With food and rest, my thinking has become clearer. My anger is returning.
Memories are returning to me as well. Memories of William banning Jacob from purchasing alcohol for life after witnessing him vomit one Friday night. Memories of William marching Annie off somewhere in the middle of Easter Sunday lunch and returning alone, all because she dropped a cake. Memories of Roberta falling down a flight of stairs minutes after William had said her shoes made her look like a whore.
And then there is the memory of Frederick.
I heard the post office ‘let go’ of Frederick because he had taken too many sick days, but no one knows the full story. Some insist he was made redundant because there were simply not enough jobs to go around. Others have said he was a pervert and fired because of a complaint.
Either way, he was in his late sixties and struggled to find another employer. After eight months his savings had completely dried up, and he began to ask locals for small loans.
It soon became clear he couldn’t pay anyone back, so Frederick begged for food instead.
When William found out about it, he told Frederick he was an embarrassment to Morkwood and told him to stop. He couldn’t, of course. One afternoon Frederick was loitering outside of the greengrocers near closing time, hoping to take anything mouldy off of Wallace’s hands, when William decided enough was enough.
“I’ll buy you a full week’s worth of groceries,” William had said, “but you have to do something for me first.”
Frederick jumped at the chance, probably thinking William was offering some form of work. “Of course, anything, just let me know what you need.”
I remember William’s expression vividly. The way his lips pulled back to reveal his teeth – it was like an animalistic snarl. I half expected him to leap forward and bite Frederick’s neck.
William took a deep breath, as if the next sentence was going to pain him terribly. “I’ll trade you the food for your clothes.”
Frederick laughed nervously and turned to onlookers for reassurance.
“If you don’t strip in the next minute, the deal is over.” William looked down at his watch. “Fifty-five seconds… Fifty… Forty-five…”
Frederick pulled his jumper off and began unbuttoning his trousers. Like many of the villagers who had been watching this all unfold, I quickly paid for the items in my basket and hurried home. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t my business.
Two days later, Frederick was found hanging by his belt in his bathroom.
It’s strange. I was once able to accept so much, and then suddenly I wasn’t able to anymore. There was a time when I would have done anything for normalcy and anonymity, but then one day it all appeared both absurd and impossible.
I’ve come to believe that most people think they’re the minority, one of the few original and independent thinkers who are vehemently true to themselves. In actuality, we’re all susceptible to the voice of authority and the appearance of confidence. We’re all sheep. Cowards. We’re not the star of the show, we’re the background characters that keep the world chugging forward. Those at the forefront do not think like us. They don’t think. They just are.
Because William owns the biggest property and most of the farms in the village, has an extensive lineage and chairs numerous local councils and committees, he is seen as Other. He is given power, therefore he can take more of it.
I remember William’s father, Victor. He was similar to his son because he relished cruelty, but he had a very different approach to it. William likes one-on-one interactions and honing in on the vulnerable. Victor targeted groups. He always took a step back from the villagers, not liking to get his hands too dirty.
Victor stopped single women going to church alone. Victor kicked anyone out of the village who was not married by the age of thirty (later overruled by William when his father died).
Victor also bashed his wife’s skull in with an ornamental musket – although no one would have dared to say that too loudly in Morkwood. The official report stated that she had died of a brain aneurism and had fallen down the stairs, but Mrs Lassiter used to clean for the Grevilles and had been the one who found her. She told everyone she had found Lady Greville in the living room.
Victor dismissed it and said Mrs Lassiter was clearly upset and confused, and that was that. Another death that Morkwood collectively hid from outsiders.
But the Harris’ baby will be the final secret of the Greville’s’ one-hundred-and-fifty-year curse.
Thirty minutes ago, Terry and I sat down to an early dinner and discussed our plans. We agreed that talking is not going to release the villagers of Morkwood from over a century of lies, suspicions and traditions.
The only thing they’ll listen to, and the only thing they’ve ever listened to, is fear.
You can now read The Festivities of Morkwood on e-book and paperback.