Chapter 7

Murdoch Call's youngest daughter married a businessman son of a businessman and the wedding day was on Drea's twenty-first birthday, not that anyone knew or cared. The business was actually a single shop on the corner of two streets but it was respectable.
There had been slight changes in the Call household but none of them for the better. Murdoch's horrendous mood swings had become even more horrendous, and more extreme, despite bottles of pills from the physician. After the first direct outburst at Drea when she was eighteen, she hadn't been exempt since. Mercifully, and probably due to Murdoch's advancing age, Drea had still been spared any bedroom attention and for that she'd be eternally thankful.
Ruby's wedding celebrations were held in the local community hall and only Ruby's mother, Jolue, was to attend with Murdoch. Jasmine had been somewhat put out by this and had retreated to her room in a full blown huff as soon as Murdoch had left the house. Petra tutted loudly and tackled a pile of socks, stockings, suppressors and shirts that needed stitched and darned. Drea sat at the table to share in this chore that was meant to be Jolue's.

"You're as hamfisted as a blacksmith." Petra criticised Drea's needlework. Actually Drea was quite good but Petra was exceptional and put Drea's efforts to shame. "Here, sew these buttons on."

"Where did you learn to sew, Petra?" Drea asked, threading her needle.

"I learned from necessity. I lived with my widowed mother and younger brother from the age of six. New clothes were unheard of. My high standards of work have been maintained by thrashings from Murdoch if it's not up to scratch." Petra said stiffly. Drea had noticed the bruises to Petra's upper arms and a slight swelling to her lip. Neither had been there the previous evening. "He'll be full of drink later. You'd better clear off to bed."

"Leaving you with the full brunt of it." Drea stated. "Someone once asked me if us women had an inborn masochistic need. I see his point now." Petra smiled and shook her head. "Yes I know, I'll learn one of these days." Drea smiled too. "Petra am I really so rebellious? I honestly don't see myself as such. I'm the quietest person in the house."

"That's a form of rebellion in its own right, Drea. You don't want to be here and you never have done. Added to that, you weren't meant to be a part of this household. You were part of a trade off, and you knew it. That's alot of resentment, Drea. We're here, the Hellions aren't. You hate Murdoch and it shows."

"I know I shouldn't, Petra, it's wrong. I have shelter, food and warmth ... well tepidness ... thanks to Murdoch." Drea sighed.

"And for that we owe him. Right?" Petra broke off her cotton thread. "We pay our debts daily with bruises, cuts and broken bones. Yes, he's easy to resent."

"He resents me too Petra. I was forced on him, remember? Oh I know he got a contract and all that but it's still force." Drea nodded.

"It is. Especially coming from someone like Lord Cassidy Hellion." Petra agreed.

"That's only partially correct Petra." Drea let out another sigh. "Lord Cassidy endorsed the deal, yes, but it was on the demand of his son, Lord Taybor. I was seen as an unwanted distraction and I committed the horrendous sin of learning to read and write." She was now literate enough to handle normal day to day things. The grand university works of literature that Lord Jasper had once promised were now only distant impossibilities, but she she could read and write as well as any other woman in Crull's State Three. "I showed far too much initiative for a serving girl."

"But that makes no sense." Petra mused and reached for another sock. "Why go to all the trouble? Business deals? Contracts? Why not just turn you out? It happens."

"Well Lord Taybor's strict traditionalist views weren't held quite so strictly by Lord Cassidy, and certainly not by Lord Jasper." Drea fiddled with the shirt buttons and knew Petra was watching her. "Lord Jasper argued that I was entitled to learn. He stood up for me, Petra."

"Pff! Not well enough, obviously."

"Our friendship was ... was ... misconstrued by Lord Taybor. Marrying me off to Murdoch was a compromise and a way to get me out without disgrace. If Lord Cassidy hadn't done that, it would have caused a rift between his sons." Drea muttered. She'd had a lot of time to think about all this.

"Well aren't you the popular one?" Petra smiled. "Fairytales belong in books, Drea. This is real." She held up a particularly dismal specimen of underclothing belonging to Murdoch and Drea started to laugh. "Yep! Piss stains and all! Ah make the best of it, Drea. Mooning and moaning over mansions and lords will only make you miserable. That's not for the likes of us. This is as good as it gets for us ordinary womenfolk. There is nothing else, girl, nothing better out there." Drea looked at the forty-five year old woman sitting opposite her. Petra looked every bit as old as Murdoch, maybe older. Her face was gaunt and thin and her lips were pale. She looked haggard and weary and her whole appearance was one of unhappy resignation. The likes of us. Ordinary womenfolk.

A loud crash had both Drea and Petra jumping to their feet and running from the kitchen. Murdoch, blotched and florid with drink, had hurled Jolue through the door and was now kicking her viciously as she tried to curl up on the floor.

"Fun evening then." Drea muttered quietly to Petra.

"He's getting worse." Petra muttered back. "Go, Drea. Go to bed."

"Whispering?" Murdoch lurched round and staggered into the wall. "Women whispering in my house?"

"No Murdoch, we were just ... "

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