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Oliver Wragg

He never came into the stables.  Therefore, when I heard his voice, his cries of pain, I was more than startled.  James snapped away from me, shoving me onto the hard wooden floor as I felt a shock of pain shoot from my elbows as they made contact with the ground.  My dress sprawled out around my waist as I felt my heart pounding against my ribcage.  I thought it would burst through and pour across the ground, but to my dismay, it remained in place.  I think in that moment everything would have been easier if heart had burst though.  James, who moved faster than I did, pulled his pants back on and flew down the ladder after Reuben.  The stable door slammed shut behind them, which blocked out the bright light from outside once more.  I, unlike them, could not move however.  Everything hurt as I laid with my back against the stable floor.  Everything felt wrong. 

I could hear them fighting outside the stables.  I could hear the sound of someone falling into the dirt.  I heard the thud of a body hitting ground.  I could hear the pounding of hooves running and fading into the distance.  The sound of crickets began to fill the stables after a while as the colours of the walls began to dim.  Slowly, I lifted myself upward as I pulled my dress up over my shoulders.  My dress felt heavy and scratchy on my frame.  Sliding down the ladder, I began to lace up my dress as I slowly stumbled out of the stables.  My legs felt weak and sore making it hard for me to keep my balance.  I do not know how long I laid there, but when I walked out I realise night had fallen.  I assumed James was gone, but I could see the fading gloss of blood dripped on the pathway outside of the house.  Walking to the doorway, I slowly made my way into the house.

The room stood silent and dark.  The fireplace was cold and did not cast a warm glow on the room like it did most nights.  Everything, instead, looked blue and muted.  I carefully shut the door behind me to make sure it did not make a sound as the latch clicked close.  Walking in, I stopped in front of the bedroom door where I could see my own reflection in the tiny mirror across the room.  It was dark, but I could make out my hair sticking out.  The face of the woman looking back at me did not look like me.  I do not know who she was, but she was not me.  Peering in more, I found the bed standing empty.  Letting out a faint breath, I crawled into the bed and curled the blankets around my body.  I felt dirty and sick, but sleep overtook me quickly in my exhaustion. 

When I woke up in the morning, the light sparkled in through the windows.  I sat up and let my legs swung over the edge of my bed.  I felt heavy as my feet pressed against the wooden floor.  Slowly standing up, I took in a deep breath and made my way to the bedroom door.  The house appeared empty which was unusual to me.  However, regardless, I decided to tend to my duties instead.  Messing with pots, I suppose I planned to prepare a meal or something, but I never really made it anywhere other than moving pots from one location to another.  Although I was awake and conscious, I did not feel like I was present.  I was there, but I was not at the same time.  It felt surreal. 

As I continued moving in attempts to pull my mind away from what happened the day before, the door swung open and spooked me causing me to drop the cast iron pan onto the ground with a loud clang.  Cursing under my breath, I bent down to pick it up.  A shadow loomed over me causing my heart to race in my chest.  Looking up, I saw Reuben glaring at me. 

“Slut,” he snarled and his foot rammed into my ribs.

I fell to my side with a cry and held my stomach as I heard his sluggish footsteps stomp into the other room and the door slam shut.  With shaking hands, I carefully lifted the pan and dropped it back onto the table before I moved across to the door of the room Reuben locked.  There was once a time when the room could not lock, but after Reuben caught me looking through his medical books, he changed that.  I always had an acute fascination in the practice of medicine, but aside from herbalism, Reuben never allowed me to learn.  He insisted the art of surgery was unwomanly.  Although I suppose in many ways I will always be unwomanly.

“Reuben,” I felt my voice crack.  “Can we talk?”

No response followed.

“Reuben,” I continued again, “I didn’t want… you know… I tried to tell him… I…”  I could not find the right words.

Still, there was no response.

“Please Reuben,” I felt my voice raise higher in the plea, “I’m sorry.”

My eyes began to sting, but still he did not respond.  Pushing off the door, I walked back into the room.  Breathing deeply, I lifted my hand to rub my eye with the sleeve of my dirtied dress gently.  I still had not changed into a clean one.  Looking around the room, everything felt so distant around me.  Almost as if the room filled with water and blurred my vision from seeing the walls with any clarity.  Behind me, the door creaked open and Reuben came out.  He pushed past me almost knocking me back onto the ground as he fell onto his chair near the fire.  Without looking up at me, he simply stared into the black empty rocks that stretched up the wall of our home.

“Reuben?”  I whispered.

“How could you?”  He snarled out.

“I… I didn’t… I didn’t want-” I began to say, but his hand lifted to cut me off.

“Is it because he’s younger?  Handsomer?”  Reuben interrupted. 

“No, not at all,” I moved over and fell onto my knees, taking his hands into mine.  “It moved too fast for me to stop it.  I didn’t want it.  I love you.

He yanked his hands out of my grasp, “Don’t touch me, you’re dirty.  You’re a whore.”  He spit into my face.

Lifting one hand up, I wiped the slobbery salvia from my eye as I said in a weaker tone, “No Reuben, trust me.  It was-”

Suddenly the pang of his hand snapping across my cheek sent me falling to the side again.  He stood up and stepped over me.  “You’re not my wife.  You’re disgusting.” 

With his words came another brick falling down into my chest and bruising me.  I did feel disgusting.  I did feel dirty.  The door slammed behind Reuben and I slowly lifted myself back to my feet.  Feeling my own tears well up and burn my eyes, I pushed my way back into our bedroom to tear the dress from my frame.  I wanted to be clean so desperately.  I dipped a rag into the cold water in the basin at the foot of our bed and began to scratch it into my skin roughly in attempts to wash away the day before.  I rubbed my skin raw until it glowed red and burned, but still despite my efforts, the feeling would not leave me.  Inevitably, I redressed in a fresh dress and returned to the main part of the house to pretend to be somewhat normal at least and resume my cooking attempts that still made no progress.  Perhaps Reuben would come to forgive me, or at least I hoped he would come to forgive me.  I understood what made him upset and it panged me with guilt.  Why could I have not stopped him?  Why did I not stop him?

The stomach cramps came that evening.  Well, I remember feeling sore to my stomach for days leading up to then, but Reuben always assured me that such are merely results of pregnancy.  He told me that the growing of a newborn child hurt naturally.  Nevertheless, the pain I felt that night hurt worse than any pain I had ever felt before.  As I scrubbed a pan that I have scrubbed several times now, a sudden sharp pain pierced through me causing me to drop the pan.  I held my stomach.  It felt much alike to the pain I suffered from when Reuben had kicked me, but this pain was deeper.  Much deeper.  Scrambling, I left the pan on the floor and I returned to my bedroom.  I noticed the blood when at that moment.  Pregnant women are not supposed to bleed, are they?  Not wanting to tell Reuben, I shoved rags into the bottom of my shorts beneath my dress much like I do whenever my menstruation cycle came and made my way back to the fireplace in which I sat down on one of the chairs.   My stomach hurt.  My sides hurt.  My body hurt.

I do not know when Reuben had returned that night, but when I woke up the next morning, he stood over me with a rag in his hand.  One I had used to clean when I discovered the blood.  His forehead face was tense and his eyes glared into mine as he snarled, “What is this Edonea?”

Blinking my eyes for a moment, I squinted and looked at the rag wearily, “A rag?”

“No,” he snapped, slamming the back of his hand into my cheek, “Where did this come from?”

“I-…” I stammered, “I-It’s a rag I used.”

“Where did the blood come from?”  He hissed.

“I…it… came…”  I stopped and lowered my eyes.

Slowly breathing out of his nose, he nodded, “Are you still?”

Blinking, I felt a flush come to my cheeks as I murmured, “I don’t know, Reuben… I…”

He interrupted me, “Go check.  Now.” 

Quickly stammering to my feet, I felt a pang pierce through my stomach causing me to cry out in pain.  However, Reuben grabbed my wrist and swung me to my feet.  Pushing me to the bedroom, I scurried off.  When I returned, I held the rag in my hands soaked in blood that appeared fresh.  Holding my stomach, all I can really remember is I felt dizzy and sick. 

Reuben made a grave for our unborn child.  He buried my bloody clothes since we did not actually have a body.  He insisted the baby would have been a son giving the child the name Oliver.  I sat on my knees as I felt the moisture from the ground soaking through the skirt of my dress.  However, I did not care.  Instead, I held my head low as my body felt weak and my heart felt more vulnerable than I had felt in years.  Reuben, at some point, must have come out to stand by my side.  In that moment, I wished I had the husband I thought I loved, but he could no longer be that man… not after what he and I both blamed me for.

After several moments, I heard his voice speak up, “This was your fault.”

He startled me causing my spine to tense, “W-What?”  I looked up at him.

“You did this,” his voice did not snarl.  It was weak actually.  Nothing more than a whisper, “You did this to us.”

“How is this my fault, Reuben?”  I furrowed my brows, feeling my hands shake and my legs cramp beneath me.

“We were happy, but you… you were unfaithful.  You cursed our child.  He’s dead because of you,” Reuben snarled now.

“Reuben,” I heard my voice crack, “I didn’t wa-”

He lifted his hand and snapped out, “No, you committed adultery.  That is a fact you cannot deny.  You killed our child.”

“I didn’t-” I stopped myself there.  Frowning, I found it hard to argue with him.  I felt like it was my fault our babe was dead.  Reuben was suffering because of me.  It was my fault I did not stop James.  Everything was… my… fault. 

Reuben simply snarled and returned to our house leaving me alone by the grave of my unborn child.  The grave my child was in becomes of me.  It was my fault.  Reuben was right.  

((​To be continued..))