Maiden Wreath – part 16

Two days I managed to spend without seeing Dalek. Magnus spoke to me as little as possible too and I figured they were both pretty angry at me, so I kept the peace and didn’t stir up the hornet’s nest. Even when it really started bugging me and I was thinking of searching Dalek out myself and confront him about the answer.

I didn’t have to. He arrived himself on the Wednesday morning after the sunrise, stood in front of our house and waited to be seen. I didn’t notice him there at first, passing the door many times, hands full of meat or carrots I was cleaning. I hummed and was all covered in sweat because it was like in sauna in the kitchen and the humid air that came in from the door didn’t help to cool it either.

I almost drop the bowl of salt when I finally saw him – all dressed up, serious as hell and angry as a wild bull. I swear my hands started shivering, realizing that this was his decision then. In spite of what Alva said, this wasn’t gonna be what I hoped for and I had nobody else to blame but me.

I let out a long sad sigh and stepped outside. I had only my light tunic on, because it was almost unbearable to wear anything else. I still had the brooch on though. I had left it on the rafter near my sleeping place in several times, only to collect it minutes later, not daring to leave it there.

I stared at his eyes that didn’t want to stay still. They were following a drop I felt forming on my forehead. His gaze followed it to my nose and from there between my breasts and lower down in my cleavage. I watched as he gasped, skipping few heartbeats. He had to force himself to pull his dirty look away and nail it back on my frowning face. Before his eyes turned to ice I noticed how hard it was for him to stay focus.

“Hagen is not home,” I cleared my throat, “I take in that’s why you’re here.”

He nodded slowly.

“You can wait there.” I offered him the bench next to the door before going back to the house. “I’ll bring you something to drink.”

He took a good zip from the horse-headed tankard I had given him, empting half of it.

“Thank you.” He said sadly. “When will he come?”

I didn’t know, probably when they captured something in the forest. I hesitated for a while, before taking a seat next to him.

“You came to tell them your decision, haven’t you?”

He lowered his head too and stared at the dandelion tuft. “I have.”

He wasn’t gonna ask me again if I wished to marry him or not as we had settled at the beginning. That knowledge brought a sad smile on my face. “May I know what it is?”

He didn’t say anything for a while.

“I’m breaking off the engagement.”

My heart shrank so fast I thought I died right there. Perhaps I would’ve preferred it, slowly absorbing in the given that this really was the end and all I really wanted was them to take me seriously.

Breathing was made so much harder by the lack of heartbeat I nearly stopped trying and fainted in the process. For a moment it was all darkness and no light, but I gained my site fast so he didn’t notice. Or didn’t dare to see – there really was no difference.

He rose, giving me back the tankard. I clasped my hand over his on the vessel and locked my eyes in his, like begging for his forgiveness. I had been a fool and was gonna pay a high toll on my madness, but I wished to see that he wasn’t angry at me. My silent plea was heard and after a moment of struggle the ice from his eyes disappeared, leaving only unspeakable sadness that struck me hard.

“Wait!” I implored, remembering what I had done the whole last week. “I have something for you.”

I ran back in the house, leaving him standing there. I dug in my hope chest and brought out the shirt. I had hoped to give it to him later, but this was as good time as any. I quickly wrapped it up in a linen towel I had finished last winter and ran back outside, holding them close to my heart.

“I made it for you.” I explained quickly as he took the items from me. It felt stupid now, the idea of making the shirt before the wedding while some women in the village had warned us not to prepare anything personal before the big day or we’d curse our luck. How inappropriately right they had been. Even stupider was the expectation for him to wear it – it probably hurt him just as much to see things related to me as it was for me to wear the brooch. Self torture wasn’t for everyone.

He gifted me a warm smile and pressed the package against his chest, before bowing lightly and walking away.

I exhaled deeply, loosening so my muscles and tears followed soon after, making me almost blind of grief. I covered my face with hands, but the tears only soaked them and soon found the way pass my fingers.

I remembered vaguely what happened next, the screaming that followed his later visit. The accusations on made against me I claimed, received my punishment. I arrived to hayloft way over midnight and laid there for hours in silence, staring at the wall.

The next day went in haze too. I hadn’t slept not single hour, yet I felt stern enough to continue with the linen cloth I was weaving. I put little attention in people around me and hoped they’ll do the same. Not so much that I felt sorry what happened – gods know, I did – but because I had nothing left to focus my eyes with. At least they didn’t hurt anymore. The swelling had pulled back a little, only to give passage to new tears thus new swelling. I didn’t rub the eyes, but they still hurt.

They baked the bread that day. This was the only cheerful hours, filled with sweet mouthwatering smell and when you tasted the bread with butter it felt like heaven. I had started the dough few days earlier, though I wasn’t so sure I needed the bread for the wedding feast any more, but I did it anyway not to warn my parents off, who had no knowledge of what was going on. I hadn’t touched the dough after hearing his verdict to make sure the bread stays good filled with only good dreams. Tears are not good for the bread I knew. But it was good to taste my own first loaf.

At some point mom came, holding a cup with some bitter drink and ordered me to drink it. She said it will help me sleep and I gulped it in, heading straight to the hayloft. I hardly managed to pull myself up when indeed my head started buzzing from bees I couldn’t see and my limbs became numb.

My eyes staid open for a while, though the rest of the body already slept. From one knothole I had a good view on how a swallow came and went, still bringing food to his offspring.

“They have a good stamina” I noted sadly and closed my eyes, feeling my neck get heavy. Swallows brought luck to the house. Mother believed it and horsewhipped us hard when she discovered one of the nests had been destroyed by an accidental stone meant to scare the owl away, but mom showed no pity for good deed and whipped us all anyway. If not for now, she said grimly, then to prevent what we might do later in our life.

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