Deryn slumped down into the weathered chair, defeated. Her filthy midshipman uniform clung to her body with sweat, taking some distraction from the hot embarrassment she felt flooding through her veins at the moment.
"And I don't ever-" her mother's voice screeched with fury, her plump face turning a ruddy color with anger to match her daughter's.
"Ma, this is my passion! Ever since Da died- " Deryn sputtered out.
"No. Don't you say a word, young lady. Passion has nothing to do with it! A young woman such as yourself doesn't go hop on some warship and come back like
this!" Mrs. Sharp vigorously waved her flour-stained palms in Deryn's direction, and Deryn could do nothing but hang her head in shame.
Another set of eyes had been watching this scene, taking in the childish bickering. The brunette knew better than to get between a mother and her offspring, so he forced himself not to make a sound and drew himself to the farthest corner of the table.
"Why can't you just accept my choices? You're my mother! A mother should respect her children's aspirations, no matter how strange they might be to her!" Her voice squeaked, a sure sign of the panic rising in her chest.
Her mother grimaced and spat out venomously, "No, Deryn. You've never been a child of mine."
That hurt more than fifty blows to the back. Tears viciously ripped at her eyelashes, a barricade in itself. They ran free down her smooth cheeks and burned at her skin. Another round of embarrassment danced on her tender face as the room was silent and her hics and restrained sobs filled the room. Through blurred vision, Deryn glanced up at her mother.
Who was still looking down upon her with shrewd disapproval.
The young soldier's muscles tensed and began to quit operating from shock, making her plummet to the ground. Her choppy, sandy hair flew into her eyes, blocking the world from view. Deryn squeezed her eyes shut to prepare for fireworks of pain, but nothing came. Only a pleasant warmth that gently helped her to her feet.
His austere face was clouded with worry, she could see, as his emerald gaze searched her face. Deryn's slender hands desperately gripped the collars of his tattered coat and willed herself to breathe.
Oh, how she wanted to leave. There was nothing more that she wanted than to flee her mother's gaze that scorned her so. Deryn buried her face, still damp with strong but silent tears, into Alek's chest and breathed in deeply. The ever-present sweet stench of machinery and tea lingered on his body, which calmed her down significantly.
She dared to peer over to her mother, who stood there, confused and impatient.
Might as well explain, Deryn thought.
Deryn looked up at Alek, who carefully brushed the hair from her eyes and planted a swift kiss on her forehead.
She gave him a weak smile. She could face countless armed soldiers, furious boffins, and a sinister count, but not her own mother? Confusion welled up inside of her.
Deryn slowly broke from Alek's grasp and faced her mother, taking a shaky breath.
"I met a boy, Ma."
Mrs. Sharp's gaze was suspicious. "Aye, I gathered that, missy."
I found him while serving on the Leviathan. Well, he found me, rather. My bum was freezing-" Deryn began to trail off subject, her mind focused on how the widow would take the news.
The mother cut Deryn off, a threatening thought erupting in her mind. "Wait a second who... is this boy?"
Alek encouragingly smiled and nodded his consent, tenderly wiping his best friend's hot tears from her eyelids with his strong thumb.
"Ma... I'd like you to meet Prince Aleksander Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. We're getting married."