More of Mother's Secrets

Meena frowned, holding the book inches from her nose to read the small shorthand script more clearly. “Says right here. Alessia Maria Dé Chiré , born to Carl Pierre Dé Chiré and Maria Catherine Black, 3rd May 1974. And below that, exactly the same, except it says Benjamin Olivier Dé Chiré . The Olivier was from Carl’s father’s name,” she said, flipping back a page or two to check.

“Wait a minute, exactly the same?” Willow asked, holding up a hand. “Same birth date?”

“Yep. 3rd May, 1974 for both of them.”

They both turned to look at me. I felt suddenly as if the air around me was much denser than it should be, pressing on me from all sides the way cold fog does early in the morning. It had seeped into my brain as well, slowing everything down into confusion.

“Your mother had a twin brother.”

Meena quickly skimmed through the pages all around, reading eagerly. We were all three of us so caught up in the revelation that we hadn’t heard the doors open.

“You owe the Archive,” an all-too-familiar voice said lazily, plucking the book from Meena’s hands and placing it back in the blink of an eye. My pulse seemed to jump at the wound on my neck as its creator neared.

“Um,” he said, clearing his throat as his eyes fell on me - well, I assumed they did, as I couldn’t see behind his ever-present shades. “How’s things, Ruby?”

The frosty silence said more than enough.

“Anyway, come on, out.”

He ushered us towards the door like naughty school children caught hiding in the library.

“Restricted access as of the late situation,” he chided, drawing the doors shut behind us as we exited into the antechamber room. Instead of skulking back to the door, Meena and Willow sat down on one of the sofas around the table. I noticed that the vase had been moved aside to make room for a small square silk sheet, bearing two old-fashioned pistols. One of them lying on the silk sheet had a gleaming cherry-wood stock and flared barrel, and I could see a small integrated ramrod. Phoenix picked the one next to it up deftly, with a flick of the finger between the trigger loop. It looked heavier than the other because of its large brass barrel, containing eight chambers. He continued polishing it for a minute until it was shiny enough for his taste and then replaced it beside its fellow, wrapping both up in the silk cloth again.

“Annely flintlock revolver,” he commented, not looking up though he had seen us all staring at the pistols. “Excellent in its day for the more convenient sequential firing.”

“Whatever,” Meena said, her voice louder than Phoenix’s so that it resounded a little from the walls. Odd accoustics. Or, I thought, containment spells. I noticed that her voice wasn’t quite steady. How could she be more shocked by the revelation than I was? I mean, it was my family she‘d just read about. “Phoenix, who has been here recently? Who has looked at the Dé Chiré folder?”

“How would he know?” I asked, watching Phoenix tuck the silk-wrapped parcel into a pocket of his trench coat, prolonging an answer.

“He’s a facilitator,” Willow supplied impatiently. Which explained what he was even doing here. But the pistols?

“Why question me?” he hitched the mocking smile onto his face that I had come to recognise and extremely dislike. “Shouldn’t you be thanking me for saving Ruby’s life?”

“You almost ended it, leech,” I muttered, leaning back against the wall, excluded from their little area.

“Oh, now, careful,” he smiled wider, wagging a long pale finger. “Don’t be a hypocrite.”

I resisted the feral impulse to snarl - that would have just made his day. Irritation made my nostrils flare. I folded my arms as tightly as possible and headed for the door.

“Come on, Ruby, we don’t have time for dramatics,” he called after me. “I’ll tell you, all right?”

The End

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