Drabble 67 Anticipation

Thom and Alan were dressed in their best. Alan had even taken a bath without a single complaint. Now both were perched at the lookout tower, watching for signs of Ma. Aly was not. Aly had made up her mind that she was through with welcomes, through with waiting for her mother to come home, through with missing her mother. She was eleven, too old to need her mother anyway.

Aly meant not to rush at her mother in greeting the way silly little girls did. And if Alanna wanted to see her, well, she could come and find her. Aly had things to do. A book to read. Chores to finish. Studies. Funny thing though, she kept finding herself at the window, almost as if her feet carried her there against her will. She had never been able to hear incoming horses, the road was too far from this part of the castle, and yet she swore that she heard approaching hooves over and over.

Ma was expected midmorning. But those hours came and went. Old Molly begged her to eat her midday meal and took sandwiches to the watch tower for the boys. Still, no Alanna.

The afternoon crawled by and then the evening meal was served. Alan and Thom had come in reluctantly. They were crushed. But Aly tried to appear unconcerned. "That's what you get for wasting your day waiting," she said, wagging a finger. But she couldn't eat her dinner; she ended up pushing her food around the plate. And all too soon it was time for bed, but sleep was so far beyond her grasp. Some small part of her wondered, if she didn't wait to welcome her mother, would that keep her from coming home? What if something had happened? What if she never saw her mother again? Aly cried herself to sleep.

Ma slipped into the room like a ghost and Aly wasn't sure if she was dreaming when warm lips pressed her forehead. The night swirled around her, and her heavy swollen eyes took in the dark form seated at her bedside. "Is it really you?" she whispered hoarsely.

"I thought you were asleep, youngling," Alanna whispered, her features mostly indistinguishable in the dead of night.

Aly nuzzled her pillow. "Since I'm dreaming anyway, I'm awful glad you're home."

"Me too, Sweetheart. Me too."