Excerpt for Zingara Tale of a Feisty Gypsy by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Tale of a Feisty Gypsy

By Charlene Forrest


Tale of a Feisty Gypsy

Published by Charlene Forrest at Smashwords

Copyright 2019 Charlene Forrest. All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9780463204269

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Photo: George Hiles

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To my amazing children, Hayden, Dana and Brooke, may you always follow your dreams.


Prologue - Charles

Eleven Moons Away - Lillian

Ten Moons Away

Nine Moons Away

Eight Moons Away

Seven Moons Away

Six Moons Away

Five Moons Away

Four Moons Away

Three Moons Away

Two Moons Away

The Last Moon

The Celebration

Leaving Summer Harbour

Epilogue - Charles


About the Author

Connect With Me

Other Books by the Author


Charles 1850

“A nice gentle push now dear,” I said to my wife as I prepared to cradle our first-born.

“What’s wrong?” asked Mary as I quietly welcomed the infant into the world.

“Nothing - nothing at all, we have a daughter. And she’s perfect” I said while handing her over to her, placing a smile on my face in hopes that she didn’t notice my disappointment.

“Let’s name her Lillian,” Mary said looking at me hopefully.

“That sounds fine by me, now you should get some rest while she’s content to sleep,” I said, taking the baby, who seemed so small and insignificant lying in my large calloused hands.

I sat at the table by candlelight watching my wife and daughter sleep. Perhaps next time we would have a boy that would carry on my name. I looked at Lillian. I suppose that a daughter is also a blessing, it’s just that I had hoped to tell my patients that my practice would be taken over one day by Dr. Charles Holder the Second. That would surprise them I chuckled quietly to myself, since they didn’t even know that I had married. I wasn’t sure that I’d even tell anyone about the baby now. If I admit to having a new baby, then there will surely be lots of questions to follow about my wife. I can’t let it be known that I married “Crazy Mary” as the locals called her. Lord knows my practice has dwindled enough with that new young Doctor hanging his shingle in town, forcing me to scour the countryside for new families in need of my care in exchange for eggs or supplies.

Lillian cried but the squealing didn’t wake Mary so I leaned over and shook her by the shoulder. “Dear, the baby is ready to feed.”

“Go away,” Mary mumbled.

“Now Mary, I know you’re tired, but you have to feed the baby, now, wake up.” I said more sternly than I had planned but I myself was in need of some sleep. Mary rolled over so I placed Lillian next to her to feed and then decided to go to bed myself. I walked around to my side, pulled back the covers and climbed in clothes and all.

Hours later, I awoke to a baby crying. It took me a few minutes to register that it was my own daughter. I rolled over, looking to see if Mary had her but she was sound asleep and Lillian was nowhere in sight. I jumped up and found Lillian on the cold floor beside the bed. Picking her up and soothing her, I stared at Mary in disgust. I know childbirth is draining but she should be somewhat more attentive to her new baby than this. After calming Lillian’s cries and checking that she was okay, I grabbed both of Mary’s shoulders and shook her awake. “Mary. For heaven’s sakes, Mary, wake up!”

Mary sat up with a start. “I just had the worse premonition. Lillian is cursed,” she said.

“You just let our new baby fall out of bed onto the floor!” I replied harshly.

“She’s going to bring down my entire clan one day,” she continued to mumble.

“It was just a dream,” I told her.

“It wasn’t a dream Charles. It is going to happen if I can’t remove the curse from her.”

“Curse or no curse, you let her fall out of bed. You must be more attentive Mary.”

“It’s not my fault, you’re always crowding me.”

I shook my head and handed our daughter back to her. “I’m going outside to do some chores. When you are done feeding her, you should get yourself up and about and do the same.”

As I grabbed my axe, I hoped that the days to come would be better in our one room log cabin. It was by no means a luxurious home but I certainly knew what I was doing when I built it. I thought about my own Father who had been quite handy with an axe. He had taught me how to pick the best logs and make a tight cog joint so there weren’t many gaps. It made for a warm home that would get us through the harsh Canadian winter, even more important now that we had a child to think about. I sighed and then raised the axe to split the large log in front of me. I had planned to pass these skills along to my son. I supposed I would just have to build the addition onto our home myself. It would have a cellar for food storage and a rock foundation keeping out more of the dampness. I would start hauling rocks from the riverbed soon I decided. Lillian would need her own room one day. “God must have blessed me with a daughter for a reason,” I said aloud, in an attempt to convince myself.

All that night Lillian cried and I suffered trying to wake myself up to get her. I had to prod Mary to feed her. I had just fallen back asleep when I thought I heard someone calling my name. I thought I was dreaming until I realized that someone had pulled up on a horse outside. It was Donald Locksteed looking for my services. His wife was about to deliver their first baby and they lived in the next township. It was a boy no less. I was there the entire night and most of the next day. When I finally returned, Mary had not tidied up or even started dinner. I had to warm up some fish stew that I had made the day before and darn my own socks. I wondered if Mary had had some complications from the birth but her colour had returned and she seemed strong and well enough. I had known of woman that had birthed and then made their families dinner just a couple hours later. Granted they were old hats and onto their fourth and fifth children, but still, they were much more attentive than Mary was. Poor Lillian spent most of her day in the cradle that I had carved. I regretted carving the initials CH into it now, having been convinced that a son would be bestowed upon us.

I made several trips down the hill to the beach the next day to collect large rocks for the new hearth that would make the beginnings of our new larger home. I could hear Mary talking to someone as I approached the cabin and wondered if perhaps her sisters had finally come to see the new baby but when I walked through the door, no one was there. “Mary. Who were you talking to?”

Mary sat in the rocking chair and Lillian slept in her cradle.

“And what happened to the rabbit I left this morning for you to make stew with?” I asked, looking disappointedly at the empty pot next to the hearth, my stomach feeling just as empty.

“I wasn’t talking to anyone,” replied Mary defensively, “and I was just about to get it started.” Mary stood up from her chair.

“I thought maybe your sisters had finally come to see you. Perhaps we should go for a visit with them soon,” I said, looking at Mary but all I got back was a shoulder shrug.

After two more nights with barely any reciprocal conversation and no dinner made, I decided to make the long journey through the woods myself to find my sister-in-law’s. Hattie and Myrtle were not pleased to see me, they called me a grouchy old Flapdoodle but upon hearing the news of their new niece, they became joyful and giddy. They promised to be around to our place as soon as they had prepared their harvest feast in preparation for calling down the harvest moon goddess that they assured me would bless my daughter. I just nodded my head; they seemed to always be preparing for a feast. Mary had used her best efforts to assure me that her sister’s ways were harmless, but looking around at the bones hanging in the trees, I decided it was hard not to be suspicious of their witch-like activity.

Good to their word, the Aunts appeared at our homestead two days prior to the full moon in order to welcome and bless their new niece. Right away, Hattie and Myrtle noticed the lack of spunk in their sister’s eyes and the lack of preparation in the home for the harvest moon celebration.

“What is going on here?” said Myrtle looking around. “Hattie and I have been working our hides off for the upcoming feast and we don’t even have a husband to prepare for.”

“Oh Myrtle go easy on her. It’s her first little critter you know,” said Hattie. “Let me see the little darling,” exclaimed Hattie, swooping the baby from me while I had been trying to encourage Mary to hold her. “She certainly is sweet, isn’t she Myrtle? Isn’t she?” turning so her sister had a better view. “Want to hold the sweet pea Myrt? Want to?”

“I think I’m needed for more important things, like cleaning up around here,” said Myrtle as she threw a log on the hearth and started moving things around as if she lived there. “Shall I prepare us a meal?” asked Myrtle, as she began looking to see what was stored in the pots.

“Why, yes, that would be divine,” I answered, my stomach making a rumbling at the thought.

“Mary?” Myrtle looked at her younger sister, “Mary? What is going on with you?”

“Nothing,” Mary replied. Myrtle looked at me for the answer.

“Mary hasn’t been the same since the birth,” I said. “Her wifely duties, as you can clearly see are suffering and she barely speaks to me.” I threw my hands in the air in a sense of futility.

“Do you need a wet nurse Mary?” Hattie asked.

“If the nursing is too much we can mush up some bread and spoon feed it to her,” said Myrtle.

“No, no,” I replied quickly. “The baby is doing just fine. I just need my bloody wife back!”

“Well, looks like we came just in the nick of time now didn’t we?” said Myrtle, nodding at Hattie. “Stand up Mary,” Myrtle said very deliberately. Mary stood and stepped away from her chair and Hattie handed Lillian to her. The two sisters formed a circle around them, holding hands and began to chant.

The sister’s chanting unnerved me and after they left, Mary was mumbling to herself much more. “Pardon dear?” I would say when I thought she had said something to me but she would just shake her head right to left as though she hadn’t said a thing and I was the crazy one.

I stood outside the cabin and waited for Mary to say something, trying to make out what she was saying. I needed to find some clue as to what was going on in her head. I heard her say something to the effect of “get the coven together” but I wasn’t sure and didn’t know what that could possibly mean.

I was growing weary. I woke up at all hours through the night, partly to ensure Mary fed Lillian when she cried and partly because I was fearful of what Mary was going to do. I woke early one morning and gasped. Mary was wide-awake, her face inches from mine, but staring past me as though I wasn’t really there. “What’s wrong?” I asked while pushing myself away and looking to see where the baby was.

“I thought I saw a demon in you. Lillian is cursed because of you,” Mary replied adamantly as I scrambled out of bed.

“I am far from a demon Mary. It is you that should be feared. Something is not right with you,” I said slow and deliberate while picking up Lillian from her cradle. “I’m going out to see Jacob and his family to check on their youngest, he had a fall last week and I want to see if he’s up walking again. When I get back, I want to see that you’ve bathed yourself and the baby and have started some canning. We cannot survive the winter on the gifts of others you know,” I said glancing in the direction of the supplies that the sisters had brought with them.

Upon my return, I saw plenty of smoke coming from the chimney of the cabin and I smiled to myself. It was a good indication that Mary had started some canning finally but when I walked into our home, I was taken aback. Lillian lay naked on the table with a pentagram drawn in black ash on her delicate white skin and Mary was working with the wax that was meant for their canning, forming it into the shape of what looked like a baby next to her. “What on God’s earth are you doing? That’s it Mary! That’s it!” I said picking up Lillian and wiping the ash from her onto my own clothing.

“It’s okay Charles,” said Mary calmly “I remembered a spell that will cure her. I just have to drive some nails into this.” Mary gestured to the wax baby on the table.

“You’ll do no God darn thing Mary. There is nothing wrong with our child; it is you that is sick. Pack your bags. I’m taking you and Lillian to your sisters. I can’t go on like this any longer and Lillian isn’t safe being alone with you all day,” I said as I began gathering the baby’s items, placing them on the bed and dressing her while Mary continued smoothing out the wax in front of her.

I swiped the wax off the table onto the ground. “Charles!” Mary screamed in horror. “What have you done? How will I protect my clan now?”

“By packing your things. Let’s go,” I said, thrusting a burlap sack towards her.

The ride to Myrtle and Hattie’s was uneventful. I thought of turning back several times but I knew this was best. No one knew of my marriage or daughter. I could easily return to my bachelor life or seek out another bride that could bear me a son. Lillian would be raised by her Aunts and although I disagreed with their lifestyle, they could do better for her than Mary alone.

I thought back to the day I first met Mary in the woods. I had startled her as she picked wild flowers when I came bolting through the clearing on my horse, having gotten word from Nelson who lived over the hill that the Manson boy had been pulled lifeless from the lake near the point. Something about her caught my attention that day and despite my hurriedness, I had stopped briefly to apologize for the fright I had given her and I tilted my hat before coaxing Charlie back up to a gallop.

The Manson boy lost his life that day, a sad affair for certain but I felt my own luck had changed when on my way home, Mary was still there. I had wondered if she had waited, in hopes that I’d be back, something I had meant to ask her and never had. I glanced back to the cart she rode in with Lillian and all her things; now certainly wasn’t the time to ask.

Our relationship had been sweet and easy. We had met for picnics in the clearing and we had quickly fell into a comfortable silence with one another. We both had an appreciation for healing herbs and found delight in sharing our knowledge and findings during an afternoon walk. How was that just a short year and a half ago I wondered to myself as we approached the clearing now. How fast things had changed. I turned and looked at Mary once more. If she would just call out to me or give me any kind of sign that things could go back to the way they were, I would happily turn around, but the only words coming from her were chants to Mother Nature asking for guidance and wisdom to overcome Satan’s curse. Words of a crazy person.

I wasn’t sure who had labelled her Crazy Mary, but I knew of the stories that the local farmers told of a woman dressed in black that walked through the woods singing songs of the haunted who would steal your eyes while you slept, and kidnap your children. While I never considered her capable of such feats, listening to her now, I understood how her chanting could be frightening.

Ahead I could see a slight puff of smoke amidst the trees, indicating that I was close to the settlement where the sisters lived in the summer months. The way they lived unnerved me. They lived out of wagons and tents when they were here. Other than the large hearth they had built, there were no other permanent out buildings after many years of habitation here. The children ran around barefoot and unruly, holding their hands out for offerings to anyone foreign.

I had visited once with Mary. I had vowed never to return; yet here I found myself once again. There were chicken feet hanging from trees and weird things in jars that I couldn’t even fathom what purpose they must hold. I had heard stories that they were witches and had Satan’s power allowing them to fly through the sky at night and cast spells, but I had only considered them tall tales.

I pulled the wagon in behind one of the large tents at the ‘witch’s camp’ as the locals deemed it. This is where the sisters lived with their clan, and where I would be leaving my daughter. Slowly the clan walked towards us and gathered around the wagon in silent curiosity. My legs shook uncontrollably like gelatin that had formed on the top of a cold broth. I jumped off my perch and helped Mary get Lillian and her things out of the cart. I tried to make brief eye contact with Mary to relay to her my deep sadness but she had locked eyes with her sisters who upon seeing her had picked up their skirts to move faster in our direction. I leaned in and touched my daughter’s head, saying my own silent prayer before jumping back onto my cart, vowing once again, never to return.

Lillian 1863

There was a rage that seemed to just bubble around within me, not really doing anything most days but every now and again, it came to the surface and I had no way to resist it.

“Lillian, not now, there’s no time for this. You’re almost thirteen years old. You can’t be doing this any longer,” I heard Mother say but jezebel had taken the reigns and I had no control of my body.

The other children stood nearby giggling while I kicked at the dirt in front of me, ripped at my clothing, tore chunks of hair from my head and threw rutabagas from the crate nearby. I could hear them muttering. “Here she goes again” and “what is wrong with her” but in the moment, I didn’t care, I just needed to release this volcanic lava that boiled within me.

“Get back to work children, there’s nothing to see here,” I heard my Aunt Myrtle announcing firmly.

Mother kept trying to engage me until a rutabaga hit her in the shin and Hattie pulled her away.

“Lillian Loveridge, you will stop this conduct right now,” said Myrtle.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, kicked the empty crate and spat at her.

“Go away Ted,” I heard Myrtle say next, “we have this under control.”

“It doesn’t look like you have it under control,” he said, “Mary, you okay?”

“Yes, Ted, I am fine,” she tried to answer over my screaming.

As time passed, my body finally gave up its fight. Myrtle came in with a large blanket, draping it around my shoulders. “Come,” she said.

She walked me to the children’s wagon and helped me inside. Their chatter came to a stop and I felt all of their eyes on me. Myrtle took the scarf from her head and wrapped it around mine, covering the side of my face. I sat at the back, pulling my knees up to my chest and gently rocked back and forth. It made me think back to when I was just four, when I had made this journey in the children’s wagon for the first time.

I was on my tippy toes, reaching with one hand to touch the giant black bird, while the other clung to the wooden post when the bird suddenly opened its mouth and began bobbing up and down. As a piercing noise came from its shiny throat, I heard Aunt Myrtle yell, “Lillian get down from there right now!”

Even if God herself had told me not to, I still would have climbed the fence, changing the world’s view of me forever. I say her because I imagine that God is a girl like me. Maybe a bit older than my four harvest moons at the time but not that much older. Certainly not as old as Myrtle the Turtle; Aunt Turtle thinks she knows everything but I think she’s just kruger-spoof most of the time. Besides, everyone knows that gypsies are good liars. It’s in our blood.

I let go of the fence post, thinking the bird was going to peck me with its pointy black beak. As I fell from the fence, one of my moccasins came off leaving me with a bare foot. That didn’t worry me as much as the tearing sound from my favourite yellow blouse. I remember that I had looked around to see if anyone had noticed my plight before experiencing a numbness in my face and seeing the sticky red blood further ruining the yellow garment that Myrtle the Turtle had threatened to throw away if I didn’t launder it that very day. Maybe no one saw me. Perhaps I could change without anyone seeing but I was sure that I’d never find my bag of clothes in the chaos. The clan was busy loading supplies onto our caravan of wagons and horses, getting ready for our move north to our solstice home just outside of the so aptly named town of Summer Harbour. I saw a glimpse of my Mother headed towards me. I knew there was no hiding this now.

“What on earth have you done my child?” I heard my Mother say before her beautiful champagne eyes landed on mine. A funny feeling came over me as I sunk to the ground at her feet.

“Myrtle!” I heard Mother yell to her sister.

“What?” Myrtle answered. I imagined her walking towards me, in long deliberate strides like a soldier marching into combat. “Oh,” she said, louder this time, so I knew she was closer. Then her rough cold hands were on me. “I see we need an angle worm poultice and a sewing needle.”

With that news, I opened my eyes wide, staring at Mother, pleading for her to stop what was about to happen.

“Hattie!” yelled Myrtle. “Get your rear out here and help me move some rocks for an angle worm poultice. Mary, put a hold on it until I get everything I need,” she said, placing my Mother’s warm hand on my face, while I tried to avoid looking at the gash on my arm.

“Momma, I don’t want worms on it,” I said in a whiny voice that betrayed my mature sensibilities. Mother had gathered up her dress in her free hand and leaned down touching my other cheek in reassurance but I still screamed when I saw Hattie approaching with the worms and honey. Covering my mouth with a finger from her free hand, leaving me unable to protest, my Mother shook her head back and forth.

“They’re just garden worms. Nothing to be this frightful of Zingara,” Hattie said softly. I thought back to last solstice when I had found a slug in my bowl of greens. Myrtle had scolded me when I had barfed up my meal. I truly hadn’t enjoyed greens since and often threw them away when no one was looking. My mouth got that watery feeling. I tried to make myself stop thinking about the squirmy worms, so my stomach wouldn’t betray me again.

I looked away as Myrtle took over from Mother. “Stop flailing about child,” she said, practically sitting on me so that I couldn’t move. She pulled at my blouse, taking it off and throwing it in a heap before I could protest. I attempted to cover my front by crossing my good arm across my chest, to avoid any of the boys looking at my undershirt. “A waste of good honey,” she said as it oozed down my arm and then my face. I forgot that I was supposed to be looking away and thinking of something pleasant like the beach. Instead, I screamed as Hattie hand the juicy worms one at a time to Myrtle but quickly quieted as I received Myrtle’s glare that I had been told could curse you to the heavens. I felt the coolness of the worms as each one was placed over the honey.

“Get them off of me,” I sobbed, gasping for breath.

“You will do no such thing. That stays on all night and if you take it off, I shall put on another with even more worms,” she threatened. I looked up, hoping to find a compassionate face in Hattie or Mother but they were already sharing a laugh about their own childhood and seemed disinterested in my predicament.

I had lost all time when Myrtle brought the needle to my face.

I woke up with her shaking me and Hattie rubbing lavender under my nose. I soon remembered that I had worms on my arm and stitches in my face and I let out a moan. “Now young lady, this wouldn’t have happened if you were helping the others load the wagon like you were supposed to. Clearly you were being disobedient as none of the other children have required my services today,” said Aunt Myrtle, waiting for my response. I stared at her. Her mouth had no lips; it was just a line straight across her face, like a turtle.

“It was. It was the crow’s fault,” I told her.

“Oh balderdash. No crow ever hurt a person like that. I told you not to climb that fence,” she said waving her arm to dismiss me. I fought back tears by breathing hard through my nose. I wanted to say it was her fault for startling me but I didn’t dare.

I saw Myrtle give my Mother a stare as I stomped away in the most unladylike way I could manage. Mother followed me and when I couldn’t find my bag of clothes, I was forced to wear one of the boys’ shirts.

“Please let me ride up front with you Momma,” I had pleaded, knowing that I was expected to ride in the back for the first time. I threw myself on the ground and kicked my feet.

“Stop that Lillian. Stand up. You know I can’t let you ride up front when none of the other children are allowed,” said Mother walking away, leaving me on the ground kicking at the dirt.

My knees rocked back and forth now, just as they had back then. I strummed at the scar on my arm just as I had strummed on the poultice all those years ago, as though it was a ukulele or banjo. I remembered thinking the entire trip about my pretty yellow blouse with its cute ruffled shoulders that Myrtle had so easily thrown away. Myrtle the Turtle was mean. I looked out the back of the wagon as we moved away from the cobblestone streets littered with garbage and excrement. Horses and people crossed the streets in such a disorganized fashion that it hurt my brain. Thank the Lord, we were headed home.

While the other children were always saddened to leave the city, I rejoiced. Summer Harbour was close to an inlet, where the Mayfield River flowed into Lake Haddon. I loved to swim there and feel the sand squish between my toes. There was wildlife everywhere and farms for miles. It felt like home. As much as I always fought bathing, I hoped that we would stop at the river for the opportunity before we started settling camp. It made logical sense that the men would want to do some fishing so we had something fresh for dinner. I craved a hearty rabbit stew but knew that it would be a few days before that would be a reality. Fish at least would be a welcome change to the pemmican that we had been living off.

It was the twelfth time that I had made the journey but every time, seeing the signs for Summer Harbour, always left me with a sense of profound relief. Ted a man from Lake City had taken over as head of the clan this past year and he was determined to make a name for himself when it came to the gypsy bloodline. He had worked everyone extremely hard all winter. The clan seemed happy with his leadership, reveling in the amount of food and staples that we had when the weather was harsh but at what expense I had once said to Mother who was shocked at my brazen attitude for a child.

I thought about Izzy who no longer got to ride in the children’s wagon. She was only a few months older than I but it was as if we were separated by years. I had always admired her joyous and confident nature. She loved to talk to people, and tell fortunes. She knew exactly how to make the city folk smile with her quick compliments and flirtatious nature. I thought about the day that Ted had grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the tent. I don’t know for sure what Izzy did but I imagine she had turned down someone’s money as a gesture of good faith as she often did, and Ted must have seen. Whatever he had said or did to her that day broke her spirit. She was no longer the Izzy that I knew and it saddened me to see her pan handling without the spunk she was known for.

I had decided from an early age that the gypsy way of life wasn’t suited for me and after seeing what happened to Izzy this winter, I had made the decision that this would be the last time that I would make this trip. I pictured Ted perched over me, his tall wiry frame and his shiny black hair that fell into his face. He must have been a bird in a former life, the way he chirped at people. I wouldn’t let him use me for wealth and power the way he did with the others. I had just four short months to figure out how.

The wagon jerked, making a turn towards the town square instead of the river and my hope for a quick dip was quickly shattered. I stood up and walked to the front of the wagon, grabbed the cloth cover and peered around it just in time to see the familiar worn path that would have led us home.

“Why are we going to town?” I asked, looking in the direction of the drivers. One of them, Robert or Bert as they called him, looked at me and then went back to the conversation he had been having as though I didn’t exist. My lips formed a severe line as I struggled to get to the back of the wagon past the other children who now realized they were going to town and were all the better for it. Sitting down, I grabbed my book and tried not to think about what was expected of me once the wagon stopped. “Stop it,” I whispered to myself in an attempt to control my trembling hands as I turned the page. I found a potion on courage and read it through, wishing I had the ingredients to make it then and there but instead had to hope that reading it alone would be enough.

The other children were practically jumping out of the wagon around me before it even came to a full stop. They had their cards and tricks ready and they chattered excitedly about the possibility of gumdrops. “Go ahead,” Lahey said to me, thrusting his head in the direction of the other children. Part of me appreciated that he noticed my existence; he was one of the few that even bothered to interact with me anymore. When I shook my head no, he quickly jumped over the wagon’s side and was gone.

I sat rocking back and forth, gathering the 'hutzpah' as Hattie would say, to join the others when I heard Ted’s stern voice above the other chatter. “Line up. Chins forward.” I pictured him walking along the line, while each child shared with him their plan for pick pocketing, card trickery or if they were a girl, fortune or age telling. I breathed deeper as I heard him say, “Very good. Number five what is your plan?”

Then I heard someone climb aboard the wagon and I looked up. “Lillian!” Aunt Turtle yelled under her breath, she came quickly at me and grabbed my arm. “Let’s go!” My arm was close to being torn from the socket while she got me off of the wagon and pushed me towards the line up where I fell into the thirteenth and final spot.

“And you?” asked Ted as he arrived to me.

“Age,” I responded quietly.

“Fortune,” countered Ted, holding a deck of tarot cards in front of my face. I took them and looked at him with wide eyes. Telling fortunes required much more interaction with the townsfolk than simply age telling. “It’s your twelfth moon. It’s about time you used your saucebox for some good around here. I expect you to bring back a silver. And fix your scarf to cover that,” he said pointing at my scar before he walked off.

A silver! I had only ever had a bronze in my hand before. Now, he expected me to earn a silver. I looked around for my Mother but she was in the front wagon and likely already setting up her tent with the creepy animal leg table inside. I knew it wasn’t a real animal leg, it was just carved from wood but it gave me the willies none-the-less. I pictured my Mother with her red scarf wrapped elegantly around her head, her ample bosom popping out from the tightly tied corset under her dress, sitting behind the table with the hide covering that kept her crystal ball from sliding. She would easily earn several silvers today. My Mother was a true Seer. I was not. I was going to have to fake my good fortunes to these strangers that I had no desire to speak with. Without a word, Aunt Myrtle appeared out of nowhere and fixed the blue scarf, pulling the left side over my cheek, smoothing my long lifeless mop of hair, and tying it tight in a knot at the back. I looked at her and she nodded her head to indicate that I should go.

The others quickly dispersed as we reached the town centre where the town’s people had their market. I watched as Lahey quickly gathered an audience with his card tricks and Dee had them mesmerized with his peanut and shell game. “Fortunes told,” I said in a voice that only I could hear while walking through the crowd. The sights and smells of food were overwhelming and suddenly I was stopped in my tracks. Something soft and warm was in front of me. Then I heard something fall to my feet. I had bumped into the back of a large woman holding a young child that was now crying obsessively. I looked down to see a broken candy stick at my feet. I bent to pick up the pieces and hand it back to her but she looked at me in disgust and walked away.

“I’m sorry,” I said as an afterthought. I looked at the broken candy, then put it in my pocket. The man behind the stall where the lady had been standing, shook his head at me.

“Damn pikey. Always stealing our customers.”

I walked to the outer edge of the market, away from where the adults were set up. It was expected that the children would work the outskirts and try to drive the crowd towards them. “Fortune telling,” I said, trying to find a louder voice. I needed to find at least one customer today or I would be assigned to fish scaling for the week. “Fortune telling,” I said again, taking the set of cards out of my apron and fanning them in front of me. I tried making eye contact with the gaje that were walking past me but only their children would stare at me.

“I want my fortune,” said a voice behind me. I turned to see a boy not much older than myself.

“What?” I asked.

“I want my fortune,” he said again.

“It costs a silver,” I said dryly and turned around again.

“I have it,” he said and I turned back around to see him pull a silver coin from his pocket and quickly put it back in again.

“Okay, then. Very well, pick a card,” I said fanning them in front of me.

“You’re quiet, let’s go over there,” he said gesturing to bench under a tree.

“Fine,” I said, just wanting to get the reading over with so I could have the coin and know that I was done for the day. “Pick a card,” I repeated to him as he sat on the bench next to me.

“My Mother says that these cards are the devil’s picture book,” he said looking into my eyes.

“Do you want your fortune or not?” I said briskly, then immediately regretted it when he looked into his lap. “Sorry. Just pick a card, okay?”

The boy looked up and picked a card from the deck I had fanned. “A lion?” he said, looking up at me. “What does that mean?”

“Well, that means that you will need strength and courage like a lion to get through whatever is to come,” I responded, proud of myself for remembering the meaning of that card.

“That’s dumb,” he said, “Let me choose again.”

I looked around to see whether I was being watched. Ted would have my hide if I didn’t charge double but I didn’t see anyone from the clan nearby. “Go ahead,” I said, taking the lion from him and putting it into my apron while he grabbed another. I watched as his eyes grew wide and he threw the card at me. I picked up the card with the picture of the devil as it landed on my skirt. The boy stood up and I tried to grab his shirt but he got away.

Panic rose in my throat and I ran after him. I saw him go behind one of the shops and I followed. I reached out and managed to grab a hold of one of his suspenders.

“Let me go,” he said.

“You owe me a silver,” I said loudly while trying to catch my breath.

“My Mother was right,” he said. “It’s evil.”

“Evil or not, you owe me a silver,” I said, still holding onto him.

“Fine,” said the boy, reaching into his pocket and producing the silver coin. He put it in my hand as I let go of him.

“You’re pretty fast for a girl,” he said, and then he was gone.

I held the coin tightly in my hand. I had done it. I had earned a silver. A smile crept over my face. Perhaps fortune telling wasn’t as bad as I had thought. Maybe I could even do it again. Imagine if I came back with two silvers. I walked back to the bench under the tree, looking for my next customer but none came.

I was eager to get home, so as soon as I noticed the market beginning to wind down, I made my way back to the wagons. I rolled my eyes as I passed Tillie and Lahey still working the crowd. “Come on sir. Step this way for a chance to win all my friend’s silver,” I heard Tillie announce. Nearing the wagons, I saw Aunt Hattie putting baskets into the wagon and Myrtle was wrapping up the salted fish. None of the children were lining up yet so I picked up the pace and headed towards Ace and Twist. “Hi guys,” I said, offering some water from the nearby bucket. “Soon you will have delicious river water to drink and the freshest hay around,” I told them smiling. I reached into my pocket, took out the broken candy stick, and gave them each a piece. I giggled watching Twist move it around in his mouth while Ace just swallowed it whole. He had no comprehension as to what a privileged horse he was in that moment. I looked back and forth, then took a lick of the remaining piece. I looked around once more, then popped it all in my mouth, and closed my eyes; it tasted sweeter than a brown apple.

“Lily, your back.”

Quickly, I opened my eyes and swallowed the piece of candy whole just like Ace had.

“Yes Aunt Hattie.”

“Well? How did you make out? I heard Ted gave you the tarots,” she asked leaning in towards me.

“I got a silver,” I whispered to her.

“You wouldn’t be trying to sell me a dog now would you lass?”

“No ma’am,” I said, quickly showing her the silver.

“Well, I’ll be horn-pooned!” Hattie exclaimed, putting her arm around my shoulders. “Let us go line you up.”

I couldn’t help but smile as Hattie walked me over to Ted and put me second in line. I stood nervously waiting for the other children to fall in place. My palms were sweaty as I transferred the coin from one hand to the other behind my back.

“I trust we had a productive day,” Ted said as he walked towards us, his companion perched upon his shoulder.

“Let’s make this quick, hands out front.”

Nervously, I put my hands out in front of me, palms up, the silver coin sitting in my right hand. Whispers soon started next to me, the other children astonished with my treasure, despite that Lahey and Tillie likely had bronzes that totalled more.

“Well, well, Lillian. Looks as though you accepted the challenge I put to you,” said Ted, taking the damp coin from my hand.

Immediately he held it up for the sun to shine on it and closed one eye. Then just as quickly, he tossed it behind him and I gasped as it hit the dirt.

“You think you can gum me with a fake coin?” Ted moved on to the next child with a look of disgust on his face.

Heat travelled to my face as the other children giggled amongst themselves. I stared at my hands clenched in front of me, fighting the hard lump in my throat. I refused to give him the satisfaction of tears.

The moment we were dismissed, I walked briskly to the wagon, pulling my shoulder away when Hattie attempted to console me. I took my place in the back of the wagon and didn’t shift until we finally stopped an hour later at our clearing in the woods.

“Troy and Regis, mind the horses. Gerald and Bert let’s get these tents pitched. Ladies, get fires in the hearths and fish in the pots. Children, you will gather stones for repairing the hearths and fetch firewood.” Upon hearing Ted’s commands, everyone began to scatter about. I stood still contemplating my options until Aunt Myrtle’s glare began to burn a hole in me. Darkness would be upon us in mere hours and no one wished not to have their head covered from the stars or food in their belly before slumber. I walked straight back from where we had come in on the wagon, as I had noticed a small sapling that had fallen near the pathway.

Quickly I dragged it to the hearth closest to the tent that I would share with Mother and my aunts. Lahey was ready with an axe to cut it. “Nice one Lillian,” he said to me. I looked towards Ted to ensure he saw me. Our eyes connected yet he turned the other way with no official acknowledgement. I walked slowly away and then quickly darted behind the wagon and looked to see if anyone was watching, but they were all busy with their tasks.

I ran, as quick as could be, in the other direction, into the woods, pushing my way past saplings and bramble bushes until I found a familiar worn path. I walked through the thimbleweed and switch grass that led me to the meadow where daisies, strawberries and black eyed Susan’s would soon flourish. I closed my eyes and spun in a circle. I could almost smell the sweetness of summer. Next to the beach, the meadow was my favourite place. The open space gave my brain permission to expand outside of its normal confines and the air seemed to clear all of the mold that had settled into my lungs during winter, all at once.

Across the clearing, I thought I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I stared for several seconds. I must be seeing things.

Had it been a warmer day, I would have laid in the middle of the clearing and enjoyed the sunshine. Instead, the coolness of the day kept me moving. I practised walking on my hands and doing cartwheels. The heaviness of the past few days began to leave me until I heard my full name, “Lillian Ellen Loveridge.” My heart sunk and I practically froze mid-air.

“I was looking for…”

“For trouble,” replied Aunt Myrtle sternly, marching towards me.


“Well, I don’t see a lick of firewood here, do you?”

“No ma ’me.”

Without any further discussion, we walked back through the woods to the settlement. Aunt Myrtle pointed to firewood for me to pick up along the way so that by the time we were back, my arms were full. It wasn’t fair that just because some of the men had gotten themselves arrested back in the city that the rest of us had to work harder. When I grow up, I’m going to live alone, then I can do my chores whenever I want. I will live on the beach in the sunshine so I don’t have to walk miles for food and water and I can swim whenever I want. I threw the wood on the pile that had impressively accumulated since I’d left.

Aunt Myrtle made me stay up until the wee hours cleaning up after the clan’s meal. “There’ll be no rest for the wicked,” she had told me, now all I wished for was rest.

The sound of Hattie’s snoring made me picture Ace blowing air out of his mouth. He would do that whenever he saw me coming with an apple. Only, it was cute when he did it, I thought to myself, as I ducked through the tent opening.

“It’s just temporary,” said Mother, when she heard me let out an exasperated sigh.

“I sure hope so,” I said, trying to find the best spot to lay my head.

“Ted says that we will have real homes to live in soon,” she continued with an odd excitement in her voice.

I stepped wide to get over Hattie’s legs to get to the far side of the tent.

“Here, come cuddle with me,” said Mother, lifting her blanket.

As much as I wanted to crawl in beside her, and smell her sweet lavender skin like I would when I was little, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had heard her and Myrtle arguing about me when we got back. Myrtle had accused my Mother of being frippery and wanted to know where had she been when I had taken off. She had avoided the question. I lay my bedroll next to her and climbed in.

“Good night sweet pea.”

“Where were you tonight?”

“Helping with the tent and gear. Why?”

“Just wondered.”

“You’re just like Myrtle.”

“Take that back.”

“It’s not a bad thing.”

“Like Lucifer it’s not.”



“Your Aunt Myrtle has many great qualities. It wasn’t a put down.”

“She’s nosey and always pushing me to do things I don’t want to. I wish she’d just leave me alone.”

“We must all work together Lillian, you can’t be taking off and lolly gagging around, you know,” she said placing her hand on my shoulder.

I rolled over so her hand could no longer reach me.

“The stars have told me that you will be a great medicine woman one day,” she said. “I’ve seen the way that you remember things. The spells, the potions, all the herbs and poultices. I bet you have that spell book of yours memorized, don’t you?”

I refused to let her win me over with praise so I said nothing.

“Your Father is a great healer you know,” she said after several seconds of silence.

My heart raced, no one ever spoke about him, unless it was an unsavoury reference, the word scoundrel came to mind.

“I remember the day I saw him for the first time - such a handsome man, tall and strong as an ox he was. Yet he was gentle, he would caress my cheek just as softly as a warm summer breeze.”

Mother paused and I held my breath, willing her to go on.

“I was walking down the farmer’s row in search of some rosehips to make a love potion of all things. I think he was scared of me at first. I can’t say I blame him, the stories that the farmers tell one another about us ‘witches’ get more far-fetched by the day.”

She shifted up on her elbow to look at me. I laid still, saying nothing, hoping that she would continue to ramble on. I desperately wanted to know more about my Father but until now, he was a topic that was off limits.

“It was an easy joining,” she said finally, lying down once again. “We had much in common despite living in two separate worlds. The stars aligned for us. Alas, if only for a season.”

She said it with such sadness. I was confused. I had grown up believing that my Father was an evil man and that I was the spawn of an unplanned union. There was so much I wanted to ask her but part of me was afraid to know everything and then she began to chant, indicating that story time was over.

“Hail fair goddess of light; protect my daughter and her plight. Banish all evil from my sight.”

I closed my eyes and welcomed dreams of sunshine and sand between my toes.

“Daughter, come here and I will teach you to secure your hook for catching the biggest fish ever seen,” said the charming man, whose face I kept trying to make out but just couldn’t.

I ran through the sand to him, it was a sunny perfect day, the water was calm and no one else was around.

“You just wrap it like this,” the man said. He smiled and looked down at my tanned and freckled face, and once again I tried to look up into his eyes but I just couldn’t make them out.

“Are you my father?” I asked.

“Why of course Lillian,” the man said in a jovial way, rubbing the top of my head, “Who else would I be?”

Eleven Moons Away

Ted had the boys hauling large pieces of wood while I helped with the morning meal.

“What are they building?” I asked Mother.

“Oh, a horse pen, I think.”

“Why? Ace and Twist won’t go anywhere. Seems cruel if you ask me.”

My Mother shrugged her shoulders and walked off with a bowl of fish stew for Ted.

The fish stew was delicious, the others thought so too as it was soon gone, and everyone was back to work. I helped with the cleanup and looked expectedly at my aunts and Mother, anticipating a list of chores to be assigned.

“We’re good to head to the river with the wash,” announced Myrtle.

“Uhh,” I breathed out unintentionally while crinkling my nose.

“I think Lillian should gather some herbs for us,” said Hattie.

I looked up quickly, my eyes darting from Mother to Hattie and then to Myrtle the Turtle, holding my breath.

“I suppose,” said Myrtle, “but you’d better find me some dill for the fish.”

“Yes, yes of course,” I said happily.

My Mother smiled at me and I smiled back.

I spread out my blanket at the meadow and emptied my pockets. One feather, one pebble, a piece of birch bark, another feather, a pebble, a piece of birch bark… feather, pebble, birch bark. Nice. I rubbed my hands together, admiring my creation, then got up and stretched, looking towards the sun, enjoying the heat on my face. I took in my favourite scent of spring, that of buttercups and wild grass, snowdrops and violets that bloomed around me. There was a green patch to the right of me and it was sunnier on the north side too so I headed in that direction. Sure enough, there was clover growing. I was excited about finding some four-leaf clovers that I could press and sell at that market. Some of the other children would pick regular clover and add a leaf with pine sap to make it look like a lucky one but I knew I could find some true ones that would bring people actual charm. I sat on my haunches for several minutes, searching through the green clovers before finding one. I stood up smiling. Perhaps my luck was turning around.

“Who’s there?” I said upon hearing a rustle coming from the woods. I slowly started to walk backwards, keeping my eyes straight ahead. I thought I saw movement behind a tree but I couldn’t be sure.

“Who’s there?” I yelled again in an angrier tone.

I was almost back to my blanket when I saw a boy run from behind one tree to another. Without giving much thought, I ran straight towards him and when he peeked from around the tree and saw me, he froze. Before he could run, I sprang on him and wrestled him to the ground.

“Get off me you witch!” he yelled despite me pushing his face into the damp ground of the woods.

He managed to get himself turned; he was stronger and taller than the boy from the market. He glared at me with eyes that made me think of Lake Haddon on a stormy night.

“Who are you?” I asked, jumping off him. My heart raced as I put my hands up ready to fight. His face and overalls were covered in mud and he wiped at it while trying to get up, stumbling backwards.

“None of your beeswax,” he said.

He backed away slowly, limping a little. I just stared at him until he turned and ran through the woods, glancing back a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t following him.

“That’s it. Get out of here, you dirty gaje,” I said once he was well on his way, “and don’t come back!”

I looked down at my own clothing and smoothed out my apron. It was black, like my dress, so it didn’t show the dirt too much. Myrtle had given up allowing me to wear anything lighter except on market days. Should I let them know about my fight with the boy? Or make up a tale to tell. I wouldn’t be allowed back to the meadow if the clan found out that a farm boy was lurking. I could have gotten dirty from picking worms but I had nothing to show for that. Perhaps a big bullfrog got away but I almost had him. Yes, I nodded. I almost had him. I gathered up my belongings and headed back from where I’d come, searching for dill as I didn’t dare return empty handed. I took one last look around before entering the woods, the opposite direction that the boy had come. He must live on the farm through the woods. I had heard from others that the closest farm was on the other side of the woods but I’d never ventured past the meadow before. Perhaps it was time that I did.

I walked across the meadow and into the woods from where the farmer boy had first appeared. I’m not sure what I had expected, perhaps trees lined up in perfect rows, but the woods looked the same as the ones on my side. I scoured the ground closely as I stepped over branches to see if there was any evidence of someone having been there. I walked for what seemed like forever without seeing anything out of the ordinary and no sign of a clearing or farm at all. The quietness was spooky and I was ready to turn back when the sun came out. It shone through the trees ahead, making my eyes travel upwards. I could see something in one of the trees ahead. My breathing increased slightly and my eyes darted quickly around before hastening my pace towards what was beginning to look like the makings of a tree fort.

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