Continued from By Fire and Death, Life Grows.
It took only months for Morgan to find the meaning behind Kareh’s words on the morning after he saved her life. She was pregnant, and as time went on, the private school began to notice. She was sent back to the home of Morgan’s parents, who tried desperately to convince her to abort the child. Kareh repeatedly turned their pained discussions into screaming matches, and inevitably won out. The child was born on a bitterly cold spring day, filled with drizzle and sog. Her young body was torn asunder in the efforts to birth her child, and illness soon took hold.
Morgan stayed by her side as doctors cared for her on his own dime. He was a father now, and he was prepared to take responsibility.
As the months went by, the baby grew quickly into a toddering, fat little girl. Morgan remained by the side of the savage girl, and wedded her properly, in order to protect the child that had his eyes. He signed papers to adopt her as his own, and arranged for the child’s schooling. He felt older than his years as he watched the child, named Mora by her mother, age.
Kareh slowly recovered, and was able to escort Mora to her first day in school. Morgan was proud of the tubby, copper-skinned child that dashed and darted among all of the pale, thin wisps. A few parents nearby commented on it, but at a stern glance from Morgan, silenced themselves. He hoped Mora would not be bullied.
When Mora returned from school, she was ecstatic. “Papa! Everyone at school, they love my skin. They say I am so pretty, with skin-like-polished-copper and eyes-like-sea. They wish also to have hair that is so silky like mine.” She bounced happily, and Morgan’s worries faded at the sight of her wide smile. He picked her up and spin her around. “Well, I suppose they’ll have to wish on their stars, won’t they?” he laughed and kissed her fat little cheek, then set her down so she could run off to tell her mother about her day in school.
A white-clad doctor approached Morgan. “Sir, she has relapsed.” he murmured quietly. “It was unwise to take her out this morning. She is still very weak.”
Morgan grimaced. “I know, but you know how she insists.” He sighed. “Please, just try to keep her well. She is the only wife I have, you know.” He smiled at his bad try at a joke. He just couldn’t feel the humor. He never thought of her as a wife, even now. To him, she was simply the mother of his child, and a good friend.
He made his way up the stairs to visit the former village girl from the far continent. His thoughts were far away, until he looked down as he heard something underfoot. He lifted his foot, and looked at a badly-painted watercolor of their strange little family.He smiled and wiped it off carefully, then rolled it up and walked the rest of the way to Kareh’s room.
As he looked in, he paused. Kareh looked far worse than the doctor’s words implied, and he looked sharply to a nurse. Why was he not told until now? He hurried in, and listened in while little Mora told the story of her day, and showed paintings she did. Kareh praised Mora lavishly, and the little girl soaked it up, like paper under a spilled cup of tea.
A smile lit the pale man’s face as he watched mother and daughter share a moment of joy, but it faded as the dark skinned mother began to cough. The regular beeping of the heart monitor began to go wild, and a nurse escorted Mora from the room. Morgan hurried to Kareh’s side and held her hand tightly. He felt ill as he saw her body hunched over. Through her night gown, he could see every ridge of her spine. She seemed to drown in the same night wear that used to fit her so snugly. He looked to the gathered nurses and doctors, and shot them a look so venomous that many could only stare a few moments before the threat in his blue gaze registered, and they jumped to action.
At the end of the night, as golden sunrise bathed the room, Morgan opened his eyes. For several moments, he was confused. He was seated in a chair that was not in his wife’s room previously. It was plush and comfortable. He looked to her bed, and saw her sleeping form. He looked to his hand. It felt numb. Slowly, he pulled it away. Kareh didn’t budge. He paused and stood. His back ached, as well as his legs and throat. He lowered a white sheet from over her head, and brushed Kareh’s hair from her face, expecting to find her gaunt, but still pretty features. Instead, he saw her mouth wide open, as if she was screaming. He placed a hand on her cheek, then gasped at the cold. He slowly closed her mouth, then looked around helplessly. The medical equipment was no longer there.
“Hello? Doctor? Doctor!” he called, desperate for help. Why was she not moving? Why was she so pale, so cold?
Suddenly, memories of the night before hit him, and he quickly ran a hand along her neck, trying to find a pulse. There was nothing. She died during the night, despite the doctor’s frantic efforts. His mind flashed through the previous day’s events, and landed on what she said during the argument about taking Mora to school.
“I would die to see her go to school.” she had said.
The young man collapsed into his chair and began to cry. How true that statement was, now.
Did Mora know? Did his parents? He felt suddenly very alone, and told a maid to take Mora to school. As he was about to call for a coroner, the local man arrived and explained that he was called during the night. He said something about offering condolences that Morgan barely heard, and the preparations for a funeral began.
The rest of the week was a haze. His daughter was his only reprieve from sadness, although he worried that she did not mourn her mother’s death at all. Both wore black, with a red band on the sleeve to mourn, though Mora’s cheerfulness was not at all restrained by the somber clothes.
The day of the funeral began. The casket was open. Mora and Morgan sat in the front pew of the Church of the Moon. The priestess went on and on, and Mora had to fight sleep. Morgan’s eyes never left the casket, even when he heard horrible whispers. He held Mora’s hand tightly, until the girl finally pulled her hand away because it hurt.
Finally, it was time for the eulogy. As Morgan began to stand, Mora shoved him down and ran up to the front. She grabbed a stool from the choir box and hauled it to the podium, then climbed it. “I’m doing this.” She jutted her lower jaw out. “Mama told me to.”
Everyone began to whisper and mutter, only to become silent as Mora shot her daddy’s dagger gaze around the room. She began to speak. “Mama told me when I was smaller that she was going to die soon. She said she did not know when, but that everyone would say she died too young, and that it was too soon. She told me that it was going to be right on time, just like the sun rises and sets. Death never comes too early or too late, it just comes. It takes people away, but it stops their pain. Mama was in a lot of pain.” She frowned. “She said once that it was like there was a really big sliver in every joint.” She twisted her arm to look at her elbow, then pointed to it.
“Mama told me that I should not cry when she died, because I had to be the big, strong lady. She said that Daddy is very weak, and he needs someone to yell at him so he does the right thing. She said he listens to his Mama too much, and not enough to his Daddy.” She paused for breath. “Um. Mama also said that she wants a big party with lots of drinking and story-telling about happy times, even if she didn’t get to have as many as she wanted. She doesn’t want people to cry.” She nodded. “So, every night, I threw a party in my bedroom for her, because none of the servants would let me throw a real one like Daddy needs.”
The gathered people laughed nervously.
“So, after this sad thing is over that people like so much, can we have a party? Mama liked to smile, not moan and cry and listen to boring speeches.”
The entire group of mourners burst into laughter, save one. Morgan stared at his daughter in disbelief. He couldn’t decide if he should laugh or be angry at the little scoundrel, and settled on laughter after a few long, confusing moments. The girl smiled brightly, then hopped from the stool. Each step down from the raised stage, she skipped and counted. The curled ribbons on her shoes bounced in step, and when she looked up, she saw her father’s arms open, waiting for her.
She ran to him and hugged him. “Is Daddy going to smile more now?” she asked tactlessly.
“Of course.” he promised. Oh, his late wife certainly knew how to make their child repeat things at the most amusing times. He looked at the flame of a candle and smiled as he recalled the night they met, and she raped him.