Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Five



I was beating the bushes about a quarter mile down the forest path when the stick I was swinging broke.  "Oh botheration!" I said kicking a stone and instead of satisfaction finding the pain of a stubbed toe.  Hopping around in pain I snarled, "Oooooo ... I hope they all rot."

From behind me I heard, "The Waverly family or has something else raised your ire to a flame."

"Oh ... it's you."  My tone left him with no need to wonder how I felt about his presence.

Instead of being wise and leaving me be the man leaned against a tree and said, "Now you remind me more of my other sister Nancee.  I made the mistake of putting a garter snake in her bed once and I've paid for it long and hard ever since and any time the subject is mentioned she gets the exact same look on her face as you have right now."

"What kind of a brother to the Guardian are you?!"

"Tomas and James ask me the same question on a regular basis.  I tell them the kind that Father gave them.  Tomas said if I was going to be such that he'd best make me the Sheriff, one that cares little to nothing for status so won't be tempted to let the highers go while blistering the lowers for the same sins."

"You're ... you're the Sheriff of Tentuckia?" I gasped.

"Aye."

"But you're young."  At his raised eyebrow I rolled my eyes.  "Oh botheration, don't throw my words back at me.  I knew it was a stupid thing to say as soon as it left my mouth."

"At least you admit it," he said with a smile to take any sting away.  "And being the Sheriff it is my responsibility to see if wrongs were intentional or not.  I suspect ... well, I wish to see for myself before I take it before The Linder.  So, I wish you to accept the invitation so that I can see for myself how things stand."

Concerned I said, "My attitude aside, there has been nothing criminal going on.  The Mayor has not intruded on my life or anything like that."

"Money was sent with the messenger two weeks ago.  It was quite a sum as it was to reimburse the Mayor for the expense of caring for you."

Shocked I said, "There must be some mistake."

"No.  I was told that they'd been looking after your needs quite extensively since you had no relatives who would."

Carefully I told him, "Nat has taken a vow of poverty but gives me all the care that I've needed.  I have gotten by just fine."

"But the Mayor has not done his duty."

"I was not aware that he had one."

"Oh aye.  Mr. Tosh stated that he sent a missive to the Mayor after you had left asking to be kept apprised of your welfare.  Missives came infrequently and usually only after one was sent asking after you."

"Someone ... someone asked after me?  Truly?"

The Sheriff as I now knew to address him nodded.  "Aye.  Would that they had thought to enquire about you directly instead of through that pompous ... hmmm.  You still have not explained why you hold a grudge against the Waverly family."

Feeling mulish and embarrassed by my previous behavior, both what had just occurred and what was in the past, I asked, "Did Nat explain?"

"Aye.  But I wish to hear it from your own lips and in your own words."

"Botheration," I muttered.

"Quicker said, quicker over."

"Oh you'll make a good Sheriff.  You know when to be easy and when to be iron."  He simply stood there waiting.  "I was young and naive and didn't know it.  Spoiled as well as anything I went after had come too easily."

"You can say this despite the troubles you faced from the loss of your family?"

"My family isn't lost to me Sheriff ... we are, let us call it separated for a bit.  I'll see them again."

"Hmmm.  Nat has done his job well I see."

"Perhaps.  But more my parents and grandparents did their job and I've never felt insecure in that way."

"Never?"

"Well," feeling forced to be honest.  "For a time ... but Mizz Marta ... let us just say that ... that ... I was too young for what was asked of me and very few people cared about it.  And that I appreciate those few who did."

The Sheriff's expression was sour.  "Father and Dwen had kittens when they heard of the marriage.  Dwen - Father's Consort - was from a Region in the northeast and had been given as a childbride to her first husband.  She hates the practice so much that in their contract with one another she made Father swear that the girls, even though she didn't birth them, would be forbidden marriage until they were at least sixteen and that they would never be forced into one against their will."

I shrugged having no desire to explain or tell him just what kind of unthinking ass the man called my husband had been.  He was a good politician, and a reasonable Guardian, but a poor excuse for a man which was why, in my opinion, Ceena and Tonya had been able to order things the way they had.

He continued to wait on my part of the story so rather than look at him while I told it I examined a beetle that gnawed on a bit of tree bark.  "Oh very well but it makes me sound ... what I was ... childish and naive.  I imagined myself in love - and for that time and my experience what I felt was love.  And ... and Rom ... I believe he felt the same.  Perhaps we both confused friendship for romance ... or perhaps not.  I've never spoken of it with him, have never spoken to him at all since before I was sent to Linderhall so for his part you'll need to ask him."

"And do you still feel the same?"

"No!"  Shaking my head I moderated my tone.  "No.  I've grown up.  My broken heart is mended."

"Then why the grudge?"

"Pride mostly.  It was ... humiliating.  On many levels.  And before you ask, I refuse to try and explain why that is so to someone who cannot understand."

"Fair enough.  Dwen often told me that she could tell me the words but that didn't mean I would hear them for what they were.  The question is did you never seek out the Mayor for help given your station and situation?"

I snorted.  "No.  I got the message loud and clear."

"I thought you said ..."

"Not a written one," I said nearly snapping in my impatience to be done with the topic.  "For some reason I am an embarrassment.  And there is worry that I will try and lead Rom ... astray.  Which should tell you what they think of my character and totally without reason.  From all that I hear the problem is that Rom has not fallen into their plans as eagerly as was expected.  I take no pleasure in that so get the look off your face if you please.  I could tell them the problem but I do not think they would appreciate it."

"What would that be Widow?"

He was needling me by calling me Widow but the irritation of it was less than he might supposed.  It reminded me to be cautious ... more cautious ... than I had been with him to this point.  "They denied Rom the one thing he wanted most."

"You?"

"Heavens no.  Even at fourteen and tip over top in what I thought was love I knew that to push Rom before he got his training in combat was a sure way to alienate him.  As my talent is in housekeeping and food keeping, Rom's lies in fighting ... not of the verbal type at which he has almost no talent ... but in the kind where his body and mind work as a machine.  I used to watch him when they had tournies and he was like a dancer in how he moved.  It must kill a bit of him each day to be kept from university and further training by masters of the craft.  Rom knew that his talents did not lie in the area of books and politics and that it disappointed his father, but he was very proud of the talents he did have and was very eager to improve them."

"Hmmm.  So is your grudge against Fan Waverly?"

I shrugged.  "I suppose in part.  On the other hand there are days when I feel sorry for her.  The whole point of the alliance with Beauville was to begat a male heir ... and there isn't one.  Two girls back to back and Fan had so much trouble with the second one that the doctors have ordered her to not conceive for at least another year, preferably two, and to build herself up in the meantime. She is twenty-seven now.  I imagine there is some worry that she is running out of time."

"For someone who does not socialize you certainly know some rather intimate details of the Waverly family."

I shrugged.  "Do you really think people would miss gossiping and being busybodies?  I have people coming to me for help at the back door regularly and while I refuse payment they seem to feel the need to ... to communicate certain facts to see my reaction."  I sighed.  "I know how I sound.  Nat has lectured me often enough on the subject.  I suppose it is that I still begrudge what happened ... it isn't any one person but the whole of them that ... that put me in the position I found myself in and the way it was handled.  Now can we please drop this? "

"Only if you agree to accept the invitation and allow me to escort you this evening."

I grumbled, "Oh botheration."

No comments:

Post a Comment