- 53. The Dividing Tide – Episode 53
- 54. The Dividing Tide – Episode 54
- 55. The Dividing Tide – Episode 55
- 56. The Dividing Tide – Episode 56
- 57. The Dividing Tide – Episode 57
Jenna burst through the cottage door, beckoning to Thomas and Ahyoka to follow her.
“Mamm-wynn!” she shouted. “Mamm-wynn!”
“What in heaven’s name is the matter, girl?” Doryty asked, looking up in alarm. She was sitting at the flower-strewn table, Jenna’s wedding garland in her hands.
Her gaze slipped from her to the couple behind, and she became as still as one of the alabaster statues of the saints in Merrick Church, and almost as white.
“It’s Papa,” Jenna whispered, tears welling in her eyes.
Doryty struggled up from her seat, reaching out to steady herself against the edge of the table.
For a moment, she stood just staring at him.
“My son’s come home. I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it,” she said, over and over again.
Then she began to cry, and Jenna did, too. Even Thomas dabbed his eyes as he stepped forward to take his mother in his arms.
“Oh, Mother,” he whispered. “How my heart has yearned for sight of you both.”
He wrapped his arms around her, pressing her tightly to him. Then he drew Ahyoka forward to introduce her.
“This is my wife,” he said.
“You are welcome in this house,” Doryty said simply.
She smiled as she looked Ahyoka up and down appraisingly. Then she led her to her own chair by the fireside.
“Tell me, when is the child due?” she asked, plumping up a cushion and easing it behind the younger woman’s back.
Shyly, Ahyoka returned her smile.
“When the snow moon comes,” she said, placing her hand protectively upon her swollen stomach. “Sooner, perhaps.”
Her smile broadened.
“Our child is eager to be in the world. He does not give me much rest.”
Doryty nodded wisely before turning to Thomas, who had taken a seat on the bench at the table.
“What a time you’ve chosen to return.”
“Jenna told me it is her wedding day. What a lucky man I am, Mother. It would have grieved me dearly to have missed that.”
He reached out to Jenna, who was standing nearby, and took her hand in his own, clasping it tightly.
“I am sorry, daughter, for leaving you and your grandmother for so long.” He bent his head. “It was unforgivable.”
“Not unforgivable, Papa,” she replied softly, “for I never lost hope of your return.”
As he looked up, her eyes drank him in, noting the changes the years had wrought, his greying hair and the extra lines about his eyes.
“Our journey home took longer than it should.”
He told them about the dispute and the lack of sailing berths.
“Even when we reached London, our troubles weren’t over. Ahyoka had had more than enough of sailing for a while so we decided to travel down by post.”
He looked across at her and smiled.
“Unfortunately the state of our roads hasn’t improved in the time I’ve been away, and, given her condition, we took frequent stops for her to rest.”
He told them what had happened to him during the years he had been gone and answered many questions. When he explained how the Cherokee had been evicted from their home in the mountains of Georgia, they grew quiet.
“My wife is one of the few lucky ones,” he told them sombrely.
Jenna glanced at Ahyoka, who was staring into the fire.
“Don’t worry, my dear,” Thomas said. He got up and stooped down beside her. “We won’t speak of it any more. But, one day, remember that we’re going to return.”
He confirmed his words by slipping an arm around her and pressing her to him for a moment.
“You’re not staying, Papa?” Jenna’s heart gave a lurch. All those years she had waited for her father to return, and already he was talking of leaving again!
“We will stay for the baby to be born,” Thomas told her, standing up again. “After that, I do not know.
“A friend of mine, Isaac, is going to write to me and tell me when it is safe for us to return. It may be months or it may be years. There is no way of knowing.”
He smiled sadly.
“I will use the time well, and get to know my daughter again. I have been a poor father to you.”
“No, Papa, no. You were wounded by Mama’s passing.”
“As were you, child. I should not have gone.”
“You’re here now, Papa, that’s all that matters.”
Suddenly, she knew it was true. The past belonged to the past. It was the future that mattered now.