Sunday, September 9, 2007

Forty Two

Half an hour later, Bridget let Will into the room. The stench nearly brought him to his knees. It was more than just the smell of blood, but of feces, vomit, and something he couldn’t place but hoped never to smell again. In the darkened room, the basin covered with a bloody towel, and the rolled-up sheet oozing into a basket suggested things Will didn’t want to know.

Bridget draped a cloth over a bowl of metal instruments soaking in murky water, and went to open a window. “It’s never a pretty business,” she said, shrugging out of her bloody smock. “Even when it goes well.”

Will forced himself to look at the still figure on the bed. When Diana had fallen silent and the women’s voices had risen in increasing alarm, he had been certain she was dead. From the way Amalia was sitting by the bed, bent over Diana’s limp hand, he had every reason to believe his suspicions were correct. His first instinct was to turn around, get on his horse and ride into enemy camps where he could slaughter people at random until he cooled his rage or until someone with good aim took him out of this hell.

Amalia looked up and motioned to him. “It’s okay. She’s sleeping.”

Relief washed over him. He stretched out on the bed and pulled Diana into his arms where she lay limp, like a doll. When he kissed her, he could feel the faint warmth of her breath and was reassured. He closed his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. After awhile, he felt Amalia’s eyes upon him and looked up. “She’s going to be okay, isn’t she?”

“She’s young and strong. With proper care, yes, she’ll be all right.”

“But there were some. . . difficulties,” Bridget said. “She may have trouble having children after this.”

Will shifted and pulled Diana closer. “I don’t care about kids. I only want her.”

Amalia began helping Bridget with the suspicious-looking bundles and bowls on the floor. Will tried to ignore them as they whispered to each other, but he raised his head when Amalia said, “That’s too far. How about garden, where the ground is soft?”

“Is the baby dead?” Will asked.

“Yes,” Amalia said, darting a glance at Bridget. “There was nothing that could be done.”

Will could tell by the way the women looked at each other there was a lot they weren’t saying, and he was glad they didn’t offer details. He smoothed Diana’s damp hair and waited for Bridget and Amalia to leave. It seemed like hours before the women went away bearing their bloody burdens and leaving Will and Diana alone.

The wind outside picked up and a sweet-smelling breeze filtered into the room. Will got up to put an extra quilt on the bed, then got under the covers and pressed his body against hers, seized with a notion that he must keep her warm at all costs. If he could only hold her tight enough, maybe some of his strength would pass through to her and things would be like before. She stirred and tried to speak. Will silenced her. “You’re safe, and it’s going to be all right.”

Diana nodded and closed her eyes. Will kept his arms tight around her until her deep, regular breathing told him she had gone back to sleep. By now the night air had filled the room with the clean scent of pine, and moonlight was streaming in the window. Will closed his eyes, expecting to fall asleep, too, but oddly, he could not. For once, just having her near wasn’t enough.

1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

My heart bleeds for him.