Chapter 5

Written by: Ray Stone

I am not sure I heard a faint sob above the spitting wood but looking into his glistening eye, Josh could not mask his true feelings nor could he bear to return my gaze. A great silence fell between us that begged he continued his story when his composure permitted. That it would take all night to recount the truth behind my mother’s death, I had no doubt for he had so far barely told much. Josh seemed reluctant but determined to rid himself of something that weighed heavily upon his shoulders, and not without good reason. With soup finished, I  prompted him with an inquiry that could wait no longer.

“Was my mother suffering leprosy?”

Josh sighed heavily. “Eventually, yes. At first, Lianda was fearful but not sure. It can be many years before the disease shows itself and then after a year or two of incubation. Your Pater gave cause for her concern, and after you were born, they were in agreement as to your upbringing. A wet nurse weaned you, and your grandparents looked after you much of the time while Lianda and your Pater worked long hours to pay a nanny. As much as it caused great pain, you were never kissed, nor slept with them.”

It was true that my childhood was devoid of much attention from my parents and I often wondered as I grew older if indeed they had regretted having a child. 

“You say my Pater gave my Mater much concern. How so? Do I guess correctly that he passed leprosy to her?”

“I think it better I continue from the beginning as I knew nothing of Lianda’s background until after that terrible day of violence years later. It was that nightmare which urged her to relate her tragic life to me.”

My conscience pricked, I felt sadness and anger at never having given my mother any thought as I grew up. I nodded at his suggestion and gazed back into the fire.

“We spent many hours caring for the sick and burying them too. Lianda was a comfort to all including myself and assistant, Father Michael. It was a year after she arrived that we knew, without declaring for fear of breaking my promise to God, that we were in love. Father Michael, it was, who uncovered our feelings by watching us closely. He threatened by words beneath his breath that if guilt came the better of him, he would talk to the Bishop and have Lianda sent away.”

Josh closed his eyes. “I pray for forgiveness every night for keeping my brother’s words silent. I feared Lianda would forsake me if she knew. It was a few months later that I heard her cries one night. On rushing to her room, I found Father Michael with her, his hands about her.”

Lips tightly drawn, Josh’s broad shoulders sagged, and his voice lowered to a whisper. 

“Merciful God, I grasped a grate poker and crushed his head.”

Comments

I like the way you describe his body language before he declares what he did. He's quite constrained and manages his emotions...I think it fits with what we would expect of someone like Josh...sort of understated with stiff upper lip.