Prince of Secrets and Shadows
Story Excerpt: Ella with Amir (mentor1):
“You are young yet, but even you know there are things worth dying for.” 
“Dying for something is different than killing for something,” I said slowly. 
“The first time I killed a man, I did it to protect your mother.” Amir tried to give me a small smile. “I considered that a matter of deep honor and love, even though it was gruesome. But that is another story, of course.”    
Amir slipped into silence. I reached over and patted his hand, covering his scar with my hand. 
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.
“Do not be sorry for me. I ask that you do not judge my family. I have known deeper betrayals than theirs, but it is good of me to forgive them.”
“Who could betray you more than family?” 
Amir’s lips twitched into a wry smirk. “Those who would become family, of course.”
I wondered if he was talking about my mother, but he shook his head before I could ask. “Forgive my grievances, Eleanora. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, to first leave my family, and then forgive them. In spite of the pain between us, I still love them, and there are many values we still share. There is much good we can affirm.” 
“You are a better person than me. It is too easy to hate people.” I thought of Cecilia, and how she had treated both me and Ben over the years. As cruel as it was, it was nothing compared to Amir’s sorrow. I clenched my fist, struggling not to hate Amir’s family for him. “I’m sorry I asked you about it.” 
“It is better to remember,” Amir said. He turned his hand over and patted my hand gently, the same way my father used to. “We must remember, too, that blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. And we can only mourn properly when we remember the depths of our losses.” 
At his own words, I thought of my own faith, and how much it was a cornerstone of my own life. I had been born into it, but Amir had given up his entire childhood and his family to gain it. I silently prayed for his comfort, but I already felt like he had been further cheated with the loss of my mother. 
As if he knew what I was thinking, Amir said, “It is much better for me to remember Naděžda than forget her, too.” 
It was hard to speak at the sudden lump in my throat. “I wish she was still with us.” 
“She is,” Amir replied. “She is here, even if she is not. We will see her again one day, Eleanora. Some people say that religion only causes pain, but there is much pain tied to goodness. If all truth is God’s truth, then all goodness is his, too.” 
When we first met, I had envied Amir’s time with my mother. Now, as we stood there, having lost so much, I wondered if I had been strangely spared from missing her even more than I already did. I clung to Amir’s certainty that he would see her again, with the further hope I would, too.

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