The Last Lantern

Chapter 22 - You Left Me!

 

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009

 

Molly came awake slowly. She had no memory of falling asleep. But she found herself curled up in a bed covered over with furs. Someone had removed her boots but otherwise she was still dressed. She stretched luxuriously enjoying the warm comfort of the bed and the quiet around her.

She opened her eyes then and saw that the cave was mostly still and dark. She could make out a few shapes sitting in front of the central fire, and she could barely make out the murmur of their voices.

Something bothered her though. She frowned, trying to remember something... something she needed to do, or tell someone or... She sat up on one elbow intent on the elusive something so was doubly startled to realize there was a strange man sitting beside her.

In the darkened cave, with only flickering firelight, she couldn’t see his face very well. But she could tell easily enough that he wasn’t Vaal. She thought she’d seen Vaal’s profile over by the fire. Phillip was asleep near her, she saw, his arm thrown over his face, relaxed and unaware of the world around him.

“Hullo,” Molly said, feeling a bit uncomfortable to find someone had been watching her sleep.

“Hullo,” was the reply. The voice was deep and strong. “I’m sorry if I woke you.”

The voice almost sounded familiar. Or perhaps it was the accent that was nearly, but not quite, similar to the one she spoke. Kings Cross was isolated enough that the locals tended to sound a bit different from the travelers coming through town.

“I’m Molly,” she said, trying to sound unafraid and friendly.

“I’m Bryce,” he replied. “I’ve wanted so badly to see you again. You were only days old when last I saw you. I held you in my arms and.. .” His voice died away.

Wait, Molly said to herself as her mind woke up fully. Bryce.. She stared at the man, her jaws clenching shut. All her life she’d been told he was dead. Yet here, right in front of her, was the man she’d longed to have known. And now... Now she couldn’t find one word to say to him. She wasn’t sure if that word should be angry, excited, happy, confused or whatever. But it didn’t much matter as suddenly she found her tongue to be glued to the roof of her mouth and her vocal cords tied in knots.

Anger flooded her. He’d left her! Left her with grandfather! Hadn’t he wanted her? By rights she should tell him to leave her alone, that it was too late, that he’d lost her heart a long time ago, that he’d proven he didn’t care about her. He’d never have left a son behind. But none of those thoughts escaped her lips.

Finally, as if someone else was speaking, she heard herself say, “You’re my father.” It wasn't a question. This was a slightly older version of the man whose picture was in her locket.

“Not much of one, I’m afraid,” he admitted. “I won’t mind if you hate me for handing you off to your grandfather to raise. I.. It seemed the safest thing to do at the time, even if it wasn’t the easiest. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you too.”

“It wasn’t the easiest?” Molly croaked in repetition, her mouth dropping open. “Of course it was easy. Just abandon me there. Then have everyone tell me you’re dead. How is that not easy?”

Bryce Rosslyn sat back a bit, surprised by the vehemence and his daughter’s obvious anger toward him.

He studied her for a moment then said, “I suppose I deserve that. Although ... I should have expected your grandfather to have told you I was dead. Well, since he'd forbidden me any visits with you I can see why he found that easiest... Not being able to see you was the price I had to pay to see that you were safe.”

“Price?” Molly asked, her voice breaking she was getting so angry. Phillip hearing it, sat up and looked worriedly at the stranger sitting next to Molly.

“Price,” Molly’s father repeated quietly. “Lord Rosslyn felt it the only way to keep you safe and out of things.”

“Stop blaming grandfather,” Molly hissed. “You chose. It was YOU!”

Her father’s face turned red. “You’re right. I chose. I left you there. We’ll send you back to him as soon as we can.”

“Don’t you dare!” Molly replied, getting to her feet and stepping toward him. She raised her fists and began pounding on his chest, sobbing as she did so. “You left me... You left me...”

Bryce gathered her into his arms and pulled her up tightly against his chest. He held her there as she sobbed and tried to fight loose of him.

Finally Molly ran out of energy and tears. Her father stroked her hair. “You have so much of your mother in you,” he said, sounding old and tired.

“Will you tell me about her?” Molly asked between hiccups as she fought to regain control of herself.

“I’ve wanted to tell you about her for so long. Of course I will,” her father replied.

 

 

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