There was nothing wrong with love from my point of view. And he was smitten as well. Both of us trembled at each others touch. A single glance, and my heart pounded madly. We lost ourselves in chaste kisses. Beneath the table, our feet found each other and entwined. If there was a dark corner, we would find it and embrace. I was delirious with joy, my parents would be so happy, I thought, to welcome Halthro into our family. We would live at the mountain hall – we would raise horses and children.

I was fifteen. I had never considered myself beautiful, but Halthro made me feel beautiful. And for me, Halthro was the most handsome of men. As he rode off on his stallion to bring in the herds, my heart was full to bursting when he turned to wave at me.

My brother’s wife had just borne her fourth child, a daughter at last. The pregnancy and birth had been difficult. My brother was tired and not as attentive as he should have been. I was allowed to run wild that summer – but suddenly Janne was there – my mother had decided that Fraya could use some help, and so sent her maid to tend to her.

Janne knew me well. Just one glance, and she took me by the chin. “Who is it, child?” she asked, keeping her voice light.

She fooled me. I thought she was on my side. “Halthro,” I said, a deep blush staining my cheeks. “He’s wonderful, don’t you think?”

The next day, I was packed up and sent home. My bewilderment was complete. I had no idea why. No one told me anything beyond, “You’re going home, today.”

It wasn’t until I was on my horse, heading home, that it hit me. I wouldn’t see Halthro when he came back with the herds. I stopped, turned my horse, and a guard caught my reins.

No.” He said nothing else, but his grip was firm and I dared not protest.

When I arrived home, my mother cloistered me in my room. I stayed there for a month. Again, I was so naive I didn’t realize why. When my menses came, my mother called me to her room and then I learned everything. How I was never to return to the Mountain Hall. How I’d never see Halthro again. How I was leaving at first frost to the Southern Lands. I was to start organizing my household now. She would help me. Everything had to be ready. Linens, clothes, jewelry, candles…I heard it all through a sort of fog. My head ached and ached. I thought perhaps I’d die. My heart had been broken. I don’t know what broke it more – leaving Halthro or finding out my parents didn’t trust me. I was a virgin. All they had to do was ask me, not lock me up like a criminal. The hurt I felt ran deep, and I started to hate my parents. Perhaps it was a good thing. Part of me was anxious to get away from them. It made getting ready to leave almost easy.

I had four months to prepare. I was sixteen. I felt ancient.