Monday, September 10, 2007

Forty Three

It was a slow convalescence, but an indulged one, and Diana accepted everyone’s attention with unusual good grace. The times she had been wounded in battle or in training hadn’t prepared her for the bone-wrenching pain of childbirth. She had been so confident, so sure she could withstand anything. Now she understood that there really was no end to the suffering a human could be asked to endure. She realized too, that she could die, not just from enemies in battle or raiders in the woods, but from the betrayals of her own body. Having come so close to death, life was now infinitely precious, and she was grateful for help, having finally come up against a battle she couldn’t fight alone.

The midwife stayed on for a few days, monitoring Diana’s bleeding and plying her with antibiotics and herbal teas. Amalia prepared Diana’s favorite meals, and Miguel’s staff provided every little whim Diana needed, and a lot she didn’t. Kitta appointed herself nurse with a confused notion that this involved reading to her several times a day, so Diana found herself subjected to The Cat in the Hat in the morning and Goodnight, Moon each night.

Will could hardly bear to leave Diana’s side, unless it was to get her another cup of soup or an egg, or whatever else he decided was the perfect food to make her strong again. He ignored her protests that she was drowning in all the chicken broth he gave her, and he rearranged her pillows and blankets on a bizarre schedule of his own devising. He was so solicitous that Bridget had to finally put her foot down. “Let her walk,” she said, catching Will carrying her to the outhouse. “You don’t want her getting blood clots, do you? She needs to move around.”

“But she—”

“It’s okay.” Diana motioned for him to set her on her feet. “How about you let me lean on you? Wouldn’t that be best? Give me your arm.”

At night she lay pressed against him while he repeated the stories they had heard around the campfire when they lived on the reservation. Sometimes he told other stories, ones she had never heard before, about his life on the streets before he came to Amalia’s farm in Valle Redondo so many years ago. And late at night he touched and kissed her with a love and absence of need that moved her to tears.

Diana was ashamed of her body, appalled that it hadn’t immediately reverted to how it had been before. Will didn’t seem to notice the bloat, pleating and stretch marks, and his fingers caressed her skin with a reverence that both puzzled and gratified her. But after a few weeks, even he admitted to some concern. “I can’t go back to Harley until I know you can take care of yourself,” he told her one night as she rested in his arms in front of the fire.

“It’s safe here," she said.

“That’s not the point. I won’t have you dependent on others.”

The next morning, Diana struggled into her riding pants and followed Will to an empty paddock, where he set up some targets. He handed over her bow and quiver. “Let’s see what you can do.”

“Probably not much. I haven’t trained since July.” She fit an arrow to the bowstring and took aim, disgusted at how hard the draw felt. She loosed the arrow and it fell limply in the grass, several feet short.

“Try again.”

She did, and again failed to reach the target. “It’s not fair. How come women lose their strength so much faster than men?”

“It’ll come back. Move a little closer and work on your aim.”

Diana practiced for half an hour, growing increasingly frustrated, even though her aim and range improved as she became familiar with her weapons again. Finally she handed Will her equipment, rubbing her shaking arms and flexing her stiff fingers while he put everything away. “I can’t believe how much ground I’ve lost. It’s embarrassing.”

“It’ll come back faster than you think. You’ve got talent, remember?”

“I wish it was in something else. Death isn’t a good thing to be talented at.”

Will studied her. “You’re going to be here all this fall. Why don’t you go to school?”

“Me? In a classroom with all those little kids?”

“Why not? Who cares what children think?”

“I’m not smart."

“Sure you are. You’re smarter than me. You can read and write. I bet you’d be a real good student.”

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

Student? Heck, I'd think she'd be the teacher.