Claire: Reunion

     Claire bit her lip and blushed with embarrassment. She crossed the room stiffly and set the vase down, facing away from both her mother… and her brother. Thoughts swimming in her mind, she attempted to organize them better. Slowly she turned to face them both again.
    “This is unexpected,” she said quietly, quickly realizing that she couldn’t really have stated anything more obvious. Why don’t I tell them that water is wet, while I’m at it? Or that birds have wings? Of course it’s unexpected, what else would it be?
     “Hmm,” her brother agreed. “Of course, you already knew of my existence,” he added, looking slightly hurt at her incredulous reaction.
     “Of course I knew, Claire snapped. “It’s just that… the letters…”
     Her voice trailed off as fondly she remembered the letters that arrived with not nearly enough frequency. Until this moment they had remained her sole link to her father, Deon, and brother, Roland. She had devised an excellent way of coding the correspondence, so as to speak freely with them, with little fear of repercussion.
     “I was beginning to believe that mother had written those herself, to cater to my fantasies,” Claire admitted, honestly.
     “I am standing in the room!” her mother snapped, some color returning to her pale cheeks.
     Again, Roland laughed. His smile was boyish and crooked. He looked nothing like the slim, sickly Aiken. Claire had a sudden thought, that if she wished to don boys clothes again and run around like a foolish child once more, then Roland would happily oblige and run around foolishly with her. She brushed the silly thought away and straightened her posture.
     “What brings you?” she asked primly, rudely- though accidentally- ignoring her mother’s protests at being treated as if she were not present.
     “Oh no,” Roland said, his voice becoming chiding. “That is no way to greet a brother,” he said, and advanced towards her. Before she could protest he had scooped her up in a giant embrace worthy of a bear. He sat her gently down again and held her at arms length, a hand on each shoulder, looking her up and down.
     “You look like father,” he said quietly. Claire glared at him.
     “I look like a man?” she demanded, smoothing the creases in her dress.
    Again, that friendly laugh. Roland shook his head. Suddenly his smile faded and he took her hand, with a stern look and some sense of urgency.
     “We must speak. There is much to discuss between you and I,” he said, frowning.
     Claire nodded and allowed herself to be led into the parlor. Behind her, she heard her mother protesting again, but not about being ignored.
     “You will not pull her into your revolution!” her mother cried. Claire paled. She chided herself for not considering the reasons behind his visit. Roland closed the door and made sure Claire was seated comfortably before seating himself.
     “Before you say anything,” he said firmly, even as Claire opened her mouth. “This is not about revolution. Well… it will be,” he looked uncomfortable. “But father and I would not drag you into such matters if there were not a perfectly excellent reason to do so. There are… things you will not like to hear…” he trailed off.
     “Spit it out,” Claire demanded, holding her head high. She was a strong girl; she did not need Roland to dance around the subject.
     “Our father is ill, he could not make the voyage,” Roland said, staring at his soggy boots as he  spoke. “His desire is to see his daughter again, before the Lord takes him.”
     If Claire had thought her head to be swimming before, she was unpleasantly surprised now. She was eager to meet her father though disturbed by the news of his illness. She thought of the implications of her mother and her brother’s words. Illness? Meet his daughter? Revolution… You will not pull her into your revolution!

The End

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