Annica - Part II

Fiction By KatieSara // 12/4/2012

“She’s waking up!”
“Shhh!”
“Hello there, my pretty! Glad to see you’ve finally come ‘round!”
Annica opened her eyes slowly and stared up at the many faces staring down at hers. She realized she was on a bed in a small, sunlit room; that was about all she could tell about her surroundings at the moment.
“Out, out with all of you! Give the poor lass some space to breathe,” said a commanding, motherly voice. The faces faded away until there were only two left; a middle-aged lady and a little girl of about six. The voice had belonged to this lady, and now she tsk-tsked as she fixed up Annica’s pillows. “There now,” she began, “now that you’re awake, maybe you can tell us your name, dearie.”
“Annica…my name is Annica,” she said weakly. “What happened, where am I?”
“Well, isn’t that a pretty name. You’ve had a nasty fall, dear. You’re very lucky; Mae here,” she gestured towards the girl, “found you lying out in the woods when she and the other girls went berry-picking yesterday. Some folks went out and brought you back here where we’ve been taking care of you for the past day or so.”
It had all been a bit blurry in her mind in the moments since she’d woken up, but suddenly everything came rushing back to Annica in crystal clear detail; the city, the soldiers, the running…her family, lost. The full force of it hit her and she began crying weakly.
“Oh, no! Oh, dear. You’re from the city, aren’t you? We’d all guessed as much. You poor thing, it’s terrible isn’t it, just terrible,” the lady said as she scooped Annica into her arms and held her tightly while she cried. “There, child, cry it all out, it’s all right, you’re alright now…”
“My family-“
“No need to speak, love, it’s alright. Mae, why don’t you go downstairs and make our Annica some tea, please.”
“Yes, Mistress Pipe,” Mae responded and slipped out as Annica continued to sob.
Some minutes later, the tea had been made and Annica had calmed sufficiently to relate her story, somewhat brokenly, to Mistress Pipe, who sat close by in case another hug was needed, occasionally wiping away a tear.
“It’s a tragedy, that’s what. We’ve been very blessed in this village; the sickness has not yet found its way here and it’s unlikely that it will, what with us being so far out on our own. But do you know what you’ll do next, dearie? Do you have anywhere to go?”
“No,” replied Annica, “I don’t think so. I have an aunt…but she fled, I don’t know where she went…she could be anywhere by now, probably out of the country.”
“Well then, you’ll just have to stay here with us until such a time as she comes back, or we find out where she is. We here will be your family now, dear,” she pressed Annica’s hand fondly.
“No!” said Annica suddenly. Mistress Pipe was surprised. “I mean…I’m sorry, it’s just…”
“I think I understand, Annica,” said Mistress Pipe quietly. “I shouldn’t have said it like that. You don’t want another family just yet…we must give you time to mourn your own. And I’m really so very, very sorry for your loss, my love. I can not even tell you how sorry. You do need a place to stay, however, and you are welcome here with my husband and I. We have a little back room here at the inn that isn’t used by anybody since our daughter got married. You’ll be quite cozy in there, if you want it.”
“That’s very kind, thank you,” said Annica, doing her best to pull herself together. “And I don’t want to be a burden, I’ll do whatever I can to help, chores and the like.”
“That sounds just fine, dear. We’ll have you settled in in no time.”
Somewhat to her surprise, Annica was settled in in no time. They tidied up the room and found some old dresses for Annica (the horse had run off while she was unconscious, taking with it all the belongings she’d brought with her). Then Mistress Pipe showed her around the village and introduced her to everybody. People were kind, sometimes too much so; Annica tried to be polite but had difficulty engaging in much conversation, as she was still suffering keenly. Before long she had a daily routine of chores and errands, which were a distraction she was grateful for. The inn run by the Pipes wasn’t really very much of an inn, as inns are mostly intended for travelers and those were far and few between in this little village. Mistress Pipe was obsessively neat, however, and so Annica helped her to ensure that the inn was sparkling clean from top to bottom. Although it wasn’t a proper inn, it did serve as a gathering place for the community where folks would come in the evenings to sit a while and enjoy each other’s company and Mistress Pipe’s excellent cooking. The people of the village were a simple, tight-knit bunch and they welcomed Annica into their community with all the kindness of that sort of folk who consider every soul in need as family. Annica kept mostly to herself, however, speaking when spoken to and staying in her room when not helping Mistress Pipe. Some weeks passed in this manner and Annica continued to be withdrawn, even becoming more so, and avoiding too much contact with others. This worried Mistress Pipe. Of course, she recognized that Annica was still very much overcome by how swiftly and radically her life had changed, and how much she had lost. However, she felt it would be healthier for Annica to be making friends, rather than staying cooped up all the time, reading and presumably moping. That simply wouldn’t do. One afternoon she went up to Annica’s room and knocked.
“Come in.”
She went in and found Annica sitting by the window reading. She’d found some books lying around in the attic – the Pipes didn’t have much time or use for reading – and had been devouring them in her free time.
“Sorry if I’m disturbing your reading, love. I want to talk to you.”
“Of course, Mistress Pipe,” said Annica politely, closing the book and looking up attentively. Mistress Pipe sat down on the bed.
“You’ve been here a while now, Annica, and I’m a little worried about. It’s just that you don’t seem to want to be around anyone. I know you’re still mourning, dear, but I don’t think it’s good for you to be avoiding folk. Healing takes time, but it also needs companionship and laughter. I’ve hardly ever even seen you smile, Annica. I suppose what I’m saying is, I’m worried for you and I do wish you’d let yourself make some friends.”
During this speech Annica had gone from politely looking at Mistress Pipe to looking towards the ground, downcast. “I understand, ma’am…it’s just that…well…” Tears started in her eyes.
“What is it, dear?” She took Annica’s hands in her own.
Annica hesitated, but finally was able to whisper, “I’m scared.”
“Scared of what, Annica? You can tell me, dear.”
Annica took a deep breath. “I’m scared because…well, we just lose everybody in the end anyway, don’t we?” she said this somewhat bitterly. “I’m scared that if I let myself love anyone else…if I let myself have a new family as you once put it…I’ll lose them too.” She began crying in earnest. “And I couldn’t survive that, Mistress Pipe, I couldn’t!”
“Oh, dear,” was all that Mistress Pipe could say. This wasn’t a fear she quite knew how to help with.
“And you may say,” continued Annica, still crying and trying to put herself together, “That there’s no guarantee of that, that what happened to me before would most likely not happen again, and you may be right, but even so…” And here she looked Mistress Pipe directly in the eye, her face contorted with grief, “Why would anyone want me?”
“Why, Annica! How could you say such a thing?” exclaimed Mistress Pipe, horrified. She realized now she’d had no idea what Annica was going through, the poor dear child.
“Very easily, ma’am,” responded Annica, now speaking more steadily and very bitterly. “You don’t understand. Before…well, in the months leading up to…recently, I was not a good daughter or sister. I was cold towards my parents, impatient and snappish with my brothers and sisters, I was often just downright mean. I acted like I didn’t love them or want to be around them. I realize now of course that it was just a silly phase, girls around my age probably all behave that way for a time, but Mistress Pipe, that was the way I was and that…I suppose you could say that was the last version of me they saw…and then in the end,” here she began to break down a bit again, “I couldn’t even be there to tell them how much I loved them and how much I was sorry, because I knew all the time that I was hurting them, the children especially because they used to look up to me so. But even though I knew I was hurting them I kept it up, oh I was terrible, Mistress Pipe, a terrible person!” By this point there were tears streaming down her face, although she did not actually sob. “Why would anyone want such a person to be in their family? Tell me that. Because here is the problem, all summed up; I told you of my fear of losing everyone again. If I let myself even just be around people, not necessarily getting close to them, but just getting to know them at all, I know that that fear could easily make me behave like that again, towards anyone and everyone. Could make me act unfeeling and mean, because maybe that would help me not to care about them and they wouldn’t care about me. But I don’t want to be like that ever again, Mistress Pipe…nobody here deserves it, you’ve all been so kind to me, and as for myself…well, that would be ten times lonelier than this little room. So I read my books and try to stay out of people’s way, so that they needn’t bother themselves about being friendly with me.”
Mistress Pipe was, for once in her life, at a loss for what to say or how to help. Of course, that didn’t stop her from trying. “Oh Annica, dear, for one thing I’ll tell it’s not true that nobody would want you. Why, take myself and the husband for example. We may not hear much from you, but just having a young face in the house again cheers us up mightily. And you’ve been a great help to me, you know, and I’ve become very fond of the little tunes you hum while you work and the things you have to say when one can get a word out of you.”
Annica gave a bitter half smile. “That’s just it, though. You like that I’m around, and the help I provide, but that is all there is to it.”
“No, that’s not what I meant at all! Oh, dear,” said Mistress Pipe, flustered. She felt terribly for Annica but she simply didn’t know what to say to make it better. “I suppose only time can show her,” she thought, and was about to say so, when Mae suddenly ran into the room, stumbled and fell into Annica’s lap.
“What is it, Mae?” asked Mistress Pipe, partly grateful for this distraction.
“Momma’s sick! So’s Ethan and Lily and oh, everyone’s terribly sick!” cried Mae

Comments

Yay, another chapter....

I absolutely love the dialogue. I'm intrigued, and can't wait for more! And...you missed a full stop/period at the very end. Great!

Maddi | Tue, 12/04/2012

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

Thanks! Whoops! Must have

Thanks! Whoops! Must have missed it in copying and pasting, thanks for pointing that out. :)

KatieSara | Tue, 12/04/2012

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

Is my memory failing me or

...did you change this story? Wasn't Annica at her aunt's house when you stopped posting? I can't remember....

Good chapter but I thought that the dialogue was somewhat unnatural and not as realistic as it could have been. For example, "My Dears" was a little too repetitive and I thought there could have been more "showing rather than telling".

Lucy Anne | Tue, 12/04/2012

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I rewrote the whole thing as

I rewrote the whole thing as a short story for my literature class. I have to agree with you about the dialogue, it's never been my strong point. I would definitely have liked to have more showing than telling, but as it was a short story and I had a deadline, I didn't want to risk taking up the time and space to figure that out; dialogue may not always be the best way to do things, but in this case it happened to be the most convenient. Hopefully someday I'll be able to rework it some more and improve it. :)

KatieSara | Sun, 12/16/2012

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

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