4.25

G4C25P1

There was so much I wanted to say to him, so many questions I needed answers to, but I didn’t know where to start. My husband was finally back home after having been missing for nearly two years – What was the protocol for that? What could I say that would even begin to be appropriate? What could I say that would describe how I felt in that moment?

My mind was a mess. Joy, excitement, happiness, confusion, all bundled into one insane emotion. Where on earth should I start?

G4C25P2

“You don’t have to say anything. Just let me explain.”

“How did you-”

“I can read your mind!” He was grinning from ear to ear, looking like a little boy and very proud of himself. “I couldn’t resist. I won’t do it again, just- don’t hit me.” I couldn’t help but laugh. He looked different, but he acted like he had always done. Slowly, as a warning, I took my fist down again, taking hold of his hand. His skin was unnaturally soft, and cold. The same was true for his eyes and voice but it was easy to see past that. The coldness inhabiting them wasn’t a cruel kind, but actually seemed to be related to actual temperature, causing the air around us to drop. It was barely noticeable, and I could still see and hear the same man I had married years ago, so it didn’t bother me as much as you might expect.

“You have a lot of explaining to do” I smiled, searching his skin for scars. I wasn’t sure what to think when I didn’t even find a bruise. Had he not been injured? And if he really hadn’t been hurt, why had he been gone for so long?

“I do. And I’ll spare you the details, Oracle. That night we were attacked was- it was horrible. None of us had seen it coming, most of us weren’t even awake when the first gunshots were fired. When I ran outside to see what was going on someone hit me over the head with a machine gun. I think I blacked out right away, and only woke up twice after that. The first time recruit Kiwi dragged me across the dessert. We were both leaving a trail of blood, so he was doing his best to cover it up while getting us to safety. I only stayed conscious for a few seconds though, and when I woke up again Kiwi was dead. He died of dehydration, I think, since we were in the middle of nowhere with no water on us and on our own. My vision was very blurry by then and my throat was dry, but I remember seeing this woman run towards me. I blacked out again before she reached me.”

G4C25P3

“There was a woman in the middle of the dessert, running? Was she looking for you?” I couldn’t explain how she would have known that Finn would be there at that time, but if she had known I would be forever grateful for her involvement.

My husband nodded, looking serious. “She saved me. I’m only alive because of her. I don’t remember her rescuing me, but when I woke up again I was in this room I didn’t know, tied to a bed.”

“What was she doing tying you to her bed?” I couldn’t help but be suspicious. My husband had spent the last twenty-two months with her, and she did save his life.

“She had turned me. You know, she’s the one who made me like this.” He pointed to an odd mark on his neck before continuing. “This is what all vampires have. It burns itself into our skin when our blood changes, so we have no choice in it. I hope you don’t find it too unattractive, ’cause I can’t get rid of it.” I laughed at his remark, relieved that his personality seemed to be unaffected.

“No, it’s fine. Who was she?”

G4C25P4

“She didn’t tell me her name. All I know is she promised someone something a long time ago, and I think she somehow connected that to having had to save me. And she did more than drag me half way across the dessert! She trained me, and helped me control my urges.”

“I don’t think I like where this is going.”

Finn burst into laughter, but I was still feeling nervous about all this. My husband really was a vampire. There was a lot for me to take in today! “The reason I was tied to her bed when I woke up was because I was thirsty. Not for juice or water, Oracle, I wanted to rip someone’s throat out and drink the blood. I had never felt anything like it, but it was all I knew in that moment. The vampire had known that I would feel like this, and that’s why she had tied me to her bed!”

“So… Do you want to rip me to pieces?” For some reason I still didn’t feel uneasy or in danger. I felt safe, after everything he had just told me.

“I don’t, thanks to her. She really was patient with me. I had no idea who I was, where I had come from, or even that miles away, you were waiting for me. If I had known I-” Finn looked worse than sorry, so I shook my head.

“It’s okay. I take it the blow to your head caused you to lose your memory?”

G4C25P5

He nodded. “It took me a year to remember that my name is Finn. After that, other pieces of information came back to me. I remembered our wedding and our first date second, then I remembered beating up Hue in High School. Weird, huh?”

“Just a little” I smiled, happy that he remembered me at all. “What did you do for a whole year? And after that?”

G4C25P11

“Imagine this place where we were staying like an underground training ground. A top secret one. The stairs to the outside were hidden and difficult to spot, just in case anyone would even think to search in the middle of a massive dessert. The doors were hidden, it took me weeks to remember how to open each and every one of them! There was a room with beds, a bathroom and a small kitchen with chairs and a table.”

“A kitchen? I thought vampires only drink blood?” I thought I was being funny, but his serious expression didn’t change.

“We do. If you know where to get it from there’s a market for it. It comes in juice boxes, would you believe it? The fridge was fully stocked, too. She never gave me names, but I don’t think I’m the only person she’s saved. There must be travellers that get lost, and other soldiers. Anyway, there was a little gym, too. Not like ours here, but one with training dummies and board breakers. And that’s where she trained me. I was rubbish at first, but I learned very quickly. After only a month we were sparring, and I won a few times.”

G4C25P6

“She can’t have been very good then if you could best her so soon!” I knew my husband was talented when it came to sports and working out, but one month wasn’t much time.

“She is very good, actually. She said it’s one of the perks of being a vampire. We learn really quickly, and my scars were fully healed by that point. The only thing taking it’s time was my memory.”

“Did she have no idea who she was saving? I thought, since she was expecting you, she’d have a reason.”

“I don’t think she needs a reason to save injured people.” His smile was warm, and a sudden pang of jealousy coursed through me. “There’s no need to be jealous, Oracle! Nothing happened, I swear!”

“You promised you wouldn’t read my mind again!” As a reminder I punched him, giggling to myself when he rubbed the spot I had hit.

“I wasn’t, your face speaks volumes. She knew who I was. Only an hour after I had woken up she was showing me a photo of you. No idea where she had gotten it from, but I didn’t recognise you. She even told me your name, but it didn’t help. After that she decided to be patient and let my mind work itself out. Eventually, after a year and six months, I remembered everything.”

“Why didn’t you come home then?”

“The truth?” I nodded. “The thought of you made it very hard for me to control myself. I would have drained you had I returned then. The vampire knew, and didn’t let me go. She’s much older than I am although you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She doesn’t look much over eighteen. Age is everything amongst vampires, or so she told me. The older you are, the stronger and faster you become. I couldn’t have outrun her had I tried. Believe it or not, I didn’t beat her at arm wrestling once!”

“Are you… fine now?” I still didn’t feel overly in danger. There was a small part of me that scolded me for it, but it was very quiet and easy to ignore.

G4C25P7

“I am. She taught me how to meditate and it helped me focus. Twenty-two months isn’t much, but I learned a huge amount from her in that time. I would have died without her, and if it hadn’t been for her patience and training I would have killed a lot of innocents. Apparently, vampires don’t always stick around after they’ve turned someone. That’s what happened to her, but she said that so many years have passed since then that she stopped caring.”

“Just how old is she?”

“I have no idea. She didn’t tell me much about herself, but I’m guessing that she’s over three-hundred years old. It wasn’t until my last moments in Egypt that she opened up a little more. We were saying our goodbyes when she apologised for having turned me.”

“She apologised?”

G4C25P8

“She did. I think she hates her immortality, Oracle, but she’s convinced that her job isn’t yet done. Moments before I left and came here about three hours ago she-

“You only left Egypt three hours ago? What kind of plane did you take?”

“I’m fast” he winked, and I felt curiosity well up inside me. Just what was he capable of? “I asked her why she had saved me, and that’s when she told me about that promise she had made to someone Berry knows how many years ago. She didn’t say what it was, just that it existed and that she was determined to keep it. I also asked her what she misses the most from her era, since she obviously isn’t happy with her long life. She misses her sister, Oracle. I know you could argue that I’m no longer human and that she isn’t, either, but that was the most human thing she could have answered with. Again, she didn’t give me a name, but she looked very sad.”

G4C25P9

“Well, I’m grateful she saved you.” Finn put his arm around me and kissed me. Words couldn’t possibly describe what I felt in that moment, I felt so- complete. I didn’t care that my husband was a vampire. He was well and home with me, what more could I want?

G4C25P10

“I’m sorry I was gone for so long, Oracle. If I had known what would happen I would have stayed here, with you. We could have a family by now, you didn’t have to suffer for so long.” He looked me straight in the eyes when he said the next bit. “You did suffer, right? You missed me?”

“More than anything. But there’s someone I’d like you to meet.” I realised too late what that sounded like.

“Oh. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t just have rushed here. You’re happy, though, right? He’s treating you well? What’s his name? Please tell me it’s not Hue.”

I couldn’t help myself – I punched him, snickering. “Of course not! Hue did visit me, though. Once. He suggested I should marry him, and that he could help me out with… things.” I wanted to tell Finn that he had a son so badly, but I wanted to have a good moment to do so. Whichever reason the female vampire had had for not telling him herself, I appreciated it.

“I’m sorry he bothered you. Let him try again, he doesn’t stand a chance against me any more.”

“Finn…”

“He didn’t hurt you, right? ‘Cause I can cause him pain he can’t imagine if he as much as touched you!”

“Finn-” Maker, getting him to listen was harder than I had thought!

“I can’t believe he hasn’t moved on by now! We should report him to the police, you can get a restraining order if you-”

“FINN! Will you listen to me for a moment? I didn’t mean a man, silly! Go on, search my mind. Search for Seance.”

“No, you’ll hit me again.”

“I promise I won’t.” With a nervous smile on his lips, he searched my mind for his son’s name. At first, his expression went blank.

Then his eyes went wide as the realisation hit-

And the most blissful smile entered his face.

———————————————————————————–This is the end of Oracle’s generation 😦 I’ll have the votes up tomorrow some when, and the house will also be ready for download soon as will this generation 🙂 


I know it’s kinda cheesy, but I’d just like to say how much I have enjoyed writing this so far, and how much every single comment means to me :3 Four generations have gone quickly! One of the votes tomorrow will be a content vote (you’ll be able to tell me what you’d like to see more of, eg. adult content or romance) but I’d also like to know if there’s any way you guys think I could improve my writing. So if there’s anything bugging you, please let me know so this story can be everything I want it to be 🙂 There won’t be a vote for that, so tell me either here or on the forums 🙂


~Mischief

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4.24

He looks exactly like his daddy.

G4C24P1

It was too early to predict his facial features yet, or so Dad insisted. But I knew. I could see how his eyes were slowly taking shape and looked more and more like Finn’s. How his lips were forming into the same curves Finn’s lips had.

How he smiled at me in exactly the same way.

His skin and eye colour were so much like my husband’s that it pained me sometimes to look at my own son. The feeling was only fleeting, and was easily chased away by his soft cooing, but it was the fact that it was there at all that I hated more than anything. How could it possibly upset me to look at this sweet, young boy who was of my and Finn’s blood? He was what I had been desperate to have for so long, and now that I had him-

Did that make me a bad mother?

G4C24P2

Seance happily gurgled away in my arms, as if he was trying to sing for me, or talk to me. He was too young to form any proper words, but already he was constantly making sounds and little noises.

He looked at me, a bright smile spreading on his face, his tiny arms stretching out to me. I scooped him up into my own arms, a wide smile of my own answering his. Warmth spreading inside me, like it always did when I held my son.

No, I wasn’t a bad mother. I would be the best mother he could have wished for.

G4C24P3

Seance was one week old already. The night I had gone into labour I had panicked for nothing. There had been nothing unusual about his birth, I had simply convinced myself that something had to go wrong. That, somehow, he would be taken away from me again.

I hugged him tightly, admiring the small patch of hair that was already forming on his otherwise bold head. Hair the same colour as mine. Purple eyes, purple skin, and turquoise hair – he was the perfect mixture of Finn and me.

G4C24P4

The first year with Seance went by very quickly. The whole family adored him, and were visiting as often as they could manage. Fej and Dirin had decided to add another baby to their little family, and after several weeks of trying my older sister was pregnant again. Fawn was thrilled to have a baby sister or a baby brother, and practised with her cousin every time they were over. Seance thoroughly enjoyed the attention, and slept for most of the night after every visit, exhausted from all the love he was receiving.

Will and Honey had decided to go ahead with the procedure and had booked plane tickets to Shang Simla. They were both glowing already, even though neither of them was pregnant yet.

G4C24P5

It was a busy time for our family, and as Seance’s first birthday was approaching I came to accept that Finn wasn’t coming back. It hurt me to think about it, but I knew that in the end I’d be a better mother to our son, who looked so very much like his father. By the time I was making the necessary birthday preparations – namely inviting the family for some tea, coffee and cake which I wanted to bake myself – a year had passed since I had received the news that my husband was missing in action. More than half a year had gone by without any further news from the military.

They had stopped searching, and it was time for me to move on, too. I wasn’t willing to replace Finn with another man just to give Seance a father figure, but once I had accepted that I wouldn’t see him again it got easier every day to live with that knowledge. I would be a single Mum, and I would do the best possible job I was capable of.

G4C24P6

Since Seance was old enough for Potty 101 now, my parents and I were pretty much working shifts. Mum and Dad taught him in the morning when I looked after my garden, and I taught him as soon as I had washed off the dirt. His speech was also making fast progress, and soon he was talking up a storm, whether it was to us or his toys.

He was a lively young boy, always smiling and always finding new things which fascinated him. There was nothing he didn’t try to get his hands on, so we had to keep a close eye on him wherever we were. He was learning quickly – just like I had done.

While it was hard for me to do so, I told Seance stories about his daddy every night when I brought him to bed. I didn’t want him to grow up not knowing who his father had been, so I gradually told him everything I knew.

G4C24P7

I told him how Finn and I had met that day in the park, when he had defended me against Hue for the first time. I told him that his father was a brave man, who had always stood up for me and who had even joined the army to protect his wife and country.

I even told him how one day, his Daddy went to war to protect everything he held dear, and how his Daddy still hadn’t come back home from his last mission.

Seance listened with big eyes every time, soaking up everything I told him. I wasn’t sure if he was too young to understand what I was telling him, but he would grow up knowing what kind of man his Daddy had been. He would never have to wonder what happened to his father, or why he wasn’t there while he was growing up.

Our son was a smart young boy, and I loved him with every fibre of my being. I thought that I finally understood why Finn had gone abroad. What he had meant when he had told me that he had to go, even though it wasn’t mandatory. I thought that if I had the chance now to go to war to protect my son, I wouldn’t be able to stay here, either. If there was anything I could do to ensure his safety, I was willing to do it.

G4C24P8

When I brought him to bed that night I told him his favourite story. At least, I assumed it was his favourite, judging from the way his eyes were shining brighter than with any other story I had told him.

It was the story of our first date. We had met at the beach, and Finn had walked to the bar with me where we had played darts. I had been bad at it, but Finn had excelled. I told him how we had walked back to the beach afterwards, walking along the sea until we had reached a quiet, private spot where it was just the two of us. How Finn had kissed me in the orange light of the sinking sun.

To finish off, I kissed Seance’s forehead. He giggled, sounding more awake than I knew he felt. I tugged him in easily without resistance, and watched as my son drifted to sleep quickly.

Everything was right in that moment. I was at ease.

I had just closed the door carefully behind me, when the door bell rang. It wasn’t unusual for one of my siblings to come over for a quick visit after work, so I didn’t think much of it.

Without thinking I hurried downstairs, opened the door – and froze, tears shooting into my eyes.

G4C24P9

“Hello, Oracle.” His voice sounded exactly like I remembered it. He looked a little sheepish and nervous, like he had no idea what he could possibly say to me in that moment. He looked different, too. His skin was just a little more pale than I remembered it, and his eyes – his eyes – “I’m home?”

G4C24P10

Unwilling to let another second pass without him in my life, I threw my arms around him – and cried.

4.23

I was pregnant.

G4C23P1

Since that day Hue had come to gloat and propose his ridiculous idea, I had been excited. I was finally looking forward to being a mother, and it was all thanks to my stalker. It was odd to think of him as my miracle, but it didn’t change anything. I still hated him and I still wanted him as far away from me and my family as possible.

I felt like I had been reborn. Suddenly, there were all these things I wanted to do! I was excited to decorate the room, and I found myself smiling every time the baby kicked. My baby. My son.

Mum, Dad and I had been going over names, but so far nothing had stood out to me. This baby was special, so not just any name would do. I wanted the name to be as special as the child bearing it, it just took longer to find something like that.

I also finally visited Fej. Not to see her, since she still visited us often, but to see my niece. Fawn had grown up quickly, and had just been enrolled into school. Her first day was still a few months away, but just that I had missed so much of her life already made me want to make up for lost time.

G4C23P2

“I’m so happy you’re finally as thrilled as the rest of the family.” Fej smiled, her excited grin reaching her eyes. Everyone was so happy ever since I had started looking forward to it, and it was infectious. No matter who I talked to, there were smiles all around and I found myself unable to talk about anything other than my pregnancy.

“I am, too.” It felt good to finally admit it, and I thought that my unborn son could feel the change, too. He was moving about more than he had been before, like he was able to play with me and make himself known to me at last.

“If you need anything, let me know. We still have Fawn’s old crib, and we’ve kept all of her toys.”

“Thank you, but I’ll be alright. I’m going shopping with Mum tomorrow, she can’t wait.”

Fej laughed. “I bet! Mum always gets so excited when one of us is pregnant.”

“That’s only happened once before, with you.” “Always” was a bit of an exaggeration to say the least, but I knew that she was just over the moon. We all were.

“Yes, and she was thrilled! But anyway, you’re here to talk to Fawn.” I had called Fej the day before to make sure it was alright. After all, Fawn and I had never really spent time together. When she had been a baby I had tried to avoid her, and Mum had always asked Fej not to bring her along when she had come for a visit. I didn’t want to be that weird aunty she couldn’t trust, so I had figured that a little chat was overdue.

“Only if that’s still okay.” I didn’t want to scare her, or make her feel uncomfortable. I wanted to be the aunty she could come to with anything, but I wasn’t sure if it was too late for that.

G4C23P4

“Of course it is. Well, if you can hold her attention for longer than a minute? She’s been convinced lately that presiding over her royal court is more important than homework, eating, sleeping – you name it.” I smiled as we turned our attention to their dining room. Fawn was indeed standing on a chair, dressed like a little queen, and she was making a speech.

Would my boy be like that? Once again I couldn’t help but wonder who he’d take after more. Would he prefer to be outside and play all day, or would he rather learn new things?

“Oracle?” Fej interrupted my thoughts, looking amused. Had I just been staring at her daughter with a smile on my lips? So much for not scaring the child! “She’s expecting you. We told her you’d be coming to get to know her last night. She’s had mixed feelings, but I think her excitement outweighs her suspicion. Go on in, Dirin and I will be right here.” I nodded, taking a few steps forward into their dining room.

I was nervous, but excited at the same time. My niece had grown up beautifully, how had I not been a part of her life for so long?

G4C23P5

“Fawn?” I didn’t want to interrupt, but I wanted to see more of her than her backside, too. She seemed so engrossed in her game that I felt a little guilty for interrupting.

“AND I DECIDE THAT FROM TODAY, WE WILL EAT CAKE FOR EVERY MEAL! NOT ANY CAKE, BUT CHOCOLATE CAKE! WITH STRAWBERRIES! AND ALL VEGETABLES ARE NOW BANNED FROM THIS COUNTRY!”

I snickered a little to myself as I watched her. While I had never played anything like this when I had been a child, my sisters had done and sometimes I had caught them in the middle of their play. Fawn reminded me a lot of them.

“May I interrupt, my lady?” That got her attention, and she turned around on her chair. I was worried she’d trip over her own feet and fall off, but she seemed to know what she was doing.

“Who’s asking?” She still held her head high, playing the queen, so I thought I’d join her play. I wanted her to warm up to me and this seemed like a good way of doing it.

“My Lady, I am your aunt Oracle. I have come for an audience with your Highness.” She looked me up as if to consider what to do, but jumped off her chair not long after.

G4C23P6

“Your my aunty, then?” She was so beautiful, and looked so much like my sister that I could do nothing but nod. “Mummy told me you were coming to see me today. Why have I never met you before? Do you live in a far away country?”

I shook my head. “I don’t. In fact, I only live twenty minutes away by car.”

“Then why have I never met you before?”

I was trying to figure out in my mind how to explain to a child what I had gone through. She was too young for most of it, so I decided to keep it short. “I have gone through a lot of bad stuff, Fawn. But all of that is over now, and I have time to get to know you better. What do you say?”

“Hmmm, I dunno. You addressed me properly earlier, but Mummy hasn’t told me much. She always said to ask you instead of her.”

“You can ask me anything.” I wanted us to be close, and I felt like we were going into the right direction.

“Anything?” Her eyes went big, like she didn’t quite believe me. I nodded, watching her eyes narrow as she evaluated whether she could really ask her next question or not. “Are you good at maths?” Not what I had expected, but if it helped us bond I didn’t care.

“I am. Are you stuck on your homework?”

“U-huh. It’s really hard, but my teacher said I have to do it without my parents helping me. You’re not my Mummy, so you can help me!” I smiled at her logic, and while I was tempted to tell her that her teacher had meant any adult, I couldn’t pass up on a chance like this.

“Show me, I’ll help you.” Her face brightened up instantly. I sat down while Fawn went to get her homework.

“You know” Fej said from the living room “she’s supposed to do this on her own.”

“It’s alright, I’m not her Mum.” My sister shook her head, laughing. She left it at that, so I figured I was allowed to go ahead.

G4C23P7

I spent the rest of the afternoon talking to my niece. She was a bright young girl who just so happened to have a weak spot with maths. Proudly, she showed me some of her drawings, and she told me that she wanted to be as famous as her gramma Ivy one day.

Fawn was a good kid, and I left that evening with the promise of inviting her over to mine next time.

G4C23P8

But for now, that had to wait. I was getting closer to my due date, and was more exhausted faster as a result. Mum still insisted that I go for check ups regularly, but for the first time since I had gotten pregnant she didn’t need to tell me twice. I loved seeing my little boy move around on the screen, and couldn’t wait until I could hold him in my arms. It was impossible to tell who he took after more at this point, but it didn’t matter. The doctor said he was healthy, and that was enough for me.

G4C23P9

His room was slowly starting to take shape, too. Together with my parents and siblings we managed to finish it in less than a week. They didn’t allow me to do much, but kept reassuring me that making sure they were doing their job right was the most important job of all. I waved them off, but secretly I was grateful that all I had to do was give orders and watch.

Every day Mum and I came back from the shop, a little more had been done. Dad changed the carpet first, then he and Reef changed the wallpaper, which I had chosen with Mum and my sisters. I was worried that Will was missing too much in the day care, but she kept assuring me that Honey was doing fine without her for a few hours. Fej could only help during the weekend, and even then she was sometimes called into work. She was close to her final exams now which would make her an official doctor. All of us were tired with the exception of Mum, who was running from one shelf to the next, afraid of missing some cute toy or the perfect wallpaper.

G4C23P10

It didn’t take long until the room was finished. Once Dad and Reef had placed the last pieces of furniture, it became my second haven. The first half of my day I would spent in my garden with Dad’s help, and then the second half I’d simply sit in my son’s room, admiring the colours. My family had done a fantastic job. It felt great to be surrounded by children’s toys and my and Finn’s colours after all. We had bought a rocking chair and had placed it into a corner from where I could easily overlook the entire room. Besides my garden, it had become my favourite place in the whole house.

G4C23P11

The closer I got to my due date, the more impossible it was for me to be left alone. Mum and Dad were constantly fussing over me, worried that I might go into labour while they were in a different room. They insisted I prepare a bag with hospital essentials two weeks before the little one was scheduled to be born, just in case I went into labour early. It was a scary thought, but I agreed since it put their minds at rest.

Willow and Honey had some exciting news, too. They had come across a new procedure doctors and researchers in China had discovered, which allowed same gender couples to have children. It was still new, and barely tested, but apparently the first couple who had tried it had just given birth to a healthy baby girl.

G4C23P12

“We’re considering it. It costs a fortune, and I admit it seems too good to be true, but it’s worked, Oracle. Just imagine, Honey and I could be parents!” Will had called me as soon as she had a moment. She was so happy at the pure thought that she was crying tears of joy over the phone, and once again her happiness was infectious.

“Is it safe?” I wanted this to work for both of them, but I had gone through enough to add anything else any time soon.

“They say it is. We’re honestly considering it, but for now we’ve decided to give it another year. They’ll have more time to refine the edges while we wait, and we’ll have a chance to safe money. If it’s dangerous, we’ll know by then.” I sighed in relief, happy that there was a chance for them to have children of their own flesh and blood. Their day care had become very popular, everyone was talking about how caring and brilliant they were with the children. They deserved this, and I wished them all the best.

G4C23P13

I felt the baby kick as we hung up. Carefully, I placed my hand on my stomach, wondering if he could feel me as I could feel him. It had taken a while for me to accept, but I finally believed that I could be a good mother to this child.

Knowing that he wouldn’t have a father, however, worried me. Finn had been missing for nine months now, and as much as I wanted to keep hoping I wasn’t sure if I could. Praying for his safe return had demanded a lot of energy, and I didn’t know how much I had left. Soon, my child would need all the energy and love I could give him. The thought hurt, but I didn’t have a choice. I’d be strong for my baby, and I’d protect him from bad people like Hue.

With or without Finn.

G4C23P14

There was one more thing I had promised myself I would do. I missed Mr. Tortoise, and I knew that no pet could replace him, but I did miss having a pet. So one day, on the way home with Fej, we stopped at the pet store where I got myself this little guy.

I didn’t want another tortoise, but this Iguana had seemed perfect so he had come home with me the very same day.

Then, one night, I was woken up by a sudden, sharp pain.

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Contractions.

I had gone into labour – one and a half weeks too early.

I was trying my hardest to breath without panicking. It was too early, my baby wasn’t due yet.

A pain and fear filled scream escaped my lips. Tears were rolling down my cheeks as I was praying to Berry that my baby was alright.

“MUUUUM!” My voice didn’t sound like my own. There was so much pain all throughout my body that I could barely think straight. This baby was wanting out now, I was sure.

I could hear the faint sound of rushed footsteps in the corridor. I could hear Mum tell Dad to start the car, without the sound of her feet stopping. She was rushing to get to my room, but it felt like it took her an eternity to reach me.

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Another wave of pain coursed through me, and I screamed. Mum entered the room and said something, but I couldn’t hear her. Only one thing was on my mind as she rushed me to the car, supporting me as best as she could.

It was too early.

4.22

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The stars were still out.

One quick look at the alarm clock told me that it was only three in the morning – much the same as the last few nights when I had woken up suddenly.

My heart was racing – the reason I had woken up. I wasn’t nervous, or scared, but I was too hot. The windows in our room had been open all night and most of the day as well, but the small breeze that managed to sip through the gap wasn’t enough to keep me cool.

Quietly, and hoping that I wouldn’t wake my parents, I went outside like I had done the last several nights.

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It was much cooler outside, but it still didn’t feel cold to me. The air was refreshing as it brushed against my skin, but it wasn’t enough to make me freeze. I aimed straight for the swing set, where I sat down and moved  backwards and forwards slowly.

When I had been a child, I had never played much. Not on our swings, anyway. I had been far more interested in watching Dad garden, or observing the bit of wildlife around our house. Swinging had been something I’d do when we visited the park, or sometimes during recess at school, but I had always found something else to hold my attention while I had been at home.

Would my child like swinging? Would he or she ask me to watch as they jumped off, landing on both feet? Maybe my child would be more like me. Maybe he or she would prefer to learn new things and observe nature.

Maybe Fej was right, and this child was destined to do great things. How should I know? I still wasn’t eating properly. Most days I felt weak, and I didn’t want to leave my bed but Mum always made me. She had made appointments for me to see a doctor for regular check ups, because she was worried that the baby wasn’t getting everything it needed. So far, while my doctor wasn’t happy with my eating habits either, the baby seemed to be perfectly healthy. It had adjusted into a comfortable position, my doctor had said, and it was growing at a normal rate. He had asked me whether I wanted to know the gender, but I had refused. What difference did it make? Whether I was carrying a boy or a girl, Finn was still missing in action.

We had received word that they were still searching, but I doubted that. Only last week they had found the body of the other soldier who had been missing. They were certain that Finn had to be close to where they had found his comrade, but that was the last I had heard so I didn’t dare hope.

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I looked up when the first hint of orange graced the horizon. My feet were still shuffling on the ground, gently moving my swing into all directions. A yawn escaped my lips, and I realised how tired I was. Waking up every night followed by nearly two hours of swinging and thinking had me exhausted, and I was finally starting to feel the consequences. My body was tired, my mind was reaching an end. I knew that I had been getting more and more lazy since Finn had gone missing, but I needed a break. My mind needed to pause, something to think about different to what had pre-occupied my thoughts lately.

My feet stopped what they were doing, and I forced myself to get up. My stomach was getting bigger every day, which made it harder to be on my feet. Walking around in particular made my back ache, but then so did sitting down and sleeping. It seemed there was nothing I could do to make the pain go away, whether that pain was emotional or physical. There was simply no end to it.

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I made my way over to our pool. The sun was rising quickly now, bathing everything in a warm glow despite the cool air. Carefully I let myself down on the lounge chairs which were overlooking the pool. They weren’t the most comfortable beds I could have found, but they were close and I had trouble keeping my eyes open.

Just like the previous nights, I fell asleep on one of those lounge chairs, listening to the calm waves of the ocean, until Mum woke me up only a couple of hours later, blanket in hand.

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As bad as sleeping like this was for my back, the early morning hours had a calming effect on me. Mum and Dad didn’t like it, and were just waiting for me to catch a cold, but I found solitude in the silence. It was refreshing to watch the world wake up – there were bugs and critters around which I didn’t get to see during the day, and they weren’t bothered by me being there, either. I especially loved the little torch bugs, although I didn’t know why. I had told Will about it, and she thought I liked them because they were symbolic for a small light in the darkness (I was convinced she had been talking to Fej) but I wasn’t sold on the idea. Whatever it was I loved about them, they certainly weren’t the miracle I needed.

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My aching back made gardening harder for me, as well. Dad had offered to help me with it, and I had gladly accepted his offer. He was retired now much to the contempt of Mum, who was happy to have him home every day. Dad was happy to do all the weeding, saying it made him feel young again, while I mostly watered my plants. There were days when I was tempted to let him do all of it, but I knew that he was getting too old for that. My garden wasn’t the small patch of vegetables it used to be, and took a fair amount of time and caring each day. It did provide for us and made good money, so I wasn’t willing to risk ruining it all with a lack of effort. Dad enjoyed the time we spent together, and had even offered to predict my baby’s gender. I still wasn’t too interested, but he looked excited so I nodded. Dad thought I was having a boy.

And I still felt nothing.

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Even though simply watering my produce didn’t take too much out of me I was still exhausted afterwards most days. On that day, my parents had gone out once we were done to see a show at the local theater, while I had gone upstairs for a nap. Smoke had joined me and was softly purring away on Finn’s side of the bed. He had made quite the habit of this, and I was slowly getting used to it. At first I had shooed him of the bed. It was Finn’s side he was napping on, and I wanted it to stay Finn’s side. Only Finn’s side. But then Mum had encouraged me to give him a chance, so I had. It turned out that Smoke’s purring had a calming effect on me, and was one of the few things that calmed my nerves these days, so eventually I allowed him to stay.

I didn’t get to sleep for long, however. Ten minutes into my nap someone rang the doorbell. Smoke looked at me expectantly, as annoyed as I was by the sudden noise.

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“I’m sure they’ll go away soon. Sleep, Smoke.” I ran my finger across his back which made him purr comfortably  Quickly he rolled back into his original position, and seemed to fall asleep again instantly. Until the doorbell rang again.

This time, Smoke jumped up and left the room as if to tell me that he couldn’t possibly sleep with all this commotion. I agreed, and followed him unwillingly.

I made it all the way to the door when I stopped. He was facing the other way and hadn’t seen me yet, which gave me a moment to decide what to do. I was tempted to just turn around until he got bored and left, but a part of me wanted to open the door and see what pathetic excuse he had this time.

So I did.

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“What do you want, Hue?” I wasn’t sure why I was asking. I was pretty sure he had come to gloat. He wasn’t here to try to seduce me again, or at least I hoped he wasn’t, since he was still with that woman I heard of before.

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“I heard your brave husband went abroad and got lost! So much for protecting you, huh?” Years ago his words would have hurt me, but not any more. I had come to expect this sort of speech from him, and was no longer shocked or insulted.

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“If you’ve come to laugh, you’ve done that. Now you can leave.” Not that I actually expected it to be that easy. It never was with him, but I had to get things started somehow. There was the tiniest spark of anger in me  – not because of what he had said, but because he was here at all – and some part of me wanted to fuel it.

“But I have a proposition for you! Don’t you want to hear it?”

“No.”

“Word on the street has it that not only did your husband leave you, he also knocked you up before he left!”

“He didn’t leave me, Hue. He’s missing in action, there’s a difference. And well done. Any idiot could tell by now that I’m pregnant, but it’s good to hear that you’re trusting your minions words more than your own eyes.”

Hue burst into laughter, looking very pleased with himself and far too amused. “And there I was hearing that you’ve lost your touch!” I gave him a moment to enjoy his own joke before interrupting.

“That’s none of your business. Now, if you’ve said everything you’ve come to say you can leave, can’t you? It’d be a shame if I had to involve the police.”

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“There’s no need for that. Just hear me out.” I sighed, nodding. Whatever it took to get him to leave. “As I was saying, I know that you’re pregnant. Every baby should have a father, and since this father has abandoned his family I-”

“Excuse me?” Was this going where I thought this was going?

“I’d make a better father than no one at all, Oracle! You can’t deny that.”

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“I can. I’m very capable of raising this child myself.” The words were out before I realised it, but things were escalating too quickly for me to think about it.

“Do you really want to take the risk? What if-”

“I do. And I think I’ve heard enough, so if you’d kindly remove yourself from my property?”

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“You’re making a mistake, Oracle.” His eyes were glowing with anger, he spat his words like my rejection was poison. Luckily, I had stopped feeling threatened by him a long time ago, no matter how vicious he was trying to sound.

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“We’ll see about that. If you think I’m willing to let you anywhere near my child, let alone help me raise him, you’re wrong. Leave, and I swear to Berry, you’ll regret it if you ever suggest this again. To anyone. If you as much as lay one finger on my baby you’re dead, Hue.” I felt something flare up inside me that I hadn’t felt in months. Hue was mad, I could almost see his remaining brain cells go up in fire and burn to ashes. He spit at my feet, told me again that he wasn’t done with me, and left. Just like that.

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I felt unable to move. My eyes didn’t leave him once as he ran off, and it was only when he was out of sight that I moved slightly.

And that’s when it happened.

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I was pregnant. I was finally pregnant.

And I would protect my baby from people like him until my dying day.

My son.

I was going to be a mother.

4.21

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I was pregnant.

I was pregnant.

How could I be pregnant now?

After all these months of failure my one wish had finally come true, and I wasn’t sure what to think. I was finally getting what I had been craving for so long, and I didn’t know how to feel. My own insecurity mirrored on my parents, who were beaming with joy behind their eyes but they acted very differently. I knew they wanted to be happy on the outside, too, and I knew they wanted me to be happy above everything else, but my own happiness didn’t come.

All this time we had tried without success. All these months it would have been perfect. How hadn’t I known before Finn had left? Would he have stayed home with me and the baby if he had known? Just why did I have to stop taking pregnancy tests? If I had we could have known and Finn-

I was finally pregnant, and I wasn’t happy. Now that my wish had been granted, I didn’t want-

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My eyes fell on the butterflies which were dancing in the chilly breeze nearby. Finn and I had been like them once, many many years ago. We had been happy, and carefree, and everything had been alright. Things had always worked out the way we had wanted them to. Sure, Hue had been a nuisance, but I would have been more than happy to put up with his mean words and rude behaviour now if it could bring Finn back home.

I was pregnant. I just wanted things to go back to the way they had been before we had tried to start our own family. I wanted to be happy again. I wanted to fall asleep every night again with Finn by my side, and I wanted to get up early every morning to see him go to work. I wanted to be selfish, and make all of these things happen.

It wasn’t fair that I was finally expecting our first and most likely only child, and Finn wasn’t here to hear the news. I had always thought that I’d be overjoyed when the day came that I was finally holding a positive pregnancy test in my hands, but instead I was dragging myself through every day and I wasn’t eating properly. I had stopped cooking altogether, and the only reason I ate anything at all was because Mum forced it down my throat. It was weird, because I wanted to hate her for it but I couldn’t. She was doing what she thought she had to do, I just wished that she’d stop.

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But she wouldn’t. Because she was a great mum who had always looked after us to the best of her ability and beyond. Once there was a time when I had thought that one day I would be a Mum just like her. Someone who always had dinner ready when her family came home from school and work. Someone who could answer all of life’s questions, who could make tears vanish and who could make the impossible happen just to see her children smile. My Mum was someone like this.

I wasn’t. Neither would I ever be. How could I? I wasn’t even sure if I still wanted-

A sharp slash of guilt cut me and made me suck in the cold air around me. Then I realised that I was crying. Did I still want this baby? Of course I did. Or I thought I did, but I couldn’t be a good mother to my child now that everything good in my life had turned sour. Was it right of me to keep a child who would be born to someone who couldn’t be everything he or she deserved to have? I wanted my child to have someone like I had. I wanted to be the mother my mother had been and still was, and probably always would be. She was a strong woman, a Mum who would move the earth if it made her children happy.

And I was… this. A grown woman who couldn’t water her own garden without bursting into tears, because she knew what a failure she was.

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My wish had finally come true, and I couldn’t have it any more. Keeping this child to myself wouldn’t be fair, he or she deserved something better. A family who could take him fishing, or her prom dress shopping. A family who could love him.

Or her.

Willow and Honey would make fantastic parents, and they couldn’t have children of their own. I was pregnant, but I couldn’t be a mother. I didn’t want to be the kind of Mum whose kids avoided talking about  in school, because she was such an embarrassment. I wanted to be the kind of mother whose children were proud to talk about to their friends.

I had tried it. I had tried being excited, but I couldn’t. How could I be a good Mum? I wasn’t even eating properly. I wasn’t even taking care of myself. A newborn baby needed a lot more attention than I did.

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Mum tried her best to motivate me, and invited my sisters around often. Reef had moved now and was still settling in, so neither of us wanted to worry him. Or rather, Mum didn’t want to worry about him. My own mind had gone numb to everything but hate for myself.

Both of them were excited. They were beaming with happiness every time they talked or listened to my slowly swelling belly, making promises the baby couldn’t hear anyway, pretending to hear what my unborn child was saying. Pretending he or she could talk even though it was far too early for that.

“You’ll be a great Momma, you’ll see!” Willow kept telling me, looking more excited than she had ever done as she pressed her ear to my stomach once more. “Your Momma loves you, and so do I! She’s just a little upset, you know? So much has-”

Listening to my sister speak with enthusiasm when I couldn’t even smile broke a little something inside me. It wasn’t my heart, Finn’s disappearing had shattered that, but something broke. What did your feelings go to once they had taken their toll on one vital organ? Where was the next stop? Whatever it was, they had found it, and they were working it into the ground.

“Will, don’t. Please.” A small tear was running down my cheek, and I was trying to quickly wipe it away before Will could spot it but my reflexes weren’t as sharp any more as they had once been. Will saw it, and wiped it away for me before pulling me into her arms, where I began to sob.

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“It’ll be alright, Oracle. We’re here for you. We all know the last few months have been hard for you, but you can do this. For your baby. You’re pregnant, Oracle, just think!” I knew she was right, but my mind was shutting it out. It was protecting me from the truth so I didn’t have to suffer any more.

Fej was much the same. She was around just as often, but she never brought Fawn for which I was grateful. I knew that was Mum’s doing, because as always Mum knew what I needed or didn’t need. Right now, I didn’t need to be an aunty.

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“You know, Dirin and I were thinking about having another child. They’d be roughly the same age, we could get them together to play. Our children could be as close as we are, just they’d be cousins instead of sisters.”

I nodded, showing that I had understood her. Nodding and shaking my head were the two things that had gotten me through most conversations lately. It was amazing how many things you could answer this way. I knew Mum wasn’t happy with me, but for now she accepted it.

“A friend of mine wasn’t sure what to feel, either.” Fej looked right into my eyes, and I couldn’t escape. “She even considered abortion, but she decided to give the baby up for adoption instead. And then, one day, the baby kicked, and everything changed for her. She calls it the miracle she needed to turn things around. That’s what you need, sis. Another miracle.” Hot tears were stinging my eyes because somewhere very deep down, I wanted a miracle like that. People called it a miracle that I was pregnant at all, and that’s what crushed the idea.

“I think I’m all out of miracles, Fej.” Just like Will had done, my older sister pulled me into her arms, and even rocked me a little.

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“You don’t know that. People aren’t limited to one miracle a lifetime, and this baby is obviously meant to be!” Not too sure what she meant, I looked at her, trying to figure it out from her expression. She was blurred, and I didn’t see anything. “Well, just consider what we know. The chance of you conceiving was less than 0,01 percent, but here we are. Your baby isn’t an accident, Oracle, because accidents are likely to happen. This pregnancy was highly unlikely, but it happened anyway. Who knows what you child is destined to become?”

“I didn’t know you were so spiritual.” Every word took a huge amount of effort, and I wasn’t sure if what I had said was understandable at all, but Fej smiled.

“I’m not, but you have to admit this baby is special. You know, more special than others.”

For a moment, I felt something. Like my heart was trying to put its pieces back together. It didn’t last long enough for me to hold on to it, however, and before I knew it the pieces fell back onto the heap with all the other little shards.

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After that, things got worse. I constantly felt like something was pulling on my heart strings, but I had no idea what it was or what to do about it. My skin was crawling, like one hundred little bugs were crawling all over it. I had never been one of those girls who screamed at the sight of a beetle, or who froze whenever they saw a spider, and I still wasn’t, but the feeling was unsettling.

Gardening made it worse. The soil that was sticking to my skin made me nervous, and my heart rate increased every time I had mud clinging to me. I often panicked when I felt it, and sometimes scratched so hard to get it of my skin that I bled slightly. I showered more often, sometimes three times a day.

Fej’s words made me feel more guilty than ever, but I still couldn’t do anything about it. What if my child was destined to be the leader of a united world? What if my child was to be the first person to make contact with aliens, and bring peace to two or more planets?

What if I ruined all these changes by behaving the way I did? Instead of being that miracle Fej had been talking about, these thoughts were the reason for my nerves going wild. The reason why my skin was crawling.

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I tried to get myself more excited by standing in the room we had chosen as the nursery, before Finn had even known that he would be going abroad. I tried to think how I could decorate it, what wallpaper to chose and what toys my baby would like. I asked Mum to help me think of ideas, and while she got excited about it nothing happened for me. I was still numb, and I still didn’t know how to feel. Every day my guilt increased, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Until I finally let it all out one day. My parents weren’t home, and I was in my garden. The feeling became so bad that I couldn’t take it any more, so I screamed.

I stood in my garden, and screamed. My outburst only lasted a few seconds, but when my voice finally left me I broke down, and the tears replaced the noise. My nerves calmed down, all that was left were more tears and the same emptiness as before.

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I felt more exhausted than before, which allowed me to sleep at night, but every morning I woke up feeling more of the same. The months passed me by, and my belly grew larger.

I felt my baby kick for the first time, and nothing changed.

I was five months pregnant, and I still didn’t know what to feel.

4.20

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Three months had passed since Finn had left for Egypt, and I was still feeling sick.

Or actually, I was still being sick. At any time during the day, and most mornings. In fact, so far there hadn’t been many mornings when I hadn’t woken up to a strong sudden wave of nausea, followed by a rushed sprint to the toilet which I was sadly getting used to.

I knew Mum and Dad were getting worried, and I couldn’t really blame them because I was starting to get worried myself. Months ago, when this had first started, I had assumed it was just a stomach bug, but a simple flu wouldn’t be going on this long. Or at least I had never heard of one that did.

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“Sweetheart, your Dad and I are worried about you.” Mum said to me one day after I had come inside from my garden. Since Finn had left I hadn’t been able to put in as much effort as I should, which I partly blamed on this annoyingly persistent cold. I was getting tired quickly through the constant kneeling and raising my arms when harvesting trees, and it only took so long until I was hurting all over from the work involved.

I knew that if I didn’t get better soon my garden would suffer from it, and since it was my source of income that was a big risk. Soon it would be our only source of income, since Dad was getting close to retirement and Mum wasn’t travelling around town as much any more as she used to for her profession. She was still taking photos, and I couldn’t imagine her doing anything else, but I thought that eventually she’d be too tired for it. Either way, soon enough my garden would be the only thing paying our bills, which however didn’t help me feel any stronger while pulling weeds.

She hadn’t said it yet, but I had a feeling what was coming next. I didn’t want to hear it, though. Ever since Doctor Lychee had given me the news, I had avoided that place like the plague. Just the thought of going back there made me shiver.

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“Hmh.” I didn’t really want to talk about it. Mum deserved more than that, especially after everything they had done for me since, well- Since that day. But I didn’t know what to say. There was nothing to say, really, I just wanted to get on with things and maybe lie down for a while.

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“Oracle, look at me.” I had tried to walk past her after my awful response, but Mum wasn’t someone you ignored that easily. She did sound sympathetic, and I couldn’t deny that she and Dad had been a huge help to me, so, almost against my will, I stopped dead in my tracks. “Promise me you’ll see a doctor. It’s not normal to be throwing up this often, sweetheart. We know we can’t expect you to be happy until Finn returns home, but we want you to be healthy.”

“I don’t want to go back there.” My voice sounded tiny, almost silent. How Mum heard me at all was beyond me.

“I know, that’s why I’m coming with you. I’ll make the appointment for you, too, just promise me you’ll go.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t really argue with her, most of all because I was growing concerned, too. Mum was right, it wasn’t normal to be sick this long, I just didn’t want to receive even more bad news. The amount I had received over the last year was enough to last me a life time.

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Somehow, Mum had managed to secure an appointment for that very same evening. The waiting room was full of sniffling and coughing patients when we arrived, so I prepared myself for at least half an hour of waiting.

Behind the desk sat the same secretary we had spoken to on my last visit to this surgery, which made me feel even more sick. The building alone reminded me of everything I wanted to forget, but seeing her face made things worse. Of course, Mum had made the appointment with Doctor Lychee, so it couldn’t really be avoided. I had just hoped that I could reduce the effect a little, but I saw now that this wasn’t possible.

“Ah, Mrs. Lace! Give me a moment while I find out if the doctor is ready for you.” Her voice was as chirpy and sympathetic as before, her eyes as warming and comforting as the last time I had been here.

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She gave me and Mum a quick smile before searching her computer for the information she wanted. I knew it was supposed to make me feel better, but it made me feel nervous instead. It was the sympathy in her eyes that made my head spin. What if this wasn’t just a cold? What if I was actually really ill? All those possibilities filled my head as we waited for her to continue.

Things had gone downhill so fast over the last year. Now Finn was missing abroad, maybe worse. Was it possible that all our luck had run out? Maybe this was the price we had to pay for our perfect start. He had died alone without me, and now it was my-

“You’re timing is brilliant” The secretary’s lovely voice pulled me out of my thoughts, making my head jerk up. It was only now that I realised that Mum had been holding my hand, because she squeezed it encouragingly. “Doctor Lychee has only just finished his last appointment ten minutes ago, and is now ready to receive you. His office is the last door on the right.”

“Thank you” Mum replied, gently pulling me with her as she started walking down the corridor.

There were so many thoughts in my head, so many possibilities, that I could feel my head spin once more. It was weird, but I had actually gotten used to being dizzy. And still I was grateful for my Mum leading me, holding my hand like I was a little child again.

Doctor Lychee gave us a warm smile as we entered his office. The door had been open this time, having been left open by his last patient.

“Please, take a seat.” We did as he said, which forced my Mum to let go of my hand. I could feel that she did so unwillingly, and was surprised to realise how much I wanted her to take my hand again. In that moment, I felt lost without her even though she was right there next to me. The gap between us seemed insanely wide.

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“What brings you to me today?” His voice was soothing and smooth – trained by many years of comforting his patients. I hated what it did to me as I felt tears welling up inside me. I didn’t want to cry, but he was good at what he did. It took a lot of effort to stay calm, which in turn tired me out quickly.

“My daughter has been unwell for the past three months. At first we thought it was because her husband went abroad and she was worried, but she’s still sick every morning and sometimes throughout the day, too. She has occasional headaches, as well, and she has body aches.” I was grateful that Mum did the talking. None of this I wanted to explain, let alone think about so I simply smiled at him, knowing it looked insincere.

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“I have heard about your husband” Doctor Lychee said addressing me. “I’m very sorry, this must be difficult for you.”

I did my best to nod and force out a few words. “It is.”

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“Is it possible that she just suffers from a persistent cold?”

“Under different circumstances I would say yes, but how long did you say this has been going on? Three months?” Mum nodded. “I see. I have my suspicions, Mrs. Lace, but I would like to perform a few simple tests to make sure.”

I nodded my agreement, willing this appointment to be over so I knew what was wrong with me, and so I could go home and lie down.

Patiently, I let him take my blood pressure, a sample of my blood, and even filled a urine sample for him. I was aware that he was questioning Mum while I was in the bathroom, but I didn’t know what about. I felt like they were talking behind my back, but at the same time I was too tired to care.

“If you’re happy to stick around for a little while I can analyse your samples right now. Otherwise, I will phone you up myself first thing tomorrow morning.”

“No, we will wait. Thank you.” He nodded, and left the room with my samples.

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“We were throwing some ideas around while you were in the bathroom, sweetheart.”

“I had a feeling you were.” My eyes instinctively turned to Mum, who was looking rather concerned at me. “So, what did you conclude?” I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to hear this, but she was obviously itching to tell me.

“Nothing definite. Sweetheart, we think it’s possible that you’re pregnant.”

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“No.” Suddenly I felt a burst of energy. A need to defend myself. A need to point out just how ridiculous that sounded.

“I know it sounds unlikely, but please consider the possibilit-”

“There is no possibility, Mum! Finn and I have been trying to get pregnant for a year with no result! We didn’t even try for a week before he left!” It just couldn’t be. There were enough other things that could be wrong with me, pregnancy was not an option. Not now.

“I know, but please just think about it. You wouldn’t be showing until the third month, so you’d only just be starting to show now.”

“And my morning sickness? I’ve been sick all hours of the day, never mind that it doesn’t even start until the third month.” I had done a fair bit of reading over the last year. Me being pregnant just wasn’t possible. Not with my symptoms, they would have started far too early.

Mum didn’t have an answer to that. She was just clinging to a happy outcome, but for me it wasn’t much better than-

My thoughts were interrupted by Doctor Lychee coming back and closing the door behind him.

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“That was quick” Mum said, worry heavy in her voice.

“I had an idea what to search for” he smiled, sitting down without taking his eyes of us.

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“Before I give you the result I would like to clear a few things up.” I didn’t like the sound of that, and I could tell from the way my Mum shifted in her seat that she didn’t, either. “Our procedures are good, and in most cases they are accurate, but in this particular case I want to be one hundred percent sure before giving you an answer.” Both of us nodded. My heart was racing in my chest, but I wasn’t sure what exactly it was I was hoping for. Could there be a good outcome to this?

“Oracle, I understand you have been deeply concerned since your husband has gone abroad.” What kind of question was that? Why wouldn’t I have been? My expression apparently said everything he needed to know, because he continued without needing a vocal answer from me. “You have to understand that this is not how these things normally go. Given the circumstances, however, it is to be expected that your body reacts differently.”

“Differently to what?” Mum reached over the gap to squeeze my hand again.

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“Since I’m the one who gave you the bad news last time you were here I’m delighted to give you some good news now.” He looked very proud as a broad smile spread on his face. “Congratulations. You’re pregnant.”

And just what was so brilliant about that?

 

4.19

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“It’s not fair, Mum! It’s not fair!” I knew that I sounded like a child, but I didn’t know what else to say. What else was there to say? Finn was missing in a war zone. Everything I had ever been afraid off had come true.

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“I know, sweetheart. There, now, everything will be alright.” She meant well, I knew that, but there were no words that could have comforted me. The only thing I wanted in that moment was for Finn to come through the door and hold me, but that was not going to happen. Maybe never again, but I wasn’t ready to face that possibility just yet.

“How can everything be alright? My husband is missing in a warzone!” I wanted to scream, but my voice wouldn’t co-operate. Between my sobs and sniffling I sounded more desperate than anything.

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“That doesn’t mean he’s beyond hope. Someone will find him, sweetheart, just you see.” Dad’s soothing words worked a miracle on me. My own caught in my throat, and it hurt to swallow, but listening to both their efforts helped me compose myself. Only on the outside, but it was a start.

“What if the enemy finds him?” I did not want to think about it, but my mind continuously tried convincing me that he might as well be dead. And who knew? Maybe he was in such a bad state that death would be the kinder option. Maybe he was hurt so badly he- My tears were falling freely again, leaving hot wet streaks all over my face.

“Finn is a smart man, Oracle, and he is strong. I know it looks bad, but it’s too early to give up on him.”

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In my heart I knew my parents were right, but my head told me to grieve. “I don’t understand! He told me himself that they were safe there! They were nowhere near the actual war front!”

“How about this?” I opened my eyes just long enough to see Dad exchange glances with Mum. Having them open stung, though, so I quickly closed them again. “Tomorrow we drive down to the military offices and ask for answers. That’s where his boss is positioned, right?” Slowly, I nodded.

“We’ll come with you, and we’ll make sure he explains himself. What do you say?”

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It hurt to speak, so I nodded. There was still a lump in my throat, a result of three hours of constant crying and screaming, but I agreed.

That night I hardly got any sleep. Mum had offered to sleep in my room so I wouldn’t be alone, but I needed time to myself. I had hoped to clear my head, see things more clearly, maybe realise I had missed something, but instead I ended up crying myself to sleep around four in the morning.

I felt like a robot in the morning. Mum insisted I eat breakfast, but I wasn’t hungry. I felt like my energy was slowly draining out of me. By the time we got into the car I slumped into the backseat, leaning against the window because I didn’t have to hold myself up that way.

Ever since I had found out that I couldn’t get pregnant unless some miracle made an exception for us I had been fighting. I thought that maybe, it was time to stop being strong.

I had never been to the military offices before, but I knew where they were. Finn had pointed them out to me, and we had the address and phone number written down for moments less tragic than this.

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It was a cold building, with a strange atmosphere to it. A couple of other people were patiently waiting in the seating area when we arrived, all of them staring either at the wall or their feet looking every bit as uncomfortable as I felt. I wasn’t sure whether it was my mind playing tricks on me, but it was easy to imagine that they didn’t want to be there, either.

“Excuse me, we’d like to speak to General Harvest, please.” Mum started, making the secretary look up at us from her desk.

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“Do you have an appointment?”

“No.” I was grateful that my parents did the talking, especially since I had a feeling what was coming next.

“What does this concern?”

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“My husband- He-” Dad squeezed my hand, signalling me to leave it to them. I was more than happy to oblige.

“Our daughter’s husband was lost in action in the south of Egypt. They had been assured that they wouldn’t need to join the fight and were supposed to come home next week.”

“We just want to know what changed.” My Mum added, shifting a little closer to me.

“I feel for you, but I can’t just squeeze you in. The people you see waiting behind you all have appointments with the General. Important appointments.”

“This is important, too. How would you feel if you were in our daughter’s place?” I didn’t think it’d work, but she looked at all of us in turn as if considering what to do, and brought her attention back to her computer with a concentrated frown on her face.

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“I’ll see what I can do.” It felt like several minutes passed while she was typing away on her computer, not looking up once. Her face went from a frown to a smile to indifference, and back to her original frown as she was staring at the screen.

“Take the lift down to B2, it’s the door ahead of you as you come out. And make it quick, I don’t want to lose my job because of you.” She said that last word like we were nothing, and I supposed compared to the other guests we were, but she could have-

It didn’t matter. The only thing I really cared about in that moment was getting an answer. Maybe it had been a mistake, a mix-up, and Finn was fine? I nodded and my parents said thank you, sending apologetic glances to the other guests as we waited for the lift.

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The downstairs was even colder than the entrance had been. The room was plain, one potted plant the only decoration around. There were three doors, all of them just as plain and uninviting as the room they were connecting.

I had a bad feeling in my stomach as we approached the door, but there was no going back now. A slight breeze filled the air around me, even though I couldn’t see any air conditioners anywhere. It felt odd, almost unreal, and while I knew that it was supposed to help me it made me feel a lot worse.

With my breath held and my parents behind me like bodyguards, I knocked on the door across the room. He didn’t reply immediately. Just as I was about to knock again (who knew just how thick these doors were?) we heard a muffled Come in from the other side.

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Considering how heavy these doors looked they opened surprisingly easily.

Finn’s boss’s room was so different to the rest of the building that I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It wasn’t cold or uninviting but warm, thanks to the wooden panels and thick carpet. There were some weapons on the walls which nearly ruined the atmosphere, but the bookshelves and dark furniture made up for it.

It could have been cosy had it not been for the man sitting behind the desk. General Harvest looked seasoned, rough – like someone who had seen things twenty years ago which still haunted his dreams now.

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“Have a seat.” His deep voice left no room for refusing. Something he had gained from years of giving orders, no doubt, but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t one of his soldiers he could command however he wanted. I was a guest, and given the situation this wasn’t the best time for him to order me around. Immediately, I felt defensive.

However, my legs were shaking, and I was feeling a little light headed, so I sat down on one of the two empty seats. My parents immediately stood behind me, Dad on my left and Mum on my right. When they had suggested to come with me I hadn’t been sure what to think at first. I wanted to be strong enough to go on my own, I was a grown woman after all. But sitting in his office now feeling the way I did I was glad they were there. They were the extra bit of support I needed to demand an explanation.

“I understand you’re the wife of one of my soldiers?”

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“I am, and I want answers!” My blood was boiling since we had entered his office. There was something about General Harvest that made me angry – I knew it was because I felt betrayed and cheated, but I couldn’t restrain myself. I had come for an explanation and I wasn’t going to leave without one.

“Is that so?” He didn’t sound amused in the slightest. His face was straight but serious, and he sounded deeply annoyed with me. Like I had ruined his day.

“Yes, it is so. General Harvest, my husband and I spoke nearly every evening. I know for a fact that his base was not the most likely one to join the fight! Only yesterday I got a letter from him telling me he was supposed to come home next w-” The general put his hands up, effectively silencing me with this small gesture.

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“Now, now, get a hold of yourself! Do you have any idea who you are talking to? You don’t get to waltz in here, Mrs. Lace, and point your finger at me, throwing around accusations!”

“I know very well who you are, and I hardly waltzed in here! I knocked, and waited for you to invite us inside but if you want me to be more rude I can be, because trust me I’m mad about what happened!” Hot tears were stinging in my eyes, but I was not going to cry while he could see me. For five minutes I had known this man now, and Berry I hated him. The last person I had felt this angry with had  ended up being punched, but even in my current state I knew it’d be a bad idea to punch the General of our military base.

“How dare you! Lessen your voice, or I will have you escorted from this building immediately! Show some manners, girl!”

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“Do not talk to my daughter in this way.” I had never seen my Mum so angry. Or rather, I had never heard her this angry, since I still didn’t really see her. I could, however, sense her shift behind me, and I noticed the tension in the air radiating from both my parents. “Her husband is lost in action even though he should be on his way home. We were assured everything would be alright. She deserves an explanation, General.” I gained all new respect for my Mum. Who knew she could be this terrifying? I had no idea who she had it from, but I wanted to meet him or her.

General Harvest looked at each of us in turn, and sighed.

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He didn’t sound too happy when he spoke. “What you want is information I’m not allowed to give you. I’m sorry.”

“Do you know what happened?” My Dad sounded every bit as frightening as my Mum, giving me new confidence.

“Of course I do! It’s my job to know!”

“Then tell her. If it’s secrecy you want, we can give you that. The information won’t leave this room until it’s made official, but tell her.

The general looked oddly defeated, and absolutely mad, but eventually he gave in. “Things kicked off suddenly. Before we knew it two bases had disappeared from our radar, another two had caught fire and it was pure chaos. There were armed locals scattered around the desert weeks ago, but they were simply passing through and no one thought they were a thread until the first building had exploded. We-”

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I knew it was a bad idea, but I was done sitting quietly in front of his desk, listening to this rubbish. Enraged, I jumped out of my seat, ready to punch him after all.

“There were armed locals walking around the camps, and you didn’t think they could potentially be dangerous?”

“Of course we didn’t! Not every Egyptian is a soldier or a spy, Mrs. Lace! They were armed because it is a war zone, or have you forgotten that? They need to protect themselves in the likely event of an attack!”

“Were the camps informed when these people were spotted?” Mum asked.

“Of course not! We can’t inform them of every peasant who walks through the desert! These people live there, after all! News like that makes the soldiers nervous and the recruits itch. It makes them lose focus. We can’t risk that every time someone walks past to visit their family!”

“IT’S YOUR FAULT MY HUSBAND IS MISSING!” I knew I was shouting, but I couldn’t stop. Never before had I been this mad, the whole room was spinning.

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“HE COULD BE DEAD BECAUSE OF YOU!” He had gotten up, too, which showed off his muscular stature but I wasn’t threatened. Everything happened like in a very bad dream as I continued to shout at the head of this military station.

Behind me I could feel my parents move closer to me, but all I saw was him looking shocked and maybe even a little scared. No doubt he thought I had gone completely insane.

“Mrs. Lace, if you don’t calm down immediately I will have to call my bodyguar-”

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A sudden, unusually strong wave of nausea washed over me. “Hold that thought.”

I barely made it outside his office before I threw up into the plant.