The Proposal

Photo prompt: Sue Vincent

 

“You might as well open your eyes now.”

His gravely voice was somewhat amused but carried in it the edge of impatience she’d recognized from her own father. A dismissive tone that simultaneously mocked and tolerated females’ flair for the emotional while also warning said females to not mistake momentary patience for leniency.

Muriel swallowed any sign of sigh. Her body ached from three days rattling on wooden wheels over rocks and gravel and muddy ruts and unexpected pits. To make matters worse, the girl-servant who’d been her companion since childhood, hadn’t been allowed to accompany her, and the rough hands of service women who did not know her, had tied her stays too tight and left the knots digging at her ribs and the small of her back.

She’d closed her eyes in part to manage the ever present nausea of travel forced on her at the opposite direction of movement. However, a goodly bit of it was in order to allow herself at least a semblance of private space in the confines of the carriage. His eyes undressed her either way, but at least she could pretend to not see it.

Her time for privacy was up.

She forced her eyes open and nodded the politest smile she could manage at the man who would be her lord and father-in-law (and if his leering told her anything, also the master of her body, son or no son).

He scared her and his eyes were cruel, but she’d learned at a young age to hide revulsion under a lowering of lashes and to nod compliance as means to reduce inevitable harm.

“You are a girl-child, Muriel,” her mother would soothe and scold her as she gently rubbed salve onto what new welts and bruises another lashing had left on the child. “No matter what they do or ask of you, you must not disobey.”

And yet even her mother, the mistress of the manor, who embodied the balance of stately conduct and humility before her betters, sported the occasional split lip from her husband, Muriel’s father, along with other wounds in areas best left unmentioned. All a female could do was walk the tightrope in attempt to limit scope and frequency of pain.

Muriel raised her eyes to meet the heavy brow of the man who occupied the seat across from her. She calmed her voice so it not reflect her fretting mind.

“Have we almost arrived, My Lord?”

His eyes flicked to the window and she leaned to look through the opening, acutely aware that this brought her body perilously close to his lap.

The lake sprawled at the side of their conveyance, the water undulating lightly in the breeze as afternoon clouds gathered. Into it grew a spit of rock and on top it a castle, stout in stone and strong in somber presence. It was far larger than the house she’d left behind. Gloomier and more glorious, too.

She wondered how long it would be before she could once again see it from this or any vantage point. Some lords did not allow their women to leave their rooms, let alone the courtyard. Especially not the newly arrived, who might attempt to steal a path out of marriage by seeking the luring company of nymphs at the bottom of lakes.

She let her gaze linger on the castle before straightening.

“It is beautiful, My Lord,” she said.

His eyes narrowed then relaxed and she was glad she didn’t need to lie about it. He’d probably know if she had.

“Your new home,” he noted, almost kindly.

Her stomach lurched. Home or jail, there may not really be a difference. Still, as the carriage continued toward the future that this man had proposed and her father had accepted, she felt she may have passed some test that if she managed to maintain the credit of, could bring her — if not safety or protection — then perhaps a lesser measure of misery.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

At The Window

Wacton church window

 

She’d drag her trunk over every time she was left alone. It did not happen nearly often enough, so she faked head-hurts when her need got too great.

She’d drag the trunk over and place the foot-stool atop it. Gather her skirts and climb to stand precariously on it, balancing on tiptoes.

It was the only way to reach the window.

It was the only way to look out.

The only way to see the fields. The light upon the water in the distant pond. The green or bloom or brown or white of seasons. The birds. The trees. The world outside.

She didn’t know how long she’d have to stay confined to the Women’s Tower. Probably till she was of age to be married off and be conveyed in a shuttered carriage to the Women’s Tower in some other lord’s estate. The curse of her birth.

Highborn girl-children did not go out of doors very often. They did not spend time in the courtyard after infancy and were never unveiled or unaccompanied. Their chastity required they not be seen.

She watched the peasants’ children frolicking. She watched the girls work the fields, herd the geese, chase stray ducklings, spread seed for the hens, milk the goats, cut the hay, grind the wheat, slap cloth against the rocks at the sparkling stream. She could almost feel them breathe, though when she tried to draw breath herself it only let in suffocation. So much so she sometimes did not need to fake a head-hurt after that.

The latticed windows did not open. Two narrow slats near the corners of the tower room did respond to her mother’s lock in fine weather to allow air through cracks barely as wide as her wrist. Not that she was allowed to try and push an arm through them. It would be unseemly.

Still, she tried. Once. The marginal openings met a stone ledge’s resistance after a few inches’ opening.

Protection from invaders and wild-men, she was told.

Guarantee against escape of any kind, she thought.

 

 

 

For Crimson’s Creative Challenge

 

Evidently

neonbrand-395901-unsplash wrongway

Photo: neonbrand on upsplash

 

Evidently,

There are those who think the will of men should rule over the will of women.

Evidently,

There are those who’d see a rapist as less deserving of punishment than the one who stopped the ongoing impact of that rape.

Evidently,

There are many who claim that their own interpretation of God should be forced onto all others, regardless.

Evidently,

There are those who do not see how that endangers the very premise of religious freedom, and with it, their own access to choice.

Evidently,

There are those who hark for days when girls and women were a property that men could do whatever they desired with, regardless of whether girls and women had agreed.

Evidently,

There are those who push their personal beliefs as science, while ignoring and denying facts that do not fit the narrative they’d allow as acceptable to perceive.

Evidently,

There are those who’d abandon, ignore, punish, and vilify already living children while pretending to cherish those who aren’t yet born.

Evidently,

There are those who value power over choice and silencing over voice.

Evidently,

There are those who’d put people to death even as they claim all life is precious.

Evidently,

There are still many who do not see and many who refuse to even try.

And so … evidently,

There’s much still needed to be done in this time of religious extremism in its push to diminish rights, undo progress, and force radicalization.

Much to do:

To keep theocracy from overtaking true religious and personal freedom;

To liberate distortions of what some claim is pro-life but is in fact just anti-choice;

To help the lost see that support of life respects and encompasses the living and does not, selectively, ‘defend’ only the unborn;

To dispel outdated views of women as unable or unworthy of autonomy over their own bodies, health, and futures;

To protect the lives of women and girls from the intrusion, disrespect, disregard, and dismissal of value, that criminalizing of choice does.

Because …

Evidently,

There is much still needong to be done.

To ensure choice is protected

So lives, too, can.

 

 

 

For Linda’s SoCS prompt: Adverb

 

Day of The Girl

Speak up for every girl.

For every woman, child.

For those who never had a say

Or book, or pen in hand.

Speak up for every girl

Who was shut up from choice

For every girl whose culture robbed

From future full of hope.

Speak up for girls who have no school

Who’re married before time,

Who men control with fear and pain

In violence, man-prowl, crime.

Speak up for every woman, child,

Trafficked, sold off, bound

For every one who’d been demeaned

Silenced, pushed around.

Speak up for girls who do not earn

Fair wages for fair work

Speak up for giving girls a voice

For futures they can mold.

Speak up so no more men teach boys

That women can be groped.

Speak up so no more women believe

Such men cannot be stopped.

Speak up for every girl who thinks

No one will care to know

Who worries rape will be about

Her face, her clothes, her fault.

Speak up so every girl

Can have a safe return.

From classrooms, boardrooms, wells.

So every child is free to be

To write, to talk, to tell.

Speak up for women everywhere

From girlhood throughout life

For mothers, sisters, neighbors, wives.

Speak up.

Speak up.

Speak up.

 

malala

Malala Yousafzai