“Why do you hate me?”
The words were spoken. He dared not back away now.
Her eyes flashed with anger.
“You stole me from my family!”
“You stole my life, my freedom, everything that I was! How can I not hate you?”
Then slowly, “You hate me—”
“Yes! why do you ask?”
Chares took a step back. He stared at the dirt, then flicked his eyes up to Mary’s face. “I…just wanted to know.”
“Now you know.”
He looked down again.
“What are you going to do about it?” Mary asked, a bitter note pinching her voice.
“I…didn’t steal you.” And Chares simply walked away.
“Coward,” hissed Mary, under her breath, to Chares' back.
She swiped at a red ant as it crawled up her leg. How could she not hate him? He had everything; she had nothing—he had taken everything from her. She spat, remembering how he had turned on his heel. Still, she had not made the most of her situation. But how could she? Her spade dug into the soft earth, breaking the soil for the seedlings ready to be planted.
A grin split the careworn wrinkles in her face as she caught sight of a blithe figure waltzing down the path.
“Mary, my friend!” The two girls clasped hands, their laughter ringing in the fresh air.
“I didn’t know you were in town! How long have you been here?”
Kesha tucked a strand of coarse black hair behind her ear.
“Just over a day. I would’ve come to you earlier, but my husband would have me meet a good friend of his. But surely you are pleased to see me, Mary?” she asked as her friends eyes darkened.
“Of course, I am happy to see you! How could I not be? But,” she stopped and laid a rough hand on the other girl’s shoulder. “Kesha, do you not yet regret your marriage to Saul?”
Kesha smiled, a warm glow in the soft brown of her orbs. “Never.”
“Then,” Mary said with a tremor in her voice, “I am happy for my dearest friend.”
Her face showed little of the happiness she claimed; Kesha took her hand.
“My friend, perhaps someday you, too, will see the goodness in these people, though they be our masters.”
“Yes—someday, when the world ends!” said Mary, her eyes averted from those of her friend. “Kesha, I confess that I cannot see what you do!” Kesha’s dark wrist flinched as it rested on her friend’s arm. A small dent appeared in the center of her forehead, her brows furrowed as she cast her gaze to the skies.
“Dear sister, I still hope that someday you will find your senses.” Mary caught a sparkle of merriment in Kesha’s eyes and the dark mask slipped from her countenance.
“Come, tell me the latest news.”
Two bright stars glinted at Mary through a slit in the barn. She rolled onto her stomach and pressed her eye to the wood. Beyond, the dark sky spread, vast in its velvety darkness, adorned with silver pearls. The moon’s beams slid through the cracks of the wall, illuminating the blinding night. A shiver ran through Mary’s spine.
He asked me why I hate him. I hate him. Why?
She bit her cheek.
Isn’t it obvious? My life is gone because of his father—wretched man who slayed my mother! I hate him for taking me away! I hate him for his father! I hate him for his…
Realization stole her breath.
What…am I going mad?
She pinched her cheek to make sure.
No…it cannot be…I do not know…
She reached a hand up to the dark of her matted curls, pulling a few pieces of hay from the mass. What was her problem?
She knew it in an instant. Down went her face into her arms, her nose buried in the safety of her knees. Anger coursed throughout her body like a wave, but she shook her head.
I know it is wrong, Father, but the hate in me! —it torments me! I—I know it is wrong!
She had hidden it from herself for as long as possible. It could not get worse. She knew the truth. Realization had taken her mind long ago…and yet, she had refused to believe. He was the object of her hate. He could not help it…but then, neither could she. Could she?
Tears of rage bled into her cotton dress. Her knees were damp and the wind that snuck in through the cracks did not make her feel better.