"Mrs. Coulter…" Lyra said coming into the office "I was just wondering –" but she was interrupted before she could finish the word.
"Lyra, my love, let's talk in the sitting room, much better than here, don't you think?" Marisa said already opening the door.
When Lyra came into the office, she had immediately dropped the papers on which she was working. Marisa would never work in the Oblation Board papers in front of Lyra, she didn't know why, she just couldn't do it.
"What were you saying darling?" She said sitting at the comfortable sofa
"I was just wondering…" said the girl timidly "when are we going to the North…?"
Marisa wasn't certain if that was a statement or a question. She could feel Lyra's anxiety to travel to such a far land since their first day together, after all, she had promised they would go.
Her only problem was that she wasn't willing to spend even a day in an extremely cold place, inside a tent, pretending to do observations in something she couldn't even imagine. No, she had done it already a few times and all of them had been for her studies about Dust and she certainly wouldn't do again except she had a good reason to. The last times she went to the North, she was comfortably sat in a zeppelin and would go straight into the warm Experimental Station.
But Bolvangar was a place she would never take Lyra.
"Lyra, you will have to learn to be patient. I know that seeing Lord Asriel going there whenever he pleased make it seem very easy, but such a trip demands months of advance planning"
Lyra twisted her mouth. Mrs Coulter couldn't help but to see a bit of herself in that petite gesture made by the stubborn child that stood in front of her and wondered how would have things been like if she had taken her daughter home since the first day of her life. The day that changed all the plans she had for them both and, above all, that would make possible for her to live with Asriel.
"My Uncle Asriel thought in taking me in the last minute last time he went off! And we aren't even preparing, we are just buying useless stuff…!" Lyra was beginning to raise her tone of voice, it was so an obvious excuse! Pantalaimon, by her side, became an eagle and flew to her shoulder.
"Listen to me: you are just as stubborn and anxious as your father. If you don't learn how to control your impulses, you'll end up doing stupid things overlooking it's consequences, why do you think he is…" but she held herself in that second.
She was about to reveal to her child the whole truth, how could she be so careless? For a second, the idea didn't seem so bad for her, it would be good being directed as 'mum' instead of 'Mrs. Coulter', the title that had cost her two most beloved ones. If the child only knew that the name she so often called was the reason for her to have grown without parents! But she immediately regretted those thoughts.
"My father?" asked the girl puzzled "Did you know my parents?"
Her expression suddenly went blank, her face, pale. All that Lyra had felt in arguing against their long wait for the expedition was now far away from her mind. Pantalaimon was now an ermine again, curious incessantly staring at her monkey. The woman closed her eyes, condemning her for her own words.
"Yes dear, I have met both your parents"
"How were they like? And my mother, did you meet her?" said Lyra suddenly enthusiastic "Did you meet me when I was a baby?"
Marisa could only see how that little and defenceless girl wished so ardently for a mother and couldn't help but to feel pity for her and guilty.
Marisa smiled and gestured for Lyra to seat by her side. She could see that the rest of the evening and, eventually, the night, would be spent in fake stories of how she had been introduced to Count and Countess Belacqua in a ball by Lord Asriel and become friends with the woman that was sofrequent in Lyra's imagination.
"She was just like you, in fact, you have her smile, but you look more like your father, you have his eyes and hair." Lyra would never notice the sad smile in the woman's face. How ardently she wished to tell the truth! Why had Asriel lied for so many years, wouldn't he like to be called dad? Yes, she remembered he did. So this was her punishment, to never be acknowledged as a mother? Very clever of him…
Eventually, darkness fell and Lyra went to bed. In the dark room, Marisa kissed her child's forehead and she smiled. The girl sensed the maternal love she had never been given, even if through sub-consciousness. Mrs Coulter knew what she had to do, it just wasn't time already, maybe it never would be. She looked at her daemon
"You shouldn't have said that" was all he said.