“Father Gheraeld has a proposal,” her dad said, his voice sounding less certain than it had been up until then.
Ayn looked to her dad. Were his eyes glistening, she wondered, or was it just the light reflecting off his glasses?
“Now, Ayn,” Father Gheraeld said, drawing her attention back to him, “my proposal is quite simple, really. We’d like you to meet with this Nev Wellybrzm. We understand that he’s gone missing. But as your friend, we believe he would agree to meet with you. Or at least, that you could persuade him to do so,” he smiled.
“When you meet,” Father Gheraeld continued, “our Black Suits will be there to bring him in for questioning. Now Ayn, if you help us with this, we won’t press charges against you for assisting these criminals—who, do I need to remind you, have threatened the life of your father.”
Press charges? Against her? All she could do was stare, open mouthed. This was too much to take in. If any part of it was true, especially about her dad’s life being threatened… of course she would help. But, they had it wrong. She hadn’t helped Nev, or whoever Nev was doing this with. She caught herself. Was Nev involved? Why else had he gone missing? Tears pricked her eyelids.
She leaned her head back against the door and closed her eyes, willing herself not to break down crying. And then an image of her mom came to mind, tending the flowers outside in the sun, humming, Ayn sat right beside her, humming too, even though she didn’t know the same song. Her dad had come up behind them, leaning down to kiss the top of each of their heads. It had been such a sweet, happy moment. Ayn opened her eyes and looked to her dad.
His look, when he met her eyes, was a familiar one: Do the right thing.
Ayn nodded. It was her dad. Of course she had to help him. “Okay,” she said. “But if I do this, will you promise me something?” She met Father Gheraeld’s gold-flecked eyes.
“If I can,” he said.
“Keep Nev safe. No matter what you think of him, I know he’s not dangerous. Make sure the Black Suits know that.”
“Of course,” Father Gheraeld nodded. “You have my word.”
“All right then,” she said, glad her voice wasn’t shaking. “I agree.”
Father Gheraeld smiled and leaned down to put his hands on her shoulders and whisper in her ear. “Such a brave and beautiful young woman you are.” He kissed her cheek. “We all thank you.”