Problems of the Heart
Age Rating: 13 +
“You’re lucky,” Elizabeth said to Jack a few weeks after they tried to get pregnant. “Very lucky.”
”Just tell me!” Jack said, sitting up on the bed where he was reading the newspaper.
“You’re going to be a father,” she said plainly. No emotion, no tears, no happiness that follows the news of a baby.
“Are you sure you want this?”
”Well it’s too late now, isn’t?” she snapped.
“Fine, be upset. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll have a miscarriage. But I have to get to this-“ he said, shaking the paper. “Looking for a house. We’ve over stayed our welcome.”
“Well carry on then. I’m going to go help Katherine with supper.”
When Elizabeth got to the kitchen, she immediately sat down at the table, picked up a knife, and started chopping onions.
“Molly, I didn’t hear you come in. How are you feeling?”
”Better,” Elizabeth said. “Where’s Polly?”
”He went to my daughter Ann’s house to fix a door, as her husband was enlisted in the Kanta army. Poor girl, she was so devastated when he got the letter. She was left with five children, and one on the way. I invited her here, but she’s stubborn.”
”She sounds independent,” Elizabeth commented.
“Probably. More pig-headed then independent. But she’s a good girl. She’s coming this weekend to stay. Polly and I will be watching the children while she get’s some rest. Maybe you and Jack would like to help? After all, you do have your own on the way.”
”Maybe,” Elizabeth said quietly, and resumed her chopping with a carrot in the onions stead.
Jack came into the kitchen later on with the newspaper in his hand, and a smile on his face.
“I found it,” he said to Elizabeth. “I found a nice little place that looks fairly livable. Three bedrooms, a nice view of the water front, cheap, solid construction. I’ll go take a look at it tomorrow morning.”
”Oh, you plan on living in Koura?” Katherine asked, turning away from the stovetop to look at Jack.
“Yes. It’s great here, and we need to get away from the bustle of Kanta.”
”Koura is the place to be all year round,” she said with a grin, and turned back to the pot on the stove that was hissing.
“What do you think, Molly?” he asked, sitting next to her.
“It sounds lovely,” she said, not taking her eyes up from the chopped carrot.
“Are you alright?” he whispered in her ear, putting his hand on her shoulder.
She nodded slowly. No, she wasn’t all right. Everything was happening so fast. A house of their own, a child, and running from the authorities. How long could they keep this up? Jack knows she’s not yet eight-teen. She’s still considered a child. A young woman taking her first baby steps in the big world. But it’s more like a woman taking huge bounds in a small world, scared of her own shadow, grabbing onto Jack’s shirt for every little sound.
The next day, Jack went to look at the house, and came back, thumbs up. He got a job later that day working at a pharmacy. The pay was good, so he took it. Hours were absurd, but he accepted anyway. He made a payment for the house, and they were moving in as soon as it was livable. Furniture needed to be bought, and plumbing needed to be looked over. A plumber was to go there early evening. Jack had to eat supper quickly then leave just as quickly, pausing to give Elizabeth a kiss, and thank Katherine for the delicious diner.
Elizabeth in the meantime was getting home sick. She wanted to speak to her mother, and ask for help. She wanted her father to hug her, and make everything go away. She wanted to smell the fragrance of the estate, and ride on her horse again. She wanted to be a child again.
Reports of the war were posted in the town square, and every afternoon Elizabeth would go and check. The last time she checked, there was a price increase for her, and her father had made arrangements with the leader of Koura that he would pay double the price on Elizabeth for her back. So that led to him able to stay in Koura for a month, searching. She also read that her mother would search Finela, and guards were looking in other cities, further away. Her name was mentioned a lot, but not once was Jack’s. A description of Elizabeth that was given caused her to cut her hair short, and dye it red. She would apply make-up to appear darker, and whenever she had the chance, she’d go to the gallery, and tan. Jack also changed his appearance. He stopped getting haircuts, and grew his hair long. It was amazing how much his hair can grow in a few weeks. He also spoke in a deeper voice in public, and avoided old habits that he could be recognized by.
It has been a week already, and Elizabeth had barely seen Jack. He took to his job right away, leaving at sunrise, and returning well after sunset. And it was good for him, because mood swings were beginning, and she was chewing the ears off people. But all was excused, and nothing was taken to heart. Polly seemed nervous to speak to Elizabeth, and Katherine jumped in whenever she could. In the middle of lunch, cleaning, a game of cards, and before bed, she spoke to Elizabeth, and comforted her through the tears and anger surges.
Jack came home one night to a silent house, as usual. He closed the door behind him, and locked it. He made his way to his room, avoiding treading on toys and clothing Katherine and Polly’s grandchildren left around. He opened the door to his room and found it in darkness, as it should be. He walked in, closed the door behind him, and stripped for bed. Wearing only his underwear, he climbed beneath the sheets, and nearly jumped out of his skin by the sound of Elizabeth’s voice.
“How much longer?” she asked.
“How much longer for what?”
”Till we can go home.”
Jack kept silent.
“I miss my family. I miss the city. I feel like I’ve grown up all to quickly. I’m pretending to me married, and having a child. And soon, having a house to keep clean, and cook for you.”
”It’s not only hard on you,” he said. “I have to run from the authorities as well. I’m just trying to protect you.”
”Why? Why do you feel the need to protect me? If you didn’t try to, none of this would of happened.”
Jack could hear her voice, the tone and the shaking, and knew tears were on the way.
“I would have been back at the war, to witness the finish, and you...” she stopped.
“I would be living off of dirty money, helping with the clean up of dead bodies,” he completed.
There was a rustling of sheets, and Elizabeth sat on the end of Jack’s bed, bringing her knees up to her chest.
“You tell me it’s because of money. Were there any grudges?” she asked after a little bit of silence.
“No,” he answered.
“If you really loved me-“ she began but Jack cut in.
”Don’t start that. I did love you, and still do. I never meant to hurt you, but when they threatened to kill my mother and father, I had no choice. I knew you could protect yourself. Or had others to protect you.”
”That’s still not a reason,” she whispered. “We could have helped you.”
”Let’s just get some sleep. I have work tomorrow.”
”Ah yes, work,” she said coldly, and got back into her bed.
“Yes, work,” he repeated.
They both lay down, and it was quiet for some time when Jack broke the silence with a question. “When’s the baby due?”
“Early summer,” she said quickly, and turned her back on him.
Jack had a hard time falling asleep that night, as nightmares plagued him of his parents being murdered, and Elizabeth being killed for money. He awoke a little later then he normally did, and had to rush out the door to get to work on time. He was returning from the kitchen with a piece of toast in hand and a mug of milk when he saw a light on. He walked in, and Elizabeth was sitting up in bed, staring at the wall.
“What are you doing up?” he asked, slowing down a bit.
“Couldn’t sleep,” was all she answered, getting out of bed and putting on a night robe.
“Where are you going?”
“To the bathroom.”
”Yes, ‘oh.’ I do have something pressing on my bladder, you know,” she said shortly.
“What’s wrong now?” he sighed, setting down his mug on the night table.
“Nothing,” she said, leaving the room. “Just go to work.”
”Fine,” he replied, pulling on his boots, and abandoning the mug as he left the room, and then the house.
The rest of the early morning hours were uneventful. Elizabeth cried a bit, and then threw a small tantrum. The normal, basically. Katherine, as soon as she woke and dressed, came to get Elizabeth. Then they both woke up Katherine’s daughter, Agnes. She was a short woman with brown hair cut short. When she smiled (which wasn’t often) her dimples would stretch to her eyes, and make anyone smile just from looking at her. She had her fathers nose, and that was the only trait recognized by Elizabeth from either parent.
Agnes was a heavily pregnant, and highly dangerous woman, Elizabeth had noticed. And also a lot of work. She would faint without warning, as well as complain of not being able to breath. Polly closed the shop for a few days here and there to keep Agnes’ other children away from Agnes. Elizabeth had to help even more with cleaning and cooking, even thought she was dead tired, and begged for a nap.
Very rarely was she aloud to nap, and more often threw a tantrum and broke down crying before she got her way. She always felt embarrassed after an outburst, but it quickly dissolved as soon as she passed the bathroom, and realized she was suffering from nausea that day. She wanted her mother more then ever after vomiting and eating crackers for a few days straight. But Katherine substituted fairly well.
A few days later, there was a spectacular day in the household. Agnes’ husband came home from the war, and they left for home. Now Elizabeth had Katherine all to herself, and she could sleep all she wanted. If only Jack hadn’t taken the afternoon off and came banging up the stairs to burst through the door with enough noise to wake the dead. Elizabeth was just drifting off when he did that. And she was angry. She got up from bed and yelled at him until Katherine came and ushered Jack to the sitting area for a bit. She returned moments later with news.
“Molly, Charlie has news.”
”What is it,” she said sleepily.
“He found all the furniture you need at the moment. He said you will be moving out in the next week after all the little things are bought.”
“What?!” she shrieked, sitting up as if she had been pricked with a pin.
“Oh Molly, don’t cry,” Katherine pleaded, sitting next to her and putting an arm around a bawling Elizabeth. “It’ll be alright. You’ll be fine soon. I’ll help you get settled in.”
”I want my mother,” she said between sobs, feeling like a child.
“I know sweetie, I know,” Katherine said, hugging her.
Jack came in minutes later and sat down quietly on his bed. Elizabeth fell asleep on Katherine’s shoulder, and Katherine was just laying her down, and covering her. When she was finished, she turned to Jack, and motioned for him to leave the room. They both exited, and Katherine closed the door.
”Can’t you return to her mother’s?”
Jack was silent.
“She needs her mother. It’s hard for her, being so far away after being married. I think the lifestyle is too much. At least wright to her mother and tell her what’s going on!” Katherine said to Jack.
“Alright, I’ll wright to her.”
”Thank you, Charlie,” she said, and walked down the hall to her bedroom.
He sighed, and went to the sitting area and sat down at the small desk in the corner, and took out a piece of paper, and a pen. He dipped the quill in green ink, and wrote:
Please do not burn this letter because you hate me. Elizabeth is safe. I managed to get her away from Red and the Kanta Leader’s guards, and we’re in hiding. We’re in a city close by, but I won’t say anymore then that. She’s pregnant right now, and not doing too well. I’d bring her home, but borders on all the cities are shut tight. We’re married, on account of staying safe in the city. And I’m not sure what Michael, or Donovan would do to me if I showed my face.
“Michael!” Ariel screamed after reading the letter. “MICHAEL!” she screamed again, running out of her room and down the stairs to his office.
“What?” he answered, standing up.
“Elizabeth, it’s Elizabeth! She’s safe. Oh thank Adia she’s safe!”
“Where is she?”
”Read this,” Ariel said, thrusting the letter to Michael.
After he read it, he looked at Ariel and she started crying.
“She’s safe, Michael.”
”I don’t call pregnant and married to Jack safe,” he retorted angrily.
“What about Jack?” Donovan said stepping into the room.
“He married your sister and got her pregnant,” Michael fumed.
Donovan stopped walking and stood still. Face blank and pale. “What!?”
“We’ll find them,” Michael said, leaving his office, and sending for Ryan. He found him in the dining hall having a snack when he sat down next to him, and gave him the letter. Ryan read it with wide eyes, and looked at Michael in disbelief. Michael nodded, and Ryan got up and left, making his way to the stables. Michael came out moments after Ryan did and found him studying the ink on the paper.
“This ink isn’t from Kanta. Green isn’t a color we keep in stock in the city. I don’t believe it would be too popular in Finela, as they practically live in a forest. My best bet would be Koura.”
”Koura... It makes sense. We were on the Koura border when she disappeared.”
”I’ll find her,” Ryan said, mounting his horse.
“I’m coming too,” Ariel said appearing at the door, dressed to ride.
“No Ariel let Ryan go alone.”
”My baby needs me. I’m not waiting any longer.”
“Ok, go. But be careful. If you’re not back in two weeks, I’m sending someone to get you.”
Ariel mounted her horse as Ryan nodded, and then they both rode out of the stables, and out the gates.