The bride brought only a small bundle from home. Wrapped in a deep blue silk, she carried medicines and a small bone whistle. The bride was from a family of witches fallen from grace in a time of altered belief. Her home was an island dripping warm green forest into a wide magic river.
When the marriage broker came, the bride was willing to go. She brought a good price, for despite being older than the other girls, she was tall for a person of the country.
The bride did not say goodbye, because she understood she would return. If she pleased the man who was to be her groom, she would return with him. She would return rich, a lady, bringing gifts, children and honour to her family.
There was a medicine she carried which could help the forming of a son. A son would please any groom.The bone whistle she carried, carved from an ancient’s toe, held rarer force.
She carried power down the river, along the long roads, to her groom’s apartment in the city far away.
The bride wondered at the awkwardness in the groom, as he married her.
The groom gave the bride a rose, the first day of their marriage. He brought another every seven days thereafter.
The groom had an unfortunate, sharp face and was perhaps twenty years older than the bride pretended to be. The bride found with surprise he was near innocence of intimate matters. They shared no language but movement and desire.
The old mother in law kept bird cages throughout the apartment. They were all empty. Each night the bride lay covering her ears to stop out the soft rustling of wings against bars.
The mother in law was pleased to at last have a daughter in law; although it was a pity no local girl could be found.
The mother in law struck the bride’s knuckles with a flat spoon, demanding attendance. She demonstrated the proper way to cook and do the other necessary house chores.
The bride found the new food sticky and tasteless on the tongue. If she did not eat enough to please the mother in law, her knuckles were struck again.
The mother in law did not consider her direct correction cruel. It was how she had been taught proper behavior.
The mother in law began to suffer atttacks of cramp, which her doctor could not explain.
The mother in law and the husband bought the bride new clothes, fine dresses and shoes and hats.
The groom taught the bride how to waltz, spinning her around the kitchen table.
The bride was not to leave the apartment, for the city was dangerous. Every afternoon the mother in law, safe in age, went out to do the shopping and locked the bride in behind her.
A time passed.
The groom worked away from the apartment for long hours.
The bride began to see faint flashes of beak and feather in the cages. She didn’t have the words to make the others understand what she saw.
Dust seeped in to the apartment around the glass of a balcony door.
The groom had saved three extra years to afford the upgrade of a balcony apartment. He wanted a nice house for a bride. From the balcony a person could look out over a vast grey field waiting planting in concrete and steel. Beyond the field rose dirty brown black hills.
Often the wind would coil down those hills, unchecked until it broke against the building. Sand and grit would strike and rattle down the glass. The sky became a cloud of desert torn from its moorings.
The bride watched and dreamed of jungle.
The groom saw that the bride was melting at her angles, and he was sad, to lose her first strange beauty.
The bride learned to recognize in the groom’s forehead when his breath would smell of beer.
The bride took long hot baths, breathing in the steam. The bride now saw, day or night, ghost claws and bodies in the cages.
The groom learned how to get from the bride’s body what his body wanted, and that he did not need the bride to smile.
In silent fury, the bride flung her quickening medicine into the winds off the balcony.
To mark a year since the marriage the groom purchased a gold necklace with a small diamond pendant. The mother in law hung the chain around the bride’s neck.
Time passed, and at last the bride’s blood did not come.
The mother in law clapped hands in joy. The husband stuttered. Was it going to be girl, or boy?
The avian ghosts flinched in and out of this world.
A small time passed.
And the bride knew what she carried.
She waited until the mother in law and husband were both away. A storm gathered, shrouding the building.
On the husband’s pillow, the bride placed the blue scarf, folded around the petals of his roses. Although the time passed, the petals were still fresh.
The bride completed her chores. Then she dressed in the best they had given her, as the wind slapped the land against the walls.
The bone whistle clenched between lips, she walked the apartment. Whispering protection, she opened the doors to the cages.
The bride slid the glass door open wide, felt the sand scorpion her face and neck. The wind rushed in, silica scouring away all the fluttering apartment spirits.
The bride stepped up on the balcony railing.
She blew the whistle, took her gifts, and leapt through the sky for home.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com