I watched the direction he had walked off in for several heartbeats after he had disappeared. Why did I feel sad about him leaving? I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of spell he was supposed to be looking for. Sighing wearily, I made my way back towards the butchers shop. I jumped startled as Atani’s panicked voice drifted downstairs as Darrow and Axel prepared for the day’s work. They smiled relieved as I stepped inside, Darrow stopping me at the bottom of the stairs concerned.
“You alright lass?” He demanded concerned.
“Fine patro” I smiled reassuringly, patting his shoulder gently.
He sighed unconvinced as I hurried up the stairs as Kiimi began to cry frightened. Atani sighed relieved as I stepped inside, Kiimi racing over and flinging her arms around my legs.
“Hush now” I soothed as I scooped her into my arms and rocked her gently.
“I was so scared, you were gone and I didn’t know if you were coming back” She sobbed frightened
“I tried to explain but she is so much like you when we first met” Atani murmured concerned as she wrung the tea towel in her hands anxiously.
“It’s alright Atani, father taught us not to trust” I sighed sadly as I rocked her tenderly.
“I’ve noticed” She sighed softly as she slowly wandered back towards the little kitchen.
I sighed wearily as I sat at the table with Kiimi, carefully laying the book on the table as she held onto me like a vice. Eventually she calmed and sat beside me, coloring nervously as Atani continued to cook. Kiimi froze petrified when I stood and helped Atani finish lunch, carrying the plates back over as footsteps could be heard on the stairs. She began shaking as Axel and Darrow stepped inside talking softly.
“It’s alright Kiimi-cub. These are the people I always tell you about, they’re our family” I hushed softly as they slowly made their way towards the bathroom to clean up.
“Is papa going to be mad?” She whispered fearfully.
“It won’t matter if he is darling girl, I won’t let him hurt you” I hushed softly.
“The spare bedroom is all set up for you girls tonight. We are closed tomorrow, we can go enjoy the festivities” Darrow chuckled absently as he wandered back with Axel.
“The festival?” Kiimi repeated surprised, a mixture of fear and excitement lighting up her eyes.
“We go every year. Mom makes Auntie Pru come too cuz she thinks I wander off too much” Axel babbled excitedly, blushing shyly as Kiimi giggled amused.
“And yet every year you still manage to get into mischief” Darrow guffawed warmly, Kiimi jumping surprised before slowly breaking out into a warm grin.
“Well tuck in, sorry it isn’t much but I have something special cooking for dinner” Atani winked as she laid the food across the table.
Atani shot Darrow a concerned frown as he glanced over to me frowning solemnly as Kiimi gasped amazed by the amount and variety of food before her. I smiled falteringly, glancing away as Axel began piling food onto his plate obliviously. Talk soon started up as I began filling Kiimi’s plate, smiling encouragingly as she started to fidget uncomfortable with how much was being taken.
“Eat your fill my girl” Darrow winked mischievously as he snuck another piece of cake onto her plate as Atani scrambled for more napkins as Axel made a complete mess.
“Thank you” She whispered shyly as I grabbed for Axels cup as he knocked it over for a third time.
Atani encouraged me off with Kiimi as she yawned broadly, Darrow and Axel reluctantly returning to the shop below. Once I had settled Kiimi in the huge plump bed, I wandered back to help Atani with the dishes. I hesitated nervously as I saw her still sitting patiently at the table, none of the dishes an inch from where they had been left.
“Is everything alright?” I asked softly as she gestured for me to sit.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. Now I know you don’t like to talk about them but something isn’t right. Such a sweet lass” She began, sniffing as tears began rolling down her face.
“It was before Kiimi was born. She always blamed herself but it was before her time” I sighed sadly, my hand drifting the old scar long since badly healing.
Sighing sadly I began gathering up the plates, wandering over to the sink. Atani followed me patiently waiting for me to continue. The water filling the sink echoed around the chillingly silent kitchen.
“I was too much like my mother I suppose, or like my grandmother. Marian has a rule about how much Kiimi is allowed to weigh, she can’t be fat or lazy. She is almost 3 stone underweight right now” I murmured softly, absently cleaning the plates.
“That’s horrific! How can she deny such a sweet girl even the basic thing of food?” Atani gasped horrified as she stopped mid-collection of the glasses.
“Papa would always remind us of our places if we stepped out of line. Me more harshly it’s true but the emotional punishments on Kiimi were worse than any beating he could have given her” I murmured pained, staring blankly at the wall in front of me with my hands laying listlessly in the sink of water.
“What did he do to you?” She whispered mortified.
I stared for several minutes at the sink before turning to her with guarded eyes. Wiping my hands of a tea towel, I gestured for her to follow. She hesitantly followed as I wandered tensely towards the bathroom. She blushed embarrassed as I began pulling at my dress, quickly stepping in behind me and closing the door. She gasped horrified, stumbling back into the door and sliding down in in shock as she turned back to face me. I stood with my back to her, the gharish poorly healed scar staring at her in plain view. The skin was tight and clearly pulled in places, the skin showing the repeated trauma of several severe infections. Tears were flooding down her face as I slowly turned, exposing the way it curled around my chest.
“I didn’t know how best to heal it at the time. Soon after grandmother died and I moved into the bookstore.” I stated simply as I pulled my dress back on.
“So when you....you were” She babbled horrified, shaking violently as she went into shock.
“It got infected a lot, after a while you stop noticing” I shrugged indifferently as brushed my dress down, crouching down in front of her.
“The child? They?” She gasped.
“No, I made sure if anyone had to be punished like that then it was me. No one lays a hand on her” I stated firmly, a coldness in my voice that made her shiver horrified.
I sat her down at the table as she struggled to come to terms about what she had just learned while I cleaned the dishes. Axel hurried off to wash his hands as Darrow knelt in front of his wife confused. A silent conversation conspired between them, Axel skipping back into the kitchen oblivious as he searched for something sweet to eat.
“Dinner won’t be long Axel” I remarked wryly as he tried to sneak a candy bar, grimacing and sticking his tongue out at me as he replaced it.
“That’s right, I must finish preparing” Atani sniffed, panicking slightly as she realized she was behind in her preparations.
“Lass sleeping Pru?” Darrow asked absently, his eyes boring into my back as I continued with drying the dishes I had just washed.
“Soundly, seems like she hasn’t slept in several days” I sighed wearily as Atani ushered me out of her kitchen and towards Darrow.
“Come talk with me” He stated, gesturing to follow as he strode towards the bathroom to clean his hands.
Sighing tiredly, I reluctantly followed behind him. Axel frowned confused, hesitating as his mother scolded him for trying to follow.