Chapter Twenty One
“Did you find anything?” Tara looked up as Hannah entered the clearing. She was sitting on a rock holding Martin in her lap. “He’s really hungry.”
“I found some fruit.” Hannah opened her cardigan â€“ which she had used as a make-shift bag â€“ to reveal the raspberries and strawberries. “Can he eat these?”
“Sure,” Tara said. “We should rinse them first, but it’s only under one year old that they shouldn’t eat berries.”
“Okay!” Hannah snatched the cardigan away before Martin could grab any of the fruit, took it down to the spring and rinsed them off. When she returned, Martin was pouting at her. She opened the cardigan again and let him help himself, then sat down on a nearby rock and stared into space, trying not to think about her mother, Clara and Simon. With her distracting task out of the way, it wasn’t easy to ignore the aching void inside her. Why had three people had to die to keep her alive? And Kayleigh… why had Kayleigh done that? It wasn’t fair and it made no sense. She shook her head and choked back a sob. There was no time for grief until they were safe. After a moment, she felt Tara’s arms wrap around her again.
“It’s okay to cry, you know,” she said.
“No. What if something attacks us? I’m the only one who can fight at the moment.”
“And if you’re repressing it like this you’ll be absolutely no use,” Tara said reasonably. “Come on, sweetie, let it out.”
Hannah tried to refuse again but she really couldn’t. The tears which had been building up inside her again would not be denied and she broke down in Tara’s arms. As she wept the other woman rocked her like an infant and murmured softly to her.
When she was all cried out again, she went and rinsed her face before sitting back down and hugging her knees. “Do you think Carl got to my father in time?”
“I do,” Tara said in a reassuring tone. “Carl is spatial primary and Marian was intent on hunting us down first. He’ll have found your father while Marian was still after us, and have taken him somewhere safe.”
“To Matthias or Sarah I’d imagine,” Tara replied.
“But they’ll attack them next,” Hannah said. Tara hugged her again.
“Probably, yes, but they’ll be forewarned and that should be enough,” Tara said.
Hannah nodded, even though she wished that Tara sounded more certain than she did, then looked over at Collette who was sitting by Martin and picking at the raspberries. He, by contrast, was absolutely covered in raspberry juice and looked like he’d got more fruit over him than in him.
“Are you okay, Collette?” she asked softly. Worry about someone else, she told herself. It’ll take your mind off things.
Collette looked up and shook her head. “Yes… No… I really don’t know. I liked Clara and Simon and I know I should feel terrible about them being killed, and sometimes I do, but mostly I feel nothing and then quite out of the blue I have this sudden burst of happiness which I can’t explain…” she trailed off. “I shouldn’t be happy.”
“You’re going to meet your heart friend today,” Hannah said. “Of course you feel happy. It’ll be one of the happiest moments of your life and that’s as it should be even in these circumstances. You’re meeting someone who is bound to you on such a fundamental level that they may as well be part of you. That’s special. That’s always special.”
Collette cocked her head at Hannah as she considered this and then gave her a tremulous smile. “I think you’re right, but it still feels wrong to be happy right now.” She growled to herself. “I should have thrown Clara’s body at Aunt Marian instead of Simon rushing her. But I froze up when I felt her die! It’s my fault he’s dead!”
“Don’t be silly,” Tara snapped. “You’re just a kid, you’re allowed not to know how to react in extreme circumstances.”
“What do you mean felt her die?” Hannah asked. “You weren’t mind linked to her were you?”
Collette shook her head. “No, not like that. It’s part of having a death affinity. I sense when things die around me. Little things like bugs and plants I can filter out, thank goodness, but humans…” she trailed off and shuddered. “Aunt Marian had plans to use me to ensure any resonants she found were really dead and not just fleeing.” Collette looked a little sick and Hannah couldn’t blame her. “She bloody knew how feeling people die affected me and she still wanted to do that to me. And that’s quite apart from the fact I knew about Mum working for Matthias and Sean being resonant, so I didn’t want to help anyway. The one hunt she took me on I lied through my teeth about.”
“She did,” Tara said proudly. “And fooling Marian is no mean feat. I was so proud of you faking like that. You were brilliant. And Matt managed to get the kid back to France without her realising.”
“She wasn’t even right about him being a resonant.” Collette scowled. “And once someone proved that to her she wasn’t even sorry.” She clenched her fists so hard her knuckled blanched. “She makes me so mad!”
“She wasn’t sorry that she’d attacked someone who was…” Hannah hesitated, searching for the right word. “Not innocent, since that would imply guilt, but you know what I mean?”
“I do,” Tara sighed. “And no, she wasn’t. Marian is a firm believer in ‘not taking chances’, as she puts it, and no one has found a way to restrain her yet.”
Hannah made a disgusted noise. “I knew she was bad, but I had no idea she was that bad.â€
“I know,” Tara said. “She used to be the most liberal of us until our parents died and she took over the family. Somehow she convinced herself that they’d been killed by Resonants and… well…”
“I thought they died in an accident,” Hannah said.
“Well that’s what it looked like,” Tara replied. “But Marian is absolutely convinced and flies into a rage whenever anyone tries to persuade her otherwise. It’s tragic really.”
“I guess,” Hannah said dubiously. “Do you think she feels she is to blame for their deaths and is transferring blame.”
“I-I’m honestly not sure. There’s no real reason for her to blame herself. She wasn’t even involved in the preparations for their trip. Unless she feels she should have had a premonition about the plane crash. That was the only odd thing – that none of us saw it coming.” She looked to one side. “I miss our parents. They would have handled this whole mess more rationally. Mum once told me that if any of her grandkids were-” Tara broke off and hit her forehead. “Bloody hell! Mum knew about Sean and Collette! And if she knew, Dad must have known as well.” She shook her head. “Why did I never realise this before. I thought about that conversation enough, especially once I started having the precognative dream about Sean. It was what made up my mind.”
“What did she say?” Hannah asked curiously.
“Oh, that if any of her grandkids were resonant, she and dad would protect them and they’d have to think long and hard about what it meant for the family mission in general as well.”
“It certainly sounds like she knew or at least suspected about them. I suppose she might have had the same dreams you did.”
“It’s certainly possible, but if so then she had them before I did. Then again Mum was a better precog than I am. She mustn’t have been sure which way I’d jump if she just out and told me.”
“That, or she didn’t realise you didn’t know and wanted you to confide in her,” Hannah suggested.
“That is possible,” Tara admitted. “I mean I know that she wasn’t lying to me about what she said, but she might well have wanted me to come to her about it. That’s the sort of person she was.” She gave Hannah a sad smile. “I know how the others see us, but really our family isn’t all that different from the other families, or it wasn’t until Marian took charge. She’s turning it into some sort of cult with her at its heart.” Her jaw tightened visibly. “I really hope she’ll be stopped now. I think the rest of the family might be salvagable without her.”
“I hope so,” Hannah said. “But even if they can be persuaded to change their minds, what about the other hunter families around the world? Would they let them?”
Tara shrugged. “No one stopped the Lins in China from stopping. Of course in spite of its large population there hasn’t been a resonant born in China for ages.”
“And Aunt Marian thinks the two mainland families have stopped as well,” Collette added. “She can’t prove it since resonant births are prone to clustering. But I heard her yelling at that Austrian guy a couple of weeks ago. Threatening to start policing Europe as well.”
“Oh, I bet that went down a storm.” Tara rolled her eyes. “Stefan already hates Marian.” She paused and looked down. “His daughter is a good friend of Sarah’s. I wonder how they’ll react when Marian tells him.”
“I guess we’ll have to wait-” Hannah broke off as Collette leapt to her feet. The girl’s eyes were alight with anticipation. “They’re nearly here I take it?”
Collette nodded eagerly. “Yes! They’re really close.”
“Well then,” Tara said. “We should get ready to meet them.” She started to get to her feet then sank back down with a groan. “It’s no good, I can’t stand again.”
“Do you need another boost?” Hannah offered Tara her hand even though she wasn’t sure how long she could keep this up for.
Tara stared at it and then shook her head. “Don’t overstress yourself for me, you haven’t eaten properly since yesterday. It’s not like we need to walk like yesterday. We’ll be safe soon and we can work on my problem once we are.”