Charlotte sends the children away but Merry doesn’t want to leave her.
London – 1842
Merry was crying. She was wrapped around my waist with her head pressed to my chest. It didn’t seem a few minutes ago she’d been wiping her nose on my skirt. I could do with a growth spurt like that.
‘Mummmmy,’ she sobbed. ‘Don’t want to go.’
Millie was sitting patiently in the carriage while Mary bounced up and down beside it holding Josef’s hand.
‘You’ve got to go so you can tell me the stories of all your adventures,’ I said.
‘Noooo, stay with you.’
‘You’ll be with Uncle Sef and have Pappy with you part of the way.’ I stroked her hair.
‘Nooo, Mummmmy.’ She coughed at the intensity of her sobbing.
‘Come on, Merry, Uncle Sef’s going take us to find the lost Romans.’ Mary said. ‘Romans!’
If I didn’t do something Mary would go off and it would be the dreaded double cry of the crypocalypse. I wished Bran would hurry up and appear but part of me wished he wouldn’t too. I didn’t want them to go.
Josef scooped up Mary and set her on his hip. ‘We have to wait for Merry to be ready or it won’t be fun will it?’
Mary shook her head. ‘S’pose not.’
I crouched down, which was getting less and less necessary every day, Merry was only ten and it looked like she was going to be taller than me, which wasn’t difficult.
‘Don’t you want to go and have an adventure with Uncle Sef?’ I asked holding her hands.
‘I had a nightmare,’ she said. ‘A bad man hurt you.’
I glanced at Josef. His smile twitched. Merry and I shared blood and if Freyja Deacon was to be believed I was a changeling, a human with Fae ancestry which gave me a few unusual abilities. It was not impossible that Merry would acquire some abilities too, so when she said she dreamed something it might not have been a dream. It might not have been the future either. I was retrocognitive so I saw the past, but I could only see things that had happened to me.
‘Nobody is going to hurt me,’ I said. ‘You’re going to have a lovely time with Uncle Sef and I’m going to be here waiting for you when you get back. Got it?’
She took one of her hands from mine and rubbed her eyes. ‘It was scary.’
‘We all have bad dreams sometimes.’ I smiled. ‘And then I slay the monster under the bed, don’t I?’
‘Has a monster ever beaten me?’
She shook her head.
‘What do you think, Sef, can a monster beat me?’ I asked.
‘A monster will never beat your mummy, Merry,’ Bran said coming down the front steps. ‘They wouldn’t dare.’
Merry sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. We were going to have to get her to stop doing that but she seemed to be allergic to handkerchiefs. ‘Mummy, it was a scary dream.’
‘I know, sweetie, but I’m tougher than any monster,’ I said. ‘What happened?’
‘Don’t know. Woke up.’
‘I won, that’s what happened.’ I winked.
‘Your mummy just has a lot of work to do,’ Bran said and picked her up. ‘You’ll be back in a few weeks and it will all be done and you’ll have lots of fun together again.’
‘Promise?’ Merry asked.
‘Promise,’ I said and kissed her cheek. ‘Then one day when I’m old you can run the business for me.’
‘Boooooring,’ Mary said. ‘Imma be an adventurer and find lost Romans.’
Bran wiped Merry’s face with a handkerchief. ‘Better?’
Merry nodded. Of course she felt better, Bran was there and he had that effect on people. Though he was utterly unaware of it.
‘You all be careful,’ I said. ‘Love you all.’ And I kissed Bran gently on the lips.
‘Yuck, Mummy and Pappy are kissing again, Uncle Sef.’ Mary put her hand over her eyes, ‘Make them stop.’
‘One day you might find someone you want to kiss all the time,’ Josef said.
‘Boys are yucky,’ she said.
‘Never said it would be a boy,’ he replied.
She frowned at him. ‘You’re strange.’
‘I know.’ He lifted her into the carriage and Bran lifted Merry in.
‘Do what I would do and give Uncle Sef lots of trouble,’ I said as the fellas climbed into the carriage.
‘Bye, Mummy,’ they called and waved as the carriage pulled away.
I stood at the bottom of the steps waving until they rounded the corner at the bottom of the street and I was alone.
I’d never felt so alone in my life. I felt hollow and the world seemed silent, even in the onslaught of people and carriages passing. I tried to shake the feeling off but it stuck. I sighed and went inside.
Now was the hard part. I had to wait for Richard to come to me.
Patience wasn’t my strongest suit but the reward was worth the wait.
I was already getting itchy with inaction.
It was going to be a long wait.