This is a tale plaited in strands of silk and gold. It hangs from an open window, twisting in a cold wind…
Chatter buzzed amongst the people waiting for the week’s peppercorn story. News zigzagged between them like a bluebottle.
‘The lady down the Post Office has won over a million!’
‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful?’
‘You could have whatever you wanted.’
‘Spoil your kids rotten.’
With a jingle of cheap metal coins and the swish of second-hand clothes, the Pilgrim Woman came down the stairs from the Garret.
‘I have a tale about wealth and luxury,’ she said. The Lord-beside-the-Sea sipped his wine. Then he waved his hand to show he would listen now.
The Pilgrim Woman stood still, eyes lowered until the room went quiet. She began her story in soft, foreign-accented voice unlike her own:
I stand, astonished, waiting for your command. Head down, submissive posture – as much a piece of furniture as a person. It is what your father demands. I keep my eyes on the exquisite pink and floral carpet beside your four-poster. The tufts feel lovely on bare feet but I’m not supposed to know that.
Waiting is what I do. Not experiencing, not enjoying the comforts of the refurbished castle. You have designer silks and satins for every activity. You have walls of untouched books, shelves of stuffed toys – all arranged in what ever order you decide. By colour, by size, by newness. Whichever array suits you, I do.
I’m the one who keeps your rock crystal bathtub sparkling. I’m the one who straightens your coverlets and drapes, then turns them back with ribbons and silk flowers to match the seasonal theme. I’m the one who feels their softness and smiles to herself at the quality.
Do your fingers never itch to play with all those games? Do your eyes never desire to read the stories? Do your taste-buds not work – so that you reject the treats that someone made so alluring? Images are all you take.
I must not look at you to see if there is any real difference between us. It is not my place. I’d ask you if I dared, but you do not bother yourself with the language of our land. We must learn yours. It is enough if we can follow orders – you do not know how much we truly understand.
Yet what I understand in all the selfies and updates and posts is a lonely little girl playing at being like mummy in high heels that don’t fit yet. Today you wear white trainers that cost more than a year’s wages. They will be filthy soon.
You give the command. I pass you the rope. I won’t tell them you escaped. I’ll play dumb – and in my heart I’ll wish you good luck.
The storyteller fell silent. Amongst the listeners, there was little applause and much puzzlement. The Lord-beside-the-Sea drank down his wine in a swift gulp and left.
Picture Credit: Daniel Peckham
Victoria Beach Castle Turret – Pirate Tower – Laguna Beach, CA