I wrote the poem ‘When You Were Mine’ earlier today and then because it’s cold, and I’ve finished the ironing, I thought I might adapt it into a piece of prose. Perhaps make it into a novella, or perhaps not……
The early morning dawn rose sleepily across the meadow. A heavy cotton mist trailed a blanket over the ground and the silence sang heavy across the earth. Jenny rubbed at her eyes, and then twisted her arms out high above her head. She savoured the emptiness of the early hour. This was her favourite part of the day; it was when she allowed herself to dream, to imagine she was somewhere else. There was no specific place or particular town she thought of. It was just the feeling of being free, away from here and the chains that held her captive.
She looked across at the sleeping bundle to her left. She heard the gentle hum of his breathing as his small rounded chest rose and fell in slumber. Her breath caught, as it did every time she looked at the child. She had never truly known what love was until she held him in her arms. He had raced from her belly like the devil himself was charging. Her ferocious need to protect him had immediately banished the terrifying and bloody labour she’d endured on her own. As she cradled his wet bloodied flesh to her own it was as if a hand had reached in to both their chests and melded their two hearts into one. She was complete.
She heard his breathing change and quickly lifted the thin blanket and lowered her feet to the cold wooden boards. She shivered and pulled the blanket over her shoulders as she lifted him up and secured him to her chest. A little dimple quickly opened in his cheek as he suckled greedily. She closed her eyes and waited for fear to replace her dreams as it did every morning when the household woke. That was when reality crept back into view. Below her she could hear the stable lads whistling, the sound of forks against stone, of straw being lifted and the tap of hooves on flags as the horses were led out into the morning sunlight.
Jenny opened her eyes and instinctively wrapped the blanket further round the baby as she heard feet on the steps that lead to the room above the stables. The wooden trap door slowly creaked opened and a flex of white hair appeared through the gap.
“Morning miss, how’s the wee un this morn” whispered the aging gardener, Bill Compton, as he propped open the door.
“As hungry as ever Mr Compton” she smiled back at him, adjusting herself trying to spare both their blushes.
“Cooks been asking fer ya already Miss Jenny, you betta get a wriggle on if you don’t want your hide tanned again”
She could sense the anger in his tone as he lowered his eyes and could hear him muttering to himself as he struggled to clear the opening and climbed into the room.
“It’s not right Miss, and you and me know it”
She lifted the baby away and handed him over to his waiting arms.
“Now Bill, enough of that, I have no choice, how else can I keep Jamie with me?”
The old man looked at the cooing bundle snuggling in his arms and he felt his heart break for them both. James William Lacey, had a mop of dark hair and piercing blue eyes, and if that wasn’t proof enough, that ancestral dimple of his surely sealed his paternity.
“Get yourself over to the kitchens and I’ll get the little un outta here and over to the cottage, Mrs Compton’s fair itchin for him” a beaming smile lit the weathered lines of his face.
Jenny couldn’t help smile back. The old couple were like family to her now and the only two who knew about little Jamie. But she knew what they were sacrificing to help her and she prayed they were never found out. The Duchess of Belcombe, was a cold hearted woman, evil to the core and Jenny knew if the Duchess ever found out she was still here her life would be over, literally. But what made her shiver to the bone was that she knew Jamie’s life would be over too.
The war with Spain had made widows and orphans out of many. The Duke of Belcombe had not been the only one lost overseas. Jenny swallowed the tears back down, she couldn’t think of him, not now. She had to protect her son, their son. She held her shawl tightly across her chest as she walked towards the kitchen. From an upstairs window a dark shadow watched the lone figure across the courtyard. Heavily made up features twisted into rage and a seething sense of hate prickled under her skin. The Duchess of Belcombe was thinking of murder…………