EPILOGUE – TEN YEARS LATER
“Higher, babcia! Higher!”
Marcelina laughed even as tiny heels kicked her thighs. Soft boots covered Herbert’s feet because the harder heels in his everyday shoes had given her one too many small bruise. Fall was threatened by winter and she didn’t want to go too high and find the cold air lurking above. Dosia also did not like her going higher, but what her daughter didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.
“Not today,” she told Herbert. “We should go down now.”
“You’re no match for the terror, Herbie.”
“Not Herbie! Not!”
Marcelina laughed and ruffled his hair. He was spoiled by his mamas and his grandparents. Not enough to send her up into the cold air. Or stop calling him Herbie.
“Herbert,” Marcelina whispered. “Do you want to dive?”
“Dive, babcia! Dive!”
Marcelina hoped Dosia had not arrived to pick up her son yet. If only because she would try to deliver a lecture. Oh, Marcelina could shut her down with her recollections of Dosia’s own adventures at Herbert’s age, but she’d rather avoid it. Not enough to disappoint Herbert who shrieked the whole way down.
A slight stumble on the landing made Herbert laugh. She shook her head. Maybe she should cut back on the diving. Her leg, broken twice, had started to complain. Which was ridiculous. She was not old like her babcia had been the short time she’d known her. It wasn’t that many months ago she’d turned forty-five.
“How was school?” Marcelina asked once Herbert was unstrapped from her chest and on the ground. Her wings shook, feathers fluttered, and she settled them down. The right one still gave her trouble sometimes.
“I hate school!”
Herbert raced ahead when he saw Dosia across the lawn.
Marcelina was left to deal with the security guard.
“Ma’am? I’m sorry, but-”
“Kirk. Kirk, right?” The guard nodded with a wary look in his eyes. “Kindly fuck off. I don’t care what my husband said.”
“Yes, ma’am, but I’m supposed to remind you. Every time, ma’am.”
“Kirk, I like you. You’re cute.” He blushed and she laughed. “And smart. Do something better with your life than babysitting me.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He wisely left her to catch up with her daughter and grandson.
Dosia eyed her suspiciously as Herbert told her about his first day of school and about flying with babcia.
“Mama. You didn’t go too high.”
“Of course not. You asked me not to.”
“And you listened?”
Marcelina smiled and opened the door leading into the kitchen of the governor’s house. “As well as I listened to your tata when he told me not to go too high.”
“We dove, mama!”
“Traitor,” Marcelina told her grandson as she ruffled his hair.
Dosia only sighed and fixed her son a sandwich while Marcelina made coffee. Once Herbert chewed loudly on a peanut butter sandwich, Marcelina and Dosia sat down at the island. Dosia squirmed in her chair and spent a long time fixing her coffee.
“What? Dosia, he’s perfectly safe. You were never harmed. And I did not go too high.”
“It’s not that, mama. I know you wouldn’t do anything too dangerous with Herbert.”
“Of course not,” Marcelina agreed. “And risk the wrath of you, terror?”
“Atefeh’s pregnant, mama.”
Well, that was not news she’d expected. Marcelina sipped her coffee as Herbert’s chewing filled the silence in the room. The boy chewed loudly.
“Should I not say congratulations, terror?” Marcelina wondered if they had used the same father. A man she knew nothing about and despite her curiosity had never tried to find. Mostly because Jory stopped her anytime she tried. She suspected he knew. Telepaths. Ha!
“Mama, I- No, I’m happy. Atefeh has wanted to carry a child since we had Herbert. I’m happy she will get to. I just- Two kids? Mama, I can barely keep up with Herbert.” Dosia pushed her coffee toward the middle of the table.
“Oh, terror,” Marcelina said as she stood. She embraced her daughter and when it did not seem enough she spread her wings and wrapped them around her as well. Dosia trembled and Marcelina struggled to find something helpful to say. “Do you want me to call your tata?”
That surprised her.
“How did you do it, mama?”
Well, that was an easy answer. “I had your tata. I couldn’t have raised you without him. Dosia, terror, you have Atefeh. And the two of you are fierce and strong and great mamas. You can handle two children.” Marcelina squeezed her daughter’s shoulder and kissed the top of her head. “And this time you will not be the one with swollen ankles, yes?”
Dosia laughed and they stayed as they were until they heard Herbert say, “Uh oh.”
Then they cleaned up his mess together.
Jory came in as Dosia forced Herbert into his coat.
Herbert pulled away from Dosia to launch himself at his grandfather. Jory caught him up despite a stumble backwards on his prosthetics. Marcelina bit back a sharp scolding. Although Jory still looked over their grandson’s head to grin at her.
Idiot, she thought.
Jory laughed and set Herbert down to finish getting his coat on. Dosia visited for another minute, but then left to hurry home. She promised to come to dinner with Atefeh later in the week.
“Did you go too high?” Jory asked as he tugged her into an embrace.
“No. But I dove down.”
Jory laughed before he kissed her. His hands slid lower and she wound up nestled against him with the counter at her back. There were a lot of windows in the kitchen, but she didn’t much care. Mindful of his position he stopped before too many windows became an issue.
“We have news.”
Ah, that would be why. News could only mean from their old home. Marcelina still believed nothing the news said, but Jory she trusted. As governor he’d have access to other sources of information. Spies. She’d offered to be a spy and he’d very kindly said never in a million years. He’d softened the words over an entire weekend. She’d not minded, of course, but they both knew she’d forgive him anything.
“More riots. Another coup. The unrest doesn’t seem to be settling down.”
“I know.” Jory took her hands in his. Now she worried. “The riots turned deadly. There were a dozen deaths as gangs ran the streets looking for anyone associated with the old regime.”
“Siemowit.” She knew. Jory was the telepath, but she didn’t need to read his mind to know he would say her brother was dead.
“I’m sorry, Marcelina.”
“It’s ok. I mean…we weren’t close.”
“I know, but he was your brother.”
She didn’t ask how. She knew how riots and mobs operated. There was no reason to ask for details.
“It’s ok, Jory. Thank you for telling me.”
“There is some good news.”
“Oh?” she asked, instantly on guard because of his grin.
“Yes. With Siemowit dead, Charlotte’s available again.”
Marcelina replied by chasing him from the kitchen and into his office. There were no windows in there. Charlotte's name did not come up again.