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The Moonstone Heiress- Chapter Two: Beginnings from Demise

That night was somber. Carlone and her mother went to bed in the hayloft, but neither of them felt at ease. When Carlone realized her mother was still awake she asked her "What happens now that we can't sell anything?" Her mother seeming to mull over the idea herself replied "We wait until the fever has passed and the market is opened again." Carlone knew as well as her mother that the crops had an expiration date to think about. Her comforting thought was that at least they would have enough food to last in the coming months, unlike the townspeople who were reliant on the farms to supply them with essential supplies. Her uncle had already let go of the farmhands. Carlone had never witnessed him look so grim before. She could tell that it pained him to do it. He was not a selfish man, he was a realist. If the fever took longer to pass than they planned, he had to think of his family before others. These thoughts rolled around in Calone's head as she finally started to drift into a deep sleep.

The morning was foggy when Carlone heard the hysterical voices of her aunt and cousin from the main house. Her mother told her to stay in the barn while she went to find out what was wrong. Carlone was fearful that one of the laborers had come back to rob them so she hid under the hay not wanting to be found. Nothing like that had happened before but in these strange times, even a young girl like Carlone had no expectations regarding the moral perseverance of the desperate. The time her mother was gone could not have been more than an hour, but to Carlone, it was an eternity. Dreading the worst she snuck down from her place of safety to find her mother crying over her uncle's lifeless body in the main house. Carlone had let herself in and was standing dumbstruck in the hallway when Faya wearing a shirt wrapped over her face and her winter gloves on her hands grabbed Carlone's arm and yelled for her to go outside, "Get out! Father has died of the fever!" Carlone was so hurried to leave that she hadn't the time to wonder where Kuli was. The only people she had seen in the house were Faya and her mother upstairs.

Carlone was unsure of what to do with herself outside. From what she had seen, her mother was inconsolable and would likely be there for some time. Carlone wanted to go in and hug her mother. She hoped at least Faya was being kind to her there as she was well aware that her aunt had no kindness in her heart for them. By the time the afternoon sun had peaked, Carlone could hear arguing in the house. It was her mother's voice over her aunt's. "You want people to know? You fool! We will be ruined!" Carlone could hear her aunt say, while her mother shouted back, "he deserves better than this!" Then after some commotion, Faya held open the side door to the kitchen while Carlone's aunt and mother carried her uncle's body to the firepit between the main house and the barn. Her mother was sobbing uncontrollably while her aunt poured their strongest whisky over her uncle and lit the tinder under him. Faya stayed by the door, she was in shock. Carlone tried to approach her mother, but she waved her away saying "Don't come near me until I've changed my clothes." Carlone busied herself the rest of the day doing chores away from the others. It was evening when she found herself alone in the gazebo wondering how they were doing.

Carlone had picked blueberries for herself for breakfast, but it did not keep her stomach from growling as she wondered if her mother had finished in the main house. She was ready to go to the barn for the night by herself when her mother came to her with a pot of nearly boiling water and told her to wash up as she handed her soap and laid out fresh clothing. Carlone did as she was told. The water was practically scolding on her skin. Her mother explained what had happened. "Your uncle became ill last night and passed in his sleep. Kuli is not feeling so well either. We have to be careful because the fever is very dangerous." Carlone stopped for a moment to ask, "What about us?" Her mother reassured her that their grandmother had gotten the fever decades before and come out fine from it. However, it was not something they spoke of because the people who had survived the fever were known to be spreaders after. The stigma alone would have stopped anyone from doing business with them ever again. "You must tell no one. As far as anyone is concerned, your uncle died of drink." Her mother's voice was trembling when she said that, the emotion of a misleading lie about the death of her loved one was still raw and it was getting the better of her.

Carlone had forgotten about being hungry by the time they were finished for the night. She and her mother went to sleep in the hayloft, both all but collapsing from exhaustion. Carlone's last thought before she fell asleep was how quickly her uncle had been living and now he was gone forever. "How will we keep the farm going without him?" Carlone wondered as she shut her eyes.

In the middle of the night, she awoke to hear her mother gasping for air as she coughed up little flecks of blood. Carlone pulled her mother upright into a sitting position thinking that it would allow her to breathe but her mother fell back barely conscience from her raging fever that was making her delirious. In a panic, Carlone ran to the main house to get her aunt, whom she woke up by screaming. When she saw the vile woman was on her way, Carlone ran back to her mother's side. By then her mother was catatonic. "Wake up, please wake up!" Carlone said shaking her unresponsive mother. Carlone was frantic, but maybe her mother could recover, after all her grandmother had recovered all those years ago she reasoned to herself. Her aunt clumsily climbed the ladder to the hayloft, still in her nightdress. She surveyed her sister's condition by holding up her lantern. Then she focused on Carlone, who was waiting for her to say something helpful. "Stay here, if you both survive I'll come back for you." She briskly turned and left Carlone to care for her mother.

In Carlone's memory, she knew that she had gone to get her mother some water when she noticed that she suddenly felt very tired. She did not know if she was too weak to open the barn door on her own or if her aunt had barred it off. Carlone did remember that she had passed out on the ground for some time only to be woken up when the flames of the barn being on fire were licking at her side. This jarred her enough to get her moving toward her mother once more, who was cold to the touch. Carlone was too small to carry her so she pushed her with all of her failing strength down the loft onto the winter grains piled to the side. Carlone was coughing painfully from the smoke and the fever together. Her sight was blurry, but she could hear the crackling of the fire overtaking the barn's structure in totality. Knowing the end was near she held her mother and closed her eyes inside of the barn's flaming walls. Through flashing images she retained when she came to, Carlone knew that it had been Faya who had dragged her body to the edge of the forest and left her for dead. By morning when the smoke had cleared Carlone staggered off. She knew her mother was dead. She was minorly worried that it was her aunt who had set the fire to try to kill her. It was how badly she would be treated now that her mother and uncle were gone that gave her reason to stumble away from that place for good.


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