I left him ponder on what I said and returned to house. By the time I got there, my eyes were totally soaked, but I didn’t care nor wished to explain it. I spent most of my day attending the fireplace, where I could at least lie that the smoke made my eyes water. They couldn’t be fooled, but they were nice enough not to sting in my grief.
It is our tradition that the bride makes the bread for her wedding herself from the leaven her mother gives her to continue the bread luck. I was meant to start with baking today – six days before the feast, but mom thought I ought to wait my bad mood out as being angry always made the bread heavy and hard to eat.
Accordingly, it started to rain outside, which only lowered my mood even more and made other sour too. Midsummer’s Eve was approaching, I counted – it always rained in that time.
Magnus was out most of the evening and arrived just after the late dinner, full of thunder as if his life had just been torn apart. He headed straight to where I was sitting and landed on the chair in front of me.
Another lecture, I thought, ill feeling getting the best of what was left of my good side.
“You are a full time witch, Laurien!” he said without any lead-in, his bearded face almost against mine.
I raised slightly my left eyebrow, like I was surprised. He wasn’t the first to claim that. The eyebrow fell and I was yet again looking quite displeased, pouring my disappointment in needlework. I had finished the shirt and was now back doing my wedding gown.
“What are you suggesting we do now?” he hissed at me. I winched back – his breath was utmost terrible thing I had smelled in months! Even the dead mule would smell better.
“About what?” I asked after I took a good zip of linden tea I had gathered, despite my earlier thought of feeling well enough to skip it. The headache and the rising cold all indicated the opposite. It eased the taste of his breath in my mouth, too.
“You’ve bewitched him, haven’t you? I just spent four hours hunting with him and he barely spoke two words, only muttered things none of us could make any sense!”
Good, I thought, at least he’s thinking now. I just hoped it was about what I asked him to think over and not how to pay me back his humiliation he probably felt. To wound a man’s pride and survive the outrage was trickery only few experienced women managed to pull off – I had neither the experience nor enough knowledge.
“So what!” I pushed him back “His silence is not my doing.” His breath was really awful! What had he been doing – eaten dirt? “Get off! Haven’t you used the tooth stick at all?”
“Don’t change the subject!” He grabbed my elbow and pulled me closer, but with all my might I still managed to push him away.
“Get off!” I was starting to get angry. “Dalek already tried to scare me! It didn’t work! Why would your attempt end any better?” I jerked back, so the chair went flying behind me and towered over him. “I asked him to be honest with me and look at me with open eyes! But so far he’s done nothing but lied to himself and treated me like a twelve year old! He said he came to take a woman, yet he treats me as a child!” I panted hard, trying to restore my strength. “All I said to him this morning was that he either treats me as his equal in life or he better not come back at all! I am NOT the child from your memories! I have grown up while you were hunting seals in north! You both talk about me being a woman and then you turn around and treat me the total opposite! Where’s the truth in your actions?”
He stared at my angry posture and a sly grin ran over his face. I let out a loud moan, realizing I had been yet again fooled and Magnus was here for no other purpose to hear ground and see if I was still angry.
I felt week at that moment. So week I had to sit down, before I just fell over. Tears climbed fast in my eyes and before I could stop it, I was crying, wretched by their plots.
“Do none of you take me serious?” I asked slowly, hands holding the gown in my lap in place. I already knew the answer, but still I wished to hear it from his own lips. Laughter disappeared soon from his formed face. He simply told me he did. “Then why do you play with me?”
He didn’t have answer to that.
I took a deep breath and sat a minute in silence, letting my already doomed mind think me out some solution.
“What I told him will stand and I don’t want to see him tonight, tell him that – I see you two get along so well.” I said firmly, rose and headed for the hayloft.
Erika was first to catch me there and dig under my blanket and scarf.
“What did you tell Dalek?” she asked, whispering it to my ear.
There was no point of hiding it anymore, so I told her. She nodded, at least trying to understand.
“Will you call the wedding off?” she continued silently.
“I think he will – if he is truthful to himself, he’ll…” my voice faded, because it was hard to speak. Truthfully I had no idea, what he’d do now. Hopefully he liked me – the one option I longed for, yet didn’t even dare to think about in my situation. Or he only liked the idea of owning me and if this was the case, I hoped he understood his mistake before making the fatal mistake of becoming my second father.
“But I don’t want to be his daughter – I long for him as a husband…” I whispered and drifted off to terrible dreams of being back on that dark beach, where he had just taken my hand and led me through the forest, to the village, where flowers bloomed and white sheep could be seen far against the dark stormy sky.
The journey to the village seemed endless. Dark forest was full of small sizzling sounds and cracks coming all around us. The moon was out, but shade little light in the lower forest. Added with high grass, kingcups (a.k.a. globeflower), and fern that partly covered my view it was almost nonexistent to me.
In my dream there was a silver armlet that sparkled back to me. I couldn’t see the boy walking before me, but I remembered the armlet he wore – two snake heads tangled against each other, bodies made from twisted wire, mouths opened, ready to attack. Because for long time this was all I could discern from the darkness, I ogled it as much as I could – two snakes leading my way.
The leaves above my head starter rocking back and forth as if I were in the middle of a storm. The trees soon followed their lead and it wasn’t long before the whole world danced around me and made me feel dizzy. The journey was even harder now and I clammed on the boy’s hand to keep myself steady.
I never reached the village – I was woken up before we even got out of the forest. To my bad surprise, I saw Dalek’s face not far from me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, slightly off with my eyesight. My head was still booming as if I’d inhaled the whole barrel of mead. For a moment I even thought I could smell freshly cut firs around me and as there were none in the haylofts, I was sure I had lost my mind.
“Erika let me in.” He whispered.
“Oh, she is so dead!” I scorned and pulled myself up. “I hope she has a good way of protecting herself.”
“What you mean?”
A small stone hit the girl in her midsection before Dalek had time to react and I found myself prisoned between his arms the next. It seemed Erika had fallen back to sleep long ago – to my disappointment she didn’t act.
“Are you insane?” he hissed to my ear. “What are you doing!?”
“Punishing those, who think my words are to be walked over just as it pleases them!” I pushed my hands wider, freeing myself for a mere second before he regained his hold.
He let out suspicious gasp. “What?”
“Didn’t Magnus tell you to keep away? Didn’t he? From what world do you come from that you can’t understand a simple request from a woman!?”
Like talking to a wall – nothing got through. Had I really been so misleading to let them think my words meant nothing? Hadn’t I acted accordingly to what I said?
Instead of another attempt of getting free I made a sudden turn and was now face to face with that animal that seemed to lack any sense of thinking required to be called a man.
“What do you mean you asked Magnus to…” he didn’t even seem to get the point of my words.
“I, Laurien of Halland ” I gave him a heavy punch against his chest every time I let out one word. “Told Magnus the Twit to tell you to keep away!”
He let me free and pulled back to get a better look at my anger flamed face. The next “why” was way darker than the earlier.
“Additionally,” I continued, jumping to my feet so abruptly I managed to land on the corner of my beloved tunic and ripped a slice off of it, “didn’t I tell you not to return before you clear the little issue of whom you are marring with?” I didn’t even remember he asked me, why.
“No you have not!” I slammed my foot down.
“Yes I have, stop putting words in my mouth!” he boomed out, forgetting the earlier try to keep me quiet.
“And that’s why you come here, in the middle of the night though I have asked you not to and land next to me as if it was your right?” I asked quietly, kneeling before him.
“It is my right.”
He didn’t sound convinced though and I figured he must of felt like loosing a battle. But I didn’t feel like winning either.
“It is not your right. I have not granted it to you!” The headache was evading my scull again, like a little worm that digs tunnels in apples, leaving behind nothing more than brown dust.
“It is not your decision to make to who you offer your body to!”
“Yes it is!” I rebelled and charged up, fingers in tight fists. “They have taken it once without my consent – I swear I kill the next one to take it by force! I will not go through this again and say later I forgive them they forget the injustice against me! It never is right…” I heard myself say the words and fell silent as the meaning reached my mind.
It wasn’t right for me that Danes took me by force. It didn’t make me feel better that my villagers didn’t spoke of it either – like they forgot everything. At one hand I wished to let it go, too, not remember, but I wasn’t allowed that piece of tranquility as every night since then I feared avenging my anger against someone, who hadn’t deserved it. Nor was I allowed to feel ashamed, because others accepted it. Why had they done that?
His eyes stared at me, puzzled, as if he was just now getting what I was talking about and what he was talking about. Not the same subjects, I reckoned.
Heat rose up in my body as the heart kept racing faster and faster as if wolves were hunting it. I looked around and saw my blanket where it had landed, but it bare only scrambles of invitation to lay back under it. I picked it up, crushing it between my fingers, not really knowing, what to do with it before tossing it on to Dalek.
“I guess you’re staying here for the night.” I said, gulping hard not to start crying. I grabbed my scarf and set it around my body, before he could see how it shivered. “I’m not.”