Indésirable by Courtney Quick

When I was a little girl, I thought that I was invisible. It was a strange feeling, to stand amongst a group of people and not be seen. When I grew older I realized that I wasn’t invisible to everyone just to one man. This man I had done a great injustice to. An injustice that I could never take back, because I had taken away the only woman he had ever loved. This was my burden; I wear the scars of my father, and the death of my mother.
Indésirable
Indésirable by Courtney Quick
It was in France around the 1300’s that my Father and mother married and began their happy home. My father was a well-known blacksmith and soon after their wedding they had a beautiful baby boy named Thomas. Father would talk about how he would take over the business and one day expand their work to greater heights. It wasn’t too long after they had a beautiful baby girl who had the voice of an angel. She was so beautiful, that couples would stop on the street to admire her as mother and would shop through the market. After those two beautiful children were two miscarriages which took its toll on Mother and Father’s marriage. Father wanted another boy, but mother wanted another girl. The physician warned mother that she shouldn’t have any more children. It was the year of 1328 when the snow began to touch the ground that complications of the birth of her third child began to take place. The labor lasted longer than expected and Mother lost more blood than expected. I came into the world screaming and she left it the same way. My first breath was my first sin. I didn’t choose to be born that morning, but we never get to choose the circumstances we are born into. Because of these circumstances I would never receive the love of a mother, or the love of my father. I was named Nicole, a shortened version of my mothers name Nicolette. I don’t remember my mother, but I was told she had beautiful gray eyes like mine. It wasn’t until I was six or seven that I understood the weight of what I’d done. With every year I grew older Father grew colder. Maybe it was how much of her he saw her features in my face. Unlike my sister and my brother who had dark brown hair, I had mother’s dark blonde hair, her pale skin and gray eyes. Sometimes I would sneak into Fathers room to look at pictures of Mother, with her thin frame and sweet smile. The way Father idolized her made me wish I could bring her back. I use to pray at night that she would come back. When I realized that wasn’t possible, I began to pray that my hair would darken like Thomas or my sister Denise’s. Anything to make me look less like her, and for him to look at me and not wear a mask of resentment. Most of our time was spent in Father’s shop. Thomas, my brother was sixteen and would help Father work while Denise, thirteen would work on her chores or needlework. Being very small for my age, I spent my time chasing birds outside the shop. As long as I stayed out of Father’s way, he didn’t mind what I did. Father would spend his days working and his nights alone in his room. We would all have dinner by the fire usually prepared by Denise. I sat to the left of father, most of the time I would stare at his hands and wonder what he did in his room all alone all night. His hands were always calloused and covered in black markings. He had many scars, and on his left finger he wore a wedding band. “Eat your broth Nicolette,” Denise says. “Nicole,” my father corrects her. I stare at his face and for a moment he looks at me. Just a moment of contact, “I’m tired,” he says standing abruptly. He pushes the chair in and heads upstairs. I stare at his empty seat and half eaten broth. Denise and Thomas watch him disappear upstairs. Denise looks at me. “I’m sorry,” I tell my soup bowl. I’m sure it was my fault he had left. What did he think when he looked at me? “Eat your broth Nicole,” Denise says again. I stare at my face in the reflection of the broth. Thomas had a Gambling problem. Every Thursday of the week, the one-day that he was given off, Thomas would head down to the docks to gamble. I knew this routine by heart, because on this day he was to watch me. Denise had begun meeting suitors, so she was too busy to watch me Thursdays. So every afternoon, Thomas and I would ride his horse down by the docks. He would sit me in front of the Saloon with my doll, and tell me not to leave until he came out. I was not to tell father where we went on this day of the week. Father did not approve of this habit; he believed Thomas should be looking for a good wife and start a family of his own. I didn’t blame Thomas for not wanting to marry; after all I didn’t want to marry either. When I told Denise this she told me that my nose was crooked and I looked so strange I wouldn’t be married anyway. I told her my nose wasn’t crooked, but that didn’t stop me from staring in the mirror and wondering if she was right. I grew accustomed to sitting on the step outside the house of laughter. The saloon was always bustling with music and strange people moving in and out at all times of the evening. I would buy my time playing with the flowers, chasing the birds or sitting by the canal. Most people didn’t notice me, and that was okay, I was invisible. When the weather was very warm and the moon was high in the sky I would sit on the rocks by the canal and stare up at the sky wondering if Mother could see me. “May I sit?” A boy was kneeling to my left. I hadn’t heard him approach. In fact he stood there so silently, waiting for my response that it was almost startling to think this was real. “Are you talking to me?” He smiled a white-toothed grin. He had pale blonde hair and eyes bluer than the sky on a summer day. “That is if you don’t mind?” “Apologies, I- I don’t have my mind about me,” the truth was it had been over a year since anyone had bothered to speak to me outside the saloon. He sat down next to me on the rocks and stared into the dark water. I tried to act normal but this wasn’t normal for me. Do you talk to people that sit next to you after they say hello? “Do you often come to sit by the canal?” He asked. “Once a week, my brother-“ I stare back at the house of laughter, “He likes to frequent this place.” “My father and I are here on business matters, my name is Samuel,” he said outstretching his hand. “Nicole,” I said as he took my hand. He leaned down to kiss it. His blue eyes glanced up at me as I withdrew my hand to my chest. Never before had a boy kissed my hand. He kissed it the way gentlemen do to ladies, like Denise’s suitors do to her upon their arrival. “I am enchanted to meet someone as lovely as you Nicole.” “You think I’m lovely?” “Of course.” “My nose doesn’t look crooked to you?” His fingers clasped my chin. My face warmed in embarrassment as he turned my face slightly to the left then to the right. He wore a quizzical gaze staring at my features. “Ah, I see.” “What do you see?” “Your nose, it’s just not crooked at all. You may have to purchase a new one,” he smiled at me, a smile that I couldn’t help but return. “Do you live here?” I asked. “Some times I live everywhere.” “What do you mean?” “I have spent my life travelling to places all over the world.” “But you’re no more than sixteen!” I say turning to face him. “That is the glory of it, time has blessed me. I want to spend my life travelling the wonders of the world. I have been to England, seen the soldiers. Or the far sides of Europe where Viking men and women pillage villages for treasure.” “Women?” “Of course!” He stood snatching a stick from the banks. He waves the stick around as a sword pointing it in my direction. “Fierce women warriors that pillage villages beside their husbands.” “Tell me more,” I say excitement causing me to stand as well. “I have travelled across the sea to the far corners of the earth where buildings are shaped like triangles called pyramids,” he draws the shape on the dirt of the bank with his swordstick. “I have seen war, death.” “You’ve seen death?” He nodded gravely, “The dead are cold and unmoving their bodies grow rigid and their eyes yellow and gloss over like the moon.” I frown at this thought. The image of my beautiful mother decaying causes me to sit back on the stone. “I’ve upset you,” he says crouching in front of me. “No, you’ve not upset me.” “Well surely I have, your face has turned so grim.” “I was thinking of my mother, she died.” “I’m sorry to hear that Nicole, were you close?” I shook my head, “no, I never knew her. I killed her.” Samuel stares deeply into my eyes before continuing. “How could you kill someone you never knew?” “It was a complicated birth from what I’ve been told.” “NICOLE!” Thomas called from the Saloon. His words slurred slightly. I stood quickly waving at him. “I must go,” I turn to leave then pause only to turn back. “Will you be here next Thursday?” “Would you like me to be here?” I nodded shyly. “Then I will be here.” The entire ride home Thomas complained about the unfair game and his loss of funds. He was very angry, but he often angered quickly. He didn’t ask about the boy. We returned home. I found Denise brushing her hair in our room. She was singing as she usually does. She eyed me curiously as I entered to sit next to her by the mirror. “I met a very handsome man today. He comes from a wealthy family in a good home not too far from here. He took me on the most romantic walk through the market.” I picked up my brush and began to brush my hair just as she was. She paused in her story to watch me. “What’s wrong with you?” I put down the brush suddenly embarrassed. “My nose isn’t crooked!” I told her, turning on my heel I climbed into my bed and grinned into my pillow. That was the first time I ever said anything remotely similar to ‘you are wrong.’ Thursday is my favorite day of the week. I could hardly wait to see Samuel. Tonight he told stories of Geishas in Asia. They were women who spent their lives learning art and music. They would paint their faces competing against one another to dance and perform for men. They charged men for their virginity and for comfort. “Like prostitutes?” I ask. He twirls a leaf in his fingers and laughs. A soft laugh that makes me grin. “Like courtesans, independent well educated women. They are skilled in many ways. They have many lovers of high ranks and make quite a bit of money selling their company.” “Have you bought the company of a courtesan?” I ask. Blood rushes to my face as the words leave my lips. His lips curve in a sly grin. “Perhaps,” he says. I feel a rush deep into my chest, a feeling I had not felt before. “Does that displease you?” “Why would it displease me?” I say rising to my feet in hopes he couldn’t see the redness in my cheeks. It was no stranger to me what prostitutes did. I knew the action; Denise often spoke of it with her friends. Had he been with a woman? Or many women? “These women know how to read?” I ask changing the subject. “Many of them can read and write. Do you?” “My reading is very minimum, Denise didn’t enjoy teaching me and Father saw no use for it.” The wind stirred the leaves in the trees. Loose strands of hair flew about my face. Samuel reaches over to tuck them behind my ear. “I could teach you to read and write if you would like?” I nodded, “Yes please.” Reading had always been difficult for me, but Samuel read the words do fluidly as if they flew off the page and into his head. He would read walking around and acting out the scenes. He pointed out words and brought parchment to teach me lettering. By the fall Denise was engaged to her prince charming from a wealthy family. My writing was sloppy but legible and I could understand most of the words from Marco Polo. The air was crisp and growing colder. We sat together by the water. I wore a heavy over coat over my dress and stockings. Samuel wore a light jacket and a kind smile as he read aloud from another book. I shivered against the frigid wind. “Would you like my coat?” He offered. “And allow you to freeze to death? I think not.” He chuckled, “It doesn’t bother me so, but if you refuse to take my coat, will you at least move closer to share heat?” I did as told. My heart raced sitting this close to him. Could he hear how hard it pounded? He was mid sentence when I interrupted him. “Why are you not married?” His mouth gaped for a moment and he grinned coyly, “Who says I am not married?” The sinking feeling returned, my gaze lowered, “What is her name?” His fingers touched my chin once more. “I never said I was married either, that is a curious question to ask.” “Well, you’re a well travelled educated man with a nice face.” “You think my face is nice?” My face reddens again and I turn away from him. “It is a nice face for a gentlemen.” “I do not have a wife.” “Are you playing with my emotions sir, that is very cruel!” I smack his arm. He laughs. “Perhaps I wanted to view the expression on your face at my response.” “It was a valid question sir! You are in face old enough for a wife.” “And are you old enough for a husband?” My mouth gaped like a fish, “well- I uh, I never thought about it.” This was a lie. I had dreamed of travelling the world with Samuel. I dreamed of seeing his blue eyes against the sky, or how his pale skin looks in the sunlight. “You are soon to be a young woman, and you’ve not imagined a husband?” “How could I imagine a husband when my head is full of adventures!” “Perhaps I should fill your head less then?” I turned suddenly grabbing his hands, “You wouldn’t dare!” He glanced down at our hands before clasping my cold ones in his. “And what if I did?” “My life would surely end sir.” He smiled at me, “Well that would truly be a crime.” Denise was to be married in the springtime; her wedding plans filled the house with joy. Father seemed to smile more. When December came I woke up a woman. I had never seen so much blood in my life. Denise laughed at my fearful expression. “Well, well, guess its time to find you a husband!” “Please, please do not tell father!” I begged her. “He’s going to know when he see’s those sheets.” I hurriedly pulled the sheets from my bed. “I’ll wash them!” “Oh don’t be a child Nicole, you’re twelve now. Its time to be a woman,” she pat my head leaving me with an arm full of bloody sheets and a sinking feeling in my chest. I sat by the Canal, the cold winter air seeping through my clothes and chilling me to the very core. I could see my own breath. Would Samuel be able to tell? What did it mean that I was a woman now? I would be thrown at men for money. Father would sell me off the second he knew. But what if Samuel did know? What if he felt exactly the same and did want me there with him along the adventures. Something soft brushed my face. Samuel stood there with a rose extended toward me. The red petals brushed my cheek. I stood a mixture of emotions. “For you,” he said. “You’ve brought me a rose?” “For your birthday, I’m sorry we couldn’t meet on the day.” “You remembered my birthday?” I said smiling, “but I don’t even know yours!” “There’s something different about you,” he said softly, he circled me. “There is nothing different. I am the same as I was last week!” He took my frozen fingers and spun me; the trim of my dress fanned out as he turned me out then quickly then gasped. “What is it?” I said twirling about alarmed. “I must say miss Nicole, twelve looks ravishing on you.” I giggled like a child. My fingers brushed the stem of the rose. I inhaled the scent of the petals. “Hold that pose for just a moment,” Samuel said sweetly. He observed me by the water. “I want to remember this happy moment, because I have a confession.” “A confession?” I asked, the fluttering in my stomach intensified. “My father has business elsewhere, we are to leave.” “Leave? France? But, why? How long?” My thumb pressed against the thorn of the rose. “We must go, but we can write one another. You’ll write me a letter and you’ll place it here by the stones. I’ll have someone collect them for me.” “Must you go? Can you not stay while your father leaves?” I sounded small and pathetic with my pleas. But I had envisioned a future, one filled with sunlight and adventure. Now he was leaving and I could feel the edges of my dream crumbling. “Please do not look that way. I will return I promise. We will see each other again. When I return I will tell you of more adventures.” I envied him, and his ability to just leave France and travel he world. I wanted him to want me there. Didn’t he want me there? Has this all been a delusion in my mind. My eyes fell to the rose in hand. It couldn’t have been a delusion. “When my Father finds out I have become a woman he will allow suitors. I may not be here when you come back,” I whispered. “You will write me,” he said softly taking my hands in his, “If a suitor arrives I will come back and take you away from here.” “GET OUT OF HERE!” An angry voice yelled from the Saloon. Thomas stumbled out of the door tripping on the steps and landing in the soggy ground. I ran from the canal to his side. But he jerks his hand away from mine. “I’m fine! Bastards!” “What is the problem here?” Samuel asks. “He owes more than he’s worth.” Thomas reeks of alcohol. “Come here again and I’ll skin you.” “I’ll pay his dues,” Samuel said pulling money from his wallet. Thomas slurs insults at the Saloon owner’s direction; he leans heavy on my shoulder now. The saloon owner takes the money from Samuel. Thomas stumbles off of my hold roughly taking the reigns of our horse. “C’mon Nic, Nicole. Lets get out of this stinking filth hole.” I stared at Samuel whose brilliant blue eyes stared back. Was this goodbye? “I-“ “Nicole!” Thomas yelled. I turned from Samuel to mount the horse. I glanced back at Samuel as we rode away, a dark silhouette against the snow. I cried myself to sleep. My thumb pressed so hard against the thorn that it pierced skin and blood blotted my fingers. Denise questioned my tears, a sign or kindness that I didn’t care for. No one would understand. Thursday came, and I sat by the fire reading a book. Thomas appeared in the door. “Follow me Nicole.” “Where are we going?” “Same place as usual.” I pull against his sleeve, “They told you not to come back Thomas.” He jerks his arm out of my grasp, “They say that all the time, besides don’t you want to see your friend?” “My-,” my face reddens. “Yes, I’ve seen him.” Thomas brought the horse around and we rode to the Saloon. There was no way Samuel was still here was there? I sat by the canal, but he didn’t show. Unable to sit here remembering him any longer, I stood and walked down the street. The ground was covered in snow. It was too cold to be out. My breath clouded the air, stung my cheeks and burned my fingertips. I could feel the tears fall and warm the frozen skin on my face. I wiped them angrily away. He said to write them. So that is what I would do. I would write him. I turned back toward the bank. The wind whipped my hair and I tugged the jacket tighter around me. There was this sinking feeling as I closed in on the saloon. The lights were out, but I had not been gone that long. Our horse was still tied up. “Thomas?” I called. I knocked on the Saloon door but no one answered. “Thomas?” I called louder. Something drew me toward the Canal. A dark shape, my heart fluttered at the thought of Samuel. Breaking into a run I sprinted to the bank. As I closed in the familiar cloth floated in the freezing water. “Thomas?” I screamed. Stumbling down the rocks my footing slipped. I hit the ground tearing my gown and scraping my legs. My feet slipped by the mossy rocks as I pulled him out. His body was limp. I screamed again. I was screaming for help. My feet were numb. His body weight doubled mine. I struggled to pull him onto the rocks. His eyes were closed. I lay my head against his chest to hear his heart beat. A bright color against my blonde hair caught my attention. Red. My hands were red. “HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME!” I screamed. Lights began to flicker in the nearby homes. “It’s going to be alright. T-Thomas,” my voice shook, my body shook. It could be from the water or the air. People were running toward me. Men brushed passed me picking him up and carrying him up onto the bank. They opened his shirt and there were gashes on his stomach. Blood oozed from the wounds. The men pushed me back. “He’s dead,” one said. “You don’t know that!” I screamed pushing past them. “Thomas.” I said dropping by his side, “wake up! Please wake up.” “It’s the blacksmith’s son,” someone whispered. People were coming and going. They tried to take him but I shoved them. The voices quieted as someone broke through the crowd. I glanced up with tears streaming down my face. Father stood there, his face pale and in shock. For the first time in a long time he saw me. I had never wanted to be more invisible. With my bloody hands, bloody torn dress crouching over the body of his only son. He saw me, and then he fell to his knees and cried. I stumbled backwards away from his sobs. The sound shattering me, I fell into the snow sobbing a few feet away.

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