Kennick:A Volanis Brothers NovelBy: Meg Jackson
“What is it, baby?” he asked. Whatever it was…it wasn’t good. He thought of the things she'd told him, about the man who'd been scaring her.
“I have to tell you something,” she said, and she sounded like she was about to cry. Pieter’s heart fell. What could she want to tell him that would make her so sad?
“Anything,” he said softly, steeling himself for the worst. A long moment passed between them, then a sob escaped her lips.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, crying the words out. Pieter’s heart stopped – then started again, double-time. Pulling her into him, he closed his eyes and kissed her deeply on the top of her head. She reached out, clutching him tight. He felt her tears wetting his chest, rocked her slowly as his mind worked. And then, closing his eyes, he pulled away, smiling.
“This calls for a celebration,” he said, wiping the tears from her eyes. Rhonda looked confused, then shocked.
“You’re not…you’re not upset?” she asked between hiccupping sobs.
“Upset? I’m elated, baby,” he said, cupping her tiny face in his hands. When she smiled again, his heart broke into a million pieces. It always did. “You wait right here. I have just the thing in the truck. I was gonna wait until I dropped you off to give it to you, but now seems the right time.”
Rhonda laughed, relief flooding her features, wiping the last of her tears as Pieter stood up, pulling his jeans back up and disappearing into the brush. His truck was parked a half mile away through thick shrubs and clinging mud, the ground still drenched from the month’s persistent rain. The voice of the stream lapping against the shore calmed Rhonda’s heart as she sat forward, clutching her knees to her chest. Intermittently, she smiled, even laughed slightly.
When, only a few minutes later, she heard something approaching through the bushes, she turned in surprise.
“Pieter?” she asked into the darkness. A tall, shadowy figure emerged, but didn’t respond. She squinted, trying to see who it was. “Pieter, baby?”
The gunshot shattered the night, and she died with his name on her lips, his seed on her thighs, and his child in her womb.
Her voice was paper-thin, gravelly, painfully dry. He crossed the darkened room, the smell of incense and herbs overwhelming. Better than the smell of death, though. He knew that much. He’d smelled enough death that month to last for the rest of his life.
First, his father, too young, even for the hard-ridden life he’d led. And now, Baba Tayti, who’d outlived her first daughter by fifteen years, her only son by a month. He could remember her wailing, though he’d been young when his aunt had passed. When she’d heard of Pieter’s passing, she hadn’t had the strength for wailing. She’d simply closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Her life had been long and fruitful; as far as Rom, or Romani gypsies, went, she was as close to a saint as one could get. She was facing death as bravely as any saint, Catholic or not, to come before her.
“Baba,” Kennick said, taking her hand as he settled into the chair beside her bed. “You shouldn’t…”
“Don’t be stupid, schav,” her voice cut quick, and Kennick smiled. She still used the term for boy. For him, and for his brothers. And for Mina, his sister, she used schej, the term for girl. They would always be boys and girls to her, just children letting the doors slam behind them while they reached sticky-fingered for rock candy in the kitchen. “You don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t do.”
Her eyes, though cloudy with cataracts, rolled towards the sign of his voice. Behind the milky film, the vibrant swirls of her second sight glowed gently.
“My schav,” she cooed, struggling to lift her other hand, closing it on top of his. Her palms felt like tracing paper. Her gnarled fingers, which pained her endlessly, even with the highest grade medicinals the kumpania could grow, were hard as sticks. “Beautiful, beautiful schav. I see your love coming.”
Kennick’s back stiffened slightly, and he hoped she couldn’t feel it.
“Don’t,” she scolded, proving that even on her deathbed she was more perceptive than any able-bodied man. “Don’t be rigid to love. Love is the greatest thing of them all. And you need it. And this love…oh, Kennick…”
A smile spread across her face, her eyes closing as though she were bathed in the glow of this love-to-come.
“Kennick, this will be a great, great love. The kind that happens so quickly you don’t even see it happening. She will be beautiful, too, my schav. Blue eyes like a jewel. I can see her…she has a smile on her…”
“Baba, don’t tire yourself…”
Kennick couldn’t help but grin. Shut up and listen! Baba would take her temper to the grave.
“You are travelling soon,” the old woman said, continuing to see things mortals usually couldn’t. She saw more through her blind eyes than Kennick could ever hope to see. “And that is where you will find her. But there will be trouble, too. Such heartbreak.”