Pressure and Hope
As months went by and turned into two painful years, Addy found these questions only grew louder. She was desperate, there was nothing to eat, there hadn't been! She was too weak to walk much and spent most of her days waiting with her mother, just waiting for their father to return home and say he found nothing to eat. On rare but heavenly days he would return with something they could share, but Adiscordia knew the truth. Both her, and her sister would die eating the same amount, so she very often hid when receiving her portion to share hers with her sister. The promise of extending a life was one that she took very seriously, and one that was slowly destroying her innocence as it brought a severe desperation and weight with it that no child should bear.
She made plans on how to survive with her sister, but something was always wrong. She could beg, but beggars were feared by the people due to their desperation. She had seen women wearing strange outfits leave and return at night with coins, but her mother said was too young for that type of work. The easiest answer to it all was stealing, but stealing was bad. She swore to protect her sister but did that mean she should just watch her die? Where were the gods in all this who sent the guardians? Was she too impure for them because of a curse out of her control?
These questions often plagued young Adiscordia. She was often seen crying. Grizelda usually tried to comfort her, but she would always blame the tears on hunger, something her sister couldn’t fix. Grizelda held her sister tight, scared. Another wrapped body was thrown to the side of the streets, any day now they would burn them all. Early signs of famine were beginning to start, and they were barely surviving as it was. Neither of them knew how much longer they could last. Grizelda was leaning against a fence, doll in hand. Nicholas had left in order to find more food, while Katherine was helping patch up a small rip on Adiscordia’s dress. Grizelda walked over to them, beginning to have questions. “Mamma? If stealing is bad, and we have no money, but we need food, how are we going to-?” She was cut off.
“We don’t, we wait for it to come to us.” Katherine replied, focusing deeply on her sewing.
“How?” Adiscordia asked nearly in an angry tone, turning herself immediately to face her mother with a facial expression that spoke what kind respectful words couldn’t. Food wasn’t going to come. Everyone in her family knew it wasn’t going to come. Katherine tied and broke apart the thread from the needle before patting Adiscordia’s new patch.
Adiscordia raised her voice slightly to bring back her mother’s attention. “Mamma, we’re going to die, I think the gods will understand if we take meat from the forest.” Adiscordia’s fear and pain began to turn into anger. She hated being so helpless!
Grizelda took a deep breath staring at her sister, the pain in her stomach becoming far more noticeable with her sister’s words. Katherine stood up looking down at Adiscordia. “It is better to die than live as a slave to the curse.” Adiscordia looked up at her mother, unable to form words. “Now, this conversation is over.” Katherine finished.
It was wrong to disrespect your parents. Would the gods hate her too for being angry? She needed them to accept her and give her mercy! Was death the only thing they would be pleased with? She needed to leave this place, the constant thinking was driving her mad. She took a deep breath and forced herself up, immediately feeling somewhat dizzy and lightheaded.
“Addy, are you alright?” Grizelda asked rushing to her sister’s aid quickly earning a concerned look from their mother.
“Fine…” Adiscordia groaned. “I need a walk outside…”
Katherine sighed, her daughter was too weak to walk on her own, but she could see the anger and frustration in her eyes. The burden she had placed on Adiscordia’s back had taken her childhood. If she didn’t let her go her anger would take the best of her. She bent besides her daughter to be near eye level. “be careful…” she looked over at Grizelda. “Go with your sister, and take care of her. Don’t leave her alone for a second!” she commanded. Grizelda nodded, surprised that her mother allowed this.
Addy was surprised at her first few steps. Despite the exhaustion and effort the first few steps were a decision she had chosen that was her own! She loved it! She gripped to fences and walls for support as she stepped out further away from her home. The further away she went from the arguments and the bodies, the more she could notice the sunlight and the warmer she felt. The less the thoughts plagued her. Grizelda caught the change in her sister’s expression and waited. When they were far enough she asked. “Addy, were you mad?”
Adiscordia closed her eyes tight, her lips held together tight in an attempt to keep in an emotional outburst. “I was.” She stopped looking at her sister. “I don’t want to die.” Her knees shook, the walk was too much. It felt liberating, but her body couldn’t handle it. She spread her legs a little more to keep balance. “I’m scared Gri, I don’t want to be cursed but I don’t want to die.” Looking back and realizing that her mother was out of sight, and that the two of them seemed to be alone she let her knees finally fall. In any other situation she would have hidden her weakness to avoid worrying others, but she couldn’t anymore. She leaned against her sister. “I don’t want you to die, Gri. You don’t deserve it.” Her eyes were red, becoming puffy quickly as tears began to stream down her cheeks, breaking down after what seemed to be an eternity.
Grizelda watched as her sister’s body gave out. It was clear with her weakened breath, Adiscordia was dying. Grizelda looked back at the bodies that were spread on the streets, she needed her sister.
“I need to do something for you.” Adiscordia mumbled. “Can’t just sit there like they want...” She groaned against her sister. Grizelda panicked her legs kicking into action as she ran home, leaving her sister alone. Tears flew in the air as she screamed for her mother.
Addy tried to call back before deciding to simply lay there. Laying down didn’t feel so bad, she could use some rest. Death, just meant more resources for her sister and parents. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. It could’ve been seen as noble to not keep trying. Another pang hit Adiscordia’s stomach, as she laid there. It would stop soon.
She soon heard quick footsteps. She groaned weakly wanting to rest a little longer and not be bothered until an unfamiliar voice rose. “It’s a child!”
Adiscordia slowly peeled her eyes open to see the blur of an older woman take her arm. “William give her some water.” She commanded one of her sons. She could feel her back being slowly pushed forward as she sat up, and drank some cool fresh water from a jug that was lifted to her lips. It tasted different, it must’ve been purified water, not river water. Adiscordia’s chapped lips seem to come to life, as she licked her lips and smiled slightly. “My name is Maud, dear.” The woman told Adiscordia before looking to her eldest son again. “Do we have any food left in the bags?”
William shook his head, setting the jug down and going with his brother to check the bags. They had heard of children from the struggling part of the village called Death’s row dying quickly due to starvation and disease, but seeing it was a different story! “We have some marzipan from the celebration, and some hardening bread.” Maud thought for a second, having been saving the two for a different purpose before taking another look at the child before them.
“Give them to me.” Adiscordia watched wide eyed as Maud took the marzipan and bread and offered it to her. Her hands were shaky, turning her head down the path. The bread she could save for her family, but the marzipan seemed to look so fragile. It looked like a sweet delight that anyone could take from her on the journey back.
“Thank you Miss Maud.” She said in shock before tearing off a piece of the marzipan and bringing it to her lips. She smiled before taking another, it was so sweet! She could feel the pain lessen, the pangs stopping.
“of course.” Maud responded, watching Adiscordia eat. It filled her with gratitude for her higher status. Once she had finished the marzipan Adiscordia licked her lips, checking her hands for any crumbs. The hunger was gone! Her smile spread as she set the bread still wrapped down and hugged Maud. “Thank you!” she repeated.
Maud was surprised by the the sudden hold, but held the child in return. “My name is Adiscordia Hex.” Adiscordia said after a few moments pulling away. “You have just saved me and my family.” Tears streamed down her cheek as she bowed, curtsied, and whatever she thought to do to someone whom she owed her life to. Maud simply smiled and nodded.
Grizelda had arrived earlier than anticipated due to her running, but what she saw when she arrived made her freeze in place. Her cries for help were minimized to nothing past a whisper. Her parents were arguing, loudly, and there was something in her father’s voice that wasn’t right.
“Selfish!” He pushed Katherine to the ground. “Don’t you see if we do nothing, they will die soon enough!” Nicholas had his hands balled in fists, turned away from his daughter. “Katherine, I can’t keep doing this! We need to act, we’re seeing them waste away before our eyes! I’m trying to keep calm and gentle but I cant!” he groaned gripping his face. “Katherine, It’s a flame! A flame inside of me, that I keep trying to tame for their sake, but if I don’t release it-“ Nicholas paused closing his eyes tight, his hands growing tighter together before releasing. Katherine was terrified, crumpled up on the ground. “Just once!” he pleaded. “You can’t be so self righteous that you’d deny me a single visit when lives are at stake!”
“Nicholas, I understand! Believe me, but it’s unpredictable! We could murder them ourselves if we give in!” She pleaded. “There is no control to the curse, and just as you were a danger to me, if we went we could-“ Katherine stopped in mid sentence, looking between her husbands knees she could see a shocked crying child. Nicholas followed his wife’s gaze, fear of hurting Grizelda overwhelmed him. Yet, over the years he had begun to resent his wife and her calm behavior. She never seemed to want to do anything at all about the situation! That resentment was starting to take hold of him. In this desperation, years of strength and determination against the curse were beginning to break.
Katherine lifted her arms slowly, but Grizelda looked at her father, afraid. Nicholas was quiet, but stepped back unable to look at her. He turned, beginning to cry silently as he walked a short distance away. Grizelda ran to her mother, holding her close. “What happened? What was-“ Katherine buried Grizelda further into her warmth, her heart was beating loudly rhythmically. A sound of life that had always calmed Grizelda. She stopped panicking, but wasn’t at peace.
“That was a hint to the curse.” Katherine admitted. “That was only its shadow breaking free for a moment. You weren't supposed to see that, but now I suppose you know what we’re up against.”
“What did father do?” Grizelda asked.
“Nothing.” Katherine responded. “Nicholas hasn’t done wrong. The desperation of keeping the family alive has become a weight on him, and he has been considering other options, entertaining the thought of lesser evils for the sake of life.” Katherine looked up waiting for her first daughter to come into vision. She didn’t. “Your sister, where is she?” Grizelda looked at her father’s figure still afraid unsure of how to respond before standing to rush to where her sister had been.
Katherine’s eyes widened, her husband was right. “Nicholas!” she called as she followed her daughter. Nicholas turned to follow the pair but gripped Grizelda’s shoulder harshly. It didn’t hurt her, but fear made her stop. “You mustn't tell your sister what you’ve seen today. You must take care of each other, and don’t let her fall as I have.” Just as quick as he took her he let her go, and Grizelda raced away. Afraid of what she’d see when she got to where her sister had last been. “Adiscordia!” she yelled.
It was surprising to hear a familiar call back, and quick steps. Coming from a different direction Adiscordia raced towards her family carrying the wrapped bread. She soon reached her sister who seemed terribly frightened. “I’m here Gri, it's okay! I’m not going anywhere.” Adiscordia held her sister tightly with slight rocking. Grizelda looked as if she had seen a ghost. With one hand she lifted the bread. “A gift to us! Tonight we can eat!”
Katherine scooped up the both of them in her arms, as Nicholas slowly approached. Katherine gave her husband a worried smile before they both nodded in agreement, without their children noticing.