Magic Can Be Murder
Halig sighed. "Never mind." And he went outdoors, leaving Nola and her mother alone with Galvin.
Galvin was giving her mother a wary look, but he had a smile for Nola. "I recognize you," he said.
There was no way he could.
"From the town of Hay market," he explained. "You rescued mc." And when she continued to gaze at him blankly, he said, "From Kirwyn, Innis's son. On the bank of the millpond."
"Oh," Nola said. She held up her walking stick, though it had been her previous stick with which she had struck Kirwyn. Just the mention of Haymarket, the memory that had to bring of the dead Brinna, made Galvin look drawn and strained, she thought.
She couldn't stand this any longer, knowing chat he had liked her only because she looked like Brinna, knowing that - even if he found her kind and brave and all those other nice things he had called her - he wouldn't have thought so if she hadn't temporarily been beautiful. "My mother and I were just leaving," she said.
"No, we weren't," her mother said. She dropped the coins down the front of her dress, even though several fell right back out again.
Galvin pretended not to notice. He said, "I have recommended to Lord Pendaran that since Innis the silversmith had no close kin beyond Kirwyn, the shop should be handed over to the assistant, Alan." He paused to consider, then added, "Just in case you know these people."
Nola's mother smacked Nola on the back of the head.
Galvin raised his eyebrows, waiting.
"Ahm...," Nola said. She realized that what her mother meant was, Say something to him. She would, if she could think of something. She said, "Thank you. For getting to the truth with..." She nodded her head vaguely outdoors.
Galvin shrugged. "I didn't think you looked like thieves."
Seeing her mother was about to say something, Nola clapped her hand over her mother's mouth.
Galvin looked from one of them to the other. By his expression, Nola judged that he considered at least several possible responses before finally answering, "Well, good-bye."
She would never see him again.
She had thought so twice before, but now she knew this was absolutely her last chance. She could go on living the way she had been, or she could try to hold on to Galvin.
But what it his comments to Halig in the garden weren't true? What if it wasn't her that he liked but Brinna's appearance?
Still, if she didn't trust him, she'd never know.
She said what she'd spent all her life hiding, what she'd been afraid a moment ago her mother would say. She said, "We're not thieves. We're witches."
Again Galvin gazed from one to the other. Steadily. He said, "Obviously."
Which left Nola with nothing to say. He knew?
Nola's mother said, "My husband likes the looks of you and thinks you can be trusted. Here. Listen." She put her head up close to his.
That, at least, flustered him. He cast an anxious glance at Nola.
Her mother continued. "And I think you have possibility, too. I've always told Nola, 'Never underestimate someone who's willing to hold your head while you're being sick.'"
Maybe, Nola thought, he wouldn't remember.
But she could hear the breath he took in, and his face, which she'd already thought pale, went white.
Nola's mother caught hold of one of the chairs and moved it behind Galvin, who sat down heavily. "My husband said you looked a bit unsteady," she said.
Galvin looked at her, at Nola, back at her, before he started breaching again. "Perceptive fellow," he managed to whisper. He hardly had better control over his voice when he asked Nola, "Brinna?"
"No," she said. "Well..." She buried her face in her hands. "Sometimes."
So she told him.
From picking blackberries in Low Beck, to accidentally looking in at Innis's murder, to returning to the house, co meeting him and Sergeant Halig, to bespelling Brinna, to falling down the stairs, to finally getting out of the house, to watching helplessly while he and the townsfolk tried to find Brinna's body in the millpond.
She didn't, of course, tell him that her heart had hurt worse than her ankle at the thought that she would never see him again.
"So it was you," he said softly, "all the while..."
"Not all the while," she corrected him. "You did meet the true Brinna first."
"But all the while..." He stopped himself.
Still she felt sure she knew what he'd been going to say.
And she was just as sure she knew why he wouldn't let himself say it.
She was an admitted witch. He would have to turn her in. She remembered the conversation she had overheard in the garden between Galvin and Halig, when Halig had suggested chat Galvin could ignore his suspicions about Brinna. Galvin had refused, because his sense of justice was stronger than whatever he felt for Brinna. Nola braced herself for his declaring that she and her mother were both under arrest.
But he didn't say that. Instead, he said, "I won't tell."
She said, "But..." She heard her mother give a groan of exasperation, but Nola couldn't leave it at that. "You refused to ignore that Brinna helped Kirwyn kill his father."
"It's not the same," he said.
She could see it wasn't. He hadn't been surprised to hear they were witches. He'd had his suspicions, at least from today, if not earlier, and he wasn't going to turn them in.
"I don't see," he told her, "that you cause harm to any."
"No," she agreed breathlessly. What more could she ask for? He was giving her her life and her mother's. That should be more than enough to satisfy a witch who had both a plain face and no reason to believe in luck.
And yet she remembered how he'd looked at her while she'd worn Brinna's face, and she started to say, "I could look like her again." But she knew that was wrong. For any one of several reasons. She bit back the offer before she got her mouth fully around the initial "I - ," and ended with a sound like a strangled gasp.
Galvin stood, hurriedly, and took her arm as though to steady her. "Are you all right?" he asked.
"A bit light-headed," she said, which was only the smallest part of it. He was just being kind, she reminded herself.
Galvin gave that smile that made her knees weak. "If you're going to be sick," he told her, "I'll hold your head." Emphatically, he finished, "But I will not sing."
Even to her, it sounded like more than just being kind.
She wondered if he would have noticed her without Brinna's face. But the fact was, he had noticed her.
So why didn't he say so?
He wasn't sure, she suddenly realized. All this while - despite herself - she'd been growing to love him. But he couldn't know that. He didn't dare assume she felt anything foe him. So she told him. She said, "I was afraid I'd never see you again."
But he didn't put his arms around her and tell her that love would conquer all. He pulled away from her and narrowed his eyes suspiciously, putting together things she had said. "Were you watching me? Did you ever do this bespelling of water to see me?"
It was not a part of the story that had seemed to need to be cold. But she wouldn't lie to him. She had told enough lies for a lifetime. "Yes," she admitted.
"You spied on me?" She recognized the exact tone of outrage she had used while accusing her mother of the very same thing.
"Yes," she said. "Just once. While you were talking in the garden, with Sergeant Halig."
The fact that he had been doing nothing wrong nor potentially embarrassing apparently wasn't enough. "Don't ever do that again," he told her. "I would hate to have to shave my head just to ensure privacy."
"I'll never do it again," she promised.
Then, finally, he pulled her in closer for an embrace. He buried his face in her hair and didn't even seem to mind that it was hair the color of dead grass rather than ripening wheat.
Nola's mother was practically bouncing with joy. "Oh, your father is if pleased," she said. "And so's Grand-mama, and the abbot, and Mother Superior - the baby, of course, is too young to understand - but King Fenuku is very excited. Whew!" She waved her hand in front of her nose.
As her mother continued to chatter, Nola shook her head. "I'm sorry," she told Galvin. "She gets these strange fancies - "
"Another never," Galvin told her. "Never apologize for your family."
Nola looked at her mother, looked back at Galvin, cook a deep breath, and gave an emphatic nod. "You're right."
"Of course I am," Galvin said. He, too, took a deep breach. "And with that in mind," he cold her, "you're going to love my mother."