The partygoers’ cheers die in their wine-slick throats.
Portia trips her way up the scaffold, shoving the guards away from Julian and falling in front of him, trembling with sobs. Julian kneels to her height.
He smiles fondly, laughs softly. It hurts his throat. “You’re still as short as I remember, huh?”
Portia throws her arms around and sobs into his shoulder, small fingers gripped tight around his shirt, trying to convince herself that he’s there, he’s real, he’s breathing.
Julian whispers, soothes. “It’s okay.”
But that tone was reserved for patients. Portia could see through the lie.
The wide-eyed crowd parts for Nadia, calling out Portia’s name.
“Portia, get down from there.”
“You can’t!” Portia screams. She’s breathing harsh, tears streaming. A hiccupping sob wracks her. “You can’t.”
Nadia stands tall, swallows hard.
“Your majesty.” Portia pleads. Julian turns his head away from the crowd. The night grows cold as the wind blows through. The noose above them sways.
She whispers this time. “Nadia.”