Images and stories are running rampant through my head! "Lost to the Mist", my sequel to "A Thistle in the Mist", is beginning to have a life of it's own. Meara, my protagonist, is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her mother as she takes on the role of motherhood herself.
Here, in an excerpt from "A Thistle in the Mist", Meara stumbles through a myriad of emotions as she deals with the sudden death of her mother...
I backed away, held back my vomit with sheer will and turned to the remaining servants – the ones who had loved my mother dearly. They hovered silently, faces pale. Janet, her cheeks glistening with tears, held her arms out to me. I staggered forward and she hugged me close, her ripe belly pressing into mine.
The foyer was silent save for Janet’s breath at my ear. The copper scent of blood lay heavy and a deep cold moved through me. Janet’s hand smoothed my back over and over, warm through the cotton of my gown.
At the sound of movement, I peered over my shoulder. Da had left Deirdre’s arms. With stooped shoulders, he bent and scooped Mother’s slight frame, cradling her close. I stared, unable to look away, at her pale hair that cascaded almost to the floor, drifting back and forth like languid seaweed taken by the oceans current. Her lifeblood continued to flow, seeping into Da’s plaid, blending with the red and green of the MacDonald tartan.
“Jessie...my sweet, sweet Jess...” He stared into Mother’s fixed eyes, his voice desperate, pleading. “I canna live without ye, darlin’...do ye hear me, lass? My blessed angel, come back to me...please... I need ye...” He pressed his face to the curve of her neck and stumbled down the corridor and into his study.
Slipping from Janet’s arms, I followed and watched from the doorway as he fell heavily into his barrel chair. His aimless hands smoothed Mother’s brow, while he murmured unintelligibly against her breast.
Was it just that morning he had been a mountain to me, as impenetrable as the rock of the Cuillin Mountains? I wanted to take him in my arms, take away the hurting and bring back my mother.
I crossed the room and pressed my lips to the top of his head. Pipe smoke lingered on his clothing and I let the comforting scent take me for a moment as I stroked the gleaming curls, so like my own. I stole a look at Mother’s face and could not hold back the moan. Then I turned away.
Hannah needed me.
Angus MacArthur stood in the doorway. He was Mary’s father and had served Da since Da had been a wee lad. He brushed at his tears then cupped my face in his gnarled hands. Faded eyes softened into mine. “I’m sarry, lassie.”
I swallowed hard, nodding. His worn hand slipped down to cradle mine.
“Take care of Da, Angus.”
“Aye, lass, that I’ll do,” he said, patting my hand.
He limped to the sideboard, his body bent with rheumatism, found a bottle of claret and filled a goblet. Da threw back his head and downed the burgundy wine, thrusting his cup out for more.
I closed my eyes for a moment then turned, retraced my steps and crossed the foyer.
As I neared the stairs, I lost my footing and glanced down. A gleaming puddle of truth stared up at me. I backed away, giving myself over to the trembling. With heavy legs I turned and mounted the first step but halted as I felt fingers close around my wrist. Snatching my arm from the cold grip, I spun around.
Uncle Sloan lurked at her side. Not a trace of sorrow shadowed his cadaver-like face. Shiny lips framed his uneven teeth in a hungry grin as his fingers slid down to rest by his crotch. I felt the heat of his pale stare as though he had reached out and touched me. A shiver whispered between my shoulder blades as I turned back to Deirdre.
“Meara, ye best keep yer clarty accusations to yerself. Everyone kent that Jessie loved me,” she hissed. She leaned in to me and I felt her breath, hot on my face, “Dinna say nothin’ ye’ll regret, girl.” Her words slithered into my head, coiled around my brain and the doubt I’d felt was gone.
I drew myself up, vibrating with spasms I could no longer control. “Dinna ever touch me agin or I’ll kill you,” I whispered. I leaned forward until my nose almost touched hers. She jerked her chin into her neck.” Did ye hear me? I’ll murder ye as ye murdered my mother.” Raising my hand, I jabbed at her chest. “I ken what ye’ve done and you may be the next to take a fall.”
I felt her eyes on my back as I turned and mounted the stairs on legs that felt like water.
Something touched my arm. It was cold but it was a touch I knew.
I stared at my arm then peered around the dim landing. Dust motes drifted on a shaft of sunlight. A hint of honeysuckle touched the air. “Mother?” My thin voice was lost in the vaulted ceiling. I had a crazy desire to run and see that she still lay in Da’s arms. I jumped as the grandfather clock bonged the half hour behind me. I’m going mad, I thought before I hunched my shoulders and hurried down the hall toward Hannah’s room.
Jessie watched her daughter melt into the shadows, confusion clouding her mind. Why? Why had Meara ignored her?
She leaned over the railing and stared down at her half-sister’s back. Deirdre abruptly stiffened and darted a look up over her shoulder, up to the landing. Her lips tightened and she turned and hustled after Sloan.
The dark puddle at the base of the stairs drew Jessie’s eye. The edges were turning a rusty brown.
Jessie stared at the puddle for a long, long time.
And a cold tear overflowed and slipped down her cheek.