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Authors: Meredith Allard

Her Loving Husband's Curse

BOOK: Her Loving Husband's Curse
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Her Loving Husband’s Curse

Meredith Allard

Published by Copperfield Press at Smashwords
Copyright 2012 Meredith Allard

Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of
this author.

Cover design by Dara England

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, and events portrayed in this book are a product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious way. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, places, events, businesses, locales, entertainment programs or personalities is entirely coincidental.

“To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet and
The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare are in the public domain.

 

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CONTENTS

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Epilogue

 

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.

~Cherokee Proverb

 

Prologue

I am among the masses as they limp and drag toward some foreign place they are afraid to imagine. Even in the dimness of the nearly moonless night the exhaustion, the sickness, the fear is everywhere in their swollen faces. The weaker among them, the very old and the very sick, the very young and the very frail, are driven in wagons steered by ill-tempered soldiers. The riders are not better off than the walkers, their sore, screaming bodies bumped and jostled by the wobbly wheels over the unsteady forest terrain. No one notices as a few drop like discarded rags from the wagon to the ground.


Here!” I cry. “Let me help you. I will find water for you to drink.”

But they pass me without looking. They see nothing, hear nothing. They walk. That is all they are. Walk. That is their name. Walk. Or “Move!” That is what the soldiers scream in their faces. They struggle under the weight of the few bags they carry and stumble under the musket butts slapped into their backs. And still they do not see me.

I wave my hands in the air and yell to make myself heard over the thumping of thousands of feet.


Here!” I cry. “Who needs something to eat?”

I push myself into the center of the mass. Men in turbans and tunics, women with their long black hair pulled from their faces as they clutch their toddlers—all focus their eyes on a horizon too far away. One old man, unsteady under the weight of the pack he carries, stumbles over some rocks and he falls. The soldiers beat him with their muskets—their futile attempt to make him stand. The man tries to push himself up but cannot, so the soldiers try the whip instead. The old man prostrates himself on the ground, arms out, face away. He has accepted that this is how he will die.


Step around him!” the soldiers bark. And they do step around him, their eyes straight ahead. They do not see the old man any more than they see me. To acknowledge the fallen elder would force them to admit that his fate is their fate and they will all die here among unknown land and foreign trees. The old man does not stir. He does not lift his head or seem to breathe. And the people pass him by. When they stop to make their encampment for the night, the old man does not arrive.

I throw my hands into the air again, my frustration boiling the blood in my brain. “Let me help you! Why will you not listen to me?”


Because they cannot see you.”

I have seen the man before—his blue tunic, his white turban, his solemn bearing—and he has seen me. He is an elder, his hair silver, his face a ridged map of everything he has seen, every thought he has had, every prayer he has said. There is wisdom behind his wary glance and oh so tired eyes.


That’s ridiculous,” I say. “I am standing here among them.”

The old man shakes his head. “You are the Kalona Ayeliski. They cannot see you.”


The what?”


The Kalona Ayeliski. They cannot see the Raven Mocker.”

I watch the walkers, hundreds of them, their heads bowed under the weight of losing their possessions, their land, their ancestors, everything they had in this world and beyond, and I realize the man is right. They do not see me. They have never seen me.


What is a Raven Mocker?” I ask.


An evil spirit. All the Raven Mocker cares for is prolonging its own life force, and it feeds from others to do it. It tortures the dying and hastens their deaths so it can consume their hearts. The Raven Mocker receives one year of life for every year its victim would have lived.”


I am no Raven Mocker. I mean harm to no one.”


Ever?”

I turn away, watching the families reuniting after the long day’s walk, children crying for their mothers, husbands searching for their wives. They are setting up their campsites, eating the meager gruel and drinking the few drops of water given them. I cannot meet the man’s eyes.


Not for a long time,” I say. When the man’s stare bores through me, pricking me somewhere I cannot name, I shrug. “I do not hasten death in anyone,” I say. “Not anymore.”


We shall see,” he says.

 

 

Chapter 1

Sarah Wentworth didn’t know how her life would change the first year of her marriage. She sat on a bench near the Massachusetts shore, protected from the high August sun by the shelter of overhanging trees. She watched the families on the narrow stretch of beach of Forest River Park, the children digging holes in the rocky sand, the mothers gossiping under the shade of striped umbrellas, two grandmas in their old-timey bathing suits and floppy straw hats, knee-deep in the water, walking back and forth in the laps of the waves, talking intently between them. Beyond them small white boats bumped and bobbed in the water, unattached to any dock, floating at will.

She was attuned to the laughter of children, and she watched the families eating at the picnic tables on the grassy expanse beneath the trees, lounging in portable chairs, playing games, enjoying the late summer day. She watched the tourists park their rental cars on the dirt lot and walk to Pioneer Village where costumed docents showed visitors around the historical replicas of wooden homes, medicinal gardens, carpenter’s sheds, and stocks for the naughty, explaining life in Salem, then Naumkeag, in the 1630s.

Before my time, Sarah thought.

She stood with a wistful look at the mothers tending their children, enjoying her time alone with her thoughts after her shift at the library, Forest River Park a short block across Lafayette Street from Salem State University where she worked as a librarian. Though it was a year since she moved to Salem, there was still a magic about the place for her, a quietness, a calm she couldn’t associate with anywhere else. It might be a Massachusetts thing, a Salem thing, or a seaside thing, she wasn’t sure, but people were different there. They smiled at you. Said hello. There wasn’t the mad-rush pace you see in larger cities where she had lived, like Boston or Los Angeles, except, she now knew, in their driving. Since she was a girl, she had always found something serene in the ocean, the peace of going home, she thought, and in Salem she had the tranquility of the bay every day.

She walked to the end of the park and waved to the shirtless teenage boy sitting in a lawn chair outside the gate. She headed down Lafayette Street, right on Derby, finding her way home. Thinking of her husband in their bed, still sleeping as the brightest daylight hours dwindled away, she smiled. She stopped in front of her wooden house, the one with the two peaked gables on the roof, and she realized she had such a fondness for the old thing. She and that old house shared a secret between them, after all. It was almost exactly a year to the day when she first stood on that lawn, fascinated by the museum-like home, needing to know it better. And then James had appeared, handsome and pensive in the shadows, reaching out to touch her cheek. Even then he knew her. Before she knew who he was, he knew her.

She walked past the crooked oak tree and touched the brown slats of the exterior walls, then looked through the diamond-paned casement window into the great room, the shelves of books, the flat-screen television mismatched against the old-fashioned furniture, her black cat asleep on the long reading chair. She looked at the sky, the light hazy, fading behind the breeze-blown trees. The air was cooler now, less heavy, the heat of summer fading into the beginning of a memory, and it was growing darker earlier, which Sarah liked.

She opened the green front door, walked inside, and pet her cat between the ears. She watched the sun drop away, first a pink light on the horizon, then blue, then dark. She glanced at her bedroom door, still closed, then at the wooden ladder leading up to the loft-style attic. I need to get up there soon, she thought.

“Hello.”

She felt her cheeks blush hot at the sound of his voice. There he was, James, handsome as always, tall, gold hair, stormy night-black eyes, the smile that lit her up from the inside out. She stood on her toes and pointed up her face so he could kiss her, which he did.

“Hello yourself,” she said.

They kissed again, and again, until the heat settled within her and she had to pull back or risk being distracted. She dropped her arms from his neck, nuzzled close to his cool skin, then stepped away.

“Not tonight, Doctor Wentworth. The exhibition starts in an hour.”

James’s eyes narrowed. “Jennifer should have supervised it,” he said.

“But I’m the only one with personal experience from that time.” She looked at James, his ghost-white complexion, the hardness behind his flat-black eyes. “I suppose you were here then too.” She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m all right,” she said.

They left their wooden gabled house hand in hand. On Derby Street they passed the House of the Seven Gables, the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and the U.S. Custom House. It was fully dark, the water steady in the bay, the boats bobbing with the flat-line rhythm of the low tide. The tourists cleared away when the museums closed at five p.m., and the locals were enjoying a last summer hurrah, dining under the stars at the restaurants along Pickering Wharf. It was a quiet night in Salem. Peaceful. The remaining humidity lingered like a soothing blanket, Sarah thought, protecting us. Protecting us from what, she wondered? She didn’t know, but suddenly her palms went wet and her breath stilted. She looked around, searching for anything that looked menacing or frightful, but she saw no one but James. She looked at him as he pressed his wire-rimmed eyeglasses against his nose, and she knew his strength, all of his strength, would keep them safe. She dismissed her shudders with the thought that she had been spending too much time in the seventeenth century lately. After that night, when the exhibition was over, she could immerse herself fully in the twenty-first century again.

BOOK: Her Loving Husband's Curse
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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