The 16th Thread: a scandalous couple
Yes, they were happy, why do you ask? My father spoiled my mother while you could hardly have called her a beauty, all yellow and skinny. My grandmother protected the best she could our reputation which my parents had little interest in. She waited on the doorstep for my mother to return to our quarters:
– You were out together again! This is not how a woman and her husband behave. The whole town is talking about it. My cousins visit, my nieces, my brother’s sister-in-law, and I, ears throbbing with shame, have to listen to their ironic comments.
– I do as my husband tells me, mother. Would you want me to disobey him?
– There are ways, as all women know. You are compromising your daughter’s chances to get married. Do you think of her? You bring shame on us, and only care about yourselves. Where have you been this time?
– At a friend’s of my husband.
– A man?
– From bad to worse.
– If we do not talk, mother, very few people will know.
– That’s likely! His friend the orator?
– He’s not an orator.
– What is he, a procurator?!
My mother pushed her way by Grandmother who kept on trying to reason with her. She joined me at the loom, but I ignored her. Despite leaning together over our work, as we are now, you and I, we were not close. She spit out, her hands shaking with fury:
– I’ll ask your father to send her to my sister’s. I can not endure her reproaches anymore. What insolence! Blaming the conduct of her son-in-law who fulfills all her desires, while others treat their mother-in-law like a servant. She will see how my sister’s husband will order her about. And your father and I will continue to live our lives as we see fit. I wish you a husband as good as mine. They are rare. Generally, if they pay attention to their wives early on, they abandon them once the succession is guaranteed. Males. Because I lead a privileged life, that harpy is jealous! I would be bored to death if I spent my days at the loom, managing the house servants the way she would have me!
I did not bother to answer.
When my father arrived, she regained her cheerfulness immediately. He would whisk her off. To our farm, to market, to the port. At dawn, before my father received his stewards, they would flee together to watch the fishermen bring their boats back, to buy their fish, as only the poor do. I would hear them when they returned, laughing, kissing even. They went to the kitchen and then to their rooms. The servants, their faces twisted with malice, made bawdy jokes behind their back, thinking I would not understand. All their life, my father and mother persisted with this unseemly intimacy. Oh no. Here comes your father’s cousin. Let us work. If she addresses you, try to answer her courteously, I beg you, she will not stand any straying from tradition, what a bore!