The Dividing Tide – Episode 21

Jago’s brows drew together.

“But of course you are to attend the ball. How could you possibly think otherwise? You are a member of this family, Jenna.” He turned to look at his wife, who quickly stared down at her plate. “Morwenna?” he frowned.

It was the first time Jenna had seen Jago out of temper and her heart began to beat hard. He’d shown her nothing but kindness and now, oh, dear, this was all her fault.

Her aunt looked up, a wary look on her face.

“I’m sorry, my dear, truly I am, but I never for a moment thought you’d want people to know we have such a lowly family connection. Think of our reputation!”

For a moment, he stared at her. Then he stood up from the table, folded his paper and laid it beside his plate with exact precision.

“If you think that, then you do not know me at all, my dear,” he said. “I did not interfere when you gave Jenna a room more fitted to a servant than a guest, for such matters are for you to decide. But this is going too far.

“I shall be at my office until late this evening, and will dine out. Good morning to you all.”

And with that, he strode out of the breakfast room.

The silence was intense when he had gone. Jenna watched as her aunt’s cheeks, so pale of late, flushed a bright red.

“See what you’ve done?” Morwenna exclaimed, rounding on her. “Ever since you came, you’ve been nothing but trouble. Now, you’ve set my own husband against me! Go to your room.”

Her harsh tone set Jenna’s stomach churning. Did she cause trouble? Was that how Morwenna saw it?

“I’ve only tried to be helpful, Aunt,” she said quietly. “I apologise if I have caused upset.”

“I said go to your room!” Her aunt’s voice rose to a shout.

Jenna pushed back her chair and ran. She raced up the wide stairs, around the landing and up another set of narrow stairs to the attic.

She hadn’t meant to make trouble, truly she hadn’t. All she’d ever wanted was to get through the year for everyone’s sake, then go home.

Home. The very word made the tears spring from her eyes and roll down her cheeks.

She flung herself on her narrow bed.

“Oh, Papa,” she cried aloud. “I’m doing my best, I really am, but it’s so very hard at times.” She felt her tears turn to heart-felt, racking sobs which shook her whole body. “If only you’d come home, everything would be all right again, I know it would.

“Please, Papa. Please, please, please come home!”

* * * *

“Papa! Papa!”

Thomas stood motionless in the middle of the wet woods. “Papa!” There it was again, but fainter now.

“I could have sworn that was my Jenna calling me,” he murmured, his heart beating wildly. “Thinking of home’s addled my brain. It must have been the wind.”

As if in answer, the fir trees above him swayed, sending a flurry of raindrops pattering around him.

He started walking again, but the memory of Jenna’s voice stayed. He realised how much he longed to see her and his mother, too.

He made for the clearing where Kanuna and Ahyoka lived. He’d warn them about the soldiers and advise them to keep out of town, then hand in his notice at the mine. It was time to go home.

His thoughts occupied with the family he’d left behind, when he stepped out of the woods it took a moment for the scene below to register.

The cabin where Ahyoka and Kanuna lived looked peaceful, with its drift of chimney smoke, but in front of the homestead a group of bluecoats were dismounting. He watched as they tied the leading ropes to the veranda rail.

Steam rose from their horses’ flanks. It was clear they’d been ridden hard.

Thomas gasped. The soldiers must be here to evict his friends. He had been warned they’d make few exceptions, but surely they wouldn’t make the old and the vulnerable embark on such a journey?

One of the soldiers separated from the group and stepped on to the veranda. Thomas could hear the jingle of his spurs.

What should he do? If he carried on down, he could speak up for his friends.

However, his presence could easily make the situation worse. The last thing he wanted was to create more trouble.

The soldier stepped forwards and kicked against the door. It opened, and as he saw Ahyoka’s pale and frightened face in the doorway, Thomas’s indecision left him. He raced down the slope towards the cabin.

The soldiers turned at his approach, lifting their firearms so that the barrels pointed directly at him. He slowed, his hands in the air.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.