Literary Journal – Spring 2017

The Stitches of Lydwyna the Spinster

By Anne K. Kaler

The Stitches of Lydwyna the Spinster starts with this three-part introduction of two spinsters living in a fantasy, slightly medieval world.

Each one of the fifteen or so subsequent stories is a self-contained tale of how Eldry teaches Lydwyna how to use her magical powers of sewing to right the injustices of their fantasy world.

Lydwyna’s tales hope to continue in this Journal prior to their publication as a book.

 

Eldry and Lydwyna

PART ONE

Spring came early that year, Eldry recalled.

Death came early also with Hulm of Antiga.

He wore his mantle of death so lightly that Eldry could only glimpse death flickering among its folds. He was a holy man, a prince of the realm, they said, from Antiga, the land of mages. The mark of his god was upon him, they said, emblazoned on his mantle, a triangle of rays spilling outward with sparks of fire. To Eldry he was darkness that stole the light but, to her family and the townspeople, Hulm embodied light after a hard winter—smiling, dancing, capering, joking—his laughter a silver stream, his smile a golden radiance. All felt they knew him, all were drawn to him, but none so much as Zaisia.

Her sister, Eldry remembered, was just sixteen that spring to Eldry’s twenty.  Youngest of the family and coddled for her delicate health, Zaisia bloomed that spring like the fruit trees—a blend of pink and white and tender green with her light hair, pale eyes, white skin, pink lips and cheeks.

From the forests and fields, Zaisia seemed to capture nature itself in her needlework, imprisoned it on the fine cloth and fair garments that her family wove. The shawls she embroidered held meadows of flowers, her vests sported bright forest shades, baby clothes were enameled with rosebuds, wedding dresses promised pearls among trailing vines of lace. Even her shrouds offered consolation in their intertwined vines and mosses.

To the other family members, spring came as it did every year with the birth of growing things to challenge their creative efforts. One brother tended sheep, sheared them, and prepared the wool for Eldry’s mother to spin into fine yarn. Another brother grew flax while a sister carded and spun it as still another sister wove it into linen. Sisters and sisters-in-law cut and sewed clothing to order. They were a family of artisans, each dependent upon the other, each enjoying the skills of siblings all except Eldry.

Eldry was the quiet one — sturdy like the earth under autumn leaves —quiet, resting, waiting for death or growth. She had no particular skill but could do all things fairly well but without the artistic flair of her family.

No one ever asked her what she thought. It was enough that she did her work and, if she drifted off into another world, some mundane task of housekeeping pulled her back soon enough. She trained herself to immerse her thought into the work at hand so that, once her motions became mechanical, she could let her thoughts go where they wanted. To her fell the washing and cleaning, the cooking and cleaning, the milking and the gardening. To her also fell the midwifery, the birthing and the dying.

“I’m like unbleached linen,” she often said. “I provide the background for others to embroider.”

She was content, her life full enough to let her mind wander down its own ways, dark ways unlike those of her family, ways which they could not understand. No one had asked for her hand in marriage. No one she wanted, at least, but she was satisfied enough within her large family’s companionship. If a family member teased her about a glance from a farmer’s son, she smiled and held her peace. She had no time for that “nonsense. No man and his brats to make more work for me.” And then she’d laugh and change the subject.

So they would leave her alone with her housework and her midwifery and her death-easings. All in all, it was not a bad life—she had enough to eat, enough to work, and enough to amuse her inner spirit.

Until he came—Hulm of Antiga. He changed all that. Because he was the lark-light to her sullen earth, Eldry feared him beyond all reason, beyond instinct. He looked like the life and light of the spring itself but she knew he brought only death. She was the only one who feared him. Her family and townspeople listened to his words – listened, laughed, and died for he did bring death — sickness leading to death — with him.

Yet, as the family and town went about their daily tasks, that spring seemed almost too abundant. Crops were flourishing, trade was brisk, life was easy.  Townsmen and farmers alike clamored for the family’s finest talents in decorated clothes — a fine cape for a journey, a gown for a wedding night, a shroud for a dying grandfather, children’s clothes with tucks and seams for growing, aprons for old huswives, sturdy woolen trews for farmers, and rich brocaded surcoats for burghers. The household bustled about so noisily that Eldry often felt smothered.

“Zaisia, come with me to the flocks. Some ewes are dropping today and they will need our help.”

Her younger sister flashed a smile as she looked up from the skirt she was stitching. “Not today, Eldry. Few of girls and boys will be out with the flocks because we are meeting in the town square to practice our festival dance. If I’m not there to lead them, you know they’ll get it wrong.”

Eldry grimaced. “Tomorrow maybe too late for the lambs.”

“I know,” Zaisia sighed. You don’t approve of such frivolity, Eldry, but it has been such a long winter for all of us.”

“Tomorrow then?”

“Tomorrow for sure.” The young girl bent her head back over her sewing. .

Eldry left the room grateful for the day of freedom from household chores and town dances. There were times, she thought, that her sister’s sunny nature could be as irritating as a drunken bumblebee. Gathering her herbs and poultices, she found herself humming. A free day out with the flocks at spring birthing time allowed her the privacy of the forest to practice her own rites of spring.

She had just helped a first-time mother clean up her newborn when a shadow darker than it should be hovered over them, blotting out the sun. The sudden loss of light confused the ewe who bolted away on shaky legs, trampling on her lamb in fear. Eldry heard the crack of the ewe’s hooves on the lamb’s head before she could protect it. She snatched it up trying to straighten its neck but the lamb struggled once, gasped, and died in her arms.

“You fool of a townsman, stay away from that which you do not know.” She rocked back on her heels still holding the limp body. “Poor baby, your first breath was your last. May your Good Mother give you rest.”

The shadow shifted. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you…or the ewe.” The man moved aside as Eldry brushed by him to the edge of the woods near a sheep shed. She placed the dead lamb down to retrieve a shovel from the shed and plunged it into the hard earth.

From behind her, the man’s shadow fell on her, dark and cold as death. “I’ll do that,” he said, taking the shovel from her hands. Silently she stepped back to let him dig the grave.  While he was digging with hands that she noticed were more suited to lutes than to shovels, Eldry gathered grasses and mosses along the wood’s edge. When the grave was deep enough, she lined it with the foliage before laying the lamb into it. Once the dirt was replaced, she covered the mound with loose stones until the miniature cairn matched the few other ones around the sheep shed. Since she had assumed the spring birthing task, relatively few cairns had been added.

“Do you bury all dead things with such care, Eldry?”

To avoid looking at him, she held her bloodied hands out in front of her. “Sheep — any animals — don’t like the smell of death anymore than humans do. Death is part of life but I don’t have to have it on my hands or under my nose.”

She bent to tuck a few flowers in the cairn’s crevices before turning down the path to the stream. Nothing would bring the lamb back. The chilly water removed the lamb’s blood while it cooled her own temper. When she straightened up, she felt her initial anger drain out of her, leaving only a residue of sadness. She glanced up at him. “How did you know my name?”

“I know many things. They told me in the town that Eldry was birthing the sheep because she had the power that most lack. I wanted to see it for myself—that birth power, I mean. I did not intend to be the death of the lamb.”

“No one intends death, do they?”

“Some do. You do. You help others to die, I was told. I wanted to see that power in someone…someone other than myself.”

Eldry looked at him with new understanding. Even in the dim forest edge, the sun managed to outline his dark mass, haloing it with light. As her eyes adjusted, she saw what others saw—a small man, precise, neat, regular features, dainty hands for a man, dark eyes, pale skin, flushed cheeks and lips too red to be healthy. He was exotic bird among those heavy-handed farmers she was used to and she feared him.

“Your name?”

“Hulm. They call me Hulm of Antiga.”

“Ah, yes, the land beyond the mountains. They say it breeds mages, men of power, strong men. But no woman is safe there because all men deceive being mages. They say.”

“So they say,” he laughed. “And the wise know it to be true, they say.”

“And you, Hulm of Antiga.  Are you a mage or a wise man?”

“A bit of both, Eldry of …what is your town’s name again? Ah, no matter. I am naught but a weary traveler who rejoices in the beautiful day and the beautiful woman before me.”

“A weary traveler with blinded eyes. The town maidens are surely more attractive.” She clasped her hands lest they seek to smooth back her untidy hair.

“But those pale maidens lack the power of birthing lambs…”

“And burying them also? Do they say that of me too, Hulm of Antiga? That my skill is equal in birthing and burying alike? That it makes no difference to me which I do?”

“That is why I am here.”

“For birth or death?”

“For both.”

“Then stay here while I finish what you started.” She veered past him into the denser woods where the underbrush was fighting to bloom after the winter foraging by deer herds. There, where the sun only occasionally visited, a cluster of young trees circled the decayed stump of a mother tree which was falling into itself in a graceful death. This was her place, the place she retreated to whenever she wandered in her mind.

As a solemn child, wandering over the limestone hills with her sheep, she had found a rock shaped like a woman’s full figure. In certain lights, the featureless face appeared to have deep set eyes and a mouth twisted in an ironic smile. To Eldry, brought up with a male icon on her family’s mantelpiece, her stone goddess grew to represent all that was larger than her own faith and emotions. It had become over time her refuge from the demands of her household and the center of her power and confidence.

In its cavity, Eldry had planted mosses and trailing vines to construct a sheltering bower. For years, she collected pebbles and vines to surround the statue so that, by the time she was grown, the shrine was well hidden from any stranger’s notice. Often she sat in contemplation there, protected by the low bushes and comforted by the distant snuffle of the sheep as they grazed.

Now it was time to make amends for the flowers she had gathered and for the lamb she had lost. She bedded the plucked flowers around the base of the figure, although there was no need to placate the Good Mother for the error had not been hers. She had not killed the lamb but it was dead and nature must be replaced somehow. The Good Mother had shown her that all her life — to replace that which is taken is the first law.

It was there that Hulm found her. He forced his way into the dark recess, disturbing the light patterns on the statue’s face. When he came, Eldry saw that the shadow he cast was darker than the dark earth as if his shadow alone could swallow up the earth on which it fell, as if he could blot out the face of her Good Mother even though She was eternal stone and he was mortal flesh.

Eldry whirled to defend herself.

“It’s only me. Only me,” Hulm said. He peered around her as Eldry tried to shelter the bower from his view.  “What do you have there, Eldry?”

“Nothing.  Just a playtoy when I was a child. Nothing at all.”

He leaned past her to pick the statue up. In his slender hands, the stone looked ancient and fragile. Eldry snatched it from his hands.

“I told you it was my toy when I was a child. I sometimes come to visit it.” Carefully she replaced the pointed base into the groove she had made for it.

Hulm brushed more branches aside to let her come out into the clearing, “It must be important for you to have kept it so long. It’s pretty enough in its own right, even if it is all wrong.” He smiled at his witticism.

“It’s not wrong for me,” Eldry insisted.

“Your goddess has too hard a creed to follow — all gloom and wrath and death. Now my god is joyous. He lets people have fun as they should.”

“She is joyous in her own quiet way.”

“Then why are you so unhappy, Eldry?” he teased. “You are the only one who mopes around the house with a serious air, they tell me. You are not that old that you must be vowed to your goddess’s creed of death.”

Eldry sat back. “No, I’m not ‘that old’, as you call it. I just see things differently. I am not vowed.  She does not ask for vows.

“Then why not come and rejoice with me on this fine day?” He signaled her with a beckoning hand.

Slowly Eldry half-rose to her knees. “I am happy enough doing what I am doing.” But her voice cracked ever so slightly and she realized that for the first time her words did not ring true. She was unhappy, unsatisfied, different from the others without knowing why. She had always assumed it was because she had her own Good Mother, her own way of worshipping, but now she was not sure.

Right then Hulm seemed all brightness. “Come out of the dark of your mind, Eldry, and dance with me,” he tempted. “Dance because the day is bright with spring. Dance because your heart of hearts says to dance today.”

His hand drew her up and she followed him from the dim forest path to the shining meadow which itself seemed alive with swaying flowers. Hulm joined them in a hypnotic motion as he circled Eldry, gamboling as blithely as any lamb in her flock.

Suddenly there was no reason not to join him in his dance. Eldry accepted his outstretched hand and danced until her grey skirt spun around her and her apron swirled with it. Hulm pranced around her capering, the sunlight spinning off his buttons and cape, the bright bits of metal shooting sparkling bits of glory, his blond mane shimmering into a golden blaze.

For Eldry, the warmth of the sun and the prickly smell of the young grasses teased her senses as nothing else had ever done. The world was more than her Good Mother, more than her work, more than her family, although these things had satisfied her up till now.  What was it in the air that made her senses reel so? The warmth rays of the sun? The touch of a man’s hand or the whisper of tempting pleasantries in her ear? Or the man Hulm of Antiga?

It was the spot of blood on her apron that saved her. He had captured her hands in his as he spoke of laughter and love and promise and hope. He murmured of his god, his land, his life in words that she had never heard. She who was so plain could never have imagined that he would single her out. He leaned in to kiss her. Her eyelids fluttered down when she caught sight of the blood spot on her white apron–the lamb’s blood. The shadow that Hulm cast over her was a darkness she recognized within her deepest self, the side she kept hidden from the world.

Hulm’s brightness flickered for just those few minutes. He had spun her to the heavens and from the heights of his spell she had seen her hell. He was Death, not as her good Mother was death — kindly, expected, consoling — but Death-sharp, bitter, sudden. In that instant, she knew that she could never exist with him because her Good Mother demanded different loyalties as abhorrent to him as he was forbidden to her. They would never mix. She drew back from him.

“Ah, Eldry, it is that way with you then?”

“Yes.”

“Your way is not easy—the way of your goddess.”

“No.”

“Why?”

She shrugged. “It has to be that way with me—to serve her and not you or your god nor anyone’s god by my own.”

“My god brings laughter and joy.”

She pointed to the blood on her apron. “You god also brings unnatural death.”

“Everything dies,” he said, his eyes not meeting hers.

“Everything dies in its proper time.”

He rose reluctantly letting his hand slide from hers. “My way is easier for everyone.”

“Not for me and,” she said,” not for the lambs under my care.”

“So be it,” he replied. “What will you do now that we are not…dancing together.”

“All I can do to stop you. I have not your powers, Hulm of Antiga, nor your charming ways. I will fight you with all my strength and hope that it will be enough.”

“It will not be enough.”

“Perhaps not.”

After he left, Eldry crawled to her feet, unsteady and shaken. She had come so close to surrender. But now she knew her enemy even if she did not know how to defeat him.  In the knowing, she felt, lay her wisdom.

PART TWO

All that year Hulm bloomed. He captivated the townspeople by his wit and charm, the farmers by his sturdiness, the young women sighed after him, the matrons teased him like a son, the old crones twitted him like a savior. Men found him companionable. Boys liked his jests, children danced to his merry tunes. All loved him but Eldry who saw Death flicker in his golden mantle. No one else saw the Death-fever in his cheeks or heard the Death-rattle in his songs.

One by one, even her own family fell prey to his charm. They fed and pampered him, dressed him in finery, insisted on his presence, hinted at his prospects for a good marriage with one of their daughters.

Zaisia, the youngest, was enchanted by his laughter and joy. That spring, her needlework spun out from her in a rainbow of rich hues. The vest she embroidered for him told the story of his coming with a progression of flowers around its edge—spring in pastels, summer in red and yellows, one golden sunflower for mid-summer with her face embroidered on it so that it lay on his left breast with its petals radiating out like the rays on his cloak. Later summer showed rich purples, early fall orange and persimmon, each flower rounded, bulging, swollen with promise of rich harvest. However, the winter flower on his right breast, the white on white flower, was never finished.

Still no one in the town thought much of death. They did not worry about the death of the young baby in the town. A restless night, a quick fever, a loss of breath, and convulsive death. The second child to die had been weak since his birth so his death was a blessing. The third death, that of an old woman, was deemed natural and even the fourth death, that of a teenage daughter of the mayor, could be coincidence.

After the fifth and sixth and seventh death, the town closed down, sealing off all avenues into and out of the town. Trade was suspended, meetings postponed, farms isolated. The fear of the contagion spread faster than the disease itself until the community splintered in neighborhoods, then families, the individuals. It was as if the entire town’s temperature has gone awry. No one talked to anyone else. No one shared thoughts, or meals or lives. The shadow of death had fallen on all of them and they succumbed easily.

Eldry alone fought. She journeyed from house to house to administer what relief she could with her herbal remedies and potions. She nursed those she could and buried those she could not save. Eventually her immunity aroused suspicion that she herself bore the disease into each house she visited. Slowly the townspeople turned from her. Farmers locked their doors against her and the society she had avoided now spurned her as a pariah.

At first Hulm Had gone with Eldry to the houses of the sick for he seemed as immune as she was to the disease. The sound of his consoling laughter over a sickbed filled Eldry with visions of death. After a while, she refused to go into the same house with him. Still the people died and some blamed her for the sickness.

Eldry did what she could in the town while her family helped to bring in the harvest.  Then one by one the family went down with the illness. Her mother first fell at her spinning wheel, was ill two days, and died on the third. Barely had Eldry recovered from that shock than her eldest brother and his wife died in each other’s arms, racked with pain from their fevers. One by one, her family died, each death pulling out bright threads from the tapestry of her life—the red of a brother’s jest, the green of a sister’s peace, the blue of father’s fidelity—until only Zaisia was left.

By this time, winter was fast nipping at the doors. For the first time in her life, Eldry had to prepare for the season by herself. She managed to bring in enough wood and grain to keep the two of them alive until spring but the family business had to be abandoned. Sustaining life took all her energy as she huddled with Zaisia in the kitchen of the farmhouse. With a new life coming, it was all she could do to keep herself and Zaisia alive.

In the town, Hulm danced and sang less as if his god had abandoned him in the chill of winter winds. For him, the sun danced no more and the moon was cold and forbidding.  He became unwelcome with his talk of joy and laughter. Then one day, a passerby mentioned that Hulm had left the town after the harvest, saying that he would return.

The deaths dwindled when he left. The town recovered slowly. Those that were alive buried those who had died; those who were sick struggled toward strength. Only the very ill or the very old died the rest of that winter. Half the townspeople assigned blame for the deaths on Eldry’s strange worship and practices while the other half blamed Hulm. Whatever the reason the town and the farms were glad to see both go.

Only Zaisia asked after Hulm every day. Eldry told her little because there was little to tell. Zaisia was by that time weakened by the loss of her family and her lover and her sunny nature. “He must come back for our child’s sake,” she cried out. “He must stay here always.”

Then she would work feverishly on the vest for him, begrudging even the time she spent on tiny baby clothes, all in pristine white, all delicate lawn and ruffles. She refused to add even the hint of color to the baby’s clothes although Eldry feared that the white on white work might strain her eyesight.

Early in the month of the longest day, the child was born weeks before it should have been. Zaisia smiled through her groans calling out to Hulm to help her. As Eldry placed the newborn in her mother’s arms, Zaisia cried out again and died.

Alone and mourning, Eldry cleaned the whimpering baby and placed her in a warmed basket near the fireplace. Eldry felt glad that there had been no marriage ceremony to bless the union. The child, a girl, lived while her mother died. Her sister Zaisia might be gone but the child remained. Death had given birth to life once again as the Good Mother decreed: “To replace that which is taken is the first law.”

Since no woman in town or the nearby farms was willing to breastfeed the child because it was a “child of death” they claimed, it fell to Eldry to fight for her niece’s life. Using a mixture of herbs, she began to produce milk from her own breasts for the baby. At first, the act of nursing was a nuisance and she did it grudgingly without natural maternal bonding. For the same time she called the child by no name. Only when she was sure that there was no strong resemblance to Hulm did she name her. With the giving of the name of Lydwyna (for she was born of bitter sorrow) the child began to take on parenthood for Eldry.

As the child flourished and the days lengthened, Eldry returned to her bower to perform the birth rites for Lydwyna. She buried a wreath of Zaisia’s hair knotted around the dried afterbirth. Placing the child between her knees so that she faced the small statue, Eldry was startled by the similarity between the narrowed base of the statue and the tight swaddled legs of the infant. Suddenly the child felt as tight a fit between her legs as the fit of the stone figure into its base.

The baby’s arms stretched out toward the stone figure and, just as the light shifted in the dense forest, the statue seemed to smile. The child gurgled a bubbly smile in return. The light slid off the statue’s face, leaving it bland stone once more, as secure in its niche as Lydwyna was in Eldry’s arms.

Eldry was never sure if it was a trick of light or the goddess’ blessing but her love for the child grew steadily as she nursed her daily. With tending the babe, Eldry seldom had time to return to her bower and she seldom went into the town. She sold the farm off, retaining only the small cottage near the woods. It left her far outside the clamor of the town for which she was grateful. There the two –Eldry and her niece, remained so isolated that few took note of them.

Although Eldry’s relation with the town was still strained, when she started her cloth business again, she never lacked for customers. She who had never been skilled with her needle now turned to sewing as her major work. Sewing would suffice for her survival and her family’s artistry would keep her reputation for a while, she knew.

Still, as she sewed her unskilled hands grew more sure as new and strange powers danced through them. Her stitches had minds of their own, her needle darted in and out with the agility she had never before possessed. Cut and color became more vibrant; style and sound became more important. Cloth she handled draped accurately at the first fitting. Mended garments looked like new and new ones molded like skin. It was as if she had received all her family’s artistry and abilities…and something else.

PART THREE    

Spring came late that next year. The winter wore Eldry down to a slight shadow of herself. She sometimes went hungry but the child never did.

Spring also brought Hulm of Antiga

He came on another fine spring day. On the sun-warmed bench outside the cottage, Eldry was carding last year’s wool, the babe in a cradle at her feet, when his shadow covered the sunlight. He was as abrupt and enigmatic as ever though more pale and subdued.

He nudged the cradle with his foot. “My child, Eldry? And her mother?”

“Zaisia died giving birth to her. She’s mine now. Mine and the Good Mother.”

“You mean the child of your goddess. Doesn’t my god count at all?”

“We’ll see but I doubt that she has much of you in her or of me either. She is a life-child, spring-conceived, winter-born, a solstice babe. The Good Mother claimed her, marked her for her own. I can only raise her. She will go her own way someday.”

His mouth set in a tight-lipped smile. “You’d deny me my own child?”

“She’ll be here when you want to see her. When it is time for her to go, I’ll not stop her.”

“I could take her back with me to Antiga. She’d be a princess there.”

“She belongs with me until she grows up. Then she can choose.”

“I could take her by force right now and you could do nothing to stop me.” Then he added softly, “I have long wanted to test your powers, Eldry. Have they grown? Have they diminished? Are you the same Eldry who birthed and buried.”

Eldry buried her hands in the wool to disguise their trembling. She looked up steadily at Hulm. “My powers have…changed. I no longer birth or bury the townspeople the way I did before. Sometimes the strangers who pass by my door need my help. Sometimes the lonely ones…but I no longer birth and bury as I used to do, not after Zaisia’s death.”

She felt some tension between them release as Hulm once again touched the cradle. “I thought not. You have changed, Eldry. I have not. I want only what is mine, my child.  Perhaps not now, perhaps in a few years. I’ll not test your powers today.”

“You want what is yours, then?  Wait here.” Eldry slipped by him into the cottage. She came back with the vest Zaisia had embroidered and placed it in his hands. “She worked on this to the last. It is finished all but the center of the white flower. She wanted you to have it, nonetheless. To keep it forever.”

He slowly unwrapped the vest all the while humming to himself.  “What beautiful work my Zaisia did. Look how the summer flowers here and the fall ones there. And the picture. She embroidered her own picture in that one yellow flower over my heart.” He slipped his arms through the armholes. The vest hung loosely from his shoulders. Eldry moved closer to tie the laces across his chest.

“It is meant to close with these laces. They bring the edges together so that the pattern can be seen to full advantage. Note Zaisia is right over your heart, right where she wanted to be.” Eldry knotted the last lace firmly and stepped back.

“I’ll wear it forever,” he vowed.

Eldry felt a rush of cool air brush by her ear as she heard herself repeat his words “wear it forever.”

Hulm preened. “My child will be proud of me when she sees me in the finery her other made for me, won’t she, Eldry? She will be my heir as the princess of Antiga, someday.”

“She will be very proud…someday.”

She turned and dragged the cradle inside to the hearth. Hulm followed to stand in the doorway stroking his new vest, the sunlight haloing him as it had done the first time she had seen him. But this time his shadow did not reach the cradle or the low stool where Eldry sat.

As she watched, she felt the whisper of air again stir the hair near her ear.  Lydwyna whimpered.  Eldry lifted the child into her arms to comfort her.  When she turned back, the light from the doorway was no longer blocked by Hulm’s body.  Puzzled, she carried the child to the doorway.

Hulm was not on the path to the village nor around the side of the cottage or near the forest. The vest, however, lay like a meadow of bright flowers on the pale spring grass beside the path.

“So much for forever,” Eldry murmured to herself as she stooped down to pick up the vest and carry it inside, bolting the door behind her. When Lydwyna started to fuss on her lap, she turned the vest so that Zaisia’s face shone from the yellow flower. The baby reached for her mother’s sparkling eyes, eyes which were more brilliant that Eldry remembered. She watched as Zaisia’s eyes followed the baby’s gestures. Her sister’s smile widened into a smile which the child returned.

Startled, Eldry dropped the vest onto the table where it landed so that both front sides were visible. She watched in horror as her sister’s eyes turned from the child cooing in Eldry’s lap to the right side with the unfinished winter flowers. Those somber flowers were now finished.  In the center of the top white flower, now tinged with black, was a picture of Hulm picked out in colorful threads, finely detailed down to the flash of his dark eyes, the glowing mass of his hair, the flush of his bright cheeks, the emblem of the sun on his shirt. However, his glittering eyes rove desperately as his mouth opened and closed in silent screams.

The vest, Eldry saw, was completed as her younger sister had planned. Thoughtfully, carefully, Eldry folded the vest inward so that the two pictures lay touching. Still unsettled, Eldry took up the vest with unsteady hands, folded it again, and put it in the bottom of a seldom used storage chest.

Then, with shaking hands, she placed the child in her cradle and set it to rocking.  Tomorrow or years of tomorrows would be time enough to explain to Lydwyna that forever meant different things to people with power. Eldry’s foot found the runner of the cradle to begin a steady motion to calm the child, the child who was her child forever, her Lydwyna to whom she would teach her magic stitches.

She picked up a customer’s shirt promised for the next day.  Sometimes simple sewing was as calming as a visit to the good Mother. Sometimes sewing was a power in itself.  She would have to think about that. Sometime. Tomorrow, perhaps. Or forever.


Anne K. Kaler, Ph.D. As a life-long reader, Anne (always with an “e”) is now attempting to read every book in the universe, while helping to publishing more. Surprised to learn that she was actually a teacher, she persisted in that field for nearly fifty years until she started volunteering at PSB.

Advertisements