Chapter One- The Funeral Part 4
But now it was time for her decision. She couldn’t put it off much longer. All week long, gentlemen had left their calling cards at her house. The cards sat in a silver bowl in the entry hall where the crone had collected them. Erin had ignored them like unpaid debts. Her friends all advised her that it was time to move on, but she just couldn’t picture herself as another man’s wife. She twisted the large diamond ring on her finger, unwilling to remove it.
What was the alternative? She feared the day when her green eyes would turn back to their natural brown color. Then the transformation would begin as she aged rapidly over the next two years until she was a wrinkled, hunchbacked monster. Could she face her reflection each day as she twisted up her hair? She imagined one of the house crone’s wrinkled faces in the place of her lovely one. Nightmares on top of nightmares, and I’m not even asleep!
Without a husband, where would she live? According to their laws, since she was childless, her father would own the shop and blacksmith trade. Her home would be sold to pay the prince’s death tax. Although she could move in with her sister and her husband, they would be forced to hide her because of her hideousness. Forced to disappear from all social life, she would wander as a wraith through the corridors of the house until she perished in her ugliness.
Am I seriously considering becoming a crone? A shiver ran through her as she realized she was contemplating remaining unmarried. She wasn’t a rebel. Her entire life obediently followed the traditions of her people. But her pain gave her courage she had never known. Courage to honor Mikel by allowing her beauty to follow him in death.
If she chose this path, there was another place for her. The College.
She had heard that some widows went there and learned to support themselves. They didn’t need husbands to survive. Erin had always admired the crone healers who came to the village to treat the sick and injured. If she studied to be a healer, she could have a meaningful occupation. Maybe her pain could be buried in her studies so that she could feel like herself again. Her family would not miss her as they rushed to keep up with their social lives. Seeing her would prolong their grief, as she was a reminder of her failed future at the royal court.
With a sigh, Erin stood up and walked stiffly toward the door. Even as she argued with herself she knew her mind was set. The memorial service made Mikel’s death a reality and it set for her a starting point—or a jumping off point, she thought—to begin anew. It was time to leave her locked tower of grief. She would make an appearance at the wake and graciously thank all of her neighbors and friends. After all, they meant well. Then she would return home for the last time. A few items needed to be packed. She would say her farewell to her sister and parents. At one time she had loved them deeply, but her heart was lost with Mikel. Emptiness drove her to action. She could remain in Riversedge as a shade, but she felt the slightest flutter of hope. It was time to follow it.