August 31, 2013

In Which Sidwein Is Frightened For

September 12, 1182

With the body in Naroni and the family in Dovia, Searle of Hoprine had not been given a proper funeral. Haldred had arranged a memorial service shortly after receiving word from Sidwein's brother Severin, and that memorial service had been half a day prior. Afterwards, Sidwein and Celina and their children had returned to Sidwein's childhood home with his parents, and the hour had grown late enough that heading home was no longer practical. They would be spending the night.

Knowing that, Sidwein had indulged his father with a long night of raunchy jokes and rambling anecdotes, though he'd scarcely paid attention. His thoughts had been with his wife, supposedly nestled in his boyhood bed, a few soft tears for her brother before she drifted off to sleep. He wasn't sure if he loved her, but he did care, and he'd always found her relationship with her brother to be a bit... odd. Not especially close, yet oddly intimate, more like spy and mark than brother and sister. He sometimes wondered if Celina had thought herself Searle's guardian angel. If so, then she thought his death her failing.

Perhaps that was why, when he returned, he found her still awake, still dressed in her black mourning gown, twiddling her thumbs in her chair by the hearth instead of burrowing beneath the covers of the bed.

"You all right?"

"No." She shivered. It wasn't her predominant concern, but he could help with that.

"Do you want a fire?"

Celina nodded. Sidwein shuffled to the hearth and sparked the logs with the flint. The newborn flames glowed the color of the his wife's hair. Her brother's hair. He swapped the flint for the poker and turned one log over another. "Do you want to talk?"

"About my brother?" He didn't need to nod. Celina sighed. "He saved my life."

"I don't remember you almost dying."

"I didn't almost die. I almost killed myself." Sidwein's arm jerked. The top log slipped, a splash of sparks spattering. "Some part of me never forgave him for stopping me. I saw that he was miserable, so I tried to pay him back. Tried to keep him alive when he didn't want to be. Then by the time he wasn't miserable any more, it was just a habit."

Sidwein swallowed. It was a bare-bones explanation and it was wrong to dismiss the dead, but he didn't care about Searle any more. "Why did you try to kill yourself?"

"Because I wanted to die. Is that not enough for you?" Would it have been insensitive of him to shake his head? "How old was I when we married?"

He couldn't guess what that had to do with anything. He answered anyway. "You were seventeen. You wore a red dress, and lilies in your hair." And I saw every emotion in your eyes, each flitting to the next too quickly for me to register. "We were betrothed a week before the wedding."

"I was seventeen. Lileina was thirteen. Riona was fourteen. Learianna was fifteen, and only because her man was younger." What did that have to do with anything? Celina had never seemed the type who was desperate to be married. Certainly not to the point where she would have wished herself dead. "The day our fathers arranged our betrothal was the day after I first bled."

First? "You were seventeen."

"And not one of my sisters was over twelve. You have no idea what that means for a girl, do you?" That she ruined fewer gowns in her lifetime? "At least, a girl with parents like mine? Surely you've heard that phrase before. 'Your little girl is a woman now'. Because apparently bleeding out of your vagina is the only thing that makes you an adult."

But Celina had been an adult long before seventeen. If he remembered much about their childhoods at all, Celina had been born an adult. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that it wasn't the fact that I wasn't married. It was the fact that my parents treated me like a child and refused to stop even when I proved otherwise. When my sisters started their courses, my mother help them dress their dolls and put them away for their own daughters. Guess what I got for my sixteenth birthday?" She let out a dry laugh even though it wasn't funny. Sidwein wasn't sure if he'd ever seen Celina playing with a doll. "My little sister got her talk about the facts of life before I did, while I had to go behind my parents' backs to Aunt Renata for mine. Even after, Learianna would always look at me when someone made some naughty joke, that embarrassed 'You'll know when you're older' look, even though I was older than her and nine times out of ten I caught it before she did.

"But Learianna was a good girl. She only did as our parents wished. They would have sat me at the children's table at feasts if they hadn't thought it would cause a scandal." She tore a loose scrap of lace from the trim of her dress and flicked it into the flames. "How's this for scandal? I've fucked over a hundred men. And four or five women."

Not one lash around her violet eyes twitched as she stared him down, almost daring him to answer. He was supposed to be offended.

For whatever reason, he wasn't. "That's not very childish."

"That was the point. I was fourteen. Some of the girls were having a slumber party. My little sister was allowed to go, but my mother told me I couldn't, because slumber parties were for young ladies, and I was a little girl. But a little girl wouldn't have tracked down that stable boy who'd always had eyes for her and made wild girl-on-top love to him in the loft. A little girl wouldn't have pulled her brother's valet into the wine cellar and let him press her against the wall as he took her from behind. A little girl wouldn't have hid beneath the servants' dinner table and wound her tongue around the steward's cock as he ate.

"Sometimes I enjoyed it, lived it. Others, I just lay there like a stone, looking at the door. It was never locked. It was sometimes wide open. I wanted to be caught, and I never was. They were never any good at paying attention.

"My little sister's wedding day arrived. She asked if I would be one of her ladies, but my mother forbade it, because I wasn't a lady. This when she'd allowed poor Claddie to tend to Riona, because Claddie was a woman flowered even if she always screamed and cried when she saw the blood on her sheets. That was the last straw. I couldn't take it any more. I let my sister have her wedding night. I planned my suicide for the next. I would be in bed, legs spread, naked. My dress would be torn on the floor. There would be roses and candles and a blade lodged in my breast. I told a guard of rumored illicit passions about my plan in hopes that he'd come along as the rigor set and my parents would find him with his cock in my cold dead cunt.

"But Searle walked in, just minutes before it would have been over, even though he was supposed to have left hours earlier. He took one look at me and pried the dagger out of my hand. He snuffed the candles and stole my flint and left. And I abandoned my pursuit of death for one of revenge."

She slumped forward, the barely-there bulge of their third child collapsing to her thighs. Celina had always seemed a force of nature to Sidwein, he who'd always drifted through life like a limp leaf on a river, to the point where he may have always been a little frightened of her. He'd never expected to be frightened for her. "Celina..."

"And now he's gone. And so is my mother, and all of my sisters. And here I am, pregnant again when they'd intended to keep me in the nursery forever. And you're staring at me like I might throw myself into the fire any minute now."

Was he? "I'm sorry they made you go through that."

"Why?" She straightened up again, that curve once again besting the velvet dress for full view. "You never did that."

No. And though he didn't say a word, he promised her--and their daughter, and their son, and their baby of yet undetermined sex--in his heart that he never would. If his daughters carried on intelligent conversations and showed complex thought and good judgment at fourteen, they would be women, even if they never bled until thirty. If his sons knew right from wrong and when to fight and when to hold back, they would be men, even if their chins remained hairless and their voices high. When his children grew up--truly grew up--he would not deny it.

But at the same time, he hoped nothing forced them to grow up too quickly.

NEXT CHAPTER:

11 comments:

Van said...

...how is it almost September? o_O

(Er, in real life.)

Mimus said...

The months are trying to keep up with Naroni! XP

Huh, I always knew that Searle and his twin sister turned out so strange because of the parents...
So Celina feels guilty because she did all of the things for her brother out of some strange wish for revenge?

Van said...

Guess so. XD

Haldred and Cladelia were always pretty awful parents. I think their problem is that they were both so unorthodox themselves that they felt the need to compensate by making everything around them as "normal" as possible. Hence treating Celina like a small child when clearly she wasn't, because society said the magic time was first period. :S

If they'd been better at the whole parenting thing, though, Searle and Riona may have still fallen in love; they just would have reacted differently when they found out. But it would have made things worlds better for Celina, and for Claddie too. Claddie would probably still be alive, because they would have realized it was inappropriate to marry off a little girl trapped in a woman's body.

(As for the others... well, we haven't seen any of the youngest two, and Learianna is now dead besides. Tarien seems to have turned out okay, but we've only seen him a couple times and he was never featured prominently. Ditto with Lileina, but I suspect Lileina was always the most well-adjusted of the siblings; weirdly, her being married off so early may have been to her great advantage.)

Celina's feelings for Searle are pretty complicated at this point. She tended to go out of her way to help him because he was so determined to be helpless. Then Viridis happened and apparently old habits die hard. Guilt over the origins of her behaviour may very well play into her current feelings.

Mimus said...

Maybe they should have taken their unorthodox... ness and run with it. Of course, they seem like the kind of couple who didn't want any children.

And considering that there are lots of different reasons, why a woman doesn't get her period (for example if she's in a lot of stress), it is especially low.
There were (or are?) even women who didn't get their first period after their first child.

Yeah, I remember Claddie. While there are mentally handicapped people that function well on their own (even in romantic relationships), Claddie obviously wasn't one of them...

Penelope said...

It's hard for me to imagine someone being so psychologically damaged just because her parents babied her. But, I don't know. Parent/child relationships are complicated. It isn't always obvious what will stick with a person during childhood. Then again, mental illness does seem to run in this family...

Winter said...

I can see where Celina is coming from. Her parents went far beyond the normal complaint of treating her like a child - they infantilized her, and only her, for something out of her control. Today, she could have held on to the hope that at sixteen or eighteen she could have told them to shove it, but not so much in The Times. No rights, no freedom, no hope beyond, maybe, a convent. I doubt she would have even qualified to be a maiden aunt in their eyes.

Celina reminded me a lot of Claudia from the Vampire Chronicles here. She had the mature body but really no sanctioned way of using it, so it wasn't much good to her anyway. Though, I always thought Claudia was a brat and definitely not so with Celina. She's quite sympathetic. And kudos to Searle for saving her.

(How do you manage to have 9,000 characters with depth, Van? Are you some sort of wizard?)

Van said...

Mimus: I think you're right about Haldred and Cladelia not wanting children. If Haldred hadn't been in line for the barony, or if he'd had a younger brother (his only sibling is the elder Viridis), I could totally see him opting to just remain a bachelor. Cladelia, I think if she had been either religious or an intellectual, she might have taken the veil; I don't think she wanted to be a wife and mother, but that was what her father wanted and apparently she didn't want what she would have been raised to see as the only other option. They both would have been much happier (and messed up fewer people) in a more progressive time.

Going by the state of this household, I'm guessing that stress is a huge factor in why Celina was so late getting her period. If she'd grown up in a more functional household with parents who treated her and her siblings in ways befitting of their emotional ages, she might still have been a late bloomer (at least, in comparison with her sisters), but she might have been, say, fifteen-ish as opposed to seventeen.

Claddie's particular brand of special needs didn't allow her to mature past a very young age, so forcing her into an arranged marriage was cruel of everyone involved. If she'd been cognitively challenged in a way that still allowed her to function like an adult and to consent to a sexual relationship if she chose, that would have been a different story.

Pen: I've known a few people who were treated in age-inappropriate ways by their parents and from what I've seen, it does not seem to be to anyone's psychological benefit. The family history of depressive tendencies here probably doesn't help, and add that to the fact that she was being treated very obviously differently from her siblings, and I figured that Celina's response wouldn't be too unrealistic, at least given her personality.

Yeah, it's difficult to gauge how certain events and situations will affect kids in the long run. Cladelia and Haldred seemed to be particularly lousy at that. :S

Winter: You pretty much hit the nail on the head there. If this was a modern story, yeah, she could have dropped the family when she came of age, or there could have been a chance of some concerned teacher or other authority figure picking up on an issue and intervening.

The Times, though... yeah, unless maybe she'd announced an intention to join a convent, all she could do was check her sheets every morning. I wonder if a convent ever occurred to her, but if she didn't go before things got horrible, I'm going to guess she didn't want that. With that family, Celina's seen enough to seriously question the existence and/or sincerity of a deity, so why devote your life to something that you either don't believe in or that you believe actively despises you? And who knows if her parents would have deemed her capable of making that decision anyway. :S

Uh... I don't know? o_O But thank you! And that's a major compliment coming from you; even your extras are wonderfully complex. :)

morgaine2005 said...

This family gets more and more messed up the more you look at it ... 0_0

Poor Celina. And Searle -- I know he didn't like his parents (and who can blame him), but did he tell them that he caught Celina attempting suicide? Especially since this would have been after Riona's suicide? (I can't imagine that Celina attempted this when she was 7 years old, which is how old she was when Riona killed herself ...) Because you would think that would have been some kind of a wake-up call.

Then again, Riona's death wasn't a wake-up call. Cladelia's death wasn't. Why should I imagine that Celina's suicide attempt would have been ...

Still. That is a huge degree of messed-up, on top of all the other messed-up that was going on in that house. (See: Searle and Riona, even if Celina would have been too young to understand what was going on ... probably.) No wonder Celina is so ... strange.

And no wonder she's taking Searle's death so hard. I hope that she goes to visit little Viridis Jr. when she's had her baby and is well enough to travel. Maybe it'll do her good to see Searle's daughter. At least, being raised by Severin and Nora, she'll have a healthy dose of sanity in her life.

Still. Poor Celina. I hope this doesn't shock her into going out the way too many of her sisters did (I know Lileina and Cladelia both died in childbirth). She's an intriguing character, and I want to see more of her.

Sidwein had better take good care of her!

Van said...

If Searle made one good decision, it was bringing Viridis Jr. to the Kemorins instead of the Androneis. :S

If things didn't change between Celina and her parents after that, I'm going to guess that Searle didn't tell. Cladelia and Haldred may be the worst parents ever, but I'm sure even they would have at least tried to figure out why their daughter tried to kill herself. As for why Searle wouldn't have told... well, extremely bad judgement is rampant in this family. :S

Celina visiting Viridis Jr. is certainly a possibility! Seeing her brother's daughter could be good for both of them. Sidwein and Severin could probably stand to get better acquainted too, so there's another reason for that trip; Severin does tend to be a little hard on his younger half-siblings, and he didn't seem to give Sidwein much of a chance last time he visited.

Lileina, Claddie, and Learianna too. For the latter two, it was even the first birth! :S Childbirth does not seem to take mercy on the Andronei sisters. Hopefully Celina will be luckier there.

Mimus said...

Hmm, I don't think, Searle would have chosen anyone but the Kemorins. Severins family always appeared to me as Searle's refuge when he was down. Everytime something bad happened to him (his first marriage (sorry, Danthia), his twin sister's death, Elarys), he came there to catch his breath.
And the Kemorins must have looked like the perfect family in his eyes: A father that lets his children marry whoever they want, who (later) more or less shrugged off all the scandals his kids got involved in and who let him stay even though he would have prefered otherwise.

Though now that I think about it, even the Dovian Kemorins are probably one of the more stable noble families in the whole series, despite Lonriad Sr. and Rudolphus both being womanizers.
After all, the Sadiels (or at least their father) aren't (weren't?) that much saner than the Androneis, the Kelistines have cases of schizophrenia, it seems, the Tamrions I don't know well enough beyond the branch family in Naroni, the Minaras... are more of a Sadiel-made problem, I guess, the Mokonris had Arkon's gambling habit and the Jamorans, of course, have Ietrin (and before that Roderick and Farilon, though both weren't as bad as Ietrin is now).

Van said...

That is a good point! Whenever things went rough(er than usual) in Searle-land, his first instinct was to run straight to Uncle Severin. A few valleys aside, the Kemorins probably were the family Searle always dreamed of.

You bring up some good points about the noble families! o_O But yeah, it's weird to think that the Dovian Kemorins may just be the most stable Dovian family. And even more weirdly, the other two stable-ish-seeming families, the Tamrions and the Minaras, might be in for some not-so-stability in the near-ish future. :S