Lot and Millie have a heart-to-heart and come to an understanding.
London – 1844
‘I’m in trouble, aren’t I?’ Millie said when I opened her bedroom door.
She was sitting up in bed with her bandaged hand resting on top of the covers and a cup of cocoa on her bedside cabinet.
‘Yes and no.’ I sat down on the edge of her bed. ‘I’m not sure there’s a punishment worse than a broken hand that has to heal naturally.’
Josef said she was too young to have vampire blood to help her heal faster because her body was ‘in flux’. I’d argued that I hadn’t been much older than Millie the first time Bran gave me his blood and Josef counter argued that I had my own magic and I’d been dying. He may have put emphasis on the dying point, I couldn’t argue against that one. Bran had said at the time it might not work, I’d assumed he’d meant I was too far gone and could’ve died.
She looked at her bruised swollen hand. ‘I wanted to show I could do it too, just like you did.’ She sniffed. ‘It was silly. I didn’t think it was as dangerous as you made out. And…’ She shook her head. ‘I thought you’d always save me. You’re right, I can’t look after myself.’ She started to cry.
‘Sweetheart, you’re fifteen, you shouldn’t have to look after yourself.’ I hugged her. ‘You’re my daughter and I love you but if I don’t know where you are I can’t protect you.’
‘I’m sorry,’ she sobbed.
I shushed and rocked her. ‘You’re safe now.’
I’d spent my entire life knowing nowhere was safe. Millie hadn’t.
Her birth parents had died but it hadn’t occurred to me we’d made her feel so safe she didn’t see the danger in everything. I’d appeared and saved her and her sisters from a vampire. I’d appeared and saved her and Mary from a thug. I’d jumped over the edge of a roof and caught her when she fell off a drainpipe.
When I looked at it like that it seemed there was nothing I couldn’t do.
‘I didn’t mean to be trouble, I wanted to be treated like an adult like the other girls,’ she said.
It didn’t seem politic to point out other girls were being treated like adults because they were being married off for financial gain. That was the way things were done, it was wrong but no-one care about the chattel’s opinion.
‘I didn’t get a childhood so I’m going to damn well make sure my babies do,’ I said, quietly.
‘Except I’m not your daughter and everyone knows it.’ She rubbed her eyes.
‘Staying at friends’ houses to sneak out thus avoiding vampire senses is just my kind of duplicitous.’ I stoked her hair. ‘Josef said you were too much like me.’
‘He said you were a pain in the arse.’
I bit the tip of my tongue to stop me saying ‘he wishes’. ‘Takes one to know one.’ I handed her a handkerchief from up my sleeve, she was lucky I hadn’t needed to attack Edward’s runny nose.
She blew her nose, loudly.
‘You think we’ve got problems I’ve been trying to get my head round Veronica being my step-daughter,’ I said. ‘I can’t think of a way to tell a grown woman my relationship with her father us family.’
Millie sniffled. ‘I think she’d like that.’
‘You’d know better than I. Mostly she seems to avoid me, unless the children are around.’
‘She’s worried you’ll make her leave,’ Millie said then went tense.
‘Why would I make her leave?’
Millie shook her head and shrugged, seemingly unaware it was the universal sign for ‘I know but won’t tell you’.
‘She’s not worried I’ll take out my dislike of Elizabeth on her, is she?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ Millie said in a tone that suggested it was the truth, but not the whole truth.
Had Veronica been spilling secrets to her mother? I doubted it. If she had I doubted she’d tell Millie or Millie would help her hide it. I decided it wasn’t the moment to ask if Millie had any idea how Elizabeth had found out what she was up to. I had no doubt Elizabeth contrived for us all to be there the previous night, there were plenty of ways to do so.
‘Well, that wouldn’t be fair or right,’ I said. ‘She’s done nothing wrong.’
There was a bump at the door then it popped open followed by Edward with Rawr under his arm and a piece of paper in his hand. ‘Made Millie pretty picture to make her feel better.’ He stopped beside the bed and waved the paper, there were crumbs down his front and chocolate round his mouth.
I lifted him up onto the bed and sat him on my lap.
He held up the drawing to her, it looked like a collection of potatoes with arms and legs. ‘It’s us.’ He pointed at each potato and told her who they were until he got to the last potato. ‘This is you, bestest biggest sister. Brought you a bikit too but got hungry an’ eated it.’ Which explained the crumbs and chocolate.
‘It’s a lovely picture,’ Millie said and gave him a hug. Usually when Edward offered her biscuits she let him eat them, which was wise given how often he stuck his fingers up his nose.
‘Love, Millie,’ he said and blew a raspberry on her face.
‘Thank you,’ she said and wiped her cheek with the back of her hand.
Mary ran in with her wooden sword and a picture followed by Merry with Patches and a picture.
‘You was supposed to wait so’s we could give Millie the pictures together, bad babby.’ Mary climbed onto the bed, smacking my knee with her sword as she went, and thrust her picture at Millie. ‘It’s us riding a dragon. Pappy says I can’t have a dragon ‘cause they set fires and eat people but’s why I want one.’
Millie smiled. ‘It’s a lovely picture.’
Merry climbed onto the bed on the other side of Millie, gave her a hug with Patches and settled against her side.
‘I said I s’pose we can’t let dragons eat people, even mean ones. So’s I asked if I could have a pony. I can ride around cutting off the heads of my enemies.’
‘How they put their heads back on?’ Edward asked.
‘They don’t, silly, ‘cause they’re deaded.’
Edward frowned. ‘Don’t want t’be breaded.’
I blinked. ‘I think I might need to have word with Uncle Sef about his stories.’
‘Like Dada’s stories.’ Edward decided he wanted to stand on my lap.
‘Pappy said he’d think ‘bout a pony,’ Mary said.
‘We’ll definitely be thinking about it,’ I replied, holding onto Edward so he wouldn’t fall off my lap.
‘Good.’ She sat down on my knees. ‘I want a white one like what’s in The Bible.’
‘You want a horse like Death’s horse?’ I said.
‘Yes.’ She grinned.
‘We’ll definitely consider it.’
‘You’re the bestest Mummy ever.’ She hugged me, jabbing me with her sword in the process.
I hugged her back with one arm while still holding Edward with the other, as my hands were full he sneezed on me.
‘Oopsie.’ He wiped his nose on his sleeve then rubbed my cheek with it.
Millie and I looked at each other. It was going to be a long day.
Read more episodes of Nine Shillings, or read Lot’s first adventure, Victorian Mistress, here.
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