Maiden Wreath – part 13

Morning came way faster than I had hoped for, I heard the cock call out two times, which was that bird’s maximum capacity of singing, only to think it was still early. I grunted out the injustice hunting me, felt warmth coming from somewhere near and curled myself up against it before falling back asleep.

Next time I woke up hours later, still against something warm and I was clad for it. I didn’t open my eyes to know the sun was now beaming through the small crannies in the wall, but it hadn’t warmed up the inside of the loft yet.

I heard Erika turn herself and taking in a good breath, before continuing her sleep and figured it couldn’t be too late of the day. Then I felt a roughly edged calm breathing across my hair and realized finally what had kept me warm all night and that made me curl up even more against Dalek, even so I managed to wake him up.

“Morning.” He whispered dreamily and wedged himself slightly apart, probably realizing he was still holding my hand he had hooked in his to prevent me from moving away.

“Magnus will sure kill you now.” I joked, disliking the cold air that passed through between us.

He grinned, brushing over his eyes. “He came at dawn to wake you,” he said, “he was surprised I was still alive.”

“Alright, let’s just drop this killing thing – otherwise it might seem like we’re planning something against you.” I pulled myself away and stretched my aching muscles as long as the space allowed.

He turned his eyes back on me and I felt my heart jump seeing them in pure light, all glazing and shiny, accompanied with his perfect crooked smile. “You’re not?”

“No!” I muttered, loosing my thought in those wonderful silver grey deep seas. “You know, I’ve told you all my secrets and you didn’t even have to drench me with mead.” I moved on fast. I still feared I might harm him during the night, but the pain in my wrist bones indicated he’d found the solution to that. Not quite to my liking, had to note him to slightly loosen his grip in the future, but it was still better than asking my father to make chains on my wedding bed.

He let out a low laughter. “I’ve noticed.”

“But even up to this point I know little about you.” I continued sadly. It was true I had shown him my deepest fears not really thinking twice if what I did benefited me or not. But he was still a mystery to me.

“What have you learned about me then?” he teased, collectedly as if fearing his free attitude mere jiff before had revealed too much.

My eyes widened – he looked mild, but his voice sounded as interrogating a spy!

I felt cheated. Instead of an answer I turned my back on him and curled myself up under my flower blanket. How dared he? I had revealed all what I hid inside and he had taken it without questions while giving me nothing.

Except this endless pity he felt about me and at people living here. Truth be told – I did not like it. It was the same with my brother – they like knew something more than we did and they judged us accordingly, lowering us. They acted as if we weren’t part of them anymore nor had they any relations left here. I didn’t know if other families with the returned sons had the same spirit among them. Perhaps it was normal, but this started to pug me.

“That bad, huh?” He pushed himself up and waited chopping some straws he then sent flying over my heap.

“No!” I denied and turned to face him. “It’s not that.” I beckoned him to lie back next to me so I wouldn’t have to blat it out for everybody to hear. “I just feel like” I continued when he took his place, “you keep me guessing all the time– you and Magnus – and what you say to others…” I shrugged. “Like, why are we in such hurry to be wed? If I didn’t know better, I’d think because you wish to sail away right after it. And when Magnus grew silent at the dinner table at Great Hall – right after I mentioned a probability of him having a wife?” I let out a sigh. “Before you said you felt like no one knew you here anymore, as if there was someone out there that do…”

So far I had stared at the roof right above us, but one stray thought made me face him. “It’s as if you all wish to go back home, back to your families.”

His face was serene and calm, listening every word as it’s smooched with honey, before he nodded slowly.

“I knew I made the right choice when I asked your hand.”

Right choice? Who cared about the right choice? I had no intentions of leaving my home village! Not one what so ever!  I wasn’t the sort of person, who’d jump on a ship and fly over the waves to wherever country happened to stay on our way. I liked familiar places, same people and things with “time” written all over. Yet I wasn’t ready to let go of him either.

But after my exploit earlier I wasn’t sure he had the same perspective on our relationship. Perhaps, what made this marriage so appealing in his eyes was indeed the truth he could step on his ship and travel wherever he wished having no worries on sleeping next to a woman, who was out there to murder you.

“Yes, it is true – I do not wish to catch the fall winds.” My heart sank slightly more than I thought possible, he cupped my hand with his, before turning to me and smiled at me warmly.

“You’re leaving me behind?” I whispered the question, hoping he hadn’t heard. I dreaded asking this, but I knew if I didn’t do it now, all I would be left was wait and see upon the day, when he indeed packed his belongings and left me standing on the cottage’s door, a babe in one hand and another one coming, only do disappear for the next five years, leaving me to support our small family from absolutely nothing. That was one faith I prayed Norns had not weaved for me as this frightened me the most – I could even bare a drunker for a husband, but to become basically a widow for the time they were on seas…

“I hurry with the marriage, because I wish to take you with us and I do not play with my wife’s life setting her in the midst of autumn storms.”

With them. I listened in silence how he continued, explaining me where he wished to take me. On an island not far from here – only about two weeks journey – that laid right in the middle of nowhere, a place they could start new, where he had built a house and how some men stayed behind to watch over the settlement while they came here.

“And for a wife you came here.” I digested his tale, stroking his fingers with mine. “Oh, I apologize – time for you to take a wife. But you know – I was eligible already five years ago. Why not then?”

“I asked for a wife, not for a girl.” He murmured, pleased with his decision.

“I could have married anyone in the meantime.” I wouldn’t let this thought go. I wanted an answer, some explanation, why they hadn’t told me I was already betrothed years back, waiting until now. Or why he disappeared instead of creating home with me.

He grunted. “Why, do you think, did Hagen let you get away with declining all those offers? I hear some of them were way better than mine.”

“You had proposed no offer on me when I turned them down.”

“I had, it was just between us three – Hagen, Magnus and me.”

“Besides, they had some…” I thought for a second to ask, how big his offer had been, but passed it over, plenty of time for that later, “…undermining flaws.”

“Such as?”

“One was old.”

“I’m old, too.”

“Yes, but not that old – I mean, he was almost at the age of Ole. Even Ole said he was way too old for me, not to mention his body looked worse than a withered carrot. So I didn’t even have to find a reason – he simply left. I think somebody explained him his age, but…”

“Then there was some horse lover,” I continued, “who came here to marry me, but spent more time with the animals in the fences. I soon learned that he bargained two of father’s fastest horses as a deal for marrying me. I chained him between those horses and let them out on the field – the scream was heard all the way to the northern village!”

Now I got his attention.

“Why would you do that?” He pulled back to have a good look in my innocent eyes.

“I heard he had a slave he couldn’t marry, so he came searching for a fool, who’d marry him his daughter and make a good bargain on the way, basically buying himself another slave. Oh! And my favorite was one guy, who put his neck in line by asking two families at once, figuring one of them would agree anyway and he wouldn’t have to do it again. He asked my family and your younger sister’s hand.”

I burst laughing, thinking back on that boy – and that’s what he was, a twenty year old boy. It was pure luck for Mirth to find out after she had accepted the offer. She came straight to me and told me of her misfortune, but we sure heated his hopes then – we both agreed! Then, of chores, the scandal followed, which gave the whole village a good reason to…

“Mirth is not married to the bunk, is she?”

“No. Rig is a good man.” I chuckled – always ready to protect her sister’s honor, just as my brothers. “That boy is cropped to his head and sent back to his family so his father may learn from it and teach his other sons better.”

“How many suitors have you sent back?”

“Eight I think?” and I didn’t lie. Half of them had been merely passing through and thought to try their luck, a simple no did the trick. Only four had been somewhat more troublesome to get rid off.

Now, saying this number out loud made me think that perhaps I wasn’t that hideous to look at after all. I wasn’t one of the great beauties – Dalek’s own sisters were something amazing compared to the rest of us. At the same time, having village smith as your father-in-law sure works for your advantage.

Wait, did I hear a note of jealousy in his voice?

“You’re jealous?” I couldn’t believe this. I would have accepted jealousy if he’d been around all this time and had to watch aside how others reached out to what was promised for him. But to come here, demand marriage in short notice and then to play a jealous guy ex post the long gone relations – the man had to be mad!

Instead of an answer, he pulled me up. I stared at him, quaint feeling in my chest as he grabbed my tunics from the hays and gave them to me, one by one, frapping my shoulder strings where needed and pulling the belt tighter. He spanned me around in the process, leaving me almost nothing else to do than pull the raiment down and hold my hands away from his path unless I desired a sharp snap. He was quite good at fastening the strings and I figured this wasn’t the first time for him to dress a woman.

I hid my bola I used to hunt water birds between the creases of my scarf and was now waiting impatiently how he’d react – he had already seen my dagger, but to also carry a bola with you. But I didn’t dare to have the throwing knives on – not suitable for a lady to have a belt of six blades across her chest.

He didn’t find the bola, even when searching the brooch he gave me.

Then, after closing my neckline with it, he turned me over, placed his two hands on me and sighed decidedly.

“Yes, I’m jealous.”

And he left, leaving me behind fully dressed for the warm day. I was peered my eyes on the hatch closing after him, when Erika’s chuckle made me gaze at her shaking body dragging her blanket down.

“Now that was cute to watch!” she wheezed and smooched her lips together for a kiss she never received.

“So?” I threw at her, shaping my scarf around the shoulders. It suddenly dawned on me that so far, except that punch in the soft spot moment yesterday, we had indeed spent time only with somebody else around and it started to annoy me a little.

Her lovely eyes turned darker and much more sinister. “So he now stays for the night every night?”

I thought her remark was unbefitting and showed it accordingly. I had no objections for Sören’s visits, not what I’d said out aloud anyway – the least she could do is answer the same and leave it as it was. Especially that this was probably the last week she spent with me, not that she’d know about it, but still!

“I don’t think you should open your mouth on that,” I scolded her, “Sören has done that way longer than Dalek has.”

“Yes, but he doesn’t keep you up all night and I am getting really tired already – either Dalek sleeps in his own bed tonight or I…” she fell silent. Apparently she hadn’t thought this through yet.

I crossed my already clenched hands on my chest and turned at her fully.

“Or you what?”

I waited. She didn’t answer. There were actually several things she could do, but I doubted she’d fall that low. I would have, I was sure of it, but she was just a child yet – a pure minded fawn.

I crouched before her, so there was no way to miss what I was about to say and she had to listen well or she’ll make her life much harder than it has to be.

“Never give out promises you can’t keep!” I scolded her. “Or suggest on anything – others might finish your sentences and thus behold you responsible for things you haven’t even thought on. Do you understand?” She nodded and I got up. The wise man pulled me aside five years ago before the ceremony just to tell me that and I thought it to be my obligation to spread the word among my sisters too or to my own children one day.

“What time is it?” I asked instead of forcing myself to be angry. After the long evening at the Great Hall, everybody felt “slightly” tired, but to be kept awake the rest of the night too would even make rocks unhappy.

“I don’t know, that bird calling himself a cock, crowed again not while ago, that’s the second time. You know, we really ought to do something with him or he’ll keep waking us in the middle of the night! If there weren’t any foxes, I’d put him outside on top of the hencoop so he could actually see at what time the sun rises!”

“I fear that chicken brain knows little of time.” I scooped up. “Dad and Hagen probably have hard heads this morning, so I first go and collect the herbs to cure that.” I smiled at her, suggesting she’d get dressed too. “Can you imagine – two daughters to be wed in one year?”

“Yes, that can give a headache even without the drink.” She agreed and turned to her tunics.

Though they probably were happy at first I wasn’t deceived by their good faces – only the feast itself put quite a toll on the granaries and stocks.

I left her there and climbed down. I was suppose to do something this morning, I remembered, looking around. Something that didn’t involve animals or the carrot field. Linden blossoms – I needed them for drink against the cold. But I wasn’t sneezing anymore. Perhaps that’s why I managed to sleep through the second wakening – I was healing.

Still, I did need herbs for father’s drink. Mom used to do it, but nowadays she sends one of us to fetch them. How hard could it be to collect some thyme? Especially that she always checked we brought back the right herb. I noted to collect some extra for drying too. Our men never drank where on board of their ships, this was the law, but after landing… well, let’s just say they knew how to empty barrels in one and they often tested each other on how well they carried the content of the barrels through different games.

One game I liked particularly – two men would sit down antipodal and take both hold of one spear placed between them. Then they’d start pulling it to gain the hold of the spear until one fell over or was forced to let go. I would never dare to go against them – they’d crush me mercilessly, but it was still fun to watch.

I took a fast trip to the forest line and collected what I needed. The grass was still wet and thus I only cut what I needed for his cup. If the herb was wet, it wouldn’t dry well, only molded fast and I didn’t need that.

Viika was sitting next to the door looming her winter coat when I returned. I thought it odd her doing it outside – mom usually kept the looms inside, protected from the evil eye.

“Where’s mom?” I turned to her when I was close enough not to yell.

“She’s sleeping, but so is dad. They came before dawn. I don’t think they wish to be disturbed.”

“Is that’s why you’re doing looming here?”

“It’s a nice weather, isn’t it?”

Well, slightly humid perhaps, but alright I guessed. Also, it was good to see her work on them again as she still learned the trade, but I hadn’t seen her behind them for quite some time now.

“You missed a string.” I inspected her work and took a seat next to her. “They came late you say?”

“Mhmh, just before the cock opened his mouth. You know, that bird…” the shuttle landed in her lap.

“…is really getting on us.” I finished for her and snuggled the shuttle back in action. You can both talk and work, was that reminder. “I know. That’s why I’m suggesting making him into a stew tomorrow.” This way the younger cock could take over that heinous position and perhaps he had better eyesight.

“I’m in for it.”

“Good. Now, where did I leave that shirt…” I flipped around and crawled in, touching through all the holes and corners near the door. I had a nasty habit of hiding it there in it’s hamper when I wasn’t stitching it, mom kept remarking I ought to take better care of it and protect it better from outsiders. Well, I did have that amulet on the bottom of the box and for me this was enough. But the basket didn’t seem to be where I left it the day before.

Just as I was about to leave the thought, I touched it not far from me, with a little rope on top of it. I didn’t remember leaving any rope on it, so I continued tampering it, trying it out here and there till a loud hiss and two tiny teeth proved that this rope was way too alive for my taste.

“Shoot!” I snapped my hand away and took a fast look, enough to watch a slick body disappear under the logs.

“What happened?”

“Snake bite.” I observed the two holes on my middle finger. “Don’t worry, it was the ringed snake.”

“Oh.” That was all the compassion I got – those snakes weren’t poisonous, but their bite hurt quite as much. At least that’s what I thought it would as I had never been bitten by the viper and now that snake was bad for taste.

We sat there a while, continuing our work, when I saw Dalek come our way.

“You have no understanding of staying at home, do you?” I bristled, slowly measuring his new outfit.

“I am home.” He smiled and kneeled before us, watching us work. It didn’t take him long to notice I wasn’t using my finger and scorn me for it.

“A snake bite.” I demonstrated him the finger and grabbed the needle again, but he pulled my hand away. “It’s from the water snake – they are harmless! It will hurt for a while, yes, but…”

“Snake bites are dangerous, you shouldn’t take it with ease.”

He observed the wound for a minute, before releasing it again and looking over the rings in his fingers. He had four of them, two with red stones, one with bright yellow and one smoky brown looking. After some careful consideration he took the brown stone from his small finger and forced it in my middle finger. I wondered, which hurt more – him pushing the ring where it didn’t want to fit or the two bites on top of the finger.

“The alchemist better be right on this one.” He explained while I stared at the stone. “He told me citrine is good against snake poison.”

“Water snakes are not …” I tried to explain, but gave up – the way he looked at me, I was sure he wouldn’t understand. I thanked him instead and asked who this alchemist was. I kept rubbing the ring place to ease the swelling and hoped I could ask father later to fix it. That if I got it off again.

“Alchemists are evil men.”

Now that explained a lot, I decided and dig deeper. “Thus you put this ring around my finger?”

“That particular man was my friend.”

“A good man then.” I nodded. The pain in the finger eased and I could continue with my work. “Are you making pattern of some kind?” I turned my attention back on Viika, who had missed a thread again, too occupied eavesdropping on us than working on her coat.

“No.” she admitted fast, paling few and pulled the shuttle back to redo the whole line. Quite unnecessary move, but I didn’t mind it.

“He is dishonest and unpleasant man – always stank of vinegar and garlic.”

Comfortable to hear, I glanced at him and bite the needle off. “And you still call him your friend?”

He shrugged. “He was a wise man, but had little experience with people. He always yelled at me when I asked something and one of his eyes was always staring to the right, like he was constantly interested what happened there. But the room was still as empty as it was before – lots of led laid around, but…” He sighed. “I think he liked his cats more than his wife.”

“Cats?” I found it hard to follow his story when he added so many new words in it. In such moments I felt stupid. Really stupid and it angered me that I felt this way.

“Yes, well, they look like… the keeper of the secrets of the forest. Only the tails are longer and they look less fed.”

Aa, a lynx, I recalled. I had only seen that thief two times in my life – twice while after our ducks!

“And they’re smaller.”

“You know that lynx can create gems?” Viika intervened again and my eyes as a matter of chores turned to revisit her work, but it looked alright.

“Right – and I can fly!” Dalek laughed, but the little lady couldn’t be scared that easily.

“Yes they can!” she raised her voice, but I hushed her down again. “I mean, they can – you don’t. It’s just…” she took a deep breath and then let out in one sight. “The lynx digs a small hole and pisses in it and then covers it up again and after a while, a … a… carbuc appears!”

“Carbuncle.” Dalek corrected.

She kept tossing her eyes from one to another, realizing there was something wrong in her knowledge.

I couldn’t hide my snickering any more. “Where did you hear that?” I asked after I had hit the point my stomach muscles allowed me to speak again.

“That monk told me…” she confessed disappointedly.

“I told you not to believe everything this man said!”

“You had monks here?” Dalek looked concerned, but Viika had never been someone to give up easily and I turned back to her.

“But he said such wonderful things!”

“Like what? He told you about one god – can you imagine one god do all the other gods’ and goddesses’ work? And they say he had only one son on earth – who among the gods do you know have so few children among men? And the heaven he describes – no drinking, no hunting, only those spirits singing around you. It would take less than a day to go nuts.”

Yes, I liked the stories he told, but to me that’s all they were – stories. He had been a good man and beloved up to the point he said Odin was nothing more than a crook in a horse’s skin. I was surprised he got out of here alive.

“He told us about paradise garden.” Viika pointed out. “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in one?”

I must have been somewhere else when he talked about it, because later discussing it with others I felt I had got totally different idea of what it looked like than others, because instead of above the clouds sunlight, which he said was wonderful – like he’d know! – to me it was one dark place hidden between high stone walls covered in hops. Well, in that key I understood the beauty of this garden – gather all the hops, brew them into a drink and be happy forever. It also described the attitude of our monk quite well.

“Yes.” I admitted gruffly not raising my eyes from my work. “That would be so much fun.”

“No high walls for you then.” I heard Dalek’s crude voice and shot my eyes up. He a mind reader?

“No,” I confessed slowly, not letting him out of my site again, “no high walls for me.”

He gaped at me openly, little twinkle in his eyes. “I’d say you didn’t like him much, did you?”

“No, he was a nice man, all good in mind and full of hope.” I gave him a smile, understanding now what he meant by that the alchemist had been his friend, though he described him so awfully. “Tell me about those cats?” I asked to take the subject somewhere else instead of the monk.

He ogled at me for a while, fully in his own thoughts until I repeated the question.

“They…” he coughed, “are fine animals – I saw six different furs on them. Some were with stripes, others with spots, but most were with one color. They grow them for rodents.”

“For rodents? What, they feed rats with cats? They are small animals then?” I laughed.

“No!” he laughed along. “They are way bigger than cats – about the size of Ole’s dog! They eat the rats, after playing with them for hour or so.”

“It plays with its meal.” I repeated grimly, trying not to believe what he just said. I didn’t like when people did it, why should I like if some animal was doing that? Foa (liter. fox) played with their food, too, but they only did it to teach their cubs to hunt. I’ve seen it often on the small family that lives in the western fence near the huge stones. This year they had four cubs, all nice and soft pelted.

It was important for us they stayed there and we couldn’t wait for them to return in springs. One would think they were dangerous, but that would only be a fool thought. To our chicken and goose, having a fox as a guardian was a blessing – they didn’t hunt near their nest and protected their land before the others. So, at least half of our village was happy. The rest just made better coops.

But such trait, like playing with food, was intolerable to me if I noticed it among people. Food was scarce in winter time and to see someone toss the bread over the table for fun while your belly was dancing in hunger… only one winter had been so hard in my short life and I could only thank gods for not giving them more.

“Yes,” I was woken by Dalek’s voice again, “it plays with it and then eats it. Then it sleeps and wakes up, eats and… goes back to sleep and when you stroke it, it makes this low growling sound, but Ahmek said it wasn’t angry but this meant it liked it!”

How can an animal growl and be enjoying something?

“They also bring their captured back to the owner.” He let out a silent laugh. “I saw Ahmek’s cat bring him back two rats in the morning – heads bitten off, bodies half squashed…”

“I like snakes better.” I decided, disgust written all over my face.

“You just got bitten by one!”

“So?” A cold shiver ran over my spine. “At least snakes don’t bring the rats back home to show them off!”

“Huss, bird, you wake your parents up!”

His tone was insulting to me. Just as I had predicted – he talked to me as if I were a child!

“I better go and make the fire up.” I frowned, leaving them two there chatting over this cat animal and made my way towards the woodpiles.

The sun was still low, but I could feel the warmth on the grass, it didn’t bite anymore to walk through and I gladly spent my time knowingly avoiding the longer straws that still held some cool water on them. A spider caught my attention soon between the two long thatches. It had frozen on spot, half way through looming its trap for the gnats. The sunrays had barely touched the web and where they hadn’t, a row of clear drops lined the hard thread.

As if Dalek could take a hint and drop behind. Of chores he followed me there to find out, what had upset me this time and thought to surprise me by grabbing me from behind. I protested against it by pulling myself half free, but he was quicker and closed me in.

“You’re upset now.” He declared what I already knew.

“Yes, I am! Now let me free so I can get the firewood.” I tried to step away again and to my astonishment, I managed. At the double I started gathering the pile in my hands.

“Why?” he demanded quietly, hands akimbo.

I turned harshly and looked around, fearing someone might hear it, before stating the problem. “You called me a bird!”

“So?” he shrugged.

“Never do that again!” I clacked the next log in my lap.

“Why? You remind me of one!”

My eyes widened – that was actually sweet. I shook my head, I had to get rid of this “sweet” and this “sweet” marked my doom as a woman. I was no child to be compared to a bird! I gathered fast the last four logs and flashed past him.

He impeded my run by seizing after my load. That sudden move almost tossed me back against the pile and before I knew it I was relieved from my burden.

“Are you insane?” I burst out when I was finally able to breathe. “You can really hurt somebody like that!”

“I will call you birdie whenever I want, wherever I want! A chick like you will not come to teach the cock about what he can or can not do! Is that clear?” he roared furiously, heat fuming into the cold air as if he’d caught fire.

I was speechless and stared at his huge statue like figure before me, mind racing with my feelings. “A chick like me” was echoing in my head as if he’d hit me with the log he was holding. He wasn’t after an equal wife – he wanted a slave for sex and household! I wondered what I would find on the other end of our trip to that so-called home – a forever torment under his ruling perhaps if not anything worse.

“Come now,” he called, but I couldn’t move. My eyes were cold as ice, old thoughts rebelling at the back of my head seemingly winning the battle against trust. This trust was built on shaky swamp instead of long lasting rock and it dawned on me I might as well go to the swamp and drown myself there, save both from the trouble. I didn’t like that idea and I was shocked for even thinking it.

I asked myself, what was wrong with me, but the hardest questions often have the simplest of answers – I don’t know. Neither did I at that moment. My hands were shaking and cold creeping in between the folds of the scarf and to keep it at least somewhat away, I clapped them around my body, keeping a keen watch on his face.

He realized his mistake. I saw it in his grey eyes that widened for a moment before narrowing again sadly. One mistake was all that was needed to prove my point and he had just done that fatal move Magnus said was not possible. Apparently he didn’t know Dalek either.

“I didn’t mean…” he tried to amend it, but I shook my head.

“Yes you did.” I was forced to lean back against the woodpile to retain my dignity and not collapse. “In your head you’re still expecting to marry that girl you left here eight years ago.”

“I don’t…” he tried to deny it, but he knew I was right.

“Yes you do.” I took a pause. “I have told you everything you wished to know, but you still play with me as if I was a child – you test me as if I were a child! And now you bawl on me as one?”

His shoulders sank and eyes grew sadder. Thank gods I was a woman instead of a man – having those sad mischievous children’s eyes around us all the time made us much less misledable. They even irritated me and I lowered my stare on his lips.

“I am not that girl anymore!” I faced him with the reality. “I expect the same honesty from you as I have shown to you! I see you as a man, not as my father or a teacher or my brother’s friend, but a man, who will be my husband. Can you see the woman in me, too?”

I waited for him to answer, but he didn’t. Instead he just stood there, dumbfounded and utterly sad looking. I turned and collected the new pile of wood. Then I stood before him and looked right in his eyes.

“Go home.” I whispered. “See me in your dreams tonight and make notice – you see a child or a woman. If I am a toddler, don’t return.”

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