I turned to Docia who was wide eyed with concern. I whispered a frantic, “I have to go. I have to try and … and …”
I ran towards the house, my bare feet barely feeling the hard ground or my cotton skirt flapping around my knees. As fast as I had flown though it was already too late. I had just put foot on the kitchen threshold when I heard an infuriated shriek from upstairs.
Ignoring the startled eyes of everyone I passed, I ran through the rest of the house and up the stairs. I didn’t have to stand at the door and wait to be invited in … and wouldn’t have had they tried to stop me. Francine was in the process of furiously attacking Cor with her knitting needles while everyone stood rooted to their spot in with various looks of horror and a few shrieks of fear.
In a quick glance I saw Cor was holding Francine off but just barely. His cheek was bloody and there was blood on his arm and chest as well from deep scratches where she got in a couple of whacks before he could grab her wrists. I ran forward and struggled to get between them and finally managed to wrench the needles from Francine’s hand and throw them in Winnie’s direction who grabbed them up for safekeeping. Lollie and Docia had run in behind me. Lollie helped me to wrestle Francine to a chair while Docia tended to Cor’s wounds.
As Francine continued to struggle I shouted in her face, “You will either calm down or I will tie you down. Do you hear me?! You want to be mad at someone then take it out on me, not Cor!”
I looked a question at Lollie and then turned to Hazel who was white faced with shock while a hand fluttered at her throat. “Hazel, do you have any of that powerful tea … the one you said was for emergencies only?”
Glyssen who would have likely joined the brawl had Muriel not had a hand holding her back said, “You can’t give that to her! What if she is with child?!”
Mona who had entered not too far behind Lollie and had a potion already in mid preparation said, “Girl to not be intentionally obtuse. Wishing does not make something so. I have already explained in detail to you that your cousin cannot have any more children … and not just because she has ruined her body either. Do not make me wonder if you are not suffering from some of the same problems as she.”
That stopped me dead in my tracks. I barely noticed the frightened look that had crossed Glyssen’s face. I tried to gulp for air but wasn’t having much success and it felt like my scalp was about to crawl from beneath my braids. The look on my face must have been something awful because Hazel came up and drew me gently away from Francine who had stayed in the chair once she’d seen she was not receiving support from the right quarters. Quietly Hazel told me, “Mona explained it earlier today. Obviously your sister has not told you.”
“No … no, no, no,” I moaned. “It … it can’t be like that. Cor needs … I mean …”
My words set Francine off again although she only attacked with words.
“Cor needs this and Cor needs that! What about my needs?!”
I snapped and finally turned on Francine. As gently as I could I broke out of Hazel’s grasp and then screamed, “The world doesn’t revolve around your flaming needs!! What about the fact that you never asked Cor and I what we wanted?! Huh?!!”
She cried, “We … we were supposed to be a family!”
I shook from head to toe. “We are a family you … you vicious … ARGH!! And we would have been an even bigger family if you hadn’t … hadn’t …” I wanted to scratch her eyes out. Even though I had known the baby would never be mine I would have been like an auntie or something. “Now look what the results are. You’ve hurt yourself beyond all measure, taken away a future that wasn’t your right to take away … if you hadn’t wanted the baby for whatever reason I would have …”
“See!” she screamed to everyone in the room. “See!! She’s jealous! She wants my life!!”
Cor’s fist hit the wall making us all jump. “You put this in motion Francine! This proxy marriage that I didn’t ask for. You caused Fel to be bought and sold like a piece of meat for your own pleasure. You knew my feelings on this subject. I had no problem with you having whatever female relatives you wanted to have here for as long as you wanted them if it was female companionship that you needed … but I have never understood why our private life couldn’t be private … why you felt it absolutely necessary to burden me with a second wife …”
He winced and turned to me, “I didn’t mean …”
I sighed and shook my head but still could not meet his eye. Finally calming down I said, “I know. It’s … it’s this lie we’ve had to live. Trying to make everyone happy. Francine … her family … the Council … the estate people … No one asked us what we wanted, what we needed. The only thing we could come up with between us to save our honor was to compromise it … and I haven’t done a very good job of that. I’m … I’m sorry.”
“Fel,” he whispered. “Don’t. I’m the head of this family. I’m responsible …”
Francine screamed, “There they go again. Making plans. Talking to one another. Like I don’t exist.”
Quick as a flash I was back to snarling. “This whole situation is because you exist you ninny. Because we were trying to give you what you want … to make you happy. Your happiness above everything else was our mutual goal. Cor loves you … you great big blithering … ARGH!! How can that not mean anything to you?! How can you treat it with so little value?!”
Then as often happens in life, just when the pendulum crashes into the wall on one side, it gets thrown back just as violently in the opposite direction so quickly that you are left trying to figure out which way you are going.
Jonah rushed into the room, “Begging your pardon as I’m sure this all needs airing out but you’ll have to save it for later. We’re about to be under attack. Gilly, you need to come down here now … Topher’s done found his way home but he’s in a bad way.”