The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: April 8, 2016
Ch. 55

“Several possible reasons. From what I’ve gathered in talking with people who’ve dealt with nobles, life in royal circles is often a cesspool of schemes, ruses and ruthless ambition. Maybe my real parents didn’t want to raise me in such an environment, where I might end up plotting against my own siblings. Or maybe my real parents were forced into exile, and feared for my life. Or maybe my parents were murdered, and one of their relatives took me to safety.”
Karen looked ashen. Maybe she was feeling Clare’s pain, or maybe something Clare had said touched base with Karen. It seemed that both girls had been farmed out by their parents.
Karen cleared her throat. “Clare, if you want, you can come with us on our elopement.”
Tommy could hardly believe his ears. What right did Karen have to offer to let Clare come with them without consulting him first?
Clare’s eyes nearly popped out of her skull. “You’d really take me with you?”
Karen smiled, but it seemed forced. “What would be the sense in trying to leave you behind, when there’s no way in the world we could ever prevent you from tracking us down?”
Clare laughed. “You got that right. But I’ll have to give it some serious thought first, long and hard… Okay, I’m coming with you.”
Tommy felt nauseated. The thought of this little snot tagging along on his honeymoon was almost more than he could bear.

Tommy didn’t get another chance to talk to Karen alone during the trip home, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to, anyway. He tried to keep calm during the trip, knowing that Karen would sense any strong emotions from him. He wouldn’t want to interrupt her constant stream of chatter with Clare, now would he?
Tommy got home at dusk. He had been never so glad to get home in his life. He took the supplies he’d bought to his mother, telling her he wasn’t feeling well. He went straight to his room and slammed his bag onto the floor, then punched his pillow and plopped down onto the bed without even lighting the oil lamp. Even though the sun had barely set, he had no desire to stay up any longer. Maybe sleep could ease his pain.
He punched the bed again for good measure, then punched it again because it made him feel better.
How could she do this to him? Inviting that little twerp to their elopement—if that was even a word—without even asking him?
The sound of that little twerp’s raspy voice still echoed in his ears. That little hoity-toity? Was that the right word? Was there a right word for that creature?
Why I am suddenly worried about using the right words? The ones I already have seem to be good enough for everyone but Miss Hoity-Toity. And now it looks like I’m going to be stuck baby-sitting Miss Hoity-Toity for the next several years. Like I won’t have enough to worry about while I’m fleeing the law with my wife.
Is it really worth it, leaving my whole life behind just so I can baby-sit Miss Hoity Toity?
He closed his eyes, praying for the solace of sleep. It finally came, but didn’t last. He woke repeatedly during the night, suffering nightmares of Clare teaching him to speak real proper like, and nightmares of Clare crawling into bed with him and Karen every time it rained.
He slept in until what seemed like late morning, something he’d never done in his life, except for the time he’d had the measles. Feeling guilty, he dressed quickly and went downstairs. His mother was washing dishes.
“Feeling better?”
He nodded.
“Lunch is in a couple hours. Can you wait, or shall I fix you some breakfast?”
“I don’t want to make more work for you, Mom. Maybe I’ll make myself something.”
She chuckled. “Like what, a glass of water?”
“I can cook.”
“I’ve watched you plenty, Mom. It doesn’t look too hard.”
“Alright. Mom, could you please make me some breakfast?”
“A soufflé or croissants?”
“Uh, what?”
“How about some scrambled eggs and toast?”
“Sounds good. At least I know what they are. Why is everyone in my life suddenly speaking gibberish?”
“Maybe your brain is scrambled, and you’re imagining it.”
“That must be it. Yesterday definitely scrambled my brains.” Tommy started a fire in the cookstove while his mom started preparing breakfast. Then he sat at the table, waiting.
“So, Tommy, if I may ask, what happened yesterday to scramble your brains?”
“Sorry, Mom, but it’s just too weird to talk about right now.”
“I see… She really loves you, you know.”
He tensed. “Who?”
“The girl who’s been sneaking into our barn in the middle of the night the past few weeks.”
Tommy was glad he was sitting, or he probably would’ve fallen over. “What are you talking about, Mom?”
She smiled. “You’re the worst actor in the world. You wear your emotions on your sleeve. You and Karen haven’t been nearly as careful as you seem to think. I’ve seen how the two of you look at each other. You’re planning to elope, aren’t you?”
“Why, are you planning to join us, too?”
She wrinkled her brow. “Your brain really is scrambled, isn’t it?”
“Does Dad know about Karen?”
“Are you kidding? If he even suspected, he’d have worn out the strap on your back by now. That’s what his father did to him, back when I was the one sneaking into the barn.”
Tommy couldn’t imagine his mother sneaking into a barn. With all that had happened since yesterday, he was starting to wonder whether he’d somehow woken up in a different world yesterday.
Tommy realized his mouth was hanging open. “Are you going to tell Dad?”
“No. You love Karen a lot, don’t you?”
He nodded.
“It won’t be easy—mixed marriages never are—but I think you two can make it.”
“Might depend upon how many tagalongs we have to support.”
“Tagalongs? You mean Clare might go with you?”
He nodded. “Clare thinks her parents farmed her out, like Karen’s did. Karen’s father has found a husband for Karen, and I suspect she’s trying to spare Clare the same fate.”
“They left this morning for Silver City.”
“No, Karen’s birthday party is today.”
“They cancelled it, deciding to surprise her with a trip to the city. They left at dawn.”
He slammed the table and rose. “That dirty sneak! The party was just a ruse to keep her from leaving! I’ve got to go find her, or I’ll never see her again. Mom, you’ve got to help me. How can I get to the city?”
“First, you calm down and park your butt in that chair; breakfast is almost ready. Then, when you’ve finished eating, saddle Lightning and ride like hell.”
He sat down. “That’s the first time I ever heard you use the ‘h’ word. Do I get to wash your mouth out with soap?”
“Sure, if you don’t mind a little soap in your breakfast?”
He rose back up. “I gotta’ go, Mom. I can’t wait for breakfast. Can you pack me a lunch?”
“I already did. Sit your butt back down.”
He obliged. “Why did you pack me a lunch? Did you know I’d be going somewhere today?”
“This morning, Karen looked like a condemned prison about to be served her last meal. I knew something was up, and I figured she’d need you.”
“Thanks, Mom.”
“Don’t worry, Tommy. With four of them weighing down the buggy, you might have a chance of catching them before they reach the city. If you don’t, just check the inns.”

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