The Good Wife’, Rebecca Buchanan

Illustrations © 2018 Pear Nuallak



 [ Good Wife, © 2018, Pear Nuallak ] She is a good wife.

Two days after her eighteenth birthday, she married a man of thirty years. She wed him because her parents told her to do so. She smiled through her vows because it was expected of her. She lay in the dark on her wedding night and didn’t make a sound because that is what a woman was supposed to do.

As a dutiful wife, she pinned up her hair and assumed her place at her husband’s side. She organized his house and his library and listened, quietly, as he explained his fanciful theories.

As a supportive wife, she wrote down his every word, cataloging them for future generations who would surely come to appreciate his work (unlike so many of his contemporaries).

As a deferent wife, she laid with her husband as he requested. And when the babe did not take in her belly, and her husband announced that he would no longer sully her bed, lest her life be placed in danger again, she quietly agreed. He spent the occasional evening out of the house and returned stinking of perfume. A proper wife, she said nothing, only cleaning his clothes and returning them to his wardrobe.

And when he announced that he was leaving, off to find proof of his fanciful theories, she packed the trunks, covered the furniture, and accompanied him as an acquiescent wife should.

And so they traveled by horse and by carriage and by ship, far to the north and far to the south, across islands and mountains and bogs and deserts. As a courteous wife, she kept her hair pinned and her dress neat and her hat upon her head, and she said not a word of complaint.

And when he brought her to a village on an island in the cold north, and sat in the tavern listening to the local herders and fishers spin tales of a fae queen with hair like a thundercloud, she sat demurely at his side. When they told stories of fae dancing naked under the midwinter moon, she kept her eyes downcast. When they sang, half-drunk, of fae with kisses like fire, she held very still in her chair and did not make a sound.

And when he told her that night to remain in her room and not to worry for him and that he would return with the dawn…

Well, she is a good wife. A good wife would never allow her husband to face such danger alone.

And so she follows him through the snow and the dark, her heavy black cloak drawn tight. Low music whispers across the moor, a chorus of drums and flutes and laughter. When he reaches the ring of ancient stones, white beneath the moon, he hesitates for a long moment.

She stills, not even daring to breathe lest he look back and see her exhalation frozen in the air.

He moves into the circle, disappearing among the rocks.

She lifts her heavy skirts, running through the snow and icy grasses.

The stones rise up out of the ground, their gleaming sides pitted and chipped.

She does not hesitate.

Within the stones, a new world opens up before her, the full moon nearly as bright as the sun. The rocks rise smooth and tall, reaching for the fierce stars. Around her, fae dance: women and men with shaggy legs and curling horns, hermaphrodites clad in mist and rain, rabbits with daisy crowns and ostriches with opalescent plumage and horses so light of foot that the grass does not bend beneath their hooves.

In the center of it all rules a queen with hair like a thundercloud. Lightning skips across her bare shoulders. At the queen’s feet kneels her husband, lost to wonder.

Hand upon his head, the queen considers her. “What will you offer for him?” she asks, voice like the wind before a storm.

“Myself,” she answers.

She drops her cloak and unpins her hair. Sheds her choking dress. Kicks off her tight boots.

And she dances. She dances of her wedding to a man she will never love, of years of silence and pain. She dances of loss and anger, of want and desire. And, finally, of the agony she feels now, knowing that this fleeting taste of beauty and joy will haunt her mortal days.

She falls to her knees, panting and sweating.

Silence.

“I accept,” the queen says, voice like rain upon the sea.

The queen claps her hands and thunder rumbles.

Her husband is dragged away. She does not look as he is tossed through the stones and back into the world. Her agony and silence are carried away with him. She smiles as a woman with a jeweled tongue takes her hand and offers her a kiss.

And they dance and laugh beneath the midwinter moon.


© 2018, Rebecca Buchanan

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