Page 26

 Sarah Rees Brennan

  • Background:
  • Text Font:
  • Text Size:
  • Line Height:
  • Line Break Height:
  • Frame:

“I can think for myself, thanks,” Ash said.
Lillian shot him a disapproving look. “I have seen no evidence of that so far,” she observed, and swept out.
Ash and Kami exchanged looks, Ash apologetic and Kami rolling her eyes.
“Amber Green said to me that Matthew Cooper . . .” Kami hesitated, thinking of what Amber had actually said: Are you hoping to have them both? “She gave me the clue by talking about sources, and Matthew Cooper having them both. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but—could she have meant two sorcerers to a source? Is that possible?”
“No,” said Ash. “I’ve never heard of such a thing, and how would Amber know something I don’t? Look at the evidence. If Matthew had been Elinor’s source as well, she would have died too. No, I bet Amber was referring to some ancient unsavory piece of gossip about the sisters sharing. What a family,” Ash said, and Kami knew he was thinking of his father and Jared’s mother, living together in Monkshood. “I used to be proud of them,” he added. “I used to think I could never live up to them.”
“Now you get to do whatever you want,” Kami commented. She opened her book again, but she did not miss Ash’s look, which was intrigued.
The windows by the table only opened onto the Lynburn gardens, undergrowth and tree branches turned into silver snakes by winter, so Kami moved along to the arrow-slit window by the door. She saw bits and pieces, not quite cohering. Sorry-in-the-Vale’s ice-touched roofs, the dark spikes of the wood, the black spot on the landscape that was Hallow’s Field. The snow would not settle there, as if the ground was still burning. Lillian’s fair head, traveling down the road from Aurimere.
Kami paused for a moment and hoped, so fiercely it was like a prayer, that no matter how annoying Lillian might be, she was right, and that she could handle this.
Then, because Lillian might be wrong, Kami returned to her research.
* * *
That evening Kami detoured on her way back home to walk up the High Street and visit the statue of Matthew Cooper. She stood in the street at the foot of the pedestal and really looked at him. The statue had been there all her life, about as remarkable as one of the cobblestones, until now. It was so very old, the name and the dates blurred like the old gravestones in the little graveyard by the church.
She traced the dates now with her finger, the stone hard yet almost crumbly under her fingertips, like fossilized bread. As she knew the date of his death for certain, 1485, she could make out the date of his birth: 1466. He had been nineteen when he died.
If Matthew had been a source, he must have chosen it as he had chosen his wife—as they had chosen each other.
How could anyone be linked like that and betray each other? Kami could not imagine that what Amber had implied was true.
She stood looking up into the statue’s almost-lost face and wondered if he had loved her, his magical wife from the house high above the town. Had he not been able to help loving her because of the link, and was that really love? How had it been, when she changed from being a magical otherworldly stranger to being the very center of his heart? Kami had only experienced it the other way around, from having to losing.
How did stopping loving someone even work? It happened to other people, Kami knew, and thought of her parents. Her mother was spending so much time out of the house with the sorcerers that Kami had barely seen and hardly spoken to her. Her father was still sleeping in his office.
Maybe Matthew had never found out what it was like to stop loving someone any more than Kami had.
Maybe love lasted forever if you died young.
Kami’s morbid train of thought was derailed by seeing Lillian Lynburn walking down the street with a stranger who could only be another sorcerer. He was a tall thin man, dressed all in gray. Kami ducked behind the statue of Matthew Cooper, and concealed by his shadow she watched where Lillian and the man went, seeing them part and him turn up Shadowchurch Lane.
He went up to the Kenns’ house, and she saw him stop and take a key out of his pocket.
So he’s living there, Kami thought, and not at Monkshood. Kami remembered Amber Green, and wondered exactly how many sorcerers on Rob Lynburn’s side were not really comfortable being around him. She also wondered what Lillian was doing in the company of someone who was obviously one of Rob’s sorcerers.
Lillian looked from left to right, hesitating in the shadow of the church, and then ran, her footsteps hurried and faltering, under the horseshoe shape of the stone entrance to the church grounds. Kami noticed the way she ran, and that her red lipstick was ever so slightly blurred, a tendril of her pinned-up hair coming loose around her ear.
Someone else opened the door of the church, and though the vestibule of the church was dark, Kami saw a glint of black and red tiles, and blond hair. The two golden-haired women drew closer in that shadowy space, with their bright heads bowed and their hands clasping.
The woman waiting in the church was the real Lillian Lynburn, and the woman coming to her was Rosalind, dressed up to look like her sister, Kami realized. Kami was certain Lillian had not mentioned being in contact with Rosalind to anyone.
“You don’t understand why you have to give in,” she heard Rosalind say, softly. “You don’t know what he’s really planning.”
“Hush,” said Lillian, who was predictably awful at whispering. “You don’t know who’s listening.”
Kami’s plan had been to stand hidden and eavesdrop at the church gate, but the sound and sight of the sisters was shut away as the door closed. Kami moved forward, and then she stood in the graveyard and stared transfixed, forgetting all about sorcerers and their secrets.
The wide white stone with the kanji inscribed on it always caught Kami’s eye. Now she noticed it even more than usual, because she saw a man in jeans and a black sweater in front of it. He had one arm propped up against the stone, and with his free hand he was hitting the top.
The graveyard in Sorry-in-the-Vale was as small as the church. Not a lot of people were buried there nowadays, but Dad had insisted that Sobo be buried close to where they lived, close enough so Kami and her brothers would see where she rested every day and sometimes say “Hello, obaasan” under their breath as they passed. “Born Shinto, marry Christian, die Buddhist,” Sobo used to say when she refused to go to church at Easter. They hadn’t had a Buddhist funeral, but Dad had seen to it that Sobo was cremated. They had put her name in kanji on the gravestone because even though they wanted her there, close, like she’d always been, they had not wanted her to seem like just anyone. Of course, the man at Sobo’s grave was her father. But he wasn’t standing or moving like Dad, and his voice was different.
He was speaking in a furious torrent of Japanese. He and Sobo had occasionally broken out in Japanese to each other when she was alive, and Kami had heard Dad whisper a few sentences of it now and then when they visited the grave together. It had been their private language: Mum and Dad had been young and frantic when Kami was born, too busy to know how to raise her bilingual without excluding Mum in her own home, and nobody had wanted Tomo and Ten to have advantages Kami didn’t.
Only Dad spoke it now. Kami knew a few words, but not enough to make out this torrent of furious pain. She found herself trembling as she watched him: he sounded like a scared kid having a tantrum because he could not get his mother’s attention.
Kami put her arms around herself and felt her body shaking. Dad hunched over the gravestone and Kami lifted her hand to her mouth, physically silenced herself, as she listened to the raw sound of her father sobbing.
He’d tried so hard not to let them see this. Kami wanted to go to him, but she was scared of him. She didn’t want him to be like this, unknowable and terrifying.
Kami did not really realize she was retreating until her hand was on the gate of the churchyard. Then she lifted the latch and saw something that she had never noticed before: the iron was shaped like a small hand, and to close the latch you dropped it into another little hand fixed into the wall.
Kami closed the gate behind her, the two metal hands meeting again, and started down the lane, around the corner. Then she was running up the High Street until she reached the black door of the Water Rising.
She pushed open the door. Inside the pub it was dim and cool. Jared was pushing a pint across the bar to old Mr. Stearn, whose grizzled bull terrier was sitting patiently by his stool, head drooping in much the same attitude as his owner’s.
Jared looked up from the bar and caught sight of her. His whole face used to change when he saw her, as distinctly as the difference between a landscape with light on it and one in shadow. But not now.
“Martha, I’m taking a break,” he said.
Martha, sitting at the other side of the bar reading a book, just nodded. Kami recognized the look she bent on Jared, and noted that in the time Jared had been here, somehow the Wrights had moved from fear to tolerant affection for the crazy.
He did that somehow, Kami thought disconsolately, moved in and before you knew it you had moved from a place of “Dear God, I do not even know what is happening” to not wanting it to stop.
She looked around at Martha, and Mr. Stearn and his bull terrier, who fixed her with identical bleary stares. She wanted to scream because her father was breaking his heart in the churchyard.
But that was the thing Sorry-in-the-Vale was founded on: people would let tragedies rain down all around them, and continue with their own lives, refusing to notice.
Kami could not help wondering what most of the people in Sorry-in-the-Vale thought of sorcerers. They must seem absolutely fearsome, their powers unimaginable, like gods. They must seem like a threat that simply could not be faced. It almost made sense that everyone wanted to leave the war among the sorcerers to the sorcerers, and that they were all trying so desperately to pretend they could go on with their ordinary lives.
Nobody seemed to have noticed that Kami was upset, which made her think that perhaps she did not look as if she was falling entirely to pieces. That was good. She had to keep it together, keep everything under control. She stood with her hands in her jeans pockets so nobody would see them shaking, and Jared snagged his jacket from a hook by the door, reached in her direction, and hesitated: she thought he’d been going for her hand, but he tugged at her belt loop instead. Then he looked down at her, their eyes catching. Dismay passed over his face as he obviously realized that the belt-loop thing was perhaps not the casual move he had planned.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he said, and stepped away to hold open the door for her.
Kami went out into the street. She did not head back down toward the shops of the High Street, but up to where the street tapered into fields and the occasional residential house, gardens billowing out about them like women curtsying in green gowns. There was ice on the ground, lining the wood fences with white, silvering the grass and casting a pale shimmer over everything in sight. It wasn’t quite evening yet, the sky the dark solid blue of a dying afternoon, but it was cold.
Kami walked alongside Jared, hands still in her pockets, staring at the ice-touched gold of the pavement. Her throat was aching. It had been dumb to run to him. Jared cleared his own throat, and she looked up to see him watching her.
“Something’s wrong,” he said at last. “You have to tell me what it is. I can’t read your mind anymore.”
Kami tried to laugh. It came out a little uneven. “I would have thought that was the upside to not being linked. You don’t have to hurt when I do anymore.” Kami crossed her arms under her br**sts, trying to create some defense against the chill wind.
“I still do,” Jared said, his voice low. “I just don’t know why.”
“I don’t know how to talk about stuff like this. I want people to think I can handle myself,” Kami told him. “I don’t mind anyone thinking I’m crazy, I never did. I just don’t want people to think I’m helpless. I want to be the one with the answers.”