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Merida missed Rapunzel. There was no getting away from it; she missed her like a limb had been cut off. The fishing weekend had been organised in good faith and a few months, a year, ago Merida would have been overjoyed to be able to spend so long uninterrupted with her mother. But now, after the fourth time she had been told to tidy herself up, Merida was at the point of snapping. She craved Rapunzel's steady presence. Her relentless kindness, her ability to say the right thing without overthinking it. Because, as it appeared to turn out, Eleanor and her daughter had little in common despite their blood bond. Merida took after her father in spirit and her mother in stubbornness and she had her jaw already clenched against the onslaught against her girlfriend. Her jaw had been clenched for a full day. Yet nothing had come. Either Fergus had said something or Elenor was just refusing to acknowledge the subject it was hard to tell. Merida was reliving past arguments under her breath, blowing a smouldering flame in her breast ready to release it when the time came. But they'd both agreed to be there and they had both came. It was a ceasefire.
The stony truce between them lasted until Eleanor caught her first fish. The silence was broken with the simultaneous shriek from both of them as the silver ribbon leapt into the air.
“Reel in. Reel in don't let him get.”
“The net!”
“Not yet not yet give him some slack now.”
It was a salmon. Huge and glittering it was as solid as a brick from swimming against the current for so long. Merida had caught them before, shot through with her arrows, and she knew that it could take a while on a line. She could feel her mother’s resistance to the order. Feel the stubbornness almost win. But then Eleanor swallowed her pride.
“Like this?”
“Exactly. Let him out as far as he wants then reel him back, tire him out.”
They worked together, a team focused on a single task, to get the fist. It took a good portion of twenty minutes until it was tired enough to try to get into the net. Merida kicked off her shoes and waded in, net in hand, ready to help.
“It's coming!” Elinor was breathless with excitement. Merida hasn't seen her so relaxed. “Get ready.”
The fish was huge. Almost a meter long. It thrashed and shook once it's head cleared the water, wild to get back to normality. Merida was taken aback by the vicious way it moved. Her net slipped as she tried to force it under the animal. She pushed too hard and lost her footing on the loose gravel of the riverbed. As she fell her free hand caught line still on the rod and tugged it hard. Elinor, not wanting to lose the fish, had been holding the rod right. Together they went into the brackish water, coughing and spluttering, as their dinner swam triumphantly past them.
When Merida surfaced, pushing her hair out of her face and blushing furiously, she waited for the telling off. How she should have been more gentle, more graceful, better. But it didn't come. Instead she was faced by something much better. Her mum was half-lying, half-sitting in the water laughing like it was the first time she realised she could.
“Oh Merida we almost had him!”
Her long hair was damp and had come loose from its bindings. She looked younger. The illness had forced her to lay still and quiet so her cheeks had filled out a little to soften her expressions.
“So close!.”
Meridia shook herself like a dog. It always made Rapunzel laugh when she did that, swatting the water droplets away like it made a difference. Eleanor didn't purse her lips as expected but watched with a half-smile. The truth was, she was tired. Tired of fighting her daughter, tired of being so in control all the time, just tired. Her stay in the hospital and the long hours spent in quiet recovery prompted some insane burst of maternal feeling first true burst of maternal feeling in a long time. It was her only daughter no one else could love her like a mother.
"Towel?" Merida offered. Although it was sunny it was still September and there was a bite to the air.
They sat side by side on the riverbank. Meridia's rod twitched once in a while but neither of them really noticed. Silence wasn't a thing Merida knew how to deal with when it came to her mother - there had always been some sort of noise between them. It was sticky. It stretched uncomfortably to the point neither wanted to speak. Strangers to each other, Merida had been raised by nannies and teachers and coaches. Trotted out like a prize pig on the few occasions she saw her parents to perform. She had been the best shooter in Europe before her fall. In time she would be the best again. She was one of the few people who could hit a target at a hundred meters on horseback. But her mother hadn't cared about that. There was always something wrong; the way Merida stood, walked, ate. There were old fashioned rules to be prescribed to on how 'ladies' should be and Eleanor had always been disappointed her only daughter was the way she was; brutish, wild, wilful. Gay. The subject of suitors, as Eleanor still put it, had always been touchy between them. They were a wealthy family with power and it made sense that the power that would pass through Merida should go to a suitable family. She had lined them up and all Merida had to do was choose. It hadn't went well, of course. Then the reports had come back from the various schools. Breaking curfew, sneaking into dorms, being caught in the tennis shed. Elinor did what she thought was best and ignored the problem, hoping it would go away as her daughter grew.
It never had. And it had simply forced them apart.
Merida shifted where she was sitting "Are you hungry?"
Elinor considered for a moment, it was only noon but breakfast had seemed a long time ago. "Yes I think I am."
"It's time to catch lunch then."
She couldn't resist showing off even just a little. And although she would never admit it she wanted her mother to be impressed with something. The car door was already open and she rummaged inside.
"I thought I said no weapons."
"Come on mum it's just my bow."
"And what are you planning to do with that?"
"Catch lunch of course."
"No you are not."
"Watch me."
It was a simple thing really, almost like spear fishing. The trick was to compensate for the refraction of the water when watching the fish. Merida hiked up her wet jeans and waded in to the slow-moving water. The air was heavy with the gentle lull of the forest sounds and between her legs darted small scraps of silver. She drew, took aim, and waited. Her arm was still weak despite the physiotherapy and she had chosen a bow to match - simple, elegant, a longbow. Her favourite. Yew with small carvings from when she was much younger hewn along it. The key to hunting like this was patience. Behind her Eleanor’s presence made itself known but she didn't lose focus. She stood as if stone until her quarry darted in front of her. It was a split second decision to loose the arrow. Merida never missed.
The salmon was heavy. More than enough for two. She held it by the gills with the arrow still sticking from it.
Elinor had her hand at her mouth and she was smiling. "Well, I am impressed."