Helena took a deep sigh trying to compose herself. What on earth was she doing?
“It’s gonna be like a holiday ma” Gayle promised.
Helena nodded, she didn’t believe it but she nodded anyway.
The whole family was in shock, none of them was dealing with Stephan’s death well, least of all her. He had been very cornerstone of the family the rock that held them together and Helena didn’t know what she would do without him.
Going to Gabriel’s was not what she wanted, it was not what Stephan would have wanted, but she was doing it because she needed the help and Gabriel seemed willing to give it. 14 long years had gone by and the nobleman still clearly held feelings for her. What did that mean? Had he truly loved her that much?
She couldn’t think about it now. Now she needed to deal with her husband’s death, she needed to mourn and miss him get used to his absence. “what about the rent?” she complained, “I can’t be away all Christmas I have job, the boys have jobs we can’t just leave”
“Ma!” Gayle exclaimed, “Lord Hamdun said he’d speak with his lordship, he said he’d sort it out don’t worry”
“I can’t have Lord Hamdun paying our rent, what will people think”
“Who’s gonna tell them?” Gayle reasoned.
“It’s not fair on Lord Hamdun”
“Ma now yer bein ridiculous, Lord Hamdun has got a boat load of money and enough to spare our rent for a few weeks”
“It’s not the point Gayle!” Helena snapped, “Men don’t do things for free”
“Pa would have!” Gayle whimpered, “Member when he paid Vui’s rent, when her husband died summer before last… he didn’t ask for anything in return”
“She was a neighbour it’s different” Helena reasoned, knowing her daughter was far too innocent to understand that what her father had done then was totally different to what Gabriel was doing now.
“Lord Hamdun’s a kind man, he’s had a hard time …. He’ll be alone this Christmas and im bettin after all that happened to him this year he ain’t looking forward to spending Christmas mopin over what could have been, any more than we are”
“I suppose” Helena agreed, this was the first year Gabriel had spent alone as well. Still of all the people he could have invited to spend it with him. Why her?
“Mam I know you miss Pa, we all miss him but so what if Lord Hamduns got a torch for you… if it helps us what does it matter? He can help us, he said he’d help the boys get better jobs … help us get on our feet. Please ma just… play along”
Helena nodded, perhaps her daughter understood more than she was letting on after all. “What do you think?” she asked peering over to where her eldest son sat.
“I dunno ma” Gaelen replied, “I don’t see no harm in it…. He’s just bein friendly thou isn’t he?” her son asked pleadingly.
No she wanted to scream, no he wasn’t just being friendly, this wasn’t an innocent trip to a castle there would be expectations, demands he wasn’t a bad man, but he clearly saw this as an opportunity.
“I hope so Gaelen, I hope so” she murmured.
Older and a little wiser than his sister Gaelen gave her an odd sort of look “How friendly where you with his lordship when you were younger?” he asked cautiously.
“Very friendly” she admitted, turning away from him. This was not a conversation she wanted or needed now.
“As friendly as I am with Hannah?” he asked.
“I hope you aren’t that friendly” Helena snapped all too sharply. “Cause I dare say if you are im not sure who you should fear most, her father or me”
“Oh….. “ he nodded seeming to understand. “That friendly…… was it before Pa?”
“Yes Gaelen of course it was” she retorted.
“Yes plenty before… “ She agreed, feeling her nerves shatter. “What are you suddenly worried you’re the bastard son of a lord?”
“Am I?” he asked though it was clear by the look on his face, that had not been a consideration.
“Not unless I had the longest pregnancy in the history of man” she growled, “What is this… some sort of trial, judge me all you want boy but god be damned, I was faithful to your father”
It was more than Stephan could of said. She knew he’d occasionally whored, it had been a rarity that money had allowed it but whenever he got a nice tip or a small bonus she knew he slipped over to the whorehouse.
In some ways it had hurt her but she’d never really blamed him, her mother had taught her early on when values of man and she couldn’t blame him, when in recent years she’d been less than welcoming in that department.
The truth was she was tired, she felt old. Too old for more children screaming around the place, to old to bring more life into the world without thought as to how they would feed it. She didn’t reject him completely, but she hadn’t been as willing as she had been in their early years.
“I never said you weren’t” Gaelen mumbled, before bursting into tears. “I just can’t believe he’s gone”
“I’m sorry” she apologised, “Neither can I” she agreed, looking across the room towards Gayle who had by now joined her brother in tears. “We all miss him but we will get through this” she promised.