Home.Everything about that word was painful. Painful as in the cuff to the ears from her father, painful as in the suffocating hugs from her mother, painful as in the look about Connor, painful as in failure, and painful as in when her father’s belt rained down across her back, with the black bruises hidden underneath her shirt. Upon arrival, nothing was spoken about her little trip, only the same thing yelled at her multiple times throughout her punishment.
- “You foolish girl!”
- “You could have been killed or worse!”
- “What were you thinking you daft girl?!”
- “No daughter of mine does such a thing!”
- “You caused your poor mother to become sick with worry!”
She had heard it all before, but this time it wasn’t towards one of her sisters, and the thrash, thrash of a belt hitting home was on her back not their’s. Despite the intense pain she went through each time the flexible material of the belt wrapped around her back and side with each hit, she did not cry out, her fingernails carving grooves into the wooden fence that made the horse paddock. All she could do was stare towards Connor’s cabin with a determined look, wondering what had happened to him, all the while forming her next plan. With each thrash, she became more determined to leave again; each thrash cementing her realization that they still see and treat her as a little girl; each thrash sending a painful reminder what it was like to fail.
After five or so she had stopped counting and the longer it went on, the quicker she became numb to it, her father’s voice going quiet as he was only being answered by the sound of his belt and not her. Several minutes had gone by, and she hadn’t noticed that it had stopped until she felt a gentle squeeze on her shoulder.
“Maisie…it’s done….” The hand lifted from her shoulder, and his footsteps receded away from her without another word. She didn’t know when he would ever forgive her again, and at this point, she didn’t care. As she stood there still unmoved from her position during her punishment, rage filled her; a rage that reflected the bright red welts that now crisscrossed across her back over top the bruises she obtained during her encounter with the Camerons. This rage drove her to move, her fingers lifting away from the wood bloody and she marched towards Connor’s cabin, what she wanted to say already forming in her head.
Meanwhile, hidden with his cabin Connor sunk into the seat in front of the cabin's hearth, pressing the opening of the bottle to his lips and drinking down yet another mouthful of Caledonian mead. While he could hear the punishment go on, the only thoughts that went through his head that Maisie deserved the pain for what she did, then the rest of his mind was blank...
A quick secession of knocks interrupted his drink, with each knock she left behind little dots of her blood from her fingertips splattering the dark wood stain. It had been more than an hour since they had arrived home, and he had been inside his cabin ever since, his wordless return with Maisie concerning the whole household. Their parents were too busy with Maisie to even try to talk to him, and behind this door, he remained undisturbed.
Maisie remembered the way he looked on top of that bloodied man, the crazed look in his eyes, and her yelling his name being the only thing that broke him from the frantic spell. Whatever caused him to act like that, she was determined to find out as well as demand that he teach her how to fight properly.
Connor didn't answer. He continued to stare into the fire, drinking his mead and flexing and unflexing the hand he had used to beat the man with. Now that his adrenaline was gone he could feel the pain from it all. The silence from behind the door fueled the rage within her more. Knocking harder this time, she made sure that she could feel the door vibrate with each knock, almost making impossible not to hear.
“Connor, damn you! Open this door, I know you’re in there!”
The lock on the door clicked but the door didn't open. Connor returned to his spot in front of the fire and to his drinking. Even before he sat down, the door was swung open and Maisie marched into the cabin, slamming the door behind her. The bottle in his hand and his blank stare into the fire frustrated her even more, the pain of her back reflecting her emotions like a stormy black sea. She stormed over to him, and grabbed the bottle from his grasp, lifted it to her lips and took a swig of the strong liquid then set it down on a table out of direct reach of Connor. The mead slipped down her throat and her cheeks began to warm up from the winter air but did nothing to subside her anger.
“What’s your problem?! You said nothing to me on the way here, and then immediately blocked yourself away from everyone since we got home, the only company you desire is at the bottom of a bottle!”
Connor looked right past her to the bottle he had nursing since he had returned home, then turned his glare to her as she yelled at him.
"What?" He shrugged. "You want me to comfort you? Tell Dad what he did was wrong? You snuck off the farm like a prisoner from a jail. You got what you deserved." He pushed her aside and grabbed the bottle and took his seat back in front of the fire. "Now go throw your tantrums to someone who is going to give a shite."
Maisie threw her hands up in the air. To her, Connor was acting like a moody teenager that was sent to his room on the account of making a sarcastic remark at the dinner table.
“ I left because I was a prisoner! You don’t understand because you left me behind years ago! You have no idea the pressure both Mother and Father push on me to be the ‘perfect daughter’ since Sorcha and Alana didn’t turn out how they wanted them to be, and you ran off to be a Nomad instead of staying to take care of the farm with Father. I have to be the good girl and become a boring house-wife,” She breathed heavily, venting out everything that had been bottled up for years. “Plus, if you care so little about the well fare of your sister to basically tell her to f**** off then I will. Send Father and Mother my regards.” With a final huff, she stormed off out of the cabin with a set mind. She was leaving again and she didn’t care how cold it was outside, nor how much she hurt, nor how much their parents would kill her if and when they got their hands on her again.
Connor stormed out of the cabin moments later, grabbing Maisie by the wrist and spinning her around to look at him, he then grabbed her by the scuff of her shift, lifted her up, and slammed her hard into the door of the cabin.
"If you knew anything about mother and father you wouldn't be saying such stupid things. Of course, they have an idea of what they want from their children. Every parent does, but they also want them to travel their own path and become their own person. In the end, one always returns to the farm." Connor squeezed her shirt tightly, pressing her harder against the door, his lips pulled back over his teeth on his rage, his knuckles had started to bleed again and he could feel the white-hot pain of his broken knuckles as they protested the strain he was putting them through. "Aye. I left. But mother and father knew I was leaving. I didna put on a dress and sneak out in the wee hours of the morning. I had been telling them for months I was leaving. Father would tell me no and mother would ignore the topic, but when the day came they did’na try and stop me because they love me and know that I need to follow my own path" Connor let Maisie drop to the ground and pushed her away from the door. Opening it, he paused in the doorway and turned to her "You wanna go play the rebel child, then you go right ahead and do it. But you go out there, with what you know, you will die… or worse…" He slammed the door behind him and locked it, returning to his bottle and the memories of the other night.