For I Know I Don’t Belong Here in Heaven

Simon had thought a full cradle was a symbol of responsibility, drudgery, expense and mind-boggling terror. He had thought that was bad. He was wrong.

A full cradle was nothing compared to an empty one.

He had spent much time over these last few days staring at that cradle, more time staring at it than he had when Marie was still in it. He had no idea how a pair of blue eyes and wiggling hands glimpsed out of the corner of an eye could so fill a world. He had no idea how the loss of them could render a whole world so empty.

Simon had been a terrible father to Marie, and he would admit it now. He hadn’t held her enough, or tickled her enough, or loved her enough. He had left that all to Roma, because Roma seemed to want to do it and to enjoy it. He would hold Marie from time to time, watching the big blue eyes watch him and wondering just what the hell he was supposed to do now. He should have known that Marie was not long for this world. There was no way a baby’s eyes could be so clear and knowing unless the angels were still whispering to her.

The babies whom the angels whispered to never lasted very long. Why would they want to stay, when angels were offering them a chance to leave? The angels probably told Marie all about Simon, too. Simon didn’t blame Marie for leaving when presented with the knowledge that staying would mean putting up with Simon as a father. Simon probably would have left too, given the choice.

He just wished Marie would have stayed for Roma’s sake.

Roma barely ate. Hardly slept. Scarcely spoke a word since the funeral. Simon would never forget her face when Father Hugh started to sprinkle earth over Marie’s baby coffin. The blood had drained right out of it, leaving Roma as waxen and lifeless as Marie had been before they placed her into the coffin. Father Hugh had taken one look at her face and stopped, skipped that part of the service and moved onto the next. If a bloody monk were understood that the mindless ritual was becoming too much for the mourners and stopped, then it was a sign that things had gone too far.

Kata had stayed with Roma for the past week. She had been the one to comfort Roma those first few days. She and Roma had shared the bed at nights, and Simon had camped out on the couch. For as much as Simon had groused and complained about the couch or floor at Kata’s house, Kata could take the bed for the next month and Simon wouldn’t complain as long as it made Roma better.

But it couldn’t. And Kata wouldn’t. She had her own life, her own grief to bear. That left Simon.

No, Simon couldn’t blame Marie for leaving at all.

He pulled out the chair across from Roma and sat, slowly. “So,” he said by way of starting a conversation, anything to take Roma out of herself. “I think Pinkie’s about ready fer the table, don’t ye?”

Pigs. He was talking about the pigs! He never talked about the pigs if he could help it. Roma ran that part of his life, just as she ran the cleaning and the cooking and the other chores.

Just as she had run Marie.

“Eh?” Simon asked, praying she’d look up. Even if she told him to shut the fuck up and let her grieve, that would be something. He’d take that.

Roma only moaned a little, shuffling her arms so that they made a more comfortable pillow for her head. Or maybe she was only trying to relieve a cramp without having to actually look at Simon. How was he to know?

“We’ll have good eatin’ this winter,” Simon said, more to fill the void than anything else. “Won’t matter how — how other things turn out.” They should have sold the meat. That was their plan: sell all the meat, so the money from Simon’s “smuggling” would be easier to explain. But what the hell did that matter now? They only had to save thirty pieces of silver now for his and Roma’s freedom.

Thirty pieces of silver. Simon wished the number didn’t sound like a death knell in his head.

“Roma,” Simon asked, “Roma, look at me. Say somethin’.”

She did not say anything. But she at least looked up.

Sort of.

He wanted nothing more than to push some of that dark hair out of her face, away from her eyes. Marie would have had hair every bit as fine and soft; Simon knew it. He wished it could have been granted to them to see it. But it hadn’t been. Roma may have earned that right a thousand times over, but Simon had squandered it all.

His hands folded, he cracked his knuckles one by one. It didn’t fill the silence, but at least it gave him something to listen to while he tried to think of something that would. “Ye gonna have Nicole any time soon?” he asked, finally.

Roma shook her head.

“I think ye should,” Simon continued. “She’s a nice girl. And ye two can … can … I dunno. Do girl stuff.”

Nicole had come to the funeral. Simon thought he would never be able to repay her for the way she had held Roma after and whispered something into her ear. And she had cried! It wasn’t even her baby, or her relative, and she’d cried for little Marie. Plenty of folks thought there wasn’t no use in crying over their own babies, since so many died, but Nicole had cried for somebody else’s.

But Roma looked so drawn-out and exhausted by the suggestion that Simon didn’t dare to pursue it.

So much for that. “What — what about goin’ back ter the Onion?” Simon asked. “Ye been considerin’ it, hon?”

She had to say something to that. Or so Simon thought. But Roma only looked away.

“Ye don’t have ter, ye know,” he continued, babbling on with no more sense or heed than a brook leaping from rock to rock across the mountains. Any one leap could send him falling headlong from the precipice, but what did that matter? He’d make a lovely waterfall on the way down. “It ain’t like we need the money –”

Roma turned away, and Simon heard her snap even though she didn’t say a word: Aye, we don’t, now that we don’t have to worry about Marie’s ten pieces of silver, do we?

“I mean, I can provide fer me own family, I hope,” Simon stumbled along. He was going to fall any moment, he knew. “But hopefully … it’ll give ye somethin’ ter do. Dis-distract ye. Maybe –” He reached out for her, smiling shyly.

Roma stood up and walked away.

“Roma!” Simon stumbled out of his chair and followed her. “Roma, talk to me!”

Even if she just said that she didn’t want to talk, that would be something. Even if she said she never wanted him to touch her again, that would be something. He’d take what he could get now, before Roma went so deep into her personal hell that there was no bringing her out again, not now, not ever.

She went into the bedroom. Simon pounded after her.

He darted toward her, away from her, around her, anywhere he could see her face. Roma turned away from him. “Roma …” He laid a hand — no, a finger — on her elbow. Roma snatched it away.

“Honey …” Simon murmured. “Honey, say somethin’.”

She didn’t say anything. Somehow, her turning had brought her around to the empty bassinet kept in the bedroom. Simon watched the glassy tears pool at the bottoms of her eyes.

One bubbled over and spilled. Simon reached with one tiny finger to wipe it away. Roma turned, then brought her hands up to her face, her shoulders wracked with silent sobs.

Simon’s arm came up of its own accord. It would drape Roma’s shoulders. It would pull her closer to him. It would lean her head on his chest, and he would hold her, and somehow they would begin to get through this.

Neither Simon nor his arm reckoned with Roma shoved him away with enough force to send him rocking and shouting, “Get the hell away from me!

But that certainly was something.

“Roma …” Simon pleaded.

“Don’t ye touch me! Don’t ye — ye dare touch me! It’s yer fault! It’s all yer bloody fault!”

Simon yelped and jumped back.

He thought he had known that. He thought there was nobody who could tell him that. He hadn’t expected those words to come barreling into him with all the force and all the pain of a sword thrust to the gut. Not to the heart — you died really quick after a blow to the heart. You probably didn’t feel a thing. The gut was another story. It took days to die from a blow to the gut, if you were really unlucky.

It would probably take Simon months to die from this. If he was lucky.

“Ye and yer damned lusts! It’s all yer fault!”

Simon reeled again. She knew? She knew about the whorehouse?

But Billy had sworn he wouldn’t tell!

“Roma, I’m so sorry,” Simon whispered. “If I — if I –”

But how the hell could he make it up for her? He’d been dallying with a scantily-clad vampire whore while his baby was dying. He thanked the Lord that he hadn’t had the stomach to take Mirelle to bed that night. He thanked the angels that Billy hadn’t had to go hunting for him upstairs. And he thanked all the good spirits, all the gods Sims had come up with in their errors, anything in this universe that looked kindly on the Sim race that he had gotten back to Kata’s house in time to hold his baby girl and say goodbye before she died.

He never should have left that night. He never should have gotten so impatient and cooped-in and annoyed with his starry-eyed sister-in-law and utter brat of a brother-in-law. Maybe if he hadn’t left, Marie wouldn’t have given up on him and died.

“What do that matter? It’s too late now!” Roma shouted. “It’s yer fault — yer fault — yer fault!”

“I know,” Simon admitted, and hung his head.

That did not bring forth the reaction he was anticipating. “Ye — ye knew?” Roma rocked back on her heels. “Ye — ye knew and ye did it anyway?”

“What? No, no! I didn’t know — then! I know now — but not then! Roma! Ye can’t think I’d have done that if I’d known — known –”

Goin’ ter Mirelle would kill Marie.

“How couldn’t ye have known?” Roma sobbed. “How couldn’t ye see? Ye ain’t a — a –” She choked, and her little fists pounding on Simon’s chest finished the rest of her sentence for her.

But her fists didn’t cause any more damage than Marie’s baby whacks and punches. She was more likely to hurt her hand on the mail than to hurt him. Like Marie. Simon grabbed her hands and held them fast, enveloped in his, his thumb stroking the back to check for injury.

Get yer filthy hands off of me!” she yelled, pulling back from him. Simon let her go.

“I hate ye!” she shouted. “I hate ye, I hate ye, I hate ye! I hate ye an’ ye ain’t never touchin’ me again!”

“I understand.”

And he did understand. Simon wouldn’t want him touching him, either. The only thing about this that he didn’t understand was Billy.

Billy! That boy’s furious eyes boring holes into the side of Simon’s skull the whole run home. That boy staring at Simon like he was worse than the dirt on his shoes after Marie had died, and Ella had sat in shock, and Roma had cried and cried and Kata couldn’t begin to comfort her. And Simon? He’d sat like a lump on a log, holding Marie’s cooling and stiffening little body, wondering if he could ever pray hard enough to bring her back.

He’d cornered Billy the next morning, trying to remember what kinds of bribes could buy a twelve-year-old’s eternal silence. Roma didn’t need to know where Billy had found him. Let her think he’d gone down to the pub. But Billy had pushed him away, his gaze even more scornful than it had been the night before.”Tell ‘er? Ye think I’d tell ‘er? With all the rest she’s got now, ye think I’d break what was left o’ her heart?”

Billy hadn’t said, but Simon had known they both thought, the obvious corollary: Billy at twelve was already too much of a man to hurt a woman by telling her what her feckless fool of a husband had done, never mind ever doing it himself.

“Aye, now, when it’s too late! Didn’t yer ma never tell ye where babies come from?”

Simon blinked. “Ba-bies?”

“Babies!” Roma sobbed. “Ye weren’t careful! Ye were supposed ter be careful! I told ye we had ter be careful fer the first year!”

Be careful — be careful doing what?

And then the most horrible thought of all came to him. What if Roma wasn’t talking about last night? What if Billy had been enough of a man to keep his word? What if she was talking about some other night — some other night, with Mirelle or some other whore. which had resulted in a bastard baby? And what if it hadn’t been Marie’s choice to leave, but the Lord Wright had taken her as a judgment against him?

A judgment for a bastard baby he didn’t even know about? “No,” he whispered.

“Yes!” Roma yelled savagely. “Ye did it! Ye got me increasin’ again! An’ that –” Her voice started to quaver. “That’s why Marie died!”

Increasin’? But I —

And then Simon understood. “Ye’re — ye’re with child again?”

“YES!” she shouted.

That was when Simon said completely the wrong thing. “Roma — but Roma, that’s wonderful.”

That was exactly what his mother had said after the funeral! She’d held Simon close and tight for a few moments, her body feelings frailer and more quivery than ever. Then she had patted his cheek and whispered into his ear. “Get her bearin’ again, soon. I’ve seen lots o’ young mothers like Roma, son. It’s the best thing fer ’em. Make her a mother again.”

If Roma was already pregnant, then — then she was that much closer to being a mother again. And maybe she would be happy again. It wouldn’t be Marie, but it would be something. Simon even felt himself start to smile for the first time in days.

“No, it ain’t wonderful!” Roma shouted. The illusion shattered.

“It’s horrible! It’s horrible! That’s what k-killed Marie!” She brought her hands up to her face. “Ye’re not supposed ter get pregnant when ye’re nursin’! It — it must have spoiled the milk! An’ Marie was drinkin’ s-spoiled milk, an’, an’ that must’ve been why she got sick! And then she died …” Roma gasped and sobbed. “An’ she must have thought that I didn’t love her enough!”

“No, no,” Simon protested. “No, Roma, she would have never thought that!” Marie would have known about Simon, aye, but never Roma. There was no room in a rational mind for doubts about Roma.

“Then why did she die?” Roma screeched.

“I don’t know,” Simon lied. “But — but Roma …” His hand moved to alight on her shoulder, but he stopped it just in time. “This — this is a good thing. Ain’t it? We’ll have another baby. It’ll be like startin’ over. Ye’ll see.”

“I don’t want to start over!” She stamped her foot with every “want.” “I don’t want another baby! I want Marie! Marie! Marie! Marie!”

Stomp, stomp, stomp.

“But — but we –”

“Oh, get out! Get out, get out, get out!”

Simon got out.

But he stayed by the door, listening. Letting her every last sob rack his soul. It was, after all, penance, of a sort.

And if he wanted a prayer of being able to keep this second baby, he would need to do a lot of penance in the coming months.

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14 thoughts on “For I Know I Don’t Belong Here in Heaven

  1. *shakes head* I feel surprisingly bad for Simon. I mean at least he has enough conscience to feel guilty about being at the whorehouse and the fact that Marie died. But he has been cocky for the most part and it’s a bit harder to feel bad for him even if I feel terrible for his situation and the people around him.

    I hope he takes this whole thing to heart and pays a bit more attention to his next child. (And that the next one doesn’t roll an early death date.) And maybe spends a bit less time chasing Mirelle. In fact, I think he might want to be scarce at the whorehouse in general. Marigold is Roma’s sister and she almost lost her own kid in recent days.

    He’s not gonna get much sympathy there.

    … Maybe he should go stay with his mother… remind himself of why he doesn’t want to be staying at home.

    Oh, and Billy FTW!

    • Simon is quite cocky. He is that oh-so-wonderful combination of personality traits: young and dumb. Marie’s death might be the thing that shakes him up a bit and forces him to grow up some more. (Not that he’s a man-child or anything. He is capable of taking care of himself. He just hasn’t gotten there with the whole “empathy” and “consideration for others” thing.)

      I’m really not sure I could kill off two kids of anybody in a row … if this child rolled an early death date, well, that’s what rerolls are for. For what it’s worth, though, re: Simon and the whorehouse, I don’t think he’ll have the stomach to go there for a while. He’s convinced that it’s all his fault that Marie died, and he doesn’t want to go risking the life of his next child.

      Glad you liked Billy, though. 🙂 This is kind of important in his character development.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. Poor family 😦

    I’m glad that Simon realizes where he went wrong as a father and I get the sense that he won’t make the same mistakes with the new baby. I hope they don’t really blame themselves or each other for Marie’s death, though; Roma’s not the first woman to get pregnant while still nursing, nor will she be the last, and I can’t imagine it has that much of an effect on the milk so early on? This just sort of… happened.

    I hope Roma won’t end up resenting the new baby 😦

    Heh. For a woman who’s so obsessed with grandchildren, Cerise sure did raise a couple of sons with no idea how to stay in their wives’ good books :S

    • Well, according to a comment Hat made months ago (I think in relation to Elise), the quality of breast milk probably wouldn’t be effected until Roma was nearing her due date. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet. And I’m playing the author card and saying that Roma’s pregnancy had nothing to do with Marie’s death. Roma’s got herself a case of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” So does Simon, for that matter.

      Good point about Cerise! Let’s not even get into the fact that she ignores three of her grandchildren because the parents aren’t married. Really, Toinette seems to be in the only one in a completely stable and socially-approved relationship of the four of them — and she was putting up with an abusive alcoholic father-in-law for years. Yeesh.

      Thanks Van. 🙂

  3. Well, first of all, even though I’ve never had a baby myself or anything I’m fairly certain breast milk won’t ‘spoil’ because of a new pregnancy, and I hope Roma talks to Kata about this so that Kata can tell her it’s nonsense. She doesn’t need to go blaming Simon or herself for that.

    As for blaming Simon for other things… well, as the people above me said, hopefully this will change his attitude and I too think he’ll make less mistakes this time around. I just hope that the baby isn’t born into an awful rift between it’s parents. 😦

    I hope everyone can hold up, in short.

    Emma

    • Yeah, I think Kata would know that breast milk isn’t going to be adversely or even just affected at all until much later in the pregnancy — well past the point where Roma would be at the “am I or amn’t I stage?” that she was at when Marie got sick. By the time her milk production changed, Marie would have probably been on solids and off the breast entirely, if she had lived.

      And it probably is only a matter of time before Kata gets out of Roma what’s bothering her. Kata is a mother. Getting her kids to tell her what’s going on is kind of what she does. She could dispel that notion pretty quick.

      But we’ll see if and how everybody holds up.

      Thanks, Emma. 🙂

  4. *crying my eyes out while holding little Noah in a mama-bear hug*

    Such a horrible thing to happen. But neither of them is to blame, these things just happen sometimes. And I think if milk could go bad when getting pregnant too soon, Kata would’ve known and said something. I mean, most women probably got pregnant quite soon after giving birth esp back then.

    But it’s good that Simon realizes his mistakes. Maybe he’ll learn from them and be a better father for his other children (or child, if Roma really never lets him touch her again), and maybe even a better husband … who knows.

    :((

    • Sorry Saquina!!!

      Yes, if getting pregnant could severely damage the existing baby’s chances at survival, I’m pretty sure Kata would have said something. She’d certainly be on much stronger ground when she advised couples to wait and be careful. And who knows? Maybe the Church wouldn’t be so adamantly against family planning. But biology doesn’t work that way — I think Hat said something about the female body’s #1 objective is to keep itself alive. #2 is to nourish the kid she’s got. Producing another kid? Distant #3. (That kid could kill her on the way out, after all.) Roma’s pregnancy had nothing at all to do with Marie’s death.

      And maybe Simon can learn from his mistakes. I’m really not sure he will yet, or to what extent. But he certainly seems to be taking steps here.

      Thanks, Saquina. 🙂

  5. Oh no!! Oh, I’d hoped little Marie would be ok. *sad* And of course this post comes on the day that my kiddo spikes the first fever of her life and sends me into a complete panic. Thankfully she’s snuggly, so I can cry into her hair and hold her tight without too much struggle. 😦

    I hope Roma’s pregnancy proceeds without difficulty and that she can forgive both herself (and that’s key) and Simon. And I hope he realizes that he seriously screwed up and takes pains to be better this time around. Give up Mirelle, Simon, before you lose everything!

    • Oh no! 😦 I’m so sorry to hear that, Naomi! And I’m so sorry about the horrible timing! Poor baby. I hope your little girl feels better soon! (In the meantime, maybe lots of snuggling and cuddling from Mommy will make her feel a little better?)

      I’m not foreseeing too many difficulties on the Roma-pregnancy front, mostly because I’m looking at some of the big plots I have going down next round and going, “Holy $#!+.” Don’t have room for unnecessary drama. But the Roma-Simon relationship front? Jury’s still out on that.

      But Simon has realized that he’s screwed up. Whether it sticks … well, we’ll see.

      Thanks, Naomi. 🙂

    • I hope your little girl gets to feel better soon. I checked my baby’s temperature about 3 times today!!! But luckily we just had a nice sunny day and as soon as we kicked in the air-conditioner, he cooled off a bit too (thank goodness) .

      • I’ve checked hers four or five times today. *laugh* And I have an alarm set for four hours from now so I can check it again. I’m absolutely petrified when it comes to diseases and illness since I almost lost my husband two years ago (seriously, the doctors still talk about it and how his case was miraculous). I don’t do sick. *laugh*

        And apparently I’m a poor judge of temperature. I’d thought for sure that her temp had gone back down to the normal range when in fact it had risen two whole degrees! (Making it 102.6F and causing much panic.) She’s asleep now, though, so hopefully she’ll feel better tomorrow.

        Good news, though, is that she took her first steps today! At eleven months and four days! WOOT!!

  6. Simon has been scum lately. But him feeling like his sins have killed his baby, and wanting Roma to be better, and wishing he had been a good father – I can’t help it, I like the guy.

    I get the feeling he is going to be a good father with the next baby….and willing to do whatever he can think of to make Roma feel better, if it takes a lifetime of trying.

    So yeah he’s been a scum husband…but if anything can fix this marriage it’s how he’s being in this chapter.

  7. Oh poor Roma! I wasn’t sure I could handle reading this post even with my baby boy in my arms. I had to hug him extra tight a few times too. I kept picturing what I would do if I lost Hunter and I’m pretty sure I would shut down worse than Roma, even with my hubby being one of the good ones, I still would become a shell 😦

    On a gaming POV though, I’m wondering how you managed to have a baby die when the game doesn’t allow it? Is there a hack or is she still alive in-game and you just moved her off the lot?

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