Chapter 7 pt. B
I remember the morning that Elaine left again. It was dreary. The snow had turned into slush. It made me feel awful. The sky was grey. The Fortress was cold. And to top it all off my wife decided to leave the Shire again. What a great morning. I wasn’t mad at her for leaving really. I was only mad at her for not telling me or anyone else, for that matter, where she was going. What if something happened to her? We wouldn’t know where she was and so I wouldn’t know where to even begin looking for her.
I was also interested in what she was doing in Cadia. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t anything particularly interesting in Cadia. So I decided to follow her to Cadia. The Carriage Driver certainly was surprised when I told him to take her. I was just going to indiscreetly follow them.
And that’s what I did.
I’m kind of ashamed to admit it but I followed my wife for a day on a carriage to Cadia. No windows were allowing her to see me. The Carriage Driver saw me. He kept my secret. I’m thankful to him for that. It would be very embarrassing to have to explain to Elaine why I was following her to Cadia.
Mostly for the whole day, we were in the Carriage I remember keeping to myself. There’s a window that you can open to have a conversation with the driver but I didn’t use it much. I was stuck in my head, wondering about all the possible things I could find in Cadia. I didn’t want to think about it too much because my mind kept wandering to the possibility of an affair going on. I pushed the idea from my head because it was ludicrous. First of all, who would she even have an affair with? Secondly, why then? It was our tenth anniversary that year and we had rekindled our old fire. So it wasn’t like we were at odds with one another. At least, I don’t think we were at odds. The whole idea was laughable but still, it was never far from my mind.
Leaving me alone with my thoughts for 18 hours didn’t help either. Whenever I closed my eyes I kept seeing Elaine, my beautiful, sweet Elaine, with another man. It always made me sick to my stomach. Perhaps what really was going down on the trips to Cadia was worse. I almost would have preferred her to be having an affair. At least an affair was something I fully understood.
We arrived in Cadia in the early morning. No one in the village was awake yet. The birds had just started singing. It was a beautiful day, as opposed to the awfully dreary day we had yesterday. As we followed the first carriage deeper into the town I began feeling nauseous. My gut twisted and churned. I wasn’t sure if I was going to lose what little I had eaten yesterday or not so I emptied my satchel on the seat beside me and held the empty bag on my lap.
Ahead of our carriage, the one Elaine was in stopped. The Carriage Driver got off and opened the door for Elaine. She thanked him and handed him a few gold coins. The Driver bowed and drove the carriage off. I didn’t understand why Elaine had got out here. In the beginning, I wasn’t entirely sure it was Elaine. When we departed Fyn she was wearing an expensive dress, like the ones she wears daily. When she got out of the carriage this time she was wearing a worn-out light purple dress. It wasn’t fancy or elegant in any way. It sort of reminded me of a plain nightgown she would wear to sleep. The dress didn’t have any ruffles, lace, ribbons, or anything that might have set her apart from the village men, Over her dress she wore a grey shawl. Like the dress, it wasn’t overly expensive either. It didn’t look particularly warm or soft. It was just simple grey. She hid her beautiful Golden hair in a white bonnet.
I then understood why she did what she did. She wanted to blend in with the village men. Suddenly I couldn’t believe how idiotic I had been. I was wearing a coat. I have my hair combed and nice. I’m wearing a nice shirt. There’s no way I was going to be able to move undercover to observe Elaine. I would draw too much attention to myself. I quickly took off my jacket and shirt until I was dressed in my undershirt and slacks. The slacks probably wouldn’t be overly noticeable but my boots were. They were too nice and new to be village men’s. I opened the window to talk to my Carriage Driver.
“I need a favor,” I told him.
The Driver turned around in his seat, “Of course, Ene. What do you need?”
“I need to trade shoes with you.”
The Driver made a face. I knew the request was odd, I just hoped that he wouldn’t question it.
“Of course Ene.” He responded.
I breathed out a sigh of relief. He pushed his dirty, beaten down, brown boots through the window and they fell in the seat beneath it. I quickly pulled my own boots off and handed them to the Driver through the window.
I then pulled on the Driver’s boots and raced out of the Carriage. As I was running, I heard the Driver’s voice.
“When do you need the shoes back?!” He yelled.
“Keep them!” I responded.
I had a hundred pairs at the Fortress. I wasn’t going to miss one pair of boots. I saw myself in the windows of the shops. From a day in the carriage, I looked disheveled. Perhaps I could pull this village man facade off. Without the extra bulk of my shirt and jacket, I looked scrawny for a royal but well-fed for a Village man. I hoped no one would notice too much. I caught sight of Elaine in her Village guise and so I slowed down. I stopped in front of a store and stared at the window. The streets were dusty and so dust coated the back of my slacks. I ran my hands through my curls to make them look in disarray.
Satisfied with my look I slumped my shoulders and tried my best to shed my poised walk. I walked slowly to try to make it appear that I was hungry or weak. I was neither but most village men were either or and I needed to blend in.
Elaine paused on a street corner and I was afraid she’d look back. To others, I might look like I belonged walking down the streets of Cadia, but Elaine would recognize me no matter how much dirt I put on myself. Luckily she continued forward. I put more distance between myself and Elaine, so if she looked back she might not even recognize me because of the distance.
Elaine glanced back towards me. I froze. She saw me. This was it. I was done for. She would walk back and she would catch me. I blew it. Even with the disguise she still recognized me. I should just run away now. Then Elaine looked away. She continued walking forward. It was like nothing happened. Elaine was continuing to her destination. I got over my surprise and continued to follow her.
Elaine finally stopped in front of a small shop. It wasn’t anything special. There were a few flowers in window boxes. There was a small sign above the door. Like I said, nothing special. I wasn’t close enough to read the sign. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to read the sign. All I was thinking about was a village-man kissing my wife. I couldn’t push the thought from my mind. Elaine was here with a village man. She was having an affair. No. That can’t possibly be true.
It wasn’t. I still wish it was.
I walked up to the Shop. Over the door hung a small sign, decorated with painted flowers. It was a cute little place. It obviously didn’t get many customers, but it wasn’t shabby. The sign said “Ms. Genevieve’s Cleansings” and then in smaller words “and sanctuary”.
I didn’t believe it for a second. A cleansing? I personally didn’t believe in all the witches. I didn’t think Elaine did either but here she was, in a witch shop. There’s another problem with this as well. Why did she go all the way to Cadia for a cleansing? We have our fair share of witches in Fyn who will do “magic” for you at the right price. This has to be a set up of some sort. I looked around the street. I was trying to see if Elaine was hidden in an alleyway of some sort, laughing at me.
I didn’t see her. There was hardly anyone in the square. A street vendor was selling some sort of fruits. Savs were standing at their station. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
The Savs began walking towards me.
Of course, I thought bitterly, Elaine hired Savs to tell me the gig was up.
Both of them had awful frowns etched into their faces. Of course, she hired two of our biggest ones, no doubt to scare me a little. Perhaps they’re to teach me a lesson about following her. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just come out of “Ms. Genevieve’s Cleansings” to confront me herself. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m never doing this again. Next time, Elaine can keep her secrets. This was too much of a hassle.
The Savs reached me and I sighed audibly.
“Something funny, kid?” One of them grumbled.
Well, that was just disrespectful. I wasn’t very tall, I was pretty scrawny and I shaved my beard so I was well aware I looked years younger than I was. Elaine knew I hated being referred to as young because I found it disrespectful. Haha, very funny Elaine. I was sure she’s laughing somewhere.
“No. Tell my wife, she got me. I’ll just go back to Fyn.” I rolled my eyes.
“I don’t think you will.” One of them pushed me back into an alleyway.
“Did Elaine tell you to do this? I knew she would be mad but not this mad.” My heart started pounding as the two backed me deeper into the alleyway.
“For whatever she told you, please remember that I’m still the Ene.” My back hit the alley wall and had started to wonder if they were really working for Elaine. This was getting too violent to Elaine’s doing.
One of the Savs snorted, “If you are an Ene, then I must be the Omn.”
“You may want to rethink what you are about to do,” I warned the two of them.
“And why is that, kid?” The bigger more burly one emphasized the word kid. He was really beginning to piss me off.
“I told you, I’m the Ene of Fyn.” I continued calmly.
I don’t remember what he said next but it was something snarky. I remember feeling absolutely done with them. If they didn’t believe me then, they were about to. I grabbed the hem of my shirt to expose the left side of my chest. On my chest, like all the rulers of Fyn, was a unique scar, a Fortaí. I wasn’t sure if this Sav would recognize the symbol but I knew that he would at least know that only rulers get brandings like this.
“Ene.” They sank to their knees.
I just pushed past them and back to the shop. I was about to walk back out into the street but Elaine suddenly walked out of “Ms. Genevieve’s Cleansings”. I ducked back into the alley and waited for her to leave. Elaine looked around the square as if to make sure the coast was clear and then she walked away. I had to make a decision right then and there. I could follow Elaine to see where she is going and potentially getting caught. I could also stay here and figure out what is going on with “Ms. Genevieve’s Cleansings”.
I decided to stay. This little shop intrigued me. It wasn’t overly fancy. In fact, it looked a little rundown. It made me curious as to why Elaine would go in there. I pushed open the door and took a look inside.
I remember the inside of the shop was like the outside of the shop. It wasn’t beautiful, but it wasn’t horrendous either. There was a shelf on the sidewall with bottles and pots. In the middle of the room was a shabby old carpet that had probably once been red. In the corner were piled upon piles of paper. Then on top of a creaky old table was a thick leather book. As I said, it was beautiful, but it wasn’t awful either.
“Cora? Did you forget something?”
I was confused when Ms. Genevieve called that name but I soon learned that Elaine had been seeing her under a pseudonym.
“No. Sorry miss but I’m not ‘Cora’” The name definitely felt weird on my tongue.
Elaine didn’t look like a Cora at all.
“Oh. I apologize.” Ms. Genevieve entered the room. “My last client just left. I guess I wasn’t expecting another so soon!”
“No. No worries.” I assured her.
Ms. Genevieve was not what I expected. She was wearing a worn dark blue dress. She was a lot younger than I’d imagined her. She appeared nearly my age, if not younger. The next thing I noticed was her long straight hair. It reminded me of Elaine’s, even though it was inky black instead of Elaine’s Auburn.
“Right,” She continued again. “So what are you in for?”
“I was wondering if you could help me out with a little problem I’ve been having.” I started, unsure of exactly where I was going.
“If I can help, I will.” Genevieve smiled and I noticed how her dark eyes sparkled.
“Oh, I know you can help. You see my wife is having a hard time staying put. She leaves on long vacations. I don’t care about her trips out of town, but I’m curious to know why.” I responded intriguingly.
“Sir, I don’t see how I can help with that. I’m a witch, not a seer.” Genevieve laughed nervously.
“But you know my wife. Her name is Elaine, of course, you know her as Cora. I want to know why she comes here.”
“Sir, I’m afraid I cannot answer that question for you.” Genevieve cautiously took a step behind the table.
Apparently “Cora” has talked about me to this woman.
“That’s where you are wrong. You told me you would help me if you could.” I’m not proud of my methods to get her to talk but I’m proud of my results.
“Right, sir, but I can’t. Client confidentiality.” Miss Genevieve was nearly stumbling over her words at this point.
What had Elaine said to have scared her so much? Or maybe she was scared of what Elaine might do if she told. Elaine was a Sor of course. But wait, Elaine went under a different name. What had she said?
“ Well Genevieve, I’m the Ene of an entire Shire. I promise you this, you won’t get in trouble if you tell me what Elaine was here for.” I assured her.
Genevieve glanced around the room. She seemed to be contemplating but I didn’t really want this to go on for longer than it needed too.
“Tell you what, as a condolence gift for making you break your promise to your client, my wife, I’ll buy you a new store. It will be in a better part of town, and you’ll get more customers. How does that sound?”
“Really?” Miss Genevieve looked like she didn’t believe me.
“I swear it on the Omn,” I promised.
Ms. Genevieve’s eyes glittered with the possibility of getting a new store. I could tell she was ready to give up Elaine’s secrets.
“Okay. It’s awful too.” Genevieve sat down at the table.
“Oh do pray to tell.” I urged her forward.
Ms. Genevieve fiddled with a glass of some concoction, “So do you know what a Dev is?”
“Of course I do.” I may not believe in witchcraft but I at least know basic terminology. Who did she take me for, a street beggar? Well, I guess how I was dressed wasn’t helping my case.
“She has one in her head.” Genevieve winced, “It’s been in there for a while by the sound of it. It’s sitting in her head messing with it. It gives her episodes, causing her to blackout for hours, giving her splitting headaches. All those kinds of things. She came to me two weeks ago to try and find out what it is. I’ve planned out a whole schedule of cleansings for her to do. Today was her first one. We’ll find out if it did any good the next time she visits.” Genevieve spilled Elaine’s secrets out in front of me.
I felt disconsolate. I have known about Devs. I suppose I didn’t believe they existed but it does explain all of Elaine’s odd behavior. Missing Lucian’s birthday, it was probably an episode. It explained her pulling away.
What made me feel even worse was that from what I’d heard, getting that thing in your head was practically a death sentence. I had never heard any stories where someone survived possession of one. Poor Elaine. She had been going through this for months, probably, and I had no idea. I felt like an awful husband.
“Your treatments.” I whispered, “What do they do?”
“The cleansings?” She seemed a little surprised I was speaking to her, “They detoxify and then purify your body and mind. The Devs hate it. If you do it for long enough they might leave before they gain total control.”
“Well, it takes a lot of work to get rid of one. But the least the cleansings will do is slow down the Dev and give you peace in mind.”
“You don’t know if it is working for Elaine yet?” I asked.
Ms. Genevieve shook her head. I was crestfallen. I came here for answers. I came here to find peace in mind. I came here to find Elaine in bed with another man. I didn’t come here to find out she’s dying.
So that was the story of the worst day of my life. However, it has led me to today. Earlier this morning, to be exact. I got back to Fyn late last night. I made sure that Elaine would get home a few hours earlier than I did, so as not to raise suspicion. When I got back to the Fortress, Elaine was already asleep. I decided it would do me some good to get real sleep tonight. I hadn’t slept well in nearly four days and I might as well have gone mad. I became suspicious and presumptuous. It wasn’t a pretty combination, I can assure you that.
Besides, I had an important conversation to be had with my wife. I wanted to know how we would proceed with this information I now know.
Last night I didn’t sleep peacefully. I tossed and turned in the anticipation of confronting Elaine about the worrisome things I learned from Ms. Genevieve. As I went about falling in and out of dreams, Elaine slept peacefully beside me.
I didn’t understand how she could do so. Elaine knew she was dying. She had known for weeks. I’m sure she’s at least suspected so for a few months. Yet still, she was sleeping so deeply next to me. She didn’t even wake as I confronted my crisis in the late hours of the night. I wish I could be as carefree as she was. Sadly I was plagued by thoughts of her death and what I would do as a single parent.
If Elaine died, I would have to raise my son all by myself. I don’t know if I could do that. Lucian had a bond with his mother. A bond that I couldn’t touch, even if I wanted to. I don’t want to, of course, because Elaine is a better person than I am. I would much rather have Lucian be like Elaine than me. I then became worried that living with me and only me would corrupt my son.
I had executed dozens of people. I had done so for the simple reason of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had done all of this. I don’t want this to be the life for my son. I could never imagine Lucian standing on the balcony above the gallows, just watching as a man he sentenced to death swayed in the wind. How could my son, the boy who would rather sit in the Library reading than go to his own birthday party, sentenced a man to death? My influence, that’s how.
I wonder if my father has ever thought of this. If he looked at himself and wondered if his son would turn out the way he did. As it turns out, I did. In more recent years I have begun looking at myself as my 15-year-old self might have. This self is still petrified by his father’s harsh rule and dictatorship. This self-made a promise to never rule as he did. Somewhere along the line, something changed. My father’s rule wasn’t as harsh in the desensitized eyes of a young aristocrat. What was one death of a servant to me? Something to barely even think about.
It’s such a different view than the one I had as a young child. As a child, the servants were all I knew. They were my friends, my teachers, the people who raised me to be who I was. As an adult, all that faded away. They were beneath me. My friends became my enemies that I wanted to keep close. My teachers were old Aristocrats with a strong hand over their government. The people who raised me were dead and gone. As was I.
I was gone because I was a completely different person. Somewhere along the line I stopped fighting for the humanizing of the working class and became the dictators I hated. This filled me with so much self-loathing I could hardly stand it. Somewhere deep inside me I still believe the things I fought for. Somewhere so deep that I can’t find it anymore. I know it’s there, just as my wife knew that the thing was in her head. Even if she hadn’t been told professionally. I know as she knew. I won’t tell anybody because I still need to be seen as strong. Besides, it was only a small part of me.
Anyway, I didn’t sleep well the night before. I kept thinking about what could happen during this conversation. When Elaine woke up in the morning, I was already awake. I had been sitting in the bed contemplating what I would say for hours. Still, after all that thinking I could barely force out a simple word that could be said for all my troubles and worries.
Elaine turned in our bed and looked at me. She studied my face intently, trying to figure out what exactly I meant. I didn’t know what I meant, to be honest. I had many questions in my mind that began with that word.
Why did this happen?
Why didn’t she tell me?
Why must this happen to me?
Why is she dying?
Why was the love of my life left?
Why did I have to find out?
Elaine tilted her head in a question of her own. She didn’t understand it either.
“What are you talking about, Edmond?” She laughed a little to break the thick tension between us.
“I know.” I couldn’t seem to force any more words out.
Elaine smiled, still confused, “Know what?”
It seemed nearly impossible to talk to her about it. I was convinced I was going to break down before I got out of all the words I needed too. How could I have this conversation with her? It doesn’t seem fair to me.
“I know everything,” I responded despondently.
Elaine’s face fell. She suddenly appeared to be lost in her thoughts. Slowly she pulled her knees up to her chest for comfort.
“What do you know?” She whispered.
“I know about Ms. Genevieve. I know why you see her.”
“Then you know everything.” Elaine seemed to pull away from me.
She was sitting not a foot away but it seemed like we were on opposite sides of the world. Her entire demeanor changed. She was suddenly distant and cold. It was a side of my wife I had never seen before, even though we had been married for 10 years.
We sat in a silence that seemed to consume us. I needed to break it or else I was afraid I was going to lose my courage to speak to her.
“H-how?” I stumbled originally as my voice was breaking, “How could this have happened? I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t,” Elaine responded but she seemed to be years away.
“Can you help me understand?”
Elaine sighed, “I knew this day would come eventually.” She muttered quietly. “There’s something you should know about my family.”
I was kind of morbidly interested in where this was going.
“You’ve met my parents, right?” Elaine asked.
That was an odd question to me. We saw them every year for Elaine’s birthday, but by the way, she spoke I somehow knew there was a twist on it. I hesitantly responded “Yes.”
“Wrong. My father died when I was 4.” Elaine’s voice seemed nearly emotionless.
It was news for me. I nearly didn’t process it when she first told me. She waited for it to actually sink in before continuing.
“W-wait a minute, please. Did he die? Who are we meeting for dinner on your birthday then?” There was no way he was dead. It seemed so improbable. I kept waiting for Elaine to say, “I got you! He’s alive and well.” She never said it. She never even broke out of her serious expression.
“The man you met was my uncle, who had a wife who died 12 years before that.”
“Wait for a second-” I interrupted her.
“My uncle’s wife was my aunt, my father’s older sister.”
“I-Elaine, what are you saying?” My mind refused to process this information. All I knew about her family seemed to be wrong.
“It’s hereditary. Whatever it really is, it’s hereditary!” Elaine burst into tears.
For a minute I didn’t understand why she was freaking out. Then it dawned on me and the answer was horrible. Lucian. Our little 8-year-old son was susceptible to whatever happened to her family.
Suddenly everything seemed to make sense. Elaine’s protests against having a child. I remember fighting with her about it. We were nearly two years into our marriage and my parents were getting anxious about us having an heir. I begged Elaine to have a child but she refused. I told her we needed an heir to continue our reign. She offered to adopt one of the children off the street. My pride made me disgusted with her. I feel awful about it now, but I told her that it would never really be our child. After a drunken night, Elaine got pregnant. After Lucian was born, I remember Elaine, who was prone to spending nights standing over Lucian’s cradle. Most nights she was carrying a knife. I thought nothing of it at the time because I could never picture Elaine, the sweetest girl I had ever met, harming anything, let alone her own child.
She must have been plagued by thoughts of his future, as I am right now.
“Lucian?” I croaked out.
Elaine nodded and sank into my chest. She filled my chest with body wracking sobs. She shivered so intensely in my arms and I had to hold her tightly. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes. My wife was dying. My beautiful wife. My son was going to die. My son was cursed with whatever it was. The worst part was there was nothing I could do to help either of them. I had to sit on the sidelines, helpless.
“The day I found out I was pregnant was the worst day of my life,” Elaine whispered into my chest.
“I know, I know.” I straightened her hair against her head.
“I knew I had less time to live than you. I knew and I had accepted it. I hadn’t accepted it for any children. I figured that if I didn’t have kids then they wouldn’t have to go through the pain my father went through.” She seemed to be coming to terms with something but I had no clue what it could be.
“I decided that Lucian couldn’t live to go through that pain. I was going to kill him.” Elaine responded dejectedly.
My eyes went wide. I prayed she couldn’t see it in the low light.
“I almost did.” Elaine laughed bitterly, “I almost killed my son. I’m reminded of it every time I see him.”
The scar. For as long as I could remember, Lucian had a jagged scar on his neck. I had no idea where it could have come from. I didn’t remember him getting hurt. I didn’t even remember while it was healing. Still, it was there. It came from one of Elaine’s murder attempts. I froze underneath her. I knew she realized it because she stopped too. Elaine looked up at me with sad eyes.
“You don’t understand, Edmond.” She responded, desolated. “You don’t understand the pain that goes with it. I was just trying to save him from it. I didn’t want him to be in pain for that long.”
“You almost killed him. He’s your son.” I stammered. I didn’t understand how she could have even made that mark on our infant son.
“I didn’t.” She protested, “I couldn’t. I was selfish. I loved him and I couldn’t bear the guilt if he had died that night. I couldn’t. As Lucian got older and older it made it even harder for me to know what was going to happen to him.”
“I don’t believe it. I can’t. My son isn’t going to die.” I insisted.
“That’s what I thought, Edmond. I thought I was going to be a special one. I was going to be the one that it didn’t infect. Look at me now. I’m tired and I just woke up. I’m too skinny to possibly be healthy. My skin is nearly translucent. There are no special ones for this.”
This was worse than I could have imagined. I spiraled that day. I didn’t get ready. I didn’t attend any of the meetings. I couldn’t eat. Everything in my life seemed to be pulled from my grasp. Nothing seemed important to me. How could anything be important when I now knew that both my wife and my son had a death sentence on their heads. Instead of doing my duties as the ruler, I stayed in my bedroom, staring out the window. Elaine went on with her day. She got dressed and ready. She put a smile on her face and went about her business.
She dressed Lucian for his classes. She consulted the cook for the consulate dinner we were having two weeks from now. She probably tended to her roses that she was just beginning to grow for this season. I wondered morbidly if she’d see them grow. I don’t have a time frame on this. She could die next week or next year. I don’t know.
Me, I was frozen by the awful news. It was like if I moved time would pass again. Time would pass, and Lucian would get older. Time would pass, and Elaine would grow nearer to the end of her life. Time would pass, and I would get closer to having to live alone because my wife and son would be gone. What’s the point of life if the only people you love are leaving you?
Exactly, there is no point.