Scene – Lara’s apartments in Amber Palace, early morning
Lara is sitting on her bed, face scrunched up as she tries to recall the exact words Sioned used when describing how to inscribe memories into the artefact ring she is now holding. It was going to be a lengthy process, probably a number of days unless she wanted to melt her brain completely, which she didn’t. Especially not after witnessing what Sioned had just been through.
Closing her eyes she exhales and her face relaxes, a slight smile replacing the frown. The ring in her hand starts to glow softly, the light of it waxing and waning as various expressions flitter across her face.
The sun rises higher in the sky and it is a couple of hours until Lara opens her eyes again. Her gaze is glassy and unfocussed for a moment before she shakes her head slightly and glances down at the ring in her hand. It appears unchanged to the naked eye, but it feels slightly… different, heavier is the word she’d use if asked to describe how.
She picks up a length of fine silver chain from her bedside table and threads it through the ring, placing it around her neck and closing the clasp. It settles just below the notch of her clavicle, resting gently against her skin. There was no way she was going to let it out of her sight until it was ready to deliver to the recipient.
A gentle knock at the door and call of “your Highness, are you awake?” jolts her out of her reverie and she grabs her robe as she goes to answer the summons, ready to begin the day proper.
Scene – Battersea Park Children’s Zoo otter enclosure, mid afternoon
The day is grey with a slight bite to the air, a perfect London Autumn day. The sounds of delighted children, overwrought parents and crying toddlers drift past on the breeze adding to the cacophony of feeding time at the monkey enclosure. The ring is held tight in Lara’s hand as she remembers being one of those excited kids, standing at the otter pool, waiting to see them eat their fish; watching the monkeys caper about; bopping around pretending to be a meerkat. All with Olivia right by her side. She was five years old and it was her first trip to a zoo, a birthday treat to make up for the fact her mum had been working on her actual birthday. She recalls struggling to see over the bigger kids as the otters were being fed until her mum, so strong and so tall, hoisted her up onto her shoulders so she could see the action. She was the luckiest kid there with the best view and the best mum ever.
They went to visit all the animals, her mum never letting go of her hand in the crowds and allowing Lara to dictate where they went next. She got to pat a rabbit and hold a guinea pig although it took some encouragement from her mum before she was brave enough to do so.
“But Mummy, what if I drop her?”
“You won’t darling, just hold her gently with your hands underneath her and rest her against your tummy. She’ll be as safe with you as you are with me.”
“Okay Mummy. Oh look! She’s sniffing my shirt!”
The last thing they visited was the pirate ship in the playground. They played such a good game on that ship. Her mum was the princess who had been captured by the big bad pirate king and Lara was her rescuer, vanquishing all the pirates on her very own. She remembers so clearly the warmth in her mum’s voice as she as gave her a big hug and said, “You’re my fearless little warrior, aren’t you? It must be genetics.”
They ended the day with an ice cream and a train ride home and Lara went to sleep that evening basking in the golden glow of her mother’s love.
Scene – Sheriff’s Office, late evening
It was the end of another long day in a week of long days. Lara was sitting at her desk, the only illumination in the room from the shaded lamp off to the side, turning the ring over and over again in her fingers while staring pensively into the middle distance.
She’d gone over each of the memories in the ring five times now and it felt as if they’d “taken” as it were and the gift was ready for delivery. Well, almost. There was one memory which still required a final reinforcement and it was this over which she was hesitating. She sighed and closed her eyes, stilling the motion of the ring in her hand.
It was a short memory and somewhat hazy as she’d woken from a deep sleep to the press of her mother’s lips on her forehead.
“Sorry Princess, I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m just heading off to my shift now. I’ll be back to get you ready for school and Mrs Banerjee is next door if you need anything.”
Lara remembers another press of lips to her forehead as she replies, “mmm, ‘k Mum, love you.”
“Love you too. See you in the morning.”
It’s the last memory she has of her mother and tears cascade down her face as she stifles a sob. She’s never really spent much time with this memory before; it’s too painful, the perfect feeling of warmth and contentment at hearing her mother’s voice followed by the sheer terror a few hours later when she answered the door to the police.
The door to the office creaks open and she starts; she thought she’d be undisturbed here as Edan was away on Sheriff business and it was far too late for anyone to come seeking their services. Standing up quickly and wiping the tears from her eyes as best she can, she turns to the door, the ring dropping from her fingers in the whirl of motion.
“Oh shit,” the ring rolls right across the office and into the shoe of the interloper. Lara rushes forward to retrieve it before the other person can pick it up it, “please don’t touch that, please”, there is a sharp note of pleading in her voice. She gets to the ring just as the hand that was reaching down for it stills and pulls back. Grabbing a random piece of paper from a pile on the small table by the door she bends down and gently picks up the ring with it. It appears to be unharmed and she breathes a heavy sigh of relief.
“Lara, Lara? What’s wrong? Has something happened?” She looks up, straight into the concerned face of Edan Karm and finds herself unable to speak. “Lara, are you alright? You look like you’ve been crying,” he hesitates for a moment, hand hovering over her shoulder uncertainly. “Do you want me to go? I can go, just let me…” he gestures with the folder he is holding in his other hand, “I’ll just, umm, put this on my desk. Sorry.”
Inhaling shakily she replies, “No, it’s ok, I was just,” her voice catches slightly, “thinking about my mum and the last time I saw her. I’m making a ring which contains memories of her for someone who knew her and they require going over and over to reinforce them into the ring so they take, and this one’s a tough one, you know, I’ve been avoiding it because I was only twelve and it was just horrible.”
Lara pauses to take a breath, and realises that she’s been rambling on. She looks up at Edan again and sees he’s looking back at her with a soft expression which is a mix of sympathy and something else she can’t identify.
“I’m sorry,” she says, “I didn’t mean to go on like that, I’m a bit…” and here she shrugs slightly, “You don’t need to leave, please,” Lara pauses for a moment, “I’d actually like it if you stayed, is that okay?”
Edan steps past her and walks over to his desk, putting the folder down before he turns back to face her. “Ah, yeah, that’s okay, I’m happy to if you want me to.” He moves back over to where Lara is standing by the door, grabbing her coat from the hook on the back of it. “I think you’ve been cooped up in here long enough though, maybe we can go for a walk outside and you can tell me about your mum if you like?” He holds out the coat for her to put on and she shrugs into it, wondering if it was just her imagination that this hand had lingered slightly on her shoulder.
They step through the door of the office, locking it behind them, and head off into the grounds of the palace.