Elinor opened her eyes and blinked, she was staring up at the deep blue canopy of her bed. She was warm, she couldn’t move, but she was warm. What had happened? She remembered wading into the ocean, she’d wanted to feel that pull of the tide, to feel a part of something. She was so tired of being alone, isolated in her unmarried state. A widow but too young widowed to be allowed into society, it was suffocating. She’d wanted to feel connected, to something.
But how had she gotten here? Elinor squeezed her eyes shut, why couldn’t she remember? Cold. She remembered cold. She gasped. The tide. Her dress had pulled her under.
She opened her eyes. Her father leaned over her.
“I’ll get your mother.”
He left before she could say anything. She stared up at the canopy. The tide had pulled her under and her dress had been too heavy for her to fight it. Why was she alive? She should be dead. The only thing that kept rising in her mind was her mother screaming her name then the wave engulfing her. How had they gotten her out? Struggling with the heavy blanket tucked around her she freed her arms and pushed herself up. The bedside table was laden with vials, needles and a bowl of water with a cloth draped over one edge. A chair sat now abandoned beside her bed but she could still see the impression in the cushion where her father’s large frame had been just moments before.
“Elinor. Oh thank God.”
Her mother sank onto the bed and pressed a hand to Elinor’s forehead, checking for fever.
“What were you thinking?”
“I just wanted to be a part of something.”
“What do you mean?”
Her father rumbled from his place behind her mother.
“I am isolated. I am widowed yet I am cloistered away from society. I am more alone now than I’ve ever been. I just wanted to feel connected to something. I didn’t mean to get swept away.”
She felt hot tears on her cheeks. She hadn’t meant for any of it to happen. She’d just been so lonely. At least before she’d married Benjamin she’d had a lady in waiting, someone to talk to, but now. Now she had no one. She could not attend functions with her parents despite her status as a widow because she was to be remarried and she could not have a companion because she was no longer a maiden. She was stuck between two worlds and cut off from everything.
Her mother brushed away the tears and drew her into a hug. Elinor hid her face like she had when she was a child. It was all so terribly wrong.
“It won’t last forever darling. I’m sorry it has been so hard on you.”
Her mother’s hands stroked through her hair and Elinor’s heart unknotted some.
“I’ll see if we can’t have my sister chaperone you for a time. Maggie would love some time away from the farm and it would give you a chance to hear about what it’s like inland.”
Her father’s words brought more comfort than she expected. Aunt Maggie was married to a successful Baron whose primary means of making money was raising sturdy pack ponies and warhorses. She lived quite far from the coast and loved to visit. Having her around, with all her country gossip and lively discussions of her husband’s trade would make the isolation so much more bearable.
“Thank you father.”
She whispered into her mother’s shoulder and felt his hand come to rest on her shoulder.
“We’ll get through this my dear. Winter will soon be upon us and the fighting will have to end. They’ll be back. Don’t you fret.”
Elinor nodded into her mother’s shoulder. She had to believe it. Contemplating the alternative, burying a brother or a fiancé was beyond bearing.
“How long did I sleep?”
She felt her mother look at her father. She pulled back to look at them.
“You had a fever for a week.”
“Friar Angus and Barber* Mark tried everything. They did not think you would wake.”
“They said to prepare ourselves.”
Elinor stared at them. No wonder her memory was so hazy. It truly was a miracle she was alive.
“How did you get me out of the water?”
“It was William, he stripped off his chainmail and dove in after you. I don’t know how he managed it but he pulled you out.”
William. He was one of family guards. He’d grown up in the village and joined service when he was very young. She remembered when father had called him into dinner one evening and praised his capture of a group that had been thieving from merchants on the sea road.
“Please thank him for me. I would like to do so personally when I am better.”
Her father nodded.
“I’ll tell him, he’s more than proven himself worthy of his post. I wish I had 20 more like him.”
Elinor smiled, her father loved his household guards, they were almost like family to him.
“I’ll get you some broth, then you need to rest.”
Leaning back into the pillows Elinor sighed, her mother was right. She was already feeling very tired again. She watched as her mother bustled from the room in search of the broth. Her father settled back into the chair and Elinor noticed for the first time the deep circles beneath his eyes and the stubble that darkened his chin. How long had he stayed by her side?
“I’m sorry papa.”
“No my dear, I’m sorry. We did not think about how you must be feeling with Benjamin’s passing and now Thomas in danger. Being alone with such thoughts. I’m the one who’s sorry Elinor. I should have asked Maggie to come down when Benjamin passed.”
He took her hand in his and Elinor threaded her fingers with his. Her parents were good people. She was more fortunate than most in that regard, few parents of their station saw their children as more than alliances and heirs. He laid his hand over their joined fingers and smiled.
“I’m glad you’re awake.”
*Barber was the term for a general medical practitioner in the medieval era, he would have practiced bloodletting, some potions (herbal), amputation, rudimentary dentistry as well as actual hair cutting and shaving.