Chapter IV: Stoneheart

“Are you sure you are alright to go back?” Mel shifted her weight to put her hands on her large waist.  “Yer Mum is going to worry.  She’ll think I’ve been beatin’ ye.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Mel, I’ll be ok,  I promise,” Lucy smiled.

“What on God’s earth happened?”

” I was just having a silly girl’s moment.  It won’t happen again, trust me, I’ve embarrassed myself enough.”

Mel frowned at her young wet assistant.  “Alright. So long as you’ll be okay. Next time you come back teary-eyed and drenched I expect ‘n explanation! Lucy had earned a place in the hardy woman’s heart.

“I promise.  I’ll see you in a few days.”

“Goodnigh’, Lucy.”

The bell at the front of the bakery chimed as the small youth disappeared into the night.  The rain had ceased sometime during Lucy’s shift, leaving the city damp but clear.  While the sun hadn’t made an appearance since, the moon refused to miss its chance.  The stars, meanwhile, danced faintly against the navy sky – though at times it was hard to see with the candles and gas lamps flickering across the city.

Lucy kicked at the mud as drunk men howled in the pubs.  She had learned to avoid their gazes at this time of night, afraid of what they might do once their cups were empty. Meanwhile, various carriages and cabs rushed to flats and theatres as the wealthy touched further avenues of their pocketbooks.  She was sure Adrian must be at his show even now.

When she arrived back on Pinacerney Circle, the streets were buzzing with returning fathers and sons as young women waved goodbye to their groups of ladies so they could join their families for a later dinner.  Lucy stood outside the door to her home, struggling to collect her thoughts.  She began to rehearse various lines while men and women chuckled at her odd behavior at the seamstress’s storefront.

“Mum, we need to talk. . .No. . .”

“Mum, how was your day?  Did you know Sebastian is still alive?.  . .Gah!”

“Hey, Mum.  How come you never told me the truth?”

“Why the hell is my twin running around with a Top Hat?!. . . Bloody hell.”

Lucy groaned and began to softly knock her head desperately into the wood.  “I give up,” she sighed.  “Just calmly and peacefully ask her,” she told herself. “Yes, just. . .be patient.”

As she opened the door, Lucy called to her mother.  Instead of a greeting, the daughter was received with a terrifying hacking.

“Mum?” Lucy felt her bones chill.

It sounded as if someone’s lungs were refusing the air it dared to breathe.

“Mum?”  Fear.  Icy fear.

The cough grew more violent and a sounding splash ended the fit.

Lucy rushed into the kitchen, her face paling. “Mum!”

On the floor, her mother heaved labored breaths.  A splattering of water – from an overturned kettle – and blood covered the floor under her.  Stacy O’Rourke’s lovely long curls covered her face.

Tears fell as Lucy gently touched her Mum’s shoulder.

“Are you okay?” she asked weakly- stupidly as she knelt down.

Her mother remained silent and just shook with each dragging breath, like the hum from a fading tuning fork.

Lucy bravely took her Mum’s face within her hands. Turning. Turning her face.  Hoping she hadn’t been this naive.  No, not now.  And as Stacy O’Rourke drew up to face her daughter, Lucy’s world lit into flames.

Grey.  Stains of grey woven, like a spider’s web, up her mother’s cheeks, the deadly disease arching up from her eyes to her crown forehead.  And then Lucy saw for the first time in her life, her Mum was crying.

“I’m so sorry, Lucy,” Stacy told her.  “I’m so sorry,” she cried taking hold of her speechless daughter.

Everything had changed. It was spiraling around Lucy, as her mind tried to stand tall in the hurricane.

In that moment – in that sliver of time – the ruby eyes of the sleeping phoenix awoke, releasing a cry deep into the night.  Her silver wings opened, and the hands of inner clock on the Clock Tower moved for the first time in over one hundred years.

©2016 E. M. Vick

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