Author: EarthDaughter PM
Catherine D'arc has been consoling her sister Joan D'arc for years while the visions and voices plague her sleep. It is now the night she must finally leave.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Words: 923 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 08-20-06 - id: 2233999
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I can always hear my sister's sobs.
Even now, as rain floods our fields with a relentless vengeance, her gasps and hiccups quickly awaken me. Just as I've done for the past few years, I attempt to console the hunched, distraught figure beside me. Putting my arms around her, I repeatedly smooth down her frizzy golden red hair, over and over until her breathing finally returns to a normal cadence. She unfolds her tall frame, straightening bent knees and flexing her neck to lift a heavy, drooping head. Moist eyes tinged with red raise to meet my own clear ones. This gaze has penetrated me countless times, but still I flinch in surprise; her eyes glow with a powerful concentration, but something wild lurks in the onyx pupil dilated huge in the dim light. It is something at which I cannot bear to look.
"It is worse, Catherine," she whispers, her voice thin and willowy as she breathes out my name before releasing one final sob. Her fair eyelashes are clumped, her cheeks streaked as if she had been standing outside in the storm. I stroke her curls again, feeling like the eldest sister as opposed to the youngest. For the past few years, I have been her midnight caretaker, soothing away the anguish her visions and nightmares always evoke. But the fear that my calming murmurs will have no effect accelerates the rhythm of my heart until its deafening pulse fills my head.
"They won't stop pleading and begging," she wails. "I can't escape it! They invade my dreams so that I may find no respite, even in sleep. This evening during supper I could hardly concentrate on what Papa was saying, their entreaties were so loud." More tears fill the corners of her eyes, and I brush them away.
"You must try to focus, my dear sister. Concentrate on what we are saying at supper so that the voices do not overwhelm you," I advise her.
"I try!" she bursts out, gripping my hands with cold porcelain fingers. The strength of her grasp surprises me. "But it is becoming harder to suppress them. I cannot continue to live this way." She emphasizes this last line, practically breaking my knuckles with her grip.
"Oh Jeanne, don't you think they'll disappear?" I say, brushing a damp strand of hair off her forehead.
"I am afraid not," she replies with resignation. "Until I comply, the voices will not be silent." She drops my hands, standing up to pad around our bed.
"Are their demands the same?" I ask, dreading the answer.
"Yes," she whispers from the darkness at the foot of my bed. "The dauphin must be crowned. And these barbarians, these wicked Englishmen plundering the land and laying siege to our cities, must be expelled. Or else"—she pauses to face me directly—"The clamor in my head shall never cease, and I shall never be free."
She paces off into the darkness once again, footsteps blending into the racket of rain on our cottage. The pail of water under our leaky roof overflows, and I bite back my own salty tears burning at the back of my eyes. My sister ranks as my primary concern, but other hardships lurk in the background, constantly testing my resilience. Harvests have been abominable, and I know that tomorrow a weak sun will dawn on soaking fields unwilling once again to sustain our pitiful lives. The mere thought of this brings a sigh from deep inside my chest.
Jeanne hears my tired exhalation and returns to sit beside me. "I can see you are hurting too, Cate. I must take care of you." She tucks the faded quilt securely around my legs, briefly playing with some loose strands of thread. "You are the youngest after all."
"Only by a year," I mumble.
She closes her eyes in such a way that I know the voices are beckoning. Her ivory teeth bite down hard on her lower lip, so hard that before I can stop her, a tiny crimson bead oozes from her chapped lip. I grab her arm, shaking her until her eyes fly open, insanity clouding them so much that the pupils seem to have devoured her lovely blue irises. They clear slightly, but not enough to slow my thumping heart.
"I have to go," she whispers in a voice uncannily calm. "You know this, don't you?"
She doesn't wait for an answer, but instead pushes me gently down so that I'm lying down, my cheek pressed against our straw mattress. Just like I've done for her so many times before, she smoothes my hair back from my neck, sliding in bed beside me.
"I love you Cate," she says to me, odd light glinting on her black eyes.
I try to stay awake, so that I can try to bar her way, lock the door so she can never leave me. The image of her pale face framed by a copper halo is the last thing I focus on before sleep claims my exhausted body. Her caresses send me into a deep sleep which I have not experienced since before her visions began. I think she tries to apologize with her hand on my head, but an apology will never appease me tomorrow, when the place beside me is neatly made up and cold without human contact. Only then will her hand console me.
The hand guided by forces I cannot control.