Anala was surprised, to say the least. Surprised to be alive and back home.
Surprised to have Lares pledge himself as her paxwoman immediately upon her wakening – wasn’t he technically an enemy? Not anymore, she supposed.
Surprised that Ghia and Aro were in town, and that apparently Yarrow and company were arriving shortly thereafter.
Really, incredibly surprised – no, wrong word – shocked, astounded, traumatised – to find the truth of her parentage lay in the royalty of Mt. Voco.
Most surprising of all was what was happening now – Sappho Baker’s arms wrapped around the bellica tightly as she cried, saying how much she’d missed Anala. How happy she was that Anala was back home. Crying with tears of relief that Anala was alive and safe.
“Sappho, I’d be needing ta breathe,” she whispered into the older woman’s hair.
“Forgive me, child,” Sappho said, releasing Anala and sitting back in her chair. She sniffed and wiped her eyes. “I’d thought ye dead fer sure, when they’d brought ye in.”
Anala grunted as she changed position. “It wasnae a pleasant wound, ta be sure. But I’m a mite surprised ye’d been sa worried about me, Sappho.” She turned to regard the older woman levelly. “After what I’d told ye,” she added pointedly.
“I’d been stunned, sure,” Sappho said, easily admitting the truth. “But I’d let it absorb, ye ken, overnight, and it’d been a mite easier to accept. I dinnae blame ye, child. I went lookin’ fer ye the next day, ta tell ye as much, but ye’d left already. When I’d heard where I nearly lost meself in grief!”
Anala blinked furiously as tears came to her eyes at Sappho’s easy forgiveness of her. “How did ye know me destination? It’d been classified,” she forced herself to say around the lump in her throat.
Sappho waved her hand and snorted. “It’d be Harbourtown, Anala. It’d no be hard ta ferret out tha right information – so long as ye know who it is ye’re asking, and how. Dockworkers what are friends with Merry’s crew let me know.” Anala nodded and closed her eyes. It was hard to keep a secret in this town. A pause, and then Sappho spoke again. “I’d never stopped lovin’ ye like me third daughter, Anala. Me and Dem both. Once, we thought…we’d thought ye and Isidora might…. Ye’d been so close as kids. And I’d never thought much o’ her choice o’ Caelum, ye ken. But something’d been different between ye, since before ye left for the military. She’d told me naught o’ it, but she didnae need ta. ‘Twas clear as day ta her mother.” Anala opened her eyes to find Sappho staring at her intently. “Wha’ was it, Anala? What drove ye two apart?”
Anala swallowed convulsively, trying to rid her throat of the second lump it’d had in such a short period of time. I dinnae want ta go over it again, she thought wretchedly. Was yellin’ at ‘is Lordship not enough?
Mayhap not. She’d felt a certain release in screaming out the pain and anguish that she’d kept bottled up for so long. And Sappho’d deserve ta know – ‘er children’s ‘appiness what’s been affected so intimately.
She sighed and turned more squarely on her back, determined to stare at the ceiling for the duration of this verbal ordeal. If she looked at Sappho, she would break. “Ye ken Adem was shipped off ta the military at sixteen. What ye dinnae ken – what no one kens, aside meself and Tenea – is why. And I’d rather not have ta say it again – makes me sick ta think o’ it, which is why I’d not done so fer so long. But suffice it ta say ‘e hurt me – bad. And instead o’ doing what would ‘ave been right, and going ta the proper authorities, I went ta me Aunt, and begged ‘er ta help me deal with it quietly.
“And so she convinced me parents to send their son off ta potential war. I’d never wished that sort o’ hurt on Laurel, and I’m sorry it had ta happen that way. But mayhap I saved ‘er from a worse hurt by me actions; I’ll never be made ta ken. Adem died by his own stupidity, that much I do ken. If he couldnae survive the survival course they’d given in basic training, ’twas a miracle he survived ta be a young man at all.
“But. That isnae here nor there. Since Adem’d…done what he’d did…I’d not been able ta. Ta love, I suppose ye’d say. Or ta feel as deeply as I should. I dinnae even know how deeply I should feel.
“So when Isidora came ta me with confessions o’ how she truly felt, I didnae ken what ta do. And sa I ran away – left fer the military, after pushin’ ‘er away from me. I hurt her. And I ken that I did, too – I did it because I didnae ken how to feel about her.”
She stopped then, unable to continue as the tears blocked her vision and the lump came back to clog her throat. She felt Sappho’s arms come around her then, and she leaned into the embrace, a mother’s love something she’d lacked for far too long.
“I didnae ken, child,” Sappho whispered to her, tears unshed clustering in her voice, ready to spill forth.
Anala shook her head, a jerky, stilted movement. “No one did. I didnae want them to.”
Not even meself.