Lunch came and went before I was able to retrieve my clothes. I took the time to start the journals on the second shelf – 1700 to 1750, not that they were exclusive to those years. I grew tired of reading about the same thing over and over. I skimmed over the entries instead of reading them. Little changed since they were so far from civilization. Some journals had just a few entries. At this rate, I figured I’d be through all the remaining journals in a short time or so I hoped.
I thought of those girls as I removed my clothes from the line. How often did they have to hang their clothes to dry? What did they wear? I realized that not one of them talked about clothes. I imagined they wore clothes. Were they simple frocks? There were merchants, did they bring clothes for the inhabitants of the island? Marian wore a simple white gown when I saw her. White seemed like such an impossible color to keep clean.
“Lanie.” Thomas’ voice forced me out of my thoughts so abruptly that I stumbled. His arms were around me, steadying me. My breath caught. His eyes were so vibrant a green. I closed my eyes, enjoying his warmth against me. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” he whispered. “I wanted to talk with you.” I let my body relax and he let go. I shivered with the incoming cold.
Forcing a smile on my face, I replied, “I was lost in my own little world. What’s up?” I went back to taking the clothes from their hanging places and folding them into the hamper at my feet.
He kicked at the dirt. “I was just wondering if you discovered anything interesting. You know, maybe unusual.”
I shook my head. “Nothing unusual.” I rolled the pants against my body and turned to face him. “I keep thinking about those first few journals. Anna’s especially, her story about her uncle and the trees. That’s something I can’t shake.” I shrugged and returned to my task. “Right now, they are pretty boring. I suppose it’s because they feel like they have nothing to write about. There’s no great drama. There’s just life and they are busy. This particular group are not heavy thinkers. I keep hoping one of them would discover a book or something that makes them ponder. Even their love lives are lacking. They all seem to have arranged marriages and are okay with that. The saddest part is that amazing things are happening in the world and they don’t even know.”
“Like what?” He gave me a half smile.
“It’s the changing world. The colonies are developing in America. There were the witch trials in Massachusetts. The change of power in England with the development of the Parliament. I’m not a historian but it seems to me that the world became smaller and more civilized starting then. Maybe I’m romanticizing it.” I shrugged, tossing the last piece of clothing in the basket.
Thomas followed me to my room in silence. I considered putting away my clothing but my underclothing was still all over the place. I shoved the basket in the room and closed the door before he made it to the doorway. We walked to the front yard, still without words. I was comfortable with not talking. The tall trees loomed ahead, bathed in the sunlight coming from the back of the island.
Thomas stopped. “Do you ever think about my mother?” His eyes had lost that emerald appearance and took on a stormy grey-green.
“No,” I replied.
His shoulders slumped. “I do, all the time.” He took a few slow steps before continuing. “My parents were so in love. They met while father was on the mainland for university.” His steps lingered but did not stop completely. “They were going to get married.” I watched him, the color of his eyes darkening even in the sunlight.
“One day, he just had a bad day. He went to her for comfort. She took him to her bed. It should have been perfect but he hurt her.” Thomas choked back a sob. I set my hand on his arm to still him. “He, he.” His hand curled into a claw. “He scratched her. He didn’t mean to, he didn’t know he would hurt her. She turned him out. He’s a monster. I’m a monster.” His eyes were nearly black.
I drew on everything I could in my limited capacity and sent calming energy his way. “You are not a monster.” He started to argue. “No, you are not a monster. I have seen monsters and I have seen beings trapped by their biology. A monster is someone who hurts others for their own pleasure.”
He relaxed a fraction but his eyes did not lighten. “I went to see her, when I went to school. She met me on her porch, said she saw me coming up the walk. She told me I was dead. She did not have a son. If anyone discovered she had had a child, that’s what she told them – I died.”
He stepped away. I looked to the trees for some answer. His pain was palatable. I turned to him. He was gone. I hadn’t heard him leave and did not see him in the yard. Unsure of what to do, I retrieved the next journal and went to my room to put away my clothes.
Finally. I have waited for so many years to have a place to store my secrets that was not in my head. I have been patient and now I have the privilege of a diary. Thirteen years, I have been alive and for thirteen years I have been longing for more. A new upstairs girl arrived last year. She came with a merchant ship and unlike anyone I had ever met. She put a voice to what I couldn’t explain.
I remember the night I met her in the hallway after everyone had gone to sleep. She was beautiful, soft. I wanted to touch her. She asked me if I had ever touched myself. I thought of course, but that’s not what she meant. She meant there in that private place between my legs. When I returned to my bed, I did. I wasn’t sure why at first. There wasn’t much to it but then the heat came and then the fire. I liked it.
I hate my child body. I want a soft body with breasts. I spy on the open door girls when they are busy. I touch myself when I return to my room. I want that. I want to open my door and spread my legs. I know exactly who I want to come in with me. I told him so, once when we were alone. He smiled but said nothing. I know his beast is starting to have cravings. I want it to crave me.
I set the journal down. Well, I wanted interesting. Nona always said be careful what you wish for. I shifted on the bed. Ugh. I had my own cravings and no way to satisfy them. I thought about writing in my own journal but who really wanted to read my ramblings now – unrequited love, lust, desire but it was all just longing. I was tired of longing. I was tired of waiting. Dinner was still an hour away, the girls would be busy in the kitchen.
“Mind if I join you,” I asked Sophie who sat at the table peeling carrots.
“You’re not having sex are you,” she replied.
“Sophie,” Jane hissed as I stammered out nonsense. I barely got myself on the bench. The grin on her face was devilish. She slide over a cutting board, knife and the peeled carrots. “Mom likes the coins on the thick side.”
“Wash your hands,” Rose called out. I obliged, using the time to regain my senses.
I cut the carrots into coins similar to the ones I had eaten before. The steady rhythm of work cleared my head of all the cobwebs. For the first time in a long time, I felt connected. We worked in silence.
Miranda came into the kitchen just before it was time to serve. I had remained in the comfort of the kitchen, avoiding the reality that waited for me in the dining room. I hadn’t known that she was absent. She smile at me as she passed. It was not a smile of warmth or kindness. I took that as my cue, my time in the kitchen was over.
Mine was the only empty seat. Eyes turned to me. “I was hoping you weren’t locked away in the library again.” Edward’s grin was soft. I tried to return it but I was empty. I took my seat. Thomas’ eyes had lightened but not returned to the emerald they had been earlier. I wondered where he had gone. He had been gone. Miranda had been gone. Was she his open door girl? It made sense. The men on the island had used the servant girls as a way of maintaining control over their beast.
Strange that they still hold on to that ideal and, yet, the isolation would have prevented them from evolving to other methods. The way I feel, especially now, I understand how they would arrive at the method of using sex as a way to control the feelings. But I never saw that in my father.