7. Just as surely as love is foolish and knows no bounds,
“Thank you, Bishop.” Eric said, pocketing the small iron pieces. He had a delicate touch for such a large man.
“Ah, think nothing of it. I’ve been having a rough go, of late.”
“I’ve heard. Phillip hasn’t been the best of men towards you. People are fools.”
“Aye, they are that, and fickle, too. They’ll be back once they get some new bone to chew on.”
“Let’s hope that it’s soon enough.”
“Right, that.” He lifted his arm back to heavy work and Eric was surprised that his beard never caught in the flame. He and Bishop had become friends, of sorts, and he admired the toughness of the man. Nothing moved him.
Eric walked the short way to Savannah’s, cutting through the woods. Rumor of werewolves perturbed him none; he was better than that. His feet moved quickly so that he would all the sooner see his love. He could hear her in the distance, her laughter carried on the wind.
She was sitting a little ways off from the house, on a hill. Beside her was a dark-haired girl he’d not seen before. Savannah had her head tilted, listening to whatever the girl was saying. He stopped and took in the sight. The sunlight caught in his love’s hair and she glowed.
The girl turned suddenly towards him. She gripped Savannah’s arm in apparent terror. Savannah’s face brightened when she saw Eric there, though the girl was trying to pull her away.
“It’s okay, Jessica. That there is only Eric, the boy I told you about.”
“That can’t be him,” Jessica whispered.
Jessica clamped her mouth as Eric drew closer.
“Hello, Savannah.” He beamed down at her. She took his offered hand and stood. She reached for Jessica but the girl shied away.
“Eric, this is Jessica. They found her in Old Woman Withers’ home, hidden away. She’s very smart.”
“I’ve heard of her. They also say she’s very pretty,” he charmed as he squat to reach eye-level with the child. She hung her head so her dark hair fell in front of her face. “But will I see her face to tell for myself?” he teased. Slowly, Jessica lifted her head. “Ah, there she is! They were right, I think.”
Her eyes seemed overly large, like she was trying to see everything. When she looked at him, he smiled and pat her head. She jerked back from him, almost horrified.
“She’s in bad shape,” Savannah whispered to Eric. She touched Jessica’s cheek and the girl stood behind her, away from Eric.
“It’s a shame. But I’ve brought you both a present.”
“Really?” Savannah asked.
“Really,” he mocked as his hand went to his pocket. Two small crosses lay in his palm. “Bishop was kind enough.”
“Don’t believe the rumors, is all.”
“I’ll believe what you have to say.”
“I’m glad to hear it, believe me.” He wanted to kiss her, but Jessica was watching intently. “There’s a loop at the top so a tie can be thread through. It’ll make a decent necklace.”
“I love it. Jessica, come see.”
She hesitantly approached Eric’s palm.
“Take one,” he offered.
She looked from him to his palm and snatched a cross. Savannah laughed.
“You don’t have to be so shy.”
“It’s no problem with me. I’m sure we’ll come to be friends before this is all through.” He smiled at the girl again. “So you brought her from her hiding place, did you? I can’t imagine being trapped in with Old Woman Withers.”
“Neither can I nor anyone in the village.”
“I always said that you could charm a beast from the darkness,” he grinned. “Well, I better be getting on. My father needs my help this evening. You stay safe, do you hear me? The little one, too.”
He pressed a kiss to her hand.
“Goodbye,” she whispered.
“I don’t like him. He’s not like you said.”
“What do you mean? He was awfully sweet to you. Did he scare you?”
“Yes. He-I don’t like him. He loves you a lot.”
“He does, I think.” Savannah blushed. “I love him, too.”
“You oughtn’t. He’s going to hurt you.”
“Don’t be silly. Eric would never hurt me.” She brushed through Jessica’s thick hair. “What was it like, living with Old Woman Withers?”
“She never let me go outside. I couldn’t open the windows or go downstairs when the door was open. She was always talking, always asking.”
“What did she talk about?”
“Plants and animals and the nature of things. She taught me all of what she knew, but she didn’t tell me what I wanted.”
“What did you want?”
“I wanted to know who my mother was. Where is my father? She said that my mother is dead and that I should forget about having one. Gran was all that I should worry about.”
“I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have had to live that way. Do you remember anything else?”
“I was a baby when Gran took me.”
“Oh.” She plaited the hair into one long braid. “You said that she asked you things. What things?”
For a moment, Savannah thought that Jessica hadn’t heard.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Cross my heart and hope,”
“Don’t!” Jessica almost screamed. Savannah stilled, lost for words. “Don’t say ‘hope to die’. I’ll tell you. Sometimes I have dreams about people. I don’t know who they are and I don’t know where they are. Gran would ask me to describe them. She said I had a gift. I’m not supposed to tell anyone but Gran. But she’s dead.”
Savannah folded her arms and looked at Jessica. She knew what she was saying: that the dreams were the future, like magic. Like witchcraft. People were still being burned for that. Not ever in the village, of course, because everyone knew everyone there. No one would burn their neighbor.
“I believe you, Jessica. And we’ll keep this a secret between us, okay? Not even Eric will know. I promise.”
“Thank you, Savannah.” The girl hugged her tightly.