The Rogue in the Market
A Short Story by Bethany Fairborn
Orkney Islands, 1738
“If you don’ like the way we’re treated, then you shouldn’ have gotten together with Da’,” Bethany shouted.
Greta Fairborn’s thin face blanched with shock and shame, but Bethany couldn’t bring herself to care. The young woman opened the front door and stomped off before her mother could say more.
Once she was outside, Bethany stopped and let out a soft scream. She knew it was childish to react like this, but she simply couldn’t stand to hear another word about how grateful she should be that Tam McLaren had asked for her hand in marriage.
“Grateful? ’Tis so absurd I should be laughing right now,” she grumbled, marching down the hill and away from her house.
She’d tried to tell her mother how horribly Tam treated his younger brother. Vincent McLaren was her trusted friend, and she knew he didn’t deserve Tam’s beatings. There had been far too many occasions when she’d tended Vincent’s wounds after Tam had gotten hold of him.
Bethany had no idea why Tam wanted to marry her, but if that was how Tam treated his family now, she had a good idea how he would treat his future wife.
But none of that had mattered to her mother. All Greta cared about was getting her daughter married off to avoid the stain of illegitimacy on their family.
Bethany pushed back a few strands of black hair that had fallen into her eyes. Her mother had been training her to be a midwife since she was five years old, and now, at eighteen, Bethany was confident she had learned everything she needed to know. She thought she’d proven it last month when she’d singlehandedly delivered Nathaniel and Elizabeth Levins’s baby girl. Bethany could have sworn Greta’s eyes were glittering with pride as Bethany had placed the child in Elizabeth’s arms.
If Mum was proud o’ me then, why can’ she see I don’ need a husband to take care o’ me? I’m going to earn our neighbors’ approval on my own. I don’ need Tam’s help. Or any man’s.
This latest argument was just one of many between Bethany and Greta. They’d always had a hard time seeing eye to eye, and Bethany had held a grudge toward her since the day Greta had burned her daughter’s link to the sea.
Bethany closed her golden eyes and let the memory flash through her mind: the scent of the ocean in her nose, the feel of the water on her skin, the euphoria of swimming as she was meant to for the very first time.
It had been the most wonderful day of Bethany’s life . . . until it had become the most heartbreaking.
The young woman blinked away a few tears, hating that the memory still affected her so much. She needed to be strong, unbreakable. She meandered down into the main part of town, past Everton Inn and