My family chose my husband for me as is usual, but I found I actually liked their choice. Girls tend to get used to their marriage partner and over many years, they develop a deep respect and sometimes love. I think that’s what my parents had and it served them well all their lives. But had I been allowed a free choice of husband, I might even have chosen him myself.
I was fourteen and he sixteen and there was an instant crackle like lightning between us. He held my gaze, confident but not arrogant. I looked away for the sake of what was proper, but snatched glimpses of him throughout the evening. I thought he might have looked away but he was watching me every time. He gave me that crooked smile of his, even raised a glass to me once. I hoped my parents didn’t notice but they were too busy swapping tales of farming and marauding with his parents.
We moved into his family house and I brought my dowry with me, as we all do. Mother was especially generous with the blankets and linen, so I felt quite the lady. He treated me well, making sure there was enough food and the supplies for the fire never ran out. I enjoyed making home for him and was so happy when I produced one, then two, then three small boys in their father’s image. He would ruffle their hair and remark how they might look like him but they took after me in nature.
It was soon after that I started to realize what he meant. His father was old and became too ill to work, so he took on the role as head of the family. I think the old man found it hard to pass on the title, but he had no choice. He didn’t survive even one winter before he died in his sleep. My husband was now officially head of the family. He owned all the farmlands outside our house and would take care of all our relatives if they fell on hard times. He would be a great man and I loved him more than ever.
But he sometimes slept late and the cows would moo as if in pain, until he rolled out of bed and saw to them. He fed the animals later and later in the day, so they too began to complain in their own way. One day he didn’t get up all day, but yelled for food and drink to be taken to him. His mother and I took turns in looking after him and the animals. We couldn’t manage the land though and the crops went untended. Perhaps one day wouldn’t matter.
He became more and more lazy. The crops began to fail and the animals sickened, producing less milk and fewer eggs. Some died, and my respect for him did too. My love went soon after that. I had our divorce witnessed at the doorstep and at the bedside. He was still in the bed and rolled over as I said the words.
Leaving his mother was the hardest decision, for leaving him was no choice at all. I took our boys back to my own family and they helped me carry my blankets and linens. My own mother welcomed me home and I knew she was sorry the choice they had made had gone badly. I pitied the old woman and wondered what would become of her with that son the only one left to take care of her.