Andrea Novis Episode 19
Copyright © 2015 by Michael Litzky
The face of Jerrold the Cold was bleak and vulnerable as he stared at the ghost of his daughter.
He trembled not because he thought she had died but because for the very first time, he saw the result of all his work on her. It was work that the writing on the ball had told him he must do but now he saw the haggard face, the staring eyes, the paleness and hopelessness.
And he saw her anger.
He was as helpless as if he had been shaken awake by the angel of death in the coldest hour of the night.
I know, his daughter had said.
He wanted to say I could not have done other than I did. But without the whispering urgings of the silver ball, he could only ask why? Why did Elemar, which I have never seen, matter more to me than the daughter of my heart? He thought of all his equations: the restoration of Elemar would provide happiness for a great number of people whereas Andrea Novis was only one person. But his facts faltered before the accusation in her eyes.
And so, unable to defend himself but unable to apologize, he only trembled, feeling the same skittering hurt in his heart that he had felt his wife had begged him for something the last time he saw her alive.
But Andrea Novis blazed words at him, and her voice was as strong and willful as if she truly stood in his chamber. “How could you? With such a man?!”
And Jerrold staggered, the secret of his life suddenly about to be spoken aloud.
Andrea Novis had said, I know, and Mystia Semlin had no need to pretend that she did not understand. She held out her arms but Andrea smiled sadly. “I very much doubt that you could touch me, Mama Mystia.”
Kathleen heard the voice faintly from where she knelt. She saw only a dim mist at the head of the bed but she recognized Andrea Novis and her thin face flushed brick red. Mystia Semlin drew her wife’s trembling body close, and said gently to Andrea, “I always wished to tell you, my little love.”
“You truly are my mother, are you not, Mama Mystia? Sandia Belin and I were not born to Jerrold and to Mardea so late in life. We were born of that arrangement between a female couple, a male couple and the Goddess, the commonly known workings of which you somehow failed ever to tell me as I grew. You are not my elder sister who had the care of us. You truly are our mother.”
Mystia’s eyes flooded with tears. “You are the child of my body, my love, and Sandia Belin was born of Kathleen.” Kathleen trembled, her jaw set bitterly. “But the way of the Goddess of the Pool is such that I may not say that I am your mother. That was the bargain: a one in four chance. If the children had been two boys or a boy and a girl, they would have been ours. But you were and are the offspring of the two men who made love that night and I cannot say otherwise.”
She sobbed with all her gentle heart as she said in a rush, “But I wish you had been mine. You are everything I could have dreamed of in a daughter. I am grateful at least to have had the raising of you.”
At that something broke in Andrea Novis. These were the words she had cried for from a parent for her whole life. “I wish I had been yours too,” she wept. “I am yours. You are my mother. The ways of the Goddess be baked to ash and stamped into the soil! You gave me life, you and Kathleen raised us, you are my mother and I love you so dearly! You would have treated me better.”
Mystia Semlin closed her eyes, treasuring the brief moment when the words stood unrepudiated. In a minute she must deny them but oh how sweet it was to hear them said. You are my mother and I love you. Knowing that she should not, she whispered, “I love thee dearly, daughter of my heart.” Beside her, Kathleen cleared her throat. “Love yeh too, Andrea.”
Mystia Semlin saw Andrea’s head jerk, as if an invisible hand slapped her and, full of guilt, forced herself to say, “But truly, thou art my sister, Andrea.”
And Andrea Novis blazed, “Did you know who the fathers were? When you agreed to have children with them?”
“Of course not!” Mystia Semlin shook. “You must remember, the couples never meet. The Goddess tells them on which night they must both make love. When you and Sandia were born, I cherished your small forms with all my heart before you disappeared. I thought never to see you again. Even when Father announced the birth of twin girls to the queen so late in life, I did not realize. For he was married, you see, and one doesn’t think such things of one’s father.”
She meant, of course, that one did not think that their father would be unfaithful to his spouse. That a man might love a man, of course, was an accepted part of the natural order. “But then Mother died and Father passed the care of you girls to his older daughters, and the day came when I held your small form in my arms again.” Her face showed the complex emotions she must have felt on that day: joy to hold the one she thought never to see again, anger at her father, confusion, shock.
At last, Mystia said simply, “Anyhow, I never knew who his lover was, though I have a guess, as you must too.”
“I do not guess, I know,” said Andrea Novis bitterly.
Markul choked over the extremity of his fear. “No!” he managed to gasp at last. “I freed you, I freed you! I brought you to the light!”
“I know,” Andrea Novis repeated in a terrible voice. “I know about your Sir Robert and my father.”
A red mark appeared on her cheek as she spoke.
Far away in Elemar, a frightened Sandia Belin slapped her sister’s face again and again.
To be continued…