Silence Harrol sat at the loom, working her fast, slender fingers along the threads that would soon be her wedding dress. Her parents had been so excited when they told her that she was betrothed to Henry Almington, the local business personage. Of course, no one listened to her objections, that he was an arrogant drunkard who cared for nothing but money, and that he was more than double her age, in his thirties, while she was only fourteen.
The bells tolled, "I now give you Mrs Almington" Mrs Almington, Mrs Almington, Almington, Almington. The name rang in Silence's ears, the name she would have to bear like a curse for the rest of her life.
* * *
3 Years Later
* * *
Silence Almington slowly stirred the stew that would soon be dinner. It was the meal she cooked every night for her husband when he returned home to hurl abuse at her. She was nothing more than a slave. During the early days of their marriage he had treated her kindly, even said he loved her, but it soon became clear that it wasn't her that he loved, but the young, fertile body which could give him a son. However, when no son came after months and months, he blamed his wife, saying that she was barren, and lost all pretence of affection. To him, she was "Wife," nothing else. She became accustomed to his frequent rages where he cursed his misfortune of having a wife who failed to do her job. She was nothing but a breeding machine which didn't work and couldn't be gotten rid of.
* * *
Silence was chopping up firewood when she became aware of someone standing in front of her. She put down her axe and looked into the face of a handsome young man, not much older than herself. The man smiled.
"Hello Miss," he said. "I've only recently come to live in this area and am currently seeking employment. I have a brother who has lived here for several years and is presently under the employ of your father. I was hoping to speak with your father and ask if he would take me on to."
Silence raised her eyebrows. "My father?"
"Yes, Mr. Henry Almington," he replied.
"My husband, you mean," Silence said.
"Oh, I apologise, you do seem a little young to be Mr. Almington's wife."
"My parents disagreed."
"Ah. So, is Mr. Almington home?"
"Not at the moment, but he'll be home within the hour," Silence informed him.
"I'll wait." Edmund hesitated, then said. "I never introduced myself. I'm Edmund Farling."
Silence looked at Edmund for a few seconds, then turned away. "I'm not supposed to be talking to you."
"You don't even know me," Edmund said, frowning.
"Henry doesn't allow me to talk to any other men."
"I'm sure he won't find out about you simply telling me your name."
Silence smiled slightly. "Silence Harrol."
"Harrol, shouldn't that be Silence Almington?" Edmund asked.
"I like my maiden name. I would prefer to forget I'm married at all," Silence said sadly.
Edmund didn't know how to react, so he did the gentlemanly thing, "Let me help you with your chopping Ms. Harrol."
Silence shook her head. "I'm fine." She picked up her axe again, but he took it from her hand.
"You aren't happy with your marriage."
Silence shook her head. She had been planning to leave it at that, but the years of repressing her every thought made her blurt out instead, "He's double my age, yet nobody notices the disproportion. He only married me so I could give him a son, and when I didn't he decided it was my fault and turned me into his slave. Almost everyday he comes home drunk, flies into a rage, yells insults at fate for landing him with a barren woman, hits me with whatever he can get his hands on, and then-" she looked at Edmund matter-of-factly.
Edmund nodded "I understand," he replied.
"No you don't." Silence said softly. "I'm nothing to him. I'm only a woman."
Edmund looked her straight in the eyes. "You're not nothing. No one is."
Silence looked into the gaze of the man she had only just met. There was something about him, something in those eyes. Care, understanding, appreciation, emotions she had never seen before. Emotions she had once hoped to see from a husband.
Edmund had finished chopping the firewood. "Will you take a walk with me?" he asked.
Silence looked up at the setting sun. "Better not. Henry will be home soon."
"Just a short walk."
* * *
Silence looked up to see the red sunset smeared across the clear blue sky. "I've got to get home." She turned and began to hurry toward her house.
"Wait," Edmund called. "Let me ask your husband if he will employ me"
"I don't thing asking him anything right now would be a good idea," Silence shouted over her shoulder without slowing down, but Edmund followed anyway.
They walked into sight of the house and found Henry Almington waiting in the doorway. "Where have you been, Wife?" he yelled. "And who on Earth are you?"
"Please sir, My name is Edmund Farling. I was just strolling with your wife. I wanted to ask you if-"
"What do you think you're doing with my wife?" Mr Almington roared. "You stay away from her, she's mine!" And with that he pulled Silence inside and slammed the door shut .
"What were you doing with him?" Henry Almington was livid. He raised his hand and struck her to the ground. "You're my wife. You belong to me!" Silence didn't reply. This was her husband's daily routine, and anything she said always fell on deaf ears. Her husband kicked her hard in the ribs with his heavy leather boots. "Have you nothing to say you ungrateful wretch? I may as well throw you out of here, but no, instead I feed you and I shelter you, and what do I get in return? Nothing!! No child can spring form your accursed body. Just my luck to get tied up with you." He picked her up and slammed her into the wall. "Women are only good for one thing," he said, reaching for the hem of her dress. Silence winced as her husband tore open the soft fabric then grabbed her roughly and forced her backwards.
* * *
Edmund Farling returned the next day.
"Mr. Farling," Silence sighed. "You're not still hoping my husband will employ you are you?"
Edmund shook his head. "Please, call me Edmund, and, no, I came to check on you. Did Mr Almington hurt you last night? He looked like he might." Silence rolled up her sleeve and showed him a series of bruises all along her arm. "That's horrible!" Edmund exclaimed. "Does he do this often Ms. Harrol?"
"Please call me Silence, and yes, it happens all the time when he's drunk, and he's drunk most of the time. I'm used to it"
"Do you mind if I come in?" Edmund asked, taking her arm. "I'll be gone before Mr Almington get home."
Silence picked up a long silver knife and began to gut and scale a fish. Edmund told her about his life. "I wasn't born near here. My father was a travelling merchant and my mother was a cloth-maker. We weren't rich, but we managed. I had an older brother and two younger sisters. When I was fourteen, my mother and one of my sisters caught a mysterious illness and died within a week. My father remarried. When I was sixteen, his new wife drowned after falling into the harbour during a nightly stroll, we were living on the ocean at the time you see. My brother left, but I stayed with my father. He died several weeks ago and I decided to follow in my brother's footsteps and came here." Edmund paused. "My stepmother was barren, and she was treated horribly by my father because of that, so I do, in fact, understand what your marriage must be like." Silence was about to reply, but she heard her husband's footsteps returning home and quickly shooed him out the back door.
* * *
Edmund's visits continued. Every time he hurried out to be replaced by her husband Silence felt as if a thousand daggers were piercing her heart, a heart already so injured by her loveless marriage. She knew that she should not, could not love Edmund, but her heart refused to obey her conscience. Her head was filled with impossible hopes, but she knew only too well what her violent, impulsive husband would do if he ever got wind of her feelings. Try as she might, she could not control her burning, hopeless love.
* * *
One night, Silence was woken up by a tapping on her window. She looked out and was surprised to see Edmund beckoning her outside. She quickly slipped on her gown and hurried out to meet him. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.
Edmund's face was very serious. "I came to tell you something, but not here." He took her hand and led her into the woods, into a clearing surrounded by trees which, despite the cold and the dark, did not look at all frightening. They sat down on the soft grass. The moonlight fell softly through the thick leaves and lit Silence's face in and almost divine light. Edmund looked straight into the warm drops of honey that were her eyes and took a deep breath. "Silence Almington. Here you sit, but a slave to the cruel Henry Almington and the target of his drunken rages, but under those calloused, overworked hands and those bruised limbs lies a beautiful young woman. If your husband can't see that, then he doesn't deserve you. I love you Silence. I've loved you since the moment I set eyes on you. Please, tell me that you love me too."
Silence looked up into the face that had uttered the words she had been longing to here for so long, and she felt a wave of sorrow wash over her, for she knew that whatever flourished between them could never last. "I do," she finally replied. "But I can't."
"Silence," Edmund said. "Your husband is a deranged lunatic. You deserve happiness. We'll leave, together, go somewhere where he won't find us."
"There's no such place," Silence's voice quavered, a tear rolling down her cheek. "My husband might by a lunatic, but he's a powerful man. He doesn't love me, but he treasures me as one treasures a trophy, and he would kill me before giving me away. If he ever finds out about us…" Silence trailed off, burying her face in Edmund's shoulder and beginning to cry softly.
Edmund waited without speaking for a long time,
and then whispered, "But we love each other."
Inside Silence a battle was raging between her brain and her heart, but as Edmund took her in his arms her heart emerged victorious. As she felt her gown slip off her shoulders, Silence let her passion take control of her body.
* * *
Then it started, the dizziness, the nausea, the heaviness her legs, but Silence ignored all that and kept working. Months passed, but she knew she could not keep her secret forever. Early one morning, before he left, Henry Almington spotted her bulging middle for the first time and immediately dropped to his knees in prayer. "The good Lord has finally taken pity on me for marrying a barren woman and has given me a son," he exclaimed. "He shall be the heir to everything. Wife, you are forbidden to give him warm blankets or to ever take him out into the sunlight, and you will only feed him once a day. He shall be tough, like his father. On him I will mould my image."
The thought of a child being treated the same way as her was too much for Silence. "No!" She screamed. "You won't abuse my child like you've abused me, for you are not the father. Edmund Farling is."
Her husband froze. "Impossible," he breathed.
"Henry!" Silence shouted with more energy than she had ever had. "You married a woman years younger than you to be you nothing but your son-producer. But when you found out that you were unable to conceive a child you blamed her, said she was barren, cursed. Using that excuse you treated her like a slave and brutally lashed out at her in your regular fits of rage. And then a man came to her. A man her age, a man that listens to her, a man that treats her like a human being!!! I fell in love with Edmund. What did you expect?"
Henry Almington didn't speak. He just picked up a chair and hurled it at his wife. She leapt out of way just as it crashed against the wall. He walked out of the room only to return moments later carrying one of his fishing spears. He pointed directly it at Silence. "How have you been seeing him?"
It was too late. The damage was done. "I haven't. After I found out about my pregnancy, I refused to see him anymore."
Her husband wasn't that easily fooled. He smiled a cruel leering smile. "Liar."
* * *
Edmund arrived at his usual time to find Silence sitting on the ground, unmoving. "My love, is there something wrong?" he cried.
Silence looked up at him. Her eyes were swollen
with crying and her face and neck were stained with tears. Her lips quivered on the verge of speech, but she only uttered one word, "Run."
* * *
Edmund Farling stood at the edge of a steep crag, a sheer vertical drop into an angry ocean littered with jagged rocks. His heart was beating quickly from the exertion of his long chase, but now he stood trapped. In front of him stood Henry Almington, brandishing his fishing spear, and behind him stood the wife he didn't deserve, Silence, beautiful Silence. "You stole my wife," Henry Almington snarled.
"You don't deserve her," Edmund shouted back. Henry Almington pointed the spear at his rival's chest and let out a cry of rage.
"Edmund!" Silence wailed. Edmund looked over at her, directly into her tear-soaked eyes. "I'm sorry."
"I love you Silence, I always-" Edmund began, but he never got to finish his sentence. Henry Almington drew back his arm and then drove the spear forwards, piercing all the way through the body of the man who had captured his wife's heart.
Silence screamed as the body of her lover disappeared off the edge of the crag. She ran forward to see it splash into the sea below. "I love you too Edmund!" she shouted into the depths.
Henry Almington turned to confront his unfaithful wife. "Dying for his forbidden lover. How romantic."
She looked, unafraid, into his harsh black eyes. "Do it," she said, "Kill me. Kill me like you just killed the only person that has ever shown me happiness."
To her surprise her husband shook her head, and called her for the first time by her name. "You're my wife, Silence. I couldn't kill my own wife, especially when she's pregnant with my son."
"It's not yours." she said through clenched teeth.
"Silence dear, Edmund Farling's son would be a bastard, a nobody, a failure in life. However, if he were my son… Just think how much a better life this boy would have if you said it was mine."
"It would be a lie."
"Would you lie for your son? Our son?"
Silence stared at the man who had taken away her freedom. The man who had turned her into a slave and kept her isolated from the world. The man who had used and abused her body for so long. Suddenly all the hatred she that she had kept suppressed since her wedding day exploded out of her. "Never!" she shouted. In a burst of energy she pressed her hands into her husband's chest and shoved with all her might, pushing the man she had been bound to against her will for last three years of her life off the rocky ledge.
* * *
As Silence Harrol Almington stared off the steep rock into the frothing waters which had so eagerly devoured the bodies of the two men who had died for her love, she knew that there was nothing left to do, but to weep out The Broken Pieces of Her Shattered Heart.
As Silence Harrol Almington stared off the steep rock into the frothing waters which had so eagerly devoured the bodies of the two men who had died for her love, she knew that there was nothing left to do, but to weep out
The Broken Pieces of Her Shattered Heart.