Dixie was carrying low, which everyone said meant she was having a girl, or maybe a boy, but definitely one or the other. While she was young and not particularly knowledgeable about biology, Dixie figured she could have guessed that herself. Based on what she’d heard from Emrys, she was thinking this was her daughter.
“Emrys,” she whispered into the early morning air. Lorne had left for work. Dixie was home alone, drinking some tea that didn’t have caffeine and which she hated. She was still tired, but then she’d felt tired for the last six months, practically since the little egg had embedded itself in her womb. In fact, she wasn’t sure she’d ever feel energetic again.
This garden was smaller, with a low fence around the back to keep in a small dog, which they hadn’t gotten around to adopting and wouldn’t until well after the baby was born. Lorne was superstitious and didn’t want to get a dog for the baby, not before the baby was born. He practically crossed himself every time he said the word “baby” though he’d never been in a Catholic Church and thought Catholics were rather pagan in their beliefs, not that there were any of them in Corbin Meadow. If there were, they kept that to themselves going quietly down Highway 321 to Hickory and the church there.
But though the garden was smaller with only one crepe myrtle and several low bushes, Dixie felt at home there. She’d planted rosemary and lavender in a small garden behind the garage so that when she came out onto the patio there was something pretty for her to look rather than the neighbor’s washing hanging on the circular clothesline that they had on that side of the yard.
Maybe someday Lorne would build her a trellis so she could have a climbing rose bush or something else that flowered and was pretty over there rather than the looking into the yard. Behind her, the neighbors had some sort of maple tree with pointed leaves in pale green that quickly turned yellow at the first sign of an insult, whether it was the weather getting too hot or too cold or having less than perfect care. Dixie did not want such a fussy plant in her yard, but she was perfectly fine with enjoying the tree that someone else had to work for.
She sat on a cushioned swing with the cover angled to keep the sun off of her in the late afternoon. Fortunately the sun wasn’t at an angle to shine directly in her eyes while she rocked, the squeak of the swing sounding each time she changed direction. The sounds of a lawn mower a few houses down reached her, and she wondered who was mowing their lawn on a week day. Probably someone with a teenager.
Dixie liked her home, nestled on the corner of one of the mountain roads so that she only had neighbors on one side. It suited her and Lorne, their home sitting between the rural mountain homes and the compact town homes, a compromise between the two worlds, just like her life with Lorne.
The air was filled with pollen that made everything feel as if she was smelling through cotton which kept all the scents to a minimum. The baby would come in high summer when she was sweating her worst. She was already warmer than normal. Even her mother had suggested she’d been foolish for allowing herself to become pregnant with a due date in high summer.
“Emrys?” Dixie called quietly, again. It was harder to relax in this yard. It seemed harder for Emrys to come, particularly since she was pregnant.
“Yes, Child of the Blood who holds another Child of the Blood,” Emrys said, always formal. He looked paler in this place as if being nearly in the town of Corbin Meadow further from the trees and surrounded by humans made him less than his full self.
“I want you to protect my children,” Dixie said.
“Of course. They are of the Blood. That is my duty,” Emrys said.
“You said my mother protected me. But I saw you. I know about you. I’ve been frustrated all my life thinking you could do things for me when you can’t. I wish that my children won’t have that frustration. I don’t want you to approach them.”
Emrys sucked in a breath. For the first time Dixie saw how sharp and long and white his teeth were, teeth that were for rending and tearing flesh, not teeth for grinding plants. Even the front teeth were pointed and jagged and marred, slightly by something of a different color.
“I wish that of you,” Dixie pressed before he could speak.
“If you wish it of me, I will grant it,” Emrys said slowly.
“I do.” Dixie forced her entire will into the words, practically spitting them out, feeling the spit from her mouth land on her hand.
“It is a dangerous wish,” Emrys said.
“I will accept any danger so long as it protects my children from the kind of disappointment I’ve had to live with.”
“There are worse things than disappointment,” Emrys said carefully.
“I am aware of that, but I doubt you can prevent the other sorts of pain. I can at least control this.”
“There are dangers only I can protect them from.”
“Do you protect everyone in Corbin Meadow from those dangers?” Dixie asked.
“If you do, then my children will still be protected unless everyone can see you and talk to you, but you say that’s not true. If you don’t, then other children live here without danger, so mine will, too.” Dixie opened her eyes, pushing herself up from the swing.
She didn’t want to see Emrys. She felt her stomach cramp. She was far too early for it to be a contraction she thought.
The cramp got larger, spreading throughout her whole body. She felt a pain like a knife cutting through her middle, slicing her in two, as she sank down on to her knees, knowing she needed to get to a phone, right away, and call someone to help her.
“Momma,” Dixie whispered as she felt something flood between her legs, knowing without looking that she was now sitting in a puddle of blood and that the pain was going to get far, far worse before it got better.
What had she done?
Chapter 23 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.