(advent) December 8

Sorry for the delay, folks. I meant to have everything up in advance, and life got in the way. But I have time today to post everything, so there shouldn’t be any ┬ámore delays! With that in mind….

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Tuesday, December 8

Molly was sitting at her kitchen table, cradling a cup of hot chai in her hands and enjoying the silence. Drew and Schrodinger had gone to the store, doing some early Christmas shopping. There was a light snow falling in fits and starts, as if the storm clouds couldn’t decide if they actually wanted to let their flakes fall or wanted to hoard them away for another day. She’d been playing the radio, but had turned it off. Now, the only sounds were the occasional shush of wind-driven snow against the window, and the crunch of snow under the feet of deer as they came through the yard.

The air smelled of ham and molasses, cinnamon and cream. Homey scents, and Molly inhaled deepily, greedily, wanting to savor the moment. Then she heard sleigh bells in the yard, and got up to see who had come to visit.
Pavel’s black horses had just come into the yard. As she stepped out on to the porch, Molly called out, “Feeling better today?”

His face was still a bit pale, but his beard was combed, his mustache waxed, and he was dressed neatly, in clean clothes. Pavel spoke quietly to his driver, who nodded and then steered the carriage back out the driveway.

“A bit, but I’ll probably deserve this headache for another day or two,” Pavel said, coming up the steps of the porch and giving her a hug. “Did those two rapscallions actually leave you alone and unguarded today?”

“Only for a little bit,” Molly assured him, grinning. “They’re getting one of my Christmas presents, apparently, so I was asked if I minded staying home.”

“And do you?”

“No,” she admitted, as they went into the house. “It’s nice and quiet. Tea?”

“I would love some.”

They settled around the table, and Pavel sniffed the air. “Ham for dinner?”

She nodded. “We got a lovely one at the farmer’s market last Thursday, and I thought I’d make ham and cheese scones with the leftovers. Depending on how late you stay, you can take some back with you.”

“I think I can make an exception and stay,” he said gravely, but his eyes twinkled with mischief.

“I’m so glad,” Molly said, equally gravely, and winked at him.

They chatted and drank tea until Drew and Schrodinger came in. Pavel didn’t seem to want to broach the subject of his breakdown yesterday, and Molly, who had read the letter that Drew had taken from the cabin, understood. Better to only go over it once.

Pavel! You came! Schrodinger came rushing into the kitchen, his tail waving excitedly. I was afraid you wouldn’t come!

“I promised Molly I would, and I don’t break promises,” Pavel said.

True. I forgot that. Schrodinger jumped up into his chair and looked at Molly. Ham smells wonderful!

“Thank you!” She put mugs of tea in front of him and Drew. “Did you guys get your shopping done?”

Schrodinger looked at Drew, who nodded. “It was a successful trip,” he said, winking at Molly when Schrodinger looked away again.

“Oh good.” Then she looked at Pavel. “No more avoiding, Pavel. What happened yesterday?”

The pirate sighed, looking down into his mug as if the answers lay there. “I assume you read the letter that Drew found yesterday?” When Molly blinked, surprised, he chuckled. “I couldn’t find it this morning, and the crew has been afraid to come in my presence, so they wouldn’t have taken it. That left only you.”

“We did read it,” Drew admitted. “But we didn’t really understand all of it.”

“Or why it would bother you so much,” Molly added, taking her seat. “Don’t you want to know your family?”

Pavel sighed. “It’s not as clear-cut as that.”

What was in the letter? Schrodinger demanded. I didn’t get to read it!

Drew pulled it out of his pocket and started to hand it to Pavel, who shook his head. “No, you can read it out loud. I know it already.”

“Okay.” Drew cleared his throat and began to read.

“Dear Pavel, I know this letter is unexpected, but I have been waiting to write this for a very long time. You may not have heard anything of me – your mother said your grandfather banned my name from being spoken, and the townsfolk would not have gone against him. Not that I blame him. It was a blow to his pride when I left, I know. But I couldn’t stay. I couldn’t live with him.

“I never wanted to leave you or your mother, but that was the condition your grandfather laid down. I could leave, and he wouldn’t stop me, but his daughter had to stay. I only saw you briefly, from time to time, when we docked in the harbor, but I wanted to see you. Your mother, in defiance of your grandfather, managed to get me messages occasionally.

“I know he was a difficult man to love, Pavel, but he wasn’t always the brutal man he became. Once he was a good man, a man that loved me and your mother. Life was not easy for him, and I’m sorry he took it out on you.

“Now that he’s gone, I’d like to get to know you. I can’t make up for the years we lost, but there’s still time. Please, let me know if you would like to come and visit, or if you would allow me to visit you. It would mean a lot to me.

“Love, your grandmother, Brynna”

That’s wonderful! Schrodinger said, eyes bright. You found more family!

“It’s not that easy,” Pavel told him. “My grandfather not only banned us from discussing my grandmother, but the only time he ever even mentioned her was when he was drunk, which was most of the time, and beating me because I reminded him of her.” He chuckled bitterly. “Apparently I inherited her ‘sass.'”

Molly reached out and laid her hand on his. “The past isn’t going to go away,” she said. “But don’t you want to find out if he was right or wrong about her?”

“I don’t know,” Pavel said. “Part of me really does want to, but another part says that the old man was right. She deserted us. Left us to muddle along as best we could, with little to no money that the old man didn’t drink away.” He shook his head. “I left there as soon as I could find a ship that would take me, and I’ve never been back for long.”

“But you did go back?” Molly asked him.

“Occasionally, to make sure that my mother was still alive,” Pavel said. “I couldn’t convince her to leave him, no matter how battered and bruised she was.” At Molly’s cry of dismay, he shrugged. “Once I left, he used her to take out all his anger and frustration. But she wouldn’t leave him. Said she couldn’t abandon him.”

Your poor mother, Schrodinger said softly, his whiskers drooping. How awful.

“Yes. And no one in that godforesaken town would lift a hand to help her. It was fitting that she and I were the only two at the funeral to see him buried.” Pavel finished his tea and set the mug aside. “He’d managed to isolate her completely. I’m just glad he died before he managed to kill her. Now, maybe, she can have a life of her own.”

“That’s why you’re looking to buy a house here,” Drew said, comprehension dawning in his eyes. “You want to move her here.”

Pavel nodded. “This is a good town. Not like there. And she’s got nothing to hold her there now. I’m hoping that if I buy a house for her here, she’ll see that she can do what she wants. And the Cove is a good place to discover that. But she’s fighting me on it.”

“Because it’s new?” Molly guessed.

“I think so. She’s never been outside of our town, and the sea frightens her. The village doesn’t have a Gate, so I’d have to take the Desire to get her. Which I will, but she’s not sure she can do it.” Pavel sighed. “And now, with my grandmother contacting her, she’s torn.”

“Between you and your grandmother?” Drew asked.

“I think so. I don’t know what Brynna said to her, but I can imagine it was similar to my offer. Come and live with me, and leave all those bad memories behind.”

Molly hesitated, looking at Drew. “What about your father?” she asked cautiously. “Why didn’t he ever come for her?”

“Dunno,” Pavel said. “I don’t even know who he is. The rumor around the village was that he was a sea spirit out for a little fun, who came across her while she was walking on the cliffs, seduced her, and then left. She never told me his name, not even when I begged to know, and the old man just called him a shiftless good-for-nothing piece of garbage. No one ever came forward to claim me, and I’ve given up wondering.”

Molly’s heart ached, and she exchanged another look at Drew. He nodded at her. “Pavel, I know it’s not my place,” she said slowly. “But I really think that you should at least meet your grandmother.”

“And find out why she abandoned us? I’m not sure I want to hear that,” he said, and Molly winced at the acrid pain in his voice. “I’m so tired of being hurt by my family, Molly. I’d rather just forget her. It would be easier.”

“Maybe now, but aren’t you even the least bit curious?” she said. “You said yourself that the only things you know about your grandmother are what your bitter grandfather told you. Shouldn’t you at least give her the opportunity to tell her side of the story?”

“I don’t know, Molly. I just don’t know.” He took his hand back, but he smiled at her. “But I’m not rejecting it out of hand anymore. I’ll think about it.”

“That’s good,” Molly said, getting up and going to the oven. “And with that, I’m going to finish dinner. Can you guys set the table?”

Dinner was a determinedly cheerful affair, and Molly and Drew kept the conversation away from Pavel’s family, although Molly did get him to talk about the houses he’d looked at. After he’d left, with a basket full of ham and cheese scones, Molly brought in mugs of hot chocolate into the living room, where Drew had started a fire in the fireplace. The Christmas lights glowed in the darkness.

Schrodinger waited until she and Drew had settled in on the couch, and then he crawled onto her lap. Can I ask you a question?

“Of course you can,” she said.

Why was Pavel’s grandfather so mean to him?

Molly sighed. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “It sounds like he had a very hard life, and when people drink, they can get mean.”

But I’ve seen you drink, and Drew, and you guys don’t get mean. Schrodinger laid his head down on his paws. What would cause someone to beat their own child or grandchild?

“I don’t know,” Molly repeated sadly, stroking the soft fur of his back. “Not everyone is a good person, Schrodinger. It’s sad but true.”

“He might have been in a lot of pain too,” Drew said quietly. “If that’s the case, then he might just have been lashing out in the only way he knew how.”

It’s not cool.

“No,” Drew agreed, putting an arm around Molly and pulling them both closer to him. “No, it’s not.”

And the wood in the fireplace popped into the silence.

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