tagNonConsent/ReluctanceӔgir's Captive Pt. 14

Ӕgir's Captive Pt. 14

byTara_Neale©

If it could be called that. If Tilbury had been sleepy and laidback little town, then Fjorthen barely qualified as a village. A couple of dozen wooden framed houses, some on stilts as the waters came right under them, a single high street and one shop that was store, post office and café all rolled into one.

She observed the woman that she supposed was her 'mother-in-law.' She still was having trouble reconciling this vivacious and stunning woman with the image that she had built in her head. From the moment that she had stepped on board Ægir's Captive, she had taken control. Kirsty smiled at the way the woman directed them all like they were an orchestra and she the maestro.

The shop keeper smiled as they entered. She greeted them in a language that Kirsty tried to place...vaguely a mix of the French which she knew well and German of which she knew only a few words. It made her uncomfortable that she could not understand anything that they said, but the woman seemed to be delighted at whatever Sven said to her.

While Sven and Petrine chatted with the woman, Olaf drifted off from the main group to greet a handful of older men who were playing chess as they drank coffee. They laughed loudly at something he said. Mikael had his hands full trying to keep Monika from touching every single thing in the shop. Kirsty frowned and considered approaching them. But she really had no idea where she stood in this situation...with him in particular. Would he resent her intrusion?

"What do you think?" Bjorn's voice caressed her mind as he laced his fingers through hers. "I know that it is nothing like your London, but it is home...to us anyway," she wanted to laugh at how sheepishly he looked at her.

She shook her head, "I guess some part of me is surprised that a place like this still exists...it is lovely. Really. Like something you would see in a painting."

He chuckled, "Don't be deceived. We all have satellite TV and the Internet. Not even Fjorthen can escape the twenty-first century." He nodded towards his uncle and the older men, "Even if some of them still complain about it."

Before she could ask anything else, Petrine and Sven joined them. "We should get a table. Adelaide will bring the food shortly." She smiled once more at Kirsty, "I know it is a bit to take in all at once, but we will chat later," she said before she glided across the room to the men.

She greeted them with a smile as she placed her arm lightly over Olaf's shoulders. Her laughter seemed to rise above all the others at something one of them said. "If you are finished, Old Man, the food will be here shortly," she directed at Olaf in English. Kirsty got the feeling it was primarily for her benefit.

The man had a twinkle in his eyes as he slapped her jean clad behind. Kirsty was more than a bit envious...her butt would never look that good in jeans. And this woman was at least sixty. As friendly as Petrine had been, she could not help feeling even more inadequate.

Olaf stood and wrapped his arms about her, drawing her tightly into his embrace as he said his farewells to his friends. Kirsty frowned as she saw the looks that the couple got once they had turned their backs on the group. Lust. Envy. Disgust. It was all there. She shook her head and reminded herself that this was a different culture, perhaps as with Monika, she was just reading things into the situation that were not there. But the stiffness in Sven's body next to hers and the dark scowl upon his face said that perhaps she was not.

When the couple re-joined them though, they were all smiles. Petrine took her hand and pulled away from Olaf, "We have so much to talk about. I have waited so long for this day. I know I must seem incredibly pushy. Blame it on my Americanism, everyone else does," she smiled as she led her to the largest table at the back of the shop. Kirsty glanced over her shoulder to see all of the guys falling into step behind them.

But it was the looks from those men that froze her blood and set off all too familiar anxieties in her. It was not just Petrine and Olaf, but now her as well. It made her feel...dirty somehow. She fought back tears. Then Sven stepped forward, blocking her view of them. His hand went to the small of her back as he bent in, whispering in her ear, "Keep walking, Kirsten. Ignore them."

She looked up into his face, ready to argue that it was not that easy. But the hard look in his eyes dared her to say anything. Then he smiled, though she could tell it was forced, it relieved some of tension, gave her a bit of courage as he held out a chair for her. He brushed a brief kiss on the top of her head as he pushed the chair forwards. She frowned, had he purposefully seated her so that her back was to the men?

Olaf and Petrine took seats across from her, leaving the two at the end open for Mikael and Monika when they joined them. So Kirsty found herself squeezed in between Sven and Bjorn. She could not stop his naughty words from last night flitting through her brain, but that only made things worse.

Maybe something was wrong with her. Maybe she deserved those stares. She looked down at the white table cloth as she felt those tears burning in her eyes again. She tried to hold them back, tried to focus upon the conversation going on all around her. When she finally found the courage to look up, Petrine smiled at her knowingly. The older woman reached across the table and put her hands over hers.

She would never know what the woman would have said though as the food began to arrive. Mikael brought Monika over and the little girl was sandwiched between him and his mother. The woman seemed to soothe the child though the girl would not eat and kept fidgeting in her seat.

The meal was peppered with more loud conversation some in English for her benefit and others in at least one other language...maybe two, she was not certain. As the meal progressed though it became harder and harder for the child to remain quiet. She was not particularly interested in food at the moment anyway so she suggested, "How about I take Monika for a walk?"

She was certain that they would decline her offer from the dark scowl on Mikael's face but Petrine spoke first, "That would be lovely, dear. There is a small park behind the school. Mikael will show you where it is. We won't be much longer then we will all join you."

It was not exactly the response she wanted. Remembering their time in the cabin that morning, she had hoped to avoid being alone with this man for a while. But she supposed it was best. After all Monika did not know her yet, so perhaps it was best if her father joined them. So she nodded and held out her hand as she stood. "What do you say, Princess? Would you like to go to the park with me?"

The little girl did not answer. Well, no words, not even a nod of her head. She just kept looking to the side somewhere. But she was out of her seat in an instant and trying to push past her father, who impeded her progress. This seemed to frustrate her though and she squealed.

"Let her go, Mikael. She will be fine. She knows her way to the park," said Petrine. With a smile to Kirsty, she added, "Just keep her in sight so she does not get distracted and wonder off."

Monika nodded and followed the little girl, who was already heading out the door. She did not even look back to see if Mikael was following them. But the woman seemed to be right as the child took a muddy path at the side of the store, it was too small to be called a road and the stones that paved it were loose. It was only fifty yards or so until they came upon another building, this one was stone and two story with a wide cement walkway leading to wooden double doors.

The child went right past the doors and disappeared around a corner. Only then did she notice that Mikael had followed them as he overtook her and called out for his daughter. Kirsty raced after him but there was no reason for alarm. Monika had found a swing and was happily rocking back and forth in it. She was not able to gain enough momentum to actually swing but that did not seem to matter to the child.

Mikael slowed as he approached his daughter, speaking to her in that language. Kirsty was not certain if he would welcome her intrusion so she hung back a bit, watching them interact from her perch near the small picket fence that surrounded the play area. There was not much in the park: a double swing set, a climbing frame and a slide. The little girl seemed to bounce happily from one activity to the other, barely noticing the father that hovered and spoke quietly to her on occasion.

Kirsty frowned; not once did the child look her father in the eyes, nor did she speak other than to grunt or squeal once in a while if she did not immediately get what she wanted. She felt pieces of an all too familiar puzzle falling into place. She shook her head as she reminded herself that she was not a psychologist or a pediatrician. She was not qualified to make a diagnosis that required a full history and a battery of exercises to evaluate. But she had worked with hundreds of Monikas for almost five years...and she could not help but see the truth that was staring right at her...even if the child was not.

Other truths were too. It was obvious from the way this man followed after his child that he loved her very much. Although she had worked almost exclusively with Mums, many of whom were single, Kirsty knew a concerned father when she saw one. The way he pushed her on the swing, stood extra close as she climbed on the frame, just in case she fell. He even clapped when she came down the slide...head first. That made it hard to stay mad at the man, damn him. As much as she wanted to, she found herself smiling at them.

"He loves her very much," that feminine voice said from behind her. She turned to see Petrine and Olaf walking up the path. She smiled and nodded in greeting as the older woman pushed open the gate that she was standing next to.

"But my granddaughter needs more than I can give her," she frowned. "I guess you have noticed, she is not a 'normal' five year old?"

Kirsty simply nodded, "She won't talk...or maybe she can't. Oh, she says a few words...mostly 'no' at the top of her lungs and our names...sort of anyway. But that is it." The woman shook her head and her long silver tresses moved against ivory skin, "Well, honestly, I am hoping that you might know more than we do," she smiled as she held out her hand.

Kirsty did not want to seem rude so she took it. This woman seemed so much more...touchy, feely than she was used to. She looked down at the grass, what little of it survive the mud, "I am not doctor. I can't really diagnose these sorts of things," she stammered.

"That is not what I meant, dear. I...we...don't want her tagged with anymore labels. But I suppose what I am saying is maybe, once you are settled, once you know her better, well, maybe you would have some ideas we could use to reach her," Kirsty could hear the way the woman's voice broke even before she looked up to see tears glistening in green eyes that reminded her so much of his.

She could not help, but nodding, "Of course, if I can. If..." She caught herself, uncertain how much she should reveal to this woman...his mother.

"If what, Kirsty?" the woman said, reaching out and lifting her chin. Maybe that was where the boys got that from. But when this woman did it, she felt like a schoolgirl again, trying to hide something from her mother.

"If he doesn't mind...if he won't get upset for me interfering...I really don't know what he expects or wants...where I stand with her...or him?" She had not meant to say anything, yet one stare from this one and all of it came bursting forth.

Petrine chuckled and drew Kirsty into another of those embraces, "Oh, dearie, you and I need to have a long talk," the way that the woman emphasized 'long' made Kirsty want to laugh. "But it can wait until we get back to the Holding. Sven and Bjorn have gone with Adelaide's sons to unload the ship. In addition to the fish, they bring back supplies to stock her store," she explained.

"Then we will be heading home," she motioned to Mikael, who collected the reluctant girl. "You may ride back with Olaf, Monika and I...if you prefer."

Mikael frowned as he heard this, "I'll come with you too."

His mother gave him what Kirsty could only describe as a wuthering look. Not that she was not used to such things, it was the norm for her relationships with her own mother. But it just seemed so out of odds with what little she had seen of this woman. "Suit yourself, Mikael," was all she said as they turned and walked back through the town.

The little girl was fine, skipping along the narrow lane for pedestrians, until her father tried to take her hand as they crossed the street to the small docks where Ægir's Captive was berthed with a handful of other smaller boats. She squealed and pulled away from her father. She would have even run into the street, which admittedly was not as dangerous as it sounded since there was little traffic. In fact, there was only one car in the distance.

But Olaf reacted quickly for a man his age, holding her back with a firm tug on her shirt collar. "Stop, look and listen, Monika."

The child stopped and nodded her head, she even managed to look in the man's general direction for a moment. "Good girl," said the older man and an odd tingle shot up Kirsty's spine.

"Thanks, Papa," Kirsty could hear the begrudging tone in Mikael's voice.

But the older man ignored it as he guided the child across the road with the back of her shirt, "She is learning, Mikael. It will just take you a couple of days to catch up, son," he smiled.

Whatever Mikael might have said was lost in the loud whistle and catcall that came from the only other large fishing boat that they were passing. Instantly, Olaf and Mikael shoved the three females behind them. The men almost bristled...their shoulders back, chests out. The oddest image of artic wolves encircling and protecting their pack whispered through Kirsty's mind.

Then everything happened so quickly. One of the men called out something in that language. Kirsty did not know what but from the blush on Petrine's face and the way that Mikael and Olaf took two steps towards the boat, she knew it could not be good. Out of thin air Sven and Bjorn suddenly stood shoulder to shoulder with them. Sven called back something to the men.

For a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity, the two groups of warriors stood facing one another. Then the man, who had spoken for the group, spat on the wooden planks at their feet, he shrugged and turned his back. The other men followed after a moment with backwards glances at them. Then slowly the tension drained from their protectors. Petrine said something to Sven, but he just shook his head and scowled at his mother.

It was over as Bjorn stepped forward and brushed the hair back out of her face. "What happened? What did that man say?" Kirsty demanded.

He inhaled deeply and plastered on that forced smile, "Nothing. It does not matter. Don't worry about it. You will go with Mama and Olaf in the car. Sven and I will bring the boat home up the fjord."

She wanted to stay, wanted to argue that she had every right to know what was going on, but Petrine stepped forward and took her hand, "Come on, dear."

***

Mikael stared out the window as the familiar country side passed by. It was swampy. The road was windy like the dot-to-dot puzzles that he tried to get Monika to do. It connected small island to small island, broken by the occasional bridge between them. Some of the islands were so small that they could not support life, others were populated by only trees and birds. Some had a house or two sprinkled on them. None were as large as the Holding.

But right now, none of that mattered. He was in a foul mood. If their conversation this morning had not been bad enough, the way that she just hung back...saying nothing, do nothing...made him doubt this whole thing. Perhaps they would have been better off with the Russian woman at least she was a mother herself. Perhaps this one had no interest in his daughter because she was not one of her patients.

Then the other. He did not want to even think about it. He should be used to it by now. They all should be. But still...sometimes...it just got to you. He gripped the handle of the door. He wished his father had let him drive at least, but the old man knew him too well. He could not argue, he did not belong behind the wheel with the three females in the car.

If that was not bad enough, suddenly Monika grew tired of being strapped into her booster seat. She began crying and rocking back and forth, pulling at the strap across her chest. He tried to calm her but the moment he touched her, she let out an ear piercing scream and drew back, arching and fighting to get out of the seat.

The woman, Kirsty, his wife, looked at the child. He gave her his sternest look, he did not need some smart ass comment from her about 'controlling' his child right now. Instead she reached into her bag and pulled out something. It took him a moment to realize that it was her damned tablet. Fair enough, he supposed her sticking ear phones into her head and listening to music was better than that comment he dreaded.

But instead of head phones, it was that popular song...the one from the movie that Monika could not get enough of. The woman did not offer the tablet to his child, in fact at first she seemed to ignore her completely, focusing all her attention upon the song and video that went with it. Nonetheless, it worked. Monika quieted. Not completely, she still fidgeted in her seat. But her tiny body was no longer so tightly strung with tension that he feared she would break and she was no longer screaming.

Then he noticed that she had tilted the screen so that Monika had a better view of it than she did. When the song came to an end and his daughter began to fidget once more, she hit the replay button. "Is it much further?" she asked no one in particular.

"About another ten or fifteen minutes," his father replied from the front.

She nodded her head, "The seat belt is probably bothering her. Is there some place where we can pull over and let her get out for a bit? Run and play just to burn some of it off."

His mother turned in her seat and smiled. He shook his head at her...'I told you so.' "Not really, dear. Here is Joey though," she replied handing him back the stuffed kangaroo that was his daughter's favorite. Monika snatched it before he could. And between the stuffed toy and the music she seemed satisfied enough to make it the short distance remaining to the Holding.

He still was not completely convinced, but he relaxed just a bit as he watched the two heads, one deep red and the other smaller one light brown bent together over the tablet. Time would tell...only time. But time was the one thing he always felt was running out...if he was to reach his child. Watching them, he wanted to hope that this woman held the key. But hope was not something that came so easily to him anymore.

He turned back to stare out the window as a new song...another one from that movie blared from the machine. "This is my favorite, sweetie," said that voice that did funny things to his gut. He could not help but listen to words about true love saving them all. But sometimes...love was not enough to hold onto what you wanted most...

***

By the time that the older model Land Rover pulled up in front of the red wooden frame house that was similar to those she had seen in town, only larger, Kirsty was not sure who was more tense...her, Monika or him. But the tiny space was filled with silent, nervous tension that felt like they would all explode at any moment.

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byTara_Neale© 20 comments/ 31987 views/ 24 favorites

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