a sample of today’s writing:
Raul started to extend a hand, then hesitated. Raya reached out and took it in hers, squeezing tight, and he smiled, his expression softening. “Tell me everything I’ve missed, loves. I want to hear all about your lives.”
Raya snapped her gaze to Ella, who looked back at her blankly. They’d agreed not to tell him about Dona Alice yet, but so much of their lives since their father had disappeared had been the result of her relegating them to the servants’ quarters… “It’s…” She hesitated, and then tried again. “It’s been…”
“Anna almost got married,” Ella interrupted.
Their father’s eyebrows snapped up. “She what?”
“Twice,” Raya said, relaxing into what felt like a safer topic. “The first time was just after you–you left. There was a Don from one of the northern cities visiting, and she had him proposing to her within the week. Stepmother convinced her to break it off, because she could ‘do better.’ The second time was a few years later, when she tried to elope with Tori.”
“Tori…” Raul blinked. “The stable hand?”
Ella nodded. “Stepmother nearly murdered her.”
He smiled, wry and slightly sad. “How is your stepmother?” He clasped his hands, and Raya glanced down to see him turning his wedding band on his finger. Raya felt a pang of betrayal, and had to press it down to keep it from showing on her face. “Has she…has she remarried?”
Raya shook her head. “No, she hasn’t.” Maybe because she had gotten what she wanted with the Mistwood property and the prestige of a noble widow, or maybe because, despite the way she treated his daughters, she really did love Raul. Raya didn’t know. “She’s…I don’t know. The same as always.”
Raul’s eyes softened. “I’d hoped that me being gone would help things between the three of you,” he said, as if admitting a secret. “I know you didn’t like her much when I first brought her home.”
Raya hesitated, glancing at Ella. Ella sighed. “It’s not that we didn’t try,” she said. “We did. But she didn’t…”
“She didn’t want us, Papa,” Raya said, giving up on vagueness and going for honesty, as brutal as it was. “She wanted you, and we came with you. But she doesn’t think of us as family. She never did.”
The pain that flickered across their father’s features made her heart clench, but Raya bit her lip and held firm. Even if they waited to tell him that Alice was the reason they were here at all, she couldn’t lie to him about everything. He sighed, brushing a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “I suppose I hoped…” He smiled, soft and sad. “I suppose it doesn’t matter what I hoped.”
Unable to help herself, Raya reached out and took his hand, squeezing it tight between both of hers. “What matters is that you’re alive,” she said. “And we’re together. We’re going to find a way for us to all go home, Papa.”
He looked at her, and she saw love and hope and uncertainty in his face. Warmth spread through her chest at the realization that he had looked at her like that since she was just a little girl, and for so many years, she had given up hope that she would ever see that face again. “You never stop trying to solve a problem,” he said, his eyes warm. “I’d almost forgotten that about you.”
On her own cot, Ella laughed. “Wait until you remember how much she gloats when she solves it,” she said, grinning at Raya.
Raya stuck her tongue out at her. “I do not gloat,” she said. Their father laughed, slinging an arm around her shoulder and pulling her in for a hug, pressing his lips to her forehead fondly, and she closed her eyes, smiling. Tomorrow she would start to plan, and she would figure out a way to get back to her little girl.
But tonight, she thought, breathing in her father’s familiar scent, she could be a daughter again.