(advent) December 22

Tuesday, December 22

It was snowing when Molly awoke, and for a moment, she couldn’t remember where she was. The bedroom that Brynna had shown them to the night before was smaller than their bedroom at the farm, and the sounds of the waves against the rocks beneath them was something she wasn’t accustomed to.

Now, it mixed with the familiar sound of snow against glass windows, an intriguing combination that pulled her from dreaming.

Drew was still asleep, as was Schrodinger, but Molly found herself squirming out of the warm blankets, not wanting to stay in bed for some reason. She pulled on her robe and her slippers, and went downstairs to the kitchen.

To her surprise, Brynna was also awake, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea in front of her, watching the snow fall out the windows. The kitchen was at the rear of the house, facing the cliffs, although due to the snow, Molly could only see a small ways out beyond the yard. “Good morning,” the woman said quietly. “You’re up early.”

“My days usually start early,” Molly said, in an equally quiet tone. “What time is it?”

“Seven o’clock,” Brynna said. “There’s tea in the pot, if you would like.”

“Thank you.” Molly took one of the clay mugs from where they hung on the wall, and poured herself a cup of dark, fragrant black tea. Then she took one of the seats at the table, and she and Brynna watched the snow fall in silence for a while.

“Pavel says you’re the reason he came,” Brynna said finally, breaking the silence. “That you convinced him to give me a chance.”

“Pavel likes to exaggerate sometimes,” Molly said, flushing a little. “I just reminded him that family should have a second chance, and that he shouldn’t just trust his grandfather’s stories, that he owed it to himself, to Ella, and to you to find out first-hand.”

Brynna nodded, looking sad. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how deep Willem’s hatred ran, but I am. We were very, very much in love once.”

“They say there’s a thin line between love and hate,” Molly told her.

“Yes, they do.”

After another moment or so, Molly said, “It’s none of my business, but if you don’t mind my asking, what happened?”

Brynna sighed, and sipped her tea before replying. “Willem and I married very young, against our parents’ advice. We were so in love, though. And for a long time, all we needed was the sea and each other.” She looked out at the snow falling. “Then I had Ella, and we thought our family was complete. One of us would stay with her, and the other would take the ship on runs. It was perfect.”

“And then?” Molly prompted her, when she stopped.

“When Ella was about 12, we started to go out again together. She hates the sea, and so we’d leave her with the neighbors, who had a daughter her age,” Brynna said. “We assumed she’d fall in love and marry someone in the village, and we’d continue to sail. And then the accident happened.”

She looked over at Molly. “We’d been out longer than we meant to, and one of the big winter storms hit as we were trying to get back to the harbor. Now, we didn’t really ply the Sea Roads much – we didn’t have a navigator who could plot us a course at that point, so we were just on our sea. It was cheaper to run, too – no need to charge Gate engines, but it also meant that we couldn’t jump onto a Sea Road if the weather got too bad.”

Molly nodded, although she wasn’t quite sure what the woman meant. She knew the Sea Roads acted a bit differently than the land-based Roads, but she’d never really ventured on them, so she didn’t know how different they were. “So you were caught?”

“We were trying to get into a sheltered harbor, to let the storm pass us,” Brynna said. Her hands tightened around the mug of tea. “Willem insisted on being at the wheel, since he was stronger than I was. Our first mate was with him, trying to keep the ship stable. And then we were hit.”

“By?”

“I still don’t know,” Brynna said. “It could have been a rock – we were close to land, although not close enough, I don’t think. It could have been some debris from another wreck. But something hit us hard, and we nearly foundered.” She swallowed. “Willem and the first mate were hit by the wave as the ship wallowed. We lost the first mate overboard, and for a moment, I thought we’d lost Willem too. Then we found him pinned against the side of the ship.”

“What happened?” Molly asked, her eyes wide.

“Somehow, Paul and I – he was our second mate at the time – managed to get the ship into a cove,” Brynna said, shaking her head. “I still don’t know how. Luck was on our side. But we lost two more sailors before we did, and the ship was badly damaged. Willem had been knocked out, so we didn’t know until later how bad his injuries were.”

“Pavel said he always limped,” Molly said, remembering. “And was usually in pain.”

“That was the least of his injuries,” Brynna told her. “He hit his head so hard that something broke in there. He couldn’t stand on a ship anymore – couldn’t bear to feel the movement of the waves. Even on land, he said he could feel it, and it made him sick.

“At first, I tried to continue on, and I consoled myself that he could now stay with Ella. But he started to drink, to dull the pain.” Brynna sighed. “He began to blame me for the accident. Said I wanted to take the ship from him, that I was jealous of his ability, of how good a captain he was. And then he hit me.”
Molly closed her eyes in sympathy.

“It didn’t actually hurt physically – he’d been drinking enough that he had little strength,” Brynna said. “It was more the mental pain. How could he do that? How could he strike me? How could he hate me that much?”

“It wasn’t you,” said a new voice, and Ella joined them in the kitchen. “And it really wasn’t him anymore. It was the drink.”

“I know,” Brynna told her, reaching out a hand to her daughter. “But at the time, it was shocking.”

“So you left,” Molly said, getting up and getting a mug for Ella. Then she turned to the refrigerator, looking for the breakfast fixings that she’d brought with her.

“Not immediately,” Brynna said. “I told myself that it was a fluke, that by the time I’d returned next, he’d be better. But of course he wasn’t. And then Ella got pregnant, so I was torn.”

“I told her to go,” Ella said, taking Molly’s seat. “Pavel’s father had already left, and I knew that the sight of Mother drove Father insane with rage. So I told her to go, to leave.”

“I still wish I had insisted you come with me,” Brynna told her. “You have no idea how much I regret not doing that.”

“I couldn’t leave him,” Ella said, shaking her head. “Not alone. He would have died so quickly.” Then she chuckled. “Besides, you know how much I hate ships.”

“We could have made a fast run,” Brynna said. “Ah well. It’s over and done now.” She smiled at her daughter fondly. “Now we can start making up for lost time.”

“Yes,” Ella agreed.

“Molly, you don’t have to do that,” Brynna said, starting to get up as she realized Molly was cooking on the wood stove.

“No, probably not, but I enjoy it,” Molly said, waving her back. “Trust me, I’m a kitchen witch. This is my specialty.”

“I wouldn’t argue with her,” Ella said. “Just sit back and enjoy the food she turns out.”

By the time the boys straggled in, Molly had turned out a feast of bacon, eggs, and cranberry scones that she’d brought from the Cove. “Now you see why I want to kidnap her,” Pavel said, looking at the spread before him. “I know you didn’t bring all of this with you.”

Molly flashed him a smile. “I brought the scones. Your grandmother had the bacon and eggs.”

“Not this much bacon, I’m fairly certain,” Brynna said, blinking. “I don’t think I’ve seen this much bacon in one place in my life.”

“I may have stretched it a little,” Molly admitted. “I don’t do it very often, but I can.”

The front door opened, and a male voice called out “Brynna? Did I miss breakfast?”

“Not at all!” Brynna called back, and after a moment, a stocky man with a short, greying beard came into the kitchen. He stopped at the doorway, blinking confusedly at the mass of people he encountered.

“I wasn’t aware we were having guests,” he said, looking at Brynna. “Do you know them?”

“No, they just showed up and cooked breakfast for us,” she said dryly. “I decided not to let the opportunity go by to let someone else cook.”

He laughed, a hearty, unforced laughter that was contagious, and came in to give her a kiss. Then he looked around. “I’ll bet this is your daughter, Ella,” he said, and Brynna nodded. “I haven’t see you in years.”

“Hello, Paul,” she said, getting up to give him a kiss on the cheek. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has,” Paul said. “But I don’t recognize anyone else.”

“This is Pavel,” Ella said, indicating her son.

“My grandson,” Brynna added proudly. “A captain, just like myself.”

“As if he could be anything else,” Paul said, looking Pavel over. He held out his hand. “Good to meet you, Captain. I’m Paul.”

“My husband,” Brynna said. “My second husband.”

Pavel looked at her, then at Paul. “You married him before my grandfather died,” he said, and Molly couldn’t tell what emotion colored his voice.

“Yes,” Brynna said, not sounding at all repentant. “Although in my defense, the man I married died when he lost the ability to go to sea.” She sighed. “Paul was my first mate for a very long time, before we got married. He was the one who reminded me that life was not all bitterness and anger.”

Pavel continued to look at Paul measuringly for a long time, not responding. Paul continued to stand, his hand outstretched in welcome, not pressuring the younger man. Molly found herself surreptitiously crossing her fingers that the pirate wouldn’t take this new information badly. He’d just started to warm up to his grandmother…

Pavel? Schrodinger said softly, coming up to his friend. Are you okay?

Pavel didn’t move until the CrossCat’s soft paw landed on his leg, then he shook himself, and (to Molly’s relief) clasped Paul’s hand warmly. “Thank you,” he said. “For taking care of my grandmother.”

“It’s been my pleasure,” Paul told him, then pulled him into a rough bear hug. “It’s good to finally meet you.”

“And you,” Pavel said, clapping him on the back.

Then Brynna introduced Molly, Drew, and Schrodinger to her husband, and they sat down to eat Molly’s meal.

“What were your plans for today?” Paul asked them, as they lingered over cups of tea and hot chocolate.

Molly shrugged, looking at the others. “Did we have plans?”

“I have to start the baking,” Brynna said. “And there’s decorating to do, of course.”

We can help! Schrodinger said, perking up at the words. We love decorating!

“I promised to have Molly, Drew, and Schrodinger back to the Cove for Christmas Eve,” Pavel said, and looked at his mother and grandmother. “They’re hosting their own family Christmas Day.”

You could come back with us. We have plenty of room. Schrodinger looked at Molly pleadingly. Don’t we?

“Of course we do,” Molly agreed. “You would all be more than welcome.”

“Just be aware that there will be pandemonium Christmas morning,” Drew said. “We’ll have not only Lily and Jack, but Ryan and Kaylee.”

And Zoey is coming over later! Schrodinger bounced in his chair. So we can all spend Christmas dinner together!

“We wouldn’t want to intrude…” Brynna said, and Molly laughed.

“You wouldn’t be,” she assured the woman. “Just be aware, you won’t be able to sleep in very late.”

Brynna and Paul exchanged glances. “It’s up to you,” Paul said, shrugging. “I go where you go.”

“Let me think about it,” Brynna said finally. “It’s a wonderful offer, but I don’t know.” A faraway look came in to her eyes. “I haven’t been to the Cove in a long time.”

We’re having ham, Schrodinger said. And turkey. And Molly’s made anadama rolls for dinner! And there’s going to be PIE!

“What kind of pie?” Paul asked him, and Molly saw the twinkle in his eyes.

Molly said she was going to make a blueberry pie, a chocolate cream pie, an apple pie, and a mincemeat pie!

“Mincemeat pie,” Paul said, rubbing his tummy. “I haven’t had mincemeat pie in a long time.”

Molly makes the best mincemeat pie, Schrodinger said, slipping out of his chair and sidling up to stand in between Paul and Brynna. And if we’re really, really good, she’ll make a cheesecake too.

“Cheesecake too?” Paul reached over and took Brynna’s hand. “How can we refuse?”

“Are you sure you have room for us?” Brynna asked Molly.

“Absolutely,” Molly told her. “We have a big farmhouse. It will be a pleasure having you.”

“Then let’s do this – we’ll have our own Christmas dinner here tomorrow, if you ladies don’t mind helping me. Then we can all go back to the Cove for Christmas Eve there,” Brynna said.

TWO Christmases? We get TWO Christmases this year? Best year ever!

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