This week for #Saturday Scenes (the brain child of +John Ward ), I bring you a scene from Cold Spring, my current WIP. It's a historical piece set in rural Kentucky in the early 1900s following the lives of two sisters, Lena and Freda. At this point, it's looking like it might be a three or four books series, following these sisters through the decades.
This scene is near the beginning of the novel and introduces the older sister, Mathilde, a minor character who now lives in Lexington. It's 1915. Mathilde is 23 and married, but without children. Lena is 16, and has been running her father's household for two years, since the death of her mother. Mathilde has just arrived for a visit.
___________________________________________________________Mathilde stood when their father came in. She held her hands primly at her waist and watched as Gustav
“Why is my tea not waiting, Lena?”
Heat rushed to Lena’s face. After her sister had just praised her household skills, it was embarrassing to immediately be called on the carpet by Papa. “It’s here, Papa, at the table. I thought you would want to sit and talk with Mathilde.”
The man looked at his older daughter briefly, then turned back to Lena. “I will have my tea as usual, daughter.”
Lena scurried to bring his cup and biscuit to him at his accustomed seat by the fire, not sure what to make of Father’s treatment of Mathilde. Mathilde’s face was frozen, set in an expression of shock. After a moment, she recovered. “Quite right, Father. It is nicer here by the fire.” She picked up her own cup and plate and seated herself opposite Gustav in Mother’s chair.
No one ever sat in Mother’s chair. In fact, Gustav had once given little Freda a hiding for sitting in the chair. Lena was shocked by her sister’s audacity and, at the same time, admired her for it.
“How is the farm, Papa? What did you plant this year?”
“Why would you care?”
“I only meant to inquire--”
“Be nosy, you mean. It’s no business of yours. Not anymore.”
“I’ve heard about what you’re doing in Lexington.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re one of them--one of those ridiculous ladies marching and meeting to get the vote.”
“Maybe if you stopped going to useless meetings and stayed home like a woman should, you’d have children by now!”
Lena knew that her sister had struggled through a difficulty pregnancy at the beginning of her marriage only to bring forth a stillborn son. She couldn’t believe her father’s cruelty in attacking Mathilde with her tragedy as if it were a personal failure. Mathilde’s face showed the sting in the verbal slap. “I nearly died, Papa. The doctor says--”
Father brushed off her words with a gesture of his hand. “If you can’t give your husband children and me grandchildren, what use are you?” He paused, long enough to put down his cup and leaned menacingly towards his daughter. “Your mother was more delicate than you, yet she birthed me six sons.” Lena noticed that the three daughters were not listed among her mother’s accomplishments.
“And it eventually killed her!”
Gustav stood then. It seemed as though his body had grown with his anger, the hulk of him filling all the space in the room. “Get out of my house.” He grunted between gritted teeth. When she didn’t immediately move, he took a step towards her, and shouted. “Get out of my house!”