“Yes. You need to let Jonah know what your preferences are for the cabin. The work will start as soon as supplies are pulled together.”
I had been inside the little house before just out of curiosity. “Mostly it just needs a good cleaning and some bedding. And some roof work along the eaves.”
Impatiently Cor added, “And furniture and windows and the chimney repaired and …”
I shook my head. “The place was never meant to be a palace, don’t try and turn it into one. If that aunt of Francine’s is going to be here for a while I’m not going to turn my nose up at a place to hide out in no matter what shape it is in.”
He tried not to snicker but in the end he did. “I usually find urgent business that needs tending to someplace where ever she's not going to be.” He looked at me like he was surprised we’d been able to talk so long without coming to blows but then he sighed and got serious. “There are other things and if we don’t work them out between now us Muriel will work it out for us while she is here.”
“What … what kind of things?” I asked suspiciously.
He got all stiff and stared off into the trees. “The nights I’m to spend with you and the nights I’m to spend with Francine.”
I tried to stand up too quick and my leg gave out and I sat back down too hard on the bruise on my hip. I couldn’t hide the pain no matter how I tried. Cor surprised me by asking briskly, “How badly are you hurt?”
Thinking a bit I said, “Sore enough that maybe you could tell this Muriel woman that my health prevents … er … her from getting into our business.”
He wouldn’t be put off. “Seriously Fel, neither of us might like it but you are my responsibility. Do you need a healer?”
“No!” Moderating my voice so it wasn’t so sharp I said, “No. I’m fine, just bruised. But not so bruised I’d be willing to be toted like a sack of potatoes.”
Unwilling to be put off with a bit of what he’d been laughing at early he said, “And you’re sure. I could find a female healer …”
“I said I’m sure already. I’ve seen a real healer only once in my life and that was because I got snake bit when I was a squirt just learning to toddle in the yard and there wasn’t a thing he nor anyone else could do about it. I was either going to live or die by God’s grace. I lived. End of story.”
“Very well. Just … Fel, people will think … what they think. I cannot show you less … less favor than I would Francine.”
“Francine’s pale and frail, the opposite from what I am and people with any sense at all will see that. If you want a healer, send for one to deal with those sick headaches of hers. Personally I think if she would get out in the sun and fresh air more she wouldn’t have so many of them.”
“Winnie has told her the same thing as did Mary.” And that was it. That was as close as he would come to admitting that Francine’s headaches were of her own making … or her own making up.
He was quiet so long I finally had to ask, “Is that everything Cor? I’m about as full up of this stuff as I want to get. I’m … I’m gonna try and not blame you just like you are gonna try and not blame me but I’m on the edge here of having more than I can take.”
He sighed, “It isn’t but I’ll try and get the rest over with as fast as we can. Winnie said that you have to understand that as my wife you have some rights … and some claim on my time. If you need anything you need to know you can come to me. If people get wind that you’re scared to …”
“I am NOT scared of YOU,” I growled.
He looked at me and then snorted. “Yeah. You’re like a bobcat … keeping to yourself and not interested in overlapping your territory, small but I wouldn’t want to tangle with you when you’re upset.” Then he sat down on the bench for the first time. “I am not saying you ARE afraid of me, I am saying people might get that idea if they didn’t see that we … that we …”
I thought I finally understood what he was trying to get at. “You mean that if we let people think that we’re really … um … really married then we have to make sure they get the idea all the way through. That it isn’t just about … uh …”
I’d never had trouble calling something what it was. Crudeness simply was with a Headman like we had around but somehow talking about things like that when I was alone with a man was a different story all of a sudden. Cor didn’t exactly look like he was too comfortable with it either. I guess for him he was afraid it looked like he was being unfaithful, I’m not sure what he thought about me having the problem.
Finally I gave up. I rolled my eyes while he just sat there with his arms crossed getting angry. I told him, “This is stupid. Let’s just be done with it. We know what we are going to let people think. We know why we are going to let them think it. What they have to think is that it isn’t just about the time you spend with me that you don’t spend with Francine but about the whole enchilada.”
Caught off guard he asked, “What’s an enchilada?”
I snorted, “I take it you haven't been to the Outlands too much.”
“Not the part you’re from. I’ve been around the Northern Outlands but not the Southern Outlands.”
“I’ll make you one some time, they’re good. A Mexi woman taught my Ma and it turned out that Da liked them well enough we had them regular. They gave Gramp indigestion thought if they were too spicy."
“Er … OK.”
“I just mean that we can’t just let people think what they want to think, we have to … uh … guide what they think with play acting sometimes.”
He relaxed. “Yes, that’s what I mean. I … Look Fel. I know you think you’ve seen the world and experienced it all, and maybe you have had to live through some bad experiences and know more than most people your age would … but you’re still pretty young. All of this … this playacting acting might be necessary but it still turns my stomache. I just don’t want you to get any idea that … that …”
Surprised I asked, “Are you trying to be nice?”
I'd caught him off guard in the middle of a thought again. “Huh?”
“You are aren’t you? You honestly don’t want me to start believing that the play acting is real. Huh. Who would have thought it?”
Now really offended he asked, “Is it so hard to believe that I would want to avoid seeing you hurt?!”
“Wellll,” I said giving it some thought. “I suppose not. But why would you think that I would ever start believing such a fairy story like that? All you do is go around with a moony long face telling me how much you loooove your Francine and how much trouble this is going to cause her and how you’ll never be unfaithful to her, how you don’t want to see her hurt, and all sorts of other sickly sweet clap trap. I would have to be stupid or a fool to listen to all that and turn right around and ignore it. Best we can hope for is … well, I don’t have nothing to hope for in that department. It is what it is. That’s my life but I am not crazy enough to make it worse by snorting the amount of dream powder it would take to believe that there could ever be anything like what you are trying not to talk about between us.”
He looked relieved which didn’t do much for my ego but at the same time told me just how right I was. “Well, at least that is out of the way. You have to understand I just don’t want to see you hurt. I do have some honor left. You are so young too.”
“Oh yeah, and you’re as old as Methuselah’s training pants.” I shook my head. “I’m not stupid you know. Just because I’m from the Outlands doesn’t mean that I’m a complete know-nothing. When my family all died I had to decide whether I was going to live in daydreams or if I was going to survive in the real world. I picked the real world. It might not be so rosy and pretty as daydreams are but it lasts a lot longer … sometimes more’s the pity.”
When he sat there looking like he was trying to figure out how he was supposed to feel about that I asked, “Are we finished NOW?”
He nodded. “As long as we’ve got that straight.”
“Any straighter and it could be used as a plumb line. I’m going back to the … Oomph.”
I had tried to stand up but wound up relearning the hard way that when you’ve gotten banged around you need to move slow after you’ve been sitting for a while.
Cor was bent down, offering me a hand to get up on the ground. “Are you all right?”
I mumbled, “If you so much as think about calling Jonah or potatoes or anything close you’re going to be awful sorry.”