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We buried Brennan on a typical July afternoon, hot and restless. Heavy, dark clouds hung overhead and the smell of rain was sharp and sweet. Mr. Kennedy, Patrick and my father dug Brennan’s grave beside his father, mother and younger sister, spilling dark soil across the verdant grass. Father Landon stood at the head of the grave and read from his ancient bible.
To everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…
I felt Nora’s fingertips graze mine. I glanced over at her, in hopes of decrypting what she might feel, but her face was white and stony behind her mourning veil.
A time to be born and a time to die…
My heart ached for her, I longed to embrace her beneath the barren, greying sky. But her features left me no compass and I was a woman blinded, groping for her in the dark.
A time to cast away stones…
I had seen this ghost before, this blank look reminiscent of a porcelain doll. Nora wore the same expression the day of her wedding.
A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.
A bitter wind rustled beneath my black petticoat and brought doubt to my heart. Did Nora regret loving me? I knew she loathed Brennan as her husband but surely she grieved the loss of his life and felt guilty for taking her sister-in-law to bed in spite of the hollow vows she had whispered at the altar. As I was consumed by this gnawing fear, Father Landon continued.
…May the Lord welcome Brennan Thomas Connolly into His loving arms. Indeed, now is a time of war, a time of the senseless skirmishes of men, while the Lord weeps and waits patiently for a time of peace. But the Lord looks kindly on his servants, may Brennan’s sins be pardoned and may he be seated at the right hand of the Father. Amen.
Nora’s jaw clenched as Brennan’s casket was lowered into the ground. She dropped my hand as Father Landon approached and motioned for her to come speak with him.
I could not make out everything that was said but as they walked slowly toward the hickory groves I heard Father Landon’s deep, gravelly voice.
“It’s easy to lose sight of the Lord at a time like this.”
Nora, who had been studying the ground, lifted her eyes to him and said.
“I lost sight of the Lord the night I married him.”
I had forgotten how cold Nora’s voice could be.
My mother questioned me as I took tea with Elizabeth in the parlor.
“Now Kaitlyn, have you and Patrick had any luck conceiving a child?”
I sighed, glancing toward Elizabeth. At this moment, I was grateful that she was deaf. Certainly the idea of Patrick touching me made her ill. She loved him, she always had.
“No, we have not.”
My mother said nothing but her disapproval was palpable. A familiar shame crept over me, a childhood companion that always accompanied my mother’s disappointment
She sipped her tea in silence and I rose to leave.
“Kaitlyn, is everything alright?”
My stomach churned. She knew.
“Yes.” I hovered in the doorway, praying for a dismissive reply.
But my mother had other plans. She set her tea cup on the saucer and it clattered at a volume bordering on deafening.
“I hope that you and Patrick will soon be expecting a child. You might, at any time, become a widow. Think of Nora.”
I did think of Nora, more often than I was prepared to admit. I nodded weakly.
When my mother reached for her needlepoint, I knew I was excused.
Patrick stood on the porch, smoking his pipe alongside my father. Neither spoke as I slipped outside to join them, shutting the door silently behind me. Patrick approached me, took my hand, and we began to walk toward the Kennedy’s plantation.
“Did you enjoy your visit with your mother?” asked Patrick, in a noticeable attempt to lighten my spirits.
“Oh yes. Very much so.”
“Yes. She has started a new series of paintings. Of bridges. They are quite dark.”
“Bridges…” He genuinely seemed interested and I was reminded of how cruel ironies and social constraints kept both my sister and I separated from those destined for us.
“How is Nora? Did she mention her conversation with Father Landon?”
“Nora hasn’t mentioned anything to me in a long time Kaitlyn. We haven’t spoken since the night she visited in November of last year.”
“What about this morning?”
He shook his head.
“My mother is worried sick over her, thinks she’s gone queer over Brennan’s death. There’s talk of having her evaluated.”
“What?! How ridiculous!” I realized, a moment too late, that my opinion on Nora’s nervous state was at best irrelevant. I felt a blush creep up the back of my neck.
“I don’t think so.” His voice was stern. “You can’t expect my mother to look after her. She’s one foul mood away from madness.”
For the first time, I was furious with Patrick. güvenilir bahis How could he talk about Nora as if she were a spoilt child? He knew nothing of the cruelty she bore during her short but torturous marriage. I recalled him that night, sitting in the Kennedy’s parlor, drunk and jesting over Nora’s terse and stoic letters. The night Nora snapped, radiating with anger, casting shadows that only highlighted her beautiful features, her voice a low, fierce hiss, storming up the Kennedy’s staircase – a vision in the firelight. The night I touched her for the first time, as her fingers delved inside me, sculpting pleasure and scribing the meaning of her love.
And Nora had done nothing to suggest mental instability, save failing to grieve Brennan’s death in a manner her mother deemed of as acceptable. But with Brennan’s death, Nora was returned to the jurisdiction of her father. It was laughable; to have a woman as independent, as cunning and courageous as Nora under the feeble will of her father and therefore, ultimately, at the mercy of her neurotic mother.
“Patrick, let me stay with her.”
He looked at me in disbelief. “Here?! In Georgia? Don’t be ridiculous. Kaitlyn, we’re doomed to lose this war. The Yanks have more ports, more steel and more men and what have we got? A lot of slaves, a lot of cotton and a hell of a lot of pride.”
I felt the pressure to counter him and suddenly remembered the generous dowry that accompanied my hand in marriage. “I know, I didn’t mean here. Patrick, do you trust me?”
“Of course” he said and I felt a little sick but carried on.
“Then give me $8000 and I will take Nora and purchase a small lot for us to subsist on until after the war. I am not safe at the camps and she is not safe in Savannah.”
“And where are you going to go?! No landlord will accept the old United States dollar.”
“A landlord in Boston will.”
“Boston?!?! Kaitlyn, have you lost your mind?!” he asked incredulously. “How will you get there? Who will you stay with?”
“I have a great-aunt who lives there.” This was true, my grandfather often visited my great-uncle in Boston when he worked as a merchant but my Aunt Rowan was the only family left. My father said all of the Kerrigans started out in Boston because of its close-knit Irish community. But I had no idea how my great-aunt had fared since the war started. “And cousins” I added, aware he would inquire about the presence of male chaperones. I did have some cousins, but I had no means of contacting them.
Patrick stared at me, blatantly assessing my sanity and probably questioning his long-standing regard for me as remarkably cautious and unmarred by impulse. I was a bit uncomfortable with it myself, but Nora had a way of teasing out my impulse.
Seeing his ambivalence, I said “wouldn’t it be better for me to care for Nora with the aid of my great-aunt and cousins then to have her institutionalized in an asylum in Atlanta that could be demolished by the Yankees within a year?”
“You would have to travel west if you hope to avoid potential battlegrounds. But greater dangers lie there.”
“Or by sea, it would be much quicker. And smugglers take human cargo for additional charge, substantial as it may be. They prefer the old US currency and $200 will certainly cover both mine and Nora’s passage.”
Patrick was running his hand through his hair, obviously conflicted. Fighting back guilt, I jumped at the chance.
“Patrick, darling, this isn’t our war. I know you loathe this entire ‘state’s rights’ façade as much as I do. You serve out of the brave nobility that graces your bloodline but you serve with a reluctance that undercuts these patriotic notions of loyalty and treason. You know as well as I do that ‘honor’ is just the Confederacy’s way of silencing their men’s consciences. This war threatens everything we love for the sake of everything we despise. Let me go Patrick, let me take Nora to Boston and then send for both of our parents as soon as we secure work and lodgings with my great-aunt. And after the war, you and I will buy a seaside cottage in Nantucket and forget all of this bloodshed ever occurred.”
His eyes softened and a smile played across his lips. I had never felt so despicable in my life. But for all of his practicality and wit, I knew deep down, Patrick was a dreamer, a hopeless romantic and therefore a fool who would gamble his life when dealt the right card.
But wasn’t I the same way? I was risking my life and my husband’s for the chance to be with Nora, even temporarily. Patrick would certainly be executed if he was implicated in a smuggling ring with Yankees.
I was disgusted with myself for my selfishness, my manipulation and my exploitation of a man who only loved and cherished me with unparalleled respect. Yet, I had never asked him to and it was that thought along with my memories of Nora’s kiss that kept me ruining everything by dissolving into apologetic tears.
I gave Patrick a weak smile and he leaned türkçe bahis in and kissed me saying, “I know of two privates who smuggle quinine from the Boston Harbor to Port Republic almost biweekly. Once I make this information known to them, I’m sure they will be happy to oblige us, free of charge.” His arms wrapped around my waist “and I suppose if anyone can improve Nora’s condition, it is you, the two of you being such dear friends” he murmured. Before I could stop myself, I rolled my eyes but he didn’t notice as he leaned in and he whispered into my ear, his goatee tickling my cheek. “Kaitlyn, how I love you! You are so clever and thoughtful. I will be blessed with visions of our seaside cottage that will carry me through this dreadful war.”
I tried not to cringe as we climbed the steps to the Kennedy’s front porch.
Later, after supper, Nora and I took a stroll around the Kennedy’s grounds. Dusk was settling in and the sky was bruised with purples and blues that were interrupted by the black silhouette of the trees in the neighboring Keaton forest. We walked in silence and I became increasingly nervous, having not spoken with Nora since the funeral.
“Nora, are you alright?” I wanted to ask what she thought after her conversation with Father Landon, but I was afraid to pry.
“I suppose, I’m sorry to be so…distant.” She was looking at her feet, much like Patrick did when he was ashamed or uncomfortable.
“Please talk to me Nora.” I stopped and grabbed her hand.
Her shoulders slumped and she let out a muffled sob. I pulled her close, pressing my lips against her temple and inhaling her lavender scent. She flooded my senses, drugging me. I whispered in her ear, words from a dream.
She cried into my blouse for a bit before wiping her eyes with the handkerchief I offered her. “Kaitlyn, I am going to be institutionalized, do you know that? My mother says I am maddened by grief and she is afraid I will off myself if I am left alone! I can’t convince her otherwise and maybe she is right…I am not at all sad about Brennan, perhaps I should be. On the contrary, I am… relieved, that I will never again feel his hands on me.”
“You’re not mad Nora, how could you grieve the death of a man who has only abused you?”
“If only my mother saw it that way…but I wish I could’ve just loved him, submitted to him, he wouldn’t have been so hateful had I not fought him every time he tried to take me to bed. I wish I could’ve loved him for my mother, my father, for Patrick…”
I tried to listen to Nora but this was quite painful to hear. It was as if she did regret loving me.
But my face, as it always does with Nora, seemed to betray me. “Oh Kaitlyn!” she exclaimed, “Don’t think I do not wish to love you. You are everything to me, you have been my will to live for the past three years! All I meant was that it would have been easier…if you weren’t. I could never touch Brennan after the way I knew you in the months preceding my wedding. The way you comforted me, cradled me so sweetly, the way you looked into my eyes and read the words hidden in my soul, your gaze overflowing with a vow unsaid. The way you listened to my incessant prattling and consoled my doubts without expectations for something in return.” Her voice broke, “You are an angel Kaitlyn, selfless, caring and beautiful to me in every way” she said hoarsely, her eyes pleading. Then, as I pulled her close, she relaxed, chuckling “Of course, my love for you made it very difficult to ‘play house’ with Brennan and now that he is dead, I have stopped hating him only long enough to feel guilty about it.”
“I’m sorry Nora.” It was all I could think of to say. “I’m sorry I love you.”
She shook her head. “Don’t ever apologize for that. Your love is the greatest gift I could ever receive.” She kissed me, full on the lips. I shuddered as I felt her hands slip under my blouse and caress my bare back. I pulled away from her, gasping for breath and consumed by her heat, incensed with want for her.
“I need to tell you something.”
“Mmm, what is it Kaitlyn?” I smiled at her voice in the dark, draped in a dreamy husk.
“Patrick told me there was talk of you being sent to the asylum and I suggested you and I accompanied smugglers to the Boston Harbor instead. Once in Boston, I told him I would purchase property, find work with my great-aunt and that I would care for you until after the war.” Her eyes were wide and I giggled.
“And he agreed to that?” she was obviously shocked.
“Yes…under certain conditions.”
Her eyes narrowed “And those were?”
I sighed. “It’s shameful really…I led him to believe I was doing this to eventually smuggle both of our parents into Boston once we had secured lodgings for everyone. Conveniently, I left out the possibility of them refusing to leave the plantations, which I know my father would do and so I imagined your father would follow suit.”
She nodded güvenilir bahis siteleri and I continued “I also expressed desire to purchase a cottage in Nantucket after the war.”
Nora snorted with laughter and I felt relieved. “Yes I imagine that influenced his decision.” I smiled halfheartedly, still feeling guilty about it. “You know Patrick too well…I hope you would never exercise such design on me, though I like to think I’m a bit sharper than him.” I laughed, “Yes, I’m not sure I could ever fool you but Patrick is far less skilled in deciphering my true emotions and I am beginning to think of him as a bit dense.” I was quiet for a moment before I added “I was afraid to even mention him to you…he told me the two of you are not speaking.”
“No, we aren’t.” I had enough sense not to ask why, so I took her hand and we walked out of the forest and into the moonlight.
We ascended the Kennedy’s staircase and I peered into Patrick’s room as I followed Nora down the hall. I saw him, asleep in his nightclothes, a bottle of bourbon on his night stand. He had taken to drinking nightly since the start of the war and though I sometimes worried, I was mostly grateful because it left him impotent and drowsy, kissing me once or twice before falling into a deep slumber. I decided if he asked, I would tell him I had spent the night comforting Nora, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.
Nora opened the door to her room and motioned for me to enter. “After you” she murmured and as I crossed the threshold she followed, shutting the door silently behind her before locking it with a quiet click. I met her gaze and she grabbed my forearms and whirled me around so that I was pinned against the wall, her grip steely and much stronger than I ever expected. I felt her body pressed against me and I gasped when she kissed my ear, her lips closing over the lobe in the most deliciously devilish way. She dropped down to my neck and I groaned, thrusting my hips forward. Nora grabbed my wrists and pressed them against the wall over my head. I was a little taken aback by her aggression and she loosened her grasp a bit, her face somber.
“I’m sorry Kaitlyn…you know I love you but right now…I just want to fuck you.”
There was a raw, primitive need I had never before seen in her eyes and it excited me. I exhaled, “then fuck me, Nora. Fuck me with all you’ve got.” Nora looked surprised for a moment, obviously not expecting such language from me or such willingness to be subjugated. I myself was surprised, never dreaming Nora would want this but thinking it may be an exorcism of her sufferings at the hands of Brennan.
I didn’t have much time to further consider it as Nora grabbed the backs of my thighs and hoisted me up, my dress hiked up to my waist. I moaned and wrapped my legs around her instinctively as she tore my panties off. Cool air rushed around my sex and I felt so erotic and exposed as Nora fumbled with something beneath her skirt. Suddenly, her skirt dropped and I gasped. Strapped to her waist was a leather phallus!
I was both dumbfounded and increasingly aroused by the sight of the protrusion that hugged Nora’s slim, feminine hips. Still supporting my weight, she pressed the stiff head to the entrance of my dripping sex. I could hear her labored breathing and she looked me in the eyes, waiting, the phallus still poised against my glistening vulva. “Oh Nora” I gasped “please fuck me.”
She jerked her hips forward and I buried my face in her neck to muffle my cries. Pain seared through my body followed by a tingling, current of pleasure. Encouraged by my pleas, Nora quickened her pace, thrusting in and out of me, driving deeper inside of me with each stroke. The base of the phallus rubbed against my clitoris and I felt the familiar swelling between my legs that often accompanied my dreams of Nora. I was breathless and my vision was clouding, dark spots blotting out the sight of the moonlit room and Nora’s pale figure before me. She pumped relentlessly and multiple waves of rapture tore through me, ravaging my shaking body. I clung to the roots of her long, glorious, black, silky hair and felt tears running down my cheeks; my heart seemed to burst, filling my breast with warmth as the woman I loved plunged deeper into my very essence until her knees buckled and we collapsed onto the cool wooden floor, the phallus still inside me as Nora lay atop of me, gasping for breath and trembling with bliss. She gleamed with a slight sheen of sweat and I pulled her lips to mine, whispering “I love you” into our kiss.
Nora pulled out of me and confusion filled her face as she saw the phallus covered in blood.
I quickly shook my head.
“Oh Kaitlyn, I…” I silenced her with a soft, tender, reassuring kiss. I now knew where her desire to use the strap-on originated. But, what reminded a mystery was where on earth she got it.
Nora lifted me up but I noticed she had rid herself of the phallus. She carried me to her bed, gently laid me down and kissed my forehead with almost an imperceptible softness. She walked over to her washbasin and returned with a damp, cool cloth that she wiped the inside of my thighs with. It felt wonderful. I let out a sigh of ecstasy.
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