by Baloney Bill
A short story from the point of view of a young woman.
Embrace the Storm
Catherine wished she hadn't slammed the door of the cottage as she had stormed out of their little place. But she had definitely slammed it. When she went back, maybe she could claim to Patrick it had been the wind which had pushed the door shut, the wind which now seemed to push against her too as she climbed the steep hill just outside of the village. But she could have not stayed in that room with him for another minute. She had to get away from him. Why did he always have to be so short and stern with her these days? What had she done to deserve such treatment? Can there be any happiness between them any more? And has he forgotten how to smile altogether?
As she continued the climb towards the summit, the wind became much more fierce than it had been in the village in the valley below. What, by heavens, had happened to the caring man she had married? Back when they were courting, he not only knew how to smile but had the ability to make her smile as well. They could not wait to see each other, and just seeing each other would make them smile. Now, she could not remember the last time he had smiled. He was all work and worry mixed in with regular declarations of his disappointment in her, no matter what she said, did, or neglected to do. When making these chastisements, he spoke as if she wasn't even in the room, as if he was speaking to the four log walls.
She used to be the center of his world, and not so long ago. Her happiness was his main concern. She was certain and had absolutely no doubt they would be happy together forever. He did everything he could to please her then and sought her advice and approval in all things. She could not wait until they were joined in marriage. Now he rarely spoke to her and never spoke lovingly to her. Now he told her what he'd decided and then glanced at her as if he dared her to disagree with or even say a word regarding any of his plans. If she could go back in time, knowing then what she knew now, she would never have become Mrs. McCarthy.
The wind was fierce at the top of the hill, and the gray clouds billowed and swirled in menace. She did not fret about the weather but welcomed it as it suited her mood entirely. The idea flashed in her mind that in this storm she might be in danger up here alone on the hill. But, if she was in danger, what did it matter? If God wanted to take her, He should take her. She would not object. She welcomed the prospect of whatever might lay beyond this earthly existence. She had, after all, always tried to do the right thing. Surely, she would not be sent to eternal damnation. These days, Hell itself seemed to be the only sentence worse than her current situation.
She was stunned to see how the branches could bend so deeply in this brutal wind and yet not break. Was this the message God was sending her in this storm? Lately, God had been her closest friend, seemingly her only ally, and she looked for His help at all times. And there was a connection between her and this storm. Maybe this was the reason she had left the cabin in anger. God was sending her a sign in the form of this tree which meant so much to her. It was clear she and the tree had common strength. She, too, did not know how she had been able to bend and compensate and had not been broken altogether. She had held together despite it all.
Three years now. Three years of marriage and still no children.
The men of the village had toned down their kidding of Patrick considerably now. They had joked consistently about his masculinity, his virility, his drive; they teased about Patrick performing his husbandly duty, about taking care of poor Catherine, and they questioned whether he hadn't the desire to have children and continue the family name. But no more. Those lines of harsh but good-natured teasing had all died away. The village men probably wondered the same thing Catherine and Patrick wondered but would never discuss -- would they ever have children? Were they able to have children? What was wrong with them? And the most haunting and unspoken question -- which one of them was the one to blame? They still tried on a regular basis. Their intimacy had become more duty now than pleasure, and Patrick had become more and more angry and rough in his handling of her.
How gentle he used to be. How he had loved her. How they had loved each other. What a brilliant future life lay ahead of them. And now this.
She stood under the tree with the branches waving angrily above her and looked past the tree she and her daddy had planted more than twenty years ago. Just beyond the tree were the gravestones of her daddy and her mum. Sadness overcame her and she wept. Then, as if to soothe her, scenes flashed in her mind of her happy childhood but were quickly swept away. Were all her happy days over now? Was it just to be day-by-day work and weariness? Would she even be able to continue existing in this way? Did she even want to?
She looked into the sky as if searching for answers but there were only the clouds, the wind whipping the branches, and the foreboding darkness. She felt the first drops, large and heavy on her face, and they felt right. She wondered how long she could remain here in this cleansing, breath-taking weather before she had to go back down the hill and reenter what had somehow become her life.
The rain came down with a vengeance then, and, with no other place to go, she started back down the hill.