Sometimes Love Means Letting Go – Part 12

Posted by on Feb 4, 2019 in Roots and Branches, Short Stories, Sometimes Love Means Letting Go | 1 comment

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Sandy was still on the floor, propped up against a wall, when the kids returned.

He held up a hand to fend off any questions. “I was feeling dizzy again,” was all he said.

Rose gave him a too-sharp look as though she could see he wasn’t telling the whole truth, but then she glanced at Davy and Robin and thankfully held her tongue.

“How are you guys? Everybody okay?” Sandy demanded of them, looking them over as carefully as he could from his sitting position. They seemed to be fine, no obvious injuries. Rose had a long scratch down one pale cheek, but other than that they just looked dirty, sweaty, and exhausted.

“We’re fine,” Jackson answered, leaning up against the back of the couch. “Just tired.”

“How drained are you?” Sandy asked quietly.

The boy shook his head and grimaced. “Can’t do much of anything, Uncle Hawk.”

“Me neither,” Rose admitted. In a lower voice she added, “Hawk? They were handing out what looked like torches right before we came back.”

Damn. “Tell me what’s going on out there. I wouldn’t let Birdie look.”

Jackson slid to one of the side windows and stared through the lightweight fabric of the curtain. “The skinny guy who’s in charge is coming this way, and he is really angry,” he narrated. “And most everyone else has a lit torch now.”

Even as he spoke Miller’s furious voice shouted, “I’ve had enough of playing games with you and those little demon-spawned brats, Black. I’ll give you five minutes, and then you better all come out with your hands up. No tricks.”

“And if we don’t?” Sandy was surprised how strong his voice sounded, considering how weak he felt.

“Then you’ll burn.”

A small spark of laughter started up inside him. We’ll burn? Really? Do you know nothing about my family?

“What’s it going to be, Black? Are you coming out?”

“Nope!”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” the other man spat. Sandy could hear him call for a torch.

Jackson was moving his hands already; Sandy waved him off. “Save your energy,” he told him. “I’ll need you do something else here in a minute.”

“But the fire—”

“Don’t worry about that—I can handle Fire.” Twisting about to look at his daughter, he said, “I’m not too steady right now. Can you be my crutch?” Without a word, she gave him her hand. Sandy managed to keep from gasping as she helped him up off the floor. Then she set herself securely beside him, a focused look on her face.

“There,” she finally said. “I asked the wood to hold on to me. You can lean up against me all you need to, and I shouldn’t budge.”

Sandy latched one hand onto her sturdy shoulder. Pushing the pain aside for the moment, he stretched his other hand and his mind outward.  Hello there, he thought at the multitude of flames he could sense outside, both the torches and the tiny fires that were already beginning to kindle at the edges of the porch.

Go away, they sizzled. We are strong, and you are not.

Whatever. I’m still strong enough to handle the likes of you, he threw back.

Talking to Fire was not something he’d learned on his own. Kat had taught him that trick, much later in life. Kat and I didn’t talk about much of anything when we were younger, he thought distractedly, because I was an absolute terror and tormented the heck out of her. Then he smiled wryly to himself. Glad I finally grew up some.

Slowly, too slowly, he wrestled the fires into submission. Outside there were shouts of confusion as the torches guttered and went out, their flames drawn instead into the core of his being. He could feel his blood running hot, could feel strength and energy flowing through his body. Mercy, but it was powerful, and exhilarating.

“Never hold on to Fire too long.” He could hear his mother’s first instructions to him still. “Holding Fire within yourself will burn you out.”

But this is the only way I can protect them, he answered the memory. Besides, I’m not sure I’m going to survive this anyway. Burning myself out is the least of my worries right now.

“Hey Bluejay,” he hissed. “Can you manage a shield?”

The boy made a few hand motions as though testing the air, then nodded.

“Good. Make sure they don’t shoot me.” Again, that is. “Chickadee—” From where she still stood beside him, his daughter looked up at him expectantly. “You open the door, then get the heck out of the way.”

Her eyes widened, but that was all.

“The rest of you get back and stay down.” Two blonde heads and one red bobbed in mute agreement. “Good. You two ready?”

Two voices responded “Ready,” almost in unison.

“Now.”

The door swung open, and Sandy strode forward, feeling steady for the first time in weeks. Robin’s friends must have all fled when the fires started, because the thump of his boots on the wooden boards was the only sound. Then, as if on command, Miller’s men began to shoot, the storm of gunfire bouncing harmlessly off Jackson’s shield. Sandy stood behind it, unperturbed, as he called the fire from himself. Two great balls of flame slowly formed above his palms and hovered there, sizzling and sparking.

“I believe these belong to you,” he announced calmly, and hurled them into the midst of the gathered men.

Chaos erupted as men and horses stampeded. Only Miller took a single step towards the house, gun raised once more, but he halted at Jackson’s full-throated cry of victory.

“Woohoo! Here come Pa and the others!”

With that, the mob scattered like chickens, every man for himself.

The kids rushed from the house to greet the rescuers, accidentally knocking Sandy to one side. He didn’t mind, just leaned up against the door jamb gratefully. When the fire had left him, it had taken what little spark he had left with it. Now he could barely feel his legs and his body had begun to tremble uncontrollably.

“We did it,” he muttered to himself and slid down the weathered frame, scarcely feeling the catch of wood against his back as pain flooded his senses.

“Uncle Hawk?” Rose’s voice. Inside the house. He twisted his head—she hadn’t left with the others. “Are you hurt?” She gasped. “Oh mercy, is that blood? It’s everywhere!”

He looked down, saw his blood-soaked shirt and the blood-stained floor beneath him. Well, blast. That’s not good.

She knelt beside him, trying to look for the wound. “Dangnabit, Hawk! Have you been bleeding this whole time?”

“Yes.” She said something else he couldn’t quite catch. I’ve lost too much blood, he realized, feeling terribly lightheaded. His vision seemed blurred as well. As if from very far away he heard himself saying, “Need to tell you how much I love you, Rose-in-Winter Black. You were the best thing that ever happened to me.” His words sounded odd in his own ears, thick and muddled, like molasses.

Unexpectedly, what Rose said in return was, “Your words. All of them were golden. Every single one.” He could just hear her repeating his words slowly to herself. She stiffened suddenly, disbelief filling her voice as she said, “Rose-in-Winter Black. That’s my real name, isn’t it?”

Oh damn. Didn’t mean to say that. Cat’s out of the bag now. He closed his eyes tiredly.

“Hawk? Open your eyes, please?” He didn’t respond. “Look at me,” she demanded, grabbing his hand and squeezing it painfully tight.

Reluctantly he obeyed. Her features wouldn’t come into focus, but he thought she was studying him intently.

She whispered, “Blue and brown. Our eyes are blue and brown. No one else in our family has hazel eyes like that, but you just said I was a Black.” A pause, then, “You’re my father, aren’t you?”

Truth always comes out. “Yes.”

“But . . . but you’ve been here for years! Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Her voice seemed caught between anger and something else. Fear? What is she afraid of?

He struggled to think, to find words, and the energy to say them. “I’m sorry, Rose. I couldn’t stay away from you completely, but you already had a good mama and daddy, a nice, happy family—what right did I have to destroy that? All I ever wanted was for you to have the best life possible. Still do.”

Then he shuddered, his eyes closing without his permission. “So sorry, Chickadee. Wish I hadn’t said anything. Wish you didn’t know, especially not now.” His legs had gone completely numb, his back was a fiery mass of pain. He couldn’t hold himself upright any longer. “So sorry,” he repeated as he slumped into her.

“Hawk? No!”

Jon’s voice in the distance, yelling for Rose.

“In here, Daddy! Hurry! Hawk’s hurt bad!” Then, mouth close to his ear, voice low and fierce, she hissed, “Don’t you die. Don’t you dare die. I’ve got too much I need to say to you.”

 

To be continued . . .

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One Comment

  1. Wonderful! I enjoyed this very much!

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