We didn’t sleep in the house during summer, but in haylofts filled with freshly gathered hay. It smelled heavenly there, except the strength of cows from downstairs, but when you kept the hatch closed, it wasn’t that bad to scare us off. We felt like royalty there – three sisters alone. Who’d give up that liberty merely because some cattle?
I was surprised we were allowed to sleep there this week. I was sure that if we asked we’d be grounded immediately, so we didn’t bring it up in conversations. Except Viika, who was stupid enough to ask it out loud in dinner table that evening.
We sat there dumbfounded, Erika and I, waiting Hagen’s verdict on the matter, secretly scolding Viika for opening her mouth and promising to remove this hindrance tongue of hers the moment we were alone.
“I suppose there is no harm letting girls sleep there now.” Mom interrupted the eerie silence. “They still are free maidens after all.”
We pound our heads, all blushing heavily – free indeed.
“I see no harm in it either – they have their heads on their shoulders and know how to use them.” Father add, which assured my rising suspicion that parents hadn’t learned about our little mischievous actions today.
“Oh, they do have a way of using them.” Magnus gave Hagen a a splenetic smile.
Surely, Viika could live her life nicely without her tongue, couldn’t she? I mean, if she knew how to use it in such splendid ways, the removing might be seen mostly as a virtue by others, right? Silence is gold while speaking is silver – isn’t that what the old folks say?
Apparently parents didn’t hear what Magnus said or refused to hear it, for which I was thankful, but father’s brows did come slightly closer to the ground. It was common knowledge that young men visited us in those late hours or we ran out to visit others. We talked mostly, but tell that to our guardians. Because of the “mostly” part in the sentence is why we did it in discrete secrecy.
Sören frequently came after the sunset to speak with Erika. Viika immediately took offence of him barging in like that in the middle of the night and us keeping her up with our talk that she promised to tell father and Hagen about it. But that would’ve meant her losing that only precious part of her body she used the most generously. So habitually it started to intervene with her health as far as we were concerned. The only one good reason I used to keep her shut – and which appeared to work! – was that I promised never to get married and sleep with her up in the hayloft for the next five summers at least and start yelling “thief!” on any boy, who wished to talk to her in the dark and see how she liked it. Either it was my empty threat or her not being such blabbermouth she often proved herself to be, but parents never learned about our nightly guests.
If I remembered it right, the “thief!” promise was what Zharah used on me, too, when I got way too “excited” with her friend ruthlessly rushing in the moment the lights in the main house disappeared. When you are not interested in boys, it can be rather displeasing listening them snuggling on your sisters not more than few feet from where you tried to sleep.
“I put it on their own conscious to keep their honor intact.” Father said grimly and rose to leave. The matter was settled, we were allowed to continue sleeping in the hayloft.
By the time we finished cleaning up after the dinner, the weather had gone for the better. It was long up to sunset yet and we spent that time working on our dresses. Also, it gave me hope we get to the hayloft dry feet.
I took a deep breath, standing on the open door. It smelled a lot better than before and fresher. The high grass was dripping heavily from the water that threatened to break the leaves in half. Silence had fallen over the village, except few dogs barking few houses back and dragonflies, who were seeking their partners in the evening. It was too late for butterflies, only few slithered by while I stood there. Cuckoo called in the woods, playing hide-and-seek with itself as no body else seemed interested. The wood was full of voices as usual and it made me feel secure. Had they stopped, I’d known something was out of place or some unknown forces were hiding there.
All was preparing to settle down for the night, short as it was. But what creature had time to sleep on the peak of summer? Too many things to do, like finding a life mate, living the short life, raising chicks, cups…
The mottled butterfly that just passed me fell pray to a swallow, leading my thoughts back on the daily cruel life. Or was it so cruel at all? The bird took it back to its nest fixed under the roof valley and fed it through a small hole to his mistress before flying over the yard again.
Despite our promise of cutting Viika’s tongue way shorter than mother had given her on birth, we didn’t do it. Till next time, we promised her after taking her aside and explaining her bad timing.
I spent the last beams of light on working on the shirt, legs hanging over the edge of the hatch. Besides the wish of getting it finished I had another agenda too – wait out ’til Sören arrived. The hatch made awful scratching noise when moved. We knew it, Hagen knew it, but he had no intentions of fixing it – way better than locking us up. Thus we knew exactly how many creeks we could make before him coming to check on us. Three – one for closing the hatch for the night, one in the early night for going to the toilet and one for coming back from toilet. The last two were remnants from our childhood, but Zahrah taught us that if we kept him oblivious about not needing the privy anymore we could use it for way better purposes. According to that teaching if we waiting for “guests”, we didn’t go to sleep before they arrived. That of chores if we knew they were coming. But we were good girls and didn’t get many visitors. The second was then used for them to either arrive or leave and the third one was done by us even if we didn’t need it to make it known that we “came back from the toilet”.
Sören arrived as usually shortly after the sun had disappeared behind the forest and dull light had taken the power over the fields. The grass was still too cold and air so warm they created a blanket of white fog over the green fields. Sitting on the hatch they used to put in the hay, you could see far over the loose-boxes where horses and cows were sleeping. Two boys were placed under the maple between the two and had made a small bonfire to keep them warm. Wolves had little business here at this time of year, but you could never be too sure. Especially when the fog was hiding their whereabouts.
I closed the hatch as soon as he arrived. The rain had cooled the air too much to leave one half open for the night.
“Hey, let me in!” we heard a quiet call from outside the hatch after I managed to tuck myself in. Followed by first surprise squeak, Sören pushed the big door open and let Dalek in. He gave the young man small punch and told him to wait up next time, which made Sören’s jaw drop as he obviously had no idea Dalek was coming.
“H-how?” I managed to ask after the first big blow he grinned smashing himself in the nearest pile of hay.
“I saw that half-pint sneaking this way, wanted to know, where he was going.” He pushed himself up again, realizing it wasn’t the best place to be and jerked few feet closer to my bed. He had left his huge fur behind and was now only wearing his blue tunic and dark trousers I had seen him in earlier.
“Take off your boots before you come on the hays,” I suggested, arranging my blanket so he could sit on it. I saw him stiffen, but after a moment he did as I asked and hopped right next to me, landing so heavily the sheep down stairs started to bleat.
“Nicely done, bumbler!” Sören couldn’t help but note. “Not all the village heard you yet!”
I felt Dalek rise to help Sören reach the Valhalla for a while, but I grabbed his tunic and forced him leave the idea.
“You two start fighting and we kick you out!” Erika warned. I agreed. I wasn’t sure, how we did that as both men were way stronger than we were thus making it almost impossible task, but I was confident they would be sorry never the less.
“And how would you…” Sören started mounting Erika for a kiss, but froze. “You hear that?” he asked half loud.
“What?” Erikas eyes widened.
I smirked in misbelieve – he’d used this joke to scare us way too often to have any effect. Three times this past week. He thought it was funny for some unexplainable reason, which neither me, Viika or Erika could understand, but he kept with the joke. Showing off his manhood we thought grimly every time he came out with the bun.
“Stop it, Sören!” My temples starting buzzing. “I’m not in the mood for you stupid jokes!” If he was going to continue with it tonight I was ready to show him the door. Soaking in the rain had never had good effect on my head, making it often sore for hours and turned me into old badger.
It was obvious others weren’t in the mood either, because Erika pushed him off. “You just have to jerk around!”
“I am not joking! I hear footsteps coming this way! Listen!” He wouldn’t give in and we, realizing finally he wasn’t playing with us, stopped breathing and cocked our ears. There were indeed footsteps coming our way and whoever was coming was reaching for the first peg of the ladder.