Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thirty Eight

Diana lay on her pallet, staring at nothing. Now that the initial shock had worn off, she couldn’t stop the recriminations that repeated themselves in her head. They shouldn't have sneaked out. They should've been better armed. They certainly should not have gotten drunk, and they should have paid attention to where they were going. It was her fault Pepsi was dead and Macy lay injured. It was because of her the boys had to avenge the attack.

Now the affair threatened to become an inter-group incident because several of the horses they brought back bore Lone Star brands, and Unitas and Lone Star were supposed to be in a state of truce. Although the most likely scenario was that the horses had been stolen or belonged to deserters, the matter would have to be investigated. If their attackers had been members in good standing, there would be hell to pay, on both sides. Will might be in very serious trouble, and it was all her fault.

Auntie came in with a tray and Diana sighed. It was annoying the way she was expected to eat at regular intervals.

Amalia set a bowl of stew by her side. "You'll like this. Sachi helped make it."

Amalia took the other bowl to Macy. She propped her against an assortment of boxes and bundles and began feeding her some clear broth. After a few minutes, she looked at Diana. "Don't make me have to feed you, too."

Diana sat up sullenly and took a bite. The stew was good, rich with venison, barley and potatoes. Surely there were hungry people in town who would be glad to have it. Why waste food on her? She didn't even deserve to be alive. She tried to set the bowl aside, but Amalia had sharp eyes.

"Finish it all, Diana."

She was poking a piece of potato with her spoon when Will came in and squatted beside her. "Dinner's good tonight, isn't it?"

"Make sure she eats all of it," Amalia told him.

"I'm not hungry."

Will took the bowl out of her hands and mashed up the potato. "Of course you're hungry. You just don't know it." He tried to spoon a bit of potato into her mouth, but she jerked away. "You have to eat. It's the only way you're going to get better."

"I don't want to get better. I want to die." She lay down and closed her eyes.

Will and Amalia exchanged glances. Diana had been carrying on like this for two days. He set the bowl aside and lay next to her, drawing her into his arms. "I'll lie here and die with you, then. How's that?"

"Suit yourself."

Amalia got to her feet and collected the dinner dishes. She glanced at the remains of Diana's stew with moderate satisfaction. It was more than she had eaten at lunch. "Is she asleep?"

"Not yet."

"Come on, anyway."

"I don't think she should be alone."

"Macy's here."

"It's not the same."

Macy spoke up. "It's okay, Ms Channing. We like having him here."

Amalia pursed her lips. Macy spent most of the time asleep. She hardly knew what she liked or didn't like, let alone what Diana wanted. But Will would go on watch soon, and if Diana was still awake, she could talk to her then. She had finally been able to schedule the town midwife to come, and Amalia didn't want it to be a surprise. It was important to get both girls checked for injuries, and gynecological matters were something Amalia had neither the knowledge nor the stomach for.

She had nearly fainted in shock when the boys returned painted in blood like savages, bringing horses, guns, and enemy scalps like some sort of ancient war booty. Although Will never told her what happened at the raiders' camp, the story had spread quickly among the young people. Even allowing for exaggeration, it was a gory tale that Amalia struggled to reconcile with what she thought she knew about this boy she had raised as her own. Now when she looked at him-- clean, polite, pleasant to look at, she instead saw the bloody wild man who had taken pleasure in ripping a man's bowels from his body. The very idea defied imagination.

She had waited too long. She had made excuses and focused on her desire for revenge when she should've been looking for a proper home. Now look what had happened. The women in their group knew that rape was a possibility, but Amalia also knew that it was her restrictions that had made Diana careless. Why had she not let them have their little party? She could no longer remember the reason, but she felt certain it was a stupid one.

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1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

To be annoyed to eat at regular intervals says so much about her mental state.