaned and turned on the bedside lamp. The soft and warm yellow light filled the room and illuminated Alan’s face. He seemed disturbed and agonized. He was drenched with sweat and little beads of them tumbled from his forehead onto the side of his face. His torso was glistening.
“Alan,” she said gently, “Another nightmare?” He nodded.
“What were you dreaming about?” she asked, cautiously.
“I… nothing,” he said.
“Try,” she urged, “I am here to listen to you. Maybe it will make you feel a bit better.”
Alan still looked reluctant. The current situation had unsettled him. He had thought it was just a nightmare and it would pass but it had recurred, and he might have hurt Siana badly. He was cursed. He tried to explain this to Siana haltingly, trying to find the right words that would explain what he felt. He didn’t even know if she would believe him.
He didn’t know with any certainty if this was a curse, so he didn’t tell her that. He had had nightmares but something like this had never happened before. But the possibility was still there, and it made him anxious and worried and scared.
He wanted to brush it off as just a harmless nightmare and pretend like it never happened. He didn’t want to scare her either. But twice, he had woken her. He had even tried to kill her. He couldn’t just brush it off as harmless. He had pressed her down, pinned her and vaguely remembered searching for his pistol. If he had indeed found the gun before he had taken control over himself…. He couldn’t bear to think about it.
Alan was filled with uncertainty. What if he did it again? And what if at that time, he wasn’t as lucky to come to himself at the right moment? Siana, at the least, deserved the truth. He decided to tell her everything.
“I…,” he stammered, “I dreamt that I was on the battlefield.” He paused and took a deep breath. “I saw my colleagues dead beside me, and I almost died too. I saw dead people everywhere…”
Siana was hit with such an overwhelming feeling. She felt so much sympathy for him as the realities of the dreams tumbled from his lips. She wanted to console him somehow. And the way Alan spoke haltingly, as though he might break down any moment, broke her heart. She hugged him and he wrapped his arms around her.
Alan was silent for a while and he pulled her closer to him, held her tightly. “I thought I would be okay,” he said, his voice heavy with grief, “I thought it would all go away after the end of the war. I am so sorry, Sia. I will sleep in a different room. I will go now.” He let his arms fall from her and stood up.
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But before he could take a step, Siana grabbed his sleeve. “No, where are you going?!” she exclaimed. “You don’t look well. Just stay here.”
“Sia, you can’t sleep if I am here,” he whispered.
“Nonsense!” she said, “Why do you get to decide and do as you please every single time. Just because you would wake me, you up and leave?”
“I… no, that is not what I meant,” he said. He didn’t have the heart to utter the words that he might be a danger to her. That he might try to kill her. It was heinous, and he didn’t want her to be terrified of him.
“But you saw…,” he tried to explain, “The nightmares are so bad….” His voice trailed off.
Alan desperately wanted to be with her. He wanted her to be by his side and he wanted to stay by her, too. Alan frowned. Siana looked at him, full of worry. Her brows furrowed.
“You have always treated me so well,” she began, “You have always listened to my problems and helped me solve them. I am not going to let you just go away with your problems while I stay here and do nothing. I want to help you, but you can’t just up and leave like this. Trust me a little bit, at least.”
“It’s not that, Sia,” said Alan.
“Then tell me what it is,” she asked, “What are you so scared of that you want to avoid me?”
Alan looked at her, speechless at her retorts. “Please, Alan,” she said, “Don’t suffer alone. Trust me a little. We are married. Marriage has to work both ways.”
It was the first time Alan had heard the word marriage from her mouth. It was the first time she had admitted it with acceptance. “Why is it that you know everything about me, but I know nothing of you?” she asked, “Why won’t yourself open up to me?”
“It might be best to not know things sometimes,” he said.
“That is for me to decide,” she said, “If we are married and are going to be by each other’s side, it is important for us to trust each other, too. You can’t tailor our relationship in your favour. Don’t decide things alone. Don’t suffer alone. Let me help.”
Alan was speechless. He had no words he could say to her. But Siana was undaunted. He was her husband now and she wasn’t just going to let him go to another room to suffer alone. What is so scary that he is unable to even say it? Siana wondered.
“If you can’t talk about it right now,” she said gently, “Or if it is very difficult for you to do so, that’s alright. You don’t have to push yourself to tell me but don’t go. Don’t tell me you are just going to walk away to another room and suffer there. Just sleep here.”
“I can’t,” he said.
“Why?” she asked, “Tell me why. Convince me. I at least need an answer.” She waited patiently.
Alan was silent. He opened his mouth and closed it again. He looked anguished. “I…,” he trailed off.
He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “I am afraid I might hurt you,” he said, finally.
“You could never hurt me, Alan,” she said, “I know you never would.”
“But you saw me,” said Alan, conflicted. He was finally facing his fear of voicing that which he had wanted to avoid. “You saw how I pinned you down. I tried to kill you. What if it happened again?” His voice broke.
Though it was true that he had pinned her down, she thought it was far from trying to kill her. “You weren’t trying to kill me, Alan.”
“I was…,” he said.
“When?” she asked.
“When I pinned you down, I wasn’t myself,” he said, “I was searching for my pistol, I think. I know because it was my daily routine in case of a surprise enemy attack. I recognized the behaviour.” He looked tormented. “If my pistol was on my waist or if you hadn’t called my name, I would have… killed you. What if I do it again?” His voice trembled. He heaved a breath. “I think I am cursed. I am not completely sure but… if it is a curse, it will happen again.”
Alan lowered his head. He didn’t dare face her. He fixed his stare towards the floor and waited for her reply. For her to exclaim in outrage or demand a divorce. He would do anything she wanted. He couldn’t live without her, but he wouldn’t ever hold her down. He can’t do that to her. She had a right to live a normal life with a normal man. She had a right to safety. How would she live with a man who might kill her in a fit of unconsciousness?
Alan cursed himself for always being hasty. He had been complacent. He was a power holder so he had believed he wouldn’t be cursed. He had been busy pressuring Siana to marry him, instead. He felt guilty and ashamed of himself. Maybe Siana was thinking the same. Maybe she thought anything would have been better than this. She could have run away to another place or even married that vile viscount. Was she regretting it?
“What exactly is this curse?” asked Siana, which jolted Alan out of his anxious thoughts. “How did you get it?”
Alan was stunned for a moment. “I… if you hurt other people you get the curse,” he explained, “On the battlefield, you have no choice but to kill. So, power holders are supposed to repent for three months after returning from the battlefield for the curse to be lifted.”
“So, you didn’t complete those three months?’ asked Siana.
“Yes, I… I was hasty,” he said, “They say that power holders don’t get cursed. I believed it and rushed to the capital.”
Siana listened attentively. Alan’s anxiety gnawed at his heart. He still wasn’t looking at her directly. Siana didn’t know how to comfort him. She wished he would look at her. She tried to calm herself and speak rationally.
“You said you came to yourself when I called your name,” said Siana, “That’s solved then.”
“What?!” exclaimed Alan, stunned. He hadn’t expected it.
“There is no weapon in this room,” she continued, “And you woke from your nightmare anyway. I will slap you awake if it happens again. So, don’t worry. Problem solved!”
“Sia,” Alan said, his face stiff. “This isn’t an issue to be taken lightly.”
“I know that!” said Siana, exasperated, “But I want to believe that there are other ways around this issue than to throw you out of the room and lock you out. I won’t do that.”
Alan flinched at her words. Siana tensed. “Alan,” she said, “You didn’t think…. Oh gods, you really thought I would just throw you out.”
“But you have a right to!” said Alan, “I tried to kill you.”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” she said and smiled, “You did not kill me, did you? The most you did was pin me down on the bed and squeeze me. I think I am not going to die from that, you idiot.” Siana tried to make light of the situation. She wanted Alan to feel comfortable. But she knew that everything wasn’t alright. If there had been a weapon, she might have been dead by now. He could strangle her with those huge hands, and nobody would know any better.
Siana, however, wanted to share his burden and help him. If they were going to make this marriage work, they would have to rely on each other. Besides, she felt that she needed to bear some of this curse. She felt somewhere within her that it was partly her fault. She knew that Alan’s choice to go out and serve in the battlefield to be an officer had been his own. It was not her that had made him make that decision. But the reasons that had motivated Alan, in his own perception, was her. He had done that to become worthy of her, so he had thought. So, she felt a bit of responsibility as well.
T/N: Apologies for the late post. Something came up irl. I hope you enjoyed this sweet chapter! <3