Birthright

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Light from the midday sun streamed through small bar. An orange gleam shone upon the surfaces of the chairs and tables. Except for a lonely bartender, the once-popular pub was completely devoid of people.

Edward rubbed a dirty drinking glass in misery. He should have known that there would be no one interested in drinking at Dowell's after he was employed as the bar boy. News had spread around town and none of the usual men had shown up. Those who were not informed had left before he could coax them to stay. He wondered how his employer would feel once he recovered from his sickness, realizing that Edward had unintentionally chased all his regulars away.

With a cloth, he scrubbed at a cluster of hardened syrup on the rim of the drinking glass. It had probably accumulated over the years; Old Man Dowell had never been vigorous with dishwashing. He raised the glass to his lips to exhale upon it, and for a second, glanced at the dark-brown, distorted reflection of his face. Idly, he polished the glass, killing time until he could close the store for lunch break.

His head rose as he suddenly heard the sound of someone entering. To his shock, it was a strange-looking woman that he had never seen before. She was middle-aged, but wore showy and loose clothing preferred on much younger women. She was dressed in a red low-cut and high-legged ruffled dress. Her hair was dyed a crimson shade of auburn, and she wore heavy make-up on her eyes and lips, not obscuring her age.

Edward's shock turned into annoyance. The first person to enter the bar, and it was a harlot. The woman did not seem to be surprised by the emptiness of the bar or put off by Edward's appearance. Rather, she was walking toward him confidently.

Somewhat intimidated, Edward averted his eyes and coughed into his free hand. "Welcome to Dowell's Tavern, can I get you something…Miss?"

"Ginny," she said. She seated herself at the counter and was looking straight at him.

"Ginny," repeated Edward flatly. "Would you like the special today? We have…"

"Actually," interrupted Ginny. "You can forget the booze; I came here for a different reason."

Edward stared at her, dumbstruck. "I came here to speak to you, darling," she teased.

This was completely unheard of. Few people ever spoke to Edward voluntarily besides his family and a small circle of friends. No one ever called him "darling," either.

"Speak to me?" he echoed. "Have we met before?" He was sure that he'd remember a woman so bawdy-looking.

"Quite the contrary, dear. You see, I've heard quite a lot about you."

Edward felt a feeling of dread. It couldn't be good news.

"You're General Peacemaker's boy," she began. "I knew him a while back, when he was young. Quite good-looking in his youth, and even now, I must say."

Edward twisted the cloth between his hands and gave a cold smile. "Actually, I'm his son, not a servant."

"Of course, of course," she continued. "What's he doing now? Not leading his naval crew anymore, I've heard."

"He's mayor," said Edward flatly. "Of this town."

"Ah, how very fitting. I'd imagine a man like him taking such a position. I heard that he's had three beautiful daughters with a noblewoman as well. Must be too busy to keep up with the marine life, I see."

"Listen—" Edward interjected. "Are you going to buy something? Mister Dowell has regulations against loitering without purchase—"

"Be grateful, boy," she snapped. "You know as well as I do that I've been your only potential customer all day, so what good is it to chase me away?"

Edward fell silent, hating her, but wondering how she knew.

"I know where you come in," she said. "You're the Surman child he picked up one day out of the goodness of his heart, even though all the townspeople would talk. I even heard he kept you a secret until after he won the election by the landslide, smart man, I wonder how the people felt about that…"

Edward gritted his teeth, his grip on the glass tightening. "I'm fine with being alone actually, the door's just behind you…"

"…I also heard that you became the school's brightest student and sharpest athlete, and you only were allowed in due to your father's influence, yet you can't even attend the same university he and his daughters did, because of your race and your upbringing." She laughed contemptuously. "Really, what a waste of raw talent, to spend time only waiting drinkers because of the color of your skin!"

Edward slammed both palms against the counter. The mug clattered to the floor.

"Get out," he hissed. "You're not welcome here."

Ginny looked skeptical rather than intimidated. "Pardon me, I don't think you're in any position to tell me what to do."

"You don't need to come all the way here to tell me that I'm the town's b******, I'm already well-informed!" he snapped at her.

She smiled elusively, slipping off from the chair. "So be it."

Edward drew away from the counter, his eyes burning with hate as he watched her walk back to the door. He was thinking about what a horrible mood he was in when Ginny turned back slightly, with a pitiful grin. "It's such a shame though. I'm the only one who can tell you more than you know about yourself."

Her comment caught Edward's attention.

"What do you mean?" It was true that she had a good knowledge of accurate town rumors, but how could she know anything beyond that?

She looked pleased that she had caught his attention. "Haven't you ever thought that you weren't given the whole truth about your birthright, Edward dear?"

Edward stared back at her, saying nothing.

"Don't you know who your real father and mother are? Have you considered that there's more to your identity than what the petty townsfolk say about you? That you might be more than you could have ever imagined?"

"What are you trying to say?" whispered Edward.

"Your father quit his job shortly after stopping a pirate raid upon the town. There's a connection between you and that."

"What kind of—"

Ginny cut him off. "There'll be an anniversary festival for the town in two weeks. Skip that and meet me outside this building, where I'll tell you everything you want to know. I can almost promise that you won't be missed so you have nothing to lose." She turned to leave.

"Wait!" called Edward with a desperate air. "What is it that you know?" She stopped, giving him a victorious sidelong smirk.

"Meet me there, and I'll tell you. Don't be late or you'll never receive answers from anyone else."

She strode out, walking into the orange light until her figure was obscured from his view.

Edward stared after her, still rendered speechless. He slowly recovered, picking up the mug from the floor, and began cleaning it again, his mind spinning with thought.





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