The Daughters of Warring: Part 5
“Can I have more paper?”
The guard frowned at Isabel, knitting his eyebrows together. She rarely asked for anything, but wasn’t sure that would help her cause. He went out and spoke with one of his cohorts, and emerged with a fresh stack of paper in his hands.
“Why are you writing so much?”
“I have a lot of sins to confess. It can’t fit on one page.”
“Or ten, by the look of it.”
With a harsh laugh he put her tray down on the floor and left. The lock clicked loudly into place, setting her teeth on edge.
Isabel looked at her food–water, a dry crust of bread, and some lumpy stew that was already growing cold. If she let it sit there for too long, the rats would come after it.
Isabel picked up her plate and had a few bites. The longer time went on the more she missed home cooked food. The thought of roast was enough to bring tears to her eyes.
When she was done with her meal, she turned her attention back to the paper. She began to write, paying attention to her words. Suddenly, she was back there, at the warm day when she realized that Stephen fancied her.
Stephen Astley rarely spoke to me. Sometimes, I had the uncomfortable feeling that he was watching me.
He was always around– at the church, at my family’s house. I could not avoid him. I learned to grow comfortable around him, or at least pretend that I was.
He sat with Suzette at church one Sunday. That quickly became the talk around town. I thought nothing of it, until I saw the two of them walking, holding hands.
I was not jealous. Stephen was planning to have a life much like my Father’s, and that was not something I wanted. Despite what anyone may tell you, being the wife of a minister is not an easy burden. I saw my mother go through it. Times when she would have spoken, she was afraid to move out of her proper place. It was hard having a husband whose time and energy was expected to be given freely to the entire community, with little or no benefit for him or his family.
If Suzette wanted that, good for her.
The weather was unseasonably warm. Indian summer, they called it. I went down to the lake one afternoon. It was getting late, though it was still hot. I sat with my legs dangling in the water, daydreaming. I didn’t know he was there until he sat beside me.
“What are you doing down here?” he said.
“Trying to cool myself,” I said. I got up, pulled my dress as far down my legs as it would cover. I knew he’d seen my legs, and my bare feet.
“You’re going already?” he asked.
He stood and gripped my arm.
“You try really hard to avoid me. Why?”
“You’re with my sister, aren’t you?” I said . “The gossips say you’ll be betrothed, if not married by this time next year.”
“Really? And you believe them? That’s the talk of idle busybodies. What do they know?”
“I see how Suzette looks at you.”
He paused. “Suzette is a dear girl. But she demands the attention of everyone near her. Haven’t you noticed? I try to be kind.”
“And that is all?”
“Yes, it is.”
I thought about that. Suzette was a girl who felt the need to be looked upon as special. She craved the admiring looks of men more than anything.
“Well,” I said carefully. “That has nothing to do with me, one way or another.”
I looked at my arm then, realizing he hadn’t let go of me. He released me then and stepped back, looking at me with a sparkle in his eyes.
“I do hope that is not what is keeping us from being friends.”
I shook my head. “What do you mean?”
“You’re not courting anyone, Isabel.”
He smiled. “You’re innocent yet.”
He touched my cheek. I should have moved away, but I stood, rooted to the spot.
Stephen leaned over and kissed me.
Things started between us that simply. Without talk, or planning, or assumption on my part of what the future would be. One kiss fueled a week’s worth of dreams. My spare moments were spent imagining what our next meeting would be like. Stephen and I schemed, passing notes back and forth.
There were places we’d go to meet in the woods. An abandoned house near the lake provided us privacy when we needed it. Our meetings were brief, but I lived for them. Each time, I pushed across an unspoken threshold towards him. His touch, his breath on my skin were pleasurable forms of torture. I’d never known what it was like to crave a man before.
One afternoon, we lay on a narrow bed together. I remember how he kissed me, how his touch changed. His hands moved up my thigh. I felt my heart beating fast, my stomach trembling. I stared at him, a little afraid of what I saw in his eyes. He whispered things to me, loving words. It was too late, but I realized then. This wasn’t like the times before. We weren’t going to stop.
I could not force myself up. And if I had tried, he would not have let me.
Later, he slept in my arms. Fear rose inside me.
I got up to dress, shivering. I thought he was still asleep, until I heard his voice behind me.
“That was lovely,” he said. “I shall have you again sometime.”
Evening was coming on fast. Isabel looked towards the window. She could hear the wind picking up outside. She would have to hurry, write what she could while there was still enough light to see by.
©2010 Lori Titus
Lori Titus’ western horror story, Lazarus, is available on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble. Her second novella, Hailey’s Shadow, is scheduled for release in January 2011. You can keep up with this author’s latest mischief on her blog : http://loribeth215.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter, where her name is Loribeth215.