The Child

Chapter 7

Marie sat on the chair next to his bed for what seemed like days. She had much to do around the house—cleaning, organizing, advising the cook on today's meals. But instead she sat there, ankles crossed and poised hands resting on her lap.

Sometimes Marie simply could not control the urges of the Great Spirit upon her body. Her mother, Celeste, had once said that she was God's vessel… but all her life Marie had felt this to be a curse—only the shamans could be so. She was no learned or experienced woman in the matters of her people.

She watched her dear little brother sleeping. The sleep of the innocent as was just. He was now free to control the beast within him, but Marie knew that whether he liked it or not Ethan would have to learn to control his voracious animalistic instincts—a day would come that he would have to make use of God's gift to him. And beyond the amulet and spells she had done for him, there was nothing else she could do but give him her unconditional love and support.

Marie saw him move on the bed, in no time his light brown eyes would open, still hazy from sleep. So before he saw her first, instead of the glowing vision of his beloved, she quietly slipped out of the room and went on with her daily chores. His belongings were packed and by the door. He would have breakfast, they would bid each other farewell—for now—and then he would leave for the train station. And Marie would cry, but while chopping the onions for supper, because she never deliberately cried.

Yes, that sounded like a good enough plan. She wouldn't last in this plantation for too long anyway—what southern white man could accept an Indian woman, unmarried, non-Christian to administrate on her own an enterprise this important? Marie would be lucky to come out alive. Her brother simply did not need to know any of this—Ethan was finally going home and Marie honestly hoped that he would never look back.

Vanessa Ives was glad that she had finally succeeded in getting her dear Dr. Frankenstein out of his room on the ship. He continued as pale as ever, but those deep and black circles under his eyes—they were gone. He'd gained some much needed weight and with clean clothing, appeared at the corridor as a dashing bachelor—and now even his social awkwardness seemed charming. She smiled, satisfied. New York was but a few hours away—even the air on the ship seemed different, she felt different.

There was a sort of electricity in the air, Vanessa felt as though butterflies were constantly fluttering about in her belly, as if she could not breathe in joyous anticipation. She would step on land again; she would be closer, much closer to Ethan. In no time she would be in his arms and all of this anguish and fear that she carried constantly with her would dissipate and only love would be left.

"I suppose I should become acquainted with this ship before we disembark early in the morning…" Victor said, always the formal gentleman. Vanessa smiled and hooked her arm onto that of her friend and showed him around the ballroom, the grandiose restaurant where workers set the tables and the band rehearsed.

They went up on deck and watched the waves of the ocean crashing on the steel and seemingly indestructible shell of their ship. They watched the people, coming and going, all impeccable, wearing their best clothes and hats, just as anxious as Vanessa and Victor to reach their destination. The friends sat in companionable silence on the deck chairs. There was no need for words. Vanessa knew of his gratitude—for bringing him, for helping him. Victor fled from something, she was very much aware, but unless he told her, she would never press on the subject. She and Victor were twins in that way. They had chosen solitude…

But now Vanessa was choosing love—love for Ethan, love for her daughter—and although love was a path of great sorrow—poetry the proof of it—it was a path that Vanessa was now prepared to walk on.

Sooner or later, she hoped that it would be the same for him.

Vanessa hadn't expected it, his nimble, ever clean hands, reaching softly, unhesitating for hers—a cold hand meeting the other, warming one another. She looked at him and smiled, lovingly, wishing him all of the good things in the world.

That night Heloise Ives threw her first temper tantrum. She hadn't wanted to bathe and upon Vanessa forcing her to, again at bedtime she had fought against her sleep, refused to climb the bed, to put on her sleeping gown, to comb her hair, to say the prayers Vanessa had taught her.

Heloise had turned red in rage, thrown things on the floor and yelled in frustration and Vanessa, she had stayed calm and resolute, but deep inside, she honestly wanted to cry herself because this thing—motherhood—it was the most difficult thing she had ever been through. Her life wasn't the one at play, Heloise's was.

So as her daughter cried in frustration and called her names, she pulled her against her even though Heloise's kicks and punches hurt, even though her hair, being pulled was painful. She held her and rocked her back and forth, as if she were still an infant, until exhausted Heloise fell asleep.

And she loved this child so, so much. Words simply could not convey.

Ethan was finally on the train, on his way to New York. He stared up at the night sky from the window. Could it be that she was looking up too?

Vanessa Ives did not sleep that night. She lay on the bed with Heloise heavily asleep next to her, until, it seemed—she felt an urge to look at the sky, see the many constellations painting the heavens. Up on the deck, the cold wind of the sea hitting her cheeks forcefully and blowing her hair forcefully, she let out that sob she's been holding in for so long.

Being strong was tiring, but loving also was.

Vanessa wished he were here, leaving the candles lit, kissing her goodnight just as she did her child and washing all of her fears away. Tomorrow was a new day.

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