I am already dressed and ready to leave when Markus comes pounding up the stairs; his mother close behind.
Markus’s big, goofy smile can’t help but meet his eyes and causes a happy skip to my heart. He is obviously as excited as I am to get down to the market.
Gillith’s large frame pushes into the room as she sets down her rugged work bag by the door. It’s overwhelming to see them both in the same room. Both are large, with a demanding presences in the small room. But where Markus looks at me happy and excited; she looks at me with a deep frown.
“No.” She says simply as she heads towards the stove; her large hips swaying.
“No?” I ask confused. Looking from her to Markus; who is looking at me hopefully. This is strange. It seems she already told him no. She never tells us no.
“Gillith, why can’t we go to the market? You’ve never minded before.”
“I want you working on knitting today.” Gillith says simply; as she begins to mix things together. “You’re going to end up married one of these days and it’s not going to be said I didn’t teach you anything.”
I feel my eyebrows draw together, a daintier version of my fathers, and look over at Markus again. He’s looking confused as well. This is not what she has told him.
“You’ve taught me many wonderful things.” I assure her.
“Silva, all you can cook is meat pie and all you can do is cross stich.” She’s pointing her wooden spoon at me accusingly.
“Alright,” I agree, wanting to avoid the in-depth lecture attached to her newest reflections “but I’ll need yarn and needles. I do not have any.”
“There’s some in the bag.” Gillith says indicating her worn work bag that she left at the door. It was worth a shot.
“Markus, head downstairs and help her father. Learn something yourself.” She directs him as she turns back to the stove. I know she wishes Markus would be of marriageable age before I turned twenty. But we are, unfortunately the same age. I do not get to marry someone I know would let me read my books and he cannot take over my fathers’ shop. Because of this, he rarely helps my father.
I look to Markus, asking him with my eyes what is going on. He looks over at his mother before mouthing something and heading out the door.
I look up at the ceiling disgusted. He knows I can’t read lips.
“Get to it.” Gillith demands.
I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment before I grab the yarn and needles from the bag. It is cheap materials. The same material that she used to make Markus’s sweaters.
I think to tell her no, I can’t knit anyways, but I know I would offend her. I sit in my chair by the window staring at the yarn before looking towards the door again as it opens.
Standing in the doorway is Angela. Her perfect brown curls are adorned with pearls, her dress, a dark blue silk that complements her eyes. She and I have been friends forever. Long before we started dreaming about husbands and before she was married to Stevanes Purrita; the appointed director of the town. I haven’t seen her since her wedding and I never thought I would again. At least, not until I was married.
Because of this, I can’t do anything but hold back my tears as she rushes over to hug me.
“How?” Is all I can mumble out around her excitement. She’s bubbling over with everything she wants to tell me. No direction to her words. I can’t help the smile that spreads across my face. My friend is back, she hasn’t changed.
I hadn’t even noticed that Gillith has made her way over. “I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Purrita at the market and asked if she might be allowed to come by to teach you how to knit.”
So this was why I couldn’t go to the market? I do not mind at all. Why would Markus want me to miss this?
“Oh yes!” Angela says happily pulling back and placing her hands on my shoulders. “Stevanes said it would be a lovely idea, I think he’s tired of me mopping around so.”
I doubt, very much, that she’s been pouting. She was able to marry the most eligible man in town when she was fifteen and he was very young at the time. He’d only just reached the marriageable age of twenty two.
However, I do know how she can pout and it seems her husband has grown wise enough after two year to avoid it.
“Besides,” She declares, pulling up a chair to sit across from me. “Stevanes brother Antone is soon to be on the market. He’ll be reaching the marriageable age of twenty two himself and I am hoping to introduce you both.”
She’s bouncing in her seat about her good news. We could be sister in laws to the most elite class possible! I’ve never looked forward to marriage, but I feel a tug of guilt from it. If only Markus was a few years older… But I push it aside and keep my smile going.
“He’s really a lovely man, according to Stevanes. He’s appointed to town planning you see.”
“That is a good position.” I nod. Gillith has returned to the stove and I suspect she knows nothing in the way off knitting is likely to be done.
“Yes, I even think that with time,” Angela began before leaning into whisper excitedly, “he would allow you to pursue your interests. You know? He’s terribly board by simple girls.”
Ah yes, the problem with all matches. Me. Angela quickly picks up on my frustration and pulls a lovely read yarn from her own bag.
“Let me show you how to start.” She offers, hopeful that I’ll change my line of thought.
We knit for quite some time as she babbles about her new life. The wonderful gossip she’s heard, how their trying to conceive a child now. It’s a constant sound. Calming, normal. I catch something she says.
“What’s that?” I ask looking up from my work.
“The collectors are supposable here in town. I guess they’ve been sent out by the king to find something? Who knows really?” Angela repeats, deciding to look up and check my work. “That looks awful. No control.” The silence from the kitchen draws my attention away from her advice. Gillith it headed over to us.
“She’s right.” Gillith agrees, taking the piece from my hands. “You’ll need to keep practicing.”
“Yeah.” I hesitantly say, looking at the sad looking piece.
“Don’t worry!” Angela pats my shoulder kindly. “You’ll just have to keep at it.”
“Angela,” Gillith hands me back my mess “You had mentioned wanting to introduce Silva to your husbands’ brother? Did you have a plan?”
“Oh yes,” Angela turns to me, bouncing in her seat again. She starts to tell me of her plans to have a small party at their home, in the evening. That she’ll have us ‘bump’ into each other under the stars.
If I wasn’t watching Gillith from the corner of my eyes, I would imagine what a wonderful story teller she could be if things were different. I find it strange how Gillith soon seems satisfied with our newest conversation and returns back to her work in the kitchen.
I’m not really listening as I wonder why she would be worried about us talking about the collectors. I look at my much to white hands. Do I really look so strange? Perhaps I’m looking into this too much. I tend to do just that.
“Will you come?” I look up to Angela.
“Of course.” I respond without thinking. She’s so excited. What did I just agree to?
“Let’s go now then! Markus can take us. Otherwise the dress won’t be ready!”
Gillith has turned to face us. Hands on hips, “No.”
“This was your idea!” Angela grabs my hand and drags me to the door. “Oh Silva, I can’t wait to dress you up!”
Everything is a flourish, Angela is an unstoppable force. I see my father trying to get across the shop to stop us. I try to stop, but Angela has already found Markus and he, too willingly, is taken captured by her.
We are quickly out into the street, lost among the other shoppers and I am unable to leave. Markus will not go back and to be without a male escort is, not only dangerous, but another punishable crime.
“Angela, my father didn’t seem to want me to leave.” I plea as she leads me to the dress shop.
“That’s the problem! He doesn’t want you to get married; you are forever his little girl!” She pulls the heavy door open and corrals us into the store. “It is time to make you a proper woman. Married!”
I glance over at Markus and meet his eyes. I only see it for a moment, the anger and pain before we abandon him in the entry room, where all the escorts wait. I feel ashamed that I’ve done this to him. We’ve always known, but still.
Angela tugs my arm excitedly, bringing my attention to the dresses they have displayed as we are taken to the back by an older man with a dark, worn suit and a slight limb.
Angela is telling him everything that she wants for me. This is going to cost too much.
“Just place it on my husband’s bill.” She says cheerfully to the man when she sees my expression “An early wedding gift.” She winks at me.
And just like that, I’m standing in front of the mirrors. I’m in an elegant, dark green dress with diamonds sewn into my hair.
“Short gloves!” Angela declares, taking me in. “You look magical like this. We don’t want to cover that up.” She sighs, her dreams dancing in her eyes. I wonder what Markus would think of me; all dressed up like this. I quickly shake the thought away.
“Might I find a fan to match my lady?” The man asks with downcast eyes.
“Yes, please do.” Angela agrees looking me over again.
I think I see the man glance from Angela and quickly at me. I feel a flush, I hope he thinks I look as lovely as Angela says I do.
Markus won’t meet my eyes when we finally come from the dressing rooms.
“Sorry it took so long.” I apologize lamely. “Angela was having too much fun.”
“I am helping secure your future and that fan was perfect!” She reminds me.
“Right.” Markus says, turning and leading us back into the street. We have been in the store longer than I’d thought. Heavy shadows fill the streets and everyone hurries to finish their tasks and head home.
“Wanna stop at some of the shops?” Markus askes, nodding over at the candied sweets we often visit together.
“No, sorry Markus.” I say sad to disappoint him after being trapped in the store all day. “Angela and I both need to get home. You know the laws.”
“Yeah.” He agrees, clenching his jaw and keeping his eyes forward. “I know the laws.”
I want to reach out for his hand, like when we were young. But I’d stopped years ago. He’d understood as soon as I stopped. One of many things we never talked about.
We are almost to my home when Angela leans into me and whispers, “I think we have an admirer.” I glance over my shoulder and see a man looking at the cooking pots at a nearby stall. Angela is fantasizing again.
“I don’t think he’s my type.” I confined in her, looking back again. I catch the glint of silver on his teeth as he speaks to the shop keeper.
“Looks like he’s wealthy.” Angela giggles to me, following my gaze.
“A little old.” I counter taking in his short, gray hair.
“Yes, nothing like Antone. He has beautiful black hair like yours. Your children will look like angels. Our children will look like angels!”
“I think I prefer brown hair.” I say back at her and feel guilty when I see Markuses ears have turned red.
I wish I could dream about it a little. Our children growing up together, being married to a younger man, well off, handsome. But it’s not my dream.
We continue to chat and giggle about others things as we climb the stair into my home. The unhappy glares from my father is the only thing that causes us to stop. Why would he be mad? He is never mad.
“Best head home Markus. I escorted your mother myself.” Father said, not taking his eyes off mine. “and your husband will be here to get you in a moment Mrs. Purrita.”
“Thank you.” Angela replied as Markus pushed out the door. I feel Angela look to me, but feel trapped in my father’s glare.
“Come Angela,” A man’s voice calls from the bottom of the stairs.
“Coming darling.” She calls back to him as she turns and hugs me goodbye. “I’ll introduce you properly at the party and I’ll be back to take you to try on the dress after the alterations again, in a few days.”
“That sounds lovely.” I agree, happy that I’ll see my friend again so soon. She quickly heads down the stairs and I close the door behind her.
“You went to the dress shop and came straight home?” His words are quite. Direct.
“Did anything happen Silva?”
“Well, Angela is buying me a dress. For a party this weekend, at her home.” He is making me nervous.
“Nothing strange happened? No one followed you, ask you questions, anything?” he presses.
“No. Nothing.” I can’t think, his eyes are drilling into me looking for something I do not have.
He seems to relax, slightly and nods to the food Gillith has left on the table and I am able to relax as well.
She’s made a beautiful spread, just like always. We’ll be able to eat left overs tomorrow. I’m sad that I do not have a new book to fill my time.
I should practice my dancing; I decide as I serve our meal. Angela is offering me, what is likely to be, the best option for my future. I could be Angela’s sister in law. I have a chance at the life my father hopes for me. Perhaps I’ll fall in love, or at least he’ll let me study so I don’t bore him.
I look across the table to my father. It’s just like always. Father and daughter. For how much longer I can’t be sure. The light glints off his fork and I remember the man at the booth. With the silver tooth. I think about telling him, but I’m sure it’s nothing and I don’t want to worry him again.
Enjoy my writing and pictures? Show your support with likes, comments or donations at gofundme.com/2curmzg Thank you!