Brigid stood atop the grassy knoll, the wind pulling her dark tendrils from the up-do she’d fixed with such precision. She was nothing if not a perfectionist, for that was the only way she’d stood out amongst her ten siblings. With so many demanding affections and attentions from her bedraggled parents, her impeccable nature pleased them greatly, and being the eldest daughter, she’d had a large role to fill.
Her family was poor. There was no denying that in the hand-stitched dresses and patched knee caps in the boys’ breeches. She’d never owned a brand new pair of shoes, or her own comb. Now, though, she stood rather aloof, dripping in luxuries she’d not known previously. Those luxuries, though, had come at a stiff price. She brought her fingers to her lips, as though to wipe away the memory of him from her skin forever.
It had been a breath of relief, to be sure, when her much-older-than-herself husband had succumbed to a fever and died shortly after. Brigid had just been a mere seventeen years old when her parents had married her off to the wealthy landowner and businessman. He’d been forty-three on their wedding day. She’d cried herself to sleep the night before that dreadful dawn, her blue irises rimmed with crimson as she stood at the altar and uttered her vows.
Her mother had always told her she’d been blessed with beauty, the likes of which was rather uncommon. Black Irish, they called her, for her hair was dark, her eyes a deep blue. The rest of her family was red-haired and ruddy, smattered with freckles and tangled, blond eyelashes. Their teeth were all sorts of crooked and yellowed, their noses knobby like their father’s. She’d taken after her maternal grandmother, who had been equally as beautiful. Men would eye her as she walked past, whistling low and grabbing at her whenever she came too close. She’d learned, from a young age, to fear such instances. An elder brother was always forced to accompany her during errands. She grew to hate her beauty, but not in a petulant, spoiled sort of way. No, Brigid wished to dissolve into the sky, to not be noticed by anyone, to be free to do as she pleased.
And then, Brian O’Sullivan caught wind of her charm and devastating looks. A man of wealth and prosperity, he was used to getting whatever he desired. To have a woman such as Brigid on his arm would complete his every ensemble, would be the gossip at every party.
He’d paid Brigid’s father rather handsomely, as they had no dowry to offer, and they took it with greed, never once shedding a tear. Brigid’s mother had scolded her for crying, for begging them to give all the money back, telling her she was indeed a selfish and foolish girl to look at such a grand gift and throw it away.
Brigid’s heart soon turned to ice, and then to stone. Her husband was more robust than she had hoped, and their wedding night had been nothing short of a nightmare. Long gone were her childish dreams of a knight in shining armor sweeping her off her feet and romanticizing her. Her reality, instead, was a stout, shrewd man who enjoyed his whisky each evening that he would polish off by satisfying himself in her. It was a wonder she’d never conceived a child, but she was altogether grateful. If she’d had life her way, she’d never have a little beast to tend to.
It was a shame, for poor Brigid, to have never learned the love of a true man. Instead, she’d grown to resent them even more, which helped to mask her underlying fear of them. She’d learned what not to say to her dear husband, for his beatings were just as cruel as his rapacious lovemaking. In fact, she dared not speak at all in his presence, for being called stupid was far worse, in her mind, than being called a whore.
And so, she stood atop the grassy hill, donning a midnight dress and matching veil. No one cried at his funeral. No one would miss such a pompous bastard, save for her mother and father. She’d already attempted to come home, but they’d refused. Her mother was with child yet again. They couldn’t afford to take in a widow as well. She smirked down at the grey headstone, wishing to spit upon it, but her late husband’s aunt stood behind her. A Parisian woman, and the only one who’d offered her some bit of help in the form of a home and work.
Perhaps the city would be a welcome change, but Brigid knew she’d miss the green, rolling hills, the dominate clouds heavy with rain. Ireland was in her blood, as it always would be.
One thing was for absolute certain in her mind, though; she would never again marry, not even if the alternative was death.