Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Nine

"The Sheriff stopped by last night."

I nearly spilt the pepperweed seeds I was putting into a jar which would then go in my traveling case.  "What did you say?"

Nat swallowed a bite of chickweed omelet I had made for his breakfast and repeated, "The Sheriff stopped by last night.  He seemed ... peevish ... when I said you were unavailable."

"Good."  Then shaking my head.  "Or perhaps not.  I hope he doesn't revoke his offer of a job at Linderhall."

"You aren't going to a job, you are going as the Widow Linder ... to help the family."

"Humph.  I'd prefer it to be called a job."

"Have you transferred your grudge from the Waverlys to the Linders?"

"No and stop your sermoning first thing in the morning or you can leave without the fruit pasties I'm making for you."  I shook my head.  "It isn't a grudge to speak the truth.  I would prefer it to be an honest job.  This way none of us get the wrong idea or forget our place."

"You mean so you don't forget your place or make the mistake of daydreaming a bit."

"Of course I include myself in that.  I'm not a complete ninnyhammer."

"No you aren't ... but I was just checking.  I don't wish to see you hurt.  You are still young enough to ..."

I rolled my eyes and told him, "Don't start Nat.  That type of foolishness was ground out of me.  And last night was proof of it.  I thought it would at least hurt to see Rom and Fan together ... but it didn't, not even a bit."

"Then why the sighing?  Are you sorry you feel nothing?"

"No.  More like ... more like I'm ... I'm jealous.  But ... oh botheration ... not jealous of them in particular ... just ..."


Hesitantly I tried to explain.  "Nat ... they managed to make something of it, of their marriage.  I didn't.  Even with their troubles it looks like they've tried and found something even if it isn't a fairytale ... maybe a friendship, I'm not certain and shudder at the idea of prying to find out.  It's just ... Nat, I didn't try ... and the only thing I found was a bit of pity; not felt by me but felt for me by my husband.  I feel like a fool ... and somehow shameful ... but for the life of me Nat, I don't know what I would have done different could I have done anything different.  It makes me feel dirty ... both for what my marriage wasn't and because I held hard feelings for Rom and Fan."

"Come and sit Leeda.  Let us talk."  Reluctantly I did as Nat asked.  "Listen to me Leeda.  Do you remember before my accident?"

"I was very young but I remember."

"I was young too, about fourteen.  There was a girl.  She died during the plague so her name and family don't matter.  But I loved her as much as a young boy could and more than most thought I did.  Then the accident and the resulting infection ... and then the surgery.  It saved my life but left me ... half a man."

With absolute conviction I told him, "You're more man than most."

Nat shook his head.  "You know of what I speak."

"Aye.  But that doesn't define you as a man Nat.  I remember Father and Grandfather saying that many times.  A man is his actions and responsibilities and faith, not the container those things are housed in."

"But it has affected my life and my choices ... and has affected how other people relate to me."

Accepting the inevitable I said, "This is going to be a sad story isn't it."

"In part yes.  When it became obvious that I'd never be able to begat and carry on the Harper name my young love's father forbid our friendship as having no profit.  I still felt love and it pained me greatly, going from a brute of a boy proud of my size for my age and already having a few whiskers on my chin and upper lip to ... to what I was.  Then I learned she'd given herself to another and a marriage was being rushed forward."

"Oh Nat."

"Oh Aye ... I was feeling sorry for myself all right.  But your father told me that any boy would ... and grown men too that have found themselves in the same place.  That I needed to find a new path ... or to discover the path that God had had in mind for me all along."

"What a pill to swallow."

"Yes it was.  And for a while I was so angry that it was hard for me to manage.  Do you ... do you remember when I pushed you from the hay loft?"

"I remember the tooth I lost because of it more than the push Nat."

"Well I remember it ... and I'll never forget it.  Never forget the look on your father's and our grandfather's faces either ... or the beating your brothers gave me ... until Marcus realized I wasn't fighting back but was running into their fists as much as I could.  Or your father telling the rest to leave me be while I sat by your bed and cried.  I was 16 and I'd pushed a girl barely more than a baby just because she wouldn't take no for trying to give me a flower.  You could have died or been a cripple for life Leeda ... but God was merciful.  And that's when I decided I needed God more than I needed my anger. It didn't happen overnight but I did heal ... but I had to make the choice.  I could have been ... different earlier.  But when you are young you ... you don't always have the understanding of how to make things different."

"Is this about you ... or me?"

"About us both Leeda.  Do you remember me telling you that I thought it not a bad thing that Fan is older than Rom?"  At my nod he continued, "If I had to guess Fan has played the larger role in trying to make things work with Rom.  She's older, has experienced loss herself, and is generally thought well of by those that know her.  And Rom played his role as well and tried.  He's sour more about other things than he is about his marriage to Fan."

"Good for them ... and I mean that.  I might not have been able to say it aloud before yesterday but I am saying it now.  Good for them and I hope things turn more hopeful."

"There's always hope for those who seek it.  But what I'm saying Leeda is that ..."  He stopped and sighed.  "They both worked on it.  It ... it takes two to make a thing like that work.  My love for the girl I knew didn't last because ... because it took two and she ... she left so my feelings withered and died.  And thankfully the Church now fills that spot in my life.  But you ... you shouldn't start feeling shamed and ... and start doubting yourself because you've come to a deeper understanding of your marriage.  It takes two Leeda and from what you've told me and from what I've learned from others, The Linder that was your husband was ... was a fairly good Guardian and fairly poor at almost everything else he put his hand to ... son, brother, father, husband ... soldier, farmer, businessman ... all of it.  If he hadn't inherited the job and the assets that came with it – including good staff - I'm pretty certain he would’ve wound up nothing more than a lonely and miserable old codger in the poorhouse."

"But ..."

"No buts Leeda.  He was older, more experienced, and he had to have known it was unrealistic to expect a girl to step into a marriage to a man with his responsibilities and sphere of influence and be able to ... to swim without drowning.  It takes two Leeda.  Just like my young love never tried ... your husband never tried.  He may have had his reasons for keeping his distance and ignoring you but to my mind they weren't good enough.  When you make a contract ... it doesn't matter what it is ... you are giving your word, involving your honor, promising to do your best ... and you're agreeing to work to see the contract successful.  When one party fails to keep their honor in the agreement, they fail to fulfill their part, then the contract becomes null and void."

Trying to understand I said, "But marriage isn't a contract or covenant between two ... but between three.  You said yourself that God is the only being that has never broken a promise which is what a contract is."

"Aye, marriage is different in that respect but don't confuse the issue.  God sanctifies a contract made in good faith but He won't do the work to make sure the humans on the other end continue in good faith ... that is up to the spouses.  You've nothing to be ashamed of Leeda ... you ... you were too young to have the experience to do much more than honor the fact that you were married.  It should have been your husband that expressed an active good faith ... and in that he failed.  You did what you could at the age you were; at the age The Linder was he should have been doing the Lion's share until you found your feet in his household yet he did not.  Of all the things that you will regret in this life ... don't let those eleven months destroy you.  If fault is to be counted then the Linder bares the far greater weight."

It was with a still heavy heart that I saw Nat off so he could return to his duties and have time to finish up his own packing.  But I knew the remedy for depression and that was good solid work.

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