A Meadowlark's Mourning

A Meadowlark's Mourning

Gwen Treharne is young woman fond of reading, writing and watching the BBC. When she moves to a shabby house near the sea, the last thing she expected to find was a heart-rendering note that set her plain world on fire.

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Chapter 3

Her Leri's - Present Day

Gwen strode across the pebble-covered beach, grocery bag slung over her shoulder. The sky was an odd shade of silver today, marked by thick clouds and a very watery sun. Gulls were soaring above the gray ocean next to her, going into a steep dive every now and then. Apart from them, only the harsh wind attended her; it howled and rushed over the stones, stopping only to nip at the tips of her ears.

For the past few weeks, Gwen had done quite some research. Unfortunately, going through newspapers, death certificates and even visiting the one poet that had been born in the fisher’s town of Pentref y Môr had given her no satisfying result. Not knowing the name or date of the person who’d written the note made things a lot harder as well, and now there was only one more thing that Gwen could do, something she felt great reluctance for: asking the villagers for information.

It wasn’t that Gwen felt intimidated by them, but she was a stranger in these parts. The people here thought clearly of her as some harebrained townie, and there was undoubtedly plenty of gossip going on about her. A hippie moving to a lonesome hamlet without so much as a partner was bound to start rumours.

Of course she could begin by casually inquiring about the previous inhabitants of her home, but even that would arouse suspicion. If there was one thing long-time residents of a village hated, it was prying newcomers – which was exactly what Gwen Treharne would appear to be.

All the same, she strolled on, occasionally stopping to pick up a pebble and hurl it into the raging ocean or watch flocks of birds trek homewards. From where she was standing, she could see smoke curling out of the village’s chimneys and the ghostly silhouettes of naked trees. The region seemed long dead, and not for the first time Gwen questioned her decision to move here. People were much less kind when you were no tourist, and much more reserved than she had anticipated. It wasn’t the romantic seaside living she had hoped for: her art did not sell well, the food was costly and her neighbours acted downright hostile.

Then there was that puzzling message that haunted her day and night; Gwen felt both intrigued and cowed by it. While it was an undeniably pretty piece, it sometimes caused chills to run down her spine – for there was so much sombreness and pain in the phrases that she felt certain the writer had not had a happily ever after. He might very well be dead, in fact, and she would never be able to solve the riddle.

What would she do then? Save the note in some map, tape it to the fridge? Pretend she had never found it at all? It wasn’t like her to just let something go, whether that something was a series or person, and Gwen found herself unable to do so now. At the very least, she had to try and find out the story behind the poem.

A figure dressed in a red coat appeared in the distance, accompanied by an excited child. He or she ran around with a tiny bucket, uttering little screeches of joy that cut through the silence. From time to time, the kid would scoop up some seaweed or chase what was presumably a crab. It reminded Gwen of her own past; she, too, had always been so keyed up as a young girl. Back then, the mere idea of the cold waves, fresh air and possible wildlife was enough to work her into a frenzy.

The woman was now close enough for Gwen to realise it was not the child’s mother after all; her face was lined with wrinkles and her hair contained many strands of gray. She was the lean sort of elderly person – the kind that, very embarrassingly, looked better in a pair of skinny jeans than Gwen herself did and could probably outrun her during a marathon.

Shoving her hands deep into her pockets, Gwen looked away and recited the poem under her breath. Only in the company of nature did it seem lovely; at home, it gave her the feeling she was imprisoning the poet’s soul.

“Excuse me...”

Gwen looked up and did a double take at the proximity of the elderly woman. She could count the freckles lining her pig-like nose, see the clots of mascara in her lashes and feel her warm breath. This was the first time that her privacy had been breached by a stranger in these parts, and Gwen was so gobsmacked that she could only stare.

“I was just wondering,” the grandmother began in a nasal tone, “what poem that was.”

“Um... I’m sorry, I don’t know the title. It’s just something I found a while back,” said Gwen hurriedly, a tad flustered.

The lady, who seemed to have no understanding of personal space, took another step forward. She opened her mouth a couple of times, but only a small noise escaped. Her blue eyes were swimming with tears.

“Are you all right?” asked Gwen, feeling agitated. The poor creature looked as if she were about to have a heart attack, but she knew the poem – the wretched emotion behind her pupils said so. Was finding out the truth really going to be this easy? Was she really going to be this lucky?

Again the pruned lips parted repeatedly as if to try and draw in more breath. “Pray tell me... is it Leri’s?” Those eyes – now gray as the ocean that lay behind her – grew bigger and wetter still when Gwen could not bring herself to reply, and the woman blinked repeatedly to stop the flow of tears. “Pray tell me,” she urged again, her voice bruised, “is it my Leri’s?”

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