Jonathan glanced back at Cornelia, then continued to slice vegetables. “Where’s Bas?” He did find it a bit unusual how the boy wasn’t side by side with Cornelia today, or yesterday at the smithy.
Cornelia sat down at the table, her elbows pressed against the wood. “He’s been busy lately. He says he has classes.”
“That’s a shame.” Jonathan did not truly take it as a shame; he dealt with less trouble when there was only one of the two gremlins at his heels and the prince needed to stop skipping out on lessons. The necessity of education was something he had unfortunately had to talk to Bas about last year.
Cornelia had apparently thought about what was bothering her enough to ask about it. “Were you ignoring me?” There was an edge to her voice, which didn’t match her expression.
“Calm down. No, I wasn’t ignoring you,” Jonathan stated. “Have people been ignoring you lately?”
“I….it feels like it. I keep feeling like I’m being ignored.” Cornelia was already wanting to stop talking about it, yet she knew she needed to.
Jonathan waited a few seconds and then prompted, “Why?”
“Kern picks up on things too quickly.” Cornelia’s voice was full of frustration. “He joined only last year or so, but . . . he can do a lot of things already. Kern’s been training to sell and deliver products to the clients. He’s smart and Norel likes him.”
“You say that like you aren’t smart.” Jonathan slowed down his cutting, glancing back periodically.
“You are.” Jonathan didn’t like when people were needlessly self-deprecating, but he also understood it far too well. He didn’t like it because that type of destructive criticism and hate reminded him of the days when he was like that. Fortunately, the transmigrator was doing far better mentally now. “You’re a smart kid and you learn quickly. You have some experience, but you were also far younger when you were taken in by Norel.”
“He’s catching up. The gap keeps . . . closing.”
“Everyone likes him, even you like him,” Cornelia dully informed. “Him and his dumb hair cut and dumb clothes.” She had been upset by Jonathan knowing Kern from before, but it was more than that.
“Why does it matter whether people like Kern?”
“Because no one cares about me,” Cornelia quietly answered.
Jonathan put down the knife. “That’s a lie.” A frown curved its way onto his face.
“What do you mean it’s a lie?”
“I’m dumb. I’m stupid. I’m weak.” Cornelia stood up. She had fire in her eyes; unfortunately, that fire was directed towards herself. “I can’t lift normal hammers yet. My sketches aren’t as good as Kern’s. I haven’t even made my first solo blade yet, and he’s done four.”
Jonathan stayed calm. “Do you really think Norel wouldn’t care?” He knew exactly what she was feeling. Cornelia was scared of not being cared for, of being abandoned by what was essentially her adopted family—that had happened to him, but that wouldn’t happen to her. Norel would never do that.
“I’m young and useless. Why would he care? Bas is never around anymore. I bet he thinks I’m useless too.”
“Do you really think the only reason Norel and Bas would care for you is because you are useful to him?” Jonathan’s expression clearly showed his sarcasm and disbelief. “Norel is a businessman, yes, but he’s not only after profit. Bas is your friend, your best friend. He’s the prince of another country and he’s busy with his studies.”
Cornelia’s gaze flickered around the room. She was biting at her nails. “I . . .”
“He’s not.” Jonathan tried to soften his voice. “When you’re back and Norel is off work, go talk to him. Tell him how you’ve been feeling. Also, talk to Bas about how you’re feeling too, or at least make some plans to hang out.” He also tacked on, “It might be good to talk to Kern and befriend him too, as he is a fellow apprentice.”
“I don’t like talking to people about how I feel, like ever.”
Jonathan chuckled lightly and pointed out, “You’re doing it now just fine.”
“Why do I need to go talk to him?” Cornelia sat back down at the table. She was still biting her nails.
“Because it’s about him and your relationship.” Jonathan picked up the knife and finished dicing. “Don’t think because you talked to someone else about your problems means you actually dealt with them conclusively.”
“Should I not talk to you about stuff then?” Cornelia retorted.
“You can, but go talk to them.” Jonathan snorted as he pushed another small mound of vegetables into a bowl. “Confront feelings.”
“Yeah, ugh,” Jonathan agreed, “But you should confront those feelings when you’re ready and not just wait on them.”
“Okay,” Cornelia reluctantly said.
Jonathan wiped his hands off with a towel. “Do you want a hug?”
Jonathan waited. He started cutting the loaf of bread he had gotten yesterday into slices.
“Yes,” Cornelia grumbled.
Jonathan gave the girl a hug and a clean towel to wipe her tears, then went back to making lunch. He wanted to give Cornelia some more time to process.
A few minutes later, there was another knock on the door. This one was a precise three knocks, made with the back of a hand.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Cornelia asked.
“No.” Jonathan went to get the door.
Outside, on the porch, stood Tam. She had her short hair covered by a bonnet of some sort. “I’m officially back to normal!” She had a basket at her side and looked pleasantly surprised to see Cornelia.
“That’s good.” Jonathan gestured between the two. “Tam, this is Cornelia, a swordsmith apprentice. Cornelia, this is Tam, a squire at the castle. Play nice. I’m making lunch.” He was making lunch for two surprise guests now.
Fortunately, the two girls got along immediately despite their different personalities. Tam immediately offered food and Cornelia started making witty comments.
Jonathan tried to interrupt to ask preferences on things, but they didn’t seem to notice. It was his house, but he felt like an older brother stuck babysitting once again. The feeling wasn’t….bad, simply nostalgic. He rolled his eyes at the two and started on cutting more bread.
This is your bonus apology chapter because I messed up on uploading last week. Enjoy.