A story untold

This is a story about what happened in my family, generations ago. The story has never been told, yet I know it happened. It’s been told in the things we don’t say. It’s been told by the things we don’t do. We hush – move on, nothing interesting going on here. And yet, there was…

I don’t know her age. The signs didn’t tell me. But she was a woman. She was beautiful. She was fertile. She was wise. She was helpful. They wanted her to say yes to everything. She didn’t. I guess that’s what got her killed. She said no to one who couldn’t bear it.

You’ll have to fill in the details yourself. Was she married? We don’t know. What did she dream of? No one knew. What was the sound of her laughter? I don’t know – but I do know she loved to laugh. She enjoyed life. She enjoyed company. She enjoyed learning new things. In the end, I think that’s what got her killed. She knew more than they could deal with.

They tried to cover it up, as justice. They tried to make it look like it was right. She was a witch, they said. She was a danger to the village, they claimed. But her family knew better. The only thing she did was say no to someone who couldn’t take it. So he made the claim. He wanted to destroy what he couldn’t have, and knew he couldn’t do it alone.

At first his words held no strength. People trusted their own judgement. They knew her laughter. The knew her beauty. They asked for her wisdom when they needed it. But sometimes she couldn’t help. The disappointed wondered if the rumours were true. They knew they were good people, who deserved good things. Maybe their disappointment was the work of the devil? Maybe there was no wisdom, only trickery? Maybe she wasn’t beautiful, and she just wore a mask.

I think she was married. She had a baby, for sure. Or was she taking care of an orphan? A boy who declared her to be his mother, because love is stronger than blood. Long before he knew her blood would be spilled, he knew he had her love. He felt it in his bones. He saw it in her eyes. He tasted it in the food she shared with him.

A boy, who witnessed the blood. Shed. Spilled. Congealed. He saw her throat, sliced open so she couldn’t speak. He saw the blood between her thighs. He heard the claim that it was self defence. A harmless man against a powerful woman. A Christian dagger against the hand of the devil. An act of justice to right an unnamed wrong. He saw. And he listened. And he took note. This would never happen again. He would be the keeper. He would pass the message along: stay safe, stay safe. So his children would be safe.

They were. He learned to fear for those he loved. He never told his story, but he worked hard to keep his loved ones safe. It was tough sometimes. There’d be contagious laughter in an unguarded moment. There’d be shared wisdom that could draw attention. And true beauty is hard to keep hidden. So he passed his fear along, to help them keep themselves safe. They did. They were. Safe. Their children too. And their children’s children. No one knew what happened.

His descendants stayed safe. They knew how to stay hidden, because something might be out there. They knew they should stay away from trouble, but never understood why. Though they’d never been told, they realised the dangers of beauty, of laughter, of wisdom, of being female and fertile.

Now here I am. Female. Fertile. Beautiful. Wise. Alive. I’m here now, to tell you this story, even though it happened centuries ago. I’ve received love in the form of fear. It couldn’t protect me. I’ve always protected myself. And I learned. There’s danger in silence. There are worries in absence. I will speak up. I’ll tell my truth. I’ll honour the ones who died. I’ll honour the ones who live. I WILL be safe. And I will love.

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