“Absolutely,” he said, in a voice that was quiet and comforting, “I promise you, everything will turn out alright—you’ll see.”
Maria sniffed in response, and turned over so that she faced him, and could indistinctly decipher his striking, familiar features from within the shadows. He watched her and waited patiently for her following reply:
“…I’m so sorry I yelled at you, Kaspar,” she said, “and bit you and tried to hurt you. Please, please forgive me… I was only angry at you, and at Emanuel, for being…Kaspar, please forgive me.”
“Of—of course, Maria. Please, don’t you ever worry in the least that I would truly put you in harm’s way; or at harm’s instigation, for that matter. And—I’m the one who should be sorry. I wasn’t thinking of you in the slightest, when Herr Lutz offered that job.”
Kaspar watched his sister’s facial expression slowly transcend into something unrecognizable.
“Well, I should think that quite obvious,” she said, her previously shuddering vocals suddenly abandoned for an air of unyielding granite. “You obviously didn’t stop to imagine what passions you’d put me through in the next twenty-four hours, after you accepted the proposal;” she continued, “ Nor were you sympathetic to my future welfare; the factor of my being female was undoubtedly held to your idealistic advantage: You went, in as few minutes as possible, from regarding me as a sister to dismissing me as a submissive tool—one that would jump and run and fuck whenever and whomever you pleased, while you reclined to this mattress the following evening to contemplate all the ducats, all the money you previously received, and would be receiving, at the expense of your female instrument. Granted, you were not raised in a way particularly striving to follow a much different set of mind; however, your common senses should have alarmed you of the inevitable excesses you would meet if you continued to live within the borders you were taught to keep steady sight of. You forgot about reason, Kaspar—simple, unbiased reason—and while you are not the first to do so, you must realize that, unlike when you were in the shadows of our brothers, years ago, you are not allowed by reality many mistakes regarding its concreted ‘reason’. It should also be taken into consideration that the very fact that it is I who has recognized this first, and not my older, presumably more responsible brother, indicates that immediate change is necessary on your part; otherwise, I might as well be ridded from this earth. And also yourself, in time.” She finished her present monologue, and looked sternly to Kaspar, awaiting a reply that would presumably accommodate her accusations.
But Kaspar balked, and only returned the stare.
It was something new, something so extraordinarily new to him to behold Maria—or really, any woman—behaving in such a fashion to him.
Never had he fathomed that his sister fostered such intricate, verbose thoughts—characterized with such surprising arrogance; largely more so than he had ever dreamed of a proper girl to possess.
It was even stranger that his sister had never once exhibited or seemed capable of exhibiting such fiery intentions as he had just witnessed; that factor alone invariably planted the cause for him to muse that maybe, just maybe, this attitude—this behaviour of his sister’s might actually be her true self, or rather—the assertive, intelligent characteristics of her true self that she had always been taught to hide within a man’s presence.
With the commencement of his own selfish assumptions, these ‘true’ characteristics had clearly been forced out of their previous concealment: They had probably been weathering at her inward restraints for years, now; it seemed that they had finally broken loose under the unbearable weight of his forsakenness.
Every word, every point she had presented in her speech had been unfalteringly correct; he knew that his ulterior reasons had been of chauvinistic descent; however it was still quite shocking to Kaspar, to find himself thrown into a disdainful, searingly pervasive light—all of his faults, which had been readily ignored by all others—were now wholly and irretrievably exposed.
Kaspar had already told her he was sorry, and that he had decided he would decline from Herr Lutz’s deal for her sake; but she was right—though he was currently committing a good deed, a considerable change was still in belated order—a change that, along with his earlier vow of protection and love, made a demand of his perpetual viewing of her as an equal, as a human being who was capable of deeper thoughts, and of view points that were quite different from his own.
He shamefully recognized that he found the very idea to be as unfamiliar and as unwelcoming to him as his initial impression of the Y--- shelter had been.
Maybe not as cold, and certainly not as lonely—but it stripped him of his pride all the same.
The only reason he had resorted to board there was because there was not, at the time, any other logical option. It was either be deprived of his dominance, and his self-esteem, or be starved and frozen to the core along side with his remaining responsibility.
The same unappealing terms seemed to apply to this situation very much the same, although now the only potential starvation and sickness was of the very nature that would readily incubate itself to his aching heart, instead of his body.
However, survival without his heart(figuratively, of course), or his body was most certainly out of the question—he would reasonably choose to preserve his emotional and physical well-being, as he had instinctively chosen to do so previously when he and his sister were challenged with life on the street, as they had been, many months ago.
Otherwise, as Maria earlier stated, it would be better resigning himself to be wiped away from the face of the earth, some time before or soon after Maria herself would.
So, he had no other choice but to—as his sister desired, ceaselessly—consent to all and every one of her accusations, her elucidations, with as much resigned, mature sincerity as his pride would allow.
After he spoke and acknowledged her restrained justice, Maria fell back onto the bed.
Her former countenance had left her, and she laughed weakly. She apparently hadn’t truthfully believed that her older brother would see the exasperated logic intertwined within her speech. And though she had shaken with vehemence and utmost belief in her words, she still fully expected a kind, subtle dismissal from him.
When she told him this, he said nothing. He was beginning to feel awful—abhorrent—for his lifelong behaviour towards Maria. He was going to have to fix the damage he’d done—and he’d have to start tonight. Tonight, he’d prove to her that he loved her, no matter how she sinned, no matter how or who she loved—and certainly, not because she was a trained, submissive girl.
The electricity in the next room flickered for a moment, and then went out, throwing the two small rooms of the apartment into a near suffocating, silent eeriness. The room became hot, and filled with the sound of their mingling breaths; Kaspar recovered, and got up after a moment of this, and said that he was going to open the window in the next room to let some air in. He hoped Maria wouldn’t think him tactless.
On the contrary, she waited for him, pleased and patient for him; and silently counted his careful steps making their way to the window; she heard the sound of the glass pane sliding upwards, and the warm, sleepy breeze that slowly made its way through the opening.She heard him pause there, at the window, and she pictured him in the next room, standing appreciatively in the luminescent beams that the moon and the stars could only be responsible for—she wanted to join him there, so she could watch him and appreciate his face, and to be sure that he was really telling her the truth, that he really did love her as much as she prayed he did.
After a moment, Kaspar returned, and asked her if she wanted to sleep on the couch in the main room instead, as it was so much more comfortable; he wanted to sleep on the floor, beside the couch.
She replied, yes, of course she wanted to sleep in the warm, sleepy room with its luminescent moon light; Kaspar smiled at her, and took her hand; he led her to the next room, where she was more than glad to be settled on the small couch.
She lay on her back, her head towards the wall, so she could look up and to the right, out the window, where she could watch the stars glimmering, the hundreds of them sparkling high above, much like she used to watch them years before, in her own bed, in her own room, in her home village, with the knowledge that her family was no more than a bedroom away.
Kaspar appeared beside her, and spread his long coat out on the floor, which he climbed on top of and collapsed, gratefully.
Maria watched him lift his gaze to the window just as she had done, and saw him recognize the enormity of the great expanse of the sky, just outside their window; he had surely had a similar view of the sky by his bed, back in their home village, as well.
She felt calm, tranquil; the evils that had caused her to act so violently and selfishly the past two days were gone—as were his, as well.
She couldn’t imagine what had bred Kaspar’s willingness to amend his heart, and didn’t dare ask; she was all too content with where her mind was, right then.
In that room, she couldn’t imagine being with anyone but with Kaspar, no one else but him; even Emanuel seemed distant in her thoughts, for once.She forgave Kaspar, utterly, and that was all that was needed—for that night.