Home > Kinsey's Defiance(4)

Kinsey's Defiance(4)
Author: Madeline Martin

“Aye,” Kinsey said slowly. “’Tis a good thing to stand up for others.”

“Of course it is,” Mum said. “I’m proud of how ye always consider others. Especially as ye know, yer sister is so verra gentle.”

Kinsey nodded, but it wasn’t Clara on her mind. It was the people of Scotland: the men, women and children who didn’t have the means to defend themselves against England’s cruelty.

But she could.

In fact, she would.

Her decision had been made.

At that moment, the day took a profound shift in her eyes. The vegetables she helped her mother harvest through the afternoon would be the last she ever plucked from the small patch of land beside their home. The bustle of preparing supper with her mother quietly singing would be the last time she would smell her mother’s savory cooking or sway to the lilt of her voice. Sitting around the table once the food was prepared as she laughed and ate with her family—this too would be her last.

She warred with the decision to tell them of her plan, and finally, when they were clearing away the remains of their meal from the broad wooden table, she broached the topic. “I heard gossip at the market that King David is planning to take back the land the English stole from Scotland.”

Clara pursed her lips. Though she didn’t speak, Kinsey could see she was puzzling over how she had not overheard such news as well. Especially when Kinsey had a conversation without her.

“And on goes the bloodshed.” Mum frowned as she scrubbed a handful of sand in the pot to clean out the remaining bits of food.

“Don’t ye think we should have the land back?” Kinsey asked.

Her mother set the pot aside with a heavy hand. “No’ at the expense of the lives such an endeavor will cost.”

Any argument Kinsey might have had to counter her mother’s statement was nipped away by a pinch of guilt. Her mother was speaking of Kinsey’s da, of course. A brave English knight who had died in battle. Their love had been the truest form, one that could not be severed even by death.

And so it was that Kinsey’s mother lived with a broken heart. One she claimed to be worth the pain, thanks to the memories she carried with her every day.

Kinsey couldn’t remember her da. Nor could she recall how the English villagers had shunned them afterward for Mum being Scottish. She did, however, have scars from the cruelty of the English as she’d grown. Not only the ones that scored her heart from their disdain and refusal to help but also a slight scar on her brow where she’d once been hit by a rock. The cut had bled ferociously as head wounds did, and she forever wore that mark of their hatred.

Mayhap that was why she fought so hard to defend others. For no one that day had come to her aid.

After her mother’s reply, Kinsey didn’t say another word about Sir William or her intent to join his men in their mission to take back Scotland’s land. But nor was her decision swayed.

That night, when she bade her mother goodnight, she tried to burn every detail into her memory. How the skin of her mother’s cheek was so petal-soft when they hugged, the love shining in her eyes, the soothing sound of her voice that had comforted as much as it had cajoled for the better part of Kinsey’s childhood.

Clara hesitated to get into her own bed in the room she and Kinsey shared after their mother left. Her gaze settled on Kinsey, sharp with a knowing perception. “I will always love ye, no matter what ye do.”

It was as though Clara could see into Kinsey’s thoughts and pluck out her decision to slip away before dawn broke.

Shame burned hot in Kinsey’s cheeks. “I’ll always love ye too, Clara.” She hesitated before adding. “And I hope ye’ll always care for Mum.”

Clara’s mouth tucked downward, but she nodded slowly. “And I hope ye’ll always have a care for yerself.”

Kinsey slid her a confident smile, appreciating the unspoken conversation running between their words. It wasn’t a proper farewell, but it was enough to allay the ache coiling in her chest.

She allowed herself only a bit of sleep, waking every few moments with anxious anticipation. When the fire in the hearth was little more than embers, she rose from her bed to obtain the small travel bag she’d stashed away once she’d made up her mind.

Prior to leaving, she paused to write a short note. She’d composed it in her head while waiting for sleep, but scratching out the words onto parchment made them feel stilted and awkward. After all, how thorough was a farewell when it wasn’t done in person?

She assured her mother she would be safe but offered no details. Knowing her family, Drake would no doubt come after her and Kinsey couldn’t stomach the idea of him tracking her down to drag her off from the other warriors like a naughty bairn.

Once the missive was written, Kinsey took one last look around the house where she’d spent some of the happier years of her adult life. The two-story stone house had offered protection. Inside those sturdy walls, there had been no threat of attack, no hunger gnawing at their stomachs. There had been only joy and security.

And now, she would be leaving it all behind.

Shadows blanketed the interior, but she didn’t need light to know where the table was that they’d shared their meals, the chairs by the hearth, where they passed many a night with stories and laughter. Aye, the home had always been filled with love.

She made her peace with her choice to leave, to fight, then turned her back on everything that had been so familiar for a chance to make right the wrongs of the world.

 

 

William leaned against the wall of the inn as the early gray light of a new day glowed on the horizon.

“Any sign of her?” Reid took a position at William’s right, leaning his back against the rough-hewn wall and crossing his arms over his chest.

William shot him a long look, which earned him a smirk from his friend. Silence fell between them as they waited, giving way to the sounds of dawn with the clicks of insects and chirps of rousing birds.

The air was wet and heavy with the promise of an impending storm. They would do well to begin their travel before the rain began.

Reid’s hazel eyes were fixed in the foggy distance where the sun would soon start its slow ascent. “Is she bringing the dark-haired lass with her?”

“We dinna need her.” William pushed his elbow against his friend’s arm. “Did ye fancy her?”

Reid lifted a shoulder. “She was bonny.”

William slid a glance at his friend. Reid didn’t bother with women generally. They fawned over him, aye, drawn to his quiet, brooding demeanor. But he was never one to accept their bold offers. Reid’s life had not been an easy one. His parents had been slain by the English when he was a lad, their home burned. He’d been orphaned and left to the mercy of others until the church had taken him in to care for him. Mayhap that was why he would rather offer lasses aid than bedsport.

In fact, Reid’s comment about the woman from the market was the first William had ever heard him make.

“Mayhap we can ask after her once the archer arrives?” William suggested.

Reid shook his head as if the matter need not be bothered with. But it made William regret not having asked the archer after the other lass. Of course, he could discreetly discuss it with her once she arrived.

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