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God Help Me

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It was a dull sort of day, rainy and dreary as so much of the year had been, when Elizabeth Proctor decided to broach the subject of hiring someone to help around the house to her husband.  They were sitting quietly in their kitchen, the only sound the low crackling of the fire, and John winced a bit when his wife spoke up.  He cared not for hearing her speak.

“I need someone to help me, John,” Elizabeth told him.  She sounded quite exhausted – and more than that, she sounded like a woman who had lost the will to go on.  “I cannot raise two sons and keep a good Christian house without help.”

“Who do you expect to help you?” John asked, and tiredness crept into his own voice.  He put his hand against his forehead, taking deep breaths to stop any anger that was bubbling in him.  “Is there a girl you have in mind?”

“Reverend Parris has a niece…” Elizabeth began tentatively.  “Now don’t be angry, John, I know what you think of Reverend Parris, but she is not yet employed, and I do feel sorry for the girl.”  She twisted her hands in her lap a little and lowered her voice.  “I heard tell in Salem that her parents were killed by Indians.  It would be charitable of us to take her in, do you not think?”

John made a soft grunting noise, indicating general assent.  Elizabeth bit on her lip and fidgeted, clearly put off by his reaction.

“I do not mean to anger you, John,” she whispered.  “If you do not want a relation of Reverend Parris in our home…”

“No,” he said, a touch more sharply than he had meant.  “If you need help, then it would be wrong of me to deny you.”

Elizabeth let out a wavering breath.  “I do not mean to displease you, John.”

“You do not displease me.”

She rose to her feet and pushed back from the table and moving to the pot that hung over the fire, stirring it listlessly.  John watched her with mixed affection and irritation – affection because damn it all, she was his wife, and a good woman, and irritation because he could not begin to comprehend why of all people, she would want kin of Reverend Parris in her home.  He had always thought that she shared his sentiments about the man – clearly not so.

But she was still his wife, and he meant to please her.

“I shall go into Salem tomorrow and fetch her,” he said, rather grudgingly.  “If she accepts the post, then all the better, and if she does not…”

“If she does not?”  Elizabeth turned from the pot, looking at him with a careful expression.

He sighed.

“If she does not, promise me that you will hire another girl – any girl but Betty Parris.”

She nodded gravely.  “I promise, John,” she told him, and he believed her, for his wife would never tell a lie, after all.