Photo by David Moum on Unsplash
The Forest’s Own by Denise D. Young
he cold air feels good on the bruises around my neck. I step into the night, allowing midnight, the hour of secrets, to swallow me, shadow and all. My body aches as I pause in the threshold, in that place between the horrible known and the perhaps-worse unknown. I think of the vows two years ago, vows that neither of us meant, for I didn’t love my husband, and he didn’t intend to cherish me. I think of the lovers’ cords, binding Connor and me in a farce that mocked the sacred union of which the priest spoke. My mouth is dry at the thought. I know now, that if I stay I will be dead. Connor’s snores tell me that he slumbers yet. By the time dawn awakens him, I will be deep in the heart of the forest. I can’t risk packing anything, though it doesn’t matter, anyway. Nothing in this squalid home is mine. My parents gave me away without a second thought, and I’ve gathered no worldly possessions that I will miss. A strange girl like you, my mother hissed on the morning of our wedding. You’re lucky anyone will have you. She didn’t care about the rumors that swirled about the death of Connor’s first wife. No, all that mattered was that her daughter bore the forest’s mark, and at long last, someone was taking me off my parents’ hands.
I finger the bruises on my neck and try to shake away her words. The village is the only home I’ve ever known, and I’ve scarcely been welcome here. Marked, they call me. I know what the round, bluish birthmark on my wrist means. We all know what it means. It’s the curse of the forest. Connor says it’s the reason I’ve yet to give him a child. He married me to cook, but also to bear him a son, as his previous wife could not. I thought you were young, strong, he raged. I should’ve known better. I should’ve listened. It’s not as though he has anything of value to impart, no gold or jewels or even pearls of wisdom. No. I see now it’s purely arrogance. To have a son is power, in his twisted mind. Maybe the problem is you. I spoke those brazen words to him tonight. I knew as soon as they flew, sharp as daggers from my lips, what a mistake I’d made. I am used to biting my tongue, to tugging the sleeves of my gray dress down to hide the mark that makes people uneasy. I’m used to walking with downcast gaze, to being small and silent. Something fills me tonight, a strange boldness. Maybe it’s the madness, finally taking root. The madness they always told me awaited a girl like me. The village sleeps as I slip out of the house and down the streets, past the blacksmith’s and the tailor’s, past the
Summer 2018 The Starlit Path Magazine
We are a Free New Age Journal covering everything Woo.