Chapter Four

Aveline awoke the morning after the council to a sharp, yet loud knocking on her door. Believing it was Odette, Aveline got out of bed in her nightdress wondering what she had done to deserve being woken up this early yet again. She opened the door, preparing herself to ask, "What have I done now?" though the words got caught in her throat as she saw not Odette, but Ferris standing in the doorway. After seeing how the lady was clothed, Ferris started blushing profusely. Aveline quickly shut the door without saying a word, and started dressing embarrassedly, even though the door was now closed. She had thought Ferris had left after their latest encounter, but after a few minutes passed, Aveline heard once again the sharp tapping on her door. She opened it once more, this time fully clothed. Ferris then cleared his throat:

"Um…You're uncle sent me,' Ferris started awkwardly, clearly pretending nothing had happened, either right then, or at the banquet, or at the council, "he thought you might need somebody to teach you how to ride."

"Oh, right! I believe he said something about that last night," replied the young girl, remembering, "I hadn't realized he would be sending you though."

"Oh, yes well. I'm actually quite good with horses and animals, though I'm sure another aid could be found," said Ferris quickly, sounding somewhere between embarrassed and offended.

"That's not what I meant, I'm sorry I didn't mean…." Aveline trailed off for a couple of seconds before finally getting the right words to her mouth, "I'm sure you'll be a fine teacher Ferris, thank you for accepting the job."

With a murmured "Your welcome" from Ferris, they left the palace and made towards the stables. With Ferris as a guide it seemed a lot less complicated to reach the building than it had a couple of days ago by herself. They arrived at their destination in a matter of minutes, instead of the hour it had taken her before.

Once they had arrived, Ferris had Aveline bring Sam out to the field just beyond the stables, as he brought out the necessary things for saddling and grooming a horse. Aveline started saddling Sam in the way she'd been instructed since she was a child back on Skrie.

"You're supposed to loop that strap through there," said Ferris, showing her how to do it.

"I know how to saddle a horse you moron, it's just the riding I can't get about doing!" replied Aveline shortly, slightly annoyed that he thought her so incompetent.

"Well, I'm afraid that what you're doing is wrong, then," the young man stated blatantly.

"Well, I'm afraid that you are wrong," replied Aveline, mockingly, " I was instructed by only the best stable hands back at the palace on Skrie. The Royal Family's own horse master showed me how to saddle a horse!"

"Pity that he didn't actually teach you to ride then isn't it?" he snapped back, "It doesn't matter who showed you, it's still wrong. It's like I said before, THAT strap loops through THERE, not THERE, like you were doing before."

"Fine, just so you'll stop nagging me, I'll do it your way."

Aveline continued saddling her horse according to Ferris' instruction. She quickly discovered that she had, indeed, being doing it quite wrong since she was very little. It actually explained why she was so horrible at riding, at least, it almost explained it. Her bad saddling skills were nothing to her bad riding skills, as young Ferris was about to find out. As soon as Aveline climbed on to the horse he knew that this was going to take a while. Everything was wrong, her posture and position, the way she was holding the reins; Aveline was possibly the worst rider Ferris had ever seen.

"Uh oh," Ferris mumbled to himself, "This is going to be difficult…"

Several hours later, Aveline was walking back to her room. It was the first time since her arrival at the palace that she made her way to her room by herself without getting lost once. She had no idea how she did it, because she was so tired from the riding lesson with Ferris. She wasn't sure if he was still angry with her, or whether she really was that bad a rider, or maybe he's just a really impatient person, but he had made her work very, very hard at riding. In general, Aveline was an extremely hard worker and a perfectionist. Therefore, it wasn't the working hard that made her so aggravated by the end of the day. It was the continuous nagging and yelling from Ferris. About once every thirty seconds she would hear his voice screaming at her, when he was only ten feet away, telling her that she had done something wrong, yet again.

To make things worse, halfway through the lesson, it began to rain. The rain did not bother Aveline, but, when you're already a terrible rider, the rain does not improve your skill by any stretch of the imagination. Nor did it improve either of their moods. Ferris insisted that the rain would not affect her riding and that she was to continue and pretend it was still a sunny day. Only when the thunder and lightning started did Ferris agree that they could call it quits for today and go inside.

She played over the afternoon in her head while trying to towel her hair dry, tossing her soaked clothing to marble floor. She searched her room for dry clothes, not caring about the state they were in. This was difficult, she'd only been at the palace a week and already her wardrobe was tossed throughout her room. Organization was not a skill she possessed when it came to her own things. After several minutes of looking through her things, her search concluded as she found a simple grey-brown tunic and off-white breeches. While dressing she heard another knock at her door. Checking in the mirror to make sure she was properly clothed this time, she opened the door to find Odette.

"Did you have a good riding lesson?" Odette asked her pupil cheerfully.

"If by 'good' you mean a complete and utter disaster, then yes, it went quite 'good,'" the young girl replied shortly.

"Oh it can't have been that bad," said Odette, "I see the rain didn't stop Ferris from working you," she added as an afterthought, noticing Aveline's wet hair.

"It was horrible Odette," Aveline said, "I know I'm a bad rider, but he's an even worse teacher."

"I hadn't realized that anyone could be worse at anything than you at riding," replied Odette jokingly, as an amused smile donned her lips.

"Gee, I love you too Odette," Aveline muttered, glaring at her friend, "Why did my uncle have to choose Ferris to teach me? Aren't there more capable and more friendly stable hands here that would be willing to help me?"

"Well, as to your last comment, no, Ferris is by far the best person with horses I have ever seen, let alone in this castle," Odette told her, "Though your uncle didn't choose him, he volunteered for the job, and being the best, your uncle agreed. I remember him telling me he wanted nothing but the best you help train you."

"He what?" Aveline said simply, her mouth agape, staring at her teacher in disbelief, "Why would he do that? The whole time he acted as though it was the last place on Evaren he wanted to be. And as for my uncle…he's hardly talked to me apart from social and political gatherings, how is that the best?"

It was almost too much. Her uncle's phony statement almost made her want to puke. She never was one for those kind of mushy statements like Odette claimed he made. And Ferris…. Well Aveline wasn't quite sure what to think about him yet. Why would he volunteer for a job he clearly didn't want? It seems as though Ferris was an even more complex person than Aveline had primarily believed, which in itself was hard to believe.

"Yes, well Aiden wanted the job as well, but your uncle thought that Ferris would be better suited for the job, even though he only volunteered after young Aiden did." Aveline's teacher said, smirking.

"I find Aiden much more respectable, nice, polite than Ferris," Aveline stated bluntly.

"I know you do, pretty good looking too, isn't he?"

Aveline faltered for a second, "I- what?" she replied as words caught at her throat, "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about Odette," Aveline said sharply, after a few moments of searching for words.

Her teacher's knowing smirk only broadened after this response. Apparently Aveline's incoherent reply was enough to reassure Odette that perhaps there was more than friendship in the future of Aveline's relationship with Aiden Grey.

"Whatever you say Aveline," her teacher said lightly, "supper is in ten minutes, I'll see you downstairs"

With that Odette left, leaving Aveline alone and extremely confused. So many questions were flying through her mind. The brief mention of Aiden momentarily cut across her thinking about Ferris, though now she had questions about both of them. And how much Odette noticed. Aveline had only really talked to Aiden once and she was sure that Odette had been thoroughly immersed in conversation with somebody at the time…Wait, why did she even care if Odette saw Aveline and Aiden together? It's not like there was anything more than a small friendship there. And even that friendship was brought together by a mutual dislike of Ferris. Even as Aveline though about these things, she couldn't help but remember the way Aiden's bright blue eyes flashed and twinkled in the light of the banquet hall, or the way his sandy hair seemed to flow with him as he moved his head, or the way his voice moved up and down with the music as he spoke to her…

Aveline then realized she was supposed to be getting ready for supper instead of fantasizing - "No, not fantasizing," she told herself, "Thinking about, yes that was it" – Aiden Grey. She couldn't help but blushing at her own thoughts, even though nobody was in the room, and even fewer people knew what she had been thinking about at that moment. After pinning back her hair so that it looked presentable, Aveline left the room to head down to the dining hall, fortunately not running in to either of the two men on her mind right now.