Until Someone Loses an Eye

Clatan 23, 1015

“Now that’s better,” said Mark as he put the last log into the stove and shut the door.

It was unbelievable. They weren’t even four months into fall yet. As far as Mark was concerned, that meant this was still time for apple picking, and cider drinking, and raking leaf piles for the kids to jump in — all activities practiced when the temperature was reasonable. But today they had woken up to a bone-chilling cold that froze the water in the horses’ troughs and made going out and about impossible if you weren’t bundled up to the point where you could barely move. It just wasn’t fair.

But … Mark stepped back and let the warmth from the stove wash over him. That was the weather for you. Just when you thought you had a handle on it, it went and changed on you. In a few weeks, they’d probably be fanning themselves and searching for cold drinks as summer decided it wanted to make a comeback.

And in the meantime, he had work to do.

Mark headed to the desk and the marching columns of the accounts. Some of the numbers were in Joshua’s neat, precise hand. Most of them were in his smaller but sloppier one.

It was a bit odd, that. He had been grooming Joshua to take over the stables since he was small. If things had gone on as he had been expecting, Joshua probably would have been doing almost all of this now, with Mark only stepping in to give advice when needed. But Mark, it seemed, had succeeded too well, and now Joshua had his own business venture to take care of, leaving Mark with the stables.

Mark couldn’t even bring himself to feel annoyed or resentful of it. The bank was bringing in at least as much money as the stables ever had, and had the potential to bring in much more. If things ever got so hectic that they couldn’t keep up … well, it would make much more sense to sell the stables and concentrate on the bank than demand that Joshua take his attention from the bank and apply it to the stables.

But Mark wasn’t ready for that yet. He’d spent too long building this business up from nothing. While he could still run it himself, he would. And later …

He’d deal with later when later came.

So he drew one finger along one column, his eyes along the other, and slowly made his way down the sheet. He checked the arithmetic at every step. And when he was finished with one page, he added small initials to the bottom corner — MW — and moved to the next page.

He was about halfway down it when somebody knocked at the door. “Come in,” called Mark, not even bothering to look up.

Still, his jaw dropped when he saw who was entering.

“H-Heloise!” Mark jumped up with the speed of a much younger, or at any rate thinner, man. “What–what are you doing here? You haven’t got a break in classes for months!”

“Hello, Father,” said Heloise dully.

Father?” asked Mark. “Who died and made me Father? And for that matter, who are you and what have you done with my daughter?”

Heloise managed a small smile. “Sorry.”

Mark’s heart began to pound. This … this wasn’t like Heloise. When was the last time his daughter had responded to teasing with acquiescent monosyllables (or close enough to monosyllables?). But for the moment, he would pretend not to notice. “Well, enough of that. Come here and give your old man a hug.”

Heloise didn’t need to be asked twice.

You could tell a lot from a hug. First there was how Heloise felt: bony and thin, much frailer than he was used to her feeling. He didn’t like that. The Allegrites were a minor order, and they didn’t go in for the fasting and the deprivation that some of the nuttier nunneries went for. Mens sana in corpore sano, that was their motto. You couldn’t have the healthy mind without the healthy body.

So if she had lost weight … that couldn’t be good.

But more than that was the way she held onto him. Mark couldn’t remember her clinging that tightly since she had been a little girl and woke up with the night terrors. Did Heloise even remember those days? She had been very young …

All of a sudden, she pulled back. For a minute, the normal Heloise stood in front of him: bold and confident, as sure of her own essential correctness as she was that the sky was blue. “So, Dad … um …”

The normal Heloise did not last long before him. She wilted.

“Can I help you with your cloak?” asked Mark.

“You’re not going to be happy with me,” Heloise finally sighed.

“What, are you naked under there?”

“What? No! Dad!”

“Then I think whatever it is I’m going to be … not-happy about can wait until I’ve gotten your cloak off.” Mark gestured for Heloise to turn around as he helped her with it. “And take that wimple off, too. Good Lord, you look like an old woman in it. Or a nun.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Heloise muttered, but she took the wimple off. “It keeps my head warm. Is that such a crime?”

“Not at all. I just think there’s got a be a better option for head warmth.”

“Like those silly leather hats you and Josh adore so much?”

“Something like that.” He got her cloak off, took her wimple from her, and hung both up on the peg. “Now have a seat, honey, and tell me what it is that I’m going to be so upset about.”

Heloise glanced at the little meeting table in the corner of the room. Slowly, she trudged to it and took a seat.

Mark joined her. “So …” he started. “I notice you’re not wearing those new robes that are taking Camford by storm.” He still wasn’t sure how it had happened, but somehow Babette had heard that all the minor orders of Camford had had unique robes designed, and of course she spread the news to everybody. Including people who really couldn’t care less. “You know your sister has been gossiping about them for weeks, right?”

“I brought them in my trunk,” Heloise muttered.

“Your trunk?” asked Mark. “So you’ll be staying a while?”

“I don’t think I’ll be going back.”

“Heh–what?”

Heloise shuddered. “I don’t think I can.”

“… Why not?”

Mark had never seen her look so lost and forlorn. He reached out to hold her hand, but Heloise moved hers away.

“For–for starters,” Heloise stammered. When had Mark last heard her stammer? She must have been about two and hadn’t quite gotten a handle on the whole talking thing yet. “For starters, I’m pregnant.”

Mark’s jaw dropped.

“But that’s–that’s really only the tip of the iceberg.”

Unfortunately, Mark spat out the first thing that came to his mind, and even more unfortunately, that was not the most encouraging of things to say. “The tip of the iceberg? What kind of iceberg has you being pregnant as the tip?”

“You don’t have to worry about me,” Heloise hurried to say. “I’ll be fine. I’m not here to ask for money or help or anything like that. At least, I don’t need financial help per se, but I might need to ask you and Josh for advice, if you wouldn’t mind. You see, Henry–Henry had some property that he never bothered to tell me about, and now I’ve got to figure out if it’ll be best to sell it, or live off the rental income, or–”

Mark wasn’t sure which was more shocking: that Heloise had gotten with child, or that she might not need financial assistance. Still, he settled one one question that would hopefully serve to provide some answers to the others: “Who’s Henry?”

“My–my husband,” Heloise replied. “Or at least … he was …”

It was only through the strength of will gathered and honed over fifty-four years and a couple of months that Mark kept his jaw from dropping again. “When … honey, when you say he was …”

“He … he …” Heloise looked away. “It’s been six weeks, but it doesn’t get any easier to say.”

“You say he left you some property.” Mark reached for her hand and held it in both of his. “He … he died?”

Heloise swallowed and nodded. Mark could see a suspicious glassy haze in her eyes.

“All right. All right.” He patted her hand. Later, he would find out just how it was that Heloise had come to get married without informing her family — that wasn’t important now. “Was it sudden? Unexpected?”

“No!” Heloise shook her head. “We–we knew he was dying. That’s why we married! For his papers!”

His what? “Honey, I’m sorry, but I really don’t follow.”

“His papers,” Heloise repeated. “His manuscripts — everything he’d written for the past five years! Maybe more than that! Henry stopped publishing because–because things were getting a bit … heretical. His thoughts, I mean. He was following where the logic led, you see, but the Robertians, the Agnesites, they wouldn’t have liked it. He said he didn’t want to deal with that at his age, and that his papers could be published after he died and was beyond their judgment. But–but Dad, his order, they knew what the Robertians and the Agnesites would have said, too. If he’d died as a member of the order, they would have had the right to his papers, and they would have burned them! All of them! I couldn’t let that happen, Dad; Henry was a genius! I couldn’t let them burn his papers! And my Mother Superior agreed! Maybe now wasn’t the best time to publish them, but somebody ought to keep them handy! So–so I married Henry.”

Mark swallowed. “Heloise, you’ll have to excuse your slow old Dad, but I still don’t see what his papers had to do with you marrying him.”

“So–so I would be his widow, Dad,” Heloise replied. “If I was his widow — then all his property would come to me. He didn’t have any children, and — and I thought the only property he’d be leaving would be the papers and his books and his shoes and … things like that. And the law doesn’t care about things like that.”

“Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, honey, but –”

“But he wasn’t a nobleman, Dad! He didn’t have any entails saying that everything he owned had to go to so-and-so because they were his third cousin twice removed. Everything he had, he could leave where he pleased. If he died as a member of the order, the agreement was that they would get the lot. But if he got married, then he de facto left the order, and he could leave what he had to whoever he chose. He even made a will just to make sure I’d get everything.” Heloise rested her chin on her hands. “That’s why we consummated the marriage. So everything would be perfectly legal and the order couldn’t do anything about it.”

“I … see.” Mark didn’t see, not at all. Perhaps Heloise’s story had a sort of sense to it. But by the shadows in her eyes and the frown that wouldn’t leave her lips, there was much more to it. “All right … so … you consummated the marriage, and he made a will, leaving you everything. And then he died. Six weeks ago.”

Heloise nodded.

“Leaving you with his child.”

Heloise nodded again.

There were so, so many questions that Mark could ask. He chose to start with the basic one first. “All right–when’s my newest grandchild due to make his appearance?”

“Osgary,” replied Heloise.

Mark nodded. That didn’t really tell him anything, but it was a good place to start. “I see. And–what about your order?”

“Mother Superior … isn’t happy,” Heloise murmured.

Mark would lay money on that being the case. “I thought you said she agreed with your plan.”

“Getting pregnant wasn’t part of it.”

“… Fair enough,” Mark agreed. “So … is that why you’re here? She won’t let you come back to the order?”

“Oh, no,” Heloise spat. “She’s got no problem with me coming back. I mean–obviously I can’t come back while I’m with child–but her plan was for me to go somewhere, have the baby, and then just — just leave the baby somewhere! She–she suggested I leave my baby with you or Josh or Rob, or else–an orphanage! She wanted me to take my baby to an orphanage!”

Given that Heloise had never expressed much interest in being a mother … but why was Mark even thinking that? Wei Li had been just as ambivalent about motherhood, maybe more so. And now look at her with Takara. Maybe she wasn’t the most confident mother in the world, but she was still a mother. Now that she had the support and ability to raise a child, she was doing her damnedest. Why would Heloise be any different?

“And I can’t do that,” Heloise said. “Not–not when the baby is all I’ve got left of Henry.”

Mark nodded. Slowly. He did understand that.

“All right,” he replied. “So … what’s the next thing you want to do?”

Heloise’s shoulders slumped; her whole body seemed to deflate. “I didn’t come to ask for help. At least — if you and Joshua are willing to give me business advice–”

“Heloise, knock that off. When your sister got into a somewhat–similar–situation, I went and bearded a nobleman in his den to get his blockhead son to marry her, didn’t I? And you think all I’m going to do for you is give you business advice? Now, I’ll admit that I can’t do much about making sure your baby’s father does his fair share, but it sounds like he’s already done as much of his fair share as we can expect someone to do from beyond the–from beyond. And … you’ve got proof that you were married?”

Heloise’s eyes flashed. “You don’t believe me?”

I believe you, but there are some people, like your brother’s mother-in-law–“

Bianca?”

“No, your other brother’s mother-in-law, who will demand some kind of proof before they spend any sympathy on you. I just want to make life easier for you, honey. A young pregnant widow gets a world’s worth of sympathy–”

“While a young slut who opened her legs too far doesn’t get any. Believe me, I get it.”

“I wasn’t going to put it like that, honey.”

“You didn’t have to.”

Mark sighed and took Heloise’s hand again. “Still. I don’t say those kinds of things to my daughters. So–you’ve got proof?”

“I’ve got the ring.” Heloise swallowed. “I can’t–Dad, I don’t want to wear it, I really don’t …”

“I’m not going to ask you to do that if you don’t want to. It’s your choice. But if you could just manage to show Cressida the ring and any other proof you might–”

“You’re not angry with me?” Heloise interrupted.

Mark stopped dead.

“I mean,” Heloise muttered, “you can’t have been very happy with Babette when she … and I …”

Mark hesitated. The first answer, the socially approved answer, would have been to point out that Heloise’s and Babette’s situations were different. There was no shame in getting with child in wedlock, even if it was unintended. And even if some people might say that Heloise hadn’t gotten married for the best of reasons, there were plenty who wed for worse. If Mark was angry about anything, it was that she’d gotten married and then widowed without telling any of them, and probably would have never mentioned it if she hadn’t ended up with child.

But that was an argument for another day. “No, honey, I’m not.”

Heloise blinked owlishly at him. Then, sighing, she stood and wandered a few steps away.

“Why not?” she asked, not turning to face him.

Oh, honey … How to answer? “Well, to tell the truth — I wasn’t all that angry with Babette, either, when she got herself into … trouble,” he answered. “Maybe when I first found out, aye, certainly, I got angry. But after? I didn’t see much of a point. We had a problem, we needed to find a solution, and getting angry wouldn’t have helped with either.”

“You just found this out now,” Heloise replied.

Mark rubbed the back of his neck. Why did she have to be so logical? She was talking about emotions. There was a reason why emotions were held up as the antithesis of logic.

“Heloise …” Mark took a deep breath. Why wasn’t he angry?

Because she’s hurting.

Mark glanced at Heloise’s back. Yes. That was it, wasn’t it? She was walking wounded. He’d known it from the moment she had walked in. Babette — Babette had been frightened, but underneath, she’d had a child’s irrepressible faith that everything was going to be all right. She’d bounced back almost immediately after her wedding and had started looking forward to the baby and everything. Heloise …

Heloise started to sniffle, and before Mark could get up and comfort her, began to sob.

“Oh, honey.” Mark stumbled out of his chair and put his arm around her shoulders. “Oh, baby. Come to Daddy. It’ll be all right …”

“No, it won’t! Henry’s dead! Henry’s dead, and I’ll never see him again! How can anything possibly be all right?”

Mark held her closer and kissed her forehead, then her hair. As soon as she stopped crying, he was going to bundle her up warm, bring her home, and send for Joshua to come home NOW. Though … now that he thought about it, Cressida would be a good person for Heloise to talk to. Cressida had once walked in precisely in Heloise’s shoes. She’d understand if anybody would.

He’d still get Joshua to come home. You couldn’t have too many sympathetic ears when you were in Heloise’s position. You couldn’t have too many sympathetic ears when you were just a Sim, making your way through the world as best you could — never mind when trouble and agony struck.

“It’ll get better,” he promised. “You’ll see.” Joshua and Cressida would help her see, too.

Heloise sobbed and shook her head. But that was just like Heloise, wasn’t it? Babette — Babette had gotten herself into trouble by acting only with her heart, not her mind. Heloise tried to act with only her mind, but forgot her heart would have its due, too. And in both cases, sense or sensibility — whichever had been neglected — came back to hit his girls with a vengeance.

Mark couldn’t help but hope that Takara wouldn’t have as rough a time as her sisters had.

“It’ll be all right.” Mark put both of his arms around his eldest girl and held her close. “We’re all going to take good care of you. I know you say you’re financially set, honey, and if you’re financially all right, then we won’t worry about that. But your heart isn’t all right right now, and nobody’s expecting it to be. That’s why we’re going to take care of you.”

“I just–” Heloise sobbed, “when I found out about the baby–I just wanted to come home.”

“I know. I know, baby. And …” He swayed and rocked Heloise as he hadn’t since she was a baby. “Even if the circumstances are … well … the normal Wesleyan madness … we’re glad to have you home.”

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8 thoughts on “Until Someone Loses an Eye

  1. Oh, poor Heloise. 😦 That is just bloody rotten for her. I don’t even want to know what bitchy things Babette will say. Wherever Heloise stays, I hope it’s not with Babette and Aglovale, Mark would be hosting a double funeral for his daughters. (Hell, it would be better for Heloise to go stay with Wei Li than with Babette! At least Wei Li has a brain.)

    But I’m glad that Mark is taking this as well as he is. He’s right, the Wesleyans do come in for their share (and then some) of crazy. He’s got a big heart, that Mark. So frequently it’s Mark’s heart and optimism that pulls the Wesleyans through the crazy.

    And silly Heloise, you’re from Albion, of course you’re gonna get pregnant! The sun will rise, the grass is always green by default, and people are going to get pregnant ninety-nine percent of the times they fuck.

    Also silly Heloise, your father is not just going to give you business advice. I don’t know where you got that silly idea…

    He’s going to do everything he can. He loves you. He’d move the earth to the left if it would make you happier and you should know it…

    • Oh, trust me, Heloise will DEFINITELY not be staying with Aglovale and Babette! Thanks to Henry’s property, she’s already got herself a nice little rented house in Port Finessa. Though in the story she’ll be staying with her father or maybe with Rob and Dannie (they have an extra bedroom) for a couple of weeks while they try to get things sorted out. She’ll probably stay with Rob and Dannie again when she gets closer to her due date, because Mark won’t want her living all by herself when she’s due to give birth.

      But yeah. This sucks for Heloise. *sigh*

      Yeah, Mark really is the glue that holds the Wesleyans together, and he always has been. It’s a good thing they have him around.

      LOL! People from Albion do not get pregnant 99% of the times they have happy times, otherwise my characters would have even MORE babies than they currently have! However, it’s safe to say that if there’s any borderline illicit happy times, they will result in pregnancy. 😉

      And yeah … I think Heloise being sure to say she doesn’t need financial help was a way to protect herself, in case her father did not take the secret marriage + pregnancy well. I mean, this is the kind of news that could make a quasi-medieval father legitimately flip his lid. And if Heloise wasn’t so obviously heartbroken and in need of comfort more than anything else, Mark would have some harsh words about the secret marriage.

      (I mean, his daughter went and got MARRIED without telling anybody about it … he would have liked to be at his own daughter’s wedding, he would have!)

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. Hmm. I was actually wondering about Heloise and Henry since yesterday, when Andavri posted her update and Annette said that she was a descendent of Heloise. I guess that mystery is solved now.

    But oy, what a way for the pregnancy to come about! I knew Henry was old, but I wasn’t expecting him to die any time soon. I’m guessing that if Heloise hadn’t gotten pregnant, she would have gone about her life with no real difference other than now being the owner of Henry’s things and having to publish his papers (er, apart from the obvious grief). She might not have even told her family about the marriage, or at least not any time soon, because it just wouldn’t have made a difference.

    Mark took the news well, and I’m sure Josh and Rob will too (and who knows, maybe even Babette isn’t so obtuse as to make life for Heloise any more difficult than it already is). I wonder what Heloise will do. I suppose the order wouldn’t allow for sufficient visiting time if she wanted to keep teaching at Camford while leaving her acknowledged child with her father or one of her siblings. She may be financially secure, but I’m guessing that if Heloise stays in Albion, she’d want some sort of career anyway, even if she didn’t need the money. Maybe she can take over the stables while Josh keeps running the bank, though I don’t know how interested she’d be in running the stables.

    I’m guessing she’ll be living with Mark for now, until she can get her own place/figure out what she wants to do? Though since Andavri brought it up, Heloise living with Wei Li could be interesting too. Wei Li could probably use a bit of help with the baby, and it would be practice for Heloise. The new environment could also be a welcome bit of distraction.

    I hope she befriends Cressida, since she did go through pretty much the exact same thing. Dannie will be sympathetic as well, I’m sure, though she wouldn’t provide the empathy that Cressida can.

    But oh, just… poor Heloise. 😦

    • Also, Garnet! (So says Van a million years later.) Heloise is already friends with Garnet, and Garnet is also a relatively recent widow carrying her husband’s posthumous child. They’d barely even need to talk to provide each other some much-needed empathy.

      When is Garnet due? Maybe Heloise could help tend to her. Has Heloise ever seen a birth? I can’t remember if she was in the birthing room for either of Isabel’s labours. Even if she was, though, it’s been a while, and if she’s going to be doing that herself soon…

      It also occurs to me that the most annoying thing I can see Babette doing for Heloise at this point in time is trying to set her up with some guy. While I do expect better of Babette in this particular situation than I do in any of the other difficult situations currently plaguing either her birth(ish) family or her in-laws, she probably would figure that Heloise needs a man if she’s going to have a baby (because Lady Babette listens to society, you know? Or at least when it says things that suit her), and would not get that Heloise doesn’t actually need a man, that she’s still mourning Henry, and that even if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t want a man just for the sake of having one.

    • Yeah, this was not a good hand I dealt Heloise. As for why Henry died now, well, I’ve been planning this storyline ever since Heloise was … um … born? I made some changes to it, but it’s in the same basic vein it’s been for a long time. So Henry died now because once or twice a round I’ve been taking Heloise & Henry out on dates, including a bit of woohoo, and when Heloise got ACR-pregnant, that was what set the storyline in motion.

      And if Heloise hadn’t gotten pregnant … she certainly wouldn’t have told her family about the marriage anytime soon. The whole point of the marriage was for it to be secret (or nearly so) until nobody could do anything about it, and inviting the whole family to come in from Albion would have spoiled that. And afterward … they wouldn’t be happy to know that Heloise had gone and gotten herself married, so yeah, Heloise wouldn’t have said anything.

      But a baby changes everything.

      I don’t think Heloise wants to let someone else raise her baby; that’s why she left. There’s no way she’d have enough time to raise her baby, even if the order had the most generous leave time in the world. And … let’s just say that it doesn’t.

      But she will get a career, and there’s a reason — other than the income — I’m keeping her in the Education career track for now. 😉

      Yeah, like I said to Andavri, Heloise will be staying with Mark for a few weeks, then moving in to her own place that she’s already in in-game, and she’ll stay with Rob and Dannie once she gets close to her due date.

      She will be befrieding Cressida, don’t worry. 🙂 I think Cressida is in the best place to help her right now. Garnet and Heloise can sure empathize with each other (though Mark wouldn’t have presumed to ask Garnet, even if his kids don’t see a problem with it), but I don’t think Garnet will be much comfort to Heloise. Garnet can’t say “it’ll all get better, you’ll see” because for her … well, the grief isn’t as sharp anymore, but other than that, it really hasn’t gotten much better for her.

      But at least, no matter what happens to Heloise from here on out, she’ll never have to run her life with Aglovale’s assistance!

      Thanks, Van! 🙂

  3. Oh no, poor Heloise! 😦 I have to admit my initial reaction was v. similar to Mark’s, though – but I’m younger than he, so I have no qualms about letting my jaw hit the floor. 😉 I’m glad Heloise has such an awesome dad, and people around her who knows what she’s going through and will support her. Not glad she has such a not-awesome sister, though, because Babette will say something stupid/hurtful/bitchy, either because she doesn’t think before she speaks (or just because she doesn’t think) our out of sheer spite. I am quite sure she’ll somehow think that she’s so much better than Heloise because she got with child by a nobleman who was totally going to marry her and Henry was old so he was going to die anyway and it’s just gross that they consummated their marriage and how could Heloise be so irresponsible that she got with child by her lawfully wedded husband?

    …and I think I killed at least ten braincells typing that. 😐

    And I agree with Andravi, the Albionese women do seem to be a very fertile lot. 😉 (I mean, it’s not like I have a character get pregnant on the wedding night or something. Of course not. 😛 )

    • LOL! I think Babette will be thinking everything you think she will be — except the bit about being irresponsible and getting with child. Birth control is not something Babette is good at grasping. She’ll probably be more fixated on the gross old-people sex to even wonder why Heloise didn’t try to take steps to prevent a pregnancy.

      And … there will probably be some inner gloating going on, too. Look at Heloise, she always said she was so smart, and everybody agreed, but she’s raising a baby alone and I caught myself a fine noble husband! Who’s smart NOW?

      Unless Babette decides to go the route Van laid out for her and try to set Heloise up with somebody … *shudders* I think, I think that Babette will have enough of a sense of propriety to not throw people at Heloise’s head until she’s had the year of mourning (remember how upset she was when Mark went out of mourning early), but the second the one-year anniversary passes, Heloise will have to duck if she doesn’t want to get bonked on the head with one of the men Babette is flinging at her.

      Thanks, Nix! 😀

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