BonnaSue has retired to Southern California to resume writing a historical fiction book based on family history. This is her first novel. All previous writing has been academic. She became interested in this part of her family story because they were slave owners and Loyalists in the Revolutionary War. Embarrassed by the racism inherent in owning other people and troubled by the legacy as "enemies" of our country, she immersed herself in research. She balances the story with slave and Scots-Irish dialects. She draws her characters' shadow sides into the story while offering redemptive qualities. BonnaSue is supported in her writing by a weekly writer' group, comrade writer and as her two cats.
An Unsettling Truth
“Mam, was that really yer wedding dress?” Elizabeth gaped at the faded white gown trimmed in blue.
Her mother held up the dress with her large profile extending well beyond the edges of the small frock. Two sets of arms appeared - the empty sleeves hung softly within the dress and Mam’s plump arms reached beyond.
“Aye. And it was yer grandmother’s. She wore it before me.” The older woman sighed wistfully. “It traveled all the way from Ireland wrapped in a clean cloth and stored in the kist. The blue lace is a symbol of virginity.” Her smile, a badge of honor.
Elizabeth’s voice was tentative. “Mam, do all women change after they wed?” She worried her lower lip.
“Ye will see changes when ye have bairns. A woman’s body is different after all that.
“In what way will I change?” Elizabeth’s face reddened.
“Och, tis not to be worried over. We get bigger here,” she pointed to her ample breasts, “and here in our hips. We need larger bodies for feeding and carrying our babbies.”
“That’s another thing.” Elizabeth hesitated. “Mam, I dinna ken about babbies.”
“Ye will have many. Of that I am sure. Dinna be fretting about that.”
“But, Mam.” She cleared her throat. “Mam, willna it hurt?”
“Hurt what?” Her mother was not paying attention.
Elizabeth huffed and thought, Mam is being dense. She took a deep breath and looked at her stocking feet for strength. “Mam, what is it like to be married?”
“Ye’ll find out soon enough.” She took the dress and pulled it over the red curls of her daughter’s head. “Ye’ll be wed within the month.” The dress dropped in waves over the slender body. “Mmm. Ye look beautiful, just as I did when I was wed. Ye will make a lovely bride with braids and wild flowers in yer hair. Twill be a real Irish wedding.
“I want to know what to expect, Mam! Who else can I ask? Ye have to tell me.” Elizabeth peered at her mother’s face and saw a shadow. Alarmed, she said, “Mam?”
“Oh alright, Ye need to hear this.” Mam inhaled deeply. “Tis hard at first. It hurts to be in bed with yer husband. He does things. That’s all.”
“That’s all!” Elizabeth’s voice squeaked. “What d’ye mean?”
“Weel, he has his way with ye. And ye must let him. His is big. I mean, he is bigger than ye. So let him in.”
“Oh Elizabeth, ye must know. In.” (A pause) “Down there. Where ye have yer bleeding.”
The pointing was not necessary.
“Mam!” Elizabeth was startled by her Mother’s mater-of-fact manner. “Mam, he puts his big thing in my hole?”
“Yes, that’s what happens.” Mam thought, Finally, she gets it!
“It’s his pushing at first that hurts.”
Tears flowed from the lass’ eyes.
“Now don’t be crying. Ye’ll get yer dress all messy.”
Elizabeth quickly pulled the gown over her head and tossed it on the bed. “I willna wear it.” She spoke quickly. “I’ll be having none of it. I willna get wed.” She looked out the window. The sun made pictures as it seeped through lace curtains. “I just want to stay here. Where I belong.”
“Ye canna do that. It is a promise between yer Da and William. Just think what the bizz would be if we didna keep the agreement. It wouldna be guid. Ye shouldna be thinking like this.”
“I’ll be having none of it.”
There is her stubborn streak - comes with her red hair! “Just remember that all women have this. With their husbands. On their wedding night. Ye are not alone.”
Elizabeth raised her voice, “I will be alone when I am in bed with that man. Ye are telling me he doesna ken he’s hurting me? Weel, I’ll be in pain and crying by myself. I’ll be wishing I never wore that dress.” Elizabeth stabbed her finger at the bed where the deserted gown lay in a heap.
Mam sighed. “Elizabeth.” She put her hands on her daughter’s bare shoulders. “Any lass would be lucky to have William for a husband.”
“He’s an eejit!”
“He is kind. I have seen this with his man slave. Ye have too. William feeds him and doesna beat him. He even is allowed to ride to Sunday meeting. William doesna know I’ve seen it, but I have. I could wish yer Da were as caring.” Mam wondered if she’d said too much against her husband - about his cruel way with slaves.
“I know how Da is. I didna want a man who beats my slave when I take her with me. I have promised Dinah she will not be whipped.
“Ye will be able to keep yer oath when ye wed William. That is, if the promise between Da and William is held.” She looked into her daughter’s blue eyes. “He is terble fond o’ ye. I have seen this.”
Elizabeth slumped onto the bed. “I have no where else to go except with him. Dinah and I will have to leave and go to William’s hoose.” Tears ran down her freckled cheeks. “Oh Mam! Why is there nothing more for a lass than to wed?” She tried to imagine another possibility.
“I dinna ken.” Mam’s words were tinged with woe. The shadow crossed her face once more. “Maybe some day there will be. But not for ye.”
“Best not to wonder about these things. Perhaps a granddaughter will find her way with some other choice. For now, it is a guid thing William dotes on ye.”
Mam’s words offered no comfort to the lass. “Mam...”
“No hairm will come to ye. He will be a guid husband. He hasna a lot to offer on his small farm or in his hoose, but he is kind. Can ye not see that?”
Then, with an unusual move, Mam drew her daughter into her large breasts and wrapped her arms around Elizabeth, crushing out the last of her weeping.
Elizabeth melted. It was a rare act of love from her mother. The girl pressed into the nurturing bosom and held tight. She sighed and thought, I dinna want this to end.
Too soon, Mam withdrew. She surprised herself with her motherly gesture and pressed Elizabeth away. A distance came between them.
Elizabeth gasped with the feeling of emptiness.
Mam quickly wrapped up the gown and folded it away in the girl’s hope kist. “Now, we must attend to the last of the things needed for yer new home.”
Elizabeth stood immobilized and feeling abandoned. “I just wanted to be held for a time.” The tears returned. “To remember when I dinna have ye later.”
“Och! Ye are wanting too much.” Mam bustled around the small bedroom filled with light and lace. “I didna ken a lass could be so weepy about her wedding.”
“Mam, didna ye have doubts about marrying Da?”
“Nay,” she lied. (A pause) “If I did, I kept it all to myself. Like ye must do. None of this sniveling.” Mam was herself again.
Elizabeth felt despair and sighed. She was alone once more.
babbies - babies
bairns - young children
bizz - gossip
canna - can not
dinna - do not
didna - did not
doesna - does not
eejit - idiot
guid - good
hairm - harm
hasna - has not
hoose - house
ken - know
shouldna - should not
weel - well
willna - will not