Having no excuse to put it off further, and since my cover designer (yes I have one) needs it in order to design the cover of my book, I’ve finally found a title for the first tome of the Glimmerlands trilogy! The title will be Wingroots. I hope I don’t regret this.
Unseemly as it was for a young lady of marriageable age to prefer books to people, having a writer for a father gave Darcy certain privileges that others of her sex and status did not have. Thus it was that instead of being stuck in the sewing room practising her embroidery, that particular Monday afternoon found Darcy curled up on the nursery window ledge, reading from a book of fairy tales. These newly translated Grimm tales had been a present for her birthday yesterday, and she had been looking forward to being able to read them.
She hadn’t gotten very far, however, when movement in the garden below caught her eye. The nursery was in the top half of an old water mill bordering a stream, which was connected to the main house by a covered bridge constructed by her grandfather. The nursery window had a good view of the kitchen garden, so Darcy could quite clearly tell that the dishevelled figure pulling out all the lavender was her mother.
She was across the bridge and down the main stairs in a matter of seconds. Ignoring the pain in her feet from landing badly – she’d done quite a lot of growing since she’d last been caned for jumping the bannister – she burst into the kitchen and darted outside past the startled cook.
Leah looked up, startled. Had there been that much silver in her hair last night? Darcy realised she hadn’t seen her mother in the light for day in over a year.
“Who are you?” Leah tried to stand, but tripped on her nightgown. The stains were painfully clear in daylight, too. “Where’s my daughter?”
“Mama, I am your daughter. It’s me, Darcy.” Darcy tried to smile, but she knew she must look nervous.
“You glamour-fiend!” Leah shouted. “What have you done to my daughter?”
“Nothing! I’m fine! Mama please…” This was the third time Leah had refused to recognize her. She couldn’t say she was used to it yet. “Come inside. Shall I get you some chamomile tea?” She glanced into the kitchen. Cook was hovering nearby, uncertain what to do. Catching Darcy’s eye, she nodded and fetched the kettle.
“Don’t! Not the chamomile! They’ll come after you if you take any!” Leah tried to stand again. Darcy approached slowly, the way she would a skittish colt.
“Mama, it’s alright. This chamomile’s ours, we grew it ourselves. Nobody’s taken it from anybody.” She helped her mother to her feet. She’s so thin…
“Is that you, Darcy?”
Darcy smiled tentatively, and her mother smiled back. For a moment she looked almost normal. Then she saw the lavender and gasped. “Who did this?”
Darcy sighed. “You did, Mama.”
“I most certainly did not! Who do you think you’re accusing, girly?” She jabbed Darcy in the ribs.
“That didn’t hurt! You always were sensitive, Kieran. Your sister would make a far better boy than you.”
Darcy gave up the idea of reasoning with her mother and helped her into the kitchen. “Mama, why can’t you walk on your own?”
“Because they’ve taken my foot, obviously,” Leah replied. Darcy glanced down. Leah’s feet were both working, she was just leaning heavily on her daughter. She frowned as she noticed something else. The door to the drawing room was closed, and she could hear voiced coming from inside. She tried to shuffle along a little faster, but it wasn’t easy with her mother hanging onto her.
“You’ve grown, child,” said Leah, looking half-sane again as they started negociating the stairs. “We’ll need to get you a few new dresses. What colour would you like?”
“Blue,” she murmured, hoping her mother might speak more quietly too.
“Oh, not blue, sweetpea,” Leah said, loud as ever. “Blue’s a sneaky colour. I’ve always loved green, myself. Is that red in your hair?”
“No, Mama, it’s still brown.”
“I can see some red. I think we can call it auburn now, don’t you?”
Leah’s room stank. Darcy undressed her mother, sponged her down and dressed her in a clean nightgown, and opened the windows wide. Cook knocked and entered as she was wondering how to change the sheets.
“I’ll do it,” Cook said. Darcy led Leah to the frayed armchair her father often slept in and handed her the tea, hoping she wouldn’t spill it. Leah continued to chatter about colours. She wished she could go and help Cook with the sheets. She should learn how to change them herself. Cook was loyal as a rock, but she suspected Anna might gossip.
Too late now, anyway, she thought. Leah was yawning. Cook must have slipped something stronger into the tea. When the sheets were changed, she helped her mother into bed. Leah fell asleep immediately.
She thanked Cook as they left the room, having locked the windows again and shutting the door firmly.
“That’s all right,” said Cook, “but I didn’t get to warn you. Miss Farrell is in the drawing room with Master Kieran.”
Darcy stopped. “Lucy Farrell? She’s the guest in the drawing room?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Darcy thought furiously. The best thing to do would be to pretend nothing was wrong. Go back to what she was doing before. What was Lucy doing here, anyway? She’d never liked Darcy much.
“Did she say why?”
“No…” said Cook.
“But you have an idea?”
“I think Miss Lucy might have taken a shine to your brother,” said Cook. “Not that you heard it from me, of course.”
Darcy groaned. “Of course. Thanks, Cook. I’m going back to my room. Or maybe I should stay with Mother? Keep an eye on her.”
“I think she’ll sleep a few hours,” said Cook confidently.
Darcy thanked her again and hurried back to the nursery. Don’t cry, you sissy. Today was a bad day, that’s all. She’ll be fine tomorrow. She hoped Lucy hadn’t heard anything. The general consensus on Donall Sullivan’s wife was that she was of a fragile disposition. The parson came round every Sunday after church to pray with her, but apart from him, the only outsider she ever saw was the doctor.
If Lucy says one word, I swear…
The front door opened and Lucy herself stormed out, her face red. Darcy could almost see the lines of tears in her make-up. Kieran followed and stood on the porch, saying something. Lucy stopped, but didn’t turn. She stood straight, wiping her face with her hankerchief, composing herself. Her mouth formed the word “no”. And she walked away.
As she advanced along the path, she looked up towards Darcy’s window. Their eyes met, and Darcy could see the pain in them. For a moment she felt sorry for her.
Then Lucy smiled, a smile full of hate. She nodded and looked away.
Oh, no, Darcy thought. We’re in trouble now…