I was seventeen when my savior arrived in the form of a tall, American photographer traveling through France. He, Thomas, helped me escape, stealing me out of the villa, across the Atlantic, and finally to Nebraska. He built us a small place with logs that he cut and the rocks he found strewn over miles. Both materials needed to be hoisted onto a wagon and drawn up the hill with a four-horse team. The big draft horses with their stomping and blowing air were powerful animals, but Thomas pushed them together with his shoulders, harnessed and commanded them. I thought him a god. I called our home Peu de Nid: Little Nest.
I loved him for who he was and the sacrifices he made for me, and I tried to be happy. I owed him that. Putting away the past, however, wasn’t as easy as just getting my body free. He never pressed me with questions about my childhood, or my night terrors, or how young I’d been the first time, or how often it happened. Did he pray that one day I would come to him, trusting him enough to speak my story? He asked no questions either, when only a year-and-a-half into our marriage, I asked him to help me return to France and kidnap, no rescue, my infant niece, Luessy.
He risked his life, certainly imprisonment, doing so. He understood this better than I; I was blinded by my need to have Luessy with me.
I never bore a child of my own. Thomas and I raised Luessy within those safe and solid walls of Little Nest. Luessy an infant, toddler, little girl, young woman, and still she kept her pure emerald eyes, the same emerald eyes of her mother, my sister, Sabine.
As Thomas’s wife and Luessy’s mother, my past was for years a shadow that squatted and cowered at night beside the ashy and cold hearth. With Thomas asleep at my side and Luessy sleeping across the room, I watched the dark and trembling silhouette and kept the blankets high under my chin lest it try to crawl into the bed and consume me. In the morning, I stood and put on a woman’s dress, tended my cooking and washing, wifed and mothered, and when I had the time, I painted flowers from our yard. As best I could, I kept the hearth swept of the shadow being’s tatters and loose hairs.
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