Alexia arrived home a bit late. The sky was already darkening by the time she unsaddled the horse. A lantern was burning outside the door. She gave the horse a quick curry then walked towards the cabin. Outside, the redhead spotted Lydia strolling towards her. Glad to see her wife after a long day, she jogged over to her and pulled her close.
“Hello my sweet Lydia,” she bent down, intending to kiss her. “How was yer-“ Alexia screamed and stumbled back several steps.
“Who in heaven are ye?” the former soldier choked out. The woman was not Lydia.
The woman didn’t speak English. She said something in another language. Alexia didn’t understand and wanted to know where her wife was. “Lydia!” she yelled fearfully.
The cabin door swung open. “Alexia? Is something wrong?” her wife asked from the doorway. The redhead rushed to her, “Lydia, who is that woman?” she asked, pointing at the approaching female.
Lydia smiled. “That is my aunt Comochiem. We have company. Seems word got out about me and they all arrived a few hours ago.” The dark haired woman explained softly.
“They? As in how many?” Alexia, now that she knew Lydia was safe, was more curious than anything.
“I lost count. All the extended family tagged along it seems. They’re camped over the hill. Grandmother is inside. Come and meet her,” taking her elbow and giving it a tug. Alexia removed her felt hat and entered the small cabin.
An elderly woman sat awkwardly on one of their chairs. She wore a pale skin dress that left one shoulder bare. Several bone and shell necklaces hung around her neck. Her aged face showed little of her emotions and Alexia wondered what the woman was thinking. Lydia stepped closer to her spouse and the redhead automatically wrapped one arm across her shoulders and held her close.
The old woman smiled. The young woman with the hair like fire may walk the path of men, but her heart was still of mother. She motioned the tall youth towards her, wanting a better look at the fair skinned woman. Lydia’s mate stepped closer and knelt at her feet with the respect due her age. Eyes the color of new grass touched her own. They were kind eyes. Her granddaughter had chosen well. Wepaesee turned to the boy acting as the interpreter and spoke.
“Where are your breasts?” the woman asked curiously. Alexia laughed and unbuttoned her waistcoat and the top buttons of her shirt, revealing the binding that held them flat. The older woman asked if she was uncomfortable. Admitting she was, she took off the vest and placed it over the back of one chair. Wepaesee suggested she remove the wrappings. Alexia could only blush and looked towards the boy.
Remembering the modesty of the whites, the elderly woman told the boy to turn away, then motioned for Alexia to do as she suggested. Bashfully, the redhead took off her shirt. Lydia helped unwind the cloth. Once her generous features were free, she donned her shirt.
Alexia asked her grandmother-in-law if she would mind if she removed her footwear. The day was warm but she didn’t know the Indian’s customs and didn’t want to offend her. The woman didn’t mind so she pulled off her leather shoes. Next came the garters that held up her short stockings. Pulling them off, she sighed in relief. The cool dirt floor felt wonderful against her hot feet. She rolled up her sleeves and leaned back.
Lydia handed her a mug of cider then sat on her lap since the only two chairs they had were occupied.
“What are those spots on you Ales-e-a,” the older woman inquired. The redhead looked down, realizing the woman referred to her freckles. She held out her arm and explained that people with her hair color often had them. The woman touched them with her gnarled fingertip, curious if they felt differently.
“You remind me of a newborn deer with these spots.”
Lydia laughed. “That’s why I call her ‘dearling’ grandmother,” Lydia confessed.
“What?” Alexia said in surprise, “I thought it was because I was dear to ye,” she said with a mock pout. Her wife chuckled and kissed her pale temple.
“You are dear to me dearling,” she couldn’t resist saying. Alexia retaliated by briefly tickling her ribs.
Lydia’s grandmother waited for the boy to translate then chuckled. “It is good that you found such a mate child. Your mother loved as greatly and would have been pleased.”
“I’m not sure of that grandmother.” Lydia approached a subject she had avoided even to herself since she married Alexia. “Among my mother’s people, such a love as ours is forbidden. The priests don’t speak of it openly, but I know they would condemn us, certain we would be cursed in God’s eyes.”
Wepaesee folded her arms and leaned back, her face serious. “And you my granddaughter, do you believe that your love is cursed?” she held up her hand to prevent Lydia from answering right away. “Or, in your heart, do you feel complete when you are together? I know something of your God. Men often visit and speak of their God and his son Jesus, wishing us to put aside our own beliefs. They speak of him as a father, yet the God they speak of is feared. What father would instill such fright in his children? I do not understand this. But I do hold this to be true; that the heart is a vast thing for the Great Spirit, be white or red, and is as he created it. To deny what one’s heart tells you is to deny what you are. Only you can understand what how it guides you. Listen to it and it will never fail you.”
Lydia felt the nagging guilt fade away and smiled down at her spouse. “I love her very much Grandmother, she is my life.” Alexia returned the smile brightly.
“Then it is good. It is getting late. My old bones need their rest.” She carefully stood up with the boy’s help and wished them a good night.
Alone, the redhead shifted her wife until she could rest her head on her shoulder, wrapping both arms around her. “I love ye Lydia Browne, I love ye.” The women sat there for quite a while, embracing silently. Forgotten was their missed meal. They undressed and slipped into bed. Words weren’t needed to share their thoughts. The night kept silent vigil over the young lovers until they fell into contented slumber.
The apprentice stirred the pot of porridge quietly with a wooden spoon. Once it was thick enough, she poured her portion into a bowl and added salt. The Scot left her spouse’s portion plain. Lydia liked adding milk and honey to her porridge which the Scot thought was revolting. She glanced at the still sleeping woman as she ate.
Alexia felt her mouth water but not by her breakfast. Lydia’s dark hair was tousled becomingly and her full lips parted. One bare breast was exposed to the cool morning air and was pouted invitingly. The desire to crawl back into bed nearly over-powered her. Mentally berating herself, she turned away from the tempting view and finished eating. She had to get going or risk being late.
She grabbed her hat and headed out the door, careful not to make any noise. She headed for the lean-to where the horses were kept and saddled the gelding. Two children were fetching water from the well and waved as she rode past them. Waving back, she headed for town.
“You look tired lad. Didn’t you rest well last night?”
Alexia managed not to blush. “Well, my wife’s kin arrived yesterday. Ye ken understand how it is. People chat well after dark and ye miss sleep.” She wasn’t about to confess she had never gotten more than an hour’s rest because she and Lydia just couldn’t stop what they had started.
“Oh? What do you think of them? I know you liked her cousin well enough.”
“I only got to speak with her grandmother last night. The rest were already settled down when I got home. I think Lydia is enjoying the visitors.”
Phineas grunted and picked up the molding that Alex was carving. The design was quite good, he decided, looking over the details of the etchings. Once done, they would blow soft melted glass into it to form the whiskey bottles the customer commissioned. Young Mr. Browne had a true gift with glass work. He had been his apprentice for nearly a year but his skills were as one who was almost a journeyman. There was very little more he could learn from him. The Glazier sighed. Alex needed to find another glassworker with greater skills than his own, but that would mean leaving the Colonies altogether. The best glass artists lived in Venice he understood.
“Sometime this week, I should be receiving a shipment of colored glass. I think it is about time I teach you the other method of making windows. I know you consider painting glass uninteresting.” Phineas commented.
“So ye will teach me the old way?” Alexia asked eagerly.
Master Douglas nodded. “Aye, but I don’t know much more than you do I’m embarrassed to say. You have the soul of an artist Mr. Browne, and I think within a short time, you’ll be teaching me.” Phineas took out sheets of thick parchment from a drawer and placed them on the table. “Why don’t you start drawing up some ideas after you’ve finished carving that mold?”
The smile on Alexia’s face nearly split it in two. “Aye Master Douglas!”
Lydia sat under the shady tree, grateful for some relief from the heat. Even dressed in just a skirt and shift, the day was sweltering. Her female relatives seemed cooler and she wondered if they were just more accustomed to it or their clothing was lighter. She waved her silk and whalebone fan, wishing for a cool breeze. Her grandmother pointed up the road leading to the cabin. Following her finger, she spotted Alexia riding up. It was not much after 2 o’clock. Perhaps Master Douglas closed the shop early.
They waved to one another even as several of her young relations ran up to the horse to greet the redheaded rider. Alexia laughed and pulled one child up onto her lap much to the delight of the girl. After a moment, she got off the horse. Her followers watched her remove the saddle and gear. She didn’t get a chance to curry the tired mount for the children took over. Giving in, Alexia headed for her wife. She bent down for a kiss then shucked her hat and vest.
“Tis hot enough to fry an egg in the sun,” she commented.
Wepaesee said something and the boy, Inshapae, translated. “Why don’t you try our clothing. Yours is unsuitable for this weather.”
If the suggestion had been made to another Colonial couple, it would have been rejected out of hand and the couple offended. But Alex and Lydia were more open. Lydia looked at Alexia and said she would if the redhead would dress as a male Wampanoag.
“Lydia! Ye hoyden, ye just want to see my bosom exposed!” she accused. Her wife laughed and batted her eyelashes. Alexia sighed. Her upbringing made it seem shameless, especially in front of the men, and said so.
Lydia’s grandmother spoke up, saying she would ask the men to stay beyond the hill. They had a cool spring if they wanted to cool off. Just the women and younger children would be able to see her. Glancing at her spouse, who pleaded silently with her eyes, Alexia nodded.
Someone was sent to the camp for clothing and the men and older boys drifted to the other side of the hill. A girl returned with folded bundles and the couple excused themselves to change. Grandmother followed, saying she’d help them with the unfamiliar gear.
When they finished, Lydia decided she would still be burning up, for the sight of her lover wearing nothing but a loincloth was enough to drive away every pure thought. Her luminous pale skin was complimented by the bleached hide that only pretended to cover her buttocks. Her grandmother placed a necklace over her head that hung enticingly over Alexia’s large breasts, brushing the pale pink nipples so they stood out perkily.
Wepaesee saw the look of lust on her grandchild’s face and cackled.
The tall redhead cleared her throat. “I think I’ll go outside now.” Lydia laughed and swatted her pale bottom lightly. Lydia looked nice in native garb as well, her olive skin looked warmer and the sight of her bare legs did wonders for her imagination. Caught staring by Wepaesee, the older woman swatted her bottom as well, saying only God knew what in a saucy tone.
“Now I know where she got it from,” Alexia muttered loudly and strolled out the door.
People began preparing foods later that afternoon, strolling back and forth between small fires. Before Alexia had realized it, the men and boys had begun drifting back into the area around the pond. She blushed heavily despite the fact none of them seemed to even notice or care about her semi-nudity. Alexia was tempted to escape into the house to find a shirt, but Lydia’s aunt, Comochiem, handed her a toddler and stood up, needing to make a trip to the woods.
Alexia and child stared at one another. She was fine with older children but was at a loss with younger ones. The serious look they exchanged made her wife laugh.
“Here, give me the boy,” Lydia said as she held out her hands. The child instantly smiled back at the happy face of his older cousin. They exchanged looks and funny noises as the redhead watched. As the minutes passed, she realized Lydia liked babies. The knowledge caused a renewed sense of guilt because she couldn’t give that to the loving woman she married.
She deserved to be a mother.
Lydia glanced at her spouse and saw tears glimmering in her eyes. “What’s wrong dearling?”
Alexia shook her head. Why cause Lydia any sadness by speaking of it? She forgot how stubborn her mate was.
“Alexia Rose Browne, if you think for one moment I’ll sit here and ignore the misery I see in your eyes, you’re quite mistaken. Now tell me!” she whispered strongly.
The former soldier didn’t speak but she didn’t need to. Her green eyes went to the boy then herself. Lydia sighed and leaned against the taller woman. “It’s alright dearling, I understand. But you want to know something? I would rather have you than a hundred children. You are God’s gift to me and I don’t take our love for granted.” The seamstress felt Alexia’s arm wrap around her and warm lips brush her forehead.
Comochiem and Wepaesee exchanged looks as they watched the two women.
Several men and boys invited Alexia to join them in target practice. A friendly competition had begun. A hide with a crude picture of a head and shoulders of a deer were drawn onto it. They waved at the redhead, chuckling good-naturedly. She was handed a bow then an arrow and shown how to position it. Her strong arm pulled back the cord.
The man instructing her with hand signs gasped and prevented her from releasing it. He said something in Wampanoag. Seeing her confused look, he tapped her breast with his fingertip. Alexia pulled back in shock, her hand forming a fist and her face snarling in savage response.
Inshapae, the boy who spoke English, grabbed her arm. “No, he was trying to warn you!”
The redhead took a deep breath and forced herself to relax, looking at the boy. He let go of her arm and told her that if she released the arrow standing the way she did, she would have injured her breast with the cord. The boy was bright and instructed her on the proper stance without touching her.
Once the boy was satisfied with her stance, she aimed the arrow as she would a musket, with both eyes open, and released it. The arrow lodged into the side of the tree, a little left of the ‘deer’s’ heart. The men cheered and held the quiver towards her, prompting her to try again. Adjusting her aim, her second shot landed true. The boy told her she’d make a fine hunter.
After a few more shots to prove it wasn’t dumb luck, she handed over the bow and returned to her wife’s side. Wepaesee looked at her strangely and waved Inshapae over.
“You have much anger inside of you,” the older woman said to the redhead. Lydia looked up in surprise. Alexia had always been sweet natured. Why did her grandmother think that of her? To her greater surprise her spouse nodded.
“Lydia, even this boy sees it and understands.” The woman returned her gaze to the subdued Scot, even though what she said was for her granddaughter as well. “I do not see hatred in your eyes for our people, so it must be of all men. It is a terrifying thing to happen to a woman, something that all of us secretly fear deeply. To have our choice taken from us. I saw this terror behind your anger just now.” Her gnarled hand took Alexia’s large hand in her own, her old voice somehow even softer.
“Have you spoken to your mate of this?” Alexia shrugged helplessly so the woman looked to Lydia.
“Only that border raiders took her virginity and killed her family.”
The older woman nodded. “So much tragedy in one day. You must have felt as though your world ended.” Alexia shut her eyes tightly, trying to will away the memories that threatened to overwhelm her. “What did you do?”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Alexia’s voice was cold. “I buried my family and met Donald. We joined Leslie’s army so I could kill as many bloody Englishmen I could.”
“And did you kill many?” the old woman asked, curious.
“One. I was taken prisoner after that,” she spat.
“You are upset over that, why?” The old woman already knew the answer but wanted Alexia to say it aloud.
Alexia’s labored breathing was the only sign of her internal struggle. “Because I wanted to die and end the pain.”
“But if you had died, you wouldn’t have met my grandchild,” Wepaesee reminded her gently. At the mention of Lydia, Alexia visibly relaxed and smiled. “We don’t always get what we wish, but rather, what we need. We all walk the path before us. I believe if you hadn’t met Lydia, we wouldn’t have been united. Where do you think your path would have led too if not for those raiders?”
Alexia grunted out a humorless laugh. “Married to some farm boy with several children by now.”
“Would you have been happy?”
“Nay, I never wanted to marry but there was little choice for women.”
“So, now you are independent and married to a woman who adores you. What more do you desire?”
“Children,” Alexia said simply, unaware she had wanted them as well until this moment.
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