Suspended by a silver chain, a drop of frozen sun hung against her breast, the last memory of her mother entangled within its depths. Papa gave her the pendant at mama’s deathbed, chain wrapped glinting around his fingers as he wept over the silent form lying beneath the cotton of their bright patchwork quilt.
“Wear this, child,” he’d said, voice thick with grief, the brilliant golden gemstone swaying as if it reached for her. “Keep it next to your heart for your mama’s sake.” Too numb to do more than obey, she’d taken it, hung it around her neck, the stone still warm from contact with her mother’s cooling flesh. “Wear it always for ’twill keep thee safe from the wilds and its dwellers.”
And not removed it once in twenty years. But, she held it in her palm now, the night of her betrothal, and gazed out through the window, listening to the wind sighing across the glade, calling, calling. For the first time, she reached behind her neck and undid the clasp, laid the stone down so it rested snug as a new egg in the bright silver nest made by the chain. Heat from the gem lingered on her fingers, its golden surface aflicker with hidden flame when she turned it in the dim glow of the lamp.
Overhead, the moon, alabaster pale, cast eyes in her direction, while navy clouds scudded across its face and phantasms spilled into her room, smokey forms writhing in invitation. They shivered over every surface, oozed along her body and, afraid, she reached for the latch, throwing the window wide to let them escape. Winter rushed in at her invitation, the wind’s crisp, sharp bite stinging her skin, and doused the room to darkness.
Embraced by frigid cold, she leaned out towards the wilderness, the hard earth track leading through it glistening, scattered stars along its length. Transparent mist shone with inner luminance and figures, tall and bright with fierce piercing beauty, trod soundlessly towards her home. At the edge of the boundary between house and forest, they halted, singing out her name.
She didn’t hear the frantic pounding on the door as papa threw it open to rush headlong into her room, howling her name in anguish, pleading for her to wear the necklace. Unheeded, the pendant slipped to the floor in a jumble of metal, the stone turned grey, its inner flame extinguished. And, like a wraith, she slipped away from the window, running on naked feet to their summons.
Currently, I live and work in the UK. My job is a hospital co-ordinator but in a previous lifetime, I was a senior residential social worker for young people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. I’m also mother to two clever daughters, and grandma to a number of different fur-babies, including a horse – a recent edition to the menagerie. I have distinct fondness for good beer, cats, cheese and most things that work against my having a long healthy life. Writing, by the by, is a passion.
Image credit – Gaile Vince
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