Nowhere.

A short story from the Kemla Series, from her ma’s point of view.

This is another one of those explorations i did before the actual story started. It’s a bit of background information. The actual Kemla story begins with the family in hiding – this is how they came to be in hiding.

Life feels dramatic though I smile for my girls. We sing songs, count clouds and push on into the afternoon. For two day’s now the Summers Mountains has caste long dark shadows on our right as we kick through the dust. Fear has been dragging through my veins sparked by the sight of them. They’re so completely shrouded in local folklore that I’m not even sure if my reaction is rational or mandatory – we’ve all heard the stories. I don’t need another nightmare. We don’t need another nightmare.

We need a home.

What does that mean? Home. It’s intangible, like the word soul. At times like this I could dispute its very existence – either one. Nothing but myths. We press on, passers by smile and shout greetings as though we are just like them. I guess we don’t look any different, a little more grubby perhaps. We don’t look it but I feel it. That sense of being lost, of the world not having a want or need for me. I’m walking the same path as everyone else, except I don’t have a destination. Just an endless road.

If it were up to me alone I would have continued to play out my part and we would have remained safely within a house.

Though a house is not the same as a home.

Home… Is it that we all desire one even if we don’t think it’s achievable or is it just me? It feels that way, like my desires are unachievable. Unachievable but essential. Four walls – at the least – rooms enough for everyone to exist comfortably. In my world running water and servants have always been luxuries, lately food to place on the table has been more important than the table itself.

Lately! That’s another one of those insubstantial words, lately covers at least the last two years. Every day, dawn till dusk and all through the night, sunrise after sunrise, it has all been lately.

But everything has a beginning.

I was twenty three and pregnant when ma had her accident. She was much older when she’d had me and too frail to be living on her own by the time da passed away.

It’s funny how sometimes the pieces just fit together. Events like parts of a jigsaw, completely random just tossed into a pile and at the same time matching with exact accuracy when they fall together in order. I can feel these thoughts taking over me, ideas about souls and life and destiny, I’ve too much time to think… just walking… and thinking. It’s not healthy – the thoughts lead to regrets.

With the help of some caring neighbours my mother was set up in our only spare room. We had never really seen eye to eye but I didn’t hesitate stepping in like a dutiful daughter. Most of our disputes stemmed from the existence of my gifts. Though she referred to them as curses, and so does the rest of the realm. Magic is a matter just not spoken of around here, the punishment for those found to have a gift is death so I’m generally in favour of the silence.

There were two sides to our city. A rich side, a poor side and no middle ground. We were nestled on the outskirts of the poor side but neither myself nor my husband ever discussed a lacking in anything. Not in the past, not before that night.  

I remember that conversation, word for word, our first real argument. I see now, endowed with hindsight, that love masked all my senses.

“That women’s a dead weight,” he’d grunted as he stomped down the stairs after taking ma’s dinner up to her.

“Really honey she hardly eats anything.”

“She eats, and uses our water, she’s taking up a whole room Bell, and with you about to spit out another mouth… God help me if you have twins I’m drowning the girl. At least a boy can work.”

I was frozen, a half washed dish in my hand and my eyes on the man whom I’d only ever felt adoration for. Where was this coming from? He’d been at the inn half the evening but I couldn’t smell any ale or mead on his breath.

Perhaps in the beginning he had a conscience.

That faded quickly, alcohol became a staple purchase, the only purchase if Zared had had his way. I only had one bargaining tool and for food and essentials I learnt to use every inch of manipulation that a women’s born with.

“There’s three rules Zared.” I’d begun when he returned later that evening, the dinning table was safely between us and I’d stayed up, sitting awake… too afraid to sleep. “Number one; you don’t step a foot inside the spare room – not for anything.”

“Don’t you – ”

“Ah, let me finish,” I growled the words out, forcing my tone low, fierce. My own voice sounded alien but I pushed on – determined. “Number two; you will give me three coppers a week for food, no arguments, and any other coin I need for the house and my baby and if you touch me again I’m leaving.”

“You wouldn’t leave.”

“Do you want to see me go?” I asked, grabbing a prepacked bag from under the table.

There was a flash in his eye, a split second of fear, “I won’t go near your stinkin’ mother -” he walked around the table and though I wanted to move I didn’t. “Those three coppers better have me well fed -” He stood before me, a toned man easily taller and broader than I’ve ever been. I told myself I was standing my ground, but in truth I’d been given two of my three and I was happy enough with that. I knew that whatever came next I wasn’t going to leave anyway, the world outside was still scarier than inside. “And women if you stay here your body is mine.” He gripped my jaw, my chin, firmly, fringing on painfully, and kissed me.

It wasn’t to hurt me that he wanted me around and without argument I let him have what he desired. It was a good weapon… perhaps I became more of the type of women my mother warned me away from – more than I’d considered as I lived it. He’d hand over the three copper coins which would be followed by passionate love making. Sometimes he’d be rough but mostly he was still the man I fell in love with. He would talk of his love for me and apologise profusely… and forget all about every word he’d said as soon as he’d left the bedroom.

It’s something I’d seen in others. Lies and distrust. Something I couldn’t see coming towards myself, the red hue of reality was barely a shading of pink before my eye.

When in love we all smell roses no matter what we’re sitting in.

From the night my mother moved in I was sitting waist deep in shit, I’d like to leave myself with the delusion that if my mother hadn’t moved in things would be different… but it would only be a delusion. Another lie, or perhaps only an omission. The idea of thing’s playing out differently catches at my imagination every now and then. There’s no truth in these scenarios, not when I think about how that night played out.

“Don’t you look at me like that women, you never explained that your ma’s useless!” He stomped off the last step into the kitchen. That room was our everything, kitchen, lounge, dinning.

“I told you she was bedridden – ”

“Useless!”

He smashed his fist into the table, sending his own dinner flying across the room.

“You’re useless, a fat bowl of jelly that’s what you are, and what good’s a baby to me? None!”

I didn’t bother trying to get a word in as he walked around the table, coming closer to me. I didn’t bother to ague and I didn’t think to move either.

“And how do you expect to feed the little brat because be dammed if I’m spending anything on any of you ever again!”

“It’s a child, your child.”

“You’re having it, not me! I didn’t ask for this, any of this. I didn’t want it and I don’t have to keep it.”

“We will get through this and it’s not as bad as you’re making it sound.” I begun to reason, the response sounded false but not because I didn’t believe in what I was saying. I just couldn’t believe that he needed to hear it.

“It can starve to death for all I care!”

“No – ”

His arm flung out, connected with my cheek and bounced away again. He’d never even hinted at such violence before but somehow, some part of me knew that the move was coming. My hand had dug in tight to the kitchen bench. It was the only thing that stopped me from being flung into the dinning table.

I stood there, shaking all over but I’m not sure if he even noticed.

I also couldn’t tell you how long we stood there, staring at each other, each waiting for the other to make a move. Long enough for several scenarios to scream through my mind.

I wouldn’t stay with a man that hit me, of that I was certain.

But I had no money and my only remaining family was bound to the bed in our spare room. Moving her into that room almost cost her her life, moving her out was unthinkable. And what of the child I carried? I had nothing to my name and no skills with which to make money, winter was fast approaching and without a plan the chances of my child surviving were slim. I knew this all too well, my limited healing skills were often called upon by desperate mothers. I would not watch my own child die and I would not leave my mother here unprotected.

Zared caved first. Breaking the silence with a grunt. I’ve never worked out what was going through his head at the time.

As he slammed the front door shut I surrendered myself to him, for my mothers sake and for the sake of my child.

My ‘it’.

That building, those four walls, sheltered me for another eight years but they were not a home. ‘It’ became Kemla and I swear he gave her the most unusual name he could think of just to torment the girl but she’s never faltered on it – never asked me about it – and I’ve never cared. She was born beautiful and perfect and followed six years later by Kassandra.

Both strong girls, they’ve had to be.

What brought us to leave’s not something I’m ready to face, perhaps in a few more years – when the pain subsides – but not now. Pain is not intangible though the thing that creates it might be, how strange that is. Love, home and my desolate soul all so elusive, almost ethereal, but they have the ability to inflict so much physical damage.  He’s broken my bones before with feet and fists, left bruises and bites, but all of those healed. Flesh and bone are so strong in that way, in a way that the rest of me is not.

“Kassandra catch me!” Kemla giggles, jogging in slow motion so that her baby sister can snag her shirt in her tinny fingers.

“You did it!”

I stop, though it takes me a minute to fully process why, my gaze scanning over the mass of trees and peaks that form the mountain ranges. Certainly not uninhabitable to look at. From here I can already spot some local herbs and fruits – nothing spectacular but nothing is exactly what we’ve got now.

“What is it mummy?”

“Nothing honey, mummy’s just thinking.”

As I look more and more beauty glimmers before me, flowers and deer tracks, gorgeous rays of sunlight filtering through high branches and birds everywhere. Strong trees, solid ground, what more could I ask for?

The myths talk of beasts and dragons. Perhaps when I see them I’ll run – perhaps I’ll have good reason to. A hare darts across the road, disappearing into the undergrowth. I can easily imagine a dragon snatching the small creature up, or snatching up one of my babies. The dragon has wild hair and dark eyes, he once shared my bed and he’s still out here, who know where – or in what mood? He is not a myth though the home we shared was.

Perhaps a place of myth and legend is exactly where we belong if indeed we are searching for a myth.

I still have no skills, no money, no family, but the best possible – by definition – is attainable.

Four walls – that I can do.

Food enough for three.

Peace and quiet.

“Come on girls, we’re going home.”

 END

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