The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: October 28, 2015
Ch. 11

Karen and her father rode down the lane, the horses plodding through the mud, tainting the crisp morning air. The sun peeked over the horizon, its light filtering through the trees to Karen’s right. She was a little nervous about being alone with Papa, especially when he seemed to be in an especially foul mood; but at least he wasn’t hung over.
A chill gust of wind struck her from the Wilson’s field to her left, as though to remind her that winter wasn’t quite over. Mr. Wilson didn’t seem to have gotten that cue, because he and his workhorse were plowing the field. He returned her wave.
Karen felt Becky’s need to relieve herself, so Karen dismounted and led the horse into the field. No use in wasting good manure on a road. Becky quickly took care of her business, and Karen led her back to the road. “It’s amazing how tuned-in you are to animals,” Papa said.
She mounted up. “I just pay attention to them.”
She could feel his anger rising. Did he suspect she was an empath? But no, he’d probably never even heard of empaths.
Papa nudged his horse and looked up at the sky to the left. “I don’t like those clouds building up to the west. Do you think we’ll get another cloudburst?”
Her bones were certain of it, but she could hardly say so. “Hard to say, Papa.”
“I see you brought your rain parka, girl. It’s funny how it always rains when you take it places, but never does when you don’t.” His anger was still growing, though it didn’t show on his face. Not a good sign.
She tensed. “Really? Guess I’m lucky.”
“Ma said they burned a witch the other day in Middleton. Do you believe in witches, girl?”
The blood drained from her face. “I don’t know, Papa. Do you?”
“I didn’t use to, girl. But I do now.” He gave her a hard look.
She tried to meet his gaze with a mild expression, though her insides were churning. “What changed your mind, Papa?” She tried to hold her voice steady, but it cracked a little.
“I’ve seen evidence, though I won’t mention any names yet; I don’t want to start a witch hunt without proof.”
She started trembling. Her fear of him, combined with the anger she was absorbing from him with her empathic abilities, was starting to cause her emotions to run amok. She couldn’t let him rattle her, or it would probably feed whatever suspicions of her he had. She had to get control of herself, and to do that she’d have to turn off her empathy before so absorbed so much of his anger that it overloaded her. She tried to could go into a trance to turn off her empathy, but her emotional state and the fact that she was riding horseback made it too hard to concentrate.
“I don’t like the idea of you going alone to town with Tommy,” Papa said. “Ma insists it’ll be okay, but I have my doubts.”
“Tommy’s always been nice to me, Papa. He isn’t like the other kids.”
“And why do you expect the other kids to be nice to you? Don’t you know what your people have done to them?”
“I don’t understand, Papa. What people?”
“Haven’t you ever looked in the mirror, child? Have you ever seen anyone else here with white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes?” His anger was still growing, and she was absorbing an unhealthy amount of it.
“Papa, the people here, and a precious few in Brighton, are the only people I’ve ever really known.”
“You think you’re one of us? You think the sins of your people haven’t rubbed off on you? You think you deserve to be treated special, that brownies should forgive you and your people? Countless thousands of us died at the hands of your people, and you think we should just forgive and forget?”
“Papa, the war was almost thirty years ago.”
“My father died in that war! Your people killed him when I was four years old!”
Karen bit her lip. He was starting to lose control, and he wasn’t even drunk. Ma wasn’t here to pull him off her, and he might prove even more dangerous sober. “I’m sorry, Papa. I didn’t know that.”
“There you are again, playing the innocent victim like always. I know what you are.”
“What do you mean, Papa?”
“Stop playing the innocent little girl! You’re a witch! And don’t try denying it!”
She cringed, hoping no one had heard. She glanced back at Mr. Wilson, but he seemed to be out of earshot.
Papa seemed to catch himself, apparently realizing what he’d done. He took a deep breath and seemed to try to bring himself under control.
Karen fought back the urge to dig her heels into Becky and race to Tommy for protection. If she ran to Tommy, it would be a dead giveaway, and she’d never be able to see him again. And even Tommy, hefty farm boy that he was, wouldn’t stand a chance against Papa in one of his rages. And as protective as Tommy was of Karen, he wouldn’t back from Papa, and Papa would beat him to a pulp. Ma somehow always managed to calm Papa down, but Becky couldn’t outrace Papa’s horse over that far of a distance.
Luckily, Papa had managed to calm down a little. “Even after all these years, your people are still ruling us,” he said. “What do you think about that?”
She didn’t know what to think about any of this; it was as though her father had suddenly become someone else. If her father hated white people, why had he brought her into his life? Had he just wanted her as a punching bag for venting his hatred of white people? “Papa, I don’t think the whites have treated the brownies fairly.”
“Well, at least you finally admit the beatings was deserved.”
They turned down the Wilson’s driveway. The farmhouse and barn came into view.
Papa reined his horse in, and she followed suit, trying to appear calm. She met his hard stare.
“So cool, calm and collected, girl. Nothing ever seems to faze you. But then again, I suppose you could turn me into a toad with a word.”
She didn’t know what to say. One wrong word, and he might blow.
But ironically, a wave of coldness sprang from Papa, something she’d never felt from him before. Was her empathy working properly, or had her fear caused it to go haywire somehow?
He smiled, and she sensed amusement from him. These wild mood swings in him were frightening.
“Tomorrow’s your big day, girl. Sixteen. The biggest day in a woman’s life, arriving at marrying age. So I have a big surprise for you… I found a buyer for you.”
She was thunderstruck. One minute he’s hinting at denouncing her as a witch and the next he’s going to sell her as though she were a slave?
He smiled, as though pleased with her facial reaction.

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