“You’re sure ye handed it t’the right woman?” I asked the sailor for the umpteeth time.
“Yes, sir,” he said, “Who else would’ve a name so misbalanced?”
“That’s why she chose it,” I nodded.
We’d been waiting for hours. My fault, probably. But Midnight’d come alright. All the girls were up in the look-out post, keeping an eye on the road, seeing if they could spy their mother as she came up. I frowned at the clearing and got off my ship, pacing about the harbour, wrinkling my nose at the familiar smells.
Then I saw her.
Bloody hell, what was she wearing?
“Midnight?” I said.
She turned her head a little, as if cautious, her eyes widening as she saw me.
“You nancy-sailor-fish-brained-numb-skull!” was all I heard as she launched herself at me. I heard a laugh escape my lips, maybe involuntarily.
“I thought you were dead!” she said, her arms choking me
“Aw, I missed ye too,” I said, trying to right my posture.
“I hate you, damn it!” she said, kissing me.
I let go and looked to the heavens and said, “This is why I married her,” shaking my head, “Explain now: What the hell’re ye wearin’?”
She sighed, looking around, “I had to get a job.”
“As what? A dancer?” I asked.
I must have looked amused, because she said, “Don’t make fun, please?”
She gave me a look, a mixture of emotions spreading through her face, and I took off my coat, “It’s all right,” I said, putting it on her shoulders, “Everyth’un’s goin’t’be all right, now.”
She nodded, not saying anything, as she pulled her arms through the sleeves. She swallowed, and said, “Where’re the girls?”
“Where aren’t they?” I said, pointing at the look-out post.
“Mum!” called Des from above, waving at Midnight, “Mum, you won’t believe what dad did!”
I furrowed my brows at her, but I doubt I looked at all intimidating from all the way down here. Then again, I guess it didn’t matter either way.
“Yeah, mum!” cried Kitty, “He made us walk the plank!”
“Only because we broke his old-man boat-in-a-bottle thingy!” chimed in Ginny.
“It’s a ship!” I barked back, “And I am not old!”
They laughed and began clambering down.
Midnight laughed too. She was crying, “I missed you. I missed all of you,” she hugged me again, sniffing on my shoulder, “You, especially.”
“See? Was that so hard?” I murmured in her ear, rubbing her back gently.
She gasped a little, crying now, “I’m sorry… I just…”
“Shh, it’s okay. Everyth’un’s goin’t’be fine, Midnight, I was just jokin’. Shh.”
She nodded and didn’t say anything more.
Then she must have noticed the growl that escaped my throat. She looked up at me.
“What’s the matter?” she said.
I jutted my chin out, “What’s he doin’ here?” I asked coldly.
She looked back, seeing William standing there.
“Your brother?” she asked, “His son got abducted too. I found him on the way. He tried to steal my meat, but I beat him up.”
“Half,” I said, indignantly, “Aye, and right ye did.”
William came up to us, standing behind Midnight, “Still marauding, I see?”
Midnight looked from William to myself.
“Where are your kids, Thomas?” he said, “Left ‘em at home?”
As if on queue, the girls came rushing up and crowding around their mother’s legs.
“Mum!” said Ginny, hugging her mother’s legs.
Kitty tugged at her short dress, “Did you miss us!”
“Answer’t yourself, why don’t ye?” I said to William, tersely.
Des looked queerly at William, “Mum!” she said, “Is this your new boyfriend, since you thought dad was dead?”
I saw Midnight furrow her brows and then look at me. I must have looked accusing, “No, Des,” she said, “This is your father’s brother.”
“Half,” said I and William.
“Does it really matter?” she asked, looking at me.
For the sake of the children, I didn’t reply.
“I’d like to say, it would’ve been better if you were dead, Thomas,” said William, “But you know what? You have a lovely wife and a lovely trio of daughters and it’d just be plain wrong of me,” he picked up Kitty and the other girls surrounded him, “Come on, your Uncle William’ll give you girls a tour of the city.”
As they left, I gave Midnight a hard look, “Did anyth’un…?”
She looked disgusted, “Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Thomas.”
When I didn’t reply, she said, “Nothing happened. He hasn’t touched me.”
“I trust ye, Midnight,” I said, sighing and nodding, “I love you, ye know that?”
She looked at me, searchingly, “Why do you feel you have to say these things?”
I looked away, “Because that man killed the woman I loved.”