Friday, August 3, 2012

Ante Mortem by Ellie Anderson

Chapter 11


The winter had finally vacated and spring was moving in.  The weather was inconsistent from day to day but there was plenty of rain to urge on the new growth of the season.

It was late and Cy had already gone to bed. He was exhausted after returning from his last run.  Mary sat on the rocker by the parlor stove, holding Ivy and listening to her sweet little sleeping baby noises.  Her thoughts darted back and forth from the argument she’d just had with Cy to what was she going to make for breakfast to the most recent goings-on in town.  Oh, yes, yes, yes…she realized she forgot to tell Cy about the Hiblers.  She must tell him over breakfast.

Two of the Hiblers’ children had died after a short illness and the general rumors seemed to be that they had passed from pneumonia, but there were a few of the older folks around who had succumbed to consumption recently, so that was also a possibility.  People were too afraid to pay them a call, because consumption required that the victims be quarantined due to how easily it was passed and since no one was quite sure yet what the source was, they simply stayed to themselves.

Mary had tried to tell Cy about the news he’d missed out on when he came home, but he was uninterested and left to go see his parents and have supper with them.  He begrudgingly asked Mary to come with him, but she declined; said that Ivy had been under the weather.

When Cy returned, Ivy was fussing.  Partly because Mary had forgotten to feed her because she’d been so set on standing by the front window and watching for Cy to come home.  She watched out the window, held Ivy and rocked from side to side, shifting her weight in time to the lullaby that she was absentmindedly humming.  She wasn’t even sure what the song was, exactly, but when she realized it may have been the tune that Mother Anders was trying to teach her, she quickly switched to another tune.

When Cy came into sight, she quickly ran to the kitchen to busy herself and started feeding Ivy, although it wasn’t soon enough to quiet the child before he came through the door.

“Oh, God, Mary.  Why is she fussing again?  Can’t a man come home to some peace and quiet?”

“She was hungry so I had to feed her…again,” she lied.  “I’m sure she’ll settle down for a while.  Maybe you could hold her.  I’m sure that would quiet her down.”

“I don’t know nothin’ about babies and I don’t want to.  That’s your job.”

“But she’s your daughter.  And I’m your wife.  We both need you.”

“I’m too tired for people to need me.  You’re the one who’s supposed to be taking care of  settin’ up housekeeping, not me.  I thought wives were supposed to take care of their husbands.  This is not what I signed up for!”

Mary stopped and took a few deep breaths, shook her head back and forth.

“What… do you mean?”

“What do you think, Mary?  This is not what I pictured my life like.  A wife and baby… everybody depending on me.  I’ve given up everything I’d dreamed of and it’s tiresome knowing that everything falls on my shoulders.  I had to go straight from school into being a husband and a father.  Maybe I could’ve handled being married… I was ready to make the best of it ‘cuz I figured I’d at least get some time to have my needs taken care of.”

“Have your needs taken care of?  What does that mean?”

“Do I have to spell it out for you?”  His voice was escalating.

“Well, yes.  I guess you do, because I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You… you have never loved me like a wife should.  A man’s got needs and his needs are the most important thing and you had to go and get knocked up so fast and as soon as that happened, all you could talk about was that baby.  Everyone knows that women want babies.  Well… you got what you want, but I never got what I wanted.”

“Are you serious?”

“I don’t look like I’m joking, do I?”  He put his hands on his hips, exhaled sharply and looked towards the bedroom.

Ivy was starting to cry as the argument became more desperate and both Cy and Mary kept talking louder to make sure the other could hear them above the crying.

“Cy, this isn’t fair!  You never even said anything to me about this!  Is that all you want?   Tell me what you want.”

“Honestly, Mary, there’s nothing you can do any more.  It’s gone past the point of no return.  If I’d known how suffocating a family was, I would’ve gotten with a lot more girls before you came along.”

Mary had started to cry now and she walked past Cy into the bedroom to put Ivy down.  She turned to face him.“What do you want from me?  Who do you want me to be?  I can be whoever you want me to be."

“It’s just too late, Mary.  I’m moving on and the next time I leave on a run, I’m going to stay in Denver and settle down.  I’ll send you money and my parents will help.  I just can’t do this anymore.”

“You have no choice, Cy!  We are your family!” 

Mary was shrieking now and Ivy was screaming.

“Get that baby out of there!  I’m going to bed!”

“You can’t just cast us off like dirty laundry!  I’ll change!  I promise!  I’ll make sure Ivy learns to be quiet and I’ll make sure everything is peaceful for you when you get home!  I promise I can change things!”

Cy stopped and regrouped emotionally before he calmly responded.

“It’s too late for that, Mary.  There’s someone else.”

Mary stopped crying and stared at him.  Her head trembled and created waves down the length of her body.  Could he be serious?

Moments ticked by.  The clock on the mantle ticked and tocked and ticked and tocked.  She turned back towards the bed, picked Ivy up and began swaying back and forth.

“You just need some sleep.  You’ll feel differently in the morning.”

“Mary, I won’t.  I’ve had a lot of time to think and it’s what I want.”

“We’ll talk in the morning.  You sleep late and when you get up, I’ll make you a nice hot breakfast.”

“God, Mary… I don’t want breakfast.”

She walked past him and out to the rocking chair by the parlor stove.  As she started to rock, Ivy began to calm down.

“I’ve already told my parents.”

“We’ll talk in the morning.  You get some sleep and I’ll make sure Ivy doesn’t bother you.”

She smiled awkwardly and wiped tears from her face while balancing Ivy in one arm.

Cy sighed slowly and deeply.  Ran his fingers through his hair.  Went into the bedroom and clicked the latch behind him.

Mary caught herself humming that stupid tune of Mother Anders’ again.  She rested her head back against the chair and made up her own song… one that she was sure would work on Ivy and when she showed Cy how well it worked, he would be pleased.

“Sweet baby, sleep. Sweet baby, sleep.
Close you eyes.  Morning is nigh.
Sweet baby, sleep.  Sweet baby, sleep.
Mama will hold you ‘til morning sky’s blue.

Sweet baby, sleep.  Sweet baby, sleep.
Nothing to fear.  Mama is here.
Sweet baby, sleep.  Sweet baby, sleep.
L’il baby Jesus, he looooves us.”

Sweet baby, sleep.  Sweet baby, sleep.
Stars and moonlight, shine so bright.
Sweet baby, sleep.  Sweet baby, sleep.
Heaven will bless you and protect you, too.”


Anonymous said...

OMG! I think I know where this is going, Didn't see that one coming!

Anonymous said...

Best story ever!

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

So sad... Cy is cruel man. Great story, Ellie.