Grown-Up Fears

WARNING: Sexual content.

Lot’s abilities take a new turn.

Nine Shillings and Victorian Mistress are also available on Wattpad.

London – 1844

It wasn’t a memory but I didn’t dream.

I’d been mulling away my sleeping time in my memory library, as always, picked up a book to step back into a memory, and found myself…

It looked like our bedroom except it was vague, the books were book-shaped but there was no definition, the room was smaller, and the bed was bigger. Then there was the small matter of Josef having sex on it, or a version of him. I’d seen him shirtless and well-honed would cover it but this version’s back muscles would’ve made Michelangelo’s David weep, they rippled with every thrust. His scars were missing, his skin was smooth and taunt over all those muscles. If this was dreaming I hadn’t been missing anything.

I didn’t recognise the delicate hands, the shapely legs, or the seductive voice of the woman.

I recognised the way the hands were gripping Josef’s shoulders and the things she was saying, the same things I said to Bran. I’d never thought of it as filthy before but listening to someone else it was, had it not been so bizarre it would’ve been comical.

I peered at her face. It was all the features of my face yet better; her skin was perfect, even the scars, her eyes an impressive shade of deep green, and her hair an artistic tangle. I could look at myself from the outside and knew I didn’t look that good during sex, or ever.

Freyja had once told me I was lovely to look at but in Bran’s head I was a goddess. His Athena, in the circumstances Aphrodite seemed more appropriate.

Bran’s head…

I straightened and turned. Bran was in the doorway staring at the bed. He didn’t appear to see me, the actual me, as if I was in the dream but not part of it.

Josef looked at him but didn’t stop. The imposter grabbed his chin and turned his face back to her. ‘Ignore him, chuckaboo, he’s nothing, he doesn’t matter.’ She kissed him. ‘You’re perfection.’

My hand passed through the candlestick on the bedside cabinet.

I woke up curled around Bran’s back with my face pressed to the nape of his neck. I was in our real bedroom and Edward was crying in the next room.

Bran rubbed his eyes. ‘It’s my turn.’ He sat up ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Not sure I’m quite awake yet.’

He smiled and kissed me. ‘You will be in a minute.’ Then he went to check on Edward.

I lay there staring at the ceiling and wondering what had happened. No, not what had happened, how it had happened.

Mary came in, climbed onto the bed and over me and flopped into the middle of the mattress. ‘I want to cuddle babby too,’

‘Where’s Merry?’ I asked.

‘She’s being growed-up,’ Mary said. ‘But growed-ups cuddle babbies. It’s what babbies are for, it’s why they’re cuddly and snuggly.’

Mary and Merry slept in the same bed, they went everywhere together. Mary coming to get into bed with us without Merry was unheard of.

‘Stay here, I’ll go check on her,’ I said.

Merry was tucked up in her bed, teary eyed and hugging Patches.

I sat down on the bed next to her. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘I’m too big for cuddles now,’ she replied quietly.

‘You’re never too big for cuddles if you want one,’ I said.

‘I am.’ She snuffled. ‘You’ve got a little baby now, I’m just a big baby.’

‘Who told you that?’

She wiped her eyes on Patches head. ‘William Arton said I was a big baby because of Patches.’

‘You’re not a big baby.’ I put my arms out to her.

‘I am.’ She tucked herself into my side, rested her head against my chest and cried.

‘His problem is the scariest thing that ever happened to him is running out of marmalade,’ I muttered, stroking her hair.

Merry was old enough to remember when her father died, and the vampire that came for the children afterwards.

People had been telling me she was too old to be acting ‘childish’ ever since she came running into a dinner at Josef’s house looking for Bran after a nightmare. Apparently we’d been pandering to let the children sleep at Josef’s house while we were at the party to begin with. I told them they could raise their children how they liked and we’d raise ours how we liked, and they were shit parents. There might’ve been a reason I was unpopular.

‘I’m scared all the time,’ she said between sobs. ‘I’m a big baby.’

‘When I was your age I was scared all the time,’ I said.

She looked up at me, face shiny with tears. ‘You’re never scared.’

‘Part of me, deep down, is always scared I’ll go back to the workhouse one day,’ I whispered.

She sniffed. ‘Pappy wouldn’t let that happen.’

‘I know, but it doesn’t stop me being scared,’ I said. ‘You know we’d never let anyone hurt you.’

She made a sniffly agreement and wiped her eyes on Patches.

‘Do you always try to do your best?’ I asked.

She nodded.

‘Then you’re strongest and bravest.’ I kissed the top of her head. ‘Strong and brave girls can have cuddles whenever they want.’ I squeezed her. ‘Don’t rush growing up, Merry, and don’t think growing up means not getting scared.’

‘Mary punched William in the nose for being mean,’ she said.

‘I wondered what happened to his nose,’ I replied, wiping her tears away with my thumb. ‘I should tell her off but…’ I lowered my voice, ‘he deserved it.’

Merry giggled then frowned up at me. ‘Edward’s not your’s and Pappy’s favourite because he’s little and sweet?’

‘Never, and you’re little and sweet too.’

‘I’m almost as big as you, Mummy.’

‘Apparently I’m little and sweet too.’

She consider this. ‘But you’re a grown-up.’

‘And I like cuddles,’ I said. ‘William doesn’t know anything about being a grown-up. Do you want to come for a cuddle?’

‘I’m not a big baby if I do?’


‘Yes, please.’

‘You don’t have to say “please” for a cuddle, Merry.’

She squeezed me back. I took her by the hand and we went back to the bedroom where Bran was tucking Edward and Mary in.

‘Merry,’ Edward shouted and stuck his arms out to her, wriggling his fingers.

She gave him a hug and he gave her a dribbly kiss. Whatever had upset him seemed forgot snuggled between his sisters.

Bran’s bed had seemed huge the first time I got into it, the way things were going we’d need a bigger bed or one of us was going to fall out. I reached across the children and caught Bran’s hand, he smiled at me over their heads. I smiled back, silently worrying what he might be dream about, and if I would stay out of them.

Read more episodes of Nine Shillings here. Or read Lot’s first adventure Victorian Mistress here.

There’s a new episode of Nine Shillings everyday until 20th January.

A Lot and Bran playlist is now available on YouTube, more coming soon.


Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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