The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: April 18, 2016
Ch. 66

She finished cooking, filled a plate and served it to him. “Chew your food thoroughly, or, as excited as your stomach is, you’ll just throw it up.”
He ate it, savoring it. It might be the last meal he’d ever eat at his parents’ house. Once he eloped, his father might never welcome him back.
Tommy had always loved his mother deeply, but never as much as he did at this moment. She was going out on a limb for him, a very skinny limb. Tommy wouldn’t say his dad wasn’t a good man, but what had his father ever done to deserve Mom? “What are you going to tell Dad?”
“I’ll think of something.”
“Are you going to be okay?”
“He’s never struck me in his life, and if he does now, I guess you’ll have yourself another tagalong.”
He smiled. “At least then I wouldn’t have to worry about eating Karen’s cooking.”
“Not so good, huh?”
“She does alright with toast, I think.”
She smiled. “You know, eloping might be the best thing for the two of you. Go someplace where people aren’t so prejudiced, where people don’t look askance at mixed couples… If you can find such a place.”
They sat in silence. She just looked at him the whole time he was eating, her eyes watering. He had to fight to keep his from watering, too.
He finished his breakfast, and his mom gave him a long hug.
She let him go, wiping her eyes. “I’ve saved some money over the years.” Her voice cracked as she spoke. “It’s in Lightning’s saddlebags, by his stall, along with some clothes and some food, as well as a map and directions to the city. You take care, you hear?”
He nodded, too choked up to speak. He had to leave before she broke down completely.
Or he did.
She followed him onto the porch, where she gave him one more hug. She stayed there until he’d saddled Lightning and had ridden halfway down the driveway. He stopped there and gave her a final wave, which she returned.
He wasn’t sure how or when, but he swore he’d do something someday to repay her for everything she’d ever done for him. Or he’d at least do something that would make her proud.
He nudged Lightning into a trot.

Karen yawned as the buggy neared a bend in the road. Would they ever get to Silver City?
Clare, too, seemed tired; she hadn’t spoken in about five minutes, which was probably a record for her.
Ma’s head started bobbing, so Karen leaned forward and shook Ma’s shoulder. Ma looked back at her.
“Nothing, Ma. You were falling asleep.”
Ma turned to Papa. “Are we almost there?”
Papa smiled but said nothing.
The buggy swung around the bend, and Silver City sprang into view directly below the glowing half-moon. Karen gawked at how much the city had grown in the ten years since she’d been here. Even in the fading light she could make out a whole new section on the right-hand side of the city, which looked to be half as large as the entire city had been. This new section was outside of where the city’s perimeter wall had been, so they’d torn down the old perimeter wall on that side of the city, and the new wall looked to be only half-built.
The buggy drew near the river, which now had a shiny white bridge over it instead of the rickety wooden one. She’d liked the charm of that old covered bridge, but crossing it had always made her a little nervous. Karen wasn’t sure whether the new bridge was made of metal or stone, but it appeared to be of one solid piece. She’d never seen anything like it; it even seemed to glow a little. Were her eyes tricking her?
Clare whispered in her ear. “Do you see it?”
Karen shot her a questioning look.
Clare whispered again. “The magic.”
Was that why the bridge seemed to glow? Had it been made magically?
Shocking, if true, that someone would flaunt magic like that, even in a fairly liberal city like Silver City. But then again, maybe she and Clare were the only two who could detect the magic. Ma and Papa weren’t commenting on it.
The buggy crept up onto the bridge, and a vision appeared in front of her, a vision of a clean-shaven, blonde-haired man with intense eyes. The vision was gone as soon as it had appeared. She couldn’t be certain, but the man in the vision resembled the man Clare had been dreaming about for years.
There was something about the bridge that drew her, something odd. She began to feel a distinct energy emanating from it, filling Karen with more apprehension than the old bridge ever had. She felt a man’s presence, probably the man she’d seen in the vision. He seemed to be close, and it felt as though he might be watching her. The buggy reached the other side of the bridge, and she let go her breath.
They passed through the city gates. Even at this late hour, the city was buzzing. The emotions of the crowd slammed into her, and she chided herself for not shutting down her empathy sooner. Someone spoke the name “King Devin” in an excited voice.
Was the king in town? Was that what the buzz was about?
She closed her eyes and tried to invoke a trance state, but the excitement of the crowd was making it hard for her to concentrate. She finally fell into a trance and managed to shut down her empathy just as the buggy was pulling to a halt.
She opened her eyes to the Carver’s Inn, the fancy place they’d stayed in before. One valet helped Papa with the bags while another parked the buggy. They went straight to the front desk, where Ma pulled something out of her purse and showed it to the clerk.
The clerk reached down and produced two keys, handing them to Ma. “Third floor. Room thirty-three is for the girls. Have a nice stay.”
“Thanks,” Ma said.
Karen scratched her forehead. What in the world had just happened? What had Ma shown the clerk, and why had the clerk just handed her two keys like that, without taking any money or even a signature? And how had the clerk known they wanted two rooms?
Her parents had claimed this trip was just spur-of-the-moment, but obviously they’d planned it for some time. The rich people who’d farmed her out to Papa and Ma had probably made the arrangements for the room, which most likely meant that the rich people were going to have someone watch Karen carefully from here on out. So, even if Tommy was on his way, he might not be able to get to her.
Her situation was growing worse and worse.
Papa led the way to room thirty-three. Karen and Clare stepped inside. Two oil lamps, already lit, lay on separate tables. Two large beds graced the room. Clare squealed and went straight to the one on the left, which featured a pink bedspread and two lacy pillows. Clare loved lace, and pink was her favorite color. The other bedspread was lavender, Karen’s favorite color, and the pillows were knitted, as she preferred them to be.

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