The waves came crashing to the shore like great arms reaching out to Lily, urging her to run and take solace in its icy embrace. And for a moment, Lily considered it. She felt as she would run into those dark arms and stay forever, leaving behind all the resented responsibility, all the feeling in her heart that shamed her beyond redemption. Yet, despite the longing she for sea, she stay rooted to the spot where the sand met the cobblestone walkway that led back up to the castle where her daughter slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
Lily’s blue eyes were glued to the sea as she listened to the whispering voice of the breeze. Her long ebony hair blew in front of her face, shielding the world from her shameful tears. Her arched eyebrows knitted together as she comprehended what the words in the winds whisper were breathing into her ear.
“Remember” it seemed to tell her. The one simple word: remember. And she did remember. Her own pain filled screamed filled her ears as the memory of her daughter’s birth flooded her mind.
“Harder!” The mid-wife yelled at Lily from her position between her knees. The two young servant girls stood on either side of her: one to wipe the sweat from her brow and the other to fetch her water. In the corner, a wet nurse waited to feed the child. Lily found herself gazing at that woman, studying her. She knew she was expected to give the baby to the wet nurse right away but in her heart, Lily knew she wanted to nurse the child herself. Another contraction came suddenly, tearing her attention from her thoughts and putting it back with the task at hand. Pain like Lily had never known before raged through her body. Scream after scream escaped her lips until, after an eternity, her yells minimized into heavy breathing.
It took a few moments before Lily realized her screams hadn’t been replaced by her child’s. Instantly, Lily became aware of the whispers all around her. Confusion struck her.
“Shouldn’t the baby be crying?” She asked without words. Then another emotion took over her body, an emotion she would never admit she felt. As Lily looked on while the mid-wife tried to make the baby cry, relief spread through her. Relief from what though, she wondered. Was it relief from the child finally being born or relief that the child had not yet taken its first breath?
Lily shook the memory from her mind and sighed. She never spent the time to answer that question. Then again, she never had time for anything other than her daughter and the running of the castle. Still, the doubt that it was the second option plagued her like nothing ever had or ever would. It was true that over the past year, Lily had felt horrible things that she would never confess, not even to her most trust friend. Those feelings had been private and would only be known once she was washed away with the sea. The note left on the bed had explained it all. It even revealed the emotions she pretended were products of weariness.
Lily pushed her hair from her face and gazed at the castle. The child had begun screaming and her yells had drifted down the hill to the shore. Lily closed her eyes and put her hands over her ears. How she despised the girl’s cries. There was nothing on the earth that made her feel more like a failure. And she was woman and now a mother. Wasn’t all the motherly instincts suppose to activate the moment a mother held her child? Lily tore her eyes from the castle and watched the waves as a memory found its way to the fore front of her mind.
The room was empty when Lily woke the next morning. A groan escaped her lips as she tried to sit up and a sharp pain shot through her groin and belly. For a moment, Lily simply laid there; eyes closed tight, waiting for the pain to pass. Lily remembered very little from the night before. All she could recall was an agonizing pain, the instant fatigue that came afterwards, and then the sweet relief that was sleep.
A voice sounded suddenly outside the bedchamber door, bringing Lily back to reality. She looked up expectantly at the door, eyes wide. It took only a moment before the door opened and one of the servant girls who had helped with the birthing entered. She carried fresh bedding and clothes in her arms which she placed on the chest at the foot of the bed before realizing Lily was awake. The girl’s plain brown eyes lit up when Lily smiled at her. Without a word the girl left the room only to return mere seconds later, a tiny bundle in her arms. For a moment Lily thought the bundle was nothing more than more linen. But when the mass of white cloth moved slightly and gave a cry, Lily knew it was her child.
A great sense of fear overtook her as the doubts from the night before rushed to mind. And with those recovered memories came a wave of shame. Tears poured down her cheeks as the servant girl placed the baby girl in her arms then stepped away, giving the mother and child space. The servant girl smiled and tried to recall a time when a mother had wept so hard at the sight and touch of her newborn babe.
“If only the servant girl had known the true cause for my tears. Maybe she would have never given me the child. Maybe I wouldn’t be here, contemplating my own demise.” Lily pondered these thoughts as the screams coming from the castle grew louder. Tears formed in her eyes are the shameful emotions began to surface from their home somewhere deep inside her, from their home in the deepest pit of her soul. Lily squeezed her hands around her ears but the little girl’s cries were still clear as day. They seemed to reverberate throughout her body and echo in the hole where her heart once stood for she couldn’t possibly still have one after the things she felt towards an innocent babe.
Lily fell to her knees as memory after memory flooded into her mind, filling it so full she was sure her head would explode. Every incident, every word played in her mind like a montage of shame. Lily wept bitterly into her hands. Then, all was quiet. Only the comforting waves made a sound, singing a song that told of the peace she would only find in the sea’s embrace. Lily’s red and swollen eyes looked up from her tear soaked hands and gazed at the sea. A smile spread across her lips, the first sincere smile she could recollect in the past year. Wiping her face, she stood with determination. Lily giggled a girlish laugh then ran. Her toes dug into the sand with each leap she made towards the water. Like a ringing bell, her laughter sounded, traveling into the castle.
Curiosity drew the servants from their nightly tasks and brought them to the window where they watched their mistress run towards the sea. The servants all shook their heads at the scene while harboring their opinions for, if spoken, controversy would occur. There were really only two opinions among them: those who believed the mistress had snapped and those who believe Lily deserved the short lived freedom that came with running along the shore. One thing was common among though. Not one of the many servants believed for an instant she would throw herself into the waves that licked the mistress’s feet. After a few moments of silent watching, the servants turned from the windows and attended to their tasks once more.
The waves crashed into Lily’s shins, sending a shiver down her spine as she waded further and further into the water. With every step she ventured further in, listening only to the seas sweet words that promise redemption and peace. Lily threw her arms out and stopped her journey into the depths. The water was finally high enough to take her. A large wave formed before her, causing the crazed smile on her face to grow wider. Everything suddenly went dark as the wave embraced her tightly, dragging her beneath its surface. And then it was calm. Lily floated there as the gently rocking lulled her, assuring her it all would be over soon. Lily shut her eyes and waited for the end.
Everyone in the room stopped and looked at the child sitting on Lily’s lap. The young raven hair girl smiled up at her mother with love and pride.
“Mother!” The child cried out again. A burst of laughter and sentimental sighs filled the room. For a moment, all Lily could do was stare at the child. Why was the girl calling her Mother? Realization struck Lily.
“I am her mother.”
Tears of joy fell from her eyes as she pulled her daughter close to her. “That’s right my darling. That’s right.”
Lily’s eyes snapped open. No longer could she hear the voice of the sea, only her daughter’s laughter. As the sweet sound filled her being, she became aware once more. The light that was her daughter was conquering the darkness is her heart. All she knew was she to be with her. Redemption could only be found in loving her child. Peace could only be found by holding her and kissing her cheeks.
The sea fought as Lily swam to the shore. Each wave came harder than the last, pulling her back to the emptiness. The sea sang to her, louder and sweeter than before with offers of eternal tranquility. Yet no matter how loud the sea became all Lily could her was the beautiful laughter. Then, finally, there was sand beneath her feet. Lily stepped away from the waves, her wet dress clinging to her frail form. With the last of her strength, Lily climbed the hill pathway to the castle. As she walked through the dimly lit corridors of her home, the servant stared at her with bewilderment. Lily knew she mist like a sight as she walked past them. She was soaked to the bone from head to foot and her hair was knotted.
With a trembling hand, Lily pushed to door to her bedchamber open. For a moment, she simply stared at the cradle standing at the far wall. Inside she saw the moment caused by tiny hands and feet. Lily walked slowly to the cradle, trying with all she could not to reveal her fear.
The child gazed up at her mother, eyes full of love. Lily smiled and picked up the child, cradling the girl in her arms. Lily smiled down at the tiny angel face that belonged to the child, her child. Holding the girl close, Lily stroked her hair and whispered “I love you, angel.”
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