A happy sigh escapes me as I close another leather bound book. A fairy tale of a daring prince, fighting for the heart of the princess. It was a nice break from my normal studies.
I glance out the window at the people darting back and forth between the shops. Each seeming to have somewhere important to go and do. Women holding tightly to the hands of their escorts. I like to imagine what they’re doing. What their plans are. I think up silly stories of picking up supplies for an adventure or finding a rare gift to attract the attention of a lost lover.
I love the days when I’m down among them with Markus. Not to find trinkets for someone else, but to search for rare and interesting books. Though a few trinkets have made it home with me.
Father always huffs when I bring one home from the market. Scolding me, halfheartedly, that he became a fur merchant to allow me to grow up with other children and reminding me that I shouldn’t be reading anyways.
I laugh and tell him I would be happier growing up in the woods, learning to trap like he used to.
He knows I am not joking, but the woods is no place for me, it would be illegal to teach me to trap anyways. I am a girl that will one day have to marry; tend to my husband and little ones. My father, he hopes that I’ll get to fall in love. Sadly, it’s happened to someone I can never have.
So I dream of a match to a kind man. One that will allow me to continue to break the law; with my reading and love for numbers. For that, I suppose he would have to love me dearly anyways.
I push the worry aside. Thankfully that I still have time. That I am not too old yet. However, I am just starting to develop my womanly figure at the later age of sixteen and offers for my hand have started. But my father and I both know I must make a selection soon.
To become twenty with no husband will force me to be taken and married off by the town’s marriage appointed. An old, overly dressed man with a love for rich foods and his own voice.
It’s an embarrassing ordeal for any woman; one of the worst possible fates. To be placed on a pedestal in the market, the men betting money to go into the king’s treasury for the hand of, what is seen as, an unwanted bride.
These are women who haven’t been claimed, or whose husbands have died without leaving them to another man. Homely and secondhand women, some are older women whose sons’ cannot care for them. Though sometimes there’s a girl who was foolish enough to run away from home.
Only the men who cannot attain a match attend such things or men looking for additional workers for their workhouses and brothels.
I am thankful that I won’t have to go through that. I have always been teased for my looks. My skin is very white. My hair a deep shade of black. My eyes a striking forest green. Some whisper that I am sickly. Brought to town from the woods by my father during one of the worst snow storms they’d ever seen.
A silly notion they realized as I aged. Playing with as much energy as any of their children, but I am unique. Most of the girls have brown hair and simple, fragile, features. I don’t fancy myself pretty by any means, but to be a white rose among red ones; is a guarantee to be selected. Even if I don’t want to be.
I stand, fluffing my dress, as I set my book on the bookcase before going over to the stove. As I study, I also take care of the house as is expected. I’ll be expected to do it after I marry; if I’m not married to one of the appointed. In which case I’ll be needed for my decorative responsibilities.
Father has mentioned that some of the appointed have even asked for my hand already. When I ask why he says no, he says very simply that they are too old. I know it’s not true for them all and always feel a sense of thankfulness when he tells me.
I smile as I pull out the meat pie I’ve made for dinner. It’s nice to know my father treasures me more than the offers these men must have made. Though it does worry me, sometimes, that he is having me wait.
As the smell reaches my nose, I feel my mouth water. I like to make meat pie. I love the taste of thick, fresh meat mixed with simple spices. I also love that it is a simple dish that allows me the freedom to study.
Because of this, I make it a lot. Though I have been known to make a stew now and then. I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed to study when I’m married. Even to ask will be a risk. So I am using what little time I have left to learn and read what I can.
That is why I also sketch as well. One of the only womanly crafts that I enjoy doing. I’m sure I will be able to sneak my studies from time to time after I marry, but what I’ll have to read will be out of my hands and I will need something else to do when I sit with my husband.
Due to my singular desire to make meat pie, my father and I both look forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow Gillith comes to tend the house and she always makes something wonderful.
She started coming once a week when I turned twelve to teach me additional household duties and to allow her son to accompany me into the market so my father wouldn’t have to.
Father had hoped I would use these days to make friends that I would call on throughout the week and for him I do try, but I quickly discovered that the other, marriageable aged, women of the town didn’t want to spend time with me.
So I mostly spend it dragging Markus through the market finding new books, both of us enchanted by the tales from the travelers. Travelers make wonderful friends.
I set the pie on the table and set out the dishes for supper. Father will soon come up from the shop with the newest records for me to attend to and there he is right on time, records in hand.
It’s not a normal practice, it is actually illegal, to allow women to help with work of any kind outside of the home, unless they are secondhand wives for a workhouse. Even still, we can have nothing to do with numbers or letter so, if anyone found I was helping father as I am, it would be a problem.
Restrictions, penalties, being re-educated, all sorts of awful things. But this is not my fathers’ specialty and when I snuck a look and found that the person he was paying to attend to it was stealing from him. Well, he decided to bend the rules and I willingly agreed. One of our many secrets in regards to my law breaking.
The immortal king does not allow many freedoms. Even less for women. I have to pretend that I think the books I buy are pretty decorations or point them out to Markus. It can make it difficult to bargain for anything and If not for Markus, I would be robbed.
“Welcome home.” I offer, placing a large portion of the pie on his plate. I saw the dagger he keeps hidden at his hip this morning. I only saw a glimpse of the silver handle. It seemed to be in the shape of a snake or perhaps a dragon. I’ve seen pictures of dragons in my books, nothing as ornate.
Everyone knows that to have such a weapon is a crime of treason against the king. Because of this, I’ve be wondering about it all day. Why would he risk keeping it? The best penalty is death for such a crime.
“Father?” I begin, sitting down to the table. “Might you tell me why you have it?”
“What?” He doesn’t stop eating.
“Well,” I take a small bite of my food, savoring the salty gravy. I can’t just come out and say it. People eaves drop on others all the time for rewards. Our life, being as good as it is, is a rare thing. Most live poorly, in small rooms with too many hungry children. We are the closest one can come to the appointed.
“The silver trinket.” I venture looking up to try and catch his eye. But he is already staring into mine. His heavy brows are drawn together.
“The last night you are home.” He states simply, looking back to his plate and continuing to eat. I can tell this has always been his plan and he will not change his mind. But to wait until the night before my wedding? He looks up and sees I am not satisfied.
“An heirloom is all you need to know for now Silva.”
I’m surprised he told me anything more without my prompting and can’t help myself when I smile at him.
He smiles as well, knowing I won’t bother him about it. For tonight at least. I do have some self-control.
I continue to eat my food as well. We eat in a happy silence. Father and daughter, just like always.
8/10/ 16 update* Thank you for reading chapter 2! I hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear what you thought about it in the comments below! I hope you keep reading and thank you again for stopping by 😀