“Malcolm, where are you?”
“Malcolm? Storms coming little Mal and near time for your dinner.”
There was a scrabbling and a scraping, and then suddenly out from beneath the window a dirty scrub of a boy appeared covered in mud and dust.
“Malcolm Reynolds what have I told you about playing under the house?”
She’d snapped at the boy, but it was only half hearted - he looked so funny with his face all smudged like that, and his hair matted and full of dirt.
“What will I do with you?”
She stared into his eyes and let out a sigh. He had his fathers eyes. Damn it he had far too much of his fathers eyes, couldn’t the maker have left his eyes for her. The memory hurt too much. Ignorant of the sadness that was creeping through his mothers mind, Mal smiled at her, realizing he was off the hook for now.
“Sorry Ma, I won’t do it again.”
“Too right you won’t.”
She wiped away a tear that threatened to roll down her cheek, then she turned away to the window and looked out again toward the mountains.
“Now go get yourself cleaned off, I have chores for you before I put anything on your plate and you best be quick or you’ll get a soaking when the rains come in.”
“Aww Ma!” A scowl came across his face. He had such a temper but he was sharp too. Sharp as a tack as the old people used to say.
“Don’t ‘Aww Ma’ me Mal Reynolds. You ain’t done nothing all day but crawled around under this house pretending to be some sort of space captain, so when I tell you to do something you gorram do it, you hear me?”
“But I was practising Ma. For when I really am a space captain! When I have my own ship and I can fly us both around the worlds, and... and we can go...”
He trailed off. But she could hear - just under his breath - she could hear his last few words.
“... and we can go find Dad.”
Another tear was coming, she could feel her eyes brimming.
“Don’t be daft Mal. Ain’t nobody on this planet ever gonna leave it and that’s the truth, you hear me. Now you... you go upstairs and you... you get yourself clean, and then you do your reading. You read them books the shepherd left you... you hear me?”
Her voice was faltering.
Hannah Reynolds was a strong woman, she’d brought herself here when her lottery number came up. She’d got them on one of the settlers ships, she’d made a new life. But she had lost so much too. Lost so much - she couldn’t lose him too. Not to the skies, not like him.
The boys scowl had deepened - children can be so oblivious, they can be so... so child like. There was a heat in his face now, a real anger, and when he spoke it was through gritted teeth.
“I’ll show you. I’ll show you. One day I’m going to fly away from here. One day I’m going to have a ship of my own, and a crew and we’re going to be the best in the universe. And we’ll fly everywhere.”
He began to back away, tears streaking his dusty muddy face.
“I’ll show you. You can’t take the skies from me!”
And off he ran. Up the stairs that ran to the sleeping quarters - she could hear his boyish sobs and the ‘thud’ as he slumped down on his bed.Hannah turned away, and slowly walked out onto the porch.
The rain had arrived, as she’d known it would and the salty water began to drench her where she stood, the raindrops mingling with her own tears.
She mouthed those last words over and over again.
“You can’t take the skies from me.”