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The Hours #10

While my first instinct was to curse it, the rain was a blessing, even if it was a mixed blessing. The water was cold but we were spared a downpour. Instead, a steady beat soaked the area. I added our wood to the fire, keeping it large enough to survive but still trying to ration our supply. It allowed us keep one side dry and forced us to keep turning on our bottoms to try and dry the other.

The fire spread and seemed capable of sustaining itself, but as it moved, each blade it ignited was wetter than the one before. the battle between the elements raged for hours, but in the end, the fire died a smoking death.

“Will we have enough wood to make it through the night?”

I looked at Samantha, thought about trying to pacify her, then decided that she had been lied to enough. “Not if this rain continues.”

The young woman bit her lip, staring at me for a moment before nodding once. I wondered what decision she had made when she stood up, but my mouth fell open in surprise as she took off her skirt.

“What are you doing?”

“We need some shelter from the rain,” she said. “I think we can spread my skirts out over a few of those larger sticks and make a bit of a tent.”

I looked at the pile of wood and nodded. “That is a good idea. Are you sure you are okay with the impropriety of being without your dress in the presence of a man.”

She didn’t answer for a moment. “I have lived with a lot of impropriety and I can live with a bit more.”

We both surrendered our shoelaces and I gave up my belt and jacket before our shelter was up. It would never have survived any serious wind, but it did give Samantha some cover from the elements. She crawled under and I added the last of the wood to our fire before sitting down by the door of the tent.

“Why are you sitting there?” she asked.

“Because there is only enough room for one. You should have it.”

She made an indelicate sound. “Come here now.”

“For such a tiny woman you are very demanding.”

She laughed, a genuine laugh that brought a smile to my face. “I have no issue with that.”

I nodded and crawled in beside her. We wiggled and shifted until we were pressed together like silverware in a drawer. It was warm and I was grateful to be out of the rain, but as we lay there, a thought occurred to me. It wormed its way around, burrowing back and forth through my mind until I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

“What did you mean when you said you lived with a lot of impropriety?”

Samantha didn’t answer me for so long a time that I decided she must have fallen asleep. I stared out into the darkness, trying not to let my imagination wander to places that would make this more uncomfortable. Though I admit to the difficulty of that task with such a tiny and exotic beauty in my arms. My Mary had been so free with her kisses that I had considered myself a blessed man. Yet this situation was still far beyond any of my wildest exploration with her. It was frustrating and maddening, yet exciting despite the terror of the world we were in. I somewhat wished I was so relaxed as to be able to sleep the way Samantha did.

“It meant that I am used to things that a proper lady should not be.”

I jumped when she answered, though she ignored it.

“Despite what Mark said, Carl did not suffer for a lack of attention.” She was quiet for a while longer before I realized that her trembling was from crying rather than the chill of a rainy night.

“Carl was a very forward man. The first time we were allowed to be alone together, he explained that he knew the truth of our parents arrangement. He told me that we had two options. We could either accept our lot and live as so many other arranged marriages did, or we could try to find joy in each others company. He took my hand in his, kissed my palm, and asked me to decide what I wanted.”

“That doesn’t seem bad,” I said.

She sighed. “Then he took my hand and placed it between his legs.”

I gasped in surprise.

“I had been told by my parents that they were expecting me to make this work. They had made it clear to me that I had no options and that this was to be my future. So I decided to let Carl find his joy in life. I hoped that if  he found joy with me, I might one day find joy with him as well.”

I was speechless.

“I ruined myself for ever having a respectable husband for a man who was spending his time with another man. I gave myself to him. No one else will accept me and he is gone.”

I squeezed her closer to me, offering a hug that I hoped would give comfort. There was nothing else I could do.

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Categories: Horror, serial, Uncategorized
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