On one afternoon, Roesia was receiving the weekly groceries from the woodcutter’s little girl. She had joyous news, for her sister, Elizabeth, was set to marry the baker. Roesia thought they would be a good match. The baker was a kind man so their life together shouldn’t be too troubled. As the girl skipped off, Roesia couldn’t help but feel a strange tightening in her chest. Her breathing became labored and her eyes watered up with tears. She knew she should be glad for the woodcutter’s older daughter. She was turning the page to a grand new chapter of her life. Yet Roesia felt forlorn and, for some reason, jealous. She had never really known Elizabeth because she wasn’t allowed to have friends, but Elizabeth used to go to the village on errands for Roesia and her mother. When she outgrew the job five years prior, her younger sister was able to take her place. That would mean Elizabeth would be of ten and five years old, making her Roesia’s junior by two years. Roesia should have been married off, just like the daughter, two years ago.
“Why am I without a husband? Will no one wed me? Is there something wrong with me?” These thoughts plagued Roesia until she confronted her mother later that night.
She had been planning out what she would say. She tried numerous times to begin a conversation on the topic, but would always cower away from what was really on her mind. Then her mother questioned her.
“Why are you so gloomy today, darling? I do hope you aren’t coming down with something,” her mother reached out to feel her head. Roesia shied away from her touch.
“Nay mother, I am not sick.” Roesia’s confidence was waning. She wasn’t sure if her topic was even worth broaching.
“I would like to know,” said her mother, although she could read her daughter’s thoughts, “what is on your mind. Tell me.” she spoke gently, but authority rang in her words.
Roesia took a deep breath and admitted, “Mother, I was wondering, why is it that I am not married?”
A silence enveloped the room. Roesia took a hesitant glance toward her parent. She expected her mother would be disappointed or even sad, so she was surprised when she saw neither emotion on her mother’s face. She saw anger. Her mother was very mad.
When she opened her mouth, shrill screeching came out, “What? Do you want to go? You ungrateful girl! Do you not remember how I raised you by hand, alone without a man by my side? Is that it then? You are willing to leave the only person who has ever cared for you for any old rift raft in the street. Would you desert your elderly mother in her time of need? Go ahead and become like all other ladies, all to eager to promise away their souls for silly things that never last. But if you go now, know that I will never welcome you back, for this will never be your home anymore.”
Roesia couldn’t believe her ears. She didn’t imagine she would have to give up her life here for some man. This house was all she had ever known. She wasn’t ready to give it up.
She lowered her gaze to the floor, ashamed. With a muffled voice she whimpered, “Momma, please I knew not what I said. I would never abandon you. I didn’t understand before, but now I do. You saved me from becoming like those other girls. They lose themselves in the eyes of men. Thank you, mother, for protecting me from the harsh outside world.”
For some unknown reason, the old woman flinched at the mentioning of saving and protecting, but otherwise stood firm and spoke steady. “Don’t soon forget you are mine! I shall do with you what I want.” She grabbed Roesia’s arm, just below her elbow, and pulled her along to the broom closet. Yanking her inside she said, “You shall stay inside until I feel you have learned your lesson for speaking out against me.” She slammed the door shut and walked away without a second glance.