My Name is Minette, Chapter Eleven: Paw’s Plan

“Irma’s right,” Minette said. “It’s a little early to talk about this, isn’t it?” She tried a smile. Maw and Paw liked to get serious sometimes, to impart Elder Wisdom upon the Youths, but those moments never lasted long. Minette just had to get through this one.

“I met a boy who goes to school in town,” Rhys piped up. “He’s my age, and he’s the son of the candlemaker. If they can–”

“It’s never too early to get your affairs in order,” Maw said, barely blinking at Rhys’ words.

Rhys went quiet. Minette had nothing to say, either, and definitely not Irma.

“I thought you’d be happy,” Paw added after the silence hung around too long, and Minette didn’t miss the edge of hurt in his tone.

Minette’s heart fell into her tummy. She sighed. “I… I just don’t think I’m ready yet,” she said. “I could use some more time. To practice. At the smithy.” It was the most and the least she could say to appease Paw and eliminate any suspicion. Minette didn’t know how to explain herself if he learned that she didn’t want to be the man of the house. She didn’t want to run a smoky, choking business for forty years and then die because of it and consign her beefy son to the same fate. She didn’t want to impregnate some woman. She didn’t want to drop her kids on a wife locked at home while Minette compared her muscles with other men at the pub and complained about naughty children and nagging.

“Of course y’are!” Paw exclaimed. “We’ll go to the mines tomorrow. I want you to find me the softest ore. Something good to work on on your own. Once you do that, we’ll start your partnership, and let the women in town know you’re eligible. It’ll all fall together.”

Minette nodded, running a sweaty hand through her hair. She schooled the look on her face. He made it sound so easy, like she’d stumble into the forge and then stumble home to bed her wife. Easy peasy. She’d thought he would back off, give her time. Some pointers, maybe. But instead, he’d only doubled down. 

In that moment, Minette had already run through a million and one different scenarios where she sabotaged Paw’s copper test or intentionally pulled out the grossest, worst piece of copper ever, but she crossed them all off her mental list. Paw knew her too well to fall for a trick like that. Plus, if he did think she was that brick dumb stupid, it still wouldn’t stop the part Minette was truly afraid of: the siring of sons. The sense of duty. The unseen woman, the loyal wife.

“That hair,” Maw added, nodding over at Paw. “That goes, too.”


Theo Poling is a Creative Writing and Arts double major at the University of Michigan. In their free time, Theo enjoys fostering cats, baking, and going on hikes. Theo is transgender, nonbinary, and bisexual, and is passionate about representing LGBTQ people in positive ways in genre fiction. Theo's series, We Exist! is a weekly serial that publishes short story chapters about empowered queer protagonists in science fiction and fantasy settings, where queer people have previously been excluded. Check out the newest installment of We Exist! every Thursday.

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