Coercion

About two sisters who left their country just before war broke out.

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5. Polka Dots

  

“Apart from a slight concussion she is in perfect health.”

“You are certain that her head was the only part damaged?” asked a second voice.

I didn’t know who the first voice belonged to but the second was Prudence. I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t seem to.

“As I said before,” the person replied, annoyed at being questioned. “The rest of her body is fine.”

Prudence’s voice was closer when she next spoke, as if she had moved to my side. “Good. That means everything can go ahead as planned. The sooner the two of them get married the better.”

The doctor (I presumed that the man was a doctor) muttered his agreement and I could hear their footsteps as they walked away.

 

 

The next time I woke Ida was sat at my bedside. She was wearing the scarf I had given her and a plain grey dress.

“Briar,” said Ida when she saw that I was awake. “How are you girl?”

I seemed to be in a hospital room which was small and empty apart from my bed, the chair that Ida was sat on and a cupboard. There weren’t any machines but Driskova wasn’t known for its technology. Reaching up a hand to my head, my fingers encountered a bandage.

“You’ve got a nasty cut dearie but it’s healing well,” said Ida.

Pulling myself up so that I was sitting I noticed that I was dressed in a grey hospital gown.

“How long have I been here?” I asked wincing at the dull pounding in my head.

Stroking the back of my hand with her wrinkled fingers, Ida replied, “You’ve been unconscious for nearly a day. Amelinda was so worried when she heard.”

“Is she here?” My voice was full of hope.

Smiling, Ida shook her head. “Amelinda is at school at the moment dearie, but she will come and see you after.”

I was slightly disappointed but nodded.

The door opened and Marshall stepped into the room. His brown eyes brightened when he saw that I wasn’t asleep.

“I had better go. I’ll see you soon dearie,” said Ida getting up from the chair. “You sit here, Marshall.”

Ida left and Marshall took her seat. His face was full of concern and he laced his fingers through mine in a surprisingly intimate gesture.

“Briar, I am so sorry for what happened.” Marshall’s hand was warm as he squeezed mine.  

I didn’t say anything. I was still angry with him for letting the little boy be taken away by the police.

“Are you in any pain?”

“Not really.”

“I talked to the doctor and he said that I can take you home now.”

I narrowed my eyes at Marshall’s words. Home. Driskova was not my home, Melsala was.

 “What about Amelinda?” I asked. “I thought she was going to visit me.”

Smiling he replied, “You can see her tomorrow. Tonight you and I are having dinner together.”

“No,” I snapped, tearing my hand free of Marshall’s. “Amelinda is my sister and I will see her when I want to.”

Marshall was surprised at my tone. “She’s still settling in at her new home, Briar. It has been decided that you will see Amelinda tomorrow so that is when it will happen.”

Crying out in frustration I tugged at my hair. “It’s been decided,” I echoed. “Decided by whom?  Not me! I am in charge of my life not a bunch of elderly people that think they can do whatever they like!”

Marshall blinked and gazed at me uneasily while mumbling, “They’re just doing what they think is best.” He stood up and ran a hand through his brown hair. “I’ll tell the doctor that you’re ready to go.”

Marshall fled the room and I dropped my head into my hands, struggling to hold back tears.

 

 

Marshall was staring at my polka dot dress. He had been doing so for the past five minutes. He was fascinated by the pattern.

“Have you heard anything about the war?” I asked, drinking some odd tasting soup.

Blinking several times Marshall said, “Sorry? Please forgive my rudeness. What did you say?”

“I was wondering if there had been any news concerning the war,” I replied hiding my annoyance.

“Oh yes, I’ve been meaning to tell you. The war is spreading through Melsala like wildfire. Every day more cities and towns fall.”

Gasping at his bluntness I knocked my chair over in my haste to stand up. Running from the room I shoved open the doors to the gardens and ran. The grounds were big but I eventually reached a huge stone wall. I banged my fists on it, breaking the skin on my knuckles. Sliding down the wall I started crying. I hated Driskova. I wanted to go home. Why couldn’t I see Amelinda? I felt like I didn’t have a say in anything.

“Briar, there you are.” Marshall sounded out of breath.

Glancing upwards I saw that Marshall’s brown eyes were full of concern. “How can you be so cold?”

“I . . . I’m sorry if I upset you. I didn’t mean to.” Marshall touched my cheek gently. “Come inside. You’re freezing.”

I struggled to my feet and nearly fell. Marshall picked me up and carried me back to the mansion. He took me to my room and lay me on the bed. Marshall washed my bloody knuckles and wrapped them in bandages.

“Don’t go,” I said when Marshall went to leave.

He hesitated a moment before lying down beside me. Marshall put an arm around me and covered us with a blanket. I wasn’t particularly happy with Marshall at that moment in time, but I needed to be comforted by someone so he would have to do.

 

 

I awoke the next morning to find Prudence looking smug and an amused Ida stood at the end of the bed. I gave a start, accidentally waking Marshall whose head had been on my shoulder. He blinked sleepily at the intruders.

“Mother, Prudence, what are you doing here?” Marshall sat up, blushing slightly when he realised that he had been caught in my room.

Lighting a cigarette, Prudence exhaled a plume of smoke before saying. “So when’s the wedding date?”

“What?!” I cried in shock.

Ida elbowed Prudence in the ribs and Marshall looked embarrassed. The President of Driskova hurried to leave my room and Ida followed after him.

“What did you mean?” I asked, smoothing down my messy hair.

Smirking, Prudence put a hand on her hip. “That’s the only reason we let you into the country, you stupid girl. You will marry Marshall, because if you don’t I’ll make sure that the boy partnered to your sister on her seventeenth birthday is a monster.”

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