Broken Magnolias | Lady Gwendolyn

It was a bright cold morning and the old woman seemed to feel like talking. Our usual routine was that I would sweep as she ground the wheat. All of this was done in total silence. Today she wanted to talk.

“I used to be like you, you know. Young and beautiful, my whole life was spread out in front of me like a many colored cloak.” I was surprised to hear her speak. Her voice was dry, and brittle. As if she wasn’t used to using it.

Normally she would answer all of the questions I asked in grunts, and sarcastic snorts. Needless to say I stayed quite as a church mouse as not to break whatever spell had been set upon her tongue

“My innocence was also taken by the miller, but the difference was that I was in love, and freely gave it to him.” Her voice dropped a bit as she spoke. “No unicorn came for me on my 18th birthday.”

I stilled my sweeping and waited for her to go on. Though nothing more came. It went on like that for some weeks. Sometimes she would reveal more, others she would say nothing at all. I was starting to learn things as well. Like how to tell which way was north by the placement of the stars in the sky. How to tell when it was going to rain by the how low the birds were flying. She taught me to plant our vegetables by the phases of the moon. Soon I started working there just for the knowledge. My mother grumbled about me getting married, but she did not press. The vegetables we grew in our garden started to fetch the highest prices at the market. We were even able to send my brother a little money to help him along.

By the time I looked up it was Christmas time. My mother had sent me to invite the old woman for Christmas dinner. I moved to the front door, and noticed that the fire was not burning. The room was cold as death, and the old woman was huddled under blankets shivering. My heart seized in my chest as I saw her in such a straight. I quickly ran about lighting the fire and coaxing the stove to life. Bringing broth to boil before throwing in dried vegetables to make a soup.

Once the soup was done, I heated water, and sat her up. My fingers were shaking in my haste to make sure she was fine. I bathed her and fed her the soup that I had made. She started to cough, and I patted her back while she cleared her lungs. I grabbed her wrap from the rocking chair, and placed it around her shoulders. I placed a warming stone into the fire to put at her feet. Color was slowly coming back to her cheeks, a fact of which I was grateful.

Slowly she began to speak wistfully as if she wasn’t shivering alone in her cottage moments before. “Gwendolyn. My name is Kashira Gwendolyn. It’s been so long since my name has been spoken. They used to call me Lady Gwen until the unicorn did not come for me. After that I was all, but forgotten”

She spoke as if she wasn’t speaking to me. As if stalking to someone else she couldn’t see. Though soon she waved me to the millstone. Motioning with her fingers that I should begin grinding. It was hard at first, but then it began to feel like I had done it my whole life.

“When the child came I gave him up. I didn’t want the stigma of my stupidity to taint his life. He was in my arms one moment then gone the next. I never saw him again. He had the darkest eyes.” Gwendolyn voice was soft and sad with the memory of some far off place only she could see.

My hands stilled, waiting for her to continue. She had never mentioned having any family. Much less having a child. I continued to grind the wheat thinking over what I had learned about Gwendolyn. She eventually fell asleep, and I stayed until I knew she would be fine by herself. When I returned home my dreams were filled with unicorns, Gwen, and a man with dark eyes.

© SL. Williams 2015



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