9 – Extract from Georgia Shadownight’s Journal
Tom left today. The departure was a sombre affair – much unlike all the other times he’d left. I wondered, for a moment, whether he and Midnight had had some sort of an argument (which was entirely possible, given that they argued all the time). Perhaps I would’ve known, if I hadn’t opted to stuff my ears with wax every night. You see, my bedroom and the bedroom that Midnight has at her disposal are right next to each other. That would be fine, on normal occasions. But when Tom is in the house… Things become uncomfortably awkward. I could hear Midnight whispering in the other room, so when Tom is around…
[This part of the extract has been omitted for the preservation of the reader’s innocence.]
Moving on, I didn’t think I had ever seen the two so unsettled.
Saffron Desdemona (the argument over this name alone was enough to call both Thomas and Midnight legally insane. But, according to the marital contract, Midnight had to concede – even though she was convinced that Tom was taking advantage just to prove a point), Tom’s oldest daughter of ten years, launched herself into his arms and said, “Daddy, I can’t believe that you’re leaving so soon!”
His other two daughters, Ginny and Kitty, hugged his legs and said, “Yeah, daddy! Why do you have to go?”
Midnight should leaning against the door-frame, arms crossed, her face impassive as she watched.
Tom regarded her before saying, “Business calls. Dessy, Kitty, Ginny,” he set Saffron down and patted each of their heads, “I’m so sorry I ‘ave t’leave s’soon. I did want t’stay a while longer, but…”
The girls looked at each other and nodded, “Will you bring us more presents?”
Tom bent down as he laughed, and Kitty pulled off his feathered hat and put it on her head, “Will you get me a hat like this, dad?” she said.
“O’ course,” he said, brushing the feathers in place, “o’ course, I will,” he looked up at Midnight again.
She went over to them, smiling. The smile, however, looked very forced. The girls regarded her and moved away slightly as Tom stood up. She took the hat from Kitty’s head, brushing back the girl’s hair, before adjusting it onto Tom’s head. He took her hands and kissed them.
This was not forced.
Not an argument, then.
“I suppose we’ve already said our good-byes,” Midnight mumbled, her smile trying to hold its place.
“Aye, that,” replied Tom, in a similar kind.
They kissed, perhaps for too long (you’d think they’d never see each other again!), before they parted and shared a knowing nod.
Midnight turned to go, when Tom grabbed her arm and said softly, “Don’t beat yourself up, love, eh?”
She paused, “I’m going to miss you,” said Midnight in a small voice.
“And I – you,” Tom replied, kissing her forehead, “I’ll write to ye, though, whenever I can.”
She nodded and walked away, resuming her place at the door, as Tom bent down and kissed each one of his daughters on the forehead.
He turned to leave, but just as he moved out of the front door, he called back: “Midnight!”
“Yes?” she replied.
“I want a boy this time!”
She laughed, “For the last time, Thomas, I don’t get a choice!”
* * * * *
“You alright, Midnight?” I had said later on, as we sat down at the dining table having put all the girls to bed, “You and Tom seemed a little… off, this morning.”
Midnight brought a tray of tea and biscuits to the table, “No, Georgie, actually… I have somethin’ to tell you. On normal occasions and because I’m the hip awesome aunt, I wouldn’t tell you when your daughters did somethin’ they shouldn’t’ve done–”
I looked at her disapprovingly, “You what?”
“It’s why they never lie to me.”
“My daughters lie to me?”
“Clearly you’re takin’ this the wrong way, so I’ll ignore that last bit,” she said, taking a sip of her tea, “but this time, what one of your daughters did… it can’t go wi’out my tellin’ you.”
With my nostrils flared, I rasped, “What did Queenie do?”
“Wait, what? How did you…? Then again, that’s probably a stupid question…” she muttered, “Anyway, I um… I don’t know how to tell you this. At all, like. I haven’t even orchestrated it in my head. All these funny thoughts whizzin’ around and–”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Just say it!”
“Queenie’s been gettin’ assassination contracts.”
These five words rendered me speechless. It took a while for the sentence to sink in, for me to develop their meaning and then I asked her, “…What?”
“You’re sorry!” I said, fuming with rage, “You’re sorry! That’s all you have to say?”
“Oh no!” I snapped, “No! No! No! Don’t you Georgie me! We had an agreement, Midnight! Goodness, gracious, you put it in writing! How could you–?”
“Will you shut your trap, woman, and listen!” Midnight barked, making me recoil and scowl. She huffed, “I didn’t sign her up for it, Georgie! She breached the fence. She’s gotten into contact with a bad crowd.”
I blinked, “Oh,” I said, “well you should have mentioned that earlier, I wouldn’t have laid blame on you if I had been–” wait… “Queenie did what!”
“Referring back to what I put in writing, I suggest that we move down into the underground bunkers, first thing tomorrow. The lot that Queenie has mixed with are not a good kind.”
“Yes,” I said, dazed, “of course, whatever you– Hold on… We have underground bunkers?”
Midnight sighed impatiently, “Aye. We do,” she shook her head, “The underground floors are a replica of what’s above – besides the view from the windows, of course. There’s canned, dry and pickled food that could last us months down there, and we could always come out to the surface to get some stuff for short periods of time – if we have a hankerin’ for water or milk.”
“Is… Is that why Tom had to leave?”
“Aye. He’s gone to hold some serious enemies at bay for a while.”
“I…” I could now understand her sadness from the morning, myself being a wife to man who put his life on the line. I felt bad about yelling at her, “I’m so sorry, Midnight.”
A knock rang on the open dining room door, and Kennedy walked in – rubbing her eyes and yawning, “Is everything okay, mum? Aunt Midnight? I heard shouting.”
Midnight gave me a look, one that said Later, and told Kennedy, “Everything’s fine, Kenny. Would you like a glass of milk?”
“Yes, please,” Kennedy smiled and sat down in the seat Midnight rose from.
“Would you like cookies with that?”
“No, thank you.”
“Milk and no cookies?” Midnight frowned, “You’re usually fond of that combination.”
“I know, but if I have cookies now, I’ll have to brush my teeth again.”
Midnight laughed, “And you wouldn’t have to, if you only had milk?”
Kennedy paused and then said, “Alright. Milk and cookies then,” she smiled.
Midnight went into the kitchen.
“Is everything really alright, mum?” Kennedy asked me.
I regarded her. I paused for thought, wondering where this ‘assassination contract’ nonsense would lead us. Wherever it was, it couldn’t be good.
“I don’t know, Kennedy, dear,” I said, “I really don’t know.”