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Section Two – Part Five – Saved

Posted in Anthology, Because I love to write, New Novel, New writing, Nightmare, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by cjirwin

Section Two – Part Five – Saved

Chapter Five

 

“Greetings Lord of Bauska in the name of the Great One,” Rokus began, his resonant voice easily crossing the distance between the two groups. “I am Lord Rokus Yefrem of the village Rokus to the south.”  His voice did not reveal any of the uncertainty his people felt. When Bauska Mikhail failed to answer, Rokus continued…perfect. Rokus would have an opportunity to tell the village of Bauska his people’s plight without the filter of their warped leader.  “Tragedy has befallen us; a great horde of Huns, monsters from the East with weapons unlike any known to man, fell upon us, killing, burning, and enslaving our people.”

 

There were gasps from the people who had gathered around Bauska Mikhail. Mikhail’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.

 

Rokus went on, “They destroyed our homes, drove us from our land, and pursued us, eager to capture more!”

 

 “Have you led them to our doorstep, that they may do the same to us?” Mikhail’s calm façade faltered.

 

“We would never do something so foolish,” Rokus said, his voice still calm. “I beg of thee, allow me to explain.”

 

 Bauska only nodded.

 

“Most of us escaped to a pre-designated hiding place. Some of us returned to our village, or what was left of it, three weeks later. We found then that they had sent a scouting party back to find us. No doubt they had failed to capture as many of us as they had wanted the first time. But they were careless and lazy scouts, so we found them first. My son organized an ambush and destroyed the miscreants before they could report back to their master.” Rokus finished with a proud look at his oldest son.

 

Rihards laid his hand gently on Mikhail’s shoulder and whispered something in his ear.

 

“Please forgive my outburst,” Bauska said through clenched teeth. “I only feared for my people.”

 

“Of course. I, as a leader myself, understand the pressure you are under. We are equal in our concerns.”

 

 Bauska Mikhail walked toward them, no doubt to escape the ears of his own people. Niklav’s hard body stiffened and Ivan moved closer to his father, his green eyes narrowed beneath his red brow.  

 

“Forgive me,” Bauska said, his voice dripping with disdain, “in the name of the Great One and the people of Bauska, welcome.”

 

“Thank you, we receive your welcome and hope we may somehow repay the hospitality we know we will receive. We will speak to all of your extraordinary kindness to our people in our time of need,” Rokus replied the implications clear. “This is my son Ivan, my right hand, and I believe you know Niklav.”

 

“Yes, I remember you, Rokus. It is good to meet your heir, and of course I remember you Niklav. It is good to see you, old friend,” Mikhail smiled smugly. “I see you have finally produced children Niklav. It is a pitiful thing to see a man with no children.  I was beginning to wonder if you were virile enough to plant them in your beautiful woman.” Niklav did not answer, afraid if he moved he would simply kill Mikhail.

 

Mikhail saw his anger, smiled, and continued. “Korina,” he directed his words to Niklavs beautiful blonde wife he had tried to coax into his bed, “you look well.”

 

As he said the words his mossy, green eyes slithered from her face to her feet and up again. “I knew your body would hold up well through childbearing. You know, that offer I made years ago still stands.”

 

That was the final straw, all Niklav could take. He took one step and planted his fist squarely in Mikhail’s face. The man to the right of Mikhail moved quickly, catching the side of Niklav’s face he sent him to the ground.  Ivan stepped protectively between his father and Mikhail’s advancing men.

 

“Stop!” Bauska Mikhail instructed from where he lay on the ground. He smiled and wiped the blood from his thin lipped mouth. Having gotten the rise he wanted, he stood.

 

“Friends, let us not resort to hostilities,” he spewed the words like vomit. His men took a step back, and Niklav jumped to his feet, unconvinced the fight was over. “I was only jesting, old friend.” He spoke to Niklav; his words were sharp and smug, befitting his thick, square face.

 

Niklav knew he needed to calm the situation, though he desperately wanted to pound Mikhail into the ground. A short distance away, Freya smiled uncontrollably as the blood continued to drip from the corner of Mikhail’s mouth.

 

“Of course. I pray thee, forgive the misunderstanding,” Niklav’s voice was smooth and cold.

 

“Aye, forgive the misunderstanding,” Rokus said in the same cold tone. Rokus decided a change of the subject was in order. “I am sorry to see that your father has passed. He was a great leader and a dear friend.”

 

“I pray your pardon! He trained me well and left this people in capable hands!” Bauska barked.

 

“I did not mean to imply otherwise,” Rokus said soothingly. “I was simply mourning our mutual loss of a great man.”

 

Rihards laid his hand on Mikhail again and spoke to us. His gentle smile was calming, and his dark tan eyes exuded peace.

 

“Thank you for your compassion, my brother and I appreciate it. Brother,”  Rihards turned toward Mikhail as he spoke, “our guests,” he gestured toward us, “must be tired and hungry. We should allow them to set up their camp while we prepare a feast in honor of their safety.”

 

Who is this man, and why is he not the leader? Rokus wondered.

 

Fury frosted Mikhail’s features; grinding his teeth together, he simply nodded.

 

“Good, it is settled then,” Rihards said. “If you would like, you may set up camp on the edge of the lake. Please leave our paths clear, so we also have access to the water.”

 

“We certainly will, and thank you.” Rokus used much more respect when addressing this man.

 

“When you are settled, we would love for you to join us in our main lodge’s courtyard to feast, right, brother?”

 

“Yes, yes, if it please you to accept our hospitality,” Bauska regained his smug look.

 

“We will come, many thanks,” Rokus said warily.

 

The light was dancing and sparkling on the rippling water in one of the most phenomenal sunsets made by God when they finally finished setting up camp. The wind whipped across the beautiful ox-bow lake making tents billow and tree limbs sway. Toward the middle of the rows of tents, rocks were placed for a large, temporary, central hearth. The beauty on the horizon was surreal. What an amazing location for a community, Korina thought as Niklav walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. They stood in silence, taking in the sunset on the lake, and turned when Ivan called.

 

“They approach. It looks to be Bauska’s brother and his wife. Come, and bring Korina.”
Niklav and Korina walked toward Rihards, Ivan leading the group with his parents on his heels.

 

“Good day, forgive me for not introducing myself earlier, I am Rihards, second son of the former Bauska Niklav, and this is my wife, Danya.”

 

“Apologies are not necessary,” Ivan said. “I am Ivan, first son of Rokus Yefrem, and this is my wife Stepka. This is my father and our leader,” he gestured for Rokus to take over.

 

“I am Rokus Yefrem and this is my other half, Ona.” Ona smiled at Rokus’ loving explanation of her. “This is my son by marriage, Niklav, and his wife Korina, my granddaughter.”

 

“It is wonderful to meet all of you. I pray you forgive my brother’s rash behavior earlier.” He had come with only his wife, so he could apologize for the offense caused by his brother. “We want you to know you are truly welcomed by this people,” Rihards said, conviction evident in his voice. “Please extend your grace over our people.” His kind, charming features begged forgiveness.

 

“We give our grace freely. I pray thee, know we hold no ill will toward you or any of your people,” Rokus replied respectfully. “You have the heart and grace of a great leader,” Rokus complimented.

 

“Thank you, good sir. You honor me with your flattery. The Great One gives all men what they have, so any honor given me is due Him.” Though Rihards common features and body would make him easy to overlook, his voice and mannerisms captured you immediately. He embodied integrity.

 

“Yes, so true,” Rokus marveled that he could respect Rihards more than he had a few minutes before, but he did.

 

“We have come to invite your people to dine with us. We have prepared a celebration in your honor,” Rihards wife Danya spoke. Her face was warm and pink, complimenting her brunette hair and sweet smile.

 

Rokus nudged Ona, causing her grey-streaked auburn hair to fall in her face, and she responded.

 

“We would be pleased to join you,” her smile lifted her full cheeks. “Many of the women have prepared food to add to your feast. It is not much, only dried fruits and vegetables we have gathered on our journey, but we wanted to contribute something.”

 

“You did not need to do that; we are most honored to feed you,” Danya said. The two ladies smiled as they connected.

 

“I know, but we want to bless your people in any way we can,” Ona responded.

 

“Then we accept your gift humbly, and we will see you for the celebration,” Danya said, revealing her slightly crooked teeth when she smiled.  Ona’s hazel eyes sparkled pleased to make a new friend.

 

Niklav’s and Korina’s people walked past the main village lodge toward the square. An enormous fire lit the sky, sending sparks flying high, shimmering like fairies dancing on the wind. Over the edge of the fire, two large carcasses sizzled and popped, sending a pleasant aroma throughout the air, one a beef haunch, the other a pig. Tables stood on the north side of the square with torches burning above them.  All manner of mouthwatering dishes lay upon them. Hot, fresh, wheat bread with caraway seed paste, sautéed garlic and onions, stuffed goose with white mustard, and honey cakes.

 

Rihards walked to great Rokus’s people with a smile. Two young ladies followed behind him, one with cups and the other with a jug.

 

“Would you be interested in some beer? Our man who makes it is quite good! He is experimenting with barley this year, and it is the finest brew I have ever tasted!”

 

Cups were passed out, and beer poured.  It was a strong, smooth, and robust stout that bit a little at the end, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Freya watched as they devoured the meal as if food had been denied them for months. The pouts on the children’s faces made her heart yearn as she watched their mothers send them to bed. Shame squirmed a little inside her as she contemplated what they had been through. I fuss and cry while little children are murdered and driven from their homes.  As people began to gather in groups talking, playing dice, and gambling, Freya felt hope and faith spring inside her for the foreign people.

 

Full mug of beer in hand, Korina sat comfortably with Niklav in the group while Rokus and Rihards spoke. She was paying little attention to their conversation and instead was people watching. Knowing it was rude, Korina was discreet. She found people enthralling; how fascinating to watch the way they moved, their facial expressions and body language. Mikhail caught her as she looked around, and much to her surprise, he smiled genuinely, tipping his beer and his head toward her.

 

Worrying for her children, Korina whispered into Niklav’s ear that she would check on them; he kissed her, and she rose to leave. Slightly intoxicated, she sauntered back toward the village and Niklav, thinking of his warm skin and callused hands caressing her body. She was almost to the lodge when she noticed someone standing in the shadow of the building.

 

“How now, is someone there?” Shaking her head, Korina tried to dispel the strange feeling and kept walking. Just as she passed the peak of the lodge, he reached out and grabbed her arm.

 

“Oh,” Korina gasped. “Bauska Mikhail, you startled me! What can I do for you?” her voice shook, her fear radiating.  

 

He stumbled a bit as he moved forward. He was thoroughly drunk, and his eyes burned insanely. “Yes, my love,” he started, slurring his words together; “there is something you can do for me.”

 

He still held her hand firmly; she jerked against his grip. Korina tried to scream, but his hand landed firmly on her mouth. Turning her, he slammed Korina up against the side of the lodge, robbing her of breath. With his hand still firmly pressed to her lips, he began tearing at the collar of her dress. It gave way at the seams. His mouth and teeth set hard upon exposed flesh, rubbing and gnashing.

 

Korina’s fist came up and hit the side of his face with a thud, but did little except get him to drop his hand long enough for her to scream. Hand hard across her face. Back driven into the logs of the lodge, Korina cried out. Excited, Mikhail hit her again knocking to her the ground. His massive hand wrapped around her face like iron bent on an anvil. Sharp rocks cut her back, his weight forcing her down. Korina could hardly breathe, let alone scream. His knees were between her legs, pushing them apart, and all her kicking and flailing only seemed to arouse him further.

 

Oh Great One, please do not let this happen to me! Niklav, I need you! Korina prayed frantically.

 

He pulled her dress up. The dried leather of his boots scraped against the bare inside of her leg. Korina wanted to vomit, thinking of what was sure to come next.  Frantically, she thrashed.

 

Oh God help me! Korina prayed.

 

Niklav hit Mikhail; Korina heard the clash of bone and muscle and watched as they flew to the ground. In an instant Niklav laid into Mikhail’s face, breaking his nose. It was a beautiful sound. Half-crazed, Mikhail looked up at Niklav. Adrenalin coursed through Mikhail’s veins along with the liquor. Throwing his fist upwards, Mikhail caught Niklav square in the chin and the force of the blow sent Niklav to the dirt. Niklav righted himself, but before they could clash again, there were men between them. Niklav fought their arms for a moment, but then allowed himself to be restrained. Mikhail was throwing punches at anyone that got close enough for him to hit. He was raving.

 

“She is mine, she belongs to me!” he screamed repeatedly, sweat dripping from his brow, and blood from his nose.

 

Shaking with fear, Korina cried, powerful sobs racking her chest. Her mind reeled, and she could feel blood seeping from the corner of her throbbing eye. People tried to talk to her, but she only wanted Niklav. There were so many people, so many voices.

 

Where is Niklav? She wondered, the question running laps in her head.

 

“Let me loose. I am calm, and my wife needs me!” Niklav said through clenched teeth, and after a moment’s deliberation, the men restraining him released. He ran straight to my side.

 

“My love,” he said through angry tears. “I am so sorry! I love you! I will kill that lying bastard!” He stopped talking because he was unable to control his fury.

 

Others were there, asking how they could help.  Continuous apologies poured from Rihards and Danya. Niklav tried to pull Korina’s tattered dress back over her bruised and bleeding flesh, but gave up and just laid it over my exposed breasts.

 

So many people have seen me this way! So many have seen my disgrace, seen me torn and exposed on the ground! How can I ever face them again? Korina cried inside.

 

“So many,” she whispered once before she passed out.

 

Jerking awake, Korina sat up trying to get her bearings. Her skin recoiled against the heat, and both her body and head ached. The air was thick, making it hard to breathe. The room was extremely stuffy, and Korina could not open either of her eyes. Niklav’s arms encircled her gently, calming. He whispered softly in her ear, his sweet words aligning senses, making her aware of the tent and safety with him.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, Korina painfully forced her eyes to open. He is so beautiful, Korina thought, like the sound of a voice you thought you had lost.

 

“Are you well? You seemed to be having a nightmare. I almost woke you up,” Niklav said, his eyes full of worry.

 

“I am well, but I am very thirsty.”

 

He was up in a second, fetching water. Feeling helpless but loved unconditionally, Korina watched as he poured the drink and then held the cup to her lips. After he finished, she looked down at her arms to find them spotted with large purple welts.

 

It all flooded back; the image of Mikhail’s hands assaulted her mind, his mouth and teeth searching and devouring! As she examined herself, big fat tears slipped over the black bulges under her eyes, tears of pain and remembrance. Tears in his eyes, Niklav took her in his arms again, and she cried until she could cry no more.  

 

“Many of the women are outside. They want to see you, but I wanted you to sleep, so I made them wait. I do not know how much longer I can hold them off,” he said, feigning a serious look. “Caterna especially wants to see you. She has been outside the tent all night long.”

 

“She has?” Korina said and began to cry again…ugh! “She is so wonderful. Tell them to come in.”

 

Aija, Korina’s sister, was the first one in the tent, and right on her heels was Caterna. Aija sat on the bed, her eyes were red. She had no words; she simply wrapped her arms around Korina. Caterna sat silently on Korina’s other side and laid her hand on her knee. Many women came in, loved on her, and left over the next few hours. Aija left just before noon to prepare a meal and care for the children. She found she did not have to cook. The village women sent more food than they could eat. Caterna never left Korina’s side, and Ludis, the village physician, came regularly. Korina knew she was loved.

 

“May I go to the river and wash?” Korina asked.

 

“I do not know if you should be trying to move around yet,” Ludis said, looking at Niklav to back him up.

 

“I can bring water from the lake, love. You could wash here,” Niklav said hoping to dissuade Korina.

 

“I pray thee, let me go, I urgently need to.” Korina pleaded.

 

“Niklav, may I speak with you outside?” It was the first time Caterna had spoken in hours. He nodded, and they walked outside.

 

“Let us get you down to that lake,” Niklav said when he walked back into the tent.

 

Korina did not know what Caterna had said to him, but she was thankful for it. Standing waist deep in the water, Korina scrubbed viciously, leaving the skin red in an effort to cleanse. Wishing for something to wash thoughts away, tears began once more to burn her chapped cheeks. There was little left of the bar of soap when she finished.

 

Sitting on the shore, clean and wrapped in a blanket, Korina felt worlds better. Caterna picked through her long, straight, blonde hair as Niklav reminded her of their first journey to Riga.

 

“Where is he?” Korina asked, interrupting Niklav’s story.  

 

“He is in the Bauska lodge, bound to the center beam,” Niklav’s teeth ground loudly.

 

The idea of that vile creature bound made her smile.

 

“What will become of him?”

 

“I do not know. I would like to hold him under water until his lungs explode!”  Niklav was not jesting.

 

Smiling, Korina imagined Niklav killing him. The image was thrilling except that she saw Mikhail’s face.

 

“Will they do nothing?” She asked.

 

“Rihards and the Bauska elders are good people. I cannot imagine they will let him go unpunished. I doubt his punishment will be severe enough, but they will punish him.”

 

“I would love to see Emilya. Will you bring her to me? I am not ready to go back to that stuffy tent,” Korina said.

 

“Of course, my love, I will return shortly. Will you stay?” Niklav asked Caterna.

 

Korina felt badly; Caterna had been with her all day, but her presence was salve on her wounds. She smiled in agreement.

 

“You feel ashamed,” Caterna said. She was not asking; she was stating, and it surprised Korina that she had guessed her true feelings.

 

“Yes,” Korina whispered.

 

“If you let him take your dignity and self-respect, he wins,” Caterna said, her voice silky.

 

“But I did not stop him,” Korina moaned. “I should have seen it coming, or screamed sooner. I don’t know. I should have done more. I’m so weak. Our whole village will suffer the consequences of my weakness,” she lamented.

 

“You were unbelievable!” Caterna was suddenly in her face. “You held him off long enough for Niklav to get to you. You are a strong, beautiful woman, and you need to give yourself more credit. Mikhail would love to see your spirit broken. Will you give that maggot the satisfaction of knowing he destroyed you? Or will you stand, straighten your shoulders, lift your head, and condemn him for the filth he is?”

 

Korina gaped, awed at the outstanding woman before her. Even after all she had gone through, she was there, encouraging Korina.

 

“You’re right,” Korina said. “I will not give that beast more than he has already taken.”

 

“Good. Remember that you are a stronger and better person than he will ever be. You deserve happiness; do not allow him to take that from you,” Caterna commanded, and Korina knew she would never respect another woman more.

 

“Thank you.” Korina reached to embrace her.

 

Niklav returned with Emilya in his arms, and as he sat on the ground at my Korina’s, Caterna rose to leave.

 

“Remember what I said.” Caterna smiled as she looked down at Korina. “I love you.”

 

“I will. I love you and thank you again.”

 

“You look different,” Niklav said after she had gone.

 

“Different?” Korina reached for her daughter Emilya.

 

“Yes, you look different. The sadness has dispelled. May I ask what it has been replaced by?” Worry still marred his handsome face, but relief softened the harsh lines when he found Korina unsoiled by more tears.

 

“Determination,” Korina affirmed. “I will do whatever is in my power to make sure he never hurts another soul.”

 

“Good, I will be by your side every step of the way,” Niklav wrapped his arm around Korina, and they silently watched the sun set over the lake.

 

***

 

It was time. Mikhail was to be publicly judged. There had been a private trial. All the leaders and elders had heard second-hand accounts from various people who had witnessed the crime. They had tried to allow Mikhail to defend his actions, but when asked to give his own account, he simply stated: “I am the Great One’s appointed leader of this people. You have no authority by which to judge me.”

 

They then called upon Korina. She gathered her strength and went to meet them; Niklav held her hand the entire time.

 

“Korina, of the village Rokus, you have been called upon to recount the crime committed against you by this man, Mikhail of Bauska.” The elders motioned toward Mikhail who sat to their right.

 

To look upon his face was like being punched in the gut. He saw Korina’s immediate reaction and smiled. Damn, she thought, I will not give him the pleasure of seeing me flinch again. She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin, meeting the heat of his glare. Glaring back, showing no fear, infuriating him, hah, she thought, take that you weasel. Standing before the elders of both villages, she gave a detailed account of the evening in question, sparing nothing. They heard everything, even her thoughts as he violated her. She only let a few tears escape her eyes. The elders and leaders sat dumbstruck. They had not realized the full extent of the crime; they listened horrified and ashamed.

 

When Korina finished, the silence was deafening, and she could feel Mikhail’s glare burning the side of her face, but refused to look. Squeezing Niklav’s hand, she swallowed hard.

 

The following day, they heard the verdict. Embarrassed, Korina did not want to stand in front of all the people, but Ivan said it would make the punishment more valid in their eyes. Niklav stood with her on the small, raised platform that butted up against the rear of the Bauska village lodge. All were gathered, and the elders rose to begin.

 

“We are gathered here today to pass judgment upon this man, Mikhail of Bauska, first son of the former Bauska Niklav. He stands accused of beating and attempting to rape Korina, of the village Rokus, granddaughter of their leader Rokus Yefrem and guest of this people. Before we pass judgment upon the accused, we would like to allow him one more opportunity to defend his actions.”

 

“What? Why? Have they not already decided?” Korina whispered in Niklav’s ear.

 

“They have decided, but they want people to see that he cannot defend his actions. They need the support of the people to carry out judgment,” Niklav whispered back.

 

Mikhail said just what they wanted him to say. “I am the leader of this people,” Mikhail began. “You have not the authority to judge me. I have been anointed holy leader, and all that I do is holy. Any who pass judgment upon me will suffer the wrath of the Great One!”

 

There were a few huffs and puffs from the crowd, and Korina smiled to find that many of them looked offended by his words.

 

“So be it,” the elders said, and continued. “We here, under the eyes of the Great One of Heaven, find you, Bauska Mikhail, guilty.” Mikhail’s jaw clamped firmly, and his hands curled into fists. “You are hereby stripped of your office of Bauska, leader of this people. You will never again enjoy any position of power among us. You will henceforth be a servant to this people, filling whatever role best serves the group as a whole. You shall move from the village lodge to one of the dwellings on the outskirts of the community. Your family will not move with you unless they so choose. Your wife may stay on as sister to our new Bauska Rihards and her children as nieces and nephews. This is the judgment of this council.”

 

The veins in Mikhail’s forehead bulged, and his face burned brightly with fury; it was too much. He hit the man to his right, knocking him off the platform. Fueled by anger, he struck like a snake, stealing the sword of the startled man to his left. Mikhail pulled the blade across the man’s middle, spilling blood and intestines across the wooden planks. The man doubled over and fell. Lurching forward, Mikhail darted for Niklav and Korina. Unarmed,  Niklav pushed Korina back. She fell to the floor. Niklav tried to spin away from Mikhail’s attack, but the blade caught his upper arm cutting deeply, staining his shirt crimson.

 

Korina was frantic; she looked around for help, but most were still in shock. A weapon hanging from Rihards belt, Korina grabbed it and threw. Niklav caught it and raised it in front of himself. Mikhail’s blade did not find flesh as he had hoped; instead they heard the terrible shriek of iron on iron. Niklav was on fire. He had hoped and prayed for an opportunity, or excuse, to kill the bastard that had dared violate his woman. Mikhail’s blade met Niklav’s and sparks flew. Natural muscle moved earthen minerals forged into sword, as the two men struggled against each other. Mikhail’s blade landed on Niklav’s shoulder and quivered to rip across his chest.

 

“No!” I screamed, flying toward them and distracting Mikhail for a split second. Niklav pounced in that second, his blade singing as it flew through the air. It found the side of Mikhail’s neck and a second later Mikhail’s head fell to the wooden platform, eyes still open in shock. Gasps came from all around us. It had happened so quickly people were still frozen in shock.

 

Niklav, allowing his sword to drop, moved quickly toward Korina and wrapped her in his arms. Tears of relief spilled from Korina’s eyes as the shock wore off. Niklav cupped her face in his hands and leaned back so he could look in her eyes.

 

“Why did you do that? You could have been killed!” Niklav said, terror shaping his features.

 

“He was going to kill you. I had to do something. I could not let you die!”

 

“Throwing yourself at an armed and insane man is never acceptable behavior, you beautiful, silly woman!” He shook his head, and Korina saw the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth.

 

“I will try to avoid doing that again,” Korina said, smiling through tears.

 

They both laughed with relief, and Korina fell into his firm embrace again.

 

“You are injured,” Rihards said as he removed his shirt and pressed it to Niklav’s arm.

 

It was true. Niklav’s arm and shoulder had stained Korinas clothes with blood. The healers pushed their way through the mayhem of people. Ludis and his apprentice Roburt set to work on Niklav, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Bauska’s healers had a greater task. The man Mikhail had robbed and cut lay dying. In agonizing pain, he struggled for breath to moan; he was cut from side to side, bleeding to death. They gently lifted him and wrapped him tightly around the center. Two women stood off to their right, wailing; hearts ached for them. They lifted him and carried him into the village lodge. Korina and Freya said a prayer to the Great One, begging for his life.

***

They were ready to go; Rokus had instructed the people to be ready to leave at dawn on the third day following the sentencing. Niklav and Korina wanted to go pay their respects to Alexa and Zhorah. They were the wives of the man that died on Mikhail’s day of sentencing. Korina knew his death was not truly her fault, but she could not shake the guilt. They carried a gift of salt. It was not much, but it was highly prized.

 

“Excuse me,” Freya said, stopping in their path, her silky, black hair falling around her bowed head. “I just wanted to say,” she mumbled, looking up timidly, her sky-blue eyes visible and breathtaking, “I just wanted to thank you. You will never know how greatly you have helped this people.” She smiled slightly, and the wind blew her hair away from her neck revealing deep bruises. She quickly pulled her hair back around her neck and hurried toward Robert and his brilliant smile.

Freya’s Prayer – Section Two – Part Four & Section One – Part Five – Saved

Posted in Anthology, Because I love to write, New writing, Nightmare, Uncategorized, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2011 by cjirwin

Anxiety had nearly stretched Freya’s muscles and mind to the brink by the time she watched Mikhail walk from her home. And though battered she felt in body that pain did not compare to the throbbing of her heart. From her father’s side, Freya looked on as Mikhail, a king she had hardly known that morning, rode away as a man she loathed with all of her will.

Freya’s Prayer

 Section Two – Part Four – God Save Our Souls

 

The following two days Freya felt as if her heart were boiling, being cooked over searing flames. Soaked in despair, she thought of Robert, the way his hands had felt, his lips, his soul. Her ears strained to hear the quiet late-night conversations of her parents.

“It is not us the King has taken an interest in,” Beta whispered in the dark hours.

“You think I do not realize that?” Eric replied. “What am I to do?”

“We cannot give her to him! He is a pig that dishonors the wife he already has! And what of Robert?”

“He may be a pig, but he is our King Beta. As yet he has not asked for her, and Robert is the cause of the problem in the first place. Had he not had my daughter nearly naked in the forest Bauska Mikhail may not have even noticed her! He has done this to them not I!”

“She does not love the King. She will not love the king.” Beta said hopelessly. “My poor girl, what have you done?” The last words were a quiet despair that mother and daughter shared.

***

 

I used to love this dress. Freya thought as she looked down at the lovely yellow garment. The way it hugged her curves, her body, had pleased her before this night but no more. Robert loves this dress, she thought dismally. Freya thought back to the first time she had worn it, and the way his eyes had caressed her. The way they had filled with adoration and longing, nearly bursting. Freya’s stomach twisted at the idea of Mikhail’s eyes feasting on her form, soiling what she would save for her love. Mother is right, Freya resolved. I will never love that pig. God save me from his vile touch! God save my soul for I must pray and evil prayer, please steal the breath from his lungs. Do not give me into his hands.  

Freya prayed the prayer repeatedly as they walked to the Coronation feast.  The music and lively atmosphere did not lift her spirits. They sat quietly, the whole family feeling the weight of what could be except little Aldimar who gorged on the honey cakes unaware. Their attention was drawn to the dais as the music stopped and the king’s steward called out.

“We come, this night to pay homage to our new king, Lord Bauska Mikhail!” His voice resonated across the large hall evoking cheers and applause. “Let every lord come kiss the ring upon his finger in turn and bring gifts to honor his greatness.” As he spoke the different lords and dignitaries began to arrange themselves.

Cattle, Freya thought. We are as chattel to him, worth only what we can provide! Look at them! Scurrying for the closed position they can grab, the biggest scrap they can get.

 

Mikhail’s smirk grew larger and larger as each man, men from his own lands and lords of neighboring allies, bowed before him.

“Next may I present to your lordship Representative of the people of Tallin, Sven of the house of Pele.”

Word had spread of Mikhail’s recent activities in the city Tallin. All eyes focused, and all ear tuned in anticipation.

“So, Sir Pele, what gift has your Lord sent to welcome me into the ranks of Kings as his equal?” Mikhail sneered.

“He has sent the gift of forgiveness.” Sven replied keeping his head high.

“Forgiveness!” Mikhail boomed jerking up from his throne. Rihards rushed to his side and placed his hand on his shoulder. Mikhail’s chest heaved as Rihards’ words slipped into his ear.

When Mikhail remained quiet Sven continued. “Lord Tallin says that our people have worked together many years, and he hopes that we can continue to do so. He has one simple request.”

“And what would that be?” Mikhail asked through grinding teeth.

Sven swallowed hard, “an apology my Lord.”

Mikhail’s hands fisted, and his body shook. “Now is not the time brother, patience is rewarded.” Rihards whispered.

It was frightening how quickly Mikhail’s expression shifted, brilliant anger slithering to smug conniving’s. “Very well,” Mikhail sang. “I apologize for grieving your Master, and I intend to make right the relationship between us.”

Freya frowned at the falseness in his voice, at the lies dancing from his lips.

Things calmed as Mikhail sat and Sven retreated.

“Music!” Mikhail barked as he lifted his goblet, beer sloshing onto his hand. “Steward.”

“Yes, your Grace?”

“The young mistress Keller, find her bring her to my table. Oh, and tell my wife that she may retire to her children and chambers.”

“Right away Your Majesty.” The steward scurried away.

“Perhaps he has forgotten about me.” Freya hoped, but was quickly disappointed.

“His Majesty the king desires the company of Mistress Keller.” The steward spoke directly to Eric.

“She would be honored.” Eric’s words, cut and dry, hardly made it seem so.

Freya took a deep breath and every heart at the table sank as she squared her shoulders and strode away.

Freya did not speak. Stomach turning, she watched as he inhaled dark, roasted turkey, the grease dripping from his chin. Her fear mounted as his beer sloshed and gurgled down his throat. He was drunk. Her plan to bore him with silence was shattered when he smiled and said.

“You’re so gorgeous you need not even speak to entertain.” The words were slurred, dirty. His eyes burned with lust. “I simply must have you.” He smirked. “Would you love the hand of your king to bring you pleasure?”

Freya swallowed hard. “My heart belongs to the boy from the forest my Lord.”

Anger skewered his hard features. “I am your king wench! You would spurn me for a farmer boy!”

“I mean you no disrespect your Grace,” Freya whispered. “I cannot love you or belong to you, for I am his.”

Mikhail leaned across the table. “I did not ask for your love; but I will have your body.”

“No my Lord you will not.”

“Is that so? Who owns that land your farmer boy works? Wouldn’t it be tragic if he and his family were to lose everything?”

“You wouldn’t.” Freya stuttered.

“I would. It’s your choice my dear. I’d hate for your father’s taxes to go up. He is a good citizen.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “You would give me no choice.”

“I’m glad we understand each other my dear.” Mikhail said licking his lips.  “Steward, inform Sir Keller that Freya will be staying in my care this night.”

Eric’s heart broke as he watched Bauska Mikhail lead his beautiful daughter from the great hall. Any fealty, loyalty or love he had borne the king or his country evaporated as he saw the tears on his baby girls cheeks.

Section One  – Part Five – Saved

Chapter Five

 

That was how it began. Freya thought. A simple mistake. That day in the forest with Robert changed my life. Not in the way I had hoped. Mikhail snored loudly at her side, luckily they still smelled of roses and lye soap. Two years, Freya despaired, and his touch has only grown more vile, his lips only more sickening. It seems so long ago that I was happy.

 

“Oh Robert,” she mouthed the words as she remembered his touch.

Baylor says he still waits. Why? He should marry. The thought was a dry sucking wind on her already brittle heart. I will never be free of this monster Mikhail! The knowing of Roberts love gave her strength, and gave her the faith to hope, but it also broke her to know he lingered in loneliness.

Freya prayed. “Give me the strength to rid this people of our unholy king.” Freya could not help the images the scattered across her mind as he mumbled in his sleep. She imagined thrusting a dagger deep in his fetid flesh, watching him choke on poison, strangling him with his own whip!

“Let me take his life father, or take it Yourself. Save me Holy God.”

***

 

The sun drooped toward the horizon, impregnating light bringing the earth to life. Freya smiled one of  her rare and exquisite smiles, the blue of her eyes brought to life for a moment, her brother and closest friend had come to see her.

“Baylor, you bring me my only happiness.” She said as they sauntered just outside the city.

“I miss you. Has it gotten any better?” Baylor didn’t know why he asked that same question every week the answer was always the same. “I’m sorry love.”

Freya simply held his arm tighter. “What about you brother,  how is Brea and your little one?”

Baylor’s chest constricted at the simple mention of his beautiful wife and child. “There doing well. You know I owe you my happiness.” Baylor whispered. “I pray every day that God brings you the same. If it weren’t for you I would be miserable without her.”

“Well it’s the one good thing Mikhail ever did for me or anyone for that matter; and he was only doing to get something in return.”

“I’m sorry for what it cost you. I wouldn’t have asked you for it.”

“Don’t think on it brother. If I must endure him I should at least try to get something of value. And you and your family are of great value to me.”

“Do you see that?” Baylor asked.

“Hmm, see what?” Freya asked looking up.

“There, in the distance. Are those people?”

“A lot of people,” Freya said eyes wide. They then heard the guard call from the barbican.

“People approach. Fetch Lord Rihards and the king.” The guard yelled to the other men below.

“Who do you think they are?” Freya asked. “They seem weary even from a distance.”

Freya’s Prayer – Section One of Part Four – God Save Our Souls

Posted in Anthology, Because I love to write, New Novel, New writing, Nightmare, rape, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2011 by cjirwin

Chapter Four – Section One –

God Save Our Souls

The muddy hem of Freya’s brown work dress jerked and swayed as she yanked at a piece of bleached timber near the edge of the river. The tangled mass of wood had been gathered by the raging waters of the spring and cast aside as it settled into its calmer summer flow. Freya cursed when the firewood finally loosed and sent her sprawling backward onto the ground. Huffing and thanking God she had walked up river saving her from the embarrassment of anyone seeing her clumsiness, Freya stood and brushed the dirt from her backside.

Mortification filled her and she spun around at a familiar voice. “If you’re not careful my dear that firewood will kick your ass,” Robert said through a bright smile, the words skipping from his lips.

Unable to reply Freya only grew redder.

“You’re exquisite all the time, but I do enjoy a good blush on your skin.” Robert sang as he drew closer.

“Are you saying you enjoy embarrassing me Robert?” Freya asked raising an eyebrow and smiling.

“And if I do? What would the fair beauty before me be able to do about it?” Robert’s eyes bubbled with delight as he circled Freya and wrapped his arms around her shoulders from behind.

Freya sighed, leaning into his embrace and reaching up to put her hands in his.  “I would hate to have to withhold my lips from such a striking man’s reach, but punishment must be doled out for such grievous actions.” Despite her efforts, Freya could not contain the amusement that frosted her threat.

“Such extreme chastisement!” Robert laughed and spun Freya in his arms to face him. “Well my lady, I must surely be more cautious. For without your lips my lips would cease to speak, eat, or yearn! I most certainly would become nothing more than a husk of a man.”

“You mock me,” Freya retorted and tried to put on a frown.

“No my love,” Robert said more seriously. “I think of you night and day. Please ease my troubled heart and say yours yearns as mine.”

As hummingbird’s wings, Freya’s heard flew within her chest. Blood pounding loudly in her ears, she tried to respond. “I want nothing more than to find myself within your arms. I dream of your lips and think on the joy in your eyes. My heart yearns as yours.”

As the last word hummed from her mouth Robert’s lips sailed toward hers, and his arms acted in tandem securing her to his chest. Freya opened to his kiss, her lips embracing his taste and warmth. His arms seemed to make her worries fade to some distant place, her feelings and desires rising to fill the void left. Everything in her ached for his touch as his kiss reached to the very depths of her soul.  Freya rejoiced in the unfamiliar feelings that coursed through her body as Robert’s fingers skimmed down the soft skin of her throat and along the contours of her shoulders. That surge of sensation that sped through her peaked, exploding on a new plateau she had not known stood within her.

The gasp that escaped Freya’s lips set Roberts form to shuddering, his body reacting to her beauty, and his mind thrilling in the love that pounded inside him. The newness of her beauty, as a flower budding for the first time made his mind reel with want that he struggled to reign in. His charm and good looks had earned him a great many encounters, but none that had ever stirred his soul as Freya.

“Freya,” Robert whispered through the kiss as she tangled her hands in his hair. “Freya,” he sang as he lifted her into his arms and walked away from the water.

Their lips did not cease as he glided toward and ancient oak with a lovely blanket of green beneath it. The breeze, gentle and warm, dragged strands of his golden hair from its moorings and tangled them in Freya’s hands. Robert’s body above her, his lips on her lips, his hands slowly traveling down her dress to traverse her waist, her hip, emboldened her. Letting her inhibitions dwindle, she drew her hands from his head to the hard muscles of his chest. The movement of her hands was as heavily fire breathing along his skin.

He jerked away throwing himself by her side. “Ah,” he groaned and covered his face.

Freya swallowed hard as the red returned to her face. “I’m sorry,” Freya breathed. “What is wrong?” Tears threatened. “Do you not want me?”

“Oh god Freya!” Robert heaved as he rolled toward her. “Of course I want you!” He pulled her to her side. “That’s just it, I want you too much. I fight to control the immense desire in me now that would take you this instant beneath this tree.”

Freya smiled, one embarrassment merging into another. “I would love nothing more than to give myself to you.”

Robert traced his finger along her throat, tugging slightly at the string pulling tight the top of her shirt. “You deserve better than me.” His smile was irresistible. “You deserve a home, and your father deserves a bride price.”

“I want you.” Freya countered. “You deserve far more than you think.”

“I would earn your love, your trust and your fathers, and earn your touch.” Robert said as he playfully tugged loose the string loosening her shirt. It fell away from her neck and shoulders revealing the top of her cleavage pulled tightly together by her corset. “God help me,” Robert breathed.  

“You have already done everything you need to do to earn my love.” Freya replied distracted by the look in his eyes as he examined her.

“How could I ever merit such beauty of mind and body?” As he spoke Freya reached to loosen her corset. Robert sucked in a breath. “No Freya,” he pleaded with a tortured smile on his lips. “I cannot lose myself.”

“I would have you lose yourself and me with you.” Freya said as she pulled the corset away, her shirt hanging free, revealing.

“You would drive me mad woman!” Robert laughed as he reached for her. Freya playfully evaded his hand and smiled broadly as she lifted her shirt over her head. “God help me,” Robert whispered again as he saw her.

“Hey, you there!” A deep voice barked.

Robert jerked toward the sound as Freya scrambled for her shirt.

“What do we have here?” Mikhail asked from atop his horse. “My goodness,” he breathed as he watched Freya struggled to pull her shirt over her head.

“King Mikhail!” Robert burst and fell to one knee. “My lord, how may I serve you?” Robert asked his voice quivering like leaves in a spring storm.

“Who is he?” Mikhail asked the man to his left.

“I believe that is Robert Bauer, son of Robert Bauer the elder. He plants and harvests the Northern fields.”

“Robert Bauer son of Robert the elder, farmer of the Northern Fields?” Mikhail asked tearing his eyes from Freya who was still trying to replace her corset and fixing his eyes on Robert.

“Yes Your Majesty.”

“Who is the exquisite lady behind you, and does she belong to you?”

“Um,” Robert swallowed the bile rising in his throat. “This is Freya Keller. First daughter of Eric of the house of Keller, and no, she is still under the covering of her father.”

“Keller,” Mikhail said turning to the man beside him again.

“Yes my Lord. He owns the local pub and inn.”

“So, Robert of the house of Bauer, I have caught you endeavoring to take the virginity of a woman not your own and above your station, or has she already lost that gift to you.” Mikhail accused.

“No My King, I have not, and I would not rob her of such a gift.”

“Wouldn’t you? It looks very much like you would have had we not interrupted. Tell me, Robert Bauer, does Eric know his daughter is with a farmer’s son?”

“Um, he does not know I am with her now, but my father has begun negotiating a bride price with hers and, I love her and intend to marry her when I am able to earn the sum.”

“You do? They have?” Freya said, her face lighting, but then remembering their company she dropped her eyes back to the ground.

“Hum, are you very sure Eric of the house of Keller will want to entrust his lovely daughter to a boy who sneaks her off into the woods?” Mikhail demanded.

Robert paled. “Forgive me my Lord. I did not intend to soil her virtue; I became carried away by her beauty. I will exercise more control.”

“Well, I can certainly see why you were carried away.” Robert’s stomach twisted as he watched his King examine the woman he loved. “She is most lovely. Freya is it?”

“Yes My Lord.” Freya answered looking up.

“Come here,” Mikhail ordered.  Robert fought the urge to stop her as she moved toward the Kings horse. Taking Freya’s face roughly into his hand, Mikhail examined her sapphire eyes with thick dark lashes, her fine nose set on perfect pastel skin, her rosy full lips accented by a sharp jaw. “You are lovely.” Mikhail said his body still stirred at her frantically searching for her shirt.

“You are too kind my King,” Freya said as she took a step back toward Robert.

“Have you been hunting Your Majesty?” Robert asked wanting to change the subject.

“That I have.”

“Please, do not let us keep you. We beg forgiveness for our interruption.” Robert pleaded.

“I will escort Mistress Keller home.” Mikhail said, a wicked smile spreading as he saw Robert’s body jerk.

“You need not worry My Lord.” Robert hurried. “No need for you to burden yourself, I can see her safely home, so you may enjoy the rest of your hunt.”

“Tis no burden my young friend. I actually quit look forward to honoring her father’s house with a visit.”

Freya swallowed hard and looked back to Roberts’s anxious face.

“Come my dear,” Mikhail called. “The hour grows late.”

“Shall I give her my horse?” The man to Mikhail’s right asked.

“No, she will ride with me. Help her up in front of me.”

Robert’s teeth ground together, and the breath in Freya’s chest began to heave. She looked to Robert, and though it was the last thing he wanted to see he tipped his head toward the king. “What an honor Freya,” Robert said through thin lips. “The King wishes to see you safely home. I will be right behind you my love.”

Freya simply nodded and was helped into Mikhail’s lap. She bulked inside at how tightly the King held her, and the heat of his breath on her ear as they rode back toward the village. Heart pressed by fear, Freya stood at Mikhail’s side as his steward announced his presence at her father’s house.

“My Great King!” Eric called out, falling to one knee as the Lord Bauska Mikhail entered. “To what does my humble house owe the honor of your presence?”

“To your daughter my good servant,” Mikhail said indicating Freya coming in the door.

“My daughter?”

“Aye, tell me good sir, are you in the habit of allowing the maidens of your house to run around in the forest with boys that would spoil their honor?”

Freya blanched.

“No my Lord!” Eric replied shooting Freya a look of fire. “I knew of no such thing.”

“I found her, for the better part unclothed,” Mikhail said and smiled as Eric’s jaw tightened. “Under the seeking hands of a young farmer’s boy; do you know of him?”

Eric swallowed hard, his teeth grinding audibly. “That would be Robert Bauer, I thought him to me an honorable young man.”

“No father,” Freya blurted. “He is, it was me!”

“Freya! Still your tongue in the presence of our Lordship,” Eric scolded then turned to Mikhail. “I beg your forgiveness my King.”

“No forgiveness is required my good servant, the lovely young lady is simply trying to defend the boy. It is he that is at fault, he that has lured her to folly.” Mikhail reasoned, his eyes resting heavily upon Freya.

Freya shook her head.

“I am indebted to you my King for returning her to my house.”

“It was an honor good sir. My steward tells me you own and run the Keller Inn.”

“That I do My Lord.”

“It does well for you?” Mikhail asked having trouble keeping his eyes from Freya.

“It does well, provides for me and mine.” Eric said with a proud smile.

“My steward also tells me you are always faithful with your dues to the crown. I am grateful for such men in my city.”

“It is my honor and duty, my Lord. I am but your servant.”

“A most pleasing one,” Mikhail sang. “You must let me honor you and your family! Come to my table to feast, all of your family. It would bring me much joy to see your family again.”

Eric swallowed against the knots forming in his stomach and forced a smile to his lips. “I would be greatly pleased to accept such an invitation. I do not feel equal to it!”

“I will be the judge of such things my friend,” Mikhail teased, but Eric sensed much more than was said. “Two nights hence, we will feast in your honor.”

Anxiety had nearly stretched Freya’s muscles and mind to the brink by the time she watched Mikhail walk from her home. And thought battered she felt in body that pain did not compare to the throbbing of her heart. From her father’s side, Freya looked on as Mikhail, a king she had hardly known that morning, rode away as a man she loathed with all of her will.

Freya’s Prayer – Part One – Hated Beauty

Posted in Anthology, Because I love to write, New writing, Nightmare, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by cjirwin

Freya’s Prayer

Part One

Hated Beauty

 

“Oh God, take my beauty from me. Holy One of the Hebrews, make me as a thorn in his side.” Freya prayed, tears cutting groves in the dirt and soot on her face. “Please don’t let him come to me this night. Give me a new life, take me from this.”

Freya’s dirty hands turned white at the knuckles as she begged God. Even the soil and fire dust that covered her face could not hide her exquisite beauty. Her sixteen years had molded a goddess out of human clay. Full lips parted in her plea, violet eyes raining, feed by storm clouds devastating her soul, thick, raven hair dangling dirty, oily, in an effort to dissuade his desire. Knees against the wood floor she prayed at her bedside. The shapeless, oversized and filthy dress only muted the shine of her body, her full breasts, flat stomach, firm, bruised legs and butt.

Mikhail had instructed her to bathe, and Freya knew more bruises would come for her disobedience. The fire crackled in the stone hearth casting shadows in the large room. Freya despised it. The rich, warm furs that Mikhail said all women would die for, she hated. The large, polished wooden chairs, a luxury she never used. Painted stone walls that boasted of Kingly wealth, and brightly dyed fabrics traded for hundreds of miles to the East only made her wish for her wool blankets and floor mat in her parents’ home. Mikhail said he wasted his great treasures on her, an ungrateful whore. Yet he continued to plague her heart, mind and body. Freya never slept in the ornate and soft bed he had given her; the only time she lay in it was when he forced his sordid desires on her.

“Please, please, please,” Freya begged. “Holy One, Holy God of Israel, please strike him down. May You repay him in kind all that he has done to others, to me, to his own people. Make me undesirable. Extinguish the fire that burns in Mikhail for me.” Freya’s body shook, trembled as she heard Mikhail’s heavy footsteps outside her door. Tears turning to sobs, she heard his callused skin rest upon the handle, he pushed, and Freya smelled his fetid breath and body as the door opened.

I was happy once, Freya though as Mikhail approached her. He strode, hulking chest jutting forward, a braggart, a tyrant of stolen power. Flicking his muddy, brown hair back, his thin lips smirked. His green eyes, like scum floating on a pond, danced with desire. Freya had disobeyed; Mikhail liked it when she disobeyed.

“I instructed you to bathe!” Mikhail roared and wrapped his fist around Freya’s loose dress jerking her up from prayer.

Freya only had tears.

“You will learn to obey!” Mikhail threw her to the floor, his eyes afire, and his desire raising.

As he kicked her, Freya prayed he would knock her unconscious before he ravaged her body. Almost welcoming the pain, she tried to keep from crying out as he dragged her toward the water basin by her hair.

Dumping her, he demanded, “wash!”

Freya’s swallowed hard, “no.”

“Now whore!” His hand stung as it landed firmly on her cheek.

Freya smiled as her head spun and her eyes went dark for a moment. The ringing in her ears was a blessed warning that one more hit, and she could sink into oblivion.

Mikhail sucked in a deep breath, his nose flaring, his teeth grinding, but wait, Freya saw something change, and fear filled her as his anger shifted. “So my dear,” he side as a wicked smile slithered across his bulging features. “How is your little sister Astrid? You know she nearly as lovely as you are. Now that I am King of Bauska I could support many wives. Wouldn’t you love to have her here in the lodge with us?”

Freya’s breathing hurdled from her chest, and her body quaked. “No!”

“What? I thought you would like to have her around. I only wish to make you happy my love. Would you not like that?” Mikhail’s eyes shone triumphantly.

Freya swallowed against the bile rising in her throat. “No my love,” she answered demurely. “I would not wish to share you with any more than I do now.” Freya began to rise. “It is enough that I must endure your first wife Beta, do not take on another.” Every cell in Freya’s body rebelled as she pushed herself toward Mikhail. “Enough of this game let me wash your royal body.” Freya wanted to smile, to be more convincing, but all her effort was covering the revulsion burgeoning in her center.

“Um, that is better my beauty.” Mikhail said and ran his greasy tongue along his lips. “But I would watch you bathe yourself first. Fetch me a chair.”

After Freya dragged the heavy chair across the rough cut, wooden floor she began to undress.

“Mm, yes,” Mikhail groaned as her dirty dress fell to the floor.

Freya, naked, shaking, reached into the basin and retrieved the cloth. Roses and lye soap scented the room as she began to wash away the shield of grime. Her pale, soft skin glowed in the firelight, as she dunked her head in the tube. Bubbles floated about as she scrubbed her hair.

Mikhail reached gathering suds from her head and smeared them across her ample chest, down her midriff.

“Let me wash you my Lord.” Freya said as she pulled away thinking. If I must bear him on me again at least I can save myself from the stench.

 As she washed his filthy body Freya cursed its every part. Unable to dwell on him, she escaped to a happier place, a happier time.

A New Anthology – Freya’s Prayer

Posted in Because I love to write, New writing, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by cjirwin

A New Anthology – Freya’s Prayer

About a year ago, I finished my first novel, Asmodeus. I hope and pray that my struggles will bear fruit, and I will find a publisher so all of my wonderful readers can enjoy it fully. In the course of writing Korina’s story in Asmodeus, I created a young character named Freya. She is only mentioned in passing, in one paragraph, in one chapter. The flow and plot of the novel wouldn’t allow for me to expound on who she was. I found myself wondering about her, and it saddened me to think her story of pain and strength in the face of despair could not be told. Young, beautiful and abused, she lived and suffered in my mind. I decided I had to give her a home, a voice, and so began a new anthology, Freya’s Prayer.

 

I hope you read of and grow to love this character as I have.

C.J. Irwin

Heart Eaters – Part Nine – Violet

Posted in Because I love to write, New Novel, New writing, Nightmare with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2010 by cjirwin

 

(Please note: This Post contains adult content and graphic violence that some may find offensive or inappropriate.)

Heart Eaters

Part Nine

Violet

 

Violets shoe tapped loudly against the living rooms hard wood floor. Arms crossed tightly against her chest, she cleared her throat with a grunt, and heaved a sigh when her mother didn’t wake but snuggled closer into Doug’s arms. “Mm, um,” she grunted. Lucy’s eyes fluttered. “Mother!” Violet finally burst.

Lucy’s eyes opened, blinked. Her head jerked toward her daughter’s cross face and rigid form at the end of the couch, then back to the serine, sleeping man with his arms around her. “Oh, crap!” Cursing, she swung into a sitting position, jolting Doug from peaceful slumber.

“What?” he blurted. “Oh,” he said, seeing Lucy’s ten-year-old daughter.

“What is going on Mother?”

“It’s not what it looks like.” Lucy reasoned.

“I’m not stupid momma!” Violet stated then turned on her heals and marched toward the kitchen.

“Oh, god Lucy I’m sorry. I fell asleep; I hadn’t intended to stay.” Doug pleaded. Lucy heaved a sigh, but couldn’t keep from smiling at him, her body rested and still covered in his warmth. Returning the smile, his words caressed. “You just felt so marvelous in my arms. It seems that they were fashioned to hold you.”

“You don’t have to apologize; I fell asleep too.” She let her head fall back. “Oh god, I haven’t slept like that in over a year.” His smile was brilliant, full of hope. Her eyes feasted on him, and her heart devoured the wondrous idea that she wanted to just look at him. Long, muscled, arms moved under his wrinkled shirt, his bright green eyes simmered with what she knew was desire making her stomach flutter, his dark, tousled hair fell across his eye and without thinking she reached to caress it away. The tenderness of the simple act surprised her, and touched him more then she could have known. “Don’t you work today?”

“Oh, shit!” Doug blurted looking down at his watch. “I’m late. I have to go.” He said leaning to kiss Lucy then jumped up.

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Lucy said smiling at his urgent expression. “It’s really hard on you to be late isn’t it?”

“I hate it!” He said with a chuckle as they walked to the door. “So you’ll let me take you out, right?  Please,” he begged after a moment.

Lucy had to look away from the intensity of his gaze. “Doug, I don’t-”

“Lucy,” he interrupted his hand on the doorknob. “Give me a chance. Please.”

Lucy looked toward Violets room and back to his stunning face. One step at a time, she thought. “Ok.”

“How about Friday night?”

“Um, I can’t.” Lucy said and hurried on at the tortured look on his face. “I’m driving to Lincoln tomorrow with Susan to help her pack everything up. The moving company said they would load her things on Friday and Saturday and drive down on Monday. But, I would love to after Monday.”

“Ok, Tuesday? Well, I guess I’ll see you on Monday, but will you let me take you out on Tuesday?”

“That would be swell.” 

Doug kissed the smile on her lips.

How can this be happening? Lucy wondered as she closed the door.

“Was that Doug leaving?” Susan asked as she walked from the kitchen.

“Maybe.”

“Holy Horesfeathers Lucy!” Susan crowed. “Was it amazing?” She asked more quietly smiling from ear to ear.

Lucy simply shook her head and chuckled.

“Because, he looks amazing,” Susan went on, “and usually men that look like that know how to make a woman feel all hotsy-totsy.”

“We didn’t, he didn’t.”

Susan huffed.

“Really,” Lucy assured as they walked back into the kitchen. “We fell asleep together on the couch.”

“Awe, he slept with you before he actually removed your nickers. That’s so romantic.

“It is all, ‘knight in shining armor’ of him isn’t it.” Lucy said, the words skipping from her mouth.

“Good that you woke up before the kids.” Susan laughed.

“Violet woke us.”

“Oh,” Susan replied her pretty features squishing together.

“Yeah, I guess I should go talk to her.”

“Finish your coffee, give her a few minutes.”

Lucy worried over what to say to Violet while she sipped her coffee, and drank every drop before she pushed herself up the stairs. Knocking several times before she finally heard a very resigned admittance, Lucy opened her daughter’s door.

“Can we talk?” Lucy asked.

Violet heaved a sigh and set Little Women on her bed-side-stand. “What?”

“Now, I know your upset with me but that’s no reason to be rude.” Lucy corrected.

“Sorry,” Violet said, eyes on her floral comforter.

How do I do this? Lucy wondered. My girl is so grown up. How did I miss it? Lucy sat on the edge of her bed. “We didn’t have sex.”

Surprised at her Lucy’s bluntness, Violet’s eyes jerked to her mother’s face. She said nothing.

So Lucy went on. “We fell asleep together. He was kind and comforted me when I needed a friend.”

“He wasn’t holding you as a friend would.”

“Ok, I can see that your old enough to recognized the way a man would hold a women when he is after more than just friendship, but that’s all we are for right now. Though, I do think I may want more than friendship at some point in the future.” Wow, Lucy thought. I said it, and I do.

 

“But mom you can’t,” Violet pleaded the child reappearing. “What about Daddy? I don’t want you to break his heart!”

Lucy flinched. Deep gashes. “Honey,” Lucy swallowed hard. “Daddy is not coming back.” Oh my god! Lucy cringed inside. I said and believe that too!

 

“Yes he is momma! Don’t say that! Take it back!” Violet screamed.

Tears slipping from her eyes, Lucy forced  out what she did not want to say, but what her girl needed to hear. What Lucy knew she needed to hear. “He is dead baby. I’m so sorry. He is gone.”

“No, no,” Violet struggled as Lucy pulled her into her arms. Violet cried, aching, stinging tears.

***

“She’s hardly spoken to me since Thursday.” Lucy told Susan as they walked out of her house in Lincoln Nebraska each carrying a card-board-box labeled KITCHEN.

“Just give it time,” Susan soothed as they loaded the boxes in the large, white moving truck. “I can’t believe we got all this packed and loaded already.” Susan smiled.  “Me and all my stuff will be home by noon tomorrow!”

“I’m so happy!”

“Me too, now let’s go have dinner and get some sleep so we can leave with the moving truck at seven o’ clock.”

***

Doug waited. He had taken the entire day off in hopes he would have the house ready before they arrived. “Ok, the gas is on, the water is on, electric is on, house is clean, papers are ready to be signed,” Doug went through his list. “All done and it’s only eleven. They probably won’t be here until noon, or maybe one.” What do I do now?

 

***

“We’re home! We’re home!” The children cried from the back seat as they pulled up the little blue house on Oak Street.

The moving truck was already backed in and the movers unloading.

“Oh, the movers are taking stuff in. Doug must be here.” Susan said, relieved the movers hadn’t had to wait the extra hour it had taken her and Lucy to get their five children and their very small bladders home.

Doug had the movers stacking boxes in the dining room and carrying in furniture; while he placed the boxes in their respective rooms when Lucy and Susan walked in.

“Doug,” Lucy called. He set down his box and ran to meet her at the entrance eager to taste her lips, but thought better of it when Violet walked scowling through the door. “You’re so sweet! You’ve almost got everything unloaded!”

“Doug you’re a miracle worker!” Susan sang and threw her arms around his neck. “Thank you!”

“You’re so welcome,” Doug said with a chuckle.

Lucy sniffed the air. “Wow! It smells amazing in here. Are you cooking Doug?”

“And if I am?” He asked with a teasing smile.

“Then Lucy will be your love slave for the rest of eternity!” Susan burst.

“In that case, yes, I am cooking, baked chicken, rice, steamed veggies, oh and of course, wine.”

“Oh my,” Susan and Lucy cried together.

“So, am I awarded major points for this?” Doug asked looking directly at Lucy.

“Maybe,” Lucy said with a smile.

“Well, if it will help convince you, I also turned on the gas, the water, the electric, signed up for garbage removal and have the bill of sale for the house ready to sign.”

Susan’s jaw dropped.

“Ok, I am definitely considering that whole love slave thing now.” Lucy said shaking her head.

“Yes!” Doug replied. “Can we just start with a welcome home kiss?”

Susan stepped up and planted a noisy kiss on his cheek. “I know you weren’t talking to me, but I just had to do that. Thank you, really.” The kids flew by. “Now, you two should go out and see if there is anything the movers need your help with so Lucy can give you a proper kiss.”

Doug slipped his hand in Lucy’s as they walked out the door. She jerked a little then relaxed. “Is this ok?” He asked lifting their entwined fingers and kissing her knuckles.

“Yes, I guess, I’m just worried the kids will see. It’s too soon for them.” He let go. “No, I didn’t mean for you to feel like I don’t want you to. I just.”

“It’s fine, really.” The look on his face was so understanding that Lucy wanted to kick herself for making an issue of it. “I don’t want to hurt them.”

“I know. God, Doug you’re wonderful. I’m so sorry for the way I’ve treated you.”

“Don’t,” he said pulling her in front of the parked truck and into his arms. “May I kiss you now?” He asked his breath hot against her skin.

She couldn’t breathe, or think, so she simply nodded. Desire pressed against craving and want against need as their lips melded. They took and gave, willing and waiting. Heart pounding and chest heaving, Lucy felt his grip loosen and watched him swallow hard, digging deep for control.

He let his forehead fall against hers. “It frightens me a little that I want and need you so severely.” He whispered.

“I understand, and a dollop of guilt to top it all off.” Lucy replied.

“Mother!” Violet called from the front step.

“Oh, damn, that’s Violet. I need to go in.” Lucy said and hurried up into the truck to grab a small end table. Doug followed.

The children ran into the house, up the stairs, down the stairs, out the back, in the front, ecstatic to be out of the car and home. Violet made a point of putting herself between her mother and Doug as they worked to unpack and set up Susan’s home. Doug grunted as he moved couches, tables, wardrobes and everything else, but never complained.

“So,” Violet began as they unpacked kitchen ware. “Do you have a girlfriend Doug?”

Doug smiled and looked at Lucy. “Nope.”

“Have you ever been married?” She inquired.

“Nope” he answered.

“How old are you?” Violet asked, and Lucy shook her head.

“I’m twenty-seven.”

“Did you know that my mother is thirty-one?” Violet asked surprised to find he was younger than her.

“Yes, I do.”

“Ok, Violet.” Lucy warned.

“What, just trying to get to know your friend.”

“Wow,” Susan said. “Mm, seven-thirty, didn’t realize it had gotten so late. Violet, why don’t you help me get the little ones to bed.”

“Fine,” Violet answered and gathered Bobby into her hands and stomped away.

“I’m sorry Doug.” Lucy apologized.

“It’s really ok. I understand.”

Lucy went to follow Violet. “Lucy,” Susan said reaching for her sister. “Let me talk to her.”

Looking toward the stairs, Lucy nodded her head.

“Violet?” Susan called after they had all the children tucked into two beds. Susan pushed the door to the empty bedroom open to find Violet staring out the window. Across the room she moved and set her hand on Violets shoulder. “I know it has been a very difficult year and a half for you,” Susan began softly. “But do you know who it has been more difficult for?”

Violet breathed deeply, “my mother.”

“Yes, and don’t you want to see her happy?”

“I guess it is nice to not have to worry that I’ll wake and find that she has killed herself!” Violet burst.

“Oh sweetie,” Susan said and wrapped her arms around her. “Your mother loves you, and she loves your father but-” 

“I know,” Violet wiped her eyes. “I know. I do want momma to be happy. I just don’t want admit that he’s gone, and Doug being here, with mom, it makes it really hard to pretend Daddy’s still coming back.”

“I know sweetie. I’m so sorry.” Susan held her. “Promise me you’ll cut your momma some slack, ok?”

“Ok.”

***

Lucy sighed as the hot water careened down her naked body. Head back, eyes closed, she reveled in the pleasure of a relaxing shower.

“God, you’re so damn sexy!”

Lucy’s eyes jumped open. Doug, naked, wet, and simply glorious stood in front of her. Lucy just stared.

“What baby? You look at me as if you’ve never seen me before.” Doug said. “Mm, it makes me hard to see you so stunned when you see me naked. Like the first time.”

“What?” Lucy managed. It looks like Doug, but it doesn’t sound like him. Lucy thought. She glanced around, not recognizing anything. “No.”

The door squealed as he opened it, rust against metal.

“Oh shit!” Doug cried out and yanked the curtain back. “Robert!”

The metal poker glowed menacingly in Roberts hand, and his eyes burned more brightly.

“The god damn grocery boy!” Robert yelled.

“Clam down Robert!” Doug pleaded, standing naked in front of me.

Robert swung. Blood splattered across Lucy’s naked body.  Chest aching, she sucked but the air would not come. Gore spilled from Doug’s broken face covering the floor.

“Robert, please, I love you!” Lucy screamed as the metal bare plummeted toward her head. “No-.” The scream ended abruptly as Robert sunk the weapon into her brain.

Lucy woke screaming in Susan’s arms. “Lucy! Lucy! Honey, wake up!”

“Oh, god! Susan?” Lucy blinked, shook.

“Yeah sweetie, it’s me. It was just a dream.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Lucy cried sitting up. “What time is it?”

“Um, six-fifteen, are you all right?”

“Uh, just a bad dream.”

“Yeah, I got that. Do you want to take a hot shower or something?”

“No!”

“Ok, are you sure you’re fine?” Susan worried.

“Yes, I’m sorry. How about some coffee?” Lucy asked getting up, putting one of Susan’s robes on and walking out.

“Sure,” Susan said hurrying after.

Lucy related the dream as they sipped hazelnut flavored coffee. “Maybe, I shouldn’t go out with him.”

“No, no, Lucy you’re just scared to move on. You need to. You have to find a way to move on, and I know you’re carrying a torch for the sexy doctor boy.”

Despite herself Lucy smiled. “He is quite attractive isn’t he?”

“And super considerate, and thoughtful, and can cook, if you pass that up I’ll have to have you committed!”

Laughing, Lucy rose to grab the coffee pot and refill their mugs. “You’re right.”

“I know. Now what are you going to wear?”

***

Lucy donned the silky black dress Susan had suggested.  It cut close to her bust, wrapped tightly around her waist and hips and fell just below her knees, sexy but not vixen. Perfect, Lucy thought as she began to remove her curlers.

“Momma,” Violet called from the bathroom doorway. “I could help you fix your hair if you’d like.”

Lucy smiled. “I would love that honey.”

Violet removed the curlers from Lucy’s hair. Handing her bobby-pins, Violet watched as Lucy secured the curls where she wanted them.

“You look pretty momma.” Violet praised.

“Thank you sweet heart.”

“Wow, look at the gams on that broad!” Susan sang as Lucy walked down the stairs.

“My legs do look rather amazing.” Lucy replied. “Thank  you so much for sitting with the children.”

“Of course, you’ve been working your butt off for me. It’s the least I can do little sis.”

“He’s here.” Violet said from the window and walked toward the door. “Hey Doug,” she greeted.

“Hello Violet. How are you?”

“I’m ok. Um, I just wanted to say that I hope you and my mom have a good time.” Violet said making Lucy smile.

“I’m sure we will. Thank you Violet.” Doug said.

Lucy could see the change in his eyes when he looked up, and realized it was the first time he had ever seen her dressed up. “Wow, Lucy, you look stunning!”

“As do you,” Lucy replied looking over his wide-brimmed Fedora hat and grey patterned tie accenting his long dark suit-coat.

“Thank you, shall we go?” He asked reaching for her soft hand.

Doug couldn’t get enough of the sound of Lucy’s voice and laughter as they ate. He peppered her with questions about her likes and dislikes, her childhood, her favorite foods. “Ok, so let me get this straight,” Doug said cutting the steak on his plate. “You hate just about every food, and if the food you do like touches on you plate you won’t eat it.”

“Yes, that’s exactly right.” Lucy said with a smirk. “So, let me get this right,” she mocked with a grin, and giggled when Doug rose his eyebrow at her. “You’ll eat anything put in front of you, you believe in the ‘five second rule’ for food dropped on the floor, and you like your cow still mooing when you eat it.”

He laughed aloud. “Yes, precisely.”

They joked and teased laughing until their faces hurt.

“God,” Doug exclaimed and reached across the table taking Lucy’s hand in his. “You are so beautiful!”

Her face flushed. “I was afraid I wouldn’t ever laugh like this again. Doug, you have saved me from a hell I thought would take my life.” His hand tightened, and his heart beat a little faster as he watched the emotion swim in her deep brown eyes. “Take me home.” She whispered, and he thought his heart would stop.

Gently, he pulled her up from her seat. They didn’t speak a word as they left the restaurant and drove to his townhouse on Main Street. He cradled her hand until he had to unlock his front door.

“I don’t deserve you,” he whispered as he clicked on a lamp and watched her sit on the edge of his bed.

“A savior always deserves his prize,” she said trying to focus enough to control her breathing, not wanting to look like a school girl virgin.

“You’re shaking,” he took her hands in his, but laid his lips on hers before she could answer.

Hot, slow, the kiss sent her blood blazing through her veins to her center. From fingertip to shoulder, he caressed, leaving a trail of gooseflesh. The silk slid easily off her collar, and he kissed the soft skin it left bare. Sighing, she pushed at his suit coat letting it fall to the floor. He turned her, planting kisses along her neck and shoulders as she spun. His hot breath tickled her ear as the dress slid to the floor.

Inside Dougs embrace Lucy’s heart, so eaten with pain, began to beat with life again.

Heart Eaters – Part Seven – Susan

Posted in Because I love to write, New writing, Nightmare, Works in Progress with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2010 by cjirwin

Heart Eaters

Susan

Part Seven


 

“I guess you’re right.” Lucy grudgingly admitted. “It did work out perfectly. If I’m going to be suspended from work for the week it’s good that it’s the week you’re here.” Despite her sour tone, Lucy smiled at her older sister Susan. “This wine is amazing,” she said as she lifted her glass again. Lucy studied her sister over the rim of her crystal, fluted glass. They looked nothing alike. Lucy was petite, slim, whereas Susan was extremely tall and sturdy, like an Amazon princess Lucy always thought. Susan’s emerald eyes sparkled with joy to be with her sister, and her lovely high cheek bones blushed from the wine. Many men had been intimidated by Susan’s size as they were growing up and had shied away despite her exquisite face and long, full golden hair. Lucy had never shied away.  Susan was beautiful, and Lucy loved her so dearly she almost cried when she thought of it.

“I agree,” Susan said, a smile helping the words to dance a little. “It’s so wonderful to see you. Davy and May really miss their cousins as well.”

“I know they’re not going to want to go to sleep.” Lucy said, looking toward the joyful shrieks and shouts coming from Violets and Sandra’s room.

“Yes, but they need to so we can talk.”

“Oh no, is this my sister talking or Dr. Mason talking?” Lucy said frowning.

Susan narrowed her eyes but still smiled. “I know you say you don’t need any of my therapy mumbo-jumbo, but in all seriousness sis, how are you doing?”

Lucy sighed loudly. “Ok, lets get the little ones to bed. Then, I will let you hypnotized me or whatever it is you do.”

“I’ll ignore the mocking because I’m so pleased you’re ready to talk.” Susan said smiling and set her glass down. “By the way, if you’re so happy to have the week off since I’m here why are you so pissed at your boss? What was his name, Doug?”

“I don’t know. He just, he sometimes, well, I just thought he would let it go. You know, give me a pass or something.” Lucy said trying to avoid the questioning look on Susan’s face.

“Why would he, doesn’t he have to. I mean isn’t he required by law?”

“Yes he is required by law to punish employees that assault patients, I guess. He did find a way to wave the fine though.” Lucy said as they helped Bobby and May into their pajamas.

“He got you out of the fine, and you still bitched him out? Good grief Lucy!” Susan scolded.

Lucy smiled, thankful for the honesty of a sister and sucked in a deep breath. “It’s just easier to be angry.”

A look of understanding softened Susan’s features, “easier to just be angry in general or angry at Doug?”

Lucy swallowed hard. “Both.”

“Oh, I see.”

After a massive amount of fussing, crying and begging Susan and Lucy finally got their five children to bed. Gathering their wine, chocolate and green olives, they moved out to the porch. A cool breeze rustled the brightly colored, fall leaves, and the moon shone brightly on the leaves that had already fallen.

“So,” Susan began, “tell me about this Doug.”

“There really isn’t anything to tell. Nothing has happened, and nothing will happen.” Lucy said avoiding eye contact.

“Come on Lucy. You know I know you better than that. Do you have feelings for him?”

“And what if I did? I can’t, I just can’t. It’s wrong.” Lucy looked at Susan, her eyes begging.

“Lucy, its been a year hasn’t it?” The question was soft.

“Eleven months, and fourteen days since the army gave me the news. Two years, three months and five days since, I saw him.” Lucy fought the tears.

“Sis, I know it’s hard. After, I lost David in forty-two I thought I would die.”

“I remember.” Lucy said turning to Susan.

“But, I found a way to live; I had to, for my kids, for myself.”

“I just don’t know. I just don’t think I’m ready for the relationship that Doug wants. He’s a good man, and he doesn’t deserve to be hurt.”

“Is he hot?” Susan asked with a smirk.

“Susan!”

“What? Well?”

“Well, I guess he is pretty attractive.” Lucy couldn’t help the smile that came with the words or the warmth. “Anyway, I thought I was going to get a session with my favorite shrink?”

“You try and distract me with your flattery dear sister. Fine, you can tell me more about this pretty attractive guy later. So, talk.”

“Just talk, no questions from the Doctor, no ‘you are getting sleepy’.”

“You know you mock me a great deal for being in the medical field as well.” Susan said poking Lucy in the arm.

“Yeah, well I’m in a practical field.”

“Oh shut it,” Susan laughed. “Just tell me about these dreams you said you were having.”

“Well it used to be that I only ever dreamed of Robert, but in the last month I have been having nightmares about some of my patients from the hospital.”

“Yeah, I think I remember talking about your dreams of Robert last time I came down from Lincoln. You always dreamed of how he might have died. I mean how, if he had died.” Susan corrected.

Lucy swallowed hard.

“I’m sorry.” Susan pleaded.

“You don’t have to apologize.” Lucy said managing to lift one corner of her mouth. “I know he’s gone.”

Susan wanted to encourage her to have hope, but she believed Robert was gone, just like her David. At least I knew for sure. It’s time for her to move on, Susan thought.

“Anyway, my patients, Benedict Galloway, Helen Christenson and Heath Deerborn, I’ve dreamed of them all. It was like living, experiencing the things they did.”

“What did they do?”

“It’s not pleasant.” Lucy warned.

“I can handle it.”

Lucy told Susan everything about the three that had plagued her heart, mind and subconscious. Images of a red-hot poker in the forehead of Benedict’s wife, Ruby May, Helen’s parents burning for their sins, Camilla, violated and broken beneath Heaths furious need. Susan blanched a few times, but for the most part hid her revulsion. Lucy finished, and they sat in silence, Susan thinking and Lucy knowing she was.

“Well do you want to know what I think?”

“I guess.” Lucy replied.

“Well, I think it’s a warning, from your subconscious.”

Lucy huffed.

“I’m serious. Just hear me out…ok.” Lucy tilted her head. “Please,” Susan begged.

“Ok, enlighten me.” Lucy smiled and shook her head.

“Alright, so, first Benedict, what finally caused him to snap?”

“His wife I guess.”

“And what his wife wouldn’t give him.”

“Sex?” Lucy asked with a chuckle.

“No, love, he loved her, and she didn’t love him. Love drove him insane.”

“Ok, I can see that.” Lucy agreed.

“Then there’s Helen. Her sense of morality, of what’s right and what’s wrong, her moral compass-”

“Yeah, I see. Her sense of what’s right caused her to kill her parents, lose her mind.”

“Right,” Susan confirmed. “And Heath, it was his misuse of passion and desire. He allowed it to consume him.”

“Ok, so what does that have to do with me?”

“Can I be honest sis? Are you ready for that? I don’t want to hurt-”

“I’ll be fine,” Lucy interrupted.

“I think you’re allowing the same emotions to destroy you, to depress you, to rob you of your sanity. I did the same thing for a long time. Your letting your love for Robert kill you.” Lucy flinched, it was like a knife in Susan’s heart to see her sister in pain, but she pressed on. “You’re letting your idea’s of what’s right and wrong cause you to painfully mourn him still. I know you think, you feel like it is wrong to move on with your life, but if you don’t move you wither away.” Susan took a deep breath hoping Lucy would forgive her for what she was about to say. “If you suppress your desire for Doug it will fester and swell, like a splinter only worsening your pain. You have to learn to let go.”

Tears slid silently from Lucy’s deep chocolate eyes. Susan moved her chair closer and gathered her little sister into her arms; wishing she could take the pain into herself, but all she could do was comfort.

“I’m sorry. I said too much.”

“No, no,” Lucy countered. “I need to hear it. It’s true. You’re right, I feel like I am only inches from being in a padded room myself, but I don’t know how. How, Susan, how do I move on?”

“One step at a time little sister, one step. But you have to be willing to take each little step as it comes.”

They both turned in surprise as a dark blue ford pulled into Lucy’s drive.

“Who is that?” Susan asked staring at Lucy’s shocked expression. “Is that Doug?” She asked when Lucy said nothing. “Dang!” Susan crowed as he stepped from the car with flowers in his hand. “That is way hotter than ‘pretty attractive’!”

“Shh! What is he doing here?” Lucy asked as she stood.

“Hey Lucy,” Doug called as he approached giving them a large grin.

“Mm,” Susan grunted and got an elbow in the ribs.

“Hey Doug, what can I do for you?” Lucy asked and Susan frowned at her detached tone.

“One step at a time little sister.” Susan said in her ear. Lucy heaved a sigh.

“Would you like to join us?” Lucy asked gesturing toward the table. “We have a lovely Merlot, uh, Italian I think.”

“I would love to.”

“This is my sister Susan,” Lucy said after he sat at the wicker table.

“Its wonderful to meet you,” Doug said as he took her hand in his and laid a soft kiss on her knuckles. Susan turned red, and Lucy smiled knowing the power of his charm.

“So very nice to meet you.” Susan purred.

Doug released Susan’s hand and turned toward Lucy.“Um, Lucy, I came by because I wanted to, needed to explain something. If you’ll let me.”

Lucy was about to answer when Susan spoke up. “I’m tired. I think I’m going to head to bed.”

“No,” Lucy blurted. “You don’t have to go. I’ll just tell Doug goodnight.”

“No, no, don’t worry about me. I can find my own way to bed, just one step at a time…right.” Susan said as she rose to leave, despite Lucy’s pleading eyes. “Goodnight Doug, it was lovely to have met you.”

“Same here,” Doug called as she walked into the house. “Anyway, I brought you these.” He said handing Lucy the flowers.

One step at a time, Lucy thought as she took the flowers.

“I’m so sorry about-”

“No,” Lucy cut him off. “I’m sorry. I know you had no choice except to do what you did. I Know I shouldn’t have hit Heath, but he deserved it, and I knew there would be consequences. Please forgive me for the way I treated you Doug. I shouldn’t have taken my issues out on you. It was wrong.”

“God you’re beautiful when you apologize,” Doug said gazing into her eyes and smiling. He reached up and cupped her cheek, and his heart danced when she didn’t jerk away but pushed closer. With a sigh of pure bliss, Doug let her fall into his arms.

With no more tears to cry, Lucy simply sank into his strong embrace.