It was beautiful. There were no other words to describe the castle that stood tall and immaculate in the morning mist that swam about it. The way the black iron gates gleamed even now when the sun was only just rising was breath taking to the eyes that beheld them. The walls were tall and menacing, daring one to scale them and fail. They were at least twenty feet tall, or so Scarlet thought as she looked all the way up the stoned walls. She knew she was way beyond the time period of not getting caught, but to find that she was so close was too hard a temptation to deny. She had plunged on knowing that she would receive a never ending tongue lash from her mother, but this had to be done. It was the only way for her to know what she needed to know; her heritage. It was hard living with the knowledge that both of her parents were holding back that bit of information from her. Yes, her mother had spoken of her mother and father but it wasn't enough. She didn't know what had been worst to not know and wonder or to know and wonder. Perhaps the latter had been more torturous.
Now she stood there with her favorite cloak warming her but soiled from her journey. She'd sheathed her little sword when she saw that the hedging was more thin and easier to maneuver through. She wondered now if there was anyone about to allow her access. Well, standing there and wondering would get her no where. She hadn't travelled this far and risked it all only to stand and wonder. She strode cautiously to the iron-wroth gates and felt smaller than she should so close to them.
"Who goes there?" A heavy, male voice yelled from above her. She
started and looked up to find a man dressed in armor. He was the
gateman. She smiled slowly, her emerald eyes filled with the
happiness that surged through her at the thought that she was so
close to her goal.
"A pleasant morning kind sir. I was in search of Lady and Lord Govferi; would this be their place of residence?" Better to be certain than assume, even though she felt it was truly her mother's home. It was just as she had described it; blue tower peaks, beautiful gardens of endless flowers and the giant statue of a white swan about to take flight just to the left of the main entrance.
"Indeed it is. What business do you seek; it is too early in the morn for callers." He stated, obviously suspicious of Scarlet. She couldn't blame him. All he could see was the long red cloak, pale mud stained skin and a bedazzling pair of emerald green eyes. Perhaps even her face he could not make out; her hood was still thrown over her head.
"Please forgive my intrusion. It is imperative that I meet with them. I have word of their daughter, Eliza."
"What? That's impossible." He protested. Obviously all had figured her mother to be no more with the living. She was even more elated now to had made this decision to seek her grandparents.
"Ah, but it is kind sir. Please allow me entrance to speak. It is important."
Scarlet felt his uncertainty. It poured from him and made his brows furrow. She could make out endless blue eyes that gleamed with worry as he looked away. He was contemplating the chances that such a stranger could be trusted. He looked back to her and his lips thinned before he spoke.
"You had better not be playing trickery young lady. I will allow you entrance but be aware that this castle does not go unprotected. I will send word of your arrival."
With that, the gates parted, pulled apart slowly by two other soldiers whom she had missed. There was a stirring in Scarlet's stomach that felt as if tiny feathered creatures were a flutter within her, brushing softly their wings against the walls of her insides. It was almost hard to calm her breathing and she knew she had to. She found that when she became too excited, afraid and especially angered, her eyes would take on the eerie glow she'd inherit from her father. So slow deep breaths were what she fought for and was relieved to have it under control before the guard from the tower strolled towards her.
He was about six feet four inches tall with the peeks of sandy blond hair from beneath his helmet. His eyes showed his warning that if she tried to fool them there would be dire consequences to see to. She wouldn't. Light rays of the sun bounced of his armor as he looked her over and frowned at her. Scarlet had allowed him to see her face and when she had, the frown disappeared instantly. She saw surprise…or was it shock? Realization? She gave him a warm smile and pretended to be cold so he would delay her no longer from her goal.
"Come with me before you catch a chill." He commanded. He was obviously a man that was accustomed to issuing orders rather than taking them. However, she was glad to follow him and strode beside him with her eyes only for the entrance that was drawing nearer. She felt his stares as he tried to watch her from the corner of his eyes. Yes, he did know. Scarlet was a beauty on her own, but beside a few minor difference in her visage and the color of her hair, she was her mother in the flesh. The guard had noticed the similarities. Good, perhaps her visit would go better than she predicted. Optimism never left her; she was sure she would be loved by her grandparents, as she was sure she would love them.
"What is your name?" He asked as they took the steps that would lead them to the inside.
"It is Scarlet, and may I ask yours?" Her mother hadn't failed with her lessons in manners. She was fully equipped with the skill to woo others with it though she'd never had much practice in it.
"Greenwick will do. And just where did you come from little Ms.? Especially at such an early hour." His curiosity was almost touchable. The corners of her lips tugged up in a slow grin before she could hide it.
"The forest." Was all her answer. If he wasn't confused before he sure was now. Scarlet was enjoying his snooping more than he was and she could see the deep frown between his brows from the corner of her eyes.
"Are you intentionally being coy or are you going to give me specific information? How am I to tell Lady Phiona that some random creature popped up from the mists of the forest with long awaited information about her daughter?"
She pivoted on him so quickly that he stumbled to a stop that nearly had him on his face. His expression didn't improve after that.
"Is that so hard to believe? I have no reasons to tell a lie Sir Greenwick." She said gently as he turned to face her. His gaze was still narrowed his body tense with some anger that she felt she had not merit. Scarlet looked all the way up at Greenwick; he was a giant compared to her dwarfing five feet three inches, but she showed no signs of being intimidated nor did she feel any. After a moment of serious staring, he sighed and shook his head with a light grin.
"You look so much like her, but you have your own demeanor. Lady Eliza would have shied away with many apologies if I'd given her such looks. Such a fragile and beautiful things she was…"
"She still is. I assumed you had guessed my identity." Scarlet said with a smile that was all her mother's. Her eyes twinkled with mirth as she watched Greenwick's expression lighten even more. A handsome man he was; smiling more showed how much he was.
"I would have to be blinded to not see such obvious features of your mother in you. You do not know how happy you will make our Countess." Greenwick turned and continued to escort her as he spoke, keeping his stride more gentle to accommodate Scarlet. She listened with a full heart as he spoke of the heart ache both of her grandparents felt on their daughter's swift departure. How for so many years they were certain she was dead and gone and there was no way for retribution.
"Count Govferi took ill and died four summers ago. Milady hasn't gotten over his passing and sometimes we find her deep in her sorrows. Usually she would wish to be alone then."
Scarlet's chest tightened and she had to force herself to focus when she heard of her grandfather's death. She had been too late. Oh but only if her mother had listened to her pleads there would have been time to make amends. She was certain her grandfather had regretted the way he treated her mother. Perhaps love was like that. She noticed in more ways than one the horrible way her father treated her mother. One moment he was there and only to say that he would have to stay away a bit longer. She watched her mother's heart break a little more every time he did it. Scarlet found herself wishing then that he would just stay away and stop leaving her there to clean up the mess he would leave her mother in. So yes, maybe this love thing that men had was one she should steer clear of. Her father had taught her thus and so had the grandfather that had hurt his only child.
"It hurts to know that I would never know him, but I am sure it will hurt my mother more. This will be news I would hate to deliver."
She spoke with deep lament and was sure she could feel her mother's pain even now. Greenwick was kind enough to leave her to her thoughts as he ushered her into an enormous library. She knew what it was because her mother had taken the time to describe Govferi Manor to her in its entirety. A grand tour of the place would not be necessary if there hadn't been any major renovations. The door closed behind her and she listened to the retreating footsteps of Greenwick. She was alone for now.
Scarlet looked about the room as she strode deeper into it. There were shelves of books with strong leather backings and bindings lining the walls to a height that extended nearly to the ceiling. The drapes had been drawn back and the sun was pouring life into the room, warming her just as she was sure it was warming the books. A slow grin tugged at her full lips as she ran her fingers over their spines. The textures varied; some rough and others smooth. Then there were a few really old ones that she wondered if special care was taken to peel back pages. Tucked away amongst the books was a large hearth that had wood ready to be burned for fire and just before it were two arm chairs, a sofa directly before it and a settee that was positioned by the window closer to the hearth. She wondered if anyone ever lounged before it anymore. There was dust on the mantle of the fire place; perhaps no one did. The thought made her sad. She remembered her mother saying that perhaps every night she would find herself before the fire place in the library and read to her hearts content. Looking around in amazement again, she wondered it her mother had read all the books shelved there.
"Truly remarkable…" She whispered as she touched the books again. She wanted to read them all her self. She hoped that her grandmother would be as accepting as she anticipated. Somehow, she felt less sure of her decision now when it was too late. She took a deep breath and went to the window. As she stared out at the beautiful grounds below and the way the beams of the sun hit it just right, she knew there was no turning back. She would convince Phiona to accept her if it came to that. She refused to return to the life of humdrum her father abandoned them to. Her mother deserved this life and more. She deserved some happiness; some peace and reassurance that her life had not spiraled fully out of control. If Scarlet had to be the one to do it then it would be done.
So distracted with her thoughts the little figure in red had not heard when the door swung open. Phiona always loathed creaking hinges; having them well oiled was imperative to her. The years had aged her well despite the struggles and losses she had to take. She was still an elegant beauty with golden hair that was now fading to grey. She stood erect at the threshold and watched the other person in the room look out the window. Phiona was shaking with nerves that were going mad. She was afraid and excited all at once. When Greenwick had come to her so early telling of her little visitor, her message and how much she looked like her daughter, Phiona had nearly ripped her night gown to be rid of it and in proper clothing. If Maggie had taken any longer with her hair she would have thrown her to the side and make a run for it. For too long she had waited for just something, anything that said Eliza still existed. That she hadn't dreamed up the night she had her daughter and held her to her bosom. Or perhaps dreamed up the day she lost her. That was more a nightmare. Some days it felt like she was still idling around in that nightmare. Now she felt as if she was about to be awaken again.
"Forgive me if I made you wait for too long…" She said softly, her throat already constricted by unshed tears. She held her breath as she watched the young lady turn. Phiona finally managed to step into the room and close the door. The light that shone through the window hid most of the young woman's features along with the hood she wore over her head. She needed to see more. She needed the proof. She tried to walk slower but it was impossible until she was five feet away from the young lady. Still she could only see little areas the light caught and the gleam of perfect pink pouting lips turning up into a smile. The smile was all she needed to see to have tears welling and pouring from her eyes. She wanted to ask her to come closer, to take of her hood, to let her hold her but her throat was tight with tears that drowned her words. As if she sensed her needs, the young woman removed her hood slowly and took Phiona's breath away. She shook her head in disbelief as sobs escaped her throat. She hadn't cried this hard since the morning Eliza ran away and she realized that her child was not just gone for the moment but possibly forever. This was a chance for her that forever had finally met its demise.
"I was afraid that you wouldn't see. Afraid that you would send me away, and I would have to return home to break what is left of my mother's heart. I'm sure if I did…" Scarlet shook her head slowly as her words trailed off. If she returned home to Eliza with bad news, not only was her mother going to be hurt that she disobeyed and lied to her, but she would die knowing that her father was dead and her mother didn't want her. At least now the pain would have a cure when she tells her that her mother still wanted her and still loved her.
Phiona finally caught her breath enough to speak though it still sounded as if she was choking.
"Scarlet, is it?" She cried.
"Yes it is, Scarlet. Mother told me that you didn't think highly of anything red on a woman's body. I took all of that into consideration before I came here. But I love red; I love my hair and my name…and even this cloak that my mother made for me for a present. I am babbling, but what I'm trying to say is that I am fine now if you do not accept me, it is my by mother that needs it most. Please…" Scarlet plead only for her mother's sake now because she knew that if Phiona found her unacceptable it would be ok, but her mother was mandatory.
"Child, how can I not accept you?" Phiona took the final steps that would put her granddaughter in her arms and held her close to her body. Scarlet was taller than her so it looked more as if she was holding Phiona. Either way, Phiona was content with just being held because all she could do now was cry. Scarlet petted her and held her as if she was a child and Phiona needed it.
Moments later, Scarlet and Phiona was chattering on between biscuits, jam and hot tea. Scarlet couldn't believe how wonderful they tasted and found that she couldn't resist eating more than her share. Well it was actually Phiona who kept buttering and handing them over to her. Phiona poured more tea and listened intently to every word her granddaughter said without distraction. She wanted to hear it all. Just watching Scarlet's many facial expressions was a delight that had her jaw aching with a set grin. Already, there was love for the grandchild she'd only just met.
"So Scarlet, I'd say it is safe to assume that you got such beautiful hair from your father. Where is he now? I'm sure they would see that you are missing by now."
Scarlet swallowed her tea and replaced the cup onto its saucer.
"Yes, my father has long red hair as well; it falls to the center of his back. But, as for where he is, I can not say. We never know what he's up to and I swear he is the cost of all my mother's heart ache. She loves him unseeingly and even now that he's gone off again after very nasty fight, she still cries for him. It has been four years and she still wants him. I've vowed to never know love between a man and woman; to see what it can do to one's heart its terrifying." She took another sip a tea with a frown creasing her brows. It was obvious that Scarlet held ill feelings towards he father for the way he treated her mother. Poor Eliza, would her life ever be filled of happiness? Phiona blamed her self for all that was done.
"This is not your fault grandmother; I can since your remorse and unnecessary guilt. My father did this and I will not forgive him for hurting my mother. What happened in the past is no excuse for the man he is and will always be."
"Oh but dear you shouldn't hate him; he's your father…" Phiona said, placing a hand on Scarlet's knee where the cloak parted.
"If that is all the reason why I shouldn't then it is invalid, because he has never been a father to me. I'm thankful that he gave me to my mother and that is all." She declared as she place her cup of tea on a coffee table.
"Imagine what Eliza has been through all her life Scarlet. Parents that were too over protective to see her needs and especially her wants. We probably were not worth the title of mother and father for the way we treated her. She was such a good child; never asking for much whether she needed it or not, but sill we hurt her. We denied her the manifestation of our love for her. We kept her barred away from life and all its wonderful experiences. Should she hate us too? Are we worthy of any forgiveness? Or should she hate us forever and let me join my husband in the grave because of a heavy heart?"
Phiona's words had Scarlet thinking and she didn't want to think about her father. She remembered when she was younger. Then he used to hold her, show her love and bring her tiny gifts from his journeys. That was her father. But as she became more mature and a woman, he pushed her away along with her mother and never bothered to explain why or what was the cause of it. That was what had hurt her.
"I know my mother still loves you. She's spoken of it. She even wants to be here with you now. I know. In some ways I am like my mother…" She stared back at Phiona with steely eyes that were slowly burning silver. She saw when her grandmother noticed the change. She heard her gasp and watched her eyes widen in amazement and a bit of fear.
"But in other ways I am very much like my father; cold, heartless at times and without the patience to love for long. Only my mother has earned a special place in my heart for a love that never ages, and I'm hoping you do as well."
"I'm at lost for words but have so many questions..." Phiona whispered as her voice quivered.
"I know and I know what you wish to ask. I don't know what I am, but I know I am not completely normal. My father's eyes would do the same thing when he got angry and more times when he was just in my mother's presences. When ever I get a high surge of any emotion, I tend to do the same. I can run really fast, lift things that my mother says is too heavy, see things in the dark that I shouldn't be able to and smell and sense things that should be impossible to pick up on. I am an abnormality grandmother and so is my father. Does this make you change your mind about me?"
"No child, but it is something to wonder about. Why has he never told you what you are or at least what he is? Phiona asked as she stared the silver/emerald glow of Scarlet's eyes.
"My father is one big mystery and he wishes to remain thus. I would love to change the topic now so that I can be calm and my eyes could be simple again?"
Phiona watched her eyes shimmer and knew from what Scarlet had told her that she truly loathed her father and it's was selfless. She hated him for what he'd done to Eliza. She touched her granddaughter's cheek and smiled sadly. She hoped that history would not repeat itself and place this child in the same shoes that Eliza had walked in.
"Sure dear. Where is Eliza? How can I see her?"
Scarlet smile was instant and she touched the hand that cupped her face.
"She's in the forest and has always been there. It is where we've lived ever since she ran away. I wanted her to come with me, but she has a fear of leaving home. I will never understand it. I cut a path and made certain to keep it hidden from her. Would you like to go back with me?"
Phiona chuckled as her eyes stung with unshed tears again. Yes, already she loved this child and didn't want a moment without her.
"I would love to, but what if your mother doesn't wish for that? How horrible that would be. Perhaps you should ask her first."
"I have. Hypothetically, of course, but nevertheless, mother wants and needs you there. I need help to cure her spirit. Please."
When she pled like that, it was hard for Phiona not to say yes. It would appear as if Scarlet was enchanted with a gift to never hear no.
"Very well, we will leave tomorrow-"
"No, we must now!" Scarlet exclaimed with worry making her eyes glow again.
"Why so soon? You can stay here with me for the night."
"No I can't. My mother will worry herself to death, literally if I do not hurry back soon."
"It can not be that bad Scarlet."
"But it is."
And that was all she said, no explanations given. Phiona looked away and wondered what she should do. There was no reason but her fears that held her there. It had been so many years since she last saw her daughter. Could she really just go to her now throwing caution to the wind? Se looked back at her granddaughter and knew she could. Eliza's beautiful daughter had risked her life night after night to find her, how could she deny her this one request when it was for her benefit? She would have her daughter again if she said yes.
"I'll go get packed then. If there is anything we will need for the journey let Greenwick know; he hates surprises."
"Only he can come. I'm sorry but my mother's fears are serious and I will not risk her heart for anyone."
"Greenwick will be sufficient for this journey. How far would you say it is?" Phiona stood and Scarlet followed her as she made her way to the door.
"A nice walking pace would get us there in an hour or less."
"Then we go by horse. That way we'll get there in less time and I won't faint from exhaustion."
Scarlet laughed at her grandmother's jesting and knew that Phiona was stronger that she gave away. She was still healthy and not as old as she made others think.
"I've never ridden a horse before." Scarlet said as they made their way to the barracks where Greenwick was sure to be.
"Well you are in for a treat. I have the perfect mare for you; her name is Azora. She's a darling with blond and white mane."
"Oh I can't wait to see her. I've heard much about horses from my mother but she said she'd never ridden one herself."
"Yes well her father was very careful with her. Eliza on a horse would've been his undoing."
"I'm sure mother would've done well." And just the look on Scarlet's face was enough for Phiona to see that the young girl thought highly of her mother. She smiled at that thought and her heart skipped beats as she thought about seeing her only child again. When her Cecil had passed, she was sure she was without family and alone in the world. There was hope now.
They came to the barracks and Greenwick was there honing his sword. When he saw Phiona his eyes lit up and he stood quickly, dropping his sword and the stone. That one act and the rosy red Phiona's cheeks had burned to answered Scarlet's speculations; Greenwick loved her grandmother and she felt the same. She tried to hide her surprise and kept a smile on her face. It was obviously something the two didn't want the whole household to know.
"Uh, Greenwick, I require your services." Scarlet didn't miss the quiver in her voice. It was adorable to watch the two of them try to hide such evident feelings.
"Anything my lady. What is it that you need me to do?"
"I wish to travel with Scarlet to my daughter's home in the forest as soon as possible."
"As you wish my lady; I will have a few men gathered to escort-"
"It'll be just us three Greenwick. Scarlet worries that her mother will not take it well to see so many soldiers. Could you leave someone else in charge and come with me?"
"Yes. I can. I will see to our necessities right away. I'm assuming it will be an over night trip?"
"Yes it is. Thank you Greenwick, I'll be in my chambers if you need me."
"Very well Lady Phiona."
An hour later, they were in Phiona's chambers seeing to her clothes. Scarlet lied across her bed on her stomach with her legs up behind her. She was a mess and Phiona insisted that she get comfortable until all preparations were complete…and she was. She watched her zip around the room with shaky hands as she told Maggie of all she needed and what all she had to do in her absences. Now that she was all set and her bags had been loaded onto her horse she sat beside her and sighed in relief.
"We've only to wait for Greenwick to come get us and we will be off. We should arrive at your home by mid day." She ended with her fingers pushing Scarlet's hair from her eyes. She was a bit tired now that she was so relaxed, but she hadn't allowed herself to sleep.
"You love him don't you?" The question was enough to set Phiona's cheeks ablaze and make her start. Scarlet grinned slowly with a light chuckle.
"Who?" Phiona asked anyway, when she knew exactly to whom her granddaughter was referring to.
"I never expect you to be one to play coy grandmother. You know of whom I speak."
Phiona bit her bottom lip and looked away. Her checks could not possibly get any redder. She saw when she gave up. A heavy sigh escaped her as she looked up at the ceiling and touched her chest.
"With all my heart. With all my heart, Scarlet. I thought I was too old to know what love was again, but Lance was there for me even after Cecil became ill. His concern was so hard to ignore and I watched him fall in love with me. Saying I do not love him would be a lie."
Scarlet smiled in awe. Her grandmother was still a beauty and she kept calling herself old when she knew very well that Phiona didn't look a day over forty.
"It is our secret if you wish it to stay thus, but I find it wonderful. I encourage your love and hope it grows. You deserve it."
A knock came to the door before Phiona could respond. She bid them to enter and Scarlet watched her grandmother become a young girl again for the man who stood at the door. Greenwick was dressed in light armor with his hair pulled back from his face. He was indeed handsome and without the helmet, Scarlet could see that he was probably a few years younger than her grandmother. Perhaps that was the reason she was so hesitant to make their love a union.
"I came to collect you ladies if we are ready." His deep voice said into the room. Scarlet rolled gracefully off the bed and landed on the balls of her feet. She stood upright and made her way to the door as she pulled her hood over her head. A smile kept her lips curled up as she walked by him and out down the halls. She missed the look that Greenwick shared with Phiona. She also missed when he caught Phiona's arm at the door and lifted her chin to steal a kiss…but it was on purpose.
Azora was a beauty just as Phiona said she would be. Scarlet hadn't taken long to get the gist of riding a horse. Greenwick said she looked as if she'd been doing it all her life. Azora took to her the moment she saw Scarlet and for that Phiona said the mare was all hers.
"Scarlet, these forest of wild animals, how did you think it safe to maneuver them at night? Surely Eliza will make red your hide for such actions."
Scarlet chuckled at her grandmother's comment. Her mother wouldn't hit her but she would fuss over her for days.
"I have no worries, I'm sure she will be happy as soon as she sees that I'm safe. Besides, the path is safe. I'm confident it is." And she was only confident because the path was enchanted with the same magical stones Eyola had placed around their home. Eyola had shown her how it was done and what it would take to get the stones to work. Her mother had no idea about the stones and she was smart enough to not tell her. As long as she stayed on the path, no harm could ever come to her. Evil would not even be able to step on the ground.
"What makes you so confident?" Greenwick asked from beside Phiona.
"I just am." She had a habit of leaving questions unanswered. Her mother would always chuckle when she did so because it always meant the topic was closed. Scarlet was the hardest person to argue with.
"We're here." Scarlet said as she jumped down from Azora and took out her sword. She cut away at the bushes that hid her home and made a clear path to the little up-rise her home sat upon. With that task done, she grabbed Azora's reins and pulled her through the path way and into her yard. The sun bounced beams off the lake and made the water shimmer. It was beautiful and when she looked back at Greenwick and Phiona she saw that they though so as well.
"Welcome to my home. I think its best that I announce your presence before I let you in."
The two nodded and she ran ahead to the house, around the back and through the back door open. She looked to the table and saw a cup that was filled with cold tea. She frowned and made her way into the kitchen. Her mother wasn't there. She went further into the house and called out for her. There was no answer and that had Scarlet's heart pounding with fear. She knew that Eyola had made their home safe but what if someone had managed to get through that shield anyway? Scarlet ran to her mother's room and found her night gown in shreds on the bed. She stumbled to a stop and nearly fell when she saw the rips in the mattress.
"Mother! Mother where are you!" She yelled as she checked the bathrooms, the spare room and the living room. She looked to the end of the hall, panting with sweat pouring down her face. She ran to her room and nearly took the door of the hinge as she barged in. She heard a whimper and her head snapped to the bed. She lifted the bed and tossed the heavy oak to the side and her heart plunged to her feet. Scarlet's legs gave out and she landed onto her knees when she saw her mother. Eliza had balled herself into a tight ball and pulled a pillow over her head. Scarlet touched her softly and Eliza screamed. She slid away from her and pulled her robe about her as her back met the wall. Scarlet felt her heart breaking.
"Mother, it's me…" She whispered and moved slowly. She knew what her mother was remembering. She had told her about a time when she was left alone in the house by Eyola and she was weak and defenseless. That night three monsters came to the house and tried to force her mother to do things she didn't want to. Her mother had hid under bed if remembered correctly. How stupid for her to had thrown it like that and scare her. Scarlet pulled her hood away and let her mother see her.
"Mama…look please. It's me, Scarlet."
"Scarlet?" Eliza rushed into her daughter's arms and cried as she held her. Scarlet let her; he knew she needed this. She stroked her hair and whispered soft words to her.
"I'm so sorry I scared you. So sorry mother."
Eliza pulled away from her and looked her over. She took her by her elbows and shook Scarlet.
"Where have you been? How could you just run out of here in the middle of the night! Damn it Scarlet what are you trying to do to me? Your father always run's away from me, why are you trying to do the same to me? Why! Why!" Eliza yelled as she shook her daughter. Scarlet felt horrible when she heard what her mother thought. How could she think that she would leave her? Scarlet lived for her mother's happiness.
"Mother I-" Before she could finish, Eliza's palm came down across her face and sent her head turning the other way. Scarlet had never been ht before. This was a first and it was by her mother.
"How could you…"
"Eliza?" A voice called from the bedroom door.
Eliza head spun up and her eyes widened at the person that stood there. She gasped in disbelief as she watched her mother come into the room and came to stand behind Scarlet. Eliza looked down her daughter who kept her head down and covered by her hair. She tied it all together rather quickly. Scarlet had left home to get her mother. She had brought her back to her because she was too afraid to leave herself and search for her. Eliza covered her mouth with the same hand she'd hit her daughter with. Scarlet was so still it was just as if she had no life in her. Eliza couldn't even see her breathing. It was the first she'd ever hit her daughter and she felt as if she had done more damage than that one slap should've done. She slid her fingers under her hair and touched Scarlet's face softly. She turned her head back to her and pushed her daughter's hair away from her eyes. Scarlet stared back at her with blank eyes that glowed a bright hue of silver and emerald. She knew her daughter was upset, but to say she was angry or sad or just hurt was beyond Eliza.
"You need time to catch up. I'll be outside if you need me." She stood quickly before her mother could stop her and left the room. Her face still stung where her mother had hit her but it didn't hurt as much as her heart did right then. She didn't want her mother to see the tears that she fought back from her eyes. No, that would ruin everything. She just needed some air and she would be fine.
Eliza stared after her daughter and felt miserable. When her mother knelt before her, she looked up at her and the tears were impossible to fight. She flung herself in Phiona's arms and wept. For so long she'd longed to hold her mother again; even while she still lied at home. Her mother gave her what she needed and wrapped her arms around her. They both sat there on the floor of Scarlet's room and cried to their hearts' content.
"I've missed you terribly Eliza. Not a day passed that I did not think of you; that I didn't wish to just hold you in my arms. I am so sorry my little darling. So sorry for the sorrow I've brought you." Phiona spoke through her tears as she held Eliza. This was the moment she felt she'd never have and only long for. If she was to die now, it would be ok, because her daughter still loved her and she knew that Eliza had forgiven her. Her heart felt lighter just thinking about it.
"Mother, its okay…its okay. Oh I've missed you dearly!" Eliza cried. It was truly a slight to see the two sitting in pile on the floor holding each other. Greenwick stole one last glance and left the house to see to their bags and the horses. He was happy to see Phiona happy. Perhaps now she would lose that sadness that he always saw in her eyes.
"How did she find you?" Eliza asked, holding her mother's hands. The two was spent from all that crying; their eyes red and noses soar from constantly wiping. They hadn't moved from the floor but made themselves comfortable.
"Apparently she'd been venturing out every night in search of the castle. She finally found it this morning. She's cut a path from here to home. A strong, determined little thing isn't she?" Phiona asked with a gentle chuckle. If Eliza wasn't, she knew she was proud of her courageous granddaughter.
"Indeed she is. It'll be the death of me someday. I nearly lost myself when I woke up and didn't find her in the house; she's always been there. She's all I had all these years away from home."
"She said as much, and she was worried about you all the while. Scarlet told me of your husband; how he's hardly ever here and how it breaks your heart. I can't bear to think of the many nights you've shed tears Eliza. Why don't you come back with me?"
"I can't. This is home for me now, mother. I love it here. And Aaron isn't as bad as Scarlet makes him seem. Like me, she just wishes for him to be around more." Eliza rubbed the back of her neck and sighed from the ache that always seemed to develop there when she spoke about him. She knew it was the mark he's given her all those years ago, but why it ached was a question that would probably remained unanswered.
"Fair enough. Am I welcomed to stay here for a few days? Just to be with you for awhile?"
"Of course mother I have a spare room to accommodate you. I'll go now and make certain it's all ready for you, and then I'll go and take a bath. Perhaps you can put a pot of tea on for us." Eliza was already standing and helping her mother up when she heard a horse outside.
"That would be nice."
"Mother, you came by horse? Father would never allow that. Where is he anyway?"
Phiona had hoped to hold this off as long as possible, but Eliza wouldn't let the question go unanswered if she refused her. She braced herself for what she was about to say and took a deep breath.
"Eliza, your father took ill shortly after you left. Just a few years ago…he passed." Phiona watched as her daughter's eyes welled again. She'd had her chance to mourn Cecil's death, now it was Eliza's.
"Come here darling. Let me hold you."
And Eliza went into her mother's arms. She sobbed and kept asking her to say it wasn't so. But it was. Cecil was gone and Eliza was fatherless. Her mother held her again and allowed her to weep this time in sorrow. She needed it.
Scarlet wasn't as angry as she was when she felt her mother's hand. She was hurt. It felt as if all her doing and all her attempts to make her mother happy always went down hill. Well perhaps it was okay this time, but it didn't go the way she had wanted it to. She picked up a stone and bounced it of the water. The lake was a place she favored when she needed to think. She sat on a log and placed her head in her hands. She was tired and when her room was empty she was going to get some sleep. She was not interested in being bothered just yet.
"This is truly beautiful." Scarlet closed her eyes and sighed. She knew it was only hope when she sensed her grandmother stepping outside. She remained silent and opened her eyes to watch the water. She could see little fishes swimming about below the surface. Sometimes she dove right in to catch them, but today she simply didn't have the spirit.
"You should be spending time with mother. She needs you now." She hoped that that was enough to be rid of her. When Phiona sat beside her, she understood real soon that it wasn't.
"You know Eliza didn't mean to hurt you don't you love?" Phiona touched her back and made slow circular motions that made her eyes sting. Such a silly gesture and it was enough to make her want to cry.
"I know that but it doesn't make me feel any better. I'll get over it."
"It's not Eliza's chastisement that has you upset isn't it? There something else. Do you care to speak about it?" Scarlet pressed her palms into her faces and took another deep breath. She loathed tears and hated when she wanted to use them.
"It is just unfair. Every time I do something to make her feel better, she scolds me and fusses. All it takes is for him to appear out of nowhere and she's instantly happy. When do I get a chance? When is it okay for it to be my turn? I'm always here for her; I'll probably never leave her. He has and she…she…" Scarlet was too tired to finish her venting but her tears were starting to fall. She felt the sob trapped in her throat but she fought it.
"It's okay to cry Scarlet if it will make you feel better." Phiona whispered.
Scarlet's head came up and she wiped at her eyes till they were soar and dry.
"Tears are a waste of time. They solve nothing and hate them. All the tears my mother has cried have never brought my father back."
"But they make you feel better. When there are no more words to help sooth you, tears help. And you are being too hard on yourself Scarlet; from what I've heard Eliza said about you, you are her world and she simply thought she'd lost you along with everyone else. To be someone's only hope is an enormous task."
Again, Phiona's words had her thinking. She had to agree with what she said. Though she didn't want to there was simply no sense in arguing with the truth.
"You know, someday you will be in our shoes." Phiona said, and Scarlet looked up at her with a frown. Her grandmother was smiling knowingly and that didn't help clear up hr confusion.
"What do you mean?"
"You will fall in love someday, probably marry the one you love and bear a lovely child that will be the light in your world. Then you will know why we do what we do."
Scarlet shook her head and looked back the water. She didn't agree with that.
"That will never happen to me. I refuse to fall in love though the child I do not mind."
"Will you simply have a child with any man just to have one?"
"It's a thought that has crossed my mind."
"Yes I know, that is not lady like and ways of a harlot…"
"Don't be so surprise, I may have grown up in a forest far from civilization but I do read a lot."
"You can't just have child with any man; a child needs their father."
"I don't need mine."
"You would not be here without him."
"Fine, no children for me then. That way I will not be tempted to fall in love." Her sarcasm was not lost and Phiona had to chuckle.
"You'll see my darling; love will not pass you by…my little red riding hood." Phiona pulled back Scarlet's hood and smiled down at her. Scarlet looked up at her with a smile.
"What did you call me?"
"Little red riding hood, why?" Phiona asked, playing her fingers in Scarlet's red threshes.
"I like it. I really do…"
"I saw you atop Azora and it was what came to mind. I chuckled every time I thought of it." And Phiona chuckled again because of it. Her laughter brought Scarlet's.
"I believe the water for tea is hot enough. Do you care for some love?" Phiona asked as she stood and straightened her house gown.
"Not just yet. I'd like to sit here a bit longer. You go ahead and I'll be in shortly."
"Very well dear." Phiona pressed a kiss to Scarlet's forehead and left her smiling and to her own thoughts. Love had so many different faces for so many situations. The love she shared for her mother was one that would make her walk through fire if she asked it of her. The one she had for her grandmother was new and she wasn't yet sure what it could make her do, but she knew she loved her instantly. The love she saw them share with the men they cared for was deadly. It was one that could steal one's soul if they allowed it. It was as if every breath they took was for the one they loved. Perhaps it was the one thing Scarlet was afraid of. Yet her grandmother warned her that it would not pass her by. She would still hide from it and fight it to her last breath.
She vowed that to herself as she returned her hood to her head. She caressed the fabric and grinned at her grandmother's title.
"Little Red Riding Hood. A fitting name."