Friday, March 16, 2012

Chapter 45

Chapter 45

There was a tap at the cabin door and I drew back the latch cautiously until I was sure who it was and then let Cor in.

I told him, “I was beginning to think you weren’t coming even if you meant to. Bet they were giving you the third degree up at the house.”

He carried a rucksack and set it against the wall. He saw me looking and said, “I … I wanted to stay the night but Francine wouldn’t ease up until I promised to sleep in the house tonight.”

I gave him a surprised look. “I don’t expect you to … I mean … I’m surprised you even wanted to come … and Francine needing you … goodness.” I blinked a couple of times and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I was so embarrassed.

I shook my head to clear it and backed away feeling strange and a little out of sorts. I stepped over to the fire place and lifted a tea pot that I had there. “I … I made Sherpa tea if you want some.”

He rubbed his hands together and said, “Yes. Please. I can’t believe how cold it still is here. I was in short sleeves and sometimes shirtless down south. I expected to come back and at least find the trees leafing out.”

I poured the mixture, which was warm sweetened milk with a bit of strong tea mixed in, into the mug he favored when he stayed over. As I handed it to him I said, “There are plenty of buds just waiting for a little warmth to spring to life. Is everything up at the house all right? You sound troubled.”

He grunted around a mouthful of the liquid then said, “As right as can be expected I guess. Things balance out. The Captain was pleased with the result of the run and with the information on the raiders we brought back, but the Francine situation kind of takes some of the shine off of it.”

I didn’t want to bring him down more but for some reason felt forced to say, “Francine isn’t a situation Cor, she’s a person.”

He sighed. “I know it and know you’re right for reminding me; but right now it is hard to see the person I married behind the problems that she is creating. I left thinking that this baby would be what finally made Francine happy … or if not happy at least content and then that would be as start to getting back to the way things used to be. Now I look at her and wonder if things are ever going to get back to what they were … or sometimes I even wonder if they were ever what I imagined them to be in the first place.”

He had such a pensive and closed look on his face that it told me he’d been thinking those kind of thoughts long and hard. “I can’t fix it Cor but like I told you and Francine both, sometimes you just have to love someone for who they are and not for who you think they ought to be. Can I tell you something?”

He shrugged and said, “Sure.”

“You know I told you my Da came from this side of the Mississippi and from people different from my Ma’s.” At his nod I continued. “Da was … more different than just being born in another place and wearing different clothes. He was educated, knew things and ways that were completely alien to a lot of people in my town. My Gramp was smart, real smart, but not educated the way Da was. Gramp’s smarts were hard won and from experience. But he could take that and think ahead of a problem to head it off or come up with some kind of contraption that would fix a problem. My Da always admired that and respected him for it. But … but my Ma … she was more like Gran only some bit sweeter and gentler. Gran didn’t care who you belonged to but if a kid was near her and behaving foolishly she’d snatch an ear or whack ‘em with her broom or walking stick. Ma wasn’t like that … she was quiet, would talk to ‘em and in her own way she could be just as effective as Gran at getting kids to mind their p’s and q’s.”

“You going some place with this?” Cor asked.

“Yeah, it just takes explaining people before I can get you to understand the purpose to what I’m gonna tell you.”

He nodded again and I went on. “In a normal way of things I’m not sure my Da and Ma would have ever come together. But they did and they worked well as a couple but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have their problems. I was one of those problems. See my Da wanted to raise me more like him and Ma … well, she wanted a daughter that would grow up and do the same things, enjoy the same things she did. Ma never really fought with Da and never in front of me, but one time I overheard her say something that really hurt my feelings. I had chosen to go with Da over staying home and letting Ma wash me and do up my hair for some ceremony or other in town. Women didn’t have a very high place in our town and those ceremonies were one of the few chances they had to shine and one of the places they shined was showing off how well they were raising their daughters. I hated getting my hair braided with dyed strips of cloth or leather and having things hung all over my clothes. It always twinked me that I wouldn’t have a chance to escape an enemy all dressed up like a flaming doll.” I smiled. “Even then I was already ‘ruined’ and was definitely my father’s daughter.”

“Let me guess,” he said. “You overheard your parents arguing. My parents went at it a few times though usually it was my father screaming and my mother just sitting there stoically waiting for it to be over.”

I nodded, feeling a little sad for the memories he had. “Only it wasn’t an argument exactly. Ma never raised her voice but she could stand up for herself when she felt like it; she didn’t have to do it often because Da all but worshipped the ground she walked on. But that time she said something that made it through my pride and struck deep. She told Da that he was taking me away from her, that he was spoiling me for the life I was meant to lead and that half the time she didn’t recognize me as being her daughter. Looking back I don’t think she meant it the way it came out and I didn’t stay to hear the rest of what was said because I ran off. You never hear anything good about yourself when you eavesdrop.”

I looked into the fire and tried to explain the best I could. “Da found me when I didn’t come back to see the contests. At first he thought someone had been at me … you know what I mean?” He grimaced but nodded. “I was a mess. I’d been running through the woods and I looked more like an Asin than one of the people.”

“Asin?”

I scrunched up my face and tried to think of something that would explain it. “Uh … I don’t know if you have one around here. It’s like a female boogey monster. She lives around the woods that surround towns and lures children away to eat them. Some say she can take the shape of a girl and some say a woman … either doesn’t matter. When she eventually shows her true form it isn’t pretty.”

Cor snorted. “OK, got it. You looked pretty rough.”

“Yeah. Da finally figured out what had upset me after asking enough questions and he sat me down and told me a few things. I didn’t understand them all the way then though I did manage to take ‘em to heart the best I could considering my years. He explained that Ma was just … well, she was a simple woman with simple tastes. To her I was a changling … different. There’d been a baby girl before me that had been born sickly and she died a week before I was born. Then there were several lost babies before Ma was able to have Georgie but this happened before Georgie was born; Ma’s belly was barely showing. All those lost babies hurt my Ma’s spirit in a way I was too young to understand. Da said that sometimes women that were going to have babies said things and felt things they might not if they weren’t spending so much spirit and energy making a baby. And that since Ma had already lost so many blessings that she was scared she was going to lose that one too, the one that turned about to be Georgie. It made her want to hold onto me, the one she knew was strong, even harder. And because I had what Da called the misfortune to be born more like him and Gramp that it only made it harder for Ma.”

“OK. I can see that, but I assume you are trying to tell me something from this story and I’m not seeing it Fel.”

I shrugged. “Da said that Ma and I were different and that sometimes Ma wouldn’t always be the person I wanted or maybe even needed her to be. For that matter he said that one day I’d likely see him that way too. He said the point was that God put love in our heart for someone for a reason. Maybe it was to make us better people or to teach us lessons or even to help us overcome something we wouldn’t otherwise be able to without the experience of loving someone. Or maybe it wasn’t especially for us but that the other person needed something and that maybe we were the person He expected to meet that need. Da also said that like and love didn’t always go hand in hand. We could love someone without liking them and like someone without loving them. But no matter what, Ma was my Ma because God said so and that it was my duty to honor her and that he hadn’t been encouraging me to do it very well. And from that day forward I needed to be as much my Ma’s girl as I was my Da’s girl even if it wasn’t always what I would druther be doing. That maybe if Ma got more secure that she wouldn’t try and hold on so tight and at the same time maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to fight her hold so much.”

Cor sighed. “You mean I need to practice being loving as much as I need to feel being in love. And that it is my responsibility to do that even if Francine doesn’t always make me feel like I want to.”

I smiled a small smile. “I knew you were smart. And I knew I wouldn’t be explaining anything you didn’t already know. Sometimes though it is good to be reminded that other people understand the road you have to walk. Makes life a good deal less rocky and lonely.”

He rocked for a few minutes then asked me quietly, “Are you lonely Fel? I’ve imagined what your life must have been like, how hard, but after meeting that Alo I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve missed a few things.”

His question surprised me. Part of me wanted to turn him away from thinking on it because it would mean admitting things that I shied away from admitting to myself but while my walk wasn’t as good as Alo’s I’m still not real comfortable lying and especially not to people that I’ve let get so close. Softly I said, “Sometimes. I miss my sisters. Letters are nice and I get one from at least one of them every courier run but it isn’t like being with them every day, doing for them and have them knowing it was me and comforting me with that knowing. And I miss being able to walk free without people pointing out all my differences though that doesn’t bother me the way it used to. I got into more trouble than I want to admit by being different from the folks where I came from.” I stopped and laughed as something struck me once again. “Topher says I’m not an Outlander anymore, that I belong to the estate about like he does. He’s a funny little thing though he’s not so little as when I first came. His winter clothes are already getting short on him though he is still about as bird chested a boy as I’ve ever seen.” I shook my head and smiled as much for my sake as for Cor’s. “Now, enough of this maudlin stuff. No need for either one of us to giving the other the mopes. You said you were going to tell me about your run south to meet them folks that wanted Coreman paper and other words make it seem like you did well while you were gone. So get on with telling me already.”

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