Without looking up, she mumbled a quiet "Thank ye," before lifting one hand to wrap around the steaming mug. After a few seconds, she rotated the mug a quarter turn, pausing briefly before turning the mug again. Lifting her chin, she watched the liquid swirling in lazy circles within the confines of the ceramic cup. Tear tracks streaked her cheeks as salty drops rolled off her chin to land on the hand clinging desperately to an empty midsection.
"Ah always wanted a hoose full o' bairns." Her low voice cracked from the force of overwhelming emotions.
Sitting in silence, Katherine opened her heart to support her young friend the best way she knew how, by listening.
"Ah dinnae hae any brothers or sisters an growin’ up was a lonely affair. Ah kent at a verra young age tha' Ah wanted a hoose full of the wee heathens." She paused a moment to collect her thoughts and take a long drink to wet her throat. "When Ah met Eadan, he loved the idea of havin’ a hoose full as well. He figured if Ah was busy tendin’ the weans, Ah'd no be shaggin’ half the toon while he worked the rig."
Amused by the way her man rationalized things, Emily emitted a very Scottish like snort, and Katherine smiled over the top of her cup.
"We figured we'd wait a few years afore really tryin’. Yano, let us get used tae bein marriet an enjoy eht bein’ just the tae of us fer a wee while."
It was a good plan, but Katherine could hear Millie in her head, quoting Robbie Burns: “The best laid schemes of mice and men.”
As if it held the power to grant her courage, Emily paused to drink more of her coffee, swallowing several times to clear a sudden obstruction clogging her throat before forcing a smile to turn up the corners of her mouth.
"We'd been marriet almost a year when Ah got pregnant."
In the silence that followed, Katherine heard the sound of her own heart breaking; nothing good was coming next, she felt it in every cell of her body.
"We were both sae giddy, shoppin’ fer things the bairn wud need an talkin’ fer hours on end aboot how we were gaun tae raise her. Eadan thought eht would be a boy, dinnae all men?" She smiled at the memory of those conversations. "But Ah kent different; she were a wee lassie an Ah kent eht right off. Och, how Ah talked tae her, all day e'ry day, especially when Eadan was gone. I didnae hae anyone else. We took walks en the park, and Ah told her all aboot the world she was gaun tae become a part of."
It was easy to see the wonderful mother Emily would have been: kind, loving, generous yet firm when needs be, all great parental qualities. Katherine got up to refill their mugs, allowing Emily to savor the pleasant memories.
"Everythin’ was pairfect." Her whisper filled the room as Katherine returned the pot to its heated cradle and reclaimed her seat. "Ah was . . . ." Emily swallowed hard, fighting back a flood of tears that threatened to flow. "Ah was five an a half months along when . . . ." The memories were too painful to speak all at once, and taking a deep breath, she allowed each bit to surface as it would. "things went . . . ." Deep breath in. ". . . terribly wrong."
Emily took several deep breaths to calm her panicking nervous system.
"Ah was on one of mah wee walks in the park; we lived on the East side of Glesgah back then, sae eht wud hae been Alexandra Park." The mug was spun in small circles as Emily watched something other than the murky brown brew sloshing about. "Ah started feelin’ a pain en mah side, near tae the end o' mah walk; eht was different than the stretchin’ pains Ah'd had sae far." More deep breaths and a slow drink to wet her suddenly parched throat. "Ah made eht hame en time fer the first excruciatin’ one tae rip through me. Eadan was oot tha' week; they'd put hem on one week alternations, instead of the typical rotation, eht bein’ oor first bairnie."
Horrific pain and terror were her constant companions as she'd rung up her physician, who'd immediately called for an emergency transport.
"They came fast as they cud, Ah kent this, but . . . ." Fresh tears rolled as she fought hard to remain calm.
"The medic didnae make eht en time . . . ."
She'd gone into the bathroom to fetch a towel, in case she started bleeding. The contractions were coming fast and they'd begun to feel like one continuous urge to push. Before she'd reached the bathroom, something inside her uterus had ripped, and in blinding pain she'd screamed as a flood of red flowed from between her thighs. Rocking back and forth, she'd sat in the middle of her living room floor, hands holding fast to the baby bump beneath her maternity clothes. With every premature contraction, she'd screamed out, instead of pushing, praying it would be enough to keep her baby safe from harm.
"There was nothin’ Ah cud hae done tae protect mah bairn. She were a wee lassie. Ah'd been right, much guid eht daes me tae ken tha' noo. Ah'd rather Ah was wrong an still hae her by mah side!" Emily shouted her frustration at the unfair hand they'd all been dealt.
Katherine flinched at the sound of Emily's voice raised in anger, and she suddenly realized her young friend had never permitted herself to properly grieve the loss of her child. "Give yourself permission to feel the pain, Emily; it's eating you up from the inside out, and you need to grieve."
"Of course Ah need tae greet, Ah ne'er took the time tae dae sae when eht happened. Eadan needed me tae be strong fer hem; he was sae distraught by the loss. He didnae need tae worry aboot me as well." Her words were loud and strewn together in one sentence full of pain.
Everything else came out as one long, loud, abusive dialog meant to purge the soul free of the demons left behind in grief's wake. Katherine knew the anger, frustration, and hate weren't anything personal, nor was it aimed at her. She remained calm when Emily jumped from her seat and with her hands braced on the table top for support, shouted obscenities in her face. She reminded herself it was only the pain talking as it looked for an escape route out of the box Emily had shoved it into so long ago.
A slight change in Emily's posture alerted her to the fact that something had shifted, and warning bells exploded throughout her instinctual body. She watched patiently as Emily looked around the kitchen, her chest heaving as she wrestled for control of a demon only she could fight; her eyes swung the length of the counter top, snapping in place when she found the item she was looking for.
Following Emily's gaze, Katherine sucked in a breath of shock as a fierce growl erupted from the petite woman's throat, and she shoved up out of her chair in time to grab a distraught Emily as she made a dash for the block of cutting knives resting innocently in the middle of the counter.
"Emily, no!" Katherine shouted, hoping the distraction would be enough to keep her away from the deadly weapons.
"Eht's nae guid. Am nae guid, Katherine."
"That's not true, Emily. You ARE good. There can be other children if you try again."
A deeper, more aggressive growl filled the room as Emily lunged for the knives.
"Canna . . . cannae...Cannae!! Will nae, EVER!" She screamed, ripping the longest blade from the block.
Katherine didn't think Emily would purposely do herself harm, but she knew better than anyone, that a woman eaten up from grief and emotional pain was capable of most anything. Before she could guess at Emily's intent, a loud thunk echoed around them and she looked to the closed kitchen door where a blade wobbled back and forth, ensconced in the thick wood; Emily had chosen to throw the knife instead of use it on herself.
One after another, knives were plucked from their resting place and flung with dead accuracy at the heavy oak door. After the thirteenth blade had been thrown, Katherine thought the door resembled a circus trick gone dreadfully wrong. The block held fifteen different types of kitchen knives, and with only two left, Emily didn't appear to be losing steam.
One by one Katherine opened cabinet doors, hunting for objects to sacrifice. The cupboard to her left was stocked to capacity with the most hideously mismatched cache of dishes, and suddenly the need for destruction welled up from within her own hidden place of pain. Plucking a tea cup from the array, she threw it at the knife encrusted door and giggled like a mad scientist as the little cup shattered into tiny pieces.
The commotion attracted Emily's attention, and her look of astonishment turned maniacal as she began to understand the offering Katherine made with the dinner plate she held out to her. Piece by piece, the women unleashed a poisonous anger and hatred that had been held back for far too long. Katherine was shocked to find she still held so much animosity within herself; it had been deeply buried, and she might never have known it was there, reaching its dark tentacles into those parts of her that were most fragile. Her need to destroy abated quickly, and she stepped back, allowing Emily free reign on the unsuspecting cabinet.
A perfunctory search behind the remaining doors revealed Millie's posh tableware, which Katherine decided to offer up if the need arose, but as the stack of breakables dwindled, so did Emily's rage; her throws packing less punch and from among the noise of breaking ceramics, came the sound of uncontrollable weeping. Katherine waited patiently, knowing the rage had given way to a soul destroying grief that had been buried, protecting its existence behind a wall of anger large enough to scare its host from ever exploring it too deeply.
Katherine picked up the last of the tiny ceramic tea cups, one with tiny black ants painted over its entire surface and wondered who in seven hells would want to drink from a cup covered in ants? As she handed the grotesque item into Emily's outstretched hand, the meaning for the dishes became perfectly clear; Millie had arranged them on purpose, in case she needed to do a little venting of her own.
She was a very wise woman, the black sheep of the family.
Holding onto the hideous cup, Emily examined it closely as her body vibrated from the emotion pouring out of it. Lifting her arm to throw the last piece, she hesitated too long and Katherine stepped forward to catch her in the moment that she lost all strength to remain standing; the rage had finally exhausted itself.
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