This follows on from Found.
“Teachers aren’t always right,” protested Clare to her spouses arrayed around the table, “And it’s not as if she had a plan, she was always a dreamer.”
“As I’ve always understood it,” Dale was seated directly to her left, “One of the advantages of the Leverage Examination is that unexpected opportunities can be offered after your results are determined, particularly in the general category.”
“Which all take time,” retorted Clare, “Time she didn’t have.”
“Why not,” Gwellen was puzzled, “Surely she had all the time in the world?”
“Not if she was going to be ready to be married when Ebony and Beth were,” Clare pointed out, “She’s two years younger than them – she never had time for day dreaming or she’d be holding people up.”
“It might have been better if Ebony had been made to wait to get married,” Shasta put in dryly, “My blood daughter needed to grow up a lot herself, as it turned out.”
“But Ebony’s eldest, she sets the pace,” Clare protested, “And I always wished Sorais was more like her.”
Her words hung in the air, redolent of poisonous echoes.
“I thought we’d heard the last from her,” said Harric quietly from his place on Clare’s right.
Meanwhile in their hotel rooms, a modest small family suite that was almost too large for their tiny family, Ewald was sliding into bed beside his wife. As he did so Sorais rolled over and kissed the pectoral knot in the tattooed rope-chain that trailed from front flank to rear flank over his left shoulder. A small ritual of their married life. On the face of it the tattoo was at odds with who he seemed to be, his parents and siblings thought it a strange remnant of his widowerhood but to her it was an intrinsic part of his personality.
“Your blood mother has got some very old fashioned ideas,” he commented as he put his arm around Sorais, “It’s almost as if someone has gotten into her head.”
She snuggled in. “If anyone’s inside her head, it’s her blood mother. I remember Grandmama as a tough old lady who offered us cake or sweets if we could run fast enough, or add fast enough or whatever it was she wanted us to do each time we came over. She always set me against Ebony and Beth – I never got cake, they were always two years ahead of me.” She cuddled in closer. “I used to be afraid she’d hit me with her stick. When I was old enough to get away with it, I stopped playing that game. My brothers and sisters seemed to like her fine.”
He hugged her firmly in response. “I think the rest of your parents liked me.”
“I think so too,” she agreed and they both relaxed a little.
“It’s odd to be having that conversation for the first time after we’ve been married for so long, isn’t it?” he commented wryly.
“It is, isn’t it?” There was a trickle of laughter in the back of her voice as she agreed with him.
He skimmed a hand up her torso. “So, do you want to…?” Another marital ritual.
Back around the table Dale was asking, “So what hold did the old crow have over you?”
“She threatened to have Hanalda come home from the convent and replace me. She’s eldest, it would have been her right and how could she not want to be married to you?” Clare sounded small and alone.
“It never occurred to you that we might have had views on that?” asked Evan. “Quite aside from Hanalda choosing to be a nun.”
“Mother was good at persuading people to do what she wanted,” pointed out Clare, “and Hanalda, well, she’s more likeable, more loveable than me. She always was.”