In the days that followed our wedding, Markius couldn't keep his hands off me. But each time we had sex, the passion seemed to dim a little. And then it went from every night to every other night to once a week, maybe. And now, even though we are still newlyweds, it is nearly never. He doesn't hold me anymore. He barely even touches me.
And I have no idea why.
I should be happy. I have every material luxury a wife could ask for. Markius bought me a wardrobe with dozens of new dresses.
He gave me a room for my potions and stocked it with every supply and ingredient I could request.
I have a big, beautiful home that I keep clean and take pride in. A massive kitchen all to myself. A wide open space of land without forty other women rubbing elbows with me. I couldn't be happier with any of these things. But how could I have known that wifedom would feel so lonely?
We entertain almost every night. Markius's friends from the pub come over and he plays cards and drinks with them, usually until it is light outside.
Last night was just the same as it always is. After running out of coins to throw down on the card table, Markius sat down with his friends in our dining room to do what they do best.
"Hey honey," he called to me. "How about getting us another round?"
And of course I obliged him. I used to drink with them, but after one too many crippling hangovers, it lost its appeal. Markius has been drinking since he was a child. I wonder if the novelty will ever wear off for him.
After losing my hopes of being a princess, I had thought I would be the queen of Markius's house... and of his heart. Not a servant in his kitchen.
"Hey, Sweet Cheeks, what's taking so long?" one of his friends shouted. "We're sobering up out here!"
I remember feeling extreme vexation before the dizziness set in.
And then I just felt strange.
I must have lost my balance, because in the next moment of my awareness, I was on the floor.
"Corynne?" I heard Markius's voice. My eyes fluttered open to see him towering over me. "Corynne, are you all right?"
"Uh?" I sat up slowly, still overcome with dizziness and nausea. "Yes. I'm fine. I don't know what happened. I just fell..."
Holding my head, I looked at the mugs spilled out on the floor. "Oh my."
"Don't worry about the grog, dear," Markius said with a smile. "There's plenty more. Let me help you clean this up."
Don't worry about the grog?
Don't worry about the grog?!
Then the rage came. I can hardly remember a stronger sense of fury rising in me all at once. I could have murdered him. With fists clenched and breath seething, I unleashed.
"NEVER MIND THE FUCKING GROG!"
"Huh?" Markius looked at me like a startled child.
"What about me? I just collasped on the fucking floor and all you have to say is don't worry about the grog? Don't you even care? You don't. You don't even fucking touch me!"
Stunned silence was the only sound that followed, even from the always-noisy lot in the next room. He stared at me as though I just lost my mind. Maybe I had.
"I... I'm sorry. I really don't know why I got so angry just now. I've just been feeling so strange lately."
"Maybe you should lie down," Markius suggested quietly.
What was wrong with me?
As I pull myself out of bed, I still don't know what has been happening to me lately. Only that I have been increasingly unable to control my emotions and I am constantly tired.
Markius rises on the other side of the bed in silence, as if the fight last night did not happen. I can't decide if this is for the best or not. We used to cuddle in the mornings and it was so nice.
I will sell at the market today to take my mind off things.
From the lonely place inside my booth, I watch a young couple with a baby. Newlyweds, I'd wager.
And still very in love. But isn't that the way it's supposed to be for everyone? I wish Markius would kiss me like that.
I remember when Lothar did...
Then a new wave of emotion washes over me. I heave a sigh and let it go.
"I see a child of trouble..." a rasping voice cuts through my self-pity.
There stands a woman all in white, with a golden blindfold covering her eyes. A line begins to form behind her.
"I beg your pardon, Madam?"
"Child of trouble, child of woe. A child who brings misfortune wherever she goes..." If it weren't for the rasp in her voice, she would be singing.
I am not the person to fool with today. How dare she? I am not a child; I am nearly eighteen. And I do not cause trouble, the Witch Queen and her horrid daughter do. This woman knows nothing about me.
"My eyes have always been blind, but I see everything. That one is going to give you grief for the rest of your life. I thought you deserved a warning."
"Excuse me, but were you planning on buying a potion?" I ask darkly.
"I have no money," she answers. "But I have fortunes. I am a seer, you see. I'm setting up shop just across the alley. Come visit me anytime. And tell your friends."
Not with fortunes like that, I won't. She must be out of her mind.
As though she can read mine, she says, "Only a bad seer will tell you what you want to hear. I only speak the truth."
At the end of the day, I gather my earnings and take my owed portion to the witches' encampment. When I step inside the gate, I freeze where I stand. I've had much on my mind, but I cannot believe that I've forgotten what day it is.
Witches with painted faces scramble in revealing dresses to get ready for the night ahead.
It is the eve of summer.
I enter the meeting hall to search for Galaea, where I find Magrid bowed at the feet of the statue of Jyaell.
"Please. Please make it happen this time. Please give me a daughter."
Her sobs are so raw and honest that my heart cries with hers. I never thought I could relate so well to this girl I once hated.
It is only after several moments of watching her that I notice the tears falling down my face.
Something is definitely wrong with me.
I wipe my eyes and walk past her to Galaea's council room. The prospect of seeing the Witch Queen makes my gut clench in dread and revulsion, but a promise is a promise.
The room in empty, however.
I go outside to find her, and Keiry finds me. Goddess, I barely recognize her.
"Corynne! What are you doing here?"
I shake my head and laugh weakly. "I forgot what day it is."
"Well I'm happy to see you anyway. I've missed you. Are you feeling well? You look a little sickly."
"Oh, I'm all right." I sigh. "I've just been so tired lately and all this talk of babies has been really getting to..."
Six weeks. This is how long it's been since my last menstrual. Something else that my befuddled mind failed to remember, until just now.
Child of trouble, child of woe...
"Keiry, can you please make sure the Witch Queen gets this? I have to go."
“I see.” She laughs. “In a hurry to go carry out your own eve of summer ritual?”
“Actually, I don’t think I’ll have to.”
Drunk as usual. There is no sense in trying to get him to come to bed. He'll stay on the couch until sometime at midday tomorrow. Not that it matters anyway. But there is one thing I can get from him when he is in this state.
I can brew a truth potion strong enough to make anyone confess their deepest, darkest secrets, but alcohol works just as well.
I kneel down and lean close to him.
“Markius?” I whisper.
I know him well enough to know that he will remember none of this tomorrow.
I know him well enough to know that he will remember none of this tomorrow.
"Whaddya mean?" he mumbles.
"Why don't you look at me the same way? Why won't you hold me anymore?"
“Because… because you used to look like an angel to me…” He yawns and closes his eyes.
“…now you just look like a girl…”
There are some doors that can never be closed after they have been opened, and questions that when answered, can never be unasked.
Dumbfounded, I watch him sleep until he begins to snore loudly. I am far too tired to think about this anymore tonight.
I'm going to bed.