One more bundle of flax to spin and she had to get it done tonight. Last week, she’d failed, needing an extra day to complete her task. A shiver ran down her spine at the memory. Mama expected her requests to be fulfilled. Liesl rolled her shoulders to relieve the ache from hours spent in an unnatural position and turned her face to catch the last warmth from the setting sun.
Sunlight turns red
flooding the ground
at my feet
Her hands ached as she wrapped more fibers around the distaff. The burning in her fingertips lessened as she dipped her hand in the water bucket at her side. If this wasn’t ready by nightfall, she’d have only candlelight to work by. She pushed the whorl to send it spinning between her knees and twisted the fibre into the thinnest, most even yarn she could, wetting the flax with more well water to keep it smooth.
Neither the callouses on her fingers nor the coolness of the water was enough to protect her skin. The pain in her hands intensified as she rushed to finish in the fading sunlight. Her eyelids heavy, she struggled to stay awake, but her hands knew the task well enough to keep spinning.
The kitchen door slammed shut behind her and Liesl snapped awake. The heavy footsteps of her stepmother set her pulse racing and she quickly wet her fingers again. She spun another length of thread but it turned first pink, then red as she twisted it.
on pale linen
The spindle clattered as it hit the ground. A hand grabbed her shoulder, pinching so hard that tears sprung into Liesl’s eyes. She looked up into her stepmother’s cold, hard face.
“Stupid girl! How dare you get blood and dirt all over my good flax?”
Liesl ran to pick up the fallen spindle, careful not to touch it with her injured hand. “It’s alright, Mama. I can wash it. It will turn out fine.” In her hurry to rinse the blood off the spool of thread, she tripped over the bucket, spilling water over the hem of her stepmother’s dress.
“I…” Liesl swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. “I’m sorry, Mama.” She cringed at her stepmother’s feet.
“It’s bad enough that your worthless father had to die and leave us to fend for ourselves. But that he saddled me with a lazy, incompetent wretch like you…” An ugly red blush crept up the woman's rounded cheeks as she narrowed her eyes at Liesl. “You had better get all of those bloodstains out.”
The empty bucket in one hand and the spindle in the other, Liesl walked over to the well and set her spinning tools on the edge.
Shivering in her thin, soaked dress, Liesl lowered the bucket. Gravel crunched behind her and a pudgy arm in a blue silk sleeve appeared to her right, pushing the spindle and distaff down into the depths of the well.
out of sight
out of reach
Else, her half sister, peeked over the edge of the well, a smirk on her lips. “Oops.” She turned to Liesl and shrugged. “Better get that spindle back, or Mama won’t be happy.”
Biting back more tears, Liesl looked down the well. The welts on her back from the last time she angered her stepmother still stung. As she climbed over the edge, she looked back at the house. Maybe she’d be able to retrieve her tools before Mama noticed.
Struggling for any sort of leverage with her feet, she lowered herself down as far as she could. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let go, bracing herself for the impact with the water at the bottom of the well.
The shock of the cold was more than she’d expected and she gasped as it constricted her chest. Coughing up as much water as she could, she desperately kicked her legs to keep from getting tangled in her skirt and petticoats but the weight of her wet clothing dragged her down below the surface. She came up one more time, spluttering, fighting for air and trying to scream. Her nails scraped at the side of the well as, layers of cloth trapped her legs and pulled her under.
above my head
a cruel glass ceiling
Photo by Zen Photographer on Unsplash
This piece is the first part of a story that just wouldn't stop growing. I worked at it for weeks until I almost lost courage. And that was just the draft. Hah.
There is something a bit different about it. It's written in the form of a haibun. A Japanese form. Among the paragraphs of prose, you'll encounter haiku.
What? But haiku have numbered verses. 5-7-5. Everyone knows that.
There is a lot to be said about this, as well as other things. This story was written as part of the #writersworkout program we've started over at The Writers' Block. It's full of symbolism and archetypes as well, and it speaks to me on a number of levels.
That is why I plan to do a companion post for each chapter of this story, to provide you with more information on all these background topics.
The companion posts are being posted on my off-Steem page.
For now, thank you once again for sharing this with me.
My stories have all found a home on my Steemshelf. Feel free to pay them a visit.
If you would like to read more of my work, feel free to have a look around on my off-Steem blog page. My library there contains all of the pieces I’ve written since starting my blockchain adventure.
The Writer’s Block is a home to writers from every corner of the world, and from every discipline that involves the written word. I consider myself lucky to have found this amazing community. Not only have I found help, support and encouragement there, but I’ve found people who feel the same way I do about writing. I’ve found a second family there. Do you write? Would you love to be a part of a community that can help you learn and improve your writing skill? Our door is always open for kindred spirits. Come and pay us a visit by pointing your pointy thingie at the animation below and clicking.