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Chapter 12 – I Will Take Care of Everything
Elana slept late into the morning. When she woke, she lay awhile, smiling and enjoying the feel of being home. She draped her hands over her belly and enjoyed the sensations of the babe turning and kicking in her womb. Eventually she got up, stretched, and found that someone had laid out clothes for her – she thought she recognized them as some of Marbrona’s old garments. She supposed her own clothes had long since been passed down, sold, or given away – while not poor, the family surely couldn’t afford to have all that good cloth going unused. She decided she would see if Marbrona had any fabric she could make herself some dresses from. If not, she could get out her spindle and set to work. She found her fingers were eager to take up their old skill. She had been known in the village for the fineness of her spinning.
She went into the kitchen. The rest of the family was long since up and out of the house, the older ones to work, the younger ones to play. Marbrona was kneading the day’s bread, her rhythmic motions singing to Elana of the very substance of home. She would have gone to help, but as soon as Marbrona saw her daughter she wiped off her floury hands and brought to the table a bowl of porridge that had been keeping warm on the back of the stove. As Elana ate, Marbrona fixed them each a cup of hot herbal tea. The bread dough was set aside to rise, and Marbrona joined Elana at the table, the two of them sipping their tea.
Finally Marbrona broke the silence. “Elana… I can still hardly believe you’re here, alive. When Gareden slammed those doors with you outside… I wanted to help you, but the babies needed me… I was torn in two.”
“It’s all right, Mother. That’s what I wanted – for the rest of you to be safe.”
“I know, and I knew that then. But when your father came and told us the orcs had been routed, and you were gone, not even your body to be found anywhere… I lay awake nights, hoping you’d been killed quickly, my mind filled with black imagining of what those orcs might do to you. And now to find out that it was even worse for you than my darkest dreams…
Elana could hardly speak for the lump in her throat, and her eyes stung with tears. “It’s over now, Mama. I’m here. I survived.”
“You survived.” Marbrona’s voice was rich with wonder. “My baby, my firstborn. We are so very glad to have you back. And I promise you, we will do everything in our power to make things right for you.
“Your father and I talked last night about the future. Of course, you are welcome in this house as long as you wish to stay. But you are no longer a child, and a woman will want to establish her own household at some point. I know there were a few young men in the village who took it particularly hard when we lost you. I don’t know if you had your eyes on any of them…” Elana blushed and shook her head. “Well, no matter. If at some point you wish to marry, your father and I will support you completely, and help you in whatever way we can.”
“I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that for awhile, Mother.” Elana wondered if any man would be interested in her, after what had happened, and her with a baby already, an only half-human baby at that. Could she even bear a man’s touch without being overwhelmed by hateful memories? “All I want now is to be here in my home, to be your daughter, to have you take care of me when I give birth.”
“Yes.” Marbrona put down her cup, and took Elana’s hands in hers. She looked deep into her daughter’s eyes. “I want you to know, that when your time comes, I will take care of everything. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”
Elana thought how different this birth would be. Her mother, wise in the ways of women’s bodies, at her side, surrounded by the loving support of family and friends, safe in her home.
“Of course,” Marbrona continued, “it would have been better if you weren’t so far along. There are herbs we could have used, but they are dangerous for the mother so late. But it’s just a few more months, and then we can put this whole tragedy behind us.”
Elana froze. Her heart thudded. She couldn’t quite believe what she heard her mother saying.
“I really do think you should consider looking for a husband right away. I know it’s hard on a woman to lose a pregnancy. But a man to love you and a babe of your own to cherish can heal many hurts.”
Elana unstuck her tongue from the roof of her mouth. Surely she was mistaken in what she thought Marbrona meant. “But mother, I have a baby. She’s healthy and strong. She’ll be born in about three months.”
Marbrona looked surprised. “And like I said, you won’t have to worry about anything. I’ll take care of it. You won’t even have to look at the monster. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be, to know your body harbors such an abomination, but I would never leave my daughter to deal with it alone.”
Elana stood up. She felt cold. Somehow, she had to make her mother understand. “Mama, she is not an abomination. She is not a monster. She is my baby. I’ve seen her - she came to me in dreams, and saved me, saved us all. I love her already.”
Marbrona looked at her daughter with shock and pity. Such trauma as she had endured could twist a mind’s perceptions. The instinct to nurture life was strong in a woman’s heart, and Elana seemed to have taken refuge in the fantasy of a perfect child. She might think she wanted the creature now, but Marbrona was sure when she faced the reality of the monstrosity she had born, she would feel the same revulsion that Marbrona and the rest of the people of the village felt now. Why, last night, overjoyed as she was at her daughter’s miraculous return from the dead, when she learned the origin of her pregnancy she could barely suppress her disgust enough to give Elana the welcome she deserved. But Marbrona was a practical woman, and had known at once what she would have to do. She wished she could spare her daughter the grief of losing her dream-child, but she couldn’t be allowed, in her state of delusion, to endanger the village. Marbrona shuddered to think of the orc-spawn growing to monstrous maturity. Would its own mother be the first to fall victim to its base appetites?
Rising, Marbrona reached out to Elana. She folded her in to her breast, remembering the days of her babyhood. She patted her back, murmuring. “Shh, shh, it’s all right. Everything will be fine. I will take care of you. I love you.”
Elana wrenched away. She stared at her mother in horror. The familiar house, which had seemed such a safe and comforting refuge, was suddenly threatening. Her baby would never be safe here! To all but Elana she would be a danger, a demon, a viper that must be killed with as much dispatch as any other vermin, before it could strike. Even if Elana managed to keep her safe through her birth, they would comfort and reassure her to her face, but some night while Elana slept her baby would be smothered in her cradle, or meet some other accident. Everyone would be kind and sympathetic, but secretly they would be glad someone had done away with the foul creature.
She fled into the bedroom. Marbrona watched her go, but refrained from going after her. Let her grieve, she thought. It will be hard on her, but it must be done. She will thank me someday.
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