3 October 1641

I'm not sure what to do about feeling so lonely. If I tell Kurloz he'll just worry more and it'll make me feel even worse. I can't talk to my ladies about it-I'd have to explain far too much about myself. And I don't know many other people in the castle. I'd write to Kitty, but she hasn't been writing back, lately. I'm starting to get worried about her. I know she's eighteen, now, but she could've gotten hurt or sick. Anything could've happened!

I can't tell if I'm overreacting or not. Kitty's smart and she can take care of herself, but she lives alone, and she's only just turned eighteen. She's still so young. Maybe I should've stayed longer. I managed without Mama when I was seventeen, but only barely.

My head feels all tangled up in knots. I don't know what to do. I hardly know what to think.

6 October 1641

I couldn't hold it in anymore and I spilled out all my worries today to my darling.

"I haven't heard from her in so long! What if she's sick, or hurt? What if she's going hungry? Or someone's hurt her? She could be lost in the woods!"

"Meulin," he said, taking my frantic hands. "Calm down. Your sister is fine."

"How do you know?"

"She's a capable girl. She's odd, to be sure, but I'm sure she's managing fine."

"I'd rather you not call her that."

"Why not? It's true."

"I-I don't-I don't know." I didn't know how to explain it, but it bothers me when anyone besides Kitty points that out. It feels like they're putting her at a distance, like they're marking her. I know she's different, but I'm her big sister. And I don't call her anything besides my little sister.

"At any rate, I'm certain she's just fine. She's an adult now."

"But she was a child when I left."

"Meulin. She's fine. Stop worrying so much. You'll get gray hairs."

I shook my head. "I'm trying! But she's my sister."

"Just calm down," he said, holding my hands. "She's fine. Are you sure you don't want to see the physician about this? I'm worried your mind might be playing tricks on you."

"I don't know." I couldn't look him in the eye. "I'm just nervous."

"It's alright," he said again. "Take a deep breath. Your sister is fine, and I'm sure you'll hear from her soon. Come on, let's go to bed."

I nodded and let him lead me to his room. I tried to be sweet for him like I normally am, but I just couldn't stop thinking about Kitty, and I couldn't seem to bring my mind back to enjoying myself. Maybe it's the laudanum.

10 October 1641

I'm not taking the laudanum anymore, thank goodness. It feels better-I feel more awake and aware. But it comes at the cost of my pain. Now I can't stop thinking about my child, the baby I couldn't carry. How can I fancy myself a good mother if I can't even carry a child to term? If my body can't properly nurture a child, how can I hope to when I've given birth? I've let everyone down-my husband, his parents, my ladies, and my child.

Maybe I'll write my sister. I try not to let her worry about me, but I trust her. She should know, anyways-she's nearly as excited for me to have a baby as I am. I'm sure she'll be kind and offer kindness, and that's all I need.

Have I let her down, too? I left her when she was only sixteen and now I'm not even having a child. Have I ever done anything besides make mistakes?

13 October 1641

Kurloz has been acting so quiet since I miscarried. He looks at me like I'm a ghost of myself, translucent and hardly there, and he walks and talks like he's the one who's a specter. Grief can do strange things to people, I know (it's done plenty of strange things to me) but I wish he'd let me help. I don't know what else to do. He doesn't want to talk to me, and I can't just fix him, no matter how much I want to.

I wish I still had my mama. I know she had a few miscarriages. She'd know what to say that would help. And…well, silly as it sounds, I wish she was still here to just be my mother-to make me tea and say kind things and hug me and tell me I'd be alright. I know I'm an adult now, but sometimes I know so little I feel like a child again. I just want someone I can ask for advice, for help. I'm alone here.

16 October 1641

I finally got a letter from Kitty today! It seemed a bit late, talking about the harvest beginning when it must be almost over, but she seems to be doing alright. I thought hearing from my sister would ease my mind, and it did help, but now I miss her more than ever. Reading her words and seeing her handwriting has made me miss her voice. She could drive me mad like no one else, but she's my sister, and I miss her.

I wonder if I should push my husband harder about going to see her. I'm not pregnant now, almost for sure, so it would surely be safe to see my sister. She's been through so much. The storm, the families staying with her, feeding the village…I wish I could be with her and tell her how proud I am of her.

I'll ask again tomorrow. Maybe he'll say yes.

18 October 1641

It did not go very well.

"Kurloz, I know you worry, but I'm certainly not pregnant right now. I'd really like to go see my sister."

"Why won't you let this go?" he snapped. "Can't you just stay here?"

"I love you, but I love her too. She's my sister."

"And she's fine. You've heard from her. Can't you just calm down?"

"I just want to visit her."

"And I said no!" he yelled. "Just leave me alone!" He turned back to his work, ignoring me, and said nothing else. I knew it was useless, so I went to my own desk and just stared at my books. I didn't know what else to do. Why can't he understand that I miss my sister? I don't understand how he can not understand, when he has a brother of his own. He doesn't talk about it much, but I know my husband worries about Gamzee, and I know when Gamzee doesn't have his medicine they both act strange. I wish he would understand how I feel.

22 October 1641

I don't know if I can or should write this down, but my…hm. My night life with my husband hasn't been as nice lately. He's still wonderful to me and I still think he's very handsome, and he assures me he thinks I'm lovely. But when we're together, he seems…distant. He's less affectionate and he seems like he's somewhere else. The look in his eyes is rather like mine when I start losing focus during court. I want to ask him about it, but I'm not sure what to say. What can I say? I don't know how to talk about these things, even with the man I sleep with.

I almost wish I still talked with Porrim. She said things that got under my skin and she was rude about my husband, but she knew things about sleeping with men (and women, too, but I've got a husband). I'm sure she'd tell me to just find someone else, but at least she'd know. It's not as if I can ask my ladies or even my sister. I could not manage those words in front of the scribe.

Maybe I should just drink some wine and allow the liquid courage to do its work.

25 October 1641

We're going to have guests again soon. Goodness, entertaining can take a lot out of me. It's probably for the best I'm not pregnant-I can't imagine being pregnant and trying to have guests. I believe a count and countess are coming this time. It'll be more of the same-dinners, dances, formal court, charity. I hope this time I feel less lost. I know I'll never be as skilled as my mother-in-law or even my ladies, but I hope this time I feel less like a child pretending to spin next to her mother with scrap yarn.

Kurloz assures me I'll do fine, and reminds me I have every time before. He's kind that way. I know he doesn't really understand what it's like to be brought into this world as an adult, but he's sweet and kind and he worries about making sure I feel comfortable. He says he's sure I'll be a wonderful duchess someday.

29 October 1641

Ever since giving charity this Sunday, I've been thinking about something my mother-in-law said. I asked her while we having tea afterwards if she had always wanted children.

"Of course," she said. "I always knew I would be a mother someday."

"I mean, did you want to have children?"

She gave me the oddest look. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"When you were young, did you want to have children? Is that something that you…looked forward to, or dreamed about?"

"I never thought much about it," she said simply. "I'm sure I acted out my wedding when I was a little girl, and of course the other children and I played at being adults. Hm…" She looked off into the distance, at something just over my shoulder. "I had my dolls, I suppose. Why do you ask?"

"I was only curious."

She nodded. "Well, best be careful with questions like that around my husband-and yours. You wouldn't want them to think you don't intend to have children."

"I want to have children," I said, and it's still true.

"I know."

I couldn't think of anything else to say until she asked me how my needlepoint was coming. And I'm still thinking about it-both her saying she never thought about wanting, and that I shouldn't let anyone else hear me asking questions. My mama said she liked that I was curious, and I used to ask her a thousand questions a day. I just want to know things. I hope that doesn't get me in trouble.

31 October 1641

It's All Souls' today, and it's not much here but we had a nice dinner for our guests and some dancing. The count may be a bit snobbish, but he's interesting enough for a dance or two. I'm looking forward to All Saints' tomorrow! I remember an old story my mother told me, about a lying man who promised to pay back another man on the day of Saint Glinin, who doesn't exist, or doesn't have a day. The other man accepted, but then realized he'd never get his money back, and so he went to a judge. The judge ruled that the money had to be paid on All Saints', because it's the day for every saint, even the made-up ones.

None of my family have saint's days, so I think she told us that story so we wouldn't feel left out. I still think of that story each November first.

1 November 1641

Today was such a day! In the morning we had services, of course, but then we had a wonderful supper and dance. I'm getting better at these slow dances. I think I'm starting to get good at being a noblewoman! My love and I danced for an hour together and it felt so wonderful to be with him. He has the most beautiful eyes, and the way he looks at me makes me weak in the knees.

The food was delicious. It always is, but I think the cooks really outdid themselves! We had these incredible savory pies and more sweets than I've ever seen in one place before. I've been putting on weight since being here, much to my delight, and I'm sure I put on some more tonight! Kurloz says I only grow more beautiful each day, and he says he'd think I was lovely if I was skinny as a stick, but I still want to be beautiful for him.

Anyways, I want to be healthy for my baby. I've seen plenty enough pregnancies lost to hunger, and I don't want that happen to me or my child.

5 November 1641

I miss my mother so badly. I can go days without thinking of it, or at least not feeling sad, but then I lie down for bed and I remember that she's gone. It always seems to happen when I go to bed, when I've stopped working for the day and let my mind wander. I remember again that I had a mother, and I love her, and she loved me, and I don't have a mother anymore. She was smart and kind and she took care of people and she believed in doing what was right. How can such a person just…vanish?

I believe she is in Heaven and that she's safe there, but she's gone from this world. People say to remember that she's always with me in my heart, and that may be true, but she's not here in the ways that matter. I know the things she taught me will always be with me, and I'll always have the memories of her, and that doesn't make this any easier.

I want to go home. I want to see Kitty and visit my mother's grave, just once. I think it would help.

8 November 1641

I think it's the darkness that's made me so melancholy these days. It's still a month and a half until the solstice, but already the days are short and dim. When the sun is up, it's pale and distant. Even if my husband did let me outside, I'm not sure I'd enjoy riding these cool, windy days. The leaves have fallen but the snow hasn't, and the world is just gray and cold.

Goodness, I sound melancholy. Maybe I am succumbing to hysteria.

11 November 1641

I haven't heard from Kitty in almost a month. I know writing more than once a week would be asking a lot, but I thought I'd hear from her at least a couple of times a month. It makes me restless with nerves. I know she's probably too busy living her own life, but I can't shake the worry. How can I, when she's only eighteen? Anything could've happened to her. Maybe she's not writing because she's sick or injured and she needs me and I'm not there for her! Maybe she needs me for some other reason-because she's lonely, or hungry, or cold-and she's trying to write but her letters aren't coming through.

I feel ill. My stomach turns when I think of all the things that could have happened to her. I have to hear from her soon.

16 November 1641

I poured out my worries to my husband today, since five more days have passed with no letter, and now he's worried about me.

"I'm just so nervous, Kurloz. How can I know she's safe? I'm responsible for her safety and I can't know she's safe! I'm-I don't feel well."

"Sit down," he said, guiding me to a fainting couch. "My dear, I'm sure she's fine. Your sister is a responsible young lady. If she were in trouble, she'd let you know."

"But what if she can't? What if she's so ill she can't write, or can't afford paper?"

"Meulin. You need to calm down."

"She's my sister, Kurloz!"

"Meulin. Breathe. Your sister is perfectly fine, I'm sure. Lie down." He helped me lie down so I could catch my breath, and sat next to me until I could breathe again. "Dearest, I'm worried about you."

"I-I can't help it."

"I worry that your mind is suffering."

"I miss my sister and my mother."

"Meulin," he said, sitting next to me and taking my hand. "Please. I'm worried for you. Can I call the doctor?"

"Please don't go."

"I'm right here with you. Can I bring you some medicine? I have some laudanum."

"No…"

"My dear, you need sleep. You're not well. Just a little, to help calm your nerves."

"Alright," I acquiesced. I'm feeling very sleepy now, and I think it's time I get some sleep. Maybe I'll feel better in the morning.

19 November 1641

I can't stop worrying about my sister. The laudanum helps, but I can't stop the worries. I need to do something! I need to hear from her or see her or…or something! I feel like I'm losing my mind. I can't tell if I'm overreacting or my mind is going or something else. I feel like I'm going to shake myself to pieces with stress. I need to do something.

22 November 1641

I know I shouldn't have done it, but I went into the village today. I haven't seen my sister in almost a year, and I missed her too much to ignore. I snuck out because I knew Kurloz would never let me go. He worries too much. So I told him I was going riding with Ellen, and I just hoped he wouldn't ask her. He doesn't really talk to my ladies, so I figured it was safe enough. It's not proper, apparently, for him to talk too much my ladies, or any ladies who aren't family.

I went right to my old home, because I thought I'd find her their and because I missed it. Kitty wasn't at the house, so I went into the village to look for her, but I ran into Porrim instead.

"Meulin? Where have you been? We haven't heard from you in…in months! Not even your sister!"

"What do you mean? I write her every week. She doesn't respond, mind, but I write her."

"She hasn't heard from you in almost three months," Porrim said. "She asked my sister about it."

I was so confused I couldn't even begin to make sense of that. I felt a little dizzy. "Porrim," I said. "Does she-did she keep any of my letters?"

"Of course."

"I need to see them."

"Are you alright? I can come with you."

"Please."

She walked me home and I went up to Kitty's desk and found my letters. Only they weren't my letters. Mine are much longer than that-I tell her everything that's happening and ask lots of questions. On her desk was a small stack of short, brusque letters saying not much at all. I tried to read them but I was shaking too badly.

"Porrim. I didn't write these."

"Then who the hell did?"

"I don't know."

I sat down heavily in her chair and it came to me all at once. I didn't want to believe it, but there's only one person I could think of who would know to send my sister letters through the scribe. Only one person who would bother. No one else could mimic me well enough to keep Kitty from knowing. "I think…I think my husband did it."

Porrim made a face. "Are you doing alright up there?" She looked at me like she could see right through me and I felt dizzy again.

"I-I don't know."

"Meulin," she said gently. "Whatever's going on, you can tell me. I'm not judging."

"You said I shouldn't marry him!"

"Sure, but you're an adult. You get to make your own choices. Anyways, I didn't think he was a shithead, just a man."

"He is just a man."

"But is he a man who's mistreating you?"

I didn't know what to say. I still don't know.

"You don't have to answer," she said. "Just…know that I'm here. If you ever want to talk, or whatever. Anything you need."

I nodded, and she left. As she was leaving, I heard Kitty come home and I ran downstairs to her. "Kitty," I said breathlessly. "I-I'm so sorry. I've been writing every week but I think-I think my husband has been stopping the letters, and I haven't been hearing back from you-"

"Meulin?" she asked. "What on Earth are you doing here?"

"I came to see you. I missed you."

"You never write."

"I've been writing. Every week."

"Then why haven't I heard from you?"

"I think my husband is stopping the mail," I confessed. "I saw the letters upstairs, and I-I didn't write those. I think he did."

Her eyes went wide. "Why would he do that?"

"I don't know. I have to go back soon, but I just needed to see you."

"Why did you leave?"

"I thought it was right."

"I was too young, Meulin. I was sixteen!"

"You're right. I shouldn't have. I don't know why I did. I don't-it doesn't make sense. I need to-to think. I'll write. I'll make sure it goes through."

"Alright," she said reluctantly. "I love you, Linny."

"I love you too, Kitty."

I made my way back home and I don't know what to do or to think. How can I ask him about this without mentioning I snuck out to the village? Should I? Is there any explanation he could give that would be enough? My head feels tied up in knots. I don't know what's right anymore. I don't even know what's true anymore.

25 November 1641

I can't think of a way to ask my husband about the letters without somehow revealing that I left to see my sister, and he'd be furious. I don't even want to think about what he'd do. I want to ask him so he can tell me what's really going on, and we could laugh about the misunderstanding. I want to believe that there's an explanation for why he'd stop my letters from getting to my sister, or hers from getting to me. There has to be some reason. I trust him, and I love him. He's always been such a kind man-how could he do something like this to me?

My head aches with this confusion. I don't know who I can talk to. I can't write anyone without my husband reading it. What am I supposed to do?

28 November 1641

I got a letter from Kitty today about the kittens, Button's babies. It was nice and I'm glad to hear they're alright, but I realized also that this is the way I can ask. I can tell him Kitty never told me Button had kittens and ask if he knows what happened to the letters. It's going to be alright, because he's going to have some good reason for why he did it, or know something else.

I've been thinking about writing Kitty in Russian. We both speak it decently, her better than I, and I don't think anyone in the palace does. But I'd still be writing through the scribe, and he certainly doesn't speak Russian. I just don't know how else I can write to her and know for sure she's hearing from me. I'm her big sister! I'm her big sister and I left her with nothing to hold on to. How could I have done that?

1 December 1641

I worked up the courage to do it today. I asked my darling about the letters.

"Darling?"

"Yes, dear?"

"This last letter from my sister-she's talking about Button's kittens, as if I should know about them, but she never mentioned her being pregnant or having kittens. Is it possible some of her letters got lost?"

"Possibly. Letters don't always go to and from your village terribly quickly."

"But you've always gotten my letters eventually."

"I could talk to the messengers for you," he offered. "Maybe one of them has been falling down on the job."

"That would be nice," I said. "Do you think she's getting my letters, if I'm not getting hers all the time?"

"Our messengers are very good. I doubt they'd lose any letters. But I could check. She might also have forgotten to mention your cat having kittens."

"I suppose. Thank you, dear."

"Of course, my love. Anything to ease your mind."

I turned back to my book, but I couldn't read. I felt like my chest was collapsing because he was lying, and he was lying to me. He lies to his father and the court and people who ask him rude questions-that's just politics. But this time he lied to me. He's been changing my letters and he lied to me like it was nothing. I'm normally very good at reading people and he didn't act like he was lying, not like how most of my other friends do.

I don't know what to do now. If he's lying to me, what can I possibly do or say? How can I find the truth? If he can lie to me like this now, what else has he lied about?

I don't know.

4 December 1641

It's Advent and we have to appear in public a lot now, for church and charity and court and all that, and I have to act like everything is fine. I have to sit at my husband's side and pretend I don't know that he's been keeping me from talking to my own sister. I don't know what I can do. I can't tell him I know, because he'd be furious with me. But I also can't just let it keep going this way! Kitty's only eighteen. She's old enough and smart enough to take care of herself but I left her alone. I never meant to leave her without family.

My head hurts. I don't know what to do.

7 December 1641

My husband noticed I've been acting differently lately, quieter and keeping to myself.

"My love?" he asked.

"Yes?"

"Are you alright? You've been so quiet."

"I-it's nothing."

"It's not nothing if it's something that's worrying you," he said, so gentle and soft. How can I believe he's lying to me when he can speak so kindly?

"I'm just worried about my sister," I said. "I'm worried she's not getting my letters."

"I spoke with the messengers, and apparently there is one man who was ignoring his responsibilities. I've had him removed. I'm sure that's the end of it."

"I hope so."

"Why don't I call the physician again? Maybe some medicine can do you good."

"I don't know."

"Just try it and see if it helps. Please?"

He may be lying, but how could I say no when he asked like that? "Alright," I said. "I'll try."

So I'm seeing the physician again tomorrow, and he'll probably have me take more laudanum, and I don't think I want to but I'm not sure what else to do.

10 December 1641

I don't think I like taking laudanum, but it does make everything seem…softer. The things that worry me don't feel as worrying when I'm taking it. My husband surely has good reasons for keeping things from me; my sister is surely doing fine on her own; I will surely be pregnant and have a child soon. I don't like the way it makes me feel slightly apart from myself, but it makes things feel so much easier.

But then it wears off and I remember again that my husband is lying to me and I left my sister too young and I'm still not pregnant, and it hurts.

15 December 1641

Today was the third Sunday of Advent, which is for peace, and it almost feels like a joke. I have never been less at peace-not when I was a starving child, not when I was alone on the streets, not even when my mother died. I've never been more confused.

And yet here I am, walking arm and arm with my darling like there's nothing wrong in the world. No one's told me yet that my smile looks forced or warned me that I'll get worry lines. Sometimes when I look up at his face, that beautiful face with his wonderful smile, I just fall in love all over again. How could he lie to me? He's always been here for me. He was by my side when my mother died, for goodness' sake! I love him. How can I not trust him?

But then, if he's been lying to me, how can I trust him?

19 December 1641

I wrote to my sister for Christmas. I'm sending her a present-some seeds for herbs we've always wanted to grow but could never afford. I hope it's enough. I can't tell her how sorry I am through my letters if she's not getting them, but I can send her something to try to make it better.

Is she getting my gifts? I didn't think to ask. Would he stop her from getting gifts from me, too? I don't understand why he'd stop my letters, so I have no idea if he'd stop the gifts, too. I just want my little sister to have nice things. We were never all that bad off with Mama, or even after she passed, but we weren't wealthy. Now that I'm married, I want her to have some of the nice things I have, things we wanted as children. And I want to make sure she's alright.

I hope the gift goes through and the letter, too. I just wish I knew how to check.

22 December 1641

Today is the last Sunday of Advent, for love, and my darling was so sweet today. He kissed me after dinner and told me I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever met and he was so glad he'd married me. He says such kind things. And when we went to bed, it was just wonderful. He was so sweet and gentle, like he was when we were newlyweds (and before). I don't know why he's so kind and happy sometimes, and other times he'll hardly look at me. How can he be so wonderful one day and so distant the next?

It's confusing. I love him, with all my heart. I know he loves me. He went through so much to marry me. What on Earth is he thinking?

25 December 1641

It was a lovely Christmas. The food was delicious and we had fun dancing and the priest gave a lovely sermon about the light in the darkness, and it was good! There's no reason I should be missing my old Christmases, with Mama and Kitty, and yet.

Despite a bit of lingering melancholy, I had a truly wonderful day. My darling and I danced together, and it was such fun. He's a very good dancer and I love the feeling of being swept up in the music and the steps. I think I'm at my best when I'm dancing with him. I've danced with other men but I don't always know what they're about to do; with Kurloz, I'm always right there with him. We move together, and I know his arms will be there on the next step. It makes me feel a bit weak in the knees, sometimes, how romantic he is. We work so well together. I love him.

29 December 1641

It's so cold in the castle. The fires are always stacked high (and I don't even have to go out to chop wood, which is a bit of a novelty) and I have as many quilts as I could ever need, but the stone walls make it seems cold.

I don't think this bothered me so much last year. Maybe it's just that I didn't feel so cold inside. I always felt so warm inside when I thought of my darling, before. My cheeks would go red and I'd feel like I was getting into a nice, hot bath. Now whenever I think of him, I think of the lies, and it makes me shiver. It reminds me of jumping into the river feet-first, without taking the time to get used to the cold snowmelt.

I've asked one of the servants to keep my fire extra-warm. I feel odd asking them anything-I feel odd even calling them servants-but I do feel cold, and I want to stay healthy so I can have a baby.

31 December 1641

Tomorrow begins the new year. It's going to be different. I know in my heart that there's no line between one year and the next, nothing that makes 1642 different from 1641 except that we decide it is, but it still feels important. Things can change with the new year. We resolve to change things, to do things differently. This year, I'm going to put in the work to make my marriage better. I'm going to sort out the lies and find out why he did it and we'll be better off, stronger together. There is a new year coming and I will make it better.