“It was colder than usual. Nothing was right. The wind blew so hard, the candles on the table went out. The sound of leaves whisking around the house was unbearable. The thump of high-heeled shoes walking across the wooden floor alarmed the girl.”
It was colder than usual. Nothing was right. The wind blew so hard, the candles on the table went out. The sound of leaves whisking around the house was unbearable.
The thump of high-heeled shoes walking across the wooden floor alarmed the girl.
“I shall not support this. She has to leave. If you keep her here, I won’t help you. Do it for her. The boy doesn’t stand a chance there. He is only eight. The reform is clear: nine and older. I am sorry,” said the lady that was fluffing up her curly, orange hair and pulling up her long, puffy, purple dress that seemed recently sown at the finest dressmaker in the village.
“NO… NO… I… can’t. She is mine. I won’t let her go. Why would you… No… NEVER.”
The little girl heard the footsteps stomping towards her, and she ran to her bed while her mother opened the door.
“She is leaving now,” she said, calmly, and closed the door. That poor mom slipped sweat off her face. She took a deep breath and slammed the door behind the orange-haired lady. She knelt down and started crying as silent as she could. Time passed. Minutes… hours… days.
“God, Beth, I say we go for it,” said the drunk man, walking around, all dizzy, bumping into the table and wooden plates.
“Pete, you’re drunk again. How could you do that to her, me, and Benjamin.”
The mother looked into her husband’s eyes to see if there was a bit of humanity left in him.
“Who cares anymore? We need the money. Take it, or I will,” said Pete.
“She is our daughter. How could you say such a… what happened?”
The mother’s worried eyes looked down to Pete’s bloody arm.
“You owe debt,” she said calmly, as she walked towards a small stove and a wooden table they called kitchen. She picked up a glass bottle sitting on the table. She screamed and threw it at the door.
“Calm it, Beth. You know I did it to win us some money.”
Beth started laughing loudly. A bit too loudly.
“And yet you lost it all. And the worst part is you want to… give our child away to her… of all the people in the world.” Beth took a breath. “How about Benje?”
Pete looked down.
“I thought he could start work. Besides, it’s not like I want to give our daughter to a stranger. It’s your sister.”
Beth sat down on the only piece of furniture in that cottage.
“My sister wants to make our daughter a labor worker…” said Beth, like she was disappointed.
“But she will give her lessons to read, and a better home,” said Pete.
“So you forgot the part about you getting her salary till she is older. She is my daughter. I won’t let her leave my side… I can’t,” said a sobbing Beth.
“Good God, let her go… I will give you another one or something,” Pete said with humor.
All was silent for a while as far as Benjamin and his sister could tell. Their ears were close, trying to hear the result.
“They won’t give you up,” said Benjamin, trying to convince himself and her. The sounds started. They had lower pitches this time.
“She is only twelve, and he is only eight. We can’t separate them,” said Beth, trying to find a way out of her husband’s poor judgment.
“ Hm…” said Pete, “it’s not like they depend on each other.”
Beth took a deeper breath. “YES, THEY BLOODY DO!” she shouted.
What could she say? How could her husband be like this? She could not believe this. Anger took control. This was the 5th time this was happening. A drunken man with no clue of the important things in life other than money. Yet Beth knew deep down that without that money Pete lost, they were doomed. She did not care. She pushed Pete aside.
“Good night,” she said plainly and walked way.
She went to the bucket of water and splashed her face. Beth undressed from her daily clothes and plopped on her hay-like bed, crying.
Every second next to Pete was torture for Beth after that night.
“Wake up, kids. It’s harvest day.”
The family of four headed out with buckets and shovels and tools.
“Start there, boy, and you help your sister. Me and Mama will take the bottoms,” ordered Pete.
“Actually, you and Benjamin can take the sides, and we will take the bottom,” said Beth with a sly look to Pete.
The day was hotter than ever. The poor mother and little girl worked in their heavy dresses, which were now wet.
“How are you, my sweet?” said Beth with a fake smile, trying to make her daughter feel better. She nodded, as in a fake “Okay.”
“I am sorry for your father’s behavior. He was affected by alcohol, and we all learned how bad that is, sweetheart.”
Again she nodded, as in “Whatever.” Yes, she knew her mother would not let her go, but she knew at the end, they were broke. How could her mother fix that? Unless God sent magic seeds to make them have ten times the wheat they have now, nothing would work.
“Work, boy. We don’t want you to fail at this easy job. You will be a working man soon,” said Pete, trying to cut as much wheat as possible.
“But Papa, I am only eight. My friends in the village say they go to school and all,” said Benjamin, trying to put some sense into his father. Pete lightly laughed. After a second, it became a shameful laugh.
“Yes, boy,” said Pete. “I understand you want that too, but we don’t live near the village, and we can’t send you to school.”
The rest of the day, the family tried to keep quiet, because they had nothing else to say.
The next evening was intense. The dinner was only bread and a few sprigs of parsley they had left. Beth thought Pete had decided to skip dinner, apparently. He was not even back from town, and Beth was worried.
“I love the food, Mama. It’s so good,” said Benjamin trying to keep a positive atmosphere. “How about you? Do you like it, sis?”
She nodded, but did not say a word, and continued eating. Beth turned and looked into her daughter’s bloodshot, red eyes. It was obvious she was not sleeping.
“Okay, it’s time for bed. Head along, children,” said Beth, nicely.
The children got up and went to their small room. Beth picked up their wooden plate, and she put it on the counter. She sat down on a chair, staring at their window, waiting. Hours passed, and Beth was about to give up and go to bed.
“I have made a breakthrough,” shouted Pete, crashing into the door. “Why don’t we invent something? A device that can make you sober in a second. How funny would that be?”
Beth stood up as fast as she could.
“Yes, and then men will want it, and we can make a fortune,” said Pete.
“Oh, Pete, I was worried sick. What is wrong with you? Go to bed. I don’t want to hear another word out of that wrecked mouth. Go now to bed, before I force you out of the house.”
Pete laughed. “No way. We have a giant workshop to build.”
Beth shook her head in disappointment. “No, we are not…you are not doing that. Go to bed before you wake the kids.”
Pete stood there lifeless for a second. “I don’t know really how you feel about them…”
Beth looked up and asked, “You mean our children?”
Pete nodded. “We either have to sell them or put them up for work.”
Beth stared with impatience. “You make absolutely no sense. Have you lost your heart?”
Pete continued on about how he had been able to find buyers for their children for slaves or labor work, and so on. He started from bad ideas to awful, but he could not stop. He did not care. Beth grew madder by the second.
“GET OUT NOW!”
Beth slammed the door on Pete and went to bed.
Deep thoughts went through that family’s heads that night. All of them.
BANG. A loud sound took over the field. Beth and the children ran outside to find the most horrifying scene. Beth looked with shock. The children looked stunned. Pete was lying between the wheat… dead, with a wheat cutter gone through him. The blood had splattered, and the wheat was no longer yellow, but deep red. Benjamin looked at his sister, who started to cry. Beth looked down at her traumatized children.
“Go inside, now.” The kids held each other’s hands and they ran inside.
“God, why, God,” Beth screamed and sobbed.
She woke up confused. She looked at her brother’s bed but he was not there. She got up and opened the door to her room and looked into their cottage. Nothing was there. More importantly, no one was there. She opened the cottage door to find two horses connected to small wooden carriages. Beth walked towards her. She smiled at her daughter and handed her a small bag. Beth took her hand and led her to one of the carriages. She kissed her on the cheek and helped her climb on top of it. She gave her a hug and left to the other carriage. Benjamin sat with a suitcase on a bale of strain wheat. Beth went towards him and gave him a kiss.
“Goodbye, my sweets,” she said out loud.
The two men on the horses said, “Giddy up,” and the horses started trotting on the road.
The kids looked back on to their mother’s crying face.