Full of belly, now what shall he do with himself? How much darkness remained until morning? He thought he'd be able to get some sleep before the cries of his angry father would wake him.|
So he crept as silently as he could to his bed, and wrapped himself in the blankets. Sleep came readily, as he was quite exhausted after his adventures.
Giselle appeared in his dreams, laughing as always. ''That girl has nothing but adventure on her mind, and what an interesting life she must lead,'' was Michael's last thought before the balm of sleep came.
''So THERE'S the wandering prodigal son! Returned home, have you? And expecting to sleep until NOON, are you? Get your lazy ass out of bed!'' Father's booming voice tore Michael from slumber almost violently.
''I'm so tired, just let me sleep,'' Michael drowsily protested. With that, big angry hands assaulted him, demanded him to rise. Rise, he did, and full of fury he felt. An uncommon fury, he hadn't the time to examine it. ''I'll rise when I'm good and ready,'' Michael roared in a voice equally as loud.
He was dimly aware of his mother now entering the room, watching from just inside the door. ''Good and ready? I'll show you 'good and ready'!'' And his father assaulted him again, this time hard beginning across the shoulder and completing its blow past his face.
Fury aroused to pure fire, Michael returned the blow hard, and was surprised to send the body of his father flying across the room. ''I'm not a CHILD! I'm not someone you can order around anymore! I said when I'm good and ready, and I meant it!''
His father looked terrified, and addressed his wife, ''Martha, your son is full of the Devil! Full of the Devil, I say!'' And he got up and stormed out of the room.
His mother, too, was frightened. Upon seeing the fear in her face, Michael's anger subsided. ''I'm sorry, Mama. He must learn I'm not a child anymore,'' he whispered to her.
''Yes, I know you aren't,'' his Mother replied in an equally hushed tone. ''Sleep well. I'm glad you've returned safely.'' But he could see in her eyes, he'd truly scared her. He gave her a hug, and found her small in his arms. Her pounding heart tamed its rapid speed, (he was surprised he could hear such things) and he kissed her. Turning then towards his bed, he announced, ''I'm going back to sleep now!''
Martha gently closed the door to Michael's bedroom, still quite in awe of the early morning's events. Taking herself to sit by the fire, she slowly drank a cup of tea while she reflected on the enmity between Michael and his father. She suspected her husband George sensed on some level that Michael was not really his son. And indeed it was, nineteen years ago, when they got on the ship that brought them to the new world, that another man's seed was inside of her. She'd had one last visit with an old sweetheart before she and her husband left. Martha knew she'd never see Richard again, and wanted one last romantic time with him.
George knew it, he must have, for he'd never really taken to Michael. She loved her son immensely. She'd wanted more than one child, but suspected the fault lay in George. Perhaps it was because he was her only child, that she lavished so much love upon him, and she hoped it served well to cushion him against her harsh husband. She constantly had to defend Michael against George's almost HATRED, as it were. However frequently she felt weak to George's tirades, she was certain she'd had some softening influence.
''Although it seems now Michael is no longer in helpless need of defense. That blow he'd given George was frightful. How could he be so strong? Michael is not yet fully grown, he's still a good six inches shorter than George, and slight of build at that. Yet, he sent him FLYING!''. It troubled Martha. She'd continue to do all she could to promote peace between the two.
Sleep was deep and mostly untroubled by dreams of ill wind for Michael. He did toss and turn often, he was aware enough of that, but for the most part, any omens of dark future stayed far away. Not that there weren't omens, they were there, small and niggling, but the need for sleep was so great, he paid them little heed.
When at last he opened his eyes, he looked upon the dark room. It had only one small window, and from that, only the faintest touch of light could be seen. ''Twilight, at earliest,'' he thought, and stretched himself awake.
Entering the larger portion of the house, he found his mother doing needlepoint by the light of several candles. He'd never really looked at his mother in this soft light. He was startled to find himself appraising her for her womenly qualities. Always, before, she had just been Mother, with warm arms to hug and hold him when he got frightened, or giving him nourishing food to eat, or simply showing him in so many other ways her love. She was really attractive. She had a plain face, but the glow of her youth was not entirely gone. She radiated a kind beauty, and he found himself smiling as he looked at her.
''Odd,'' he thought, as these realizations came to him. Was it his first experience with a woman that enabled him to see his mother in this new light? Still, he found nothing troubling about it, and merely continued smiling as he told her how beautiful she was. ''Oh, you flatter me, Michael,'' she graciously dismissed the complement. But a glow came over her, and he could see she enjoyed it.
With that, his thoughts turned to something else, for he felt a demanding nudge. ''Hungry? Am I hungry AGAIN? And for THAT?'' He would not name the substance, even to himself. He made his way to the stables, again.
Michael whispered soothing words to the animals, and apologized to them, as he gently stroked them. He tried with one hand to comfort them, while the other hand held them securely for the nourishing bite. He was amazed at the sensuality of it all. He sucked slowly, while the caressing hand eased the beasts fears. Perhaps he could manage this, and no one need know to what depths he'd fallen. ''Fallen? But why? Ooooh, all I know is thirst and how good it feels to have it slaked. How can this be bad?'' He wondered with a painful innocence. Pulling away from the current beast, a horse, he continued stroking him and thanked him for the donation.
Father returned from the tobacco fields and saw Michael leaving the stables. ''NOW you're up, now that the work day is done! It just figures, doesn't it?'' he spat verbally. Michael was unsure of how to reply. ''Tomorrow, I should feel better tomorrow,'' he assured his father.
A momentary clumsiness came over him, as he wasn't sure what to do next. He was no longer sleepy, and now no longer hungry. A small voice inside suggested that he ought to tend to some of his chores now, but Father said the work day was done. He'd rather just rest. Truth be known, he hadn't much favor for the effort of work. ''But I'm a DUTIFUL son, I am. I returned home, I didn't leave the country with Giselle. I'm NOT an irresponsible oaf. Just because I don't LIKE work . . ,'' his thoughts trailed off. Still, if work could be avoided, he usually did. ''Maybe it's because there's just so awful much of it . . ,'' and he returned to the house momentarily.
Mother was making a big pot of stew over the fire. Its strong smells of cooked meat and spices did not beguile Michael, however, and he decided it was better to just make himself scarce while his folks had their meal. ''My life has become a thing of sneaking about. Why do I suspect it shall ALWAYS be this way?'' he thought as he wandered from the house, closer to those tobacco fields of which his father was so proud.
He found his favorite ancient oak tree, under which he'd always loved to sit and nap, and plopped himself there. The moon was still quite round, and it cast its unusual brightness over the fields. It felt so good to just sit there and quietly observe the sights, sounds and smells of the night air. What had Giselle said, 'those who loved the moonlight'? Right now, he very much loved the moonlight. Why his father took no pleasure in idle comforts, simple luxury, he did not understand. He suspected his father was a stranger in more ways than one. His face bore a good deal of resemblance to his mother's face, it was obvious. Her gray-blue eyes seemed the mirror of his own. But he looked nothing like his blond, stocky, thin lipped father. He was delicately thin, his hair was blue-black, and his lips full and sensuous. ''There's nothing 'sensuous' about my father, or the man who is posing as my father!'' he said out loud in a condemnation.
''Fair enough, he condemns ME enough!'' And he returned to wondering who his REAL father was. His wistful wondering soon drifted off into pleasant sleep, all with the chorus of crickets to sing to him.
By earliest hint of sunrise, just faint green tinged harbingers at the horizon, he woke up. His father was already approaching the fields, and he knew his labors would begin soon. He did prepare for work, and even got some done before a gradually troubling realization dawned on him, ''With the DAWN,'' he thought. The sun brought with it a supernatural brightness, which stung his eyes. It only got worse as the sky brightened. The brightness touched his tender skin with a searing intensity. He would have to return quickly to the small cottage, or else he burn entirely. Dropping his work tools by the gate to the tobacco field, he ran on home, aware of his painful flesh and its acute distress.
Run, he did, with all the force his legs could bring to his flight. This supernatural sun was nothing to be toyed with! Once safely inside the house, he began to tend to his sunburn with cool water that had been drawn from the well. His mother seemed not aware of anything unusual. To HER, there were no formidable portents in the sky which might suggest the end of the world. ''It's just ME!'' Michael thought ruefully. '' 'Those who love the moonlight'? Ah, the MOON is a friend, while now the SUN is my enemy! What has that wicked woman Giselle done to me? I am ruined, utterly ruined . . .'' ''Oww!'' he cried out as he threw water on his burnt cheeks. ''ENEMY!'' he said again to himself.
At noon, a VERY angry father returned to the cabin for lunch. ''What's the meaning of this, you abandoning your work like this? How slothful shall you become? I can toss you out on your dainty little ass, you know . . .''
''Stop it, George, just STOP IT! Michael's been badly sunburned. He didn't flee for laziness. I'm sure something can be worked out. The sun's rays are too intense for Michael now, but he can do all his chores at night, CAN'T YOU, Michael?''
Eager to agree, Michael affirmed readily, ''Yes, I shall do all that you require. Just let me do it under the gentle moonlight. I will die if you force me out into that sunlight!'' With that, he pointed with a very red hand to his burnt face.
George grudgingly agreed. Dead help would be worse than lazy help.