Tempest Rising (Tempest 1) - Page 57

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All during the ceremony, people had been staring at me. Kona, his family, those who had come to say good-bye to my mother. They’d all been watching, waiting for I don’t know what. Maybe they wanted to see if I could hold it together, maybe they wanted to see me break down. Either way, I’d never been one to put on a show unless there was a surfboard involved, and I certainly wasn’t going to start now, in front of these people whom I barely knew.

Kona had been a rock through the whole ordeal, despite the ugly things I’d said to him the day before. He’d stayed by my side, had fielded questions and condolences and basically kept people away from me. He’d wanted to come with me down the beach too, but I hadn’t let him. For me, saying good-bye to my mother was an intensely personal thing, though I had no idea how to do it.

I’m not sure how long I stood there staring up at her, a bouquet of fuchsia stargazers for her in my hand. Kona had given it to me earlier—another thing he’d thought of that had completely slipped my mind.

She’d been wrapped in an emerald green sheet of the finest silk so no one could see the destruction the Lusca had done to her. But then, I didn’t have to see it again to remember. Every time I closed my eyes it was there in gory detail. As she burned, the last of the sheet fluttered in the early afternoon breeze.

I was exhausted, my mind and body drained from everything I’d endured since leaving home. Even so, I’d lain in bed most of the night staring at the ceiling, afraid to close my eyes. Afraid to so much as blink. I’d eventually dozed off sometime before sunrise, but my dreams had been terrible things, odd glimpses of the moments before my mother’s death combined with images of Oliwa and those few seconds after I had plunged the shell into Malu.

As I laid the bouquet of stargazers next to the other flowers decorating the pyre, I wondered if Malu had a family. Were they somewhere right now doing this very same thing over his funeral pyre?

I hoped they were. Malu had died alone. No matter what he’d done, or what he’d planned on doing, nobody deserved that. I hoped he had a family that mourned him as I mourned my mother. As Kona and his family mourned his brother.

I figured I was supposed to say something profound to her as I stood here, to tell her all the things I hadn’t been able to say to her when she was alive. But I didn’t. Not because there weren’t things I wanted to say, not because I didn’t know how to say them, but because I didn’t believe she was up there. Her body, or what was left of it, was there, but the mother I knew—the one I wanted to talk to—was already too far gone from this place to hear me.

So I didn’t say anything at all. Instead I murmured a few small prayers left over from my childhood and then turned away. I didn’t want to be there when the fire finally went out. Then I simply turned and walked back in the direction of Kona’s house. I wanted to get out of this strange black dress and the heels that gathered sand. Wanted to get away from the prying eyes. Wanted peace.

But, in the end, I got none of those things—at least not in the time frame I was hoping for. I was about a half mile down the beach when I heard Kona calling my name.

I almost ignored him, almost kept walking, but something made me turn around and face him. Maybe it was the idea that now was as good a time as any to have it out between us—when I was so numb I couldn’t care about anything.

Only, he hadn’t called me to talk, at least not to him. Clutching onto his arm was an old woman in an emerald green suit the same color as my mother’s tattoos and tail. I wondered, vaguely, if it was a tribute to her, and then even that thought flew out of my head as Kona introduced us.

“Tempest, this is Queen Hailana. Your mother was her most trusted confidante for over three hundred years.”

What exactly am I supposed to say to that? I wondered. It wasn’t like a curtsy and a how-do-you-do could compete.

The queen must have figured that I was completely out of my depth, because she reached one frail, trembling hand to mine and squeezed. “I adored Cecily. She was a daughter to me, a sister, a high-ranking member of my court, and the best friend I ever had.”

How nice for you to have seen that many sides of my mother, I thought bitterly. Cecily had actually given birth to me, yet she hadn’t bothered to show me much more than the basics. And this woman, this queen, knew almost everything there was to know about her. Did she really expect me to be pleased about that?

In the end, she didn’t wait for me to comment. Instead, she said simply, “I have some things for you. They belonged to your mother.” Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a long, flat box made of mother-of-pearl. It had an odd clasp at the front and was inlaid with gold leaf on both sides.

She tried to hand it to me, maybe eager to be rid of its weight. But I recoiled the second it got close to me and the queen dropped it. Kona saved it by plucking it out of midair before it hit the ground.

They both stared at me, the queen with compassion and Kona with an emotion I couldn’t even begin to contemplate. If I did, I might never leave, and I had to get away from this whole sad, sorry mess. I had to get away from me, from the Tempest I was when I was down here.


“Don’t you want it, child?” the queen asked. “There are only a few things in it.”

“Of course I do,” I lied. “It just startled me. I have one almost identical to it back at home.” At least that much was the truth.

“Ahh, home. You mean San Diego?”

“Yes.”

Despite her age, the queen’s eyes were clear and shrewd when they looked at me. “Do you miss it?”

“Miss” was too mild a word for what I felt. I longed for it, longed for the way things had been only two short weeks before.

“You don’t have to answer that. I see that you miss it very much.” Her smile was sad when she continued. “Your father has done a wonderful job with you, Tempest. Please give him my regards when you see him again and tell him how dreadfully sorry I am that things ended up the way they have.”

“You know my father?” I blurted out the words before I remembered that I wasn’t supposed to care about her. Wasn’t supposed to care about anything.

“I met him, once, at your parents’ wedding. He was very charming and very handsome.”

That was my dad all right. “It was nice meeting you,” I told her. “Thank you for bringing me my mother’s things.” I turned away.

“Tempest.” There was an urgency to her voice that I couldn’t ignore.

“Yes?”

“Inside the box is a letter. From your mother. If you don’t take anything else from there, please take that. She made me promise to get it to you if anything ever happened to her.”

That’s when I knew I had to escape, knew that I wouldn’t be able to wait until morning. And there was no way I was taking that beautiful box—and its destructive contents—with me. I had enough guilt to last a lifetime. I didn’t need any more.

PART FIVE

Kick-Out

“Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll … Man marks the earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore.”

—LORD BYRON

Chapter 25

“So you have to go?” Kona’s face was paler than I had ever seen it, his mouth set in a grim line that reminded me I wasn’t the only one who had lost someone in the battle with Tiamat.


Tags: Tracy Deebs Tempest Fantasy
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