The Bairn of Brianag (Chapter Six, page 2 of 10)


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I heard Robbie's voice, and looked up. He stood at the railing, stuffing his shirt tails into his breeches. Polo stood next to him with the candle. I got to my feet and went toward him as he came down. His hair was loose on his shoulders, his eyes still half asleep. My heart stirred with joy. I clasped my hands together and tears began to flow down my face.

"Jessie?" he said. His feet and legs were bare, his shirt open. I stared up at him wordlessly. Polo held the candle close to us, though the room was almost as bright as day from the moonlight.

"What happened to you?" he said, touching my cheek, and I suddenly remembered my monstrous appearance, the stripe on my face, my swollen eye.

"My mother," I said, "whipped me."

"Whipped you?" His eyes widened, and his voice was sharper. "Whipped you, Jessie?"

I nodded my head, wiping my cheeks with my hands.

"Why?"

I stared into his eyes, lit by the flame of the candle. I loved him so completely. How could he have ever doubted that we were meant to be together? "I am with child, Robbie.

Your child grows in me."

He sucked in his breath, and clutched at the stair rail.

"With child?" he whispered, staring at me.

"Yes, Robbie." I stepped close to him, took his free hand and placed it on my belly, below the stomacher of my gown. "Yes, Robbie. Your child."

He sank to the bottom step, still clutching the post, and his head sank forward. "Oh, dear God in heaven."

A tremor of fear threaded through me. "Robbie!" I said. I clutched his hand, the nausea squeezing my head, and he leapt to his feet to catch me by my arms as I wobbled. I flinched as his fingers met the painful stripes on my arms. "I must lie down," I whispered.

"Yes, you must," he said. "Come. I will take you to Cathy's room." We went slowly up the stairs, his arm about my waist, my hand clutching his arm. He spoke to Polo. "Go get Rabbit. Tell her to bring warm water and ointment. Quickly, now!"

In Cathy's room he put me in a chair and then pulled the drapes wide. Light poured in through the high windows from the bright orb outside, illuminating the room almost to the corners. I leaned back in the chair, realizing my weariness, then flinched at the reminder from my skin. Robbie knelt beside me, taking my hand.

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