There’s some naughty bits. Just so you know.
My love? She is fair and bright and laughs often, like bells. She is delicate and sunny and everything I will never be, though I tried for her sake. I lived for our betrothal kiss and practiced it for weeks in private. I did my best not to have wet lips, for I heard the chambermaids say they dislike such things. My love did not have to wipe her mouth, though she said it was like kissing her cousin. But we were fifteen, and our love grew from then as I learned her tastes and followed her fine suggestions. I knew that, given time, I would make our duty to marry a pleasant one and our love would grow, as my own parents’ had.
My love’s kisses belong to another now. I try not to think of him touching her bare flesh with those hard, worker’s hands of his or his coarse speech in her ears as he possesses her in the bed he stole from me. And yet, the images come. How can she, whose modesty barely tolerated my hands on her clothed knee, bear his grasp? What agonies she must suffer for honor’s sake, promised to a hall rather than to a man. How bravely she goes nightly to his arms to endure his brutish, loveless indignities.
They say she is false to have stayed with the new Lord. Even my Lady friend Lefthryth thinks it is so. Her honest eyes say it clearly as words, free as her movements and pure windows to her warm heart. She is a strong woman, brave and true, but not one to suffer oaths when they are twisted against her. She pays every day for her defiance to orders she found unjust in ways that my love could never bear. My friend Lefthryth has a different honor. A man’s honor. How can she understand my love, who was raised to do the bidding of her King and father?
No, the people here can’t understand my love’s different bravery, accepting the embrace of a man chosen for her. But I – I know she is brave to face that brute nightly and submit to his iron embrace. Does she even now carry his child? If I free her from him and we wed at last, will I be able to treat it as my own, though it bears the stamp of its father, my betrayer? Ancestors -no, Mother, as you watch from the Halls – give me strength to treat her gently when next we meet. Help me to touch her without reminding her of him, and make her people understand why she did as she was told, and not as they think she should. And turn my eye away from this untamed woman whose grace bewitches my eyes and whose company soothes my heart.
Let me be faithful. Let me be true. Let me have honor, even if nobody else understands it.
My love will save me. I know it now, and I feel awful for not trusting. But he will! He got the judge to grant our petition, and they’ll assess fairly. I just know that he won’t give up until the judge rules for us. He’s right; I’m not like Ma and Pa, and folk see me like a proper Bolger now contributing to the community. Surely all those folk who see me every day won’t let me go thrown to the dogs. Sandyman hasn’t kept up, and his lawyers can’t make me break the law.
We’ll fight this and win. My love will save me. We’ll be free of this, and we’ll save up enough that we can employ a cook, and we’ll have a hole and we’ll use those… glove things so we don’t have eleven babies we can’t feed. I’ll get into the Mathom Society, perhaps, and I’ll write about geometry. I love Geometry.
I also love Toby, of course. Wonderful, wonderful Toby.
My love has made sure that the foundation isn’t slipping and put in buttressing stones just in case. He goes to watch our daughter when she plays with her dog, and I think the light bow in his shed will be hers. These days, when I look around our house, I see his handiwork and not the numbers on the boards. Things that come from him are safe.
I don’t believe in marriage. Just because I am happy with him does not mean that the vows we made are the cause of our happiness, or that it is ever a good idea to leave no room to undo a match made in error. I certainly would not want my children trapped in an unhappy pairing like the Coopers seem to have. But I will admit, here in my heart, that to have the promise of forever from a man who means every word that he utters is a gift greater than I ever hoped to receive.
Our son grows so quickly and now resembles a child rather than a baby. I never thought I would regret barrenness, but often now I do. The terror of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth fade in my memory to the sweetness of having a child suckling at my breast and growing restlessly in my womb. Though I know it flies in the face of reason, I feel less a woman now, a field where no seed can grow and the dreams of children die. It is ridiculous, but then biological urges, like any other urge, can be immune to the voice of reason.
My love is a natural parent, whether the child be born to him or brought by chance. I am not, despite the unreasoning claims of female biology. But with him loving me so well, it becomes easy to love the children he’s brought to our home, no matter how they got here. Perhaps love will be enough to temper my lack of skill reasoning with the young. Until then, I will count to nine, and if Belion’s tantrum has not resolved, I shall call my love to stop it.
My love? I’ve not got one of those, and I’d not want to if I had to go through what poor Cedric is. Not that it’s him suffering. Poor Mildwyn’s got the worst of it, of course. But to know that they used him and his sweet flower bundles to get at her… it eats at him, even if he doesn’t talk about it much. And now he’s got to do everything right to make sure she doesn’t hurt even worse and I just don’t know how I’d manage. I guess he’s a better man than I am just yet.
I’m supposed to be courting Sifrun, though we both don’t want it. I mean, nothing’s the matter with her and I’m sure she’s awful nice, but I’m not going to help her father control her any more than he already does. That would make me like him. He thinks we’re alike, or that’s what he says. He thinks that being short‘s like being a cripple. Plonker. He doesn’t know who I am and he didn’t bother to find out. No, he saw my leg and assumed things.
Well. I love this hall. I love my lord. And I love the folks who’ve been so good to me. I even like Cengifu for smacking me, because I was being an arse. These people think I can be honorable and they trust me. I don’t see anyone trusting that donkey arse Borstan. His best friends are lying turds who got a girl dishonored and he doesn’t even know it.
No. I’d not be him for a thousand good legs.
My love smells ripe tonight. I can hardly keep my mind on dinner, it’s so obvious. Maybe this time, we’ll make cubs. A cub. Baby. Whatever. I won’t make it through dinner if I don’t put a clothes-drying pin on my nose pretty soon.
Would it be wrong if we did it while I was a bear? It seems wrong, but I don’t know why.
I’m getting the clothespin.
My love fed me boar without spice and served cold, just the way I like it. Then she bathed me, which I tolerate for her even though I smell funny after. Then I let her mate’s stupid cats curl up on me, even though I hate them and their stupid dead mice they keep putting on the bed. When I put my kills on the bed, it’s bad, but when they do it, it’s “Good kitty” and “Aren’t you a little killer” and “Who’s a big, scary hunter?”
Cats. I hate cats. But my love lives with them, so I don’t kill the cats. And every night she calls me a good dog and lets me keep her warm until that man she’s mated to comes home.
My love whispers lines of poems into my ears and spells them in kisses along my spine. In these few last days of peace, we twist words and bodies together until papers crumple in the sheets and ink stains his pale skin. He feels the call of the road and action, and it breathes fire into his touch. Our private world of words and rhythm pounds with the beat of my throbbing heart.
Melethannas discovered door latches. It is time we discover locks. My love assures me that there are locks at Pel Tathren. Then he tickles our daughter until she howls herself exhausted.
My love comes and goes with the tides. She sees me sometimes, and at others she weeps salt to the salt sea. Every night I see her, and every morning I awake to this empty hut and the heartless wrangling of gulls. My life is a ghost of a life that haunts another’s dreams.