Chapter 15 - Aftermath
“(Nickname)! What happened?” Mat was sceptical as Garrett, his arm around my waist and mine over his shoulder, guided me towards Basso’s bed.
“The General happened.” He sat down beside me, arm still at my side, and squeezed the hand by his face before I dropped it onto my knee.
“What? Harlan shouldn’t have-”
“Harlan wasn’t at the mansion.” Basso suddenly remembered to close his mouth as Garrett turned to look at him, then at his lap, “He was at Stonemarket Bank.”
“But I didn’t send you to Stonemarket Bank.” Basso’s tone wasn’t just suspicious, it was downright accusing.
“I know that.” Garrett hissed, then abruptly stood and walked towards the stairs, “I’m going home.”
The thief disappeared, leaving me, still slightly catatonic, to explain what happened. Something I was not in the mood for.
“Look, he pissed me off, I tried to be smart, and I paid for it, okay?” I was met with blank stares. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.
“Garrett tripped an alarm-”
“Okay, now I know your lying.”
“Can it, Basso.” Sitting down next to me, Mat placed her hand on mine, “So, Garrett tripped an alarm, and?”
“And he got frustrated.” I continued to explain the little tantrum Garrett had had, laughing now that I thought it over, and then wondering why I’d ever really gotten angry.
“Momma?” Oh, that’s why.
“Mordred! Come here, sweetie.” He did as he was told, allowing me to pull him into my lap, something I hadn’t done in a while.
“Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, actually.” I whispered, pressing my nose into his hair. Then I realised it was three am, “What are you doing up? Again.”
“Garrett said he’d play chess, remember?” Of course he did, “I can’t find him anywhere!”
Though I wasn’t really listening to Mordred anymore. Instead, I was remembering the conversation between him and the thief before we’d left.
“Are you and momma going out?”
“Yes. We shouldn’t be long.”
“So momma’s feeling better?”
“I suppose so.”
“Will you play chess with me – when you get back?”
“Sure thing, kiddo.”
To anybody else, missing a chess game didn’t sound like the end of the world, but I’d raised Mordred to learn that a promise should be kept, no matter what. So he was not going to take it well that Garrett wasn’t going to fulfil that promise.
“Garrett left a little while back sweetie.”
“But… but he promised he would.”
“I know; I’ll see if I can get him to come back.”
“Yes!” With a kiss to my cheek, he ran off, probably going to grab the chess board.
Though I knew he wouldn’t be using it.
Grabbing a match box from the side, I gripped Basso’s pen and simply wrote: ‘Remember what you promised. ~(N)’ and sent it off with his newest pet, Genevieve. I didn’t bother to ask about the name. She was gone for a long five minutes, by which time Mordred had returned, the message gone and bread crumbs stuck to her beak.
“He’ll come right?”
“Maybe, Mordred.” Another hour and Mordred had fallen asleep on Basso’s bed. Garrett still hadn’t arrived.
And that really pissed me off.
Frustrated, I stormed out of the room, through the Burrick, and up to my bedroom, grumbling all the way. After all I’d been through with that thief, after he realised my son actually liked him, a lot, he won’t play a game of chess because he was throwing a tantrum. In a fit of anger, I ripped off my shirt, a few buttons scattering across the floor into forgotten corners, and I growled as I threatened to boil over.
Then I saw my reflection.
I’d avoided looking at the mirror for a while, letting it cloud over with dust to mute the image I didn’t want to see. But now the mirror seemed to glow, begging for attention as my scar burned pink against my skin. Pacing over to it, I wiped the dust with the ruined shirt, and placed a hand at the top of my neck. I traced the scar, up and down, over and over again, trying to tell myself that it didn’t still hurt. That it couldn’t – it was too old. That I was just imagining the stinging sensation I was feeling. I was so concentrated on that, I didn’t notice Matt follow in behind me.
“You know,” I jumped, stopping under my ribcage, “You can’t let a scratch hold you forever.”
“What am I, Matilda?”
“I think you mean w-”
“No, I mean what.” Sighing, I place my palm against my waist, the scar pink under my hand, “I don’t deserve-”
“Now don’t you dare!” I stopped at the hiss, “You deserve everything, (Name), and I’m not gonna let you convince yourself otherwise.”
“Why? What makes me so special?”
“(Nickname), have you looked back on your life recently? Let’s recap: Your house burnt down at eleven, your parents with it; the person that looked after you was raped, then her and her daughter were killed when you were fifteen; you met Basso and went into stealing two years later, and then nearly three years after that you ended up with Mordred and a nasty scar to show how.” She paused, sighing, “And then you met Garrett, and I swear that was the happiest I’d seen you in a while.”
“I’m not th-”
“Yes you are. An idiot could see that you value his presence, and he yours.” She came to my side and wrapped an arm around my waist, head on my shoulder, “And then all that shit with the ghosts happened, and we lost you again.
“(Nickname), with the hand you’ve been dealt in the twenty eight years you’ve been on this earth, I can tell you that you deserve every single ace that comes your way. You’ve already found two of them.”
“Mordred, and your favourite thief who I know is the reason your shirt is missing about ten buttons, and not the reason I would expect.”
“Don’t doubt him, (Name). He can be an ass, but then so can you. You just have to learn to deal with each other.” A final squeeze, and she began to walk away, muttering something about me getting some sleep.
“Yup. And, (Nickname), just tell him.”
“Tell him what?” She was already gone.
Next evening, Garrett seemed rather surprised to receive a smack as he waltzed down the stairs.
“You know what I’m talking about, Garrett.” I pointed to the chess board, still set up in the corner, then to Basso’s bed, “He was willing to stay up till dawn waiting for you. And don’t try to give me that shit of ‘I forgot’ or ‘I fell asleep’ because I know you Garrett. You don’t forget; you probably remember the first thing I ever said to you. I even sent you a message, which I damn well know you got.” I let out a sigh.
“(Nickname), I’m sorry, but-”
“But nothing!” I fell into mother mode again, shoving at him, “You can’t do that to a little boy, Garrett! Were you ever promised anything you really wanted, whether it be attention or something else, and then not given it? You realise how crushing that is for an eight year old?”
“Look, it might sound trivial to you, but he thinks of a broken promise as a sin, Garrett.” I dropped my head against his chest, sated from my outburst, “I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything like that, but Mordred cares about you and what you think of him. Don’t hurt my baby, or your pretty face will pay for it.”
There was a long silence, then:
“How are you feeling?”
“Considering the maelstrom of emotions I went through yesterday, pretty good.” An arm looped around my shoulders, and his chin rested on the top of my head.
“Garrett, no; I’m too tired for that today.”
“Humour me.” I did as I was told, “I never meant to set off that trap.”
“And I never meant for the General to be there, and-”
“And I never meant for him to hurt you, (Name), you understand that?”
“Yes, I do,” I was now wriggling against him, “but Garrett-”
“(Nickname), you’re making this even more difficult than it already is.”
“I’m not trying to be difficult.”
“Just let me apologise!”
“You have nothing to apologise for!” I lifted my head, grabbing his face in my hands, “None of that was your fault.”
“I should have been-”
“You were being chased down by guards carrying three foot swords – you weren’t exactly going to run towards them.”
“Still, I should have been there.”
“And you were. I survived.”
It ended there.
At one point, we ended up transferring to a chair, me on his lap and his arms circling me. It wasn’t the most comfortable position either of us had been in, but the scent of warm leather and oil made it seem worth it as I buried my nose into his neck, then up to his cheek.
“You’re going on a job today?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“If Basso ever shows his face.” I hummed, nose up by his now, “(Name).”
“You are very distracting.”
“What could I be distracting you from, the nice scenery?”
“You underestimate the beauty of the Basso abode.” Giggling, I pulled my face away to look into the mismatched eyes. I swear, every time I see them, they get a little brighter.
“Though it doesn’t compare to me, obviously.”
“Quite.” He chuckled, pulling me closer into his arms, my nose touching his once more.
I wanted to say something, and I knew he did too, but neither of us could seem to find the right words. Every time I thought I was going to say the right thing, the words died on my tongue. So I did the one thing I knew how to do right.
I used touch to show him what I meant.
My hands came to meet at the nape of his neck as I pushed my lips forward, brushing against his. He accepted, wrapping me tighter and tighter into his embrace, until I was sure my lungs would burst and my ribs had cracked. Though I knew this was his, somewhat brutal, way of saying ‘I understand.’
And I really hoped he did.
“That’s gross.” Garrett smirked, and pulled away, eyeing Mordred.
“It’s like that time when Mat kissed my cheek, and there was all spit on it and it was disgusting. It’s like that, but in your mouth, and blegh!”
“You’re so dramatic, Mordred.”
“He is your son.” I shushed him as he looked back at said boy, “How about that chess game. I did promise, after all.”
His face lit up like a bonfire.
“Aww, look at the Master Thief going soft.”
“No, I just want to win.”
“You’d be surprised; he’s good for an eight year old.”
“Well, I’ll win either way, even if it takes me all night.”
“Come on, Garrett!” With a brush of lips on my cheek, he took his allocated place on the other side of the board, and I prepared for a long spectator session.
Garrett didn’t go on a job that night.