Five minutes later, Seoc was sitting upright in his bed, propped up with the aid of three pillows, a tray of food upon his lap. Half-heartedly, he picked at his breakfast, printing fork-tong designs into his turnips and pushing his scrambled eggs around his plate.
“Can you promise me somethin’, Fiona?”
She raised her eyebrows and seated herself beside him on his narrow bed. “What’s that?”
“You must no’ tell anyone what I’m aboot ta say ta you, alright?”
Reluctantly, his sister nodded. “All right. I will no’ tell.”
“No’ even Mam.”
“No’ even Mam,” she agreed.
Seoc set down his fork and stared at the opposite wall for a moment before sighing and stating, “I dinna want ta live any langer, Fiona.”
She gasped, starting forward as if she meant to leap to her feet. “Seocan! ’Tis nothin’ ta joke aboot!”
“I’m no’ jokin’,” he replied in a monotone.
Her hands shaking, she took the tray from his lap and set it on the nightstand before pulling him into a tight embrace. “Dinna say that!” she sobbed. “Dinna ever say that! Seoc…dinna ever…dinna ever think…Oh, please, Seocan!”
It was as he had feared. She was not taking this very well. Not knowing what else to do, he patted her awkwardly on the arm. “It’s alright,” he mumbled. “I’m no’ goina hurt myself. I just thought…I just thought I should tell you.”
“Oh, Seoc…oh, Seocan…Why…?” she asked, releasing him and dabbing at her face with her handkerchief. “Why do you…why is it that you want ta die?”
Suddenly, he wanted desperately to tell her. When he opened his mouth, though, the words were not there. “It’s…it’s jus’…weel, what do I ha’e ta live for?”
“You ha’e us!” she cried. “Yer family!”
“O’ course!” he exclaimed, his rage abruptly boiling over. “Family! I jus’ love my family! Aye, there’s Father, who enjoys beatin’ the shit oot o’ me for the mere crime o’ existin’, an’ there’s you an’ Mam, who never do anythin’ ta stop him, an’ lovely wee Duncan, who…” But he couldn’t think of any real wrong that his baby brother had done him, so he trailed off. “I’m sorry, Fiona. I shouldna ha’e said that aboot you.”
“No,” she replied. “Ye’re right. I ought ta do more ta protect you. But there must be more for you ta live for! Ye’re only thirteen years old, Seoc. Imagine all o’ the things you’d miss! There’s a whole world oot there, Seocan—!”
“Aye, a world full o’ things that’ll fuck me an’ tell me no’ ta scream.”
“Seoc…!” she scolded. Then her expression changed as she realized what he had said. “Oh, no…! No!”
He turned away from her and stared determinedly at the pool of brimstone sunlight that had gathered upon the floor. He wasn’t going to cry. Not now. Not while she could see him.
“My puir Seocan! Who did this to you?”
“The sheriff,” responded Seoc, his voice hoarse and painful in his throat.
“Father has been usin’ you ta bribe him,” she breathed. “I…I knew he was doin’ somethin’ ta pay him off…I should have known…oh, Seocan!”
“He wanted you,” Seoc informed her, not sure why he was telling her this. “He wanted a gehrl. But our dear father was able ta haggle doon the price, so as he would later be able ta marry you off as a virgin.”
“If Father thinks I’m a virgin,” Fiona muttered, “He’s in for a mighty surprise. Come noo, Seoc. Eat yer neeps. Then you an’ I are goin’ for a walk.”