The day had been pleasant. John and I had celebrated the rising of the sun with dear friends. As we made our way home from the festival, my white ceremonial gown shimmered in the fading sunlight. We walked along the wooded path in silence, occasionally stealing glances and giggling in a giddy-kinda way. The raspberry wine left us both with a care-free spirit.
John reached over and stole a kiss and I snuggled into his side. The dry leaves uncovered from the snow by the heat of the sun rustled beneath my leather shoes. The air was crisp and cooling and by nightfall, the warmth near the hearth would be beckoning.
Our small stone hut came into view and to my surprise Angella was seated on the bench near the door. She rose when she saw us. Drawing nearer, I noticed her pale skin. It was then I remembered I hadn’t seen her at the festival.
I felt John stop beside me. He held me close. “You mustn’t,” he whispered.
“But she suffers.” I glanced at him. “And she’s a dear friend.”
“She shouldn’t have come. She knows the danger she puts you in.”
I looked at Angella. She visibly shook, and I thought she might faint. I released John and went to her. We embraced and she sobbed softly into my shoulder.
“I feared …” Her glossy eyes searched my face. “You’re the only one blessed with the magic. My hope rests within you.”
“Shush now. Come inside and tell me what afflicts ye.” I glanced at John standing where I had left him. He nodded, indicating he’d stand guard while I tended to our friend. Inside the small dwelling, I drew the curtain to hide what was once a legal act.
Angella described her symptoms and I quickly assembled the herbs and oils to create the medicine to ease her pain. The flask was no sooner corked when John rushed in.
“They’ve come,” he said. Worry painted his face.
I shoved the flask into Angella’s hands and ushered her out the back door. “Safe journey, my love.”
No knock preceded the entrance of two men dressed in the king’s cloth. They scanned the small room, their gaze stopping at the table nearest the window where the ingredients I had used to create the herbal remedy lay.
The tallest of the soldiers shot a cold stare at me. “And what ye concocting here?”
“A drink to celebrate the return of the light.” I stepped toward the table. “Would ye accompany us? Shant take but a moment to prepare.”
The man’s top lip curled as his eyes studied my white gown and the flowers strung throughout my long hair. “If it be drink then …” he glanced as his partner, “we’ve no business here tonight.”
The king’s soldiers stepped backwards out the door and in a heartbeat they were gone.
John pulled me into his arms and in a hushed voice spoke. “You must stop. If they learn you’re treating the ill, they’ll burn you as a witch, and I…”—he looked into my eyes—“I could not bear life without you.”
I pulled him near. What he said terrified me. But how was I to watch my friends suffer when I knew how to heal them? What gave men the right to deny women’s natural abilities to speak with plants and know their powers?
…the dream ends there as it does every time it invades my sleep. It’s always the same and I wonder what it means. Was that me from another time and place? Or just an illusion created from the influences in my life?
Happy Winter Solstice. May the lengthening days bring good fortune your way and happiness in your heart.