The family went from operation LA, to operation cover up.
When anyone asked about Myra, the family would say, “You just missed her.” Or, “If you run, you might be able to catch her.”
But this grew tiresome and proved difficult.
On the third day after Myra’s departure, they concocted a story about an illness she contracted, which would keep her confined to her room. This was much easier to maintain.
Tara and Lora were in charge of minding the sick, so there was no need for anyone else to bother.
When a knock came at the door, Tara would jump under the covers, pull up the sheets, and pretend to be Myra.
The ploy worked and no one suspected a thing.
As winter set in, the nights grew longer. The newlyweds enjoyed the longer nights for their lovemaking. It was easy to forget the troubles of the household in Duncan’s arms. Tara sought them constantly. Passion filled nights often led to late mornings.
Tara enjoyed the winter weather and snuggled into their bed after Duncan went off to train with the men. She slept more than usual. She thought her worry for Myra was partly the cause.
The door to the bedroom opened with a crash, startling Tara awake.
“I’m sorry, my lady. I didn’t know ye’d still be abed at this time of day.” Megan scurried into the room, closing the door behind her.
Tara’s pulse pounded at an alarming speed as her body responded to the intrusion. Her stomach gave protest. She bit back the bitter taste of bile.
“My lady, are ye well?” Megan asked.
Tara leaned back in the bed, waited for the nausea to pass. “I’m fine, Megan. Maybe some water.”
The maid hurried to get what she requested. “I hope ye’re not getting ill from Myra. She’s been a bed for the better part of the week.” She handed Tara her drink. “This room has such a chill. Had I known you weren’t well, I would have brought more wood to warm the room.”
The fire was all but out, yet Tara could have sworn Duncan had hocus-pocused it before he left her. “What time is it?”
“Nearly mid-day.” Megan drew the drapes back to let the light shine in.
“It’s late. I should check on Myra,” Tara lied.
“I can do that, my lady. Ye look like ye should stay abed.”
“No! I mean nay.” Pulling back the covers, Tara started to get up. Her stomach clenched again, this time in earnest.
She ran to the pot on the other side of the room and retched. When she finished, Megan handed her a towel and took the pot away.
As Megan left the room, Tara said, “Have Lora check on her daughter. You wouldn’t want to catch this.”
Tara settled back in bed and recalled what she’d eaten the night before.
It didn’t take long for Lora to seek her out.
“It’s nerves.” Tara excused her illness away.
“We’ve all been jumpy since Myra left.”
“Still, it would be best if you rested today.”
Tara shook her head. “I’m feeling better already.” Lora’s look of concern made her add, “But I’ll take it easy.”
“Good. We don’t need more bad rumors about illness in the Keep.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I overheard Megan speaking with Alice. She thinks Myra has a grave illness. That perhaps the illness has spread to you.”
Tara’s shoulders slumped. “We need to come up with another plan.”
“Aye, I agree.” Lora tucked in the blankets around her. “Not today. Today you rest.”
Lora’s hand came up to her cheek. “That warms my heart.”
Tara smiled before snuggling into the bed.
Edgy. It was the only way to describe the mood over the Keep. In the shadow of the upcoming solstice, Ian had knights patrolling more frequently and in greater numbers. Although Lora’s premonition was specific to Myra, the threat was still out there and everyone knew it.
No one left the Keep alone. If a medical need came up in which either Lora or Tara was needed, at least two knights went with them. Even when Duncan and Fin went to the village to pick up the commissioned dishes which Tara had insisted be changed, they left together.
With Duncan on her errand, and the rest of the family busy, Tara settled into an overstuffed chair by the fire and dozed off.
Amber nudged her awake. Huge brown eyes smiled down on her, warming Tara’s heart. Amber had spent a lot of time searching out Tara since Myra’s departure. She missed her sister, and had no problem letting Tara take her place.
“Hey, sweetie, what are you doing?” Tara pulled back the blanket she had thrown over her lap so Amber could snuggle in.
“I was bored with the dolls.” She made herself comfortable and continued to talk. “Megan wanted the dolls to sit and watch while she cleaned the room. It was tiresome.”
Tara laughed. “I wasn’t into dolls at your age either. I liked trucks better.”
“What are those?” Amber’s big eyes and long lashes fluttered against her cheeks.
“Well, trucks are like carts that are pulled by horses, only they aren’t pulled by horses.”
“How do they move?”
“By an engine.”
“What kind of animal is an engine?”
“An engine isn’t an animal.” Tara snickered. “Oh never mind. When Myra comes back maybe she can explain them better.” She purposely said when and not if.
“She is safe,” Amber declared as if reading her thoughts. “I know she is.”
“Did you have a vision like your mom?”
“Nay, not like that. I simply know, like you know Duncan is well, I know Myra is well.”
Tara doubted it was possible for Amber to have such a strong connection with Myra. Maybe her desires for assurance was clouding her thoughts and making her pretend. Much like a child with an imaginary friend, it wouldn’t be harmful to let her go on believing this. At least until a time there was no doubt of Myra’s fate. “I hope so, Amber. I hope so.”
“I know it,” she said with pride. “Ever since we became blood sisters the night before she left, I can tell.” Amber turned her palm up to Tara’s face. “See, blood sisters.”
Tara noticed a healed notch on one of her fingertips. “Did Myra tell you we did that?”
“Mum hum,” she smiled. “We should do it too, that way we can all be real sisters.” The words flew out of her mouth in a rush.