"But Papa," I said, "surely you are not serious.”
Papa leaned back in his chair and it creaked beneath him. "Agata, you know you will need to choose soon. I cannot allow you to continue to run wild in the way that you do. You are no longer a child and your ways must change. I'm sorry.” He shot me a sorrowful look. "I know it's not what you would choose for yourself."
"Not what I would choose?” I gave him an incredulous glare. "You know I have no desire to handfast, especially not with someone like him. If you must give me away, at least make him interesting. Give me to an adventurer, someone who will travel and do interesting things and who will let me go with him. Please don't chain me to someone's estate for the rest of my life."
"It is a good alliance, Agata, and they are asking for very little in way of a bride-price. I wish I could afford more but this will be a good match for you. I hope you will learn to be happy.”
I crossed my arms across my chest and refused to look at him. My gaze skipped blindly from the cold hearth and the four threadbare chairs, to the heavy drapes over the window and the tattered rug on the floor. I hadn’t expected this, even though I had recently reached eighteen summers and was long past the age when a woman should be handfasted. Last summer he had said that if I wished to choose for myself I should do it soon. I hadn't taken him seriously, though.
"But he's so staid,” I said. “Boring.”
"Respectable," Papa countered. "They are a generous family with a good reputation and nary a hint of scandal or rottenness about them. You will be well looked after.”
“He is serious, true. Not given to wild flights of fantasy. But he is heir, which means you will help him run the estate after his parents are gone. Your future is secure.”
“And tedious.” I still refused to look at him. Oh, I knew it was commonplace and that most women handfasted with men chosen by their fathers, but I had not thought it would happen to me. Not when my father knew the kind of life I wanted. If I could not have an adventurer, I would have been happy with a soldier, provided I could travel with him. The thought of being chained to the same land for the rest of my life made me want to grind my teeth. I pulled each finger slowly, making my knuckles crack.
“Agata.” Papa shuddered. “Please don’t.”
“Tell me you will reconsider. Please. Give me this last summer to choose for myself. I will do it, I swear. I will find a husband by the end of summer and handfast with him without complaint.”
“And what if the man you choose will not have you?” he asked. “What then? Will you ask for another summer to choose again, or will you accept my choice willingly?”
“I will accept.”
He considered me for a long moment and my heart lifted, but he shook his head. “I am sorry, my dear, but the agreement has been made.”
I swallowed the last of my pride and knelt down in front of his chair. I took his hand and clasped it in both of mine. His callouses were rough beneath my own smooth skin. “Please Papa, I am begging you. Let me choose for myself.”
His face gave no hint of his thoughts, but at length he sighed. “I will speak to Kyran. I make no promises, though,” he said as I squeezed his hands and beamed up at him. “I will not damage our relationship with that family over a daughter with too firm of a mind of her own. If he is not willing to agree, then you will have to comply. I truly am sorry, Agata.” His voice softened as my smile disappeared and a tear escaped from my eye. “I warned you to choose for yourself.”