The Final Chapter
With Candy's money, they rented a house hidden away from the rest of the small town. Mischief stayed with them for a short time, before he took his payment and left them. He was ready to pursue his next treasure and adventure and was not a man to be content in the same place for too long. The afternoon light of the Nonce suited Candy well and she found herself a job selling drinks and snacks to tourists. They continued on in this fashion for quite some time, until it almost became normal, and they stopped looking over their shoulders every moment.
Candy had been surprised to find that apparently the ruined church and the dragon skeleton was a great attraction. She tried not to think of the morbidity of selling refreshments to visitors, who had some to see where her husband's first love had died. Especially since it was a fair bet to assume she'd be the next to be dispatched. All it took was for one person to recognise her and report back to Carrion and she'd either be poisoned or stabbed in her sleep. Would people make a special trip to come and see where she had been murdered too? Maybe they'd set up a lemonade stand on her front porch and charge everyone an entrance fee.
Her time in Midnight became not a memory, but a dream. Had she really had servants? What had she used them for? She had gotten so used to working and looking after her home, that she couldn't imagine what she had done with her time before. No wonder she had gone crazy, staring at walls all day and trying to make conversation with people she disliked. The only thing that called her mind back to Midnight was the thoughts of Carrion, who invaded her mind frequently. She wished she had had the courage to say something to him before she had left. But what could she say that wouldn't be a lie? I'll miss you? There was very little she missed, but still her heart couldn't let him go. He was with her in every moment, and it hurt to look back and remember the things that she had done to him, and him to her.
Looking after her son ceased being scary, especially since there was no one looking over her shoulder making sure she did everything right or picking up her mistakes. Neither Malingo nor Mischief had anymore experience that her, so they all made it up together. With Malingo's help tried not to dwell on her fears, and started to remember whom she was.
Baby Tommy started to sit up unaided, and before long he was moving around, holding on to furniture and trying to stand. He would look up at her and try out new sounds, trying to form his first words, which her mostly gurgles and squeaks. Candy found herself losing track of time in this small place, but it was now just over ten months since her baby was born. Another month of calm passed for them all, but at then end of it a visitor arrived on the island for her.
Candy had opened the door without thinking and now stood dumbfounded.
"Ah, there are you are. You were difficult to find."
Letheo smiled as he stood on the doorstep. He held out a bunch of flowers as a peace offering. Candy took them automatically, but her wary stare never wavered. She held the bunch of daisies and felt as if she had just fallen off the edge of a cliff. Her heart had skipped a beat and now was furiously trying to catch up. She'd forgotten how to breathe, and her mind was racing. She was picturing all the ways this situation could go, and nothing was good.
"I haven't come to hurt you," Letheo said, not liking the frightened way in which she looked at him. "I'm just visiting." But still her face wore a look of complete horror upon it. He didn't understand what the matter was, surely she couldn't believe that he was here to harm her?
Candy hesitantly opened the door and let him in. She felt herself moving, but no longer knew what she was doing. She was trying to plan an escape, but he would be faster than her, and she would never leave Tom behind. She was trapped, and there was nowhere for her to escape to.
Tom was playing on the lounge room floor, his little toys spread out on the rug around him. He looked up at Letheo with his big blue eyes and smiled. He pushed a bug toy across the rug and picked it up with a clumsy hand and held it up for Letheo to see. The smile on his face showing none of his mother's fear.
"What do you want?" Candy asked, standing in between her son and Letheo.
"Obviously to see how you are," Letheo said. "You've been missed. Everyone thought you'd been kidnapped. But when no ransom note came, I guessed you'd run away. I don't know what Lord Carrion thought; he didn't look for you very hard, just sent me to track you. Motley was pretty mad at him."
"Good guess," Candy said icily. But the fact that Carrion hadn't organised a Abarat wide search for her was strange. She dreaded to think what Motley had done to him, had she thought Carrion was in on her escape? Candy bit her lip. Had Carrion known all along what she had be planning? Had he known where she was all this time? But why send Letheo now? What had happened?
"He's grown," Letheo said looking down at the baby.
"Yes," Candy replied shortly.
"Candy you can stop looking at me like that," Letheo said. "I've never hurt you, have I?"
Candy turned and picked Tom up. He started to struggle to reach down towards his toys. She didn't like all this new information. All this time she been under the impression that she had been hiding, when it seemed Carrion had just be letting her run. Why would he do that?
"Just leave Letheo," Candy said. She didn't want to think about this anymore. Her world was falling apart again, and this scenario was not something she had planned for, or even imagined.
"You can't run now. He knows where you are. He's known for a long time," Letheo said.
Still Candy's face remained stony. She didn't care. She didn't trust anything he said. She stared at him until he finally left, and then she began packing. But with every item she threw into her bag, Candy realised it was pointless, and soon gave up and sat down. She felt like crying, but there was no point. Malingo would be back shortly and then she could tell him everything. Letheo was right, there was nowhere else for her to run to, or anyone else to help her. She decided there was nothing to be done but to stay where she was, and face the consequences of her actions, whatever those might be.
The following day Candy was in the garden. The sun was glowing the sky pink and in the air was filled with sweet smelling pollen. She was dozing, listening to Malingo playing with Tom, looking for bugs in the hedgerow. Malingo was naming al the creature by their colours, the blue one, the yellow bug, the green moth, when suddenly the tone of his voice changed as he called her name.
Walking up the path was Christopher Carrion. He looked strange and at odds with the setting around him. Candy sat up alert. He was different to what she remembered. He was no longer dressed in his imposing Midnight attire, but was wearing beige trousers and a crisp blue shirt. Candy thought he looked as if he'd been on holiday, which she quickly dismissed as an absurd thought. Clearly he hadn't been missing her that much.
He looked up at her as he neared, but still he was an imposing figure. Even without his masses of black and his collar of Nightmares. Even the birds in the sky had gone quiet.
"Malingo," Candy said standing up and smoothing the wrinkles out of her dress. "Take Tom indoors." Now that Carrion was here, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world that he should be. Candy was alarmed to find that she felt as if this place had just won his blessing, and that she didn't need to hide from him anymore.
Carrion stared at his son with fascination, but said nothing as Malingo took him indoors.
"Hello Candy," Carrion said at last.
"My Lord," Candy replied. She didn't curtsy, since the whole situation felt odd.
"This is a nice place to live," Carrion said looking around. "Lots of fresh air for our boy."
Candy nodded, feeling her heart in her mouth. She didn't know if he was angry or not. Were they really going to make small talk and avoid the big issues? Surely Carrion should be demanding what the hell she had been thinking by now? She didn't think she'd be just sitting down, helping herself to lemonade if she had been in his shoes. But yet the only one who seemed uncomfortable here seemed to be her.
They sat in silence for a long time, listening to the bugs making creaking noises in the bushes. Carrion clearly enjoyed his drink, since he helped himself to more. Candy stared at him, thinking he looked like he ought to be sailing around some tropical island on a jolly; surely no one was this calm?
"You could have written to me," Carrion said at last. But still there was no anger in his voice.
"And say what?" Candy asked, turning to face him. "Hey Christopher, I stole your son, and am living it up on the beach?"
He smirked at her. He'd missed her sarcastic humour, and her direct way of speaking.
"Something like that," he said.
"At least I'd have known you were alive," Carrion insisted.
Candy looked away. She had thought many times about writing to him, but had never found the courage. What would she had said?
"You would have found me sooner if I had written."
"I found you a long time ago," Carrion corrected her. "But I let you be. I suppose you haven't been reading the papers? Maybe you wouldn't be looking at me in that scared little girl way if you had. And maybe if you have asked Mischief what had happened in Midnight the night you left, you wouldn't have been so alarmed when Letheo arrived."
Candy looked at him quizzically. What had been going on whilst she was hiding? And what the heck did Mischief have to do with it? Why did everyone else always know more that she did?
"No, there are no papers here," she replied. She wished he'd just stop talking in riddles and just tell her something straightforward. But for that to happen then she would have to actually ask him a question.
"I didn't contact you, because I didn't want Motley to find you. Not while I was out of Midnight. We have broken our allegiance. We are no longer allies," Carrion explained. "She wanted me to return our child, but I refused. Which is why I allowed that thief to smuggle him out of Midnight. I had been considering the same thing myself. You should have confided in me."
Candy gaped at him.
"What?" Candy demanded. Her brain could not even process this. It was too much. Carrion had been trying to save their child too? But why hadn't he confided in her? Then Candy thought back to her behaviour, maybe she had done too good a job at convincing him that she was OK. Maybe he thought she hadn't cared.
"I am now ruling from the Isle of Black Egg. I am trying to open negotiations with the day islands, but so far, I have had no luck. Incidentally, how did you get out of Midnight?"
Candy gave up trying to hide her secrets. What did it matter?
"Pixlar," she replied. "He smuggled us all out."
"Ah, Pixlar. I questioned him, but he gave me nothing. No one saw anything. He did it well."
The way Carrion spoke, it was if it had all be a joke. He didn't seem angry that Candy had run away. In fact it seemed like she had created one less problem for him. He'd started a war at home, and once he had known she was safe and away, he hadn't wanted to interfere with her. But why choose now to appear to her? Did it mean he wanted her to go back with him?
"Did you want to come in? Thomas is inside. And there is something to eat if you want it?" Candy offered. Since they were not going to be fighting, there seemed nothing left to do but offer him her home. But Carrion shook his head.
"Maybe tomorrow. I will come again tomorrow."
Over the next few weeks, Carrion visited Candy in her little house. He sat quietly and let Tom bring his toys to him and get used to his presence. He admired all the toys as he was instructed to by the little boy, who placed them one at a time in his lap. Carrion also helped Tom spread them all out on the floor, which seemed to annoy Candy who was forever trying to tidy up after her boy.
Carrion also liked to watch Candy at work in her home. Cutting up vegetables in her kitchen, washing her clothes and tidying the house. He sat and watched her day after day, only speaking when she wanted to. She told him about her adventures, how she had left Midnight and why. She told him all about Tom, and how much he'd learnt. And listed all his favourite foods, his favourite games, and songs.
Candy looked happy. Carrion realised how much Midnight had oppressed her, and knew that he could never expect her to live that way again. They needed their own home, away from his business, and away from the ceremony and watchful eyes. Candy was not someone who enjoyed being waited upon, she liked to look after herself.
In return Carrion told her of his own plans, to regain control of Midnight and expand his territories. He left the part about the Sacbrood out of the equation. He told her that he wanted to remove his grandmother from power, and start the reforms that John DeWinters had imagined. Candy listened with great interest. She knew that behind his inspiring vision would be a lot of bloodshed, if Motley decided to fight him.
He explained that he needed her to come with him, to the council of day and support him. He knew it would soften his image to have a wife and child by his side. With Candy here he might not appear so threatening.
Suddenly Candy's options changed again. She could either go with Carrion, help him gain the support of the days islands, or stay here and hope that Carrion won and Motley never found her. As for Carrion, he wanted to recruit the day first. Motley had her stitchlings, Pixlar his requiax and Carrion his Sacbrood. The day after all, didn't stand a chance, they had to side with someone.
Candy realised she had never really had a choice. She was going to leave with Carrion since he was her safest option. He had travelled miles to find her, and he had patiently waited for her to agree to come with him, rather than forcing her. He needed her help, and he still wanted her company, and Candy realised that she felt rather proud that it was her out of so many.
But how this would all end, Candy didn't know. All she did know was that she and Carrion were about to start all over again. She had a feeling that this was to be the pattern for the rest of their lives. In the end, Carrion had always been her safest option.
Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed this story, it has meant so much! I tried not to shy away for writing the issues that this fic brought up. I hope that no one was offended by anything in this story, since there were quite a few depressing ideas.
I am so looking forward to Abarat 3, due to come out later this year, so we can find out how the story continues. I am going to say that this is end of part one, so may be continued in the future if the follow Abarat books allow for it. Thank you again everyone!