Despite that the winter was unusually long and unusually cold, it has begun to melt away. Now that Keiry has been forced to give up her son and Ivaine has been forced to put a crown on hers, Galaea has not been in the best of spirits.
“The Goddess is angry! In her wrath, she brings sons and stillbirths. As long as there is sin in this camp, she will not bestow the blessing of our Witch Queen upon us. Every single woman who resides here must get on her face and beg for forgiveness for every evil deed she has done. If you will not, then you must leave at once.
I will no longer tolerate the iniquity behind these walls!”
It has not helped her mood that she is now missing a seer. No one knows much about Saleri’s disappearance. It is strange that she should just leave without notice. Wherever she is, I hope that she is well.
But someone else is not well. Everyday, my mother fights harder.
She fights just to do her daily tasks, and harder still to act as though nothing is wrong.
But I know better.
I often think about the time when I was planning to run away with Lothar. I must have assumed my mother would always be there, because she always has been. Now I am all too aware that she will not be, and it terrifies me. How easy it is to take someone for granted when you have shared a small hovel with them all the days that you can remember.
I still miss Lothar often, some days worse than others, but I am glad that I came back. Had I stayed with him, I would have missed all that was left of my mother, and I might not have ever forgiven myself.
But there is no need to think of that, not now, because it is far more important to enjoy all the days I have left with her, and to be grateful for them.
Now that Lothar and Ivaine are truly a family, I wish with all my heart I could stop thinking about him.
I try my hardest to go on as though I never loved him at all—as if I never knew him. The days are manageable but the nights...
I find myself staring at the window when I can’t sleep and part of me still believes that he will come tapping. Sometimes I swear I can see his face behind the panes, and I have to remind myself that he’s not coming, and he will not come for me again.
Then the familiar heaviness returns to my heart and it feels as though it is being cut around the edges. He’s always with me, but he never is.
I must admit I find a small satisfaction in knowing that Ivaine and Galaea did not get the daughter they had hoped for. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart when fate gets a hold of them.
Galaea has ordered the camp to consecrate ourselves in preparation for the next mating ceremony. Many of the witches spend long hours in the meeting hall lying prostrate and wailing for forgiveness for their impure, wicked thoughts. With a sick mother to care for and potions to sell, I have no time for that.
I find a lovely albeit fleeting freedom when I sell at the marketplace.
I see Markius almost everytime I go there. I find myself looking for him through the crowd and smiling when I spot him, just at discovering a friendly and familiar face.
When it is time for me to close shop, he walks with me around the square and most of the way home. I could just as easily use my gatekey to go back, but I enjoy the company.
We talk about many things, but his drunken profession of love for me has remained unspoken of. We have become good friends since the night he helped save Keiry’s baby. It’s better that way.
“Stay in the moment,” Markius tells me when I speak of my troubles. “Live for today, not for yesterday or tomorrow.”
And I try, I really do try, but the moments slip away far too quickly. Holding on to them is like trying to grasp water in my fists.
Until here I am at my mother's bedside. There is not much time left and we both know it. No more pretending. With a labored breath she slowly says my name.
"Yes, Mama, what do you need?"
"Promise me," she says. "Promise that you'll stay in the Sisterhood. And that after I'm gone, you will still tend the potion stand, and that you will share a quarter of your income with the Witches as I have done."
“Please. My only concern is for you, to make sure you will be taken care of. Tell me you will.”
I nod and try my hardest to choke back the oncoming flood. “All right,” I whisper. “I’ll do it. I’ll promise anything as long as you don’t leave me.”
"Don't be afraid, darling,” she says softly. “Everybody leaves. It's the way we’re all going.” She smiles faintly and she looks far away. "Make me proud."
And that is when the tears start pouring. "I'll try, Mama, I promise I'll try."
She whispers, "You already do."