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.
Constructive criticism, any comments whatsoever and ratings are greatly appreciated, as it's for the Quibblo contest. Thank you for bothering in advance!
In the End - Epilogue
â€œThere we are,â€ said the older woman, who had introduced herself as Anwen, as she put a tray of what looked like overdone cupcakes on the table. Her bird-like hands were sunk deep in oven mittens. â€œI apologize in advance for the quality â€“ Iâ€™ve never been much of a cook.â€
â€œThey look lovely,â€ lied Gwen whilst eyeing the scorched products. â€œThank you for inviting me in.â€
â€œOh, itâ€™s no problem at all.â€ Anwen whirled around and gave her guest a kind look. â€œIt is dreadfully cold outside, is it not?â€
â€œI thought it rather pleasant, but I suppose you could say so.â€
A very uncomfortable silence fell as both remembered the reason for Gwenâ€™s presence. Solely the heavy chiming of the grandfatherâ€™s clock filled the room, and the tension grew until Anwenâ€™s grandchild, Llew, ran smack into the table and began to wail. Thankful for the distraction, Anwen knelt down and effectively bribed the toddler with the promise of chocolate chip cookies. She hoisted him up and said rather brusquely, â€œI keep Leriâ€™s letters in the first drawer of the closet to your left. Have a look, if you like.â€
With those curt words she slunk into the shadows, leaving Gwen alone in a room full of temptations. Unsurprisingly, it wasnâ€™t long before the latter lost her willpower and started to rifle through the many bills and Christmas cards in the drawer. At the very bottom was a stack of yellowed papers, covered with dust and tied together with what looked like an old shoestring.
Gwen picked the letters up carefully, scrutinizing the neat script scrawled across them. Here and there, she could detect a poetic word or phrase, but for her to be able to read them thoroughly she would have to untie them. The very idea seemed like blasphemy, and Gwen was about to hurriedly put them back when a clear voice rang out behind her.
â€œItâ€™s quite all right, dear. Youâ€™re allowed to read them.â€
Timidly, Gwen looked over her shoulder at Anwen, aware that she should be apologizing or thanking the woman; as it was, however, all words were knotted together in her chest. For that reason, she turned back to the letters and carefully pried the shoelace off of the parchment. It fell to the carpet, a worm amidst a sea of ugly green.
She sat down, and the first note flurried to her lap. The words were cursive and inviting: a ladyâ€™s handwriting, clearly. As Anwenâ€™s prominent presence faded to the background, Gwen leant back against the chair and began to read.
Hair is rye smiled upon by the golden globe
Scorching lips are cupidâ€™s love bow
Tongue is an arrow, firing vain hope
Bringing upon me an alcoholic glow
â€œNay,â€ I said
But passion cannot be tethered
Surely, adoring someone so the same cannot be all too bad
Though our young, anguished faces will eventually grow weathered?
Gwen stopped reading, a vague suspicion beginning to dawn on her. She said nothing, however, and took a look at the next letter.
Love me, I beseech of you
Or at the very least, forgive the immoral things I do
Cry and plead for your adoration I shall
Until you answer my mourning meadowlarkâ€™s call
Without you, a bitter virgin I will be
Because through my closed lids, it is always you I see
Oh, my love, give me but one reason for my peace
When only your angelic presence can weaken my firm knees.
â€œMeadowlarks always were Leriâ€™s favourite birds,â€ a hoarse voice spoke. â€œEven though we donâ€™t have them in these parts.â€
Answer me, answer me
How does one disregard such a fraught plea?
Your cruelty is a knife in my soul
Dearest, keep in mind Iâ€™m not just playing some childish role...
I still see those lights dancing in your eyes
Fierce flitting fireflies
And the dimples in your rosy cheeks
Remind me so of those could-be weeks.
â€œThereâ€™s more of them,â€ Anwen said quietly, voicing Gwenâ€™s unspoken question. â€œAll of them begging me to respond; all of them just as charming. I suppose it was my own fault, you know... I started it.â€
Gwenâ€™s eyebrows knitted together and she looked up. â€œLeriâ€™s a girlâ€™s name,â€ she responded slowly.
A smile broke out on Anwenâ€™s aged face. â€œYes,â€ she declared. â€œLeri was my friend.â€
All the little pieces clicked into place for Gwen; the poemâ€™s desperation about love that could not be, the feminine script, how no news of a suicide had made the newspapers â€“ it all pointed towards the same thing.
Unable to help herself, Gwen laughed at her own ignorance and stopped only when it became clear Anwen was not amused. â€œMy apologies,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s just that I should have seen it before and I didnâ€™t â€“ I feel rather silly, you know...â€
But Anwen seemed distant, too wrapped up inside her own memories to respond to Gwen's embarrassed statement. â€œIt was such a beautiful day,â€ she mused, â€œthe first in months. Leri and I were sitting on some grassy hill overlooking the beach and talking about boys. Neither of us had ever been wooed before, you know, and we were so very curious.
â€œIt was my idea, the kiss. Just a bit of practise before the... real thing. I had not known it would render both of us confused, and completely destroy Leri.
â€œSoon, â€˜a bit of practiseâ€™ became the real deal. I think Leri fell in love with me that day, and I think I fell in love with her, too. By the time I could no longer deny the way I truly felt about her, it was Valentineâ€™s Day; perfect timing, or so we both thought. I didnâ€™t know...â€ Anwenâ€™s voice cracked. â€œ We didnâ€™t know that people were watching. Everything happened so fast, and three hours later they found her hanging from the rafters... dead. God knows how she did it. God knows how I ever managed to forgive myself.â€
So the poet was dead after all â€“ the ardent girl had committed suicide in the eleventh hour. How cruel must peopleâ€™s judgment have been for her to resort to such desperate measures. Though this Leri might not have been some innocent cherub, it seemed unjustifiable and brutal for people to ban her from loving someone of the same gender.
â€œThe poem I found...â€
But Anwenâ€™s gaze had gone dead; her blue eyes were fixed on some point far past Gwen. Her delicate fingers had turned into claws, and her thin mouth into a bitter beak. The striped shirt she wore, her fragile structure and salt-and-pepper hair gave the impression that she had turned into Leriâ€™s beloved mourning meadowlark at last.
â€œYou knew it,â€ Gwen persisted. â€œHow?â€
Slowly, the stuffed bird came to life. A faint glimmer appeared in Anwenâ€™s eyes. â€œWhen you find love,â€ she began bitterly, â€œin whatever form that may be, you know what belongs to them, whether that thing is your heart, your soul or their own creations. I might have married and gotten children, and to this day I consider myself blessed, but I will never forget the first time I fell in love. I will never forget my Leri.â€
â€œWhat was she-â€
â€œIâ€™d like you to leave now,â€ said Anwen decidedly. Her fingers were trembling faintly. â€œPlease show yourself out.â€
â€œ-still have so many questions?â€ The womanâ€™s lips twisted into a cynical smile. â€œSo do I. In the end, all of us do.â€
For me, this is the end - I might add more later, but I feel like this is right.
Some vehement thank yous go to all who read, commented and voted for this story. I hope that it wasn't too disappointing or confusing, and I'm honoured by all the faith you lot have in me. For those of you also competing in the contest, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you may earn a spot!
Also, sorry if you got another invite for this when you've already read it!