Friday, August 8, 2014

Chapter 15

Two market days came and went. I missed reviewing things with Dad and the boys afterwards and making the entries - it had made me feel a part of things - and that more than anything showed me that whatever the farm had been to me, it was no more. My monthly came and went as well but it was surprisingly easy to get through that first telling despite an initial brangle that wasn't over that but something else.

"I'm not an idiot Teaghan. No way was I going to make it to thirty without learning a few things about the female anatomy."

"Ok. I ... uh ... thanks."

"For what?"

I shrugged. "For ... you know ... understanding why we can't ... you know. I know you like to."

I turned away in relief and started brushing my hair again. I heard the bed squeak and then a slight tug as the brush was taken from my hand. "We need to talk."

I'd come to dread that phrase and for him to know so much about the female anatomy I still wonder if he knows that much about the female mind. "What did I do now?"

He snorted. "Why do you always assume that I'm about to tell you that you're doing something wrong every time I say we need to talk?"

"Because that's the way it usually runs. The way I've always tallied the milk production wasn't working for you so it had to be changed to a new form. I tried to enter things into the ledger like I always have but then you and Dan got upset when you found out because you aren't using the ledger anymore, but that system you all have always used. I'm spoiling the boys because they've started to expect cookies instead of earning them. You flipped because I ironed your boxers and you thought they were going to be stiff. You want me to keep going? Because it has gotten to the point where I have to keep a list so that I don't keep making mistakes. I don't want to to keep making mistake, I'm trying not to, but this is a lot of new to keep up with so just tell me what I did this time so I can add it to the list."

He thought he'd call my bluff. "You're exaggerating. Show me your list."

I had him there though. He thought I'd been telling a story but I hadn't been. I pulled out an old tablet from my drawer and handed it to him. I might not have had a ledger anymore per se but I still felt compelled to keep track of things and put some order to my days.

He took it and looked it over. "Why do you do this?"

"I told you, to keep track of things."

He shook his head and muttered, "Not only are you aggravatingly literal now it looks like you're OCD on top of it."

I tried not to but it was my first monthly in a while and they tend to make me emotional. My bottom lip started quivering and my eyes watered and I was just not having him see that he had that kind of power over me. I took the tablet out of his hands and went to the kitchen and chunked it in the garbage under the sink then put the tea kettle on.

Sloan followed and asked, "There you go being over sensitive again. I swear the way you act sometimes a man would think you were on your period three weeks out of four instead of just one. What the hell are you banging around in here for?"

Quietly I told him, "I'm not banging around; you're the one making too much noise and in danger of waking people up. I'm just fixing me a cup of mint tea ... I've got cramps." Usually my brothers would hear the word cramps and take off in the opposite direction. Hannah had taught me that one and it had proved useful. Unfortunately Sloan refused to fall into what I considered a normal male pattern.

"How bad?"


"How bad are your cramps? Do you need anything?"

I just looked at him and in outrage asked him, "Don't you have any boundaries at all?! My cramps, my business. I already told you I'm making a cup of mint tea."

"I'm your husband and ..."

"Oh no ... not another rule. I'm about fed up with all these blasted rules and how I'm somehow or other breaking them. I get it ... I'm not living up to my end of the bargain. Why don't you just go tell Mr. Burdock I'm not up for the job so you can go find someone who is. It's not like I already don't feel that way ... you don't need to rub it in. I've been trying ... whether you think I have or not. I thought if I did everything you wanted that you'd be happier and mostly I thought you were but here you are, you still just gotta get your digs in. I'm starting to realize you're just covering up how you really feel."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means I'm tired of being measured and found wanting against some list of rules I've never even been given the chance to read a full copy of, or against some perfect example of womanhood I've never even met that is the kind of sophisticated normal you prefer. It's not fair. I don't go around measuring you against my father and brothers do I?"

"Oh be serious. You're always talking about how they used to do things."

"Not because they did it in particular but because that's the only way I know how to do things ... but you don't hear me bleating like a goat about changing how things are done or refusing to learn a new way. I've tried every blasted time even when it turns out your way isn't any better and sometimes does nothing but make more work and you have to change it again. Now just leave me alone to drink my tea in peace so I don't stick my foot in my mouth yet again because I'm tired of doing that too."

"You know what I'm tired of? I'm tired of you acting like a child. When you are ready to grow up and be a woman let me know."

He stomped off back to his bed and it took everything I had not to throw the kettle ... but that was too much like what his father had done to him and I couldn't bring myself to take that final step. By that time I really did have cramps so I measured out some leaves into a tea ball and leaned against the counter to catch the kettle before it started to whistle.

That done and the water poured I turned to take it to the table and drink but nearly dropped it. Dan was sitting there first. "Sorry. Didn't say anything before because I didn't want you to burn yourself."

"Uh ... thank you."

"Sloan and you have a fight?"

"Fight? No, not really."

"What do you call it then?"

I sighed, "Not measuring up." Turning the conversation I told him, "There's enough water for another cup if you want one. Good night."

"Teacup don't get your feelings hurt ... you don't have much experience with men ... we just ..."

"Don't. My uncle tried to explain men to me one time and I wound up so confused it took Mom, Gram, and Hannah nearly two weeks to untangle it. Besides, I know how men can be."

He chuckled, "Oh you do? And how do you come by all this vast experience?"

He thought he was being funny and I suppose he might have been for someone else but it wasn't funny to me. "You really have no idea what it is like to be a female do you? You think I was stuck here on the farm because my family were just backwards local yokels? Well let me tell you. I was twelve the first time a so-called man cornered me in the grocery store. His reasons were he didn't realize I belonged to some one and it wasn't his fault my family wasn't looking after me the way they should. Hannah and Mom had it even worse ... especially my sister who worked in the card store in town. Dad and Mom finally agreed it was just getting too dangerous and told her to quit. After the pandemic? It was like open season on anything female or looked like it might be female. It got so bad the BOCC tried a lot of things including having places that were women-only and men-only ... and yes I know they looked the other way when those illegal whore houses went up along the river because 'men have needs'. The last straw for Dad was when he hired someone to help around the farm until he and my brothers could pull their heads together. The man seemed nice, had a family too, but three weeks in he knocked me over the head and drug me into my grandfather's wood shop. I was this close to losing everything, maybe even my life since the guy was holding a knife to my throat, but then Boone trotted by, saw the threat, and saved me. You know what happened to that man? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dad called the sheriff and everything but they said because I was fifteen it was his word against mine and he said I'd been teasing him and lured him and that I liked it rough." It made me angry again just thinking of it. "That was it. Dad said no more. They didn't mean to make me a prisoner and they made it as nice as they could but a prison is still a prison ... and it is all because of how so-called men can be. But I can tell the difference between bad men and real men. But real men and bad men are both still men ... you're just different sides of the same coin. I'm trying real hard not to turn Sloan from a real man into a bad man. Occasionally it would just be nice if I got it right instead of always being the cause of something not being right."


"Oh please don't. Don't be nice, not on top of everything else. I don't need to be humored like I'm two years old or like I've got some screws loose."

"OK, then how about this? You aren't the only one that has experienced the worst of the opposite sex. Sloan has some hang ups."


"Excuse me?"

"Stop. Whatever you are about to tell me is none of my business."

"Even if it helps you to understand?"

"Dan, you mean well but Gram told me there's always consequences for gossiping. And since what you are wanting to explain to me happened before Sloan met me then it's gossiping and none of my business. If Sloan wants me to know something he'll tell me otherwise I don't have any right to the information. Until then I don't want to hear it because I don't want to have to explain to him that I was talking behind his back. I make enough mistakes accidentally, I don't want to make one that nasty on purpose."

I heard the bench scrape and then his steps retreating. I thought to myself, "Great Teaghan, your mouth needs a warning label."

I took my cup to the table and started sipping on it. I inhaled a deep breath taking in the calming scent that reminded me of Gram. She was such a calming influence in my life. Mom taught me how to tend house, cook, most all of the womanly sciences that were necessary to keep a family going. She'd also taught me how to accept the hard parts of being female, how to deal with life just not being fair ... and I think I got that right most of the time. I admired her grace under fire and will always wish I could rise to the occasion like she always seemed to be able to do. Even when she was so sick and in so much pain towards the end she was so strong ... the strongest person I've ever known. She told me what would need doing after she was gone ... she knew that Hannah would soon be gone too even with us trying not to let her know. She didn't make a scene for Dad to have to live with in his nightmares. She told me how I'd have to handle him and the boys in their grief and how they'd say things they didn't mean but it was only because they were hurting. All those things but right at that moment it was Gram's comfort ... her cushion ... that I craved more than anything. I was tired of trying to do the right thing. I just missed being loved and held and accepted as is and for no other reason than I was me.

When the cup was empty I took it to the sink and rinsed it out. I looked at the cabinet that held my migraine pills and then jerked my hand back when I realized I'd been reaching for them. No way. I was a lot of things, still am, but an addict I refuse to be. I hadn't realized it but I must have said "No" aloud. I know I backed away because I wound up backing into something ... or someone.

I turned around fast thinking it was Dan coming back to try and convince me of something or other but it was Sloan. I backed away from him and around the table. "Sorry," I mumbled. "I probably stepped on your feet. Uh ... I'm just ..."

"Teaghan ..."

"Look, seriously Sloan. I'm sorry." My guilt over almost succumbing to the call of the pills had me rattled. "Whatever it is I won't do it again. I'm ... I'm just not up for a conversation right now. I think ... yeah ... I think I'll just go lay down in my room for a while and ..."

"I'll go with you."

"No ... it's ok. I can find my way up the stairs just fine."


Rather than explaining and risk making a fool of myself yet again I beat a hasty retreat. Unfortunately I'd gotten used to sleeping in Sloan's bed and my bed no longer felt like it used to ... like it was home of sorts. I must have tossed and turned for two hours when I finally gave up and tried to think of something I could do around the house to get ahead of the day that wouldn't wake anyone up. I had a headache ... a plain ol' headache, not a migraine. I was sitting on the side of the bed when Cheeser jumped into my lap.

"Gah ... cat, if you didn't already have a bobbed tail you'd be in danger of getting one. How did you get up here? You should be asleep with your best bud Shotgun dreaming sweet kitty dreams."

I jumped a mile at the sound of Sloan's voice from the doorway when he said, "And you should be asleep too. If the cramps are that bad you should have said."

Cheeser jumped down and left the room. I wanted to called after him "Chicken!" but I didn't.

"I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you."

"And that's another thing ... stop apologizing all the time. It is irritating as hell. Now come on, I don't have all night. I'd like to at least get a little sleep myself if that isn't too much to ask Princess."

I didn't know what he meant but he reached out and grabbed my arm and he walked me back to his room and bed. I smelled his breath and knew he'd been drinking. My brothers did on occasion and so had Dad although my brothers' tempers were more changeable when they'd had a few. He pointed at the bed and told me, "Get in. Go to sleep." Part of me wanted to slug him with a pillow and the other part screamed for sleep ... the scream for sleep won.

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