Helena’s initial reaction at seeing her daughter entering the hut, had been one of relief but that quickly faded as she watched her daughters guest enter behind her.
She hadn’t slept in two days since Stephan’s death, her heart was broken and not even the worry about money, seemed to over-ride the grief as it seemed to with the boys.
Eadith her and Stephan’s youngest daughter came running up behind her wrapping her arms around her mother’s waist as she so often did around strangers.
“Gab… I mean.. Lord Hamdun” she managed to gurgle, suddenly trying to straighten her dress and brush her hair out of her face. The last time Gabriel has seen her ‘in her own home’ she’d lived in the small cottage her mother had bought her and the small mud hut she now lived in seems a far cry from even that. Dark and smoky it smells of damp and smoke while she and the children were used to it, Gabriel would not. Still he didn’t seem to pay it any heed instead he just smiled.
“How are you Helena?” he asked.
“Coping” she managed to nod though the truth of it was somewhat lacking.
“Ma I got some pear crumble” Gaelen suddenly announced entering the hut with a bowl in his hand, clearly having not paid attention to the carriage parked up outside. “Hannah made it, fer us… wasn’t that nice?” Suddenly noticing his lordship he plonked the bowl down in a shock. “Im sorry” he mumbled, I didn’t know we had company”
“Lord Hamdun… this is my eldest Gaelen” Helena introduced feeling even more ashamed than she was already.
Watching as Gaelen awkwardly wiped off his hand on his trousers before offering it to the lord, Helena cringed.
“Sorry yer lordship” Gaelen apologised.
Gabriel smiled and took his hand, “My now I feel old” he decided, “I remember this chap being born.. has it really been this long”
“He’s 14 in a few months” Helena agreed, “Almost a man”
“I am a man” Gaelen replied, indignantly.
“Well I guess you’re the man of the house now” Gabriel agreed. “So Gaelen have you found yourself a girl yet”
“Yes yer lordship… at least im trying, her pa ain’t warmed ter me yet, her names Hannah”
“The girl who made the pie” Gabriel smiled.
“Aye” Gaelen nodded, “she’s the Baeumonts nanny, but her pa thinks she can do better”
Helena watched as Gabriel peered around the hut, she didn’t need him to speak to know that in that instant his lordship was already agreeing with Hannah father.
“Well perhaps you just need a leg up” Gabriel smiled.
“Aye maybe” Gaelen agreed.
“Perhaps you should come and visit me, in the new-year perhaps I can find work for you?” Gabriel offered.
“That’s a mighty find offer your lordship” Gaelen replied, “But I don’t think lord Baeumont will let me off the estate”
Gabriel gave him a curious look and then peered over to Helena. “Indentured?” he asked.
“Yes” Helena nodded; feel even more ashamed that she already did.
“Well perhaps I can come to an arrangement with Valdermar” Gabriel decided, “Leave it with me”
“Thank you” she smiled.
“So is there anything else I can do for you?” Gabriel smiled, towards her “I know this is a difficult time for you and I’d like to help”
“I don’t think so” she replied, feeling uncomfortable. Surely less scrupulous women would have taken that offer and asked for the world and although there where things she certainly needed none of them where things she was bold enough to ask for.
“How are you for money?” he asked directly.
“Oh Gabriel no!” she gasped forgetting herself momentarily, “I mean … Lord Hamdun, I couldn’t possibly”
“Helena now is not the time for you to be stubborn” Gabriel decided, “Your husbands died, I don’t know if he left his affairs in order but certainly need help moving forward at least until Gaelen here finds his feet”
“Yes… but I couldn’t possibly” she argued, throwing her hands up in exasperation she paced towards the back of the room.
She couldn’t deal with this now. She couldn’t deal with him…. she had often wondered how it would feel to have him back in her life… but not .. not like this. Even in her grief she was wise enough to know when a man was not doing things for purely her own benefit. She remembered the way he had looked at her back at the castle, the suggestion he’d made.
“Please Helena let me help”
She couldn’t think, she closed her eyes momentarily and put her hand onto the table top to steady herself. Everything was a jumble the worry of money gnawed at her and pressure to provide for her family was great.
What would Stephan want her to do? He certainly wouldn’t want her to take up with Gabriel not two days after his death, he’d been jealous enough when she’d visited his castle to get Gayle the job but at the same time would he want to see her in streets their children starving?
“Please ma” Gayle begged “Let him help”
“I think you should too” Gaelen offered.
They were just children. They did not understand. They did not understand the history or that man rarely did things for their own benefit.
“You seem to be out numbered” Gabriel decided, “Children… go and pack some things… your coming to my castle for Christmas”
“What!… no … I can’t” Helena protested, watching as the children bounced excitedly around her.
“Helena go and pack some things” Gabriel instructed, “The decision is made”