I waited until I knew Persephone was back in her room before opening my eyes again.
I had written in the journal all afternoon. After she yelled at me, I realized how awful I had been to her. I supposed I should have noticed sooner but I was so consumed in my anger. Now that I knew I wasn’t on Death’s door, though, I started to feel a little hopeful. But if her parents had this, then why did they die?
I looked over at the letter from her friend. From what I understood, it was whatever sickness I get that would kill me, not this rheumatoid arthritis. I had never heard of such a thing. I had heard of arthritis; who hasn’t? But this rheumatoid? What was this?
Once again, sleep evaded me. I just stared at my ceiling. Judging by what I heard, I wasn’t the only one experiencing sleep hiding. So, I reached over and rang the bell.
Persephone came in, a robe wrapped around her.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I can’t sleep,” I shrugged, “and I can hear that you can’t either. Perhaps we can suffer together.”
She laughed a little and sat down in the chair by my bed.
“Do you want me to get some light in here?” she asked.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “I prefer the darkness. It’s easier on my headaches.”
“You get them often?”
“Well, with your illness, it doesn’t-”
“Can we not speak of it?” I whispered. “Just for now?”
We fell into silence and I heard her shift a little.
“Tell me about what you do in the village,” I said when the silence got the better of me.
“I am a seamstress,” she reminded me. “It started off with just repairing my personal clothes. When a neighbor realized I did it so well, she asked me to do it for her husband who works with the horses. From there, it blossomed. My sister was the one to teach me.”
“Do you have a close relationship with your sister?”
“Yes,” she said. “She raised me after our parents died.”
“How is it that both of your parents were sick with the same thing?”
This time, her voice was a little bitter.
“My mother was not from Kinsworth,” she sighed. “She came here because of some ridiculous witch doctor. He claimed he had a cure for all with the illness. That is how she met my father; he was there for this miracle cure. Of course, it didn’t work. They fell in love, though, and stayed together.”
“What happened to the witch doctor?”
“No one knows. When he realized that some of his subjects were actually dying, he disappeared.”
I hesitated, wondering if I should tell her all I knew about when her father got depressed. Finally, I decided not to.
“Tell me, Madame Petit, have you been married?”
She laughed a little. “Come again?”
“Have you ever been married?” I repeated.
“Why are you asking?”
“You will be here for a while,” I said with a shrug, too embarrassed to look at her. “I might as well get to know you just as you are getting to know me.”
“Very well,” she said then sighed. “No but I was engaged to be married.”
“What happened? Did he die?”
“No,” she said bitterly. “He was having an affair with the baker.”
I looked at her. She was illuminated by the moon again. Her eyes were fixed on my blankets but she was glaring.
“But the baker is a man,” I said and she smiled humorlessly at me.
“Quite the shock, isn’t it?” she said. She shook her head, her eyes sweeping around my room. “He wanted to marry me for money and have the baker as his lover.”
“That is common,” I said.
“Perhaps but not for me,” she said firmly. “No, Master Luc. If I ever fall in love again, I will not have a lover and neither will he.”
The conviction in her voice was surprising to me. I didn’t tell her, but there were many who didn’t agree with her.
“What about you?” she asked and saw her look at me. “Have you been in love?”
“Once,” I said. “She worked here at the manor.”
“Did she move?”
I sighed heavily. “She left when I never got better.”
“I’m very sorry,” she whispered.
“This has taken so much from me,” I said. “And all it has taken, I cannot get back.”
“I’m not sure I agree with that,” she said.
I looked at her again. Her head was tilted to the side.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s true there are things you won’t be able to do anymore. Your father said you loved to ride horses. But you may find you’ll be able to garden again. You’ll be able to walk around without your cane. Who knows? You may even be able to fall in love again.”
I chuckled. “It is not I who cannot fall in love, Madame Petit. It is a woman falling in love with me.”
“Don’t give up so easily.”
We fell into silence and I shut my eyes, not used to being so vulnerable with anyone but my father. I don’t even know what got me on the subject of love. In truth, I was lonely. Very lonely.
“Why are you holding my hand?” I asked, my eyes shooting open as she took it softly.
“Because you are upset,” she said. “I wish to comfort you in the best way I know how. Besides, when you’re not throwing trays and shouting, you are a very pleasant young man.”
I knew she was teasing so I laughed. She yawned a little and I was going to tell her to go back to bed. When I turned, though, she was already asleep. I watched her for a while. Her hand had slid from mine. I would have carried her to bed but that would have been disastrous.
Instead, I closed my eyes, letting her words sink in.
“You’re a very pleasant young man.”
I have not been complimented in many years. It was nice to hear that instead of constant lectures over what I was doing wrong.
Eventually, I drifted to sleep.
When I woke up, my hand was on someone’s back. I blinked and looked around. Persephone’s chair was closer to the bed and her head was on the bed beside me. She slept deeply and I looked at the clock. It was shortly after eight in the morning and I was getting hungry. I didn’t want to wake her up, though, so I waited.
The door opened and I took my hand off her back. Jacques walked in with a breakfast tray and looked shocked to see Persephone asleep.
“Did you have a fit in the night?” he asked.
His voice startled her awake and she sat up, rubbing her eyes. She looked around, obviously confused about where she was. Then she turned pink and cleared her throat.
“It would seem I overslept,” she said.
“Do you want your breakfast in your room or in here?” Jacques asked her.
She bit her lip and looked over at me. I kept my eyes on my tray.
“Well, since I’m already in here….”
I hid my smile from her while she went to get her supplies to go over my vitals again.