The Bairn of Brianag (Chapter Three, page 1 of 8)

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Traveling to Grant's Hill with August in the carriage beside me, and Kevin and Robbie riding along with us, was like heaven, and like hell. The weather was lovely, warm and dry; August was her usual serene self, and Kevin and Robbie kept up an endless banter.

I was filled with joy and with agony by his nearness. I must find a way to speak with him alone before he and Kevin left Grant's Hill.

When we arrived, I was amazed by Cathy's appearance. In the three months since August and I had last seen her, she had grown much larger in her condition, and she was more beautiful than ever.

Robbie was the first to greet her; jealous pain flared in me briefly, seeing the bond between the two of them. I swallowed it down. I had never felt such a thing before; but now, seeing Robbie love anyone, even his own mother had she still lived, I knew would be torture to me. I steadied my breaths. Cathy was my dearest friend. I would not envy her what she had possessed since before I was born.

August and I hurried up the steps to embrace her. I stared at her with awe. Cathy had always been the most beautiful girl in the county; but now her cheeks and shoulders were rounded, full; her skin positively glowed with radiance. The roundness of her belly she carried gracefully; stepping as lightly as ever, she led us into the house.

"John is not here yet; he left this morning and he will return in time for supper," she said. "How lovely it is to see all of you! Robbie, Kevin! How long shall you stay with us?"

"Only until the morrow, cousin," said Robbie. "We shall depart after dinner and leave you ladies to your gossip and sewing! There must be many more bonnets to stitch for the bairn, more stockings to knit!"

"Nonsense, Robbie; you must stay as long as you please." She took his arm and we went into the drawing room where the servants brought cake and wine.

I continued to stare at her. She was like a painting of the Virgin, calm and serene, as though nothing had ever troubled her existence. I knew of the pain that she had suffered in the beginning of her marriage; looking at her now, one would never guess that her life had ever been less than perfectly happy.

Envy bloomed again in my heart; yet it was not a sinful envy, for I was truly happy for her. My pain came from my yearning for my own happiness; the desperate wish that I should grow Robbie's child in my body, and have him sit beside me at the table.

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