She stared at the fire without focusing at the flames mocking her silently.
The damp from the stone floor and walls creeped into her body and took root in her bones. The fire, usually the hearth of the home, did not dispel the chill in the hall tonight.
The storm raged outside, but she could still hear the laughter of the feasting and whoring from the guards’ sleeping quarters. It had been a tiring day, when she had woken, she knew that something was wrong. The weather was unusually cold and the sky strangely overcast for the middle of summer. The dogs, who were usually fighting and barking all day were quiet and shrinking away from any of the much wanted attention that they usually sought. The wind started gusting just after the lunch hour, almost as if it were pushing the exhausted rider towards the manor.
The rider brought news of her husband, long gone to war. He had perished, a hero’s death and his body was to arrive in the morning.
She immediately went about giving orders and preparing the manor and the yard for the funeral, busying herself to keep the grief from overwhelming her. She was still mistress of the manor and had responsibilities that she had to take care of first and foremost.
That’s the way her husband would have wanted it.
She had yet to cry. The sky, however, the sky seemed to be crying enough for her, just in time.
As soon as evening came and she was able to sit by herself with her thoughts, the skies opened up and a deluge was released upon them. The ladies of the house had tied down the shutters and struggled to keep the fires alive hours ago and then it calmed down. As it seemed to calm down, she lay awake, alone in her bed.
So she came here, the hearth that had been her heart for so long. The place where she found company when she needed it, solitude when she desired it, and, usually solace when God granted it.
He did not grant it tonight. It was too quiet and even her ladies who had accompanied her to keep her company were now asleep on the freshly strewn hay on the ground at her feet.
She was alone. Alone with a storm raging in her head as loud and angry as the storm outside was promising to be once more.
The cold winds were picking up and blew through the cracks in the ancient wooden shutters and through the castle, teasing and playing any semblance of home or warmth or comfort. The damp absorbed by the stone floor and walls rose up to meet it, diffusing through the flesh and settling in the bones.
She shivered and wrapped her furs closer around her. She was exhausted but her internal storm would not let her rest. It seemed like it was getting stronger, the uneasiness and all-too-familiar depression whipped through her head, pushing at her skull, threatening to burst her head open. It had first appeared when her first child passed away the moment he was born. It reappeared when her daughter drowned in the nearby pond. It reappeared when she bled every single month signalling her empty womb. It never quite left, but she kept going, knowing that she had to go onbecause her husband relied on her to go on and to be normal. So she swallowed the bitter pill and pretended that it tasted like roses. The roses had grown thorns and she was bleeding inside.
He was gone now, and the roses had grown thorns. She was bleeding inside and the monster within her had awakened, threatening to consume her.
Suddenly, the shutters flew open and the freezing cold whipped around the room, screaming at her, mocking her while chilling her already frigid body. She jumped up and slammed them closed, but not before she heard the drunken cat calls and laughter from the feasting and whoring in the guards’ quarters. She knew this was the way of men, but she screamed back at the storm screaming at her, her heart breaking as the breath left her . Her body suddenly ached, the pain of losing her husband and her children and not being able to grasp normality collided in her one, ghastly scream. She collapsed, the rain pouring over her body, the monster inside her roaring in triumph, miserable, heaving sobs escaping from somewhere deep within her. Would the pain ever end?
Cool, comforting hands surrounded her, holding her close to a warm body, stroking her hair, rocking her soothing her, wiping the wetness from her face. She had awoken her ladies and they surrounded her in her misery, sitting in silence, allowing her to grieve as she needed.
She wept for her dead husband.
She wept for her dead children.
She wept to dispel her loneliness.
She wept, mourning the fact that this reality was her lonely, difficult life. The life that no matter how much she tried, she could not escape.
She wept until she was so exhausted that she could barely breathe.
She wept until she was all calm again.
When she looked up, the clouds were still present but were dispersing, he sun was rising, rejected by the earth and spat into the sky.
She sighed heavily, the weight of the world on her shoulders and got up, heading for her bedroom to try to get ready for the day ahead.
It would be mourning soon.