I did indeed come down by the time we reached the town, but I still had enough energy to keep my feet.
Much to my delight, Patricia was there, along with the rest of the town’s people, to greet us and praise our success. I didn’t hear much of what was said and did no explaining. I left all that to Carm and Haines. All I wanted to do was hold Patricia forever.
This wasn’t to be, however. One of the many giants stepped between us and guided Patricia toward a woman who accompanied him. “There’ll be none of that now. There’s a time and a place for that kind of nonsense and it ain’t here or now, so you keep your hands to yourself.”
“What?” I asked. I recognized this couple, but I couldn’t remember their names.
“Miss Patricia’s working hard getting ready for her formal joining. Didn’t Master Durmas tell you anything about this?” said the man.
“No, he just said she’d come here to stay.”
He pulled me aside while the woman led Patricia away. She looked over her shoulder with an apologetic smile and waved. I waved back. “Can’t I even talk to her?”
“Yes, you can see her. You’ll be staying with us while you’re here, but you need to know what’s expected of you.”
“But… What?” I was still so very confused.
“Before you take a wife…” he started.
Wife? I was rendered speechless and it was all I could do to make the rest of the words he spoke mean something in my head.
“…must make sure that you can put a roof over her head. Of course, you could probably just make her whatever she wants, but that’s not the point. You must be sure you have work that brings in enough money in order to provide for her and the children she’ll give you. They must have a secure life and that is your responsibility.”
“What are you talking about? Of course, I would provide for her if I marry her, and now that you bring it up, I think I will marry her, but I haven’t asked her yet. I hadn’t even thought about it until now.”
“That may be so, but those around you have seen that you two are meant to be joined, so it is being arranged. It is the way things are done here. Master Durmas, with the consent of your father and mother, is sponsoring you in this union. Lorena, my wife, and I are sponsoring Miss Patricia since she had informed us that she has no other family.”
Eventually I learned that this man and his wife were Lloyd and Lorena Hanley. They ran about twenty milk cows and sold the milk, cream and butter at market every day. Mom used to buy some once in a while. They weren’t really cows; they looked more like moose without antlers but they produced a fair amount of milk. To me it tasted kind of green, but it was all right.
I had heard about some of the old-fashioned customs, but I never thought I’d find myself experiencing any of them. Patricia and I sat on opposite sides of the table during meals. In the living room, we were never allowed to sit next to each other, nor were we allowed to be anywhere alone. At night, she slept in a room that joined theirs. There was no such thing as privacy. I so wanted to touch her, to hold her, but I couldn’t even hold her hand.
Three days of this and I couldn’t take it any more. Haines, who was staying at the house with us, couldn’t stop grinning at my discomfiture. He never knew how close he came to having his toes braided.