The sound of the bowl being set down beside the bed was what woke her up, and her eyes blinked slowly a few times before she was fully awake, glancing up to see Rainé looking down at her, the faintest of smiles curling the corner of the woman’s mouth.
Ana’s nose wrinkled at the familiar smell of the meal which had been set down for her and she turned onto her side slowly, intending to push herself up into a sitting position so that she could at least try and eat.
“It smells good. Did you … did you cook this, yourself?” An eyebrow raised at the older woman, the question quickly followed by abrupt laughter.
“Me, cook? Please, Ana. I’m trying to make you feel better, not worse…”her voice trailed off quickly, and then she stood up, straightened her shoulders and sniffed before finishing, “No, I had the help make it. This Talbuk stew should be almost as good as if you made it yourself. Gods know that woman is paid enough, it better be good.” She nodded towards the bowl and then stepped closer to the bed, offering Ana her arm for support so that she could sit up easier.
Ana winced when she shifted, being rewarded with a sharp kick in the ribs. Rubbing her swollen belly she closed her eyes as her head started to swim. The effort of even moving so strenuous and uncomfortable, she felt faint for several moments.
“Nobody ever told me that being pregnant was quite like this, “she murmured when she finally did open her eyes, met with a stern but concerned look from Rainé.
“That’s because it’s not supposed to be like this, “the older woman narrowed her eyes, sniffing before folding her arms across her chest, casting her eyes over Ana’s exposed belly. Pulling the sheet up over herself to try and avoid any further looks of disdain, Ana simply closed her eyes and listened as her sister vented.
“It’s not natural, what’s happening to you. Nothing about it is normal, or natural. Far from it!”
“Where is Kaeth?” Ana asked quietly, a swift subject change, as if she had heard none of her sisters’ words, reaching for the bowl beside her. Raine reached it before she did, scooping it up with her own hand.
“Careful, it’s very hot, “she warned, and helped Ana prop a pillow in front of her to rest the bowl on. She blew on a spoonful before moving it to feed Ana with it.
“Rainé, please, I can still feed myself, “Ana snapped, almost immediately regretting her tone as the woman stepped back, sniffing once more before folding her arms defensively across her chest, a posture she took fairly often, though Ana was not usually the cause. It seemed as if most people and things offended or angered Rainé Blackcrest in some way. Ana often wondered if she had always been that way, or if something had happened to her at some point in time shaping the woman she was now.
It occurred to her then, that she would likely never know, and all at once she lost her appetite again. She let the spoon slip from her fingers and it clattered to the floor, and she turned to place the bowl back on the nightstand.
“I’ll get you another one, “Rainé was already turning to leave the room, but Ana stopped her.
“No, I can’t eat anymore.”
“You must eat more, you’ve barely had three bites. At least if you are stuck carrying that monstrous child you could at least try and see it through to term. I won’t stand by and see you harm yourself this way. It’s bad enough that it’s already killing you!”
The words had been voiced, finally. They never spoke of the baby, the two of them. Ana had tried many times, but Rainé wouldn’t hear anything of it. She was too caught up in what Ana perceived as overwhelming concern that she seemed to hate the unborn child. She’d never said it outright, but had hinted at it in small ways, veiled comments, body language, looks given, but now it was out in the open.
A heavy silence lay between the women for several minutes before Rainé finally broke it, her voice softer now, the tone heavy with worry rather than anger.
“It’s not right. Something about it isn’t right.”
“It’s a baby, Rainé, “Ana murmured, “not a monster, not a thing. A baby.”
“It’s killing you. You’ll be lucky to give birth to the thing at the rate with which you are draining before all of our eyes!”
“She can’t help it…she’s just an innocent unborn child, Rainé. How can you be so hateful?”
The older woman snorted at these last words.
“I’m hateful for good reason! There is bad magic at play here, something dark, something … what do you mean, she?”
“I just know it’s a little girl. I’ve dreamed it. I’ve seen her. She’s .. she’s beautiful.”
“And you’re delusional, unwell, exhausted. These are just fantasies, dreams conjured up in your mind of something you wish to be. It isn’t possible, what you speak of. You can’t know!”
Ana leaned back into her pillows, resting her head and closing her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she turned her head to look at her sister and simply stated.
“You and I both know that isn’t true.”
Turning away abruptly, Rainé was about to leave again, and Ana reached out to catch the woman’s wrist before she did.
“I want you to promise me something.”
“Don’t do this, Ana…”
“Rainé, please, promise me. Stay. Help Kaeth take care of her. Be there when I can’t.”
“I will not hear your last wishes right now, Anaveya. Not yet. Not yet…”
The last words faltered as the hardened expression on the older woman’s face finally softened and her voice wavered. She sounded close to tears, but Ana knew that time was running short, and if there wasn’t a next week, or even a tomorrow, there were things that needed to be said, things to get in order before … well, before the inevitable.
Time was short.