Promiscuity had always been a source of pride among the elven men in Yinric’s tribe. The elders would praise every half blood to come about from trysts with noble city women as if it fortified their bonds with the humans. Yinric, being one of these half elven bastards, did not agree with them.
His mother, a married woman of noteworthy but forgettable status, had left him in care of his father after he’d been born. He couldn’t recall her face or if he had ever seen it. She did not visit but she had sent occasional gifts. At least, his father had said they were from her
Yinric worked as a bard alongside his father since he was old enough to walk. They were regular entertainment at a few choice pubs and park clearings. As he began to grow into adulthood he quickly became keenly aware of how women, and men, looked at him because of his profession. His peers were easy to persuade. All in all he considered himself both often and lucky.
Until he was eighteen.
Heavy rain drops beat down on the tin roof. Thunder and lightning rolled in pairs across the churning inky black sky. Currents of debris flooded the flagstones. She looked up at him from under a water laden hood, eyes red and puffy from long hours of exposure and moral contemplation.
Neither of them spoke. A gust of wind disheveled her further. Her dark hair and piercing gaze dredged up remnants of recognition: A warm night near the end of summer. The white hot need to be continuously closer until they were both breathless and exhausted. She wasn’t the first person he had bedded, and was far from the last, but she was the only one to show up unannounced at his door in the middle of the night.
This night, however, was different. The forecast did not call for travel without urgent purpose. Even so, she was not dressed for it. Her feet were bare. Yinric opened the door wider and stepped aside to invite her in.
The house he shared with his father was small. It consisted of one main common area for all daily tasks, and two bedrooms. The fireplace in the main room was currently burning high enough to heat the home. Yinric had been awake when she knocked, distracting himself from the storm by tuning various instruments. All of which were laid on the table in the center of the room.
He helped her out of the dripping wool cloak. Underneath it she was wearing a drenched night dress that clung to her every move. The firelight cast soft shadows. Her frame was as slight as he remembered, except for her swollen abdomen. His heart dropped out below the floorboards. She turned away from him. He cleared his throat. The fireplace crackled.
He hung the heavy garment on a hook near the fireplace. He rang out the bottom of it, clinging on to the rough wet fabric while desperately trying to remember her name. He hadn’t seen her in months. It was probably enough that he recognized her and let her in. Even so he couldn’t bear the idea of asking for it.
Hello again miss, terrible storm out there tonight. Say, I remember our auspicious romp a few months back and have duly noted your current condition, but could you perchance spare me your name once more? Yea, that would not go well. He could practically hear his father berating him and feel the slap to the back of his head. Luckily his father had been caught out in the storm and wasn’t expected to be back until it passed.
Her teeth clacked as she shivered behind him, bringing him back to the present. He raced to his room and brought back a quilt. He held the quilt open, but she did not step into it. She was still shielding herself from him. He stretched out his arms to place it over her without getting closer; taking on the stance of someone putting a saddle blanket over a wily horse. After he let go she adjusted to wrap it around herself and over her head.
“I’ll… make some tea,” he said in a whisper, or tried to. He couldn’t gauge the volume of his voice over the sound of his own heartbeat. She nodded and curled up on the loveseat near the fire.
Deep breaths became his coping mechanism while grinding the herbs. I’m cool, we're good, she hasn’t even said what's going on yet. Maybe it’s completely unrelated to the perfect timing of circumstances. Maybe she's here to hire dad. Maybe I’m royally fucked. Truly anyone’s guess at this point. He slapped himself, making her jump, and set the kettle over the fire to boil.
He turned to see her but remained crouched in front of the fire. She watched him watching her.
The quilt was sewn from bits of old costumes. The shimmer of different colors and materials danced in the light. Some were his childhood dresses. Others were his father’s stage signatures. All of them had been well worn and frayed. The salvageable parts were patched into something new. There was a metaphor in there somewhere but, for the most part, he was stalling.
The kettle hissed.
Rain continued to batter the roof.
Thunder shook the dishes in the cupboard.
“It’s mine.” He didn’t ask.
She deflated into a sigh. Tears rolled off of her high cheekbones. He removed the kettle from the heat and poured two mugs. He handed her one before sitting beside her.
Thick choking sobs made it difficult for her to speak. He was afraid to comfort her; to touch her anymore than he already had. Through jumbled words she recounted to him the series of events that led her back to his door. He was able to decipher most of it.
She had somehow managed to conceal herself from her mother and father for the past five months with corsets and creative dresswork. That was no longer an option.
“Spring skirts are so thin. My corsets wouldn’t-“
She’d been kicked out without recourse. None of her friends would speak to her. She had nowhere to go.
The tea tasted bitter and medicinal. Guilt built up in the back of his throat. While not intentional, this was his fault.
How many times had he been warned? How many times had shrugged off prophylactics? His own upbringing should have been a bright red letter banner of what not to do. He couldn’t even remember her name!
The door opened. His father, an elven man with long dark braided hair, stepped in and shook off his overcoat. An open bottle of wine occupied his non-dominant hand. Yinric froze. He knew his father wouldn’t react much better than hers had, as hypocritical as that may be.
“Yin! You have to lock the door-”
They made eye contact. He could read his son’s guilty face with his eyes closed. The girl next to him wore a similar expression. He shut the door with force. The deadbolt latched into place. A log in the fireplace split, spraying a puff of embers into the air.
“How far along are you?”
She reluctantly peeled back a section of the quilt. He sighed, swore to a pantheon of deities, and rubbed his face.
“Are your parents paying us to board you for the next few months?”
She hiccuped a sob. He turned to his son.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do about this?”
“I-I want to be there for her. It’s my fault.” Yinric said, his tone wavering and unsure of what the right answer was supposed to be. His father took a long pull from the wine. He set the empty bottle on the table with a thud.
“Ok.” He headed towards his bedroom. “You and your new wife are moving out tomorrow.”
Yinric stood to stop him. “Dad, wait-”
“You disregard my warnings! You repeat my mistakes!” His father shouted. “Worse even! You’re not an adult left with an infant to raise on your own, you’re a couple of children having a child.”
“You weren’t that much older than me!” Yinric protested. His father slapped him.
“I had connections to help me bring you up, an entire scandal hanging over a wealthy woman’s head! I didn’t want this life for you, but this is the bed you’ve made Yinric. I’m going to let you lie in it. Maybe this time you’ll learn.” He opened the heavy wooden door.
“Dad, please, she doesn’t deserve to-”
“She. Her. What is her name Yin?” He didn’t turn around. Yinric swallowed. Thunder rolled.
“I-I haven’t had a chance to-” his face was hot with shame.
“Sarin,” she spoke up for him. “My name is Sarin.”
“I'm sorry, Sarin, I'm sure you're a lovely girl. It's a shame I won't be getting to know you.” The bedroom door clicked softly shut behind him.