Note: Im sorry this part took so long. It seems Alexia and Lydia didnt want it to end.
Pale red gold lashes fluttered open to reveal pain ridden green eyes, that looked confused. Lydia lifted herself to her knees and took a pale hand, holding it to her bosom.
"Alexia? Can you hear me dearling?"
The redhead blinked several times and tried to focus, her mind muddled. "Lydia?" she managed to croak out, her throat raw and dry, every breath felt like fire.
"Are you thirsty?" Not waiting for an answer, she filled a cup from the crock of water. Helping her spouse to lift her head, Lydia held the cup to her lips, allowing her to sip the cool liquid. The slight movement took what little energy she possessed. She was once more unconscious.
She wanted to scream the next time she woke, the agony driving her from the rest she needed. Lydia was immediately at her side. Nightmares and half remembered images haunted her every moment.
Her breathing was no more than gasping little pants, the most she could handle. "Lydia," she hissed. Her wifes hands took hers, feeling icy in comparison to her fevered state. "Lydia, Im not sure Im-"
"No!" the seamstress cried softly, "Dont even say it."
"I hae to sweet Lydia. Promise me, if I die, ye will go to the Wampanoags. Take Inshapae and his brother wi ye. Dont leave them alone in this world." Cold fingers lightly squeezed Lydias hand. "Ye and I, we both ken understand what it is like, being alone. Promise me Lydia," Alexia begged, her voice cracking pitifully.
"I promise dearling."
Her next moment of awareness, Alexia found herself in the middle of some sort of ceremony. A man was dressed in elaborate skins and chanting something softly. An item in his hand was smoking lightly, giving off an herbal scent. Something was bound about her ribs and her breathing was easier. Unable to keep her eyes open, she drifted back to sleep, feeling somehow comforted.
"Granddaughter, why dont you sleep on the mat? That is what it is for," the elderly woman suggested.
"Grandmother, when we come to live with the Wampanoag, the wetu must be made with a wide bench for sleeping," her tone annoyed.
The woman chuckled and asked why, since her people slept around the fire. It was more sensible than a bench against a drafty wall.
"Because, my place is in her arms when we sleep."
Wepaesee didnt comment on the odd custom of the English, instead, she asked another question. "You have made up your mind child? You will join your fathers people?"
"Yes. We dont fit in anymore. Well probably have much to grow used to with the Wampanoag, but at least we know we are accepted."
"And loved," Inshapae added, his tone painfully shy. Lydia smiled and hugged the bashful young man close, tucking his head under her chin.
"And loved," she repeated.
"I dinna want any more of that vile medicine," the redhead complained. She sent her wife a disgruntled look when her protest was ignored and the clay bowl was held to her lips.
"Drink it," Lydia told her firmly, "You may hate it but youre getting better, so it must be working." She watched as Alexia sipped the bitter liquid down, her face the perfect picture of disgust. The seamstress did her best not to grin at the comical expression. Once the bowl was empty, she brushed away an errant drop from her lower lip. "There, now you can have some real food. I have some roasted rabbit and steamed corn."
Alexia heard her stomach rumble from hunger. Lydia told her she had been delirious for almost a week. During that time, she had been given nothing but broths and medicines and her body now craved more. She was still weak as a newborn kitten and couldnt even move without causing herself a lot of pain.
She watched Lydia pick up a pottery dish and pick up a piece of meat with her fingers. The morsel was brought to her lips. Looking up at her wifes face, she took the meat and chewed it slowly. Alexia noticed for the first time how tired Lydia looked. Dark circles under her eyes made her appear haggard and the normal sparkle was missing from her eyes. Helpless guilt tugged at her heart, knowing Lydia hadnt been taking care of her own needs. Her appetite disappeared.
Lydia saw the lack of enthusiasm for the food. "Not hungry? Dearling, please eat. You need the nutrition to get better." Her eyes pleaded. Alexia finished the meal but it sat like lead in her stomach. She felt like crying, the helplessness of everything overwhelming her. Never had she been this weak or confused. It had all seemed so effortless before, even when she had been wounded at Dunbar.
"Whats wrong dearling?"
Alexia sniffled, holding back the tears and shaking her head slightly, refusing to speak. Her wife caressed her cheek, threatening her control. "Tell me," she begged gently.
The words escaped before she could stop them. "I miss ye," she confessed, a tear streaking down one cheek.
"Im right here Alexia."
"But ye arent here," she said, weakly holding out her arm. Lydia understood. She carefully lowered herself and snuggled up against Alexias unwounded side. Her wifes arm wrapped around her shoulder as both of them let out a sigh of relief. Within moments, both women were sound asleep.
Phineas snuck over to their land on Sunday, bringing along some supplies that he had bought on the far side of town. He didnt want anyone knowing what he was doing and asking questions. The bitch Ruth seemed to be watching him, always nearby when he left his shop. Her smug attitude irritated him to no end.
He managed to placate the ladies of the sewing circle, allowing them to use the couples loft rooms. Ruth even joined them that day, saying she wanted to apologize to Lydia. Phineas had snapped the piece he was working on as he watched her put on her act. The ladies had bought the story, expressing their sympathy that Lydia wasnt here this week.
When he arrived, a Wampanoag hed never seen before stepped up to him, greeting him in English.
"Hello, I am Waschteka, and you must be Mr. Douglas," he said pleasantly.
"Yes." He answered, racking his memory until he recalled the name. "You were the first Wampanoag Alexia met, last Spring."
The man nodded. "When word reached me, I could not remain so far away. It saddens me that one would punish my friends for their kindness to my people. He must be one filled with much hatred to do such an act."
"She." The Indian looked surprised. Phineas stepped closer and took the mans arm, leading him away from the milling watchers. "I think I know who did it. A woman. I promised I would speak to no one in town, but this I think your people ought to know. The problem is, only Inshapae knows this persons face and I think he shouldnt know who it is. The boy is angry enough to seek revenge," he warned.
"But it is his right despite his youth," the man said, confused why the Englishman wanted the boy kept from the knowledge.
"Trust me on this. Our friends want their secret kept. Exposing this woman or seeking revenge would bring it out into the open. There is enough trouble brewing between our peoples without adding fuel to the fire. The good book says that God will judge her one day and that will have to be good enough. In the meantime, I brought a few supplies with me. They lost everything in the fire."
Waschteka was still thinking over his words as they walked, his eyes missing the furious looking young man hunkered behind the trees.
The young man wrestled with the opposing ideas and ideals. It was within his rights to avenge the attack on his adoptive parents, but he didnt want to cause them further grief. He had met three women that day and only the Ruth woman had displayed a hatred for the couple. He kicked at a rotting log, frustrated. He hated feeling trapped. He wished he could speak to someone about it. Then he brightened. He could go to Wepaesee since she was now his family. She was a wise woman and would speak truthfully to him.
He found her by the pond rinsing her cooking pots. He waited patiently until she shook the quanooask of excess water and put it down.
"Your face looks as dark as thunderstorm Inshapae. What is it that troubles you?"
"I heard Mr. Douglas speak of the woman who tried to kill Alexia and Lydia."
The old woman didnt reply immediately. She took a skin and wiped the pot dry, thinking. "And you wish to find this woman?"
"Yes, but I also heard him speak of the dangers of seeking her out. I dont want her to go unpunished, but what of the price? What should I do grandmother?"
"Far be it from me to tell a young man not to be a man. But, if I had such a dilemma, I think I would find a clever way of punishing her. Sometimes the most fatal wound is but a scratch. Satisfy your need to seek revenge without bringing attention to your family. That is all I can suggest." With that, she struggled to her feet and walked away.
Inshapae walked towards the forest, needing to think.
Ruth Matherson collected her dried laundry from the line and brought it inside. She folded it all carefully but put aside her favorite outfit. She wanted to look her best before going into town. It had been over a week since Phineas had given Alex Browne time to visit with his primitive kinfolks. By now, the Glazier should be worried about his apprentice not returning. No one had said anything about it in town so the fire had been undiscovered as yet. She grinned, plotting on ways to subtly suggest perhaps something had happened. Once the burned cabin was found, she was going to blame the savages for murdering them.
It wouldnt take much to get the townsfolk into a frenzy. Theyd drive the heathens so far into the forests that theyd never return. Chuckling, she slipped off her sweaty underclothing and pulled a fresh shift over her head. She was redressing when an itch began bothering her. Within minutes, the itch began burning. Gasping, she quickly undressed. She screamed as she noticed swelling welts and rash were covering her skin. Looking into the looking glass, she saw her face was even puffing up. Frightened, she screamed again.
Someone pounded on her front door and called out her name.
"Ruth! Are you alright?" came the voice of her neighbor, Ephraim Vickers. She rushed to the door but refused to open it.
"Please! Fetch the doctor!" The man promised to return immediately and left. Doctor Sturtevant arrived within minutes, asking her to unbolt her door. Hearing the latch being pulled back, he entered the small house. It didnt take long to make a prognosis.
"Poison Ivy or Oak Mrs. Matherson. See this?" He held up her shift with a stick. "It somehow came in contact with it." He dropped the offending garment on the floor." Ill be back shortly with some ointment, but you will be itching for a long time until it heals."
"I cant excuse your absence much longer Alexia. People are questioning me already. Mary Elizabeth has already mentioned coming over here tomorrow," Phineas warned the couple.
Waschteka translated then suggested they pack up and leave. The men would build a litter and carry Alexia to their winter grounds. As much as the redhead hated the idea of being jostled she had to agree.
"Alright, but I want to do something first. Phineas, do you know someone you could ask to sign as a witness to a contract even if he wasnt there to see the signing?"
The man scratched his nape, thinking. "Yes, I think I can find someone. Why?"
"Do you have a paper and quill?"
Phineas stared at the paper, reading it once more.
I, Alexander Browne, on this 18th day of May in the year of our Lord 1654, do swear before the following witnesses my last will and testament. All that I own, including my clothing, tools, and land is to be left to my eldest child. In the event that I have no issue, my property will be left to my wife, Lydia Browne. If she should pass on before me, my properties are to be left to my good master, Phineas Douglas, Glazier, Boston.
Alexia had signed and dated it for earlier that year with Lydias signature below his own. The charred remains would be found, and Alex and Lydia Browne would be assumed dead. Phineas grinned. The Wampanoag certainly wont be blamed for their deaths, he made certain of that. A dirty and slightly burned piece of a material would be found caught on the tree trunk that stood near the cabin. Material that matched that of someones favorite and uniquely patterned skirt.
Oh, it wouldnt be enough to prove anything, but people would wonder why someone who had been insulted by Alex Browne would be on their property. He had handed it to Inshapae after his trip to fetch the writing materials. The boy had approached him with an idea. The plan was perfect but the adoptive son of the couple couldnt perform it himself. An Indian would be noticed walking through town, so he had asked him to do the deed. Phineas had been happy to do so.
The boy had grinned knowingly when he looked at the scrap of cloth. The circle of their revenge was complete.
Phineas had found one of his drinking buddies to sign the paper. He had been so intoxicated that Phineas doubted the man would even remember it. He hid the paper inside the bible upstairs and left his shop.
Authors note: The story could have gone on and on, but I felt it was time for an ending. I hope you enjoyed the story.
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