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Iron Clothes

It was not a good day, the day Gwen’s mother never came back. Her father had made her sit in the corner, close to the fire all day. A hot day.
She played in the dirt and the soot, fingers opened or closed, the filth still seeped through her hands.
But all too soon her hands were streaked with sweat. A hot child.
She sat at the fire for a long time (three hours), before she realized the silence.
She wondered why. She knew it was Saturday. And Saturdays were feast days. And feast days were always loud.
Her father was with her all day long; she wondered why he was. Gwen could not see her father; she could only hear him breathe.
He had grabbed her, woke her from her sleep, earlier that morning. She screamed until she saw it was him, but he had dragged her to the fire anyway.
“Sit here and shut-up,” he had said to her.
They were the first words he had ever said to her, so Gwen had listened.
Gwen did complain when she became hungry, nor did she wonder where her mother was until nightfall.
She did not worry of her mother until she was cold.
Her father had not kept the fire going.

When Gwen had awoken the next morning, she was covered and warm and beside a lit fire.
When she sat up, she saw her father. Sitting on the ground, by the door.
“Go see Merkin,” he had said to her.
And Gwen listened to her father and left through the door, to go see Merkin. But Gwen already knew she had to go see Merkin. Back then, Gwen had to go see Merkin everyday.
Merkin would not tell her where her mother was.
“She’s not coming back,” was all Merkin had said.
Gwen believed Merkin because Merkin was always right.
"Go to bed," her had father said to her, when she walked back through the door, later that day.
Gwen listened to her father again. She went to lay next to the fire, where her covers still were. She laid down, on her side, with her back to him.
"I am leaving after next feast day," her father had suddenly said.
Gwen's heart jumped and she said nothing.
"You better not tell anyone. It is a secret," he had finished.
Gwen told no one, until she had to go live with Ban.

Ban was overseeing. It is what he did. Every morning, he would get up and he would oversee everybody, on the tiny hill known as Benwick. The hill, which was only six feet tall and very steep, plateuaed an area of land, big enough for 32 families to build their huts and businesses. Ban oversaw all 118 persons, who made their homes and businesses out of the sticks and mud of the earth, on top of this hill.
Gwen would often join Ban, while he was overseeing, when she came to bring Ban his midday meal. She joined up with him on this day, while Ban was overseeing the miller. The miller took care of the grains; he protected them, day and night and not just from the rodents.
Lodegreaunce was the real overseer of Benwick, but he had been gone for a full two years now. Lodegreaunce had been overseer for twenty years and he was much loved. Everyone from Benwick had called him King. Everyone missed him greatly, when he left Benwick, for no one had known Lodegreaunce was leaving.
Ban was never called King by anyone.
Ban was only the overseer because of Gwen. Gwen was Lodegreaunce’s daughter. One early, twilight evening, Lodegreaunce had come to ask Ban to take charge of his daughter while he went on adventure. Lodegreaunce had left for his adventure less than an hour later. He held his sleeping daughter in his arms, handing her over to Ban, before mounting his black horse.
Gwen did know, however; that her father was leaving. It was not like when her mother had left. Gwen’s father had told her he would be back.
“Have you kept my secret, Gwen?” her had father asked her, on the night he left Benwick.
“Yes, Father,” Gwen had answered him. It was the fist time he had ever asked her a question.
“I leave tonight,” he had answered her.
“Now that you are leaving and you are King, I shall gladly take over and make a grand Queen for you, Father, in your absence,” Gwen had suddenly spoke said, a steady trill.
Lodegreaunce wanted to laugh at how serious she looked. How determined.
“Now is not the time for you to be Queen. You are still just Princess,” he said instead, sternly. “Go to bed.”
Gwen turned to go to her sleep space, beside the fire.
“Father,” she turned, back to him. “Are you coming back to Benwick?”
“I am coming back,” he had said.
“Will I become Queen when you come back?” Gwen had asked.
“Shut-up,” her father had roared at her.
And Gwen had listened.
It was because Gwen told everyone this exchange, between her and her father, that Ban was not hung and the people of Benwick made him overseer.

Ban and Gwen had moved from the miller and were now overseeing the fuller. Ban instructed Bolden (the fuller) out of the vat, so he that he might inspect how the wool was coming along. Ban also had to smell the animal urine in the vat, which helped to cure the wool, to make sure it was clean. Bolden knew how to do his job. He walked in urine circles, in the large vat everyday, but Saturday. Ban knew Bolden knew how to do his job; Ban just liked looking at the toenails of the man. They were always so clean and white. He was marveling this thought for the umpteenth time, when he heard the trumpets sounding.
He grabbed Gwen by the arms and they smiled at each other and jumped, before both turned; running to meet the Romans.


Connie said…
Interesting and provocative title. Do your stories get edited and rewritten outside of your blog? What do you do with them? Are you published? I am full of questions today. I could see the events in this chapter taking place over a number of chapters really. So much goes on. More.
Queenie said…

I sure would love to see the next part of this story.

But i've this nagging question. Why is it called "Iron clothes"?
Queenie said…


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