In the months that followed Bash kept his word. Every morning at dawn he would rise without complaint. He'd dress, eat his bread, then head out with his Father to do his chores. Because Bash was still a child, he wasn't allowed to do much. He mostly watched Tristan go about doing his chores. Trying to learn in anticipation for the day that he became a man and would have to help his Father out around the Farm.
Bash was allowed to collect the egg's for his Mother, and he did so with pride. Egg's were very easy to break and if he didn't break or drop any of them, his Mother would reward him with a piece of 'marchpane'! It was his favorite! Once Bash had been allowed to milk the cow, but that didn't end so well. The cow had been spooked, a rattler had made it's way onto the farm and had been by where Bash and the cow were.
Once it started hissing and let off his warning rattle, the cow lost it.
She kicked Bash over backwards off his stool and with him went the bucket full of that days' Milk. He hadn't gotten in trouble, but he felt horrible. How was he ever going to be considered a man if he couldn't even milk the cow? Isolde hadn't let Bash out of her sight that day. He knew it was because his Mother worried about everything. He remembered asking Tristan about it when his Mother was out of earshot.
"Papa.. how come Mama's always worryin'?" Bash asked, keeping his voice low in case his Mother came over to check on him again for the hundredth time.
"Ahh..." Tristan locked the gate to the Sheep's pen, turning towards the barn he carried one of it's lamb's over to be branded with the Bishop's mark. "I suppose it's time you knew about your sister, Alice."
"What?!" Bash gasped. He had a sister?! Where did they keep her? He's been all over their farm and never saw a sister! "I have a sister? Where is she?"
Tristan pointed at the Lamb for Bash to help, grabbing her hooves with one hand Tristan stuck the branding iron in the fire pit. Bash came around and grabbed ahold of her head, so she wouldn't hurt herself once his Father pressed the branding iron against her tender flesh.
Once the Lamb had been branded, Tristan carried her back to her Mother and put the latch through the gate. Turning he put his arm around Bash's shoulders and looked towards the house.
"Alice was just barely a year old when she and your Mama left to go do that washing at the River. In fact, you were with in a way.. we just didn't know about you until much later." Tristan spoke to his son quietly. Bash looked around as his Father started telling his sister's story. All the animals, including the ducks and chickens had gone quiet. As if they, too, were listening about Alice.
"It was summer time, but cooler than usual. Your Mama had to go into the river to fetch some wash that had been blown into it and drifted down stream a ways. In that time your sister had done some exploring away from the spot that they had been sitting. By the time your Mama got back with the wash and had everything loaded... Alice.." Tristan paused to clear his throat. Bash had only seen his Father cry one time. It was when he had been really sick with Fever. It scared him to see his Father cry then.. as it did now, seeing a tear escape his Father's eye.
Tristan slowed their pace as they neared the Family Plot. Bash was not allowed to play over here, Mama said. Mama called it 'disrespectful.' When Bash had asked Isolde what that word meant, she said he would know what it meant in due time, but not before then. It made Bash very nervous to be this close to the Family Plot. He turned to look over his shoulder, towards the house. He could see Mama outside, feeding the chickens. That was his job! He sent his Father a panicked look.
They stopped just outside the entrance. His Father dropped down on his knees and looked Bash in the eyes.
"On their way home, your Mama could hear Alice breathing funny. She'd stopped the cart to check on her and had seen that she looked wild and feverish. Her eyes were almost black, the doctor called it 'dilation.' She was shaking everywhere and couldn't lift her head or her arms. Isolde.. was calm. Assessing her all over for a wound. When she couldn't find one, she panicked. Left the wash on the lane and wrapping your sister in her arms, she ran all the way back our farm."
Taking Bash's hand, he pulled Bash along behind him as he entered, for the second time in his life, the Family Plot. They walked to the back, careful of the 'markers' as Tristan called them.
"They mark the spot where our loved ones, after they have passed over, place where we've laid them to rest." He'd patiently explained.. unknowingly answering his son's unspoken questions. His Father often did that, answering Bash's questions he thought in his head. Bash thought maybe Tristan could hear this thoughts.. and he tried really hard to not think so loudly, but it didn't seem to matter.
They stopped at a tiny marker. On it was inscribed one word, Alice.
Bash started crying.
"By the time your Mama made it home, Alice was having what the Doc' called 'seizures' or 'spasms'. Her jaw was locked and they had a hard time getting it open, trying to not hurt her. In Alice's hand, your Grandfather Robert found what looked like a wild carrot, but when we looked more closely, we saw it was 'lady's lace'." Tristan had grown very still, speaking in hushed tons. As if he were speaking to a baby. Bash's sobs had quieted down, though he still shook all over from cryin' so hard. Tristan kneeled down and became to clear out the weeds surround Alice's little marker. Bash kneeled down, too, but kept his hands on his legs.
He wasn't sure if he was allowed to ask questions. So, he was thankful when he Father answered the one he was dyin' to ask.
"Lady's lace is what you may know as being called 'hemlock'. Your Mama, still holding your sister, had smelled her lips and was certain that she had eaten it. You see, Sebastian. Hemlock smells like Parsnips. Your sister loved parsnips. She couldn't have known that was that, but by the smell of it.. it was something that was delicious to her. After all, Alice was just a baby." Tristan and Sebastian sat next to each other, looking at his sister's marker. She'd only been a baby? Bash didn't know babies could die. Wiping his nose on his sleeve, Bash looked up at his Father with new eyes. His Father was stronger than he ever thought.
Clearing his throat, Tristan looked at his son. "It's why your Mama doesn't grow Parsnips in her garden. And why she worries so much. She wasn't always like this. She laughed more then. Played more. After Alice died... something in your Mama died with your sister."
"Well.. can't we just dig it out?" Bash had asked. He wanted his Mother to laugh more. He definitely wanted her to play more. Tristan smiled at his son and ruffled his hair.
"I'm afraid, boy, that it doesn't work that way." Tristan said, with a sigh his Father stood, plucked a flow that was growing by the fencing and placed it by Alice's marker. Bash followed his Father's example and not wanting to be disrespectful, Bash said to Alice's marker, "It was nice meeting you sister, Alice. I'm your brother, Sebastian. You can call me Bash, though. Everyone does."
Tristan pulled his son into his arms and hugged him so tightly Bash was afraid that his Father might break his bones. Tristan held Bash for what seemed like a very long time, but Bash didn't protest. Seeing his Father like this confused and frightened him. Tristan was always smiling and laughing. His bright blue eyes always sparkled. Eventually, the day grew cooler. Darker. Both hearing Isolde calling them for supper, made them turn their heads simultaneously towards the house.
"We best wash up." Tristan said, his voice lighter than before.
"Yes, Papa." Bash replied quietly, looking back at his sister's marker. 'I'll come visit you tomorrow, Alice.' he thought to himself.
Once they were washed and at the table, Isolde set about serving Tristan and Bash before setting down with her own meal. It was definitely a treat! Mama had made roasted duck and boiled potatoes for supper. It was Bash's favorite!
"Eat your supper, Bash, before it gets cold." Isolde chided her son.
"YES MAMA!" Bash exclaimed rather loudly. Excited about tonight's meal. He dug in. Dinner's conversation was quiet tonight. He felt the atmosphere change.. it felt a lot like it did when he'd been out with his Father visiting Alice. Bash looked at his parents through his eyelashes. Mama always said it was not polite to stare at people. Mama looked different some how. Maybe knowing that she was missing pieces made her look different, Bash couldn't tell. Suddenly, Bash stood and ran over to his Mother. He threw his arms around her neck and started crying.
"I'm so sorry, Mama!" Bash blubbered, gasping for breath in between sobs. "I'm so sorry about Alice. And your piece that died!"
Isolde rocked her son, shushing him while she ran her fingers in his hair. Kissing his forehead, she started humming the lullaby she always sang whenever he had bad dreams. Slowly Bash drifted into a dreamless sleep, as he always did when Isolde sang to him. Tristan rose, walked over to where his wife and son sat together, took Bash into his arms and carrying him up the stairs, Isolde and Tristan took their son to his room and tucked him in for the night.
Belle, their sheep dog, got quiet a supper tonight. You could tell she was excited!
Isolde knelt by their family pet and scratched behind her ears as Belle chowed down on roasted duck and potatoes. She knew that her husband had took their son to Alice's grave. She watched them from the window in the sitting room. She watched them walk from the Sheep's pen, to the entrance of the cemetery. Stopping long enough for Tristan to gather his bearings. She watched her son cry over his sister that he never got to meet. For the first time in nine years, Isolde felt the pang of loss she suffered from her daughter's death. She cried every year on this day, but that feeling had been gone for so long.. she knew it was seeing her son's grief that brought back this pain. Isolde stood, hugging herself and wept. Remembering her daughter's clear blue eyes that held such a likeness to Tristan's, her silky blond hair. Isolde smiled through her tears as she recalled the softness of Alice's skin. Her chubby hands as they clutched her finger, and the feeling of her arms around her neck. Squeezing as tightly as she could, hugging Isolde to her as if she were afraid she would disappear.
Isolde's reverie was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. Wiping her face with her apron, Isolde went to see who it was that came a calling. It was Marta and Molly. Marta, needing no explanation, pulled Isolde into a fierce hug. Molly curtsied and handed her two bottles of milk. Isolde smiled at Marta and Samuels' daughter. She looked a lot like Elizabeth, or she supposed Lizzie had looked a lot like Molly.
"How are you, Molly?" Isolde asked the little girl, smiling down on her. Molly never responded, she hadn't spoken a word since Lizzie's death.
Elizabeth was Marta and Samuel's youngest daughter. Three years old, she and Molly had been out in the yard playing when a large animal had come across the young girls. Molly took off screaming towards the house, but Lizzie hadn't followed her sister. The monster attacked Lizzie, killing her almost instantly before Samuel could get a shot off at it. Leaving pour little Lizzie to tend to it's wounds, it tore off back into the wood. Later that week, Tristan and Isolde had come over to pay their respects and help them finish their fencing around the property. That was the first night that Molly was stricken with fever.
Marta and Molly entered the Bishop's home. Isolde thanked Marta for the milk, explaining that she would give her some Barley in return. Marta asked her questions about how Sebastian did after the cow had knocked him over. Isolde laughed and explained what had happened and how Bash was so excited after watching Tristan kill the Rattler snake that he went about the farm pretending to slay a fleet of them. The ladies had a quiet brunch together, eating cheese and some ham. Then Marta and Molly left with promises of bringing marchpane 'round for Bash's birthday.
That year, Bash turned 10 years old.
Uncle Elias brought him a handmade bow and sheath that he were to use to practice for when he turned 13 years old, but with strict instructions that he were to never enter the wood and he were never to kill with them. These were strictly for practicing. Elias and Tristan had set up a target for him off yonder on the property where it was safe for Bash to go shoot.
Isolde had made her son a new blanket and new clothes and Tristan gave his son a new hunting knife. Marta, Samuel and Molly were true to their word, bringing Bash some of his favorite marchpane! As well as a loaf of bread made form the Barley that Isolde had given her in exchange for the milk. Because it was late, Marta and Samuel were to sleep in the room downstairs off the kitchen, and Molly took the second bedroom upstairs by Bash's room. Marta and Samuel pleaded with Elias to take the room in the house where it was warm. Elias dismissed their concerns with a wave of his hand saying he would gladly sleep in the barn. His dog could keep him warm. He bent down to scratch the belly of his favorite dog, Louis. As he stood, Marta hugged Elias and Samuel shook his hand. Elias shrugged at his brother and shook his head when no one was looking, causing Tristan to laugh out loud.
Later that night, when everyone were in their respected chambers. Isolde and Tristan lay in bed with one another holding each other. Whether it had just been awkward timing.. or maybe God thought it was a way to honor both children, Bash had been born on Alice's birthday. She would have been twelve years old. Tristan suddenly kissed his wife with such force that it took Isolde a few minutes to catch her breath. He touched her everywhere, like he had never touched her before. Caressing her in her most intimate place, Isolde moaned against her husband's mouth. She felt her husbands need deep in her belly and responded with as much fevered. Tristan was rough with her that night, but she didn't care. Screaming out his name over and over, begging him to love her harder. Faster. Their lovemaking was not out of love tonight, but out of the desperate need for one another. Spent and naked, neither having the energy to dress in their nightgowns. They feel asleep clinging to one another, not even bothering to cover themselves with a blanket.
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