If I counted correctly, I believe it took us seven nights and eight days to get from the academy to where we are currently. We took quite a mad route, however, backtracking a little, and of course trekking through the forest slowed us down rather a lot. Apparently the journey from here to Madison should only take two days and a night by coach and on a proper road.
Let me back up, Dear Reader. I do have such an awful habit of starting things in the middle, don't I? I shall try to do better in the future.
I saw little of Mr. Troxill for the remainder of the day yesterday. Trays were brought to my and Zebediah's rooms for lunch, but we dined together in my room for company. When we saw Mr. Troxill at supper, he looked more exhausted than he had in the morning, but his overall air seemed somewhat improved. I asked him about returning to Madison, and he agreed immediately, saying he would hire a very trusted coach driver to take us there, and arrange for every comfort on our journey, including the inn we were to stay in at the halfway point. It was the least he could do, he said, after the great favour we had done him.
I feel not at all as though we had done him a favour. We snuck out of his house in the middle of the night with his wife, then wandered for a couple of days before bringing her back. You know, now that I think about it, I believe Violet wanted to stay near to her home. I think she knew her health would deteriorate if she was away from Mr. Troxill's Illumination and the power of the Crystal shard, and she knew she would want to return home when at last she could go on no longer. I think that is both very, very wrong, for causing such pain to her husband, and very, very tragic, for the terrible situation in which she was placed against her will.
In addition to his cruelty to Violet, I have to remember that Mr. Troxill was going to turn us over to Belleclaire and, ultimately, Mr. Bergstrom, all for mere money. It does not matter how human and frail he seems when speaking or thinking of his late wife; he is still a greedy, power-hungry man, and only swore to keep us safe when he felt he owed us something. Recalling that, I do not feel bad at all, taking advantage of his hospitality now, and accepting his coach and his money for our journey tomorrow.
After supper last night, I read aloud to Zebediah for a while in the library (sans Mr. Troxill, as he had retired). He closed his eyes soon after I began to read, which I have come to realize is not out of boredom or tiredness, but contentment. When I finish a chapter or a set of poems, he is always able to discuss them with me if he wishes, so I know he has been paying attention. I suppose I should be glad that he feels so comfortable in my presence.
But that is a problem, too. (Goodness, look at me, beginning sentences with conjunctions! Miss P___ would be ashamed!) At times, I think perhaps Mr. Miller and I have become too comfortable with each other. It is not proper for a young man and a young woman to have such a close relationship, or at least, I think it is not. We are not betrothed, nor will we ever be, so there is no excuse. I can tell Mr. Troxill thinks we are odd for behaving as we do, and not just because of the hand gestures and spelling. He looks at us with disapproval and the sort of curiosity which gossip-mongers exude, as if he longs to ask about our interactions, but is too polite to ask. Even before we ran away and then returned, he gave us that look when he thought I could not see him.
I can make all the excuses I want for my closeness with Zebediah--our companionship on the airship, the nights and days spent in the forest with no one else for company, him saving my life that awful night--but the truth is... the truth is... (I hate to even write it) we are all wrong for each other. Ill-matched in almost every way. Yet despite it all... I shall say it here and now (or, I suppose, write it): I am in love with Zebediah Miller. I am not sure how it happened, or exactly when. Perhaps it was the night he slept between my bed and the door, in that cold attic room the kind housewife allotted us. Maybe it was when he held me as I sobbed and sobbed, the night he killed that man in the forest. More likely, it has been so gradual that I have not noticed it. I hope he has not noticed it.
I am afraid I have got off-track from my original intent of recording the events of yesterday and today. But writing all of this, and having so much time to think in the past two days, has made me realize what I must do. Tomorrow morning before we leave, I must convince Zebediah not to accompany me to Madison. It is not his place; I am not his charge or his fiancée, he is not obligated to protect me. I am to return to a friend and a place where I will be safe, so he needn't worry about me. Tomorrow we must part ways, for both our sakes. Mine especially, as romantic entanglement is the last thing I need while I am on the run from pirates and loyalists, and hoping to expand my Gift in order to help save the country.
Yes, I must. I shall tell him tonight. Except that he is probably already asleep. Morning it is, right after breakfast. That way he will have no time to argue with me, as I must leave immediately after. Oh, Dear Reader, wish me luck!