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#Excerpt 3 - Revolution

At the end of the gathering, Father pronounced that there was good news. Not only had we managed to contribute to the surplus of the kingdom, but we had to prepare to say goodbye to Mabel. All throughout the hot season, while I was busy, she was locked in her rooms with Patricia and Momma. She was preparing for her marriage to Lyle Bray.

The last meal of each day was the only time I saw and spoke to Mabel. She was always smiling and offering a kind word to everyone, most of all to Patricia. It was formal and cold, though. With her wifely demeanor, it was like she was part of the Bray family already. The only thing missing was the ring to indicate her status.

At the end of the cooling season, a few days before the wedding, Mabel and I finally got a chance to speak alone. Before the evening mass, she asked me to take a walk with her outside. I agreed. We slipped out before anyone could catch us.

Momma and Father had many Bray relations around the property, so we pretended to be grand. The company outside assessed my sister at every opportunity, commenting behind our backs about her shape and behavior. When we reached our usual hideout (the South Barn), we stopped the charade. Instead of sneaking inside, we skipped to the back, into the woods.

“Oof,” Mabel groaned as she slumped to sit on a log. “It has been a long day.”

“What do you need me for?” I made it clear that I did not want to hear about domestic matters. “We have to go to mass soon.”

At first, Mabel said nothing. Her eyes glistened with real tears. She wiped them away, her facial features reproving herself for being so childish. When she finally talked, her voice was thick and I almost could not understand her.

It was about Lyle Bray. Of course, Mabel was worried about being a good wife. She was also concerned about Lyle and if she could turn the other way when he sinned. She was seething with anger because others have smeared his name and there was evidence for it. The rumors about Lyle were disturbing, Mabel relayed, with rape and murder part of a long list of crimes.

“Will I be happy?” she whispered to me. “Will I be as happy a wife as I am a daughter?”

“That is what God wills,” I reminded her. “We have to accept that our parents have made the right choice.”

Mabel was dreamy, tipping her mood positive. “Lyle seems so kind. I want to make him proud.”

“Shouldn’t you be proud of yourself?” I asked her. “Are you happy to be marrying Lyle?”

“Father has chosen well,” she echoed confidentially. “I cannot complain.”

“Then, what did you want to tell me?”

“I'll be glad to be gone from this place, but I will miss you, John. It will never be the same.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be, Mabel! God intended for us to be with our destinies. I will have our fond memories, but we cannot make much more of them.”

My sister huffed. She did not like my answer, claiming that I was cold. She picked up the discussion and began ticking off the things she was going to do when she was a wife and had children, such as the organization of the house and the rearing of her little ones. Mabel dared to venture what Alison would have to face when she was gone.

I was annoyed with her breaking her word about domestic matters.

“What do you mean?” I was confused. “She is coming to live here.”

“Yes, and she is taking my rooms,” Mabel remarked sharply. “Momma will be helping her adjust. Patricia will have her own rooms.”

“We are economizing. I do not understand why Alison would have her own rooms.”

“Didn’t you know, John?”

I made it plain that I was in the dark.

“Father and Momma have made decisions behind your back,” Mabel corrected. “They have chosen what was the most important and made us sacrifice in order to make it come true. Giving Alison her own rooms are status.”

I was perplexed by why she found this an issue. “I am aware. I do not agree with everything they do.”

“Can't you do something about it? Change some rules?”

“What are you talking about? Mabel, Father is making provisions for everyone when he goes to God. That is the normal order of life.”

“And for what? So we can suffer now and depend on the table scraps from Father?” My sister’s eyes shone distantly. “I get nothing out of this. It’s all for you and your heirs and it is all on a gamble.”

“It is not a gamble when the kingdom is rising and we are becoming rich,” I proudly relayed. “Their Majesties have created a land of freedoms and opportunities after the horrible wars. We should take advantage of it when we can!”

For a moment, Mabel was sad. When she returned to her normal self, there was a distance between us and I even felt it. I sought to remedy it, to figure out how we got to that point, but found that I could not. Surely, it was something Mabel said. She did not like the way our lives turned out because of our gender and social status. Besides, her upcoming marriage was making her nervous.

But why should you fix her temper tantrum? She is leaving soon.

She sighed, pretending not to be upset. “I am happy to be marrying and being away from this nonsense. Lyle will provide for us. I don't need your inheritance. I am glad to be done with sacrificing for you.”

“What do you want me to tell you? That you will inherit instead of me because you were born first?” I snorted at the ridiculous thought. “Father would not allow it. You are just jealous of me.”

Mabel was angry, standing with a stomp of her feet. “No, you stupid coxcomb. You do not understand. This is not a matter of being jealous. Momma and Father were wrong to make us suffer and you are going along with it. I should not have to give up what is mine in order for you and your sons to be happy.”

The response was strong, forceful. I was startled. I recovered quickly. As I saw it, it was not my problem. I was the oldest son. I had a responsibility to my heirs, my brothers, or to any future sons with Alison.

My sister wasn’t done yet. “Besides, being near power means the most disgusting men get away with anything. What agreements have you made in the dark with Father? If he makes plans behind your back, how much of your work is being undone?”

“What do you mean?” I froze. “I hide nothing with Father and he does not keep secrets from me. He has always told me when he does not agree with me.”

“Like with Master Albert? Does Father tell you what he does?”

“He is here to be my instructor, nothing more. You do not know what you are talking about, Mabel.”

My sister ignored me. She gushed out her misery about my teacher. He didn’t ruin her honor. He terrified her. He’d touch her innocently and it felt sinister – massages, hair twirling between fingers, and scratching under her chin. Sometimes, he would be in the corridors outside her room just as she woke or when she was in front of a mirror, styling her hair. He stared strangely at her.

I found no issue with the nonsense. Those actions did not indicate that Master Albert favored Mabel. Father did the same thing, and he gave her kisses on the cheeks and forehead too! My sister was making up stories.

When my memory of Master Albert surfaced, I dismissed it as quickly as it came.

Every man required relief once in a while, I reasoned.

Mabel would never understand that.

“Isn’t that the way of the world, though?” I asked my sister instead. “Men and women have their roles. Men must do what they can to be relaxed for the work ahead.”

It was pure nonsense, repeated from nights spent at the inn with Father.

I was hoping to get a reaction from my sister, and I was not disappointed.

Mabel was shocked out of her façade. For a moment, her face revealed grief, anger, and accusations. Again, she veiled them. She wanted to strike again, hoping to beat me in a game she was going to lose.

I loved every moment of it.

“Well, I hope my personal items are able to pleasure your future and that Master Albert has been kind to you,” Mabel finished formally. “Let me know when the returns comfort your sons. I will take my bows then.”

My sister slapped me across the face and left the woods in a huff. I sprung up to retaliate and chased her, but she was lost in a sea of Bray relations. All of them were climbing into the carts going to church. The town bells rang in warning.

Yet, I still did not see my sister.

After mass, I tried looking for Mabel. I could not find her except at the evening meal. She saw through me. She did not speak to me, not even to ask to pass the bread. My sister was lost to me…and it somehow did not bother me. I was smug, relieved that I was the oldest son and that I would never be sold to the highest bidder.

After a while, it grated against my conscience. The hours leading up to the ceremony did not provide the future bride and nobody wanted to tell me where she was. I didn’t see her until her wedding day. I was never to talk to her alone.

Mabel’s union with Lyle Bray was held in the yard before hundreds of witnesses and over a sunny sky. While Their Majesties were unable to attend, they sent their son, Prince Phillip, to represent the Crown. After the mass and celebratory meal (which lasted long into the night), she traveled to her new home and the Bray family followed behind her, torches lighting the way. After all was quiet, Father and I spent time filling holes in our road, fixing broken pieces of furniture, and paying off debts incurred by the Bray family.

Immediately afterward, I was focused on the next harvest and Master Albert’s lessons. The mornings were dedicated to lessons. By midafternoon, before the last of the light vanished, Father and I managed the arrangements. He placed an order for more seeds. I checked the accounts, disappointed over the lack of surplus.

Then, there was the issue of my marriage.

Until the New Year 239, we were plagued with carts from the Newton family. Momma and Patricia were assigned to place them in the assigned rooms (much to my sister’s chagrin). Alison arrived two days before I turned thirteen years old, bringing with her dozens more trunks filled with her treasures and dowry.

Shortly after her arrival, a snowstorm covered Cennix in a pure white blanket. We were unfortunately buried in several feet of snow. Being packed tightly in the house, we all tried to settle into a new routine. Father had made me a junior master of the house and allowed me more power. Robert and Justin were occupied with the chores that Father and I directed. Momma stayed with Alison and Patricia, teaching him how to be proper wives. When the roads cleared, Masters Billium and Albert still taught and tested me.

Even after the New Year of 239 came and went, I still felt that it was a strange existence without Mabel and having my future wife living with us. While she was supposed be the lady of the house eventually, my brothers and I found that we could not treat her like a true member of the family and were awkward around her. She was shy and reserved. She did not find being rough and tumble tasteful. She also did not have much knowledge of the things that make me happy.

Sometimes, Alison was adorable. There were little surprises around the house with my name on it. Sometimes, Alison had flowers sent to our room. She’d leave me notes by my bedside or she used Patricia as her messenger. She would cook my favorite meals with Momma and served it to me herself.

There were some things she did that made my hair stand on end. Alison would occasionally peek at me from behind her headdress, trying to flirt from behind Momma’s legs (especially when there was company). Sometimes, small items made her angry or sick, like seeing a certain food, and her temper knew no bounds. Another quirk of hers: she never liked to take credit for anything exceptional and often helped without being asked.

I found that her childish efforts that tried hard to be an adult fell flat. She had no idea what some gestures meant or how she was annoying people. Not to mention, I learned that she had airs. Patricia explained to my brothers that Alison liked pretending that she was grand often. She loved lording her position over Patricia and always reminded her that she would be lady of the house after Momma was gone.

After she left, we were silent.

Justin was the first to speak. “There is something off about her. If Alison is already taking airs, she will not be a good wife. She will be mean. Give you a hard time. It will bring the family shame.”

I felt my face turn red.

“Maybe Father chose wrong?” Robert wondered out loud.

No!” I reinforced, harder than I intended. “Father has always made the right decisions. He was guided by God.”

As my brothers fought over my answer, I declared that I was neutral. I had my mind on other matters. Alison supposedly using Patricia was not one of them. Besides, I found the drama so confusing. Why would Alison be so cruel? And why can’t Patricia just fight her?

Honestly, I wished that women were easier to follow.

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