Woman of Unknown Origins
copyright 2006 Faith Bicknell-Brown
Publisher Freya's Bower
“Here’s a clean towel.” She placed it on the tub’s edge. “I’d like to take a walk and admire the evening sky. It’s a clear night. I’ll get you a beer to take with you.”
He smiled sleepily. “Sure, babe. It’s been a while since we’ve done that.”
Malachi joined her outside on the porch. The night sky held an infinite number of bright denizens. A light breeze caressed their bodies.
He cocked his head to one side, frowning quizzically at the pie and milk on the stoop. “What’s with the royal treatment, Deirdre?”
“I have a secret to share with you.”
He held out a hand for the beer. “Another romp here on the porch step, perhaps?”
She smiled. “Maybe another time.”
They passed through the vegetable garden, the scent of tomato vines pungent as they brushed against the leaves. Crickets hushed their chirring when they entered the unruly grass of the farthest lawn. Somewhere along the encroaching tree line, a whippoorwill voiced its melancholy cry.
“What’s that?” Malachi grabbed his wife’s arm and pointed.
“That’s what I want to show you.” Deirdre smiled, her beautiful white teeth stark in the deepening twilight. She pulled free from him and continued toward the object.
The last traces of the sunset faded. Fireflies winked in the tall grass. On a neighboring ridge, a cow bawled.
“What is that thing?” Malachi slurped the last drops of beer from the can and crumpled it.
Deirdre held her arms over her head, palms up, fingers slightly curled. “Let me make some light.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” He dropped the can in the grass.
Deirdre ignored him and whispered:
“In the dark form a sphere,
shine within my hands.
Banish a small part of night,
there is no fear in the light.”
Fireflies all around the field gathered in her hands. Within seconds, a large glowing orb of lightning bugs lit up the immediate area with their green-gold illumination.
She dropped her arms to her sides. “Just one of the easy charms that Mamaw Pearl taught me,” Deirdre said upon noticing her husband’s stunned expression.
Malachi’s gaze moved to the rectangular object. “Is that the weird trunk your grandmother left you?”
“I suppose you had a charm that helped you drag it out here too?”
“Why is it here?”
“It’s part of the secret I’m going to share with you.”
“Look, babe, you’ve given me a nice evening, and I appreciate it, but what’s going on?” Irritation tinged Malachi’s voice.
The pain inside Deirdre bubbled up from the recesses of her soul. Magic stirred there, a power that she had not been fully aware of until her hands touched her grandmother’s spell books earlier that day.
“I love you, Malachi.”
He smiled. “I know you do.”
The smile that stretched his mouth died before it reached his eyes.
“Yes,” she unlatched the trunk, which stood on one end, “I am pregnant. Pregnant with pain. Pain that grows within me. Pregnant with mistrust for a man with a wandering heart. I gestate hate for the woman who carries your seed and I germinate the lies that you both have professed as the truth.”
From her dress, she withdrew a pocketknife and cut a shallow wound in the palm of her right hand. “Tonight I give birth to the pain you have created within me.” She slapped Malachi hard across the face, leaving a faint red smudge upon his cheek, then smacked her hand down on the roughly-hewn trunk.
“Hey!” Malachi grabbed her. “What’s got into you, Deirdre? Have you gone crazy?”
“Do it! Say the words! They are balm for your heart and doom for his!”
He whirled at the sinister voices hissing out of the tall grass. Several pairs of luminous eyes watched them.
“You’re practicing witchcraft on me?” His terrified gaze raked her face before darting back to the glowing eyes in the grass. “All the tales about your grandmother were true! She didn’t practice harmless charms! She performed black magic!”
The trunk’s two sides spread like a thick book. A hiss drifted out of it.
“Deirdre, you’re my wife!” He took a step back, uncertain which way to flee, eyes peering at him from every direction. “I love you!”
“Yes, you love me and every other woman you come in contact with! I wonder how Sally will feel when she realizes that you have left her nothing but pain as well.”
“Do it! Say the words! Free your pain!” The frightening voices grew impatient.
“I give birth to the pain that you have given me, Malachi Dempsey!” Deirdre moved away to stand at the outskirts of the green-gold illumination.
The trunk began to grow. Its rough willow timber took on the form of the tree it had originated from years ago. Branches sprouted from various angles and roots punctured the earth.
Malachi uttered an unintelligible cry. He stumbled backward, but the willow’s draping limbs snared him and drew him inside its trunk.
“Deirdre don’t do this!”