Friday, March 16, 2012

Chapter 26

Chapter 26

“What do you mean they left?! They left without me?!!”

I sighed. I had a feeling that the Captain and Winnie had made a good escape and at that moment I really couldn’t blame them. “Francine, the Captain explained this to you already.”

Like a little girl upset at having missed a treat she said, “He … he couldn’t have meant it.”

I looked at her. “Are you sniffing dream powder? Of course he meant it. Winnie is fragile, she needs quiet and to be under Mona’s care. Think for a moment will you. They had to leave and get to the fort quickly and without a lot in the way of drama or anything else.”

Switching tactics she moaned, “Cor promised me …”

Refusing to bite that bait I asked, “Cor promised you what? It was already explained to you that there are no letters of credit with the merchants at the fort. It was explained to you that this is harvest season and men can’t be spared to carry you places. It was explained to you that anything you could absolutely need right now can come from the estate or the village. It was also explained to you that you need to stay here and fulfill your responsibilities.”

She threw the back of her wrist against her forehead and then slid gracefully into a chair and said, “It is just all too much. The stress … the loneliness … the work … no one understands. I … I just don’t know what to do.”

I was momentarily distracted wondering what I would look like trying to pull off a move like she just did. More than likely I would wind up in a heap on the floor with everyone laughing their loin cloths off. I sighed. “Francine, do not try and fool me. Trust me when I tell you you will have to be a much earlier bird if you want to catch that worm. You pressured Cor into taking a second wife to address all the issues you are still complaining about. I heard the stories and now I’ve witnessed the facts. You even worked it out behind his back and he returned to an unwanted proxy marriage that still has him up in arms except for the fact he loves you so and wants you to be happy. So here I am. I’m doing all of the work that you normally would have done.” I did not say if she could be bothered to actually do it because I thought it was obvious and wouldn’t create any productive discourse. “You have no more excuses. From here on out you have to pick a different tune to sing.”

“You have no idea how difficult my life has been. A fragile mother who left me too early. Married too young to a man that …”

“Ohhhhh noooooo,” I laughed. “No one forced this marriage on you. You were free to say no or yes. There’s no excuse as far as not knowing Cor because you’ve known him since you were both children.”

Desparately she tried to continued her litany. “I’m too young for …”

“Francine,” I told her trying really, really hard not to laugh. “You’re twenty years old. I’m sixteen, won’t be seventeen until nearly the turn of the year. That means that you are four years older than I am. And you’ve been married two full years. Are you trying to tell me in all that time you couldn’t have figured out some of this stuff?”

Getting irritated at my lack of the so-called finer sensibilities she said, “Under proper circumstances there would have been an older woman to guide me through all of this.”

“Oh puhleeeeze. You married Cor knowing he intended you to be his only wife. You certainly knew you were his first wife.”

She sniffed delicately. “I did not know how tragically difficult this would all be.”

I rolled my eyes and tried to find the humor or I was going to be seriously considering dosing her so full of tea she slept until Cor came home. “Francine if I’m too old to act like a child, you certainly. Think will you? What happens when you have a child of your own to raise? Are you going to get up to all of these strange starts then? And as far as tragic, the only thing tragic about this situation is that you are wasting precious time feeling sorry for yourself when you could be learning and doing and just impress Cor all to pieces when he comes home.”

“Is that what you are doing?” she snapped. “Trying to impress Cor? Your language certainly has improved since you’ve been exposed to me. But that is the only thing that has improved. I can tell you for a fact he isn’t particularly impressed by the rest of your Outland ways.”

I refused to be pushed around. “Well, if you hadn’t gone and tried to pick someone for him then maybe he would have found someone more to his liking but since you took it out of his hands I guess you are the one to blame for that aren’t you?”

She then tried the crying pitifully routine. “Oh you are so horrid. I want my Aunt Muriel. She is the only one who understands me.”

“Be careful what you ask for,” I told her with gritted teeth which caused her to look up. “Your aunts told me what I should do if you start showing the same nervous issues as your mother. I don’t believe you are that fragile mentally – and I would hate for Cor to get the idea that he might have to …”

I saw a look in her eyes I hadn’t meant to put there. She was afraid. It struck me then that for all the fact that it was true that Francine was twenty she didn’t really want to grow up and take a leading role here at the estate. She didn’t want the responsibility because in a real sense she was frightened of it. She learned to enjoy the attention her mother received but why she received it and perhaps what some of those attentions were wasn’t something that Francine included in her view of herself.

But the fact was that Francine had made her bed and now she must lie in it. For all intents and purposes she all but made my bed too. I had to remind myself not to forget just what she was capable of even if she had no idea of the consequences of her actions. I sighed and tried to put my anger to the side. “Francine, the time for playing at being married is over with. This is serious business. People are counting on us to take care of them, not the other way around. You are going to have to choose. Your aunts can’t help you with this anymore, they never could do it for you. It is passed time for you to start helping yourself.”

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