No response at all. It seemed to me that the spark I had felt went dimmer, as if she shifted her attention away from me. Was that possible?
My finger traced a figure on her chest. “Maybe a flower name? Your sister is Nettle. What about … Fern?” I could not be mistaken. She had definitely put her attention elsewhere. I considered for a moment, and tried again. “Myrtle? Foxglove? Thyme?”
She seemed to be listening. Why wouldn’t she look at me? I touched her cheek with my finger, trying to make her look at me. She turned her face toward the touch but avoided my eyes. I suddenly recalled that Nighteyes had seldom met my gaze in a steady look, but the wolf had loved me all the same. Don’t force her to meet your eyes. Let the cub come to you, as you let me come to you. I nodded to the wolf-wisdom and did not try to meet her eyes.
Unfolding her tiny fingers, I put my pinkie in the palm of her hand. Even my smallest finger was still too large for her to grip. She let go of it and coiled her hand into her chest. I lifted her to hold her closer and inhaled deeply, taking her scent. In that moment I was my wolf, and I recalled my bond with Nighteyes so vividly that I ached with the loss. I looked at my cub and knew how sharply sweet her birth would have been for him. Oh, Nighteyes. Would that you could be beside me for this. Tears stung my eyes. I stared in amazement as I saw the infant blink away newly formed tears. They ventured onto her little cheeks.
I swallowed against the old pain of losing my wolf. Could she be sharing my feelings? I stared at her and dared myself. I opened myself to her, Skill and Wit.
The baby suddenly waved her arms helplessly and thrashed her feet, as if she were trying to swim away from me. Then, to my horror, she opened her mouth wide and wailed aloud, a sound that seemed far too loud and shrill to come out of such a small being. “Shh! Shh!” I begged her, dreading that Molly would hear. I placed her on my lap and lifted my hands away. Surely she could not be that open to me. I’d done something wrong in how I held her. Had I pinched her somehow, or held her too tightly? I could only look down at her in utter dismay.
I heard the hasty whisper of slippers against the flagged floors and then Molly was suddenly in the room, a dripping teapot in her hand. She hastily clacked it onto the tray and leaned over us, her hands reaching to take her baby back. “What happened? Did you drop her? She’s never cried aloud like this before!”
I leaned back, well clear of the baby, and let Molly take her. Almost immediately her wails ceased. Her face was bright red and as her mother patted her, she panted still with the effort it had taken her to scream so loudly.
“I don’t know what I did. I was just holding her and looking at her and suddenly she began to scream. Wait! I put my finger in her hand! Did I hurt her fingers? I don’t know what I did to upset her! Did I hurt her hand? Is she all right?”
“Shush. Let me see.” Molly took the baby’s hand softly and very gently unfolded her fingers. The infant didn’t flinch or wail. Instead she looked up into her mother’s face, and I can only describe her expression as relief. Molly gathered her to her shoulder and began her gentle rocking walk. “She’s fine, she’s fine,” Molly singsonged as she made a slow circuit of the room. When she came back to me, she said gently, “She seems fine now. Perhaps it was just a little air stuck in her gut. Oh, Fitz, it gave me such a turn to hear her cry like that. But, you know”—here she startled me by smiling—“it was such a relief as well. She has been so silent, so calm that I wondered if she could cry. Or if she was too simple to make such a sound.” She gave a short laugh. “With the boys, I always wished for them to be quieter, to be easier to put down to sleep. But with her, it has been the opposite. I’ve worried at how placid she is. Would she be simple? But she’s fine. Whatever you did, you’ve proven she has your temper.”
“My temper?” I dared to ask.
She mock-scowled at me. “Of course your temper! Who else’s could she have inherited?” She took her seat again, and I nodded at the puddle around the pot on the tray.
“Looks like you were interrupted. Shall I take it back to the kitchen for more hot water?”
“I’m sure there’s enough tea left for us.”
She settled in her chair. The room grew quieter as peace flowed back into it. Molly spoke to our baby. “Once, I saw a black-and-white horse with one eye blue, just the same color as yours. The man who owned him said it was his ‘wild eye’ and not to stand on that side of him.” She fell silent for a time, considering her babe. She rocked her gently, calming all of us.