Dr. Ruston came by in the morning to discuss matters over coffee. It wasn’t easy but I got him and Marisa to agree that I would go with them. In fact, I’m going to be their excuse for leaving town. Marisa will borrow a donkey cart under the pretense that I’m getting worse and need to be taken home. Dr. Ruston will go along to make sure I, as his patient, don’t die along the way.
“At least you’ll get another day of rest,” he said.
I didn't point out that being bounced around in a donkey cart wouldn’t be restful. Instead, Marisa and I made a list of the things we would need so we could leave in the morning. Then while the doctor went on his rounds, making excuses for where he would be for the next few days, Marisa pulled on her boots and set out in the snow to arrange for the donkeys and buy supplies.
I was feeling better than I had in a week, so I didn’t bother with a nap and started preparing food for the road. When Marisa came back, I had hot soup waiting for her, and after she ate and warmed up, we began gathering the clothing and other items we would need to carry out our plan.
Marisa forced me to lie down for a nap in the late afternoon, but I was so excited I couldn’t sleep at first. So I tried again to read The Federalist Papers, and that did it. I slept until Marisa woke me for dinner.
After we had washed and dried the dishes, she took me to her bedroom and experimented on me with her makeup. By the time she was through putting things on my face, I truly looked like I was dying and I even frightened the cat.
I washed my face, and while Marisa knitted in front of the fire I settled in to write the official message to Robert. I coded it, but kept it brief. I only needed to say enough to make Robert listen to whatever else Dr. Ruston would tell him.
Then I took a page of Marisa’s fancy pink stationary and sat near the fire to write my own letter. The cat curled up by my feet and I stared and stared at the paper.
Marisa must have been watching me out of the corner of her eye. “Just tell him how you feel,” she said.
“That wouldn’t help. He’s an intellectual and is interested in facts. Besides, I don’t know how I feel.”
“As much as you kept asking for him when you were sick—“
“It’s more complicated than that.”
Marisa went back to her knitting. “Is it true, then, that you’re married to your brother?”
“I told you those songs were lies.” When she looked like she didn’t believe me I added, “I called Will my brother for many years. That’s why people say that. But he isn’t kin to me. Really.”
“Being married to one man while being in love with another isn’t a good situation. You need to make a decision.”
“I did. I left.”
“That’s not a decision. That’s running away.”
How could I explain? And what business of hers was it, anyway, that I was sick of people trying to run my life? When I was a child, it was my mother and grandparents. Then Auntie, the tribe, Unitas, and finally Will. Robert had said not to go to him unless I was completely sure of what I wanted, and how could I be sure of anything when I had never been allowed to have a thought of my own?
“I need to get my head together before I decide anything,” I said. “Running from one man to another isn’t going to help.”
To my surprise, Marisa set her knitting aside and looked at me frankly. “That’s a very grown up attitude.”
She went into the kitchen and returned with cups of hot cider laced with whiskey for us both. She sat beside me on the hearth and allowed the cat to curl up in her lap. “This is a much scarier world than the one I was born into. I wouldn’t blame any girl for wanting to have a man take care of her.” She scratched the cat’s ears and took a sip of her drink. “But if you don’t know who you are and what you want, you really don’t have anything to offer. You’ll just be feeding a man’s ego, making him feel important because he can look out for you. Then if you get your head together later on. . .” She shrugged. “It changes the whole relationship, and usually not in a good way.”
“Is that why you’re alone?”
“It’s one of many reasons, although it’s not the main reason any more.” She toyed with the cat’s tail. “But we’re not talking about me tonight. You just write in that letter what you’ve told me, and if your Robert is as smart as people say, he’ll understand.”
“Do you think he’ll wait for me?”
“Is he interested in someone else? If he really loves you, he can wait as long as you’re honest. If he can’t wait, he’s not the right one. You don’t want a man who insists on having you whether you’re sure or not.”
“Yeah, like Will.” I finished my drink and stood up, still holding the pen and blank sheet of paper. “Thanks for the advice. I think I’ll go see if I can write this letter now.”
I went into the bedroom, changed into my nightgown and got under the covers. I had the pen and paper with me and I sat for awhile, propped up against the pillows, thinking. Then finally I wrote. I kept it brief, just a few sentences. Rambling would only confuse us both.
After I had finished the letter, I put it under my pillow. As I reached to turn off the bedside lamp, I noticed it was snowing again. It’s going to be a cold ride for me in the back of the donkey cart tomorrow, but at least for right now I have thebrazier and Marisa’s soft quilts to keep me warm.
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