Two Stories

“Twostories, twostories…” The crone whispered reaching her dirty hand towards me.

“Do you want money?” I asked, having my two pennies ready in my hand. I always kept the odd coins for the beggars and those less fortunate.

“Two stories,” she insisted. Who was she? I gave her the coins. It was not my place to judge or ask questions the poor souls begging on the church steps.

The woman just looked at the money and hissed. She threw them into dirt, the other beggars jumping at the opportunity to grab more coins. She grabbed my hand instead, forcing me to bend down to her.

“Two stories,” she hissed. “Tell me two stories, girl.”

“Let my daughter be,” mother interrupted.

“Here you go,” she threw her Sunday shawl at the crone, who replied with a toothless smile barring her rotten gums.

“Now, let her go,” she pleaded to no avail. And so she added a golden crucifix that hung around her neck, the only really precious thing she possessed. At last, she let go of my hand.

My mother then grabbed my hand dragging me away.

“You shouldn’t have talked to her, she is a bad omen,” was the only thing she said on the way home. She didn’t look my way but it was understandable, she was angry.

The journey home didn’t seem to take too long. We didn’t live too far, just couple of hours in the cart even if the horse was as old as ours. And somehow I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

But even our house, usually bustling with activity, was quiet. My mother just ran inside and I followed. My father was lying in the bed, my grandmother sitting next to him.

“What happened?” My mother asked, making a sign for me to stop at the doorway. My grandmother just shook her head.

“He just fell ill a few hours ago,” she whispered. I wanted to touch him, comfort him, wake him up but my mother stood up in my way.

“Go to the lake, go to the lake and wash yourself. Wash yourself and pray, pray for it to pass,” she hissed.

“What happened?” My grandmother was surprised.

“Twostories…” Mother whispered.

“Did you tell her anything, girl?” I only shook my head.

“Go now,” my mother ushered me. “She didn’t tell her anything but she touched her,” she added to my grandmother who didn’t hide her horror.

“Go to the lake, girl,” she repeated after my mother.

I run, I run as fast as I could. Then I went to the lake and washed myself. I washed myself once, twice, then I washed my clothes, then I washed myself again. It was the darkness that stopped the frantic cycle of washing and I walked back.

The house was not quiet anymore. My mother was crying. My father was dead.

“Go away,” she said in between her sobs. I looked at my grandmother but she was quiet. They both watched me cautiously.

“Sleep in the stables,” my grandmother said after all.

I was shaking from the cold, the wet clothes were not keeping me warm at all. I nodded. I walked to the stables as in a dream. I shivered in the straw, trying to persuade it to warm me. And then it was morning. I had to fall asleep at some point during the night. The stable was quiet. Quiet like the house. The old horse was dead. I touched it, it was cold, lying there on the ground. I looked around. The cow? It looked frightened and I wanted to console it.

“Don’t you dare!” My mother was shouting at me.

“Don’t you dare! Go away!” She repeated.

“Mother?”

It was not my mother anymore - I didn’t recognise her face, so changed with the fear.

“Go away,” she repeated. I tried to talk to her but she threw a stone at me. My mother threw a stone at me. My mother was not my mother anymore. I didn’t move. I didn’t move even when the second stone hit me.The third stone hit me on my forehead and I could feel blood trickling on my forehead.

“Go away, evil spirit,” she hissed. She picked up the pitchfork and I was sure she would have used it to kill me if I stayed.

I run. I run till I was out of breath and then more. I lost my shoes, I tore my dress in the bush. I was hungry. I picked blueberries and raspberries till my fingers turned blue. And then I remembered what happened and I run again.

I was tired and it was getting dark. I just lied under the tree, hoping it would provide the shelter for the night as I shivered with cold.

The light didn’t wake me up. I didn’t want to move, there was no reason to keep breathing anymore. I didn’t know how long I lied there.

“Who’s there?” Cautious voice woke me up. Or maybe it was the stick that made me stir. I opened my eyes but I couldn’t speak, my throat was aching.

“Is it a girl?” A woman asked the man who tried to wake me up. She reminded me of my mother. I started to cry.

“Don’t cry,” she wanted to soothe me but the man stopped her.

“What did happen to you?” He asked cautiously. And I wanted to tell them, tell them all what happened. Every little detail, so I started: “Two stories,” I whispered. “Two stories…”

They didn’t wait for me to finish. I recognised my mother face once again. The horror, the disgust. They threw bread and meat my way.

“Go away, let us be,” they crossed. I took the bread and meat, I didn’t wait for stones I was sure they would throw. I ran, I ran to the lake. Then I sat down to eat. What I was to do? I wanted to wash my hands, wash my face. But the face that greeted me from the lake was not mine. It was Twostories. I was Twostories. And I had no more tears to cry.