Chapter 8 pt B
It’s getting worse. Right now, I am writing this while Elaine is sleeping. She had a hard day. It all began when we were organizing another ball this year. Elaine and I were sampling food because I didn’t have anything better to do, and that’s what Elaine was doing today. After she opened up about her illness that night, I decided I needed to spend as much time with her as possible.
Elaine seemed to have great faith in Miss Genevieve, but I didn’t have her belief. I still think that Genevieve is a sham. I think she is poisoning Elaine. She’s been more tired than usual, and I don’t know whether to point it at Genevieve or Elaine’s illness. I would rather not point fingers at anyone. I would rather Elaine live a long, happy life without this thing taking over her. Of course, we can’t all get what we want.
I feel bad hiding this from Lucian. He has caught on that Elaine is sick. He brings her cups of tea from the kitchen. Elaine tells him they make her feel better, but I don’t think I’ve seen her drink any of them. I think she’s beginning to lose her appetite. She hasn’t been eating as much as she should.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Something has changed. We were sitting in the kitchen, watching the cooks make the food as usual. Suddenly Elaine went pale as snow. She braced herself on the counter. I reached over for her, and she grabbed my hand and squeezed it hard.
“Elaine, what is wrong?” I asked her quickly.
She didn’t answer me. Instead, she leaned forward in more pain.
“Ene Kreed? Is the Sor okay? Was it the food? I’m so sorry! Please don’t fire me!” One of the cooks noticed her and began pleading with me.
I wasn’t ready to fire someone. I would have to contemplate it some more. Right now, my entire focus was on Elaine. She was in pain, and nothing was more important to me than her.
“It’s too loud in here.” Elaine moaned.
I brushed her hair out of her face and scooped her up. She wasn’t well enough to be out here. Quickly I took Elaine out of the kitchen, and the cook called after me, “So I still get to keep my job?”
My wife was in a state of panic, and all this person could think about was their job. I was beginning to wonder if I should fire her. After all, I didn’t want a narcissistic personality as a part of my staff. I could see many issues with that.
I carried Elaine up to our bedroom as quickly as I could. It wasn’t that hard. Elaine had lost a lot of weight in the past few months. It was like I was carrying Lucian. That couldn’t have been healthy. I decided I would monitor her food intake from then on out. I gently put her down on the bed.
Elaine was feverish. She was shaking and shivering.
“Can you please try to tell me what’s wrong?” I asked her quietly.
Elaine struggled up into a sitting position on the bed. She pressed her fingertips to her temple as if she was trying to crush her head. I began to understand how she got the marks on her forehead. They were her fingernails digging into her forehead.
Her voice was shaky, but she responded to me this time, “My head feels like it’s being crushed.”
Elaine stopped digging her fingernails into her head and resorted to pushing her head in. She groaned as another wave of pain rolled over her.
“Elaine, what is happening to you?”
“I’m dying, Edmond!” She yelled at me.
She had said the words. She hadn’t said the words before. It sounded so final and irrevocable. She had already decided there was nothing I could do to help her. Nothing that I could do to help her situation at all. Still, she was wrong. I knew she was dying, but the least I could do was make her comfortable.
Elaine started shaking harder as a third wave hit her.
“What is happening? How can I help you?”
“Stop!” She screamed.
Her voice took me aback. Elaine had never yelled at me before. She must have been in serious pain.
She started pulling at her dress as she was shaking. She couldn’t really do anything. All she was doing was getting more and more frantic as her groans got louder. Finally, I had to pin her arms to the bed so she would calm down.
“What would you like me to do?” I asked, and she winced as if my voice was causing her physical pain. If that was the case, then I truly felt awful for her.
“Get this dress off me!” She cried as she struggled against my hands.
“Turn over, ’Laine,” I whispered, and she shivered and struggled as she turned so she could lay back up on the bed.
I positioned myself on her legs so she wouldn’t thrash and hurt herself more. I still don’t know what was happening to her. I feel awful, but I was going to help her as much as I can.
From the top of her dress, I started untying the strings. From underneath me, Elaine shrieked in pain. Her breathing became frantic, and I quickly pulled the top layer of her dress off.
“Listen, Laine. It will be over soon. You will be okay.” I brushed her hair out of her face and accidentally touched her cheek. It was wet with tears. My poor wife.
The corset was a little more difficult. It was tied really tightly. I can understand why she was trying to take off the dress. If I was in pain like she was, I don’t think I would have wanted to be wearing a corset. The corset wasn’t coming off, so I pulled my dagger out of my belt and cut through the corset to pull it off.
Elaine took a big breath now that she had full function of her lungs. She also had a full range of motion, and she began clawing at her face again.
“Elaine! Stop it!” I pinned her hands to the bed once again.
I didn’t want her hurting herself when she is in something like this. I didn’t want her to be in more pain when this ended. Elaine fought against me, but she didn’t have the power to stop me. Her not eating was backfiring on her.
“Let me go!” She moaned.
Her pleading really affected me. I waited for a few seconds. Elaine freed her hands, and they went directly to her ears. She clutched them as if she was trying to keep a sound out. I don’t know what she heard, but it must have been awful.
“Stop! Stop it!” She screamed.
“What! What do you hear?” I demanded.
Elaine’s hand swept backward, and she started hitting me, “Stop talking!” She growled.
I kept my mouth shut and tried to catch her hands. They were hyperactive as she was working through another wave of pain.
She then began shrieking words I couldn’t make out. I wasn’t entirely sure if she was even saying words. She squirmed and struggled, but I wasn’t letting go of her hands. She wasn’t going to hurt herself even more than she already had.
Her screams rose to another level of intensity. They were beginning to sound demonic. I had never known she had vocals like that before.
“LET ME GO!” She screamed.
Her voice was so loud and pain-filled that I wasn’t entirely sure that was what she was saying, but it made the most sense.
“Ene Kreed! What is going on here?” A servant walked into our room.
I suddenly saw what this Servant was seeing. Elaine was screaming in pain while I had her pinned to the mattress. I have to admit it wasn’t looking so great for me. The situation probably looked awful out of context. It is horrible with context as well, but it wasn’t as bad.
“Leave!” I yelled at him.
“What are you doing to the Sor!?” The servant demanded.
At least he was trying to help his Sor. Good for him. It was too bad he doesn’t have the context of the situation.
“Saving her from herself. Leave!” I demanded.
“My Lady! Do you need help!” He yelled at her, and she continued her screams.
“Leave!” She demanded.
The servant looked confused. Poor man. He didn’t understand what was going on here.
“But. Sor Elaine, don’t you need help?” He asked with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Shut up and leave!” She demanded.
The servant’s eyebrows shot upward. He really didn’t understand what was happening. He quickly retreated out of the room. We were going to have to take care of that somehow. I don’t really know what I could say to explain what was happening.
Elaine slowed shaking as she exhausted herself. I could tell she was still in pain by the expression on her face, but at least she wasn’t screaming anymore. Slowly but surely, Elaine fell into a deep sleep.
I got up off her legs and collapsed beside her. That was exhausting, and I wasn’t even the person in pain. Elaine looked at peace at last. She was very still, and for a brief, terrifying moment, I thought the worst had happened. I thought she had died.
I quickly flipped her to see if she was breathing. I wasn’t careful with her, and so when I saw she was indeed breathing, I thought I had woken her up. Her breathing stalled for a minute, and I was afraid she would start her awful screams of pain again. Then her breathing settled once again. She fell to sleep once again.
When she was sleeping again, I slumped against the headboard. This was exhausting, and it wasn’t even happening to me. I realized two truths today. Elaine was in much more pain than she was letting on, and that I would do anything to make sure she stayed out of pain. That was exhausting, but it was even more emotionally taxing than anything else I have ever been through.
Now that I’ve seen first hand the pain she is in, I understand. I understand why she is risking poison for this supposed cure that Miss Genevieve has. It seems like a win-win for her. Supposing it is a cure for whatever is wrong with Elaine, then she gets better and lives a long, happy life. If it is a sort of poison, then I suppose it could be a cure as well, in a more morbid sense. It will take away the pain. All pain.
Either way, she won’t have episodes like this one anymore.
I had to shove the thought out of my head. If I accepted either option, then I was accepting the fact that the other one could be true. It’s easier to deny everything than accept anything else.
How could I possibly live without her? How could I raise a child without her? If I am the government, then Elaine is the foundation. Without Elaine as the foundation, the government will fall, I will fall. Where would that leave the rest of us? Picking up the shambles until Lucian forms a new government with his Sor. I could never imagine that. Lucian, the head of a government. He’s too young.
Of course. He ends his journal entry with a bash at me. I was 8 years old and he was already convinced that I wasn’t going to be a good ruler. I threw the book back on the table behind me. I was already sick of my father and I hadn’t seen him today. I wasn’t cold anymore. I had been sitting in front of the fireplace for far too long. I stripped off my overcoat and sat down in a chair near the fire.
I knew exactly what my mother was going through that day. The pain and her screams resonated with me. I remember the few times it had happened to me before. The first time when we were underground. The second time before we were to go to my engagement ball. With the first one, I had Brinley next to me. The second time I was alone. It was infinitely worse. I can’t even describe what it was like. It felt like my entire being was being torn apart. Or burned away. The fire was the worst in my head. My senses were overwhelmed. I was in indescribable pain and every little pore was secreting sweat that might as well have been blood with the pain I was in. The worst part was the noise. Oh, the noise. It made me want to die. For a while, I thought I somehow was dead. I was convinced that Brinley was right and I had been sent to Malcens, the lowest afterlife for the scoundrels and scum.
The door opened and it shook me out of my thoughts. I looked up and Brinley was standing there. She seemed frozen. She was holding a bag of something in her right hand and her white fan in her left hand. She blinked as if she was trying to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating. Without making a sound, Brinley sets her bag down. We stare at each other. She doesn’t break our eye contact. I don’t dare to look away. I was trying to disprove something I had said earlier. I could look her in the eye. At this moment I felt like I had nothing to fear and nothing to hide.
Brinley sets down her fan on the dresser and looks back at me. Her mouth was pressed into a thin line. She was mad. It didn’t matter to me. I knew I deserved it. I don’t want to make it up to her. I want her to be mad at me. I want to be reassured that I’m in the wrong. I need to make sure that she holds me accountable for my terrible actions.
Brinley quietly sits down in the chair beside me. Her face was stone. There was no emotion written on her face. I didn’t know what was going on in her head. I wanted her to yell at me, scream at me. Anything. I turned my head and looked at her more closely.
Her hair was disheveled. It was wavy from the braid it was in not even an hour ago. She was angry with me. I could tell. She runs her hands through her hair when she is upset. You could barely tell before but now that she was sitting in the firelight I could see tear trails down her face. Oh, Brinley, why do you cry over me? I know you aren’t perfect but I have been awful to you. I have hurt you in ways you can’t even imagine yet.
Brinley met my eyes once again. Her bottom lip was trembling. She was trying to keep herself from crying or yelling. I couldn’t tell you.
“Where were you?” Her face was still and her voice was quiet.
My father said that seeing his wife in physical pain was the worst thing he has ever seen but I wonder if he has ever felt the lasting pain of seeing your wife in emotional agony. The physical pain fades with time but the pain my wife is in is hard to forget.
Unlike my wife, I wasn’t emotionless. I could feel tears prick at the backs of my eyes. I knew they were going to spill over sometime soon. Brinley continued trembling.
“Where were you?” She asked again but this time I could hear the tears in her eyes.
I knew this wasn’t just about me not being present for Ronin’s wedding. It was a major part of it, yes, but it wasn’t the whole story.
She had asked where I was. It could be applied to the wedding but it also could be applied to our lives together. Where was I? I was away. I lived right next to her of course. I slept in the same bed as her. We lived the same lives in front of a crowd. It was still a lie. Happy newlyweds? No. That could never be us, although we both want it to be. My Paranoia cuts through our relationship like a knife. Brinley wants to be strong, so she never lets me see how she is hurting. We don’t soften our hardened hearts for each other.
“Where were you?” Out of the left corner of her eye, I could see the first tear fall. Pain. The first tear out of the left eye means pain.
I looked at her more intently. I don’t know what to say. Even the smallest intake of breath hurt me like a knife.
“ANSWER ME!” She screams.
Raw pain and torment were sharp but Brinley’s shriek was sharper.
“I don’t know,” I whispered.
Brinley blinked like she couldn’t believe what I was saying, “You don’t know?”
I shook my head. I knew but I didn’t know how to put it in words or if it would help anything at all. Maybe it would make everything worse. Brinley looked over at the guitar on the floor by the fireplace.
“What is that?” She asked as she looked at the guitar.
My shame caused me to break her eye contact, “A wedding present.”
“A wedding present?! For a wedding that you didn’t even go to!”
She was right. This was a pathetic attempt to get him not to resent me from here on out. Pitiful really. A fool’s delusion.
“Where were you, Lucian?” Brinley had tears running down her face.
I’ve put this woman through a lot. She had every right to be angry at me. In fact, I wanted her to be angry at me. I had done her wrong and I deserved everything I got.
“I was gone,” I told her.
Brinley nodded. We weren’t talking about the wedding anymore. We were now just talking about our lives in general. I had hurt her and she was mad at me. We were far away unlike everyone else.
“I missed you,” Brinley whispered.
The next thing that happened went against everything I was trying to do.
“I missed you too.”
Brinley nodded and got up out of her seat. She seemed even more hurt than before. I got up quickly and caught her arm. Brinley looked at me as if she was waiting to see what I was going to do. I didn’t really know what I was going to do either. I would surprise both of us it would seem.
Brinley walked closer to me and I shuffled uncomfortably. We hadn’t been this close to each other in weeks. Now it was my turn to be confused at what she was doing. She inched closer and closer until I could hear her shallow breaths.
“This is my fault. Right?” Brinley asked me.
I really wasn’t expecting that. I always thought Brinley was angry with me for abandoning her for a reason she didn’t understand. I never thought she would blame herself. Here she was in front of me. Shaking and sputtering as she held the weight of our broken relationship over her head. No wonder she was avoiding me as well. She thought our falling out was her doing. It wasn’t. It was all my fault.
“How? Why would you think that?” I stammered.
It didn’t sit right with me that she was blaming herself. This was my fault. I knew it was my fault. Brinley blaming herself had no room in the mix.
“It’s because of our wedding? You didn’t really forgive me, did you? That’s why you are acting weird. That’s why you are avoiding me. Am I right?”
No. No! She is not right. This isn’t her fault.
I reached out for Brinley’s face. She flinched away, “Brin, this isn’t your fault.”
Brinley scoffed, “Yeah, right. This isn’t my fault. I only ruined our relationship on our wedding night.”
I clenched my hands. Why wasn’t she believing me? “No.” I insisted. “This isn’t your fault.”
“Well, who’s fault is it?”
I gritted my teeth. I was debating whether or not I should tell her. And if I do tell her something, what I should tell her.
“Mine,” I responded finally. “It’s my fault. It isn’t yours.”
Brinley rolled her eyes, “Why is it your fault?”
Because I don’t want to hurt you, I pushed you away. That is why it’s my fault. It’s never been your fault. It’s never been about you. Of course, you won’t believe me. I bit my tongue. What could I say to possibly convince her? I could tell the truth, but what kind of consequences could that have on her. I’ve read my father’s journals. Knowing about it turned him from a slightly clueless father to a resentful man who always blamed me. I didn’t want that to happen to Brinley. I didn’t want to tell her.
Brinley was standing there waiting. She wanted an answer to her question and I didn’t know how to give it to her.
“Brin, if you have ever trusted me,” I paused to swallow even though my mouth was unusually dry, “believe me when I tell you, this has never been about you.”
Her eyes fell downward. I knew this wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She probably wanted to hear something about a secret project or something that has caused me to lose focus. Anything but what the real answer to her question was.
“How am I supposed to believe that? How am I supposed to believe that it isn’t my fault when I don’t know what caused it?”
“Have faith, Brinley. This isn’t you.”
Brinley’s head still hung low. She still blamed herself more than anyone else. Regret hit me harder than I would have liked. I did all these things and I reasoned away all the regrets I should have had.
“Brinley, can you look at me?” I asked her quietly.
What was all this for? Revenge? Maybe. Anger? Definitely. Hurting her? Maybe at first. I accomplished my goal and now what do I have? A broken union that never had a chance to pretend they would defeat the odds. Defeat the inevitability that one day the people won’t be the same people they once were.
“Look at me!” I demanded.
Brinley’s eyes shot up and she stared at me. How dare she blame herself.
There is so much unresolved tension floating in this room. The tension was thick and heavy. I could nearly feel it moving around the room. It oozed around us as the air stood still. I held my breath. There was something in the air that whispered something big was about to happen. Brinley bit the inside of her lip as if she was trying to keep something in. Then she opened her mouth. No words fell out. Her eyes clouded and I knew that something in her broke. She was trying to keep it together but she failed.
“WHERE DID YOU GO?!” Brinley screamed.
Her voice was strained as it pained her to be having this conversation.
“Brinley- I,” There was no way to end the sentence. There were no correct words to fix this problem. The only hope I had was to bluff my way into an apology.
Brinley shook her head but it didn’t seem to be directed at me. Then she came storming over to me. Her shoes made loud noise against our stone floors and I wondered if anyone could hear us. Not many people were allowed in father’s tower but it became more lenient when Brinley and I moved into our room.
Brinley sighed before talking, “I promised myself that I would not let you off the hook. I promised that you weren’t going to get away with this. You’ve gotten away with everything else. Ignoring me for nearly two months. You went on a journey without me as soon as we got married. Is this marriage a joke to you? Do I really mean that little?”
I was about to answer but Brinley put her hand to my mouth to stop me.
“Actually don’t answer that. I don’t want to hear your answer. Still, after all of that, I love you. Show me that it all wasn’t a lie. That you truly do love me as you claimed. If you can’t do that, I’ll move out. I’ll move back into my old room and we can lead our separate lives. We don’t have to tell the public we’ve separated but we can.”
“I-” I shook my head slightly, “I don’t want to separate.”
“Then show me.”
I didn’t understand what she meant. How do I show her I love her? “How?”
“Like this,” Brinley reached up and gently guided my face towards hers.
And I kissed her. We shared a simple intimacy for the first time in weeks. I don’t count all the quick kisses on her cheek. Those were for the show. This time I feel something. It is only intimate if both people reciprocate. For the first time in a long time, we were truly together. Not just in the same room. Our minds were here with us.
This is it. This is what I’ve been missing. Maybe I should tell her what has been going on. My mom told my father what was happening. They went through everything together. I do not enjoy my father or his methods. I don’t like his constant pressuring. I’m not sure I like him as a person but I will give him one thing. He truly did love my mom. He helped her through the last few months of her life. The only thing he did wrong was he didn’t help her through her death. He couldn’t preserve her memory so he hid it away. Everything she had influenced was gone. Nothing remained except for one measly portrait of her in the grand hall.
I wonder what Brinley will do when I’m gone.
I pushed thoughts like that out of my head. I had to be at the moment. Right now I was here, in my bedroom, with my wife. I’m not dying. I’m not dead. I’m very alive and I am with my wife. Living in the moment. There are no worries or strife here.
Of course, Brinley doesn’t know that. I wonder what she is thinking about right now. Perhaps she is regretting her decision. Or maybe she is just happy we are sharing a moment once again. Either way, she is probably thinking something and interrupting our joint silence.
Brinley mumbled something under her breath. I couldn’t quite catch it and I knew it would drive me mad without knowing so I asked “What?”
“I love you, Luci.” She pulled away.
Her voice was soft but sure. There was no hint of a question in her voice. She knew for a fact that she loved me and now I did too. The only problem was I didn’t feel deserving of her love. How could I deserve her when I was like this. I overthink, over evaluate, and overdramatize everything. My paranoia hits the sky. My anxiety causes me to be gruff, rude, and angry. I can never keep people in my life for long because I shove them out when they get too close. I tried to open up to Brinley. I really did. It’s since failed pretty miserably. I’m dangerous and manipulative. All traits I’ve gotten from my father.
Brinley doesn’t deserve to live like that. She should be able to live normally but I dragged her into this lifestyle with me. My head sank into her shoulder and I realized just how wrong we were for each other.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered into her hair.
I could hardly tell, but then I could feel a small tear drip down my face and into her hair. Brinley couldn’t see my face twisted in the agony of knowing I doomed her to life so miserable. She couldn’t feel the beginnings of tears that were now lost in her dark hair. She couldn’t hear my apology, but it was all there. It would always be there, but she wouldn’t know. Just how it’s supposed to be. Brinley wasn’t meant for life so dark as the one I’m living. I suppose that’s why, even now as I have forgiven her, I won’t tell her what’s happening to me. My father, while he had love and support for my mother, was miserable from the second he found out till even now. There has been no release from the pain. I don’t want that for Brinley. If she can have a few months blissfully unaware than waiting around for me to die. I would rather the first one. At least she and I can have some good times before I am gone.