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Subject: Lacerations in the family

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Date Posted: 21:57:03 01/04/03 Sat

Cirad gazed into the fireplace. Flames had always fascinated him. He could sit still and stare for hours without getting bored. Well... he could if he let himself.
Discipline. That was what had got him this far in his career. That was what would take him further.

Iorleth entered the room quietly after putting Briora to bed. She collected up the plates and headed for the sink.
"Have you had enough to eat?" she asked with concern "I'm sure they don't feed you enough at the barracks"
Cirad laughed
"If I ate as much everyday as you've fed me, I wouldn't be able to move." He got up and clasped his wife round the waist.
"Leave this lot" he indicated the plates. "you can do that when I've gone." Iorleth looked at the floor for a few seconds miserably.
"You're... you're not staying?" she asked, not trusting herself to face him properly. Cirad sighed, this happened every time he came home.

"You know I can't" he said gently, lifting her chin till he met her eyes. "We've been through this before" he kissed her softly. Iorleth rested her head against his shoulder.
"I still miss you" she murmured. Cirad stroked her hair gently.
"I know... but that's why we had Briora, to keep you company." Iorleth felt tears prick in her eyes. Was he really that stupid? Was this the man she loved?
"A child needs her father." she whispered bitterly through clenched teeth. Cirad broke away slightly.
"Now you're being stupid" he said. "We agreed about this ages ago. Besides, I'm no good with children. You said yourself that she was scared of me."
"That's because she doesn't know you." Iorleth let her voice rise. "She's jealous because she normally has me to herself. If she saw you every day, she'd soon love
"That's enough!" Cirad shouted. He strode over to the fireplace and leant over, resting his hands on the chimney.

Silence reigned in the room. The crackling fire was the only sound. Iorleth stood alone by the sink, her face turned away, eyes closed as if trying to keep the pain inside.
"I love you Cirad" she said at last. Cirad turned to face her slowly.
"I love you too" he admitted honestly.
"There must be a way..." she continued, Cirad waited for her to finish.
"Perhaps if you asked them properly, at the right time... they'd let you stay at home?"

Cirad turned away again. Like a dog with a bone, she was so persistent. He grimaced as he remembered he'd never told her that he'd recently been offered the chance to do
just that. He had refused, offering to stay at the barracks instead. They had respected him for that decision. Putting his king before his family. That was when they offered
him his last promotion.

"I have to stay at the barracks" he spoke into the fire. "I have a lot of responsibility, men look up to me, they need to see me and know where to find me at any time."
"But they could come here!" Iorleth burst out desperately.
"We don't live far from the barracks, I would rather have men knocking at the door and taking you away all through the night... If it meant you could live with me."

"I said, that's enough!" Cirad bellowed.
A child's whimpering cries came from the next room.
"Now you've made me wake her up" he sighed with exasperation. "It always ends like this, every time. And you wonder why I don't come home frequently!"
Iorleth's eyes opened wide,
"I thought you came home rarely because you were so busy" she whispered slowly, as if listening to the reason for the first time. She had accepted all his excuses without a
flinch. But when you thought about it, being 'busy' wasn't exactly a convincing reason.

She stared at the floor, ignoring her daughter's cries.
"Is it another woman?" she asked, her voice bitter and dark. Cirad stared at her in surprise
"Of course not. I only love you, you know that... It's my job. You appreciate the money I earn, you just can't accept the job description. You can't have your cake and eat it."
"I care nothing for the money!" Iorleth screamed. "Just as you care nothing for us. Like you said, you can't have both Cirad. What do you want, your career or your
family?" she stamped her foot in frustrated anger.

Cirad turned, collected his cloak from the peg and opened the door.
"My king" he said simply, and left. The door slammed shut.
Iorleth raced across the room and tore it open, tears streaming down her face.
"Cirad!" she cried. "Please, come back, I didn't mean it... Cirad?" She couldn't see him.
Iorleth ran along the street, the snow had nearly gone, but the air was still bitterly cold and she was only wearing a short sleeved dress. She reached the junction and looked
both ways. He was nowhere in sight. She shivered violently, tears still falling. She ignored the stares of passers by.
"I love you Cirad!" she yelled as loud as she could, burning her throat and lungs in her effort to let him hear her.
He still didn't return, she sank to her knees, her apron blending in with the remains of dirty snow.

"Come on, let's get you home" a friendly voice called. Iorleth looked up hopefully, but it wasn't Cirad pulling her to her feet. It was one of her neighbours, a nice man, but
not who she wanted to see. He supported her with a strong arm under her shoulders and escorted her back to her house. Briora was standing in the doorway crying. Iorleth stirred herself and scooped her daughter into her arms.
"Thank you." she whispered to her neighbour, he nodded.
"No problem, shall I drop in tomorrow to check you're alright?" he asked. Iorleth nodded wearily, she didn't really care.

She closed the door behind her and carried Briora over towards the fire. The tears had stopped, but it felt as if there was a huge aching hole inside of her.
"Has Daddy gone?" Briora asked. Iorleth nodded slowly, closing her eyes as they began to prick again. She felt her daughters fingers caress her cheek gently.
"Don't cry mummy." Briora said cheerfully. "Now it's just us."

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