VI - THEN

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"Agnesa," Bendt yelled from the field. "Agnesa, come here!"

Out from the house came Bendt's fourteen-year-old sister, her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl on her face. "What," she growled. It wasn't a question.

"I asked you to tend to the chickens, but have yet to see a single grain of feed in the yard."

"Perhaps the fat things ate it already."

"And if they are to remain fat enough to eat, they need to be fed. Now go."

Agnesa stomped her feet with a childishness that made Bendt feel like screaming. "Why can't Yvette do it?"

"Because," Bendt said through clenched teeth, "Yvette is tending the cows. And before you ask about Kat, she is pulling weeds from the vegetable garden. Our sisters are working hard to care for our land and I am growing tired of asking you to do the same."

"Who died and made you king of the farm?"

Bendt's eyes narrowed and he clenched his fists as he approached his younger sister, "If you are asking honestly, may the Lord have mercy on you for your ignorance. I am three years your senior and the head of this family since the death of our father. I suggest you get to your chores before I get truly angry."

His rage deflated Agnesa's defiance and she bowed her head, "Yes, brother..."

"Good." Bendt turned on his heel and started to storm off but Agnesa's voice halted him.

"Bendt, where are you going?"

"To pray for the strength to put up with the likes of you. Go feed the chickens."

"But-"

"Now, Agnesa!"

The girl scurried off as he yelled at her and Bendt instantly regretted it. He breathed a sigh of frustration, more at himself than his younger sister. The death of their father had hit all of them harder than a brick, and the last four years had not been kind to their mother. The woman refused to rest easy, instead pushing herself - and her health - to the very end of her limits. Bendt found himself growing more and more frustrated, not only with his family but with the world around him as well. A boy of nineteen was a man who should be on his way to courting a wife. Instead, Bendt spent all of his time split between the farm and church, working himself to exhaustion and then praying for the strength to keep going. His fists balled at his sides as he scolded himself and threw a punch at the solid trunk of an ancient tree. The skin of Bendt's knuckles shredded away as the punch connected with the bark, causing him to let out a groan of anguish.

"Damnit!"

Bendt groaned again, upset with himself for cursing. He truly was stuck in some kind of vicious cycle of anger... At least he was already on his way to the church. Confession tended to lighten the load that tightened his chest these days.

#

The small stone church was bitterly cold inside, not unusual for spring but not overly common either so Bendt didn't feel guilty for lighting a few extra prayer candles in the hopes of bringing in more warmth. Closing his eyes and folding his hands before him, Bendt knelt by the candles and began to pray.

"Heavenly Father, I beg of you to grant me the courage to change the things I can, the strength to endure the things I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. There is only so much I can do on my own. I do not wish to raise my voice toward Agnesa. I simply... All I yearn for is a life of happiness for all of my sisters, for my mother. I would sacrifice my own happiness, my own life, if it would bring a better one for all of them... Please, O Lord above, please..."

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