bit of the Dom getting beat up…nothing too graphic.
A Kapitany, Chapter 31
“Come into my arms, little mouse.”
Vadas left his aunts and Budapest at dawn. He wanted to surprise Elizabeth early in the morning before she began her day. He found her still asleep. Getting into bed, she turned to him, tousled hair covering her face. When he brushed it back with his hand, he saw she had been crying. Her face was streaked with tears.
“What is wrong, Elizabeth?”
“Oh, nothing, just a dream.” She sat up and blew her nose.
“A dream? That must have been some dream to make you cry in your sleep.”
“I don’t remember much. Zoltan was in it.”
Vadas spoke quietly. “Don’t worry, Zoltan is fine. We will see him soon. Zoltan is recovering well.”
Elizabeth snuggled up in his arms and in a matter of minutes had fallen back asleep. Vadas thought this a good time to seek out Soffia. He found her downstairs with her coffee before a low fire. Janos always had a fire in this room in the morning. Even in the summer the lodge was cold before ten o’clock.
“Morning, Vadas”. Soffia yawned and sipped her coffee.
Vadas drew a cup and sat down across from her. “How did it go while I was gone?”
Soffia smiled. “It went ok. We found a couple of contractors who will come out and give estimates on the roof. Other than that, we didn’t do much. We looked at a few churches in Eger, but Elizabeth seemed to balk at them. I think she is remembering things, Vadas. I think memories are messing with her head.” Soffia twirled her finger next to her temple.
Vadas didn’t say anything, but stared into the fire. It was good there was a fire going. It was drizzling outside, a grey and mournful start to the day.
“You know, Vadas, it was bound to happen. She was having a hard time sleeping. I found her crying a lot. She tries to hide it. It’s either Miklos or she is afraid with you gone. Probably both.”
“Well, I’ll deal with it. I didn’t want to leave her but I knew you would take care of things. Thank you, darling.”
“Vadas? I think until Miklos is out of the picture, Elizabeth won’t feel safe. And I think she won’t feel safe even if you marry her.”
“Did she say that, Soffia?”
“Not exactly. She was listless looking at the churches. She said she doesn’t want a big wedding full of strangers. I think she wants to get it done in a small, quiet way.”
“Perhaps that is best. Perhaps we marry with a few witnesses. Later we have a large reception. What do you think?”
“I think you are wise, Vadas. But talk it out with her. You will be able to open her up. She is closed right now like a clam.”
Vadas stared into the flames again. He was troubled Elizabeth was having doubts. She seemed fine when he left.
“Soffia, when I was visiting the aunties, I found out something. You will never believe this.”
“What, Vadas. I am all ears.”
Vadas said simply: “It appears Zoltan is my half brother.”
“What? Can you be serious? Zoltan?”
“I’m telling you this, Soffia, but keep it to yourself. Zoltan doesn’t know.”
“My God, Vadas. Is this true?”
“Well, the old aunties don’t have any reason to lie. He’s a few years older. Zoltan’s father was my mother’s lover. Zoltan was given to his family to raise. My mother didn’t have milk enough to nurse. My father came back from Recsk a broken man. The aunties said he died not knowing anything. That was a mercy.”
Soffia’s face registered her shock. “What life brings, no?”
“I am going to tell him, and also ask him to stand as witness at the wedding. And you, Soffia. You are my oldest friends. Elizabeth will be glad of having someone she knows with her in this stuff. Someone who is a woman.”
“I figured that, Vadas. I am honored.” Soffia was silent for a few moments as she sipped her coffee. “So this news about Zoltan. Does it change anything for you?”
“Hell, yes. It means he is to be considered in the inheritance. I will deed over this lodge to him. He doesn’t have much family and of course Janos and Maria will stay on.”
“That’s generous of you, Vadas.” Soffia tipped her cup to him.
“Zoltan almost lost his life. I would have had his blood on my hands. It’s the least I can do.” Vadas shook his head. The shock of seeing Zoltan in the car would not soon fade.
“Look, Soffia. Do you think Elizabeth is trying to back out of marriage? You are a woman and women know these things before men.”
“Vadas, I can’t know anything for sure. I believe she loves you. It’s what has happened with Miklos that has unscrewed her. She is remembering things now the shock is wearing off.” Soffia sighed. “It’s to be expected.”
“What do you think I should do?”
Soffia was surprised Vadas was asking her. He was always so much in control of everything. Now? The cracks were showing in his façade.
She smiled. “Do what you do best, Vadas. Dominant her. Show her you will protect her at all costs. Show how strong you are as a man. Perhaps take her away for a while.”
“I was going to take her to Paris after the wedding. She’s never seen it. We will get to know each other better.”
“Well, you do what you think best. But I warn you. She is really suffering right now. She cries and jumps at the littlest things. All she wanted to do is scurry back to the car and come back here. She was jittery on the streets of Eger. She didn’t enjoy the churches at all.”
Soffia left soon after and Elizabeth came downstairs.
“Has Soffia gone already? I wanted to say goodbye.”
“You’ll see her soon. It’s hard to get rid of Soffia. She always comes back.”
Elizabeth got herself a cup of coffee and started to sip it standing under the gaze of the boar’s head.
“No, Elizabeth. Not today. You are going to have a proper breakfast.”
“I don’t have an appetite, Vadas. I just want coffee.”
“Sit down, Elizabeth. You are going to eat something. You look like a scarecrow. You are scaring me, plus the crows.”
Vadas headed down the short hall towards the kitchen. He would ask Maria to bring a tray of eggs, sausage, anything to tempt Elizabeth. He came back and scowled at her. She avoided his eyes, and sipped her coffee. Maria came in with a tray and placed it before Elizabeth and left, Vadas calling after her.
“Thank you, Maria. Now eat something, Elizabeth. Don’t make me feed you.”
“Leave me alone, Vadas. You don’t always get your way. I’m not hungry.”
“Then you leave me no choice.” Vadas stood up and was coming around the end of the table when Elizabeth threw her cup at the boar’s head.
She yelled, “I told you. You don’t always get what you want!” Vadas paused, shocked by her violence, undecided what to do.
“You want to hit me, Elizabeth? Go ahead. Hit me all you want.” He grabbed her shoulders, and pulled her out of the chair. Elizabeth went pale. Then she exploded in a violent rage.
“You bastard! You think you can bend me to everything you want! I hate you! I hate you!”
She pounded on his chest as hard as she could. Vadas stood there. He didn’t smile or taunt her. He let her tire herself out. He didn’t put his arms around her, or try to stop her.
Elizabeth slipped to the floor, sobbing. She put her head down on his shoes and continued to sob. Vadas crouched down beside her.
“Are you finished? Is it out of your system?”
Elizabeth looked up at him, hair obscuring her face. Snot ran down her face and she had bit her lip. Hiccuping, she was trying to get her breath. She looked like a mad woman. Oh, what was he marrying!
“Vadas, I am so scared. Miklos will come back and kill us both” she sobbed, barely able to talk. She was trembling.
“No, Elizabeth. He knows the game. He is as scared of me and my men as you are of him. You understand? You have me, others to protect you. Miklos wouldn’t dare make a move. He knows I will kill him first. Remember, Miklos is only the wolf and I am the hunter.”
“Don’t leave me, Vadas. Don’t leave me. I will die if you do.”
Vadas stood her up and wiped her face with his handkerchief. She was still crying. He picked her up in his arms and carried her upstairs to the bedroom. Placing her on the bed, he lay down beside her. She was calming down and wouldn’t look at him, turning her distorted face away. She was trying not to sob, but every so often, a sob would break out and her chest would heave.
“Hush, Elizabeth, no one will hurt you again. No one will come through the doors or the windows. You are safe here, you are safe with me. Now you are in pain, but it will end. Your Vadas will protect you. Hush, darling girl, stop your sobbing.”
Elizabeth turned and threw her arms around him. “I hurt my wrist beating you. I think I broke it again.”
Vadas examined her wrist. It was a bit swollen. He didn’t think it was broken. “No, but you pack a punch for a little woman. I will be black and blue tomorrow.”
“Oh, let me see. Did I hurt you?”
Elizabeth unbuttoned his shirt and looked at his chest. There were a few red markings and she started to kiss each one.
“Oh Vadas, I am so sorry. I was beside myself. I am so sorry.”
“Kiss each wound and see where it leads.” Elizabeth looked up at his face and saw he was laughing.
“Feel better, little mouse?” Vadas asked after some minutes. “Now come down and eat the lovely food Maria has made. We have fed one appetite, now let’s feed another. I am hungry, Elizabeth and can’t live on love. I need food and so do you.”
Elizabeth was as docile as a lamb sitting at the table. Actually, she was exhausted. She ate a bit of egg and toast. Vadas ate everything in sight and called out for Maria to bring more food. She came in with a tray. She tried to maintain a poker face, but Elizabeth saw a small smile. Vadas grinned at her, his mouth full. Maria put her hand on his shoulder as she passed him. He grabbed and kissed it. Maria smiled as she left.
“Good fights like that lead to good love making, Elizabeth. You show promise as a wife.”
“Vadas, we need to talk about this wedding. It’s not real to me. We need to talk.”
“Ok, Elizabeth. Talk. Tell me what you want. You have my full attention.” Vadas pushed the last of his egg around with toast. He sat back chewing on a long sausage.
Elizabeth drew in a breath. “I don’t want a large wedding. I don’t want to get married in a church. Please, Vadas. I haven’t been to mass in thirty years. Those churches in Eger scare me. All those plaster saints! I don’t belong there. Can’t we just marry before a judge or whatever people do in Hungary?”
“What? You don’t want a church wedding? Well, let me think. We can have a civil service, and then a large reception. Elizabeth, if I didn’t throw a large party for people they would talk behind our backs. It is expected of me. I owe too many favors to too many people not to give them a good time. I warn you, it could last three days.” He pointed his sausage at her.
“Yes, Soffia warned me,” said Elizabeth in a small voice.
“So, you don’t want a church wedding. Do you want a bride’s gown? You have to have witnesses, and I thought Zoltan and Soffia would be good for that.”
“I can agree with that, Vadas. And no, I don’t need a bridal gown. A new dress would be fine.”
“Ok.” Vadas washed down his breakfast with the last of the coffee. “No church wedding. My aunties will be crushed.”
“They will survive, Vadas.”
He retrieved his jacket from a hook in the hall. He pulled Elizabeth from her chair and led her to the sitting room before the fire.
“Sit, Elizabeth.” He pulled a small black box from his pocket. He placed it in her hand.
Elizabeth opened it and saw the heart-shaped diamond ring.
“Oh!” Tears formed in her eyes. She was overwhelmed. She looked up at him.
“Oh, Vadas! It’s so beautiful.” She tried to put it on her left hand ring finger, but her finger was too swollen.
“Put it on your right hand, Elizabeth. You are in Hungary now. That is where a wedding ring goes.”
“Did you buy this in Budapest? It is so lovely.”
“No. Actually it comes from my Aunt Eva. She insisted I give you this. It was from her husband, long dead now. It’s pretty, no?”
“Vadas, it is the most beautiful ring I have ever seen. Please thank her for me.”
“You can thank her yourself when you meet her. Aunt Eva is sweet, and Aunt Magrit is… fierce. They are about as different as two sisters can be.”
Vadas chuckled. He was pleased at Elizabeth’s response to the ring. It fit well on her hand. Elizabeth kept looking at it, holding it up in the dim light of the room.
“Elizabeth, I have some work to do today. You can read or talk to Maria, but I have to do this alone. I’ll be back in a few hours. You be a good girl, and perhaps if it stops raining we will go visit the grapes. I need to see how they are growing.”
Elizabeth didn’t like the idea of Vadas leaving, but what could she do? She would read or go bother Maria. It was time she talked to her, anyway. Perhaps she spoke a bit of English. At least it would be some companionship. Perhaps she could learn to cook more Hungarian dishes. As long as she stayed within these walls she would be safe. That was what she wanted. To be safe from the wolf outside.