Except to Cover it with Oblivion

If there was anything, any skill, Erin had picked up in her years of being a farm girl, a country peasant, it was the skill of cleaning. It was too bad it wasn’t a marketable skill — every woman who could not afford to hire someone else to do it did it herself, and those who were hired had to come with a character, references — it was the only thing, other than let a man have his way with her, that she really knew how to do. Well, and act — or what passed for acting in the comedies the theater owner cast her in. Giggling and pretending to be shocked when the hero’s randy sidekick pinched her backside seemed to be all that was expected of her.

But if there was one thing Erin’s grim-faced, pious mother had taught her, it was how to clean. No matter that their cottage had a dirt floor and tables and chairs made of wood so rough one could hardly pass one’s hand over it without coming out with a splinter — it was a clean dirt floor and a polished set of tables. “Cleanliness is next to Wrightliness,” Erin’s mother would intone as she handed Erin an old rag or a broom, and Erin would curse below her breath.

Still, Erin had never before cleaned like this.

Her hands shook as she drew the soapy rag over the counter she had already wiped three times. But it had to be clean. No, more than clean — it had to be perfect. Sterile, almost. She’d almost scalded her hand this morning trying to manipulate boiling water to clean the stove and table.

But it had to be perfect!

Erin’s hands moved faster, the rag catching on the rough bits of the stone countertop and becoming even more ragged. There would not be a grain of dirt — a hint of stink — a speck of dust in this little flat by the time she was through. The little flat would hardly know what had hit it. And when Erin was done, she would take her shoes off and stick them by the door, and she would sit very quietly in the chair farthest from the door, and she would hold her breath for fear of disturbing the clean. If her mother could see her now, she would be proud.

No — no, she would be ashamed, for she would ask Erin for what cause she did this cleaning. And, if there was any love left in Greta Shepherd for her daughter, it would be killed stone dead when she heard the reason.

It was probably a good thing, therefore, that Erin would never see or speak to her mother again. It was an excellent thing that she would never let Greta stand in judgment over her again.

No, the only person who would be standing in judgment over her was Sister Margery, to decide whether Erin was a fit mother to take her Wulf back —

And there was a knock at the door!

Erin almost flung the rag into the nearest empty space, but that would undo all of her hard work — would it not? Instead, she shouted, “Coming!” to the door, wrung the rag out and hung it neatly by the sink, then advanced the few short steps to the door, wringing her hands behind her back.

If this is Nicole …

It wasn’t.

“Sister!” Erin said, her voice creaking. “How are –”

She barely had a moment to speak before the good Sister enveloped her in a hug.

“I’m very well, Erin,” Sister Margery asked, pulling back with a gentle smile. “How are you?”

“I’m — I’m — I’m fine,” Erin stammered. “How’s Wulf?”

“Wulf is doing wonderfully. He can’t wait for you to next visit.”

Erin grinned. “Ye — ye’re sure?”

“Oh, Erin,” Sister Margery sighed. “Why do you think your own son wouldn’t miss his mother?”

Erin tried to smile. “He’s so young …”

“He’s old enough to know his mama. And speaking of which …” Sister Margery smiled. “Will I be able to tell him that he’s going to be coming to live with her soon?”

“Heh. Well — only ye can tell that, Sister,” Erin answered. She did her best not to swallow. She failed. “Won’t — won’t ye come in?”

“Thank you.” Erin waved the Sister forward, and could little other than stand behind while the Sister looked about her with curious eyes.

“It’s very nice!” Sister Margery said. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”

“Thank — thank’ee,” Erin replied as she shut the door, to keep out any stray bits of dust or dirt carried in upon the breeze.

“Is the furniture yours?” Sister Margery asked. “Or did it come with the flat?”

“Well, ’tis Lord Pellinore’s money what bought it, but I suppose it’s mine all the same.”

“Excellent,” Sister Margery replied. She drew her hand along the edge of the table. “I — I wasn’t always a nun. So I know — I know what having some good furniture means.” As if Erin hadn’t known herself, the Sister murmured, “It’s a safety net.” She gasped and turned to Erin. “Not that — not that the Church wouldn’t help you if you happened on troubled times, of course!”

Well, that’s nice to know. “So ye were poor once, Sister?”

“Perhaps not what you would call poor — but my mother was widowed when I was very young. We were able to shift for ourselves, but …” She sighed. “We lost everything in a fire.”

“Oh …”

“But enough of that!” Sister Margery tried to laugh. “Please, continue the tour!”

So Erin continued it. She showed Sister Margery the kitchen, the fireplace and sofa, the little table she’d bought for Wulf. Sister Margery smiled to see that. After a quick peek into Erin’s bedroom, it was up the ladder with Sister Margery, Erin following.

“How interesting!” Sister Margery murmured.

“What’s interesting?”

“I thought you didn’t like to sew?”

“What? Oh … I don’t.” Erin clambered up the last few rungs. “But — well — with a growin’ little boy … I guess I figured I ought ter get used ter it.”

“The seamstress at the theater isn’t willing to repair all the holes Wulf will bring to his clothing?” asked the Sister with a twinkle in her eye.

“I doubt it. Face it, would ye be, Sister?”

Sister Margery snorted. “I already am in charge of repairing the damage he does to his clothing — I do not envy you, Erin! He’s an active little boy, when he’s …”

“When he’s?”

“Is this to be his bedroom?” Sister Margery asked, gesturing to the door opposite.

“Aye …”

“Well, let’s have a look!” And without another word, Sister Margery flung open the door and surveyed the room.

Erin scuttled in behind her. What would the room look like in Sister Margery’s eyes? Was the thatch not fresh enough — was she afraid it would deposit bugs and other critters on the poor babe’s head? Were there not enough toys? What of the changing table — was it out of place? Surely Wulf was too old to need a changing table, or he would be when he came to live with Erin. And the rug! Surely it was too dirty, too old to be a suitable play space for a small child —

To say that the experience of watching Sister Margery decide whether Erin’s best attempt to ready a room for her child was nerve-wracking would be, perhaps, a bit of an understatment.

“Well,” Sister Margery murmured. “Well, well. Erin?”

“Y-yes?”

“Have you — that is — oh dear. Wulf shan’t be in that little bed for long, you know. He’ll be growing out of it before you know it.”

“Aye, I know.”

“Have you — have you a plan to replace it when he outgrows it?”

“Oh, aye. The cabinetmaker said that he’ll take this one back, if I’m sure I ain’t gonna need it fer no more kids, an’ he’d give me a bed fer cheaper.”

“Excellent. And you’ve made arrangements to change the changing table for a trunk or cabinet?”

“Aye, Sister.”

Before she knew it, the good Sister had turned and was grinning at Erin like a child being given candy. “I knew you could do it, Erin!”

“Could — do it?” she asked as Sister Margery pressed Erin to her heart.

“Find a fine place, and do it up nicely, just waiting for Wulf to come and take advantage of it! Oh, Erin! I’m so proud of you!”

So proud of me …

“Does that mean Wulf’s comin’ soon?” Erin gasped.

“No sooner than we originally planned,” Sister Margery replied. “Remember, we still have a few months left to run on our agreement. You have to keep a steady job for a year before you can have Wulf back.”

“Aye — aye. But — but soon?”

“Sooner than you think.”

Oh, Wright! Oh, Wright!Ave Brandi!” Erin whispered as tears dripped down her face.

“Amen, Erin.” Sister Margery pulled away with a smile. “Remember — though the circumstances are different, she had to raise her son without his father, as well.”

Erin chuckled. “I don’t think my Wulfie’s growing up ter be another St. Robert.”

“You never know, Erin.”

Erin nodded. “True, Sister. True.”

***

 A good hour and a couple cups of tea later, Erin saw Sister Margery out. She stood on terra firma, the ground below her flat, and grinned.

Her son! She’d officially been approved to have her son back! Now, all she had to do was keep her job for a few more months — well, more than that, if she and Wulf wanted to eat when she got him back — and then —

“So ye’ve officially gone and sold out.”

“Marigold!” Erin spun on her heel.

“Aye, me,” Marigold sighed. “So, how does it feel, bein’ respectable an’ all?”

Erin did her best not to flinch. “I’m an actress. There’s plenty o’ Sims who would say I ain’t gained that much respectability at all.”

“Perhaps. But those Sims ain’t seen ye kissin’ a nun goodbye and promisin’ ter visit the orphanage soon.”

Erin stuck her chin in the air. “I’m doin’ what I have to ter get me son back.”

“An’ enjoyin’ every minute of it.”

“So — so what if I am?” An’ I ain’t, Erin thought. Ye think I like havin’ ter deal with those gossipy fishwives an’ ol’ broads who like ter stick their noses where they don’t belong?

“This ain’t ye, Erin! Ye know better than –”

“Marigold!” Erin cast a furtive glance around the deserted square before she stomped over to Marigold. “Ye –”

“Did ye see that?”

“See what?”

“What ye jest did!”

“What I jest did?”

“Ye looked around, like ye was afraid ter be seen talkin’ ter me!”

Erin blinked — and that was all the weakness she needed to display.

“Ye ain’t no better than us, Erin! Ye ain’t no better than me, fer all that me hair’s green an’ I got bark growin’ all over me!”

“I ain’t never said I was!”

“Ye don’t want ter be seen with me!”

“I gotta be respectable! I got a son ter raise!”

“A son! Ye ain’t the only one who got a son ter raise!”

“I ain’t the only one who’s got a son, ye mean! I don’t see ye doin’ much raisin’ o’ yours!”

“That ain’t –”

“Ye jest dumped him with yer brother and ye don’t ever go ter see him no more!”

“That ain’t true!”

“I ain’t never seen ye leave ter go there!”

“An’ did ye never think that might be because ye needed to sleep, an’ I didn’t, so I went while the rest of ye was sleepin’?”

Erin had not thought of that.

“Wright! I still care about Thorn! But I didn’t abandon me friends fer him!”

“Nobody ever told ye it was yer — yer friends or yer son!”

“Did the good sister tell ye that?”

Erin could not answer that.

“She didn’t! I knew it!”

“She — she — I have ter stay respectable, if I don’t want Wulf sufferin’ fer it!”

“Instead, ye let Tambu an’ Mirelle an’ Wei Li suffer fer it!” Marigold spat.

“Wei — Wei Li?”

“Ye said ye’d visit! Ye didn’t!”

“She’s welcome ter come whenever she likes! But I — I ain’t had time!”

“She can’t!”

“Can’t? I said she could!”

“She’s pregnant again! She can’t go nowhere!”

Erin blinked. “I — I didn’t –”

“Naw, ye didn’t know that, because ye never bothered ter come an’ ask after us!”

“I ain’t had time!”

“In eight months, Erin? Eight months?”

“I got a job! I got a life! I got –”

“Ye got bitten by the respectable bug, an’ ye know it!”

“It ain’t no bug! It’s — damn it, Marigold, ain’t ye ever been drawn into somethin’ larger than yerself?”

“Aye! Ye! Tambu! Mirelle! Wei Li, who misses ye more than anythin’!”

“She don’t need me like Wulf does!”

“Maybe, but that don’t mean she don’t need ye!”

“I’ll see her when –”

“I know, I know. Ye’ll see her when ye have time. Well, I hope ye have time soon. This is the fourth kid she’s had in as many years, ye know!”

Erin almost gasped. “Ye — ye mean — is she –”

“She’s fine — now. Who knows how long it’ll stay that way?”

Erin swallowed. “She — Wei Li is strong …”

“Do ye even still know that?” Marigold snapped. “Ye were her best friend, her only friend, Erin. An’ ye haven’t even seen her in eight months. I hope ye think long an’ hard about that. An’ I hope ye see her soon.” She ran her hand through her leafy hair. “Now I gotta get out o’ ‘ere — before any o’ yer newfound friends decide ter see if I light up like the bark on me arms.” Without so much as a “farewell,” Marigold stomped off, taking one of the numerous shawls from her waist and tossing it over her head.

Erin watched her go. Could she …?

No, no, she wasn’t being serious. She was just trying to guilt trip Erin. Wei Li was more dependent on female companionship than the other girls, so perhaps …

Perhaps she would go see Wei Li. When she had time.

Aye, Erin thought, shimmying up the ladder and into the waiting flat, I’ll go see her — when I have time.

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14 thoughts on “Except to Cover it with Oblivion

  1. Awww. 😦 With the sweet comes the sour. Poor Erin, she’s doing what she thinks she’s got to do for Wulf. And while I’m sure that she didn’t have to give up all of her friends to get Wulf back…

    She’s doing it all for the same reason that she practically burnt herself trying to make sure that the place was perfect for Sister Margery. Because she doesn’t want to have worked this hard for this long to get told it’s not good enough.

    But I can see Marigold’s perspective too. They were the ones who stood by here when she first came to Albion, not Sister Margery. And it’s never fun to be dropped by your friends because they can’t be seen by you.

    But Marigold, for all that she’s at least part right, is going about this the wrong way. She’s not going to “win” if she’s the one laying out ultimatums.

    But I hope Marigold is wrong about Wei Li, though. I know she’s giving your next generation a never-ending supply of little servants and bastard born nuns/monks, but I still hope she’s okay.

    And I hope Erin has time to go see her, soon.

    • Exactly, Andavri. Getting Wulf back is the most important thing in Erin’s life — period. Even if Sister Margery wouldn’t object to Erin going to see her friends (which I think Sister Margery would have a problem with, not to the extent that she’d refuse to give Wulf back, but it would worry her), Erin’s got to think of the future. If she wants Wulf to have a shot at a halfway decent life, she’s got to look respectable. Traipsing off to visit the whorehouse or openly entertaining whores is not respectable.

      I can see Marigold’s perspective too. She’s just really mad about this whole thing. In her mind, the Church is The Enemy, and now Erin is just selling out in order to gain something that never should have been taken from her in the first place. And to make it worse, she’s hurting some of the other girls, who Marigold has made it her mission to protect.

      As for how Wei Li is doing … might I suggest you check the Gypsies, Supernaturals & Undesireables page? 😉

  2. I can see why Marigold would be upset–and really, I think Sister Margery would understand that Erin did make some valuable friendships during her days as a lady of the night and that she wouldn’t want to give those up. But this is her son they’re talking about. He’s the center of Erin’s universe. Everything else is important, but Wulf most of all.

    It’s a pity that she thinks she had to choose, though 😦

    I hope Wei Li is okay…

    • Sister Margery would, I think, understand. She wouldn’t approve, but she’d understand. It’s everyone else that Erin has to worry about, and Erin is worrying about everyone else. She’s just clawed her way back from the absolute bottom, the dregs of society. She doesn’t want to get tossed on her ass back there — and take Wulf with her, too!

      And I think that Wulf ending up in the bad books of society is what bothers her most of all. 😦

      Thanks Van!

  3. Well, Erin’s got to do everything that’s necessary to get Wulf back! And I think it’s understandable that she goes a bit overboard here. I mean, she’s exessively cleaning her apartment trying to impress Sister Margery and all that… If she’s seen with her old friends, people may really think she’s still involved with them in ways she shouldn’t be. She needs to play it save until the “public eye” isn’t on her anymore. And, let’s face it, Erin had a point there: Marigold did just dump her kid with her brother and she chooses not to see him. Wulf was taken from Erin, against her will, and therefore she struggled harder with it (I think. I know it’s probably still hard if you decided to give up your kid, but at least Marigold had made that decision herself and it wasn’t made for her)…

    I do hope though, that she’ll get to see Wei Lee and that she’s allright. I wouldn’t want anything happening to her!

    • No respectable woman of Albion willingly consorts with whores — well, unless you’re a Thatcher. Then you can get away with it. Kata claims financial/professional reasons, the girls are discreet, and Lyndsay … is the wife of a plantsim and was born a gypsy, so she’s not what most people would call “respectable” anyway.

      You’re very right about Thorn and Marigold. Marigold choose to distance herself. You’re right that it can’t have been easy — but Marigold made that decision. Brother Tuck didn’t make it for her. Marigold did what she felt she had to do, and even if she doesn’t often visit her son, she’s welcome to go see him whenever she likes. Erin, until Sister Margery intervened, wasn’t.

      Thanks, Saquina!

  4. Put me down as one more for thinking Marigold is WAY out of line here. Way, way out of line. (What the hell kind of an argument is ‘I can go visit my son while you’re sleeping because I have X more hours in a day than anyone who has to sleep so of COURSE you can make time to come visit us despite being a sleeper!’) Erin is trying to get her son back, and if she feels like she has to drop her old friends and colleagues at the brothel, that’s her decision. She’s hurt their feelings, fine. Woe is them. But they’re grown women who can take care of themselves. Wulf is just a little boy who wants to go home to his mama, and his mama has to provide a home for him. His welfare trumps their hurt feelings, sorry, Marigold.

    And if Marigold wants to look at The Church as The Enemy, she probably ought to find somewhere else for Wei Li’s baby to go once its born. I mean, if they try to keep it in the brothel, it’ll be taken away again. If they drop it at the church door… aren’t they kind of feeding the whole problem? They’re handing their children over to the enemy, after all– Erin, at least, is trying to get her son out of the Church’s hands and back into her own. Sure, she’s playing the Church’s game to do it, but lacking magical powers or ninja teleportation skills, what choice has she got?

    • I don’t blame you for thinking that Marigold is out of line here. This is not one of her better moments. She’s hurting, and she’s hurting more because the people who she cares about — who she feels responsible for — are hurting. And people who hurt, well, sometimes go on to hurt others.

      I totally agree, though, that Wulf’s welfare trumps Marigold et al.’s hurt feelings. And the best place for Wulf is definitely with Erin. I shudder to imagine what Brother Tuck would turn Wulf into, no matter how much Father Hugh might try to make a better person out of all the boys. I guess it’s a good thing that Tor and the other little brothel boys won’t be going to the monastery until after Galahad graduates — assuming I send him to the monastery, that is!

      As for little Jake — that’s a damn good point. On the one hand, I can’t see Marigold wanting to take the kids to the Church. Tara got sent there because that was purely Tambu’s decision and she’s as strong-willed as Marigold is. She also probably had a hand convincing Wei Li to send Tor there. As for Marigold … she is not one for kids, really.

      But where else would little Jake go? Wei Li can’t give him to Mark — Mark has a family, legitimate children and grandchildren (ok, grandchild), and a wife who would be a little bit hostile about the so-called interloper. (Hey, just because people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones doesn’t mean that they don’t.) Mark is a bit more hard-head, practical and less of a doofus than Berach; Wei Li can’t be sure he won’t just drop the kid off at the orphanage door.

      As for anyone else … well, Marigold’s only outside social contacts are the Thatchers in their various guises. Ash might consider taking in another baby, but Lyndsay would put her foot down and say, “Oh, HELL no.” Not only because she does not need another infant around on top of the two toddlers and infant she’s got, but because she would be afraid that becoming an alternate orphanage might bring her own kids to the attention of Brother Tuck. She and Ash are married, but if they’re defying the Church’s will and keeping brothel babies after the Church has expressly made it clear that they want them … (Thorn they can probably get away with because he’s actually related to Ash, Jake? Not so much.)

      Kata would be sympathetic and is less afraid of the Church (the Church won’t take the girls, Billy is big enough to put up a fight if they tried to take him, and if all else fails she has an advocate in Sir Lancelot who would NOT let Brother Tuck get away with that), but at her age she’s not going to take charge of an infant. She’s too worried about dying and leaving behind the kids she has. As for Roma … Simon would say no. He’s a bit of a jerkass like that.

      So … Marigold doesn’t have a whole lot of options for other brothel babies. :-S

      Oh, and speaking of babbies … have a look at Lankin’s townie child!

  5. It’s true, in a frontier town like Albion, there’s really nowhere for unwanted babies to go, besides the Church. I keep thinking of Ankh-Morpork’s guilds– got a baby you don’t want, pick a guild and leave the kid on its doorstep, and they’ll raise it up to be a thief, a watchmaker, a seamstress (hem hem), a needleworker, a smith, a baker… Although the right secular place to start would be Kata, I think. She could be a big help if Marigold asked the right questions, which start with “Do you know anybody who wants a baby who can’t have one?” I do totally get that it might not be possible, in the end, to find adoptive families for every bastard every prostitute has, but as far as wee Jake goes… who’s even trying? Even a futile effort is more effort than ‘well, better drop another kid on the church steps and hope he doesn’t turn out to be Brother Jacob someday.’

    Although it’s almost a shame Wei Li doesn’t know how Mark feels about her; even if he can’t take the kid in, he might be willing to provide for him somehow if she asked him prettily enough. In a few years, there’s no reason young Jake couldn’t start helping out in the stables, after all.

    Oooh, she’s not Yoda-like at all! She’s kinda striking, actually. Good for Lankin, and for the pretty winning out.

    • *gigglesnort* Seamstress, hem hem. Ok, ok, I know what the seamstresses in Ankh-Morpok actually do (thanks for recommending Terry Pratchett, by the way!), but still — hem hem.

      And that’s my dorky moment for the day.

      That’s a really good point about Kata being able to find good homes for these brothel babies — I guess that, since most of my families are in the “Oh dear God please STOP making babies!” mode, I just didn’t even think of that! 🙂 Or else they’re not even married yet. But who knows, maybe someday somebody will be stricken with infertility, and Marigold can start asking Kata to start asking around.

      Well, the relationship (if we can call it that) between Wei Li and Mark is only just beginning, after all. If it goes on for a while (which, with my slow storytelling … it probably will), there’s no telling what Wei Li might ask Mark to do for her kids. And there’s no telling what he might say yes too. 🙂

      :mrgreen: I think that might be a bit of CAS-breeding rules at work there — but anything that results in a lack of Yoda is fine by me! 😉

  6. Hi! I’m finally checking in after loooooong lurking. I really like your story and watching it has been great – particuarly this storyline.
    By the by – I notice youv’e got poor Erin in an apartment lot here – what (if anything) do you do about the road switching back to asphalt?

    • Hi, BonnieLaurel! Glad to see you’ve decided to comment. 🙂

      Thanks so much for the lovely compliments — I like this storyline too. Clarice and Freddy are so just cuute together when they’re not offending each other or sticking their feet into their mouths or trying to push each other away for fear of giving them the wrong impression. *breathes*

      Note to self, remember the titles of your own darn posts.

      But I do like this storyline! Erin’s grit and determination to keep her baby really surprised me. Especially since, like many of my storylines, this started with a single picture and a couple sentences meant to do no more than announce something, and then …

      We got a storyline. 🙂

      As far as apartment lots are concerned, I turn on boolprop aptsublotspecifictoolsdisabled false and moveobjects. Then I paint the road in the floor tiles that came with the default replacement road. Repeat for all inhabited apartments, and ta-da! Dirt road. 🙂

      I have no idea, however, if you have to keep doing this for Sims you move into or out of apartments, but my best guess is that yes, you do. Does that help?

  7. Just gonna toss out there, for anybody reading old posts, that after the Great ARGH of 2010 (followed by the Great Replaying of 2010), all of my comments about Jake Weaver should read Rachel Weaver.

    Yup, replayed the whorehouse, and this time, Wei Li had a girl! (Mirelle still had a girl, so no changes on that front.)

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