by Susan Bruck
She picked another tuft of wool from the bush. Her back ached from bending and reaching, but she needed just a bit more. The shepherds laughed at her. They called her the Woolgatherer, or sometimes Hey Ewe. But she hardly minded anymore.
They all thought she was an old woman. That’s because she had made herself a wig of white wool. They never saw her unlined face underneath, and that was how she wanted it.
She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she ran away from home. She remembered that life like a dream. I am a woolgatherer in more ways then one, she thought to herself. She remembered the balls were dances rather than puffs of wool, and they were filled glittering chandeliers and thousands of beeswax candles that made the whole house smell like honey. She remembered women fixing her hair and dressing her for what she referred to as The Ball.
Her stepsisters were very excited about The Ball. They hoped to marry the prince, and he was to choose his bride at The Ball. They were welcome to him. She wanted to read books and spin wool and be left alone. At The Ball, she’d stayed in the shadows. She didn’t like to dance. That was where she met the princess, His sister. They spent a long time talking. They were fast friends immediately. The Princess, Jezebel, also loved to read. She liked bugs. She didn’t spin, but she loved to weave. Laurie could have spent forever talking to Jezebel.
Then He found them, the Prince, that is, and insisted that Laurie dance with him. She was a decent dancer, but he wasn’t. He stepped all over her feet and waltzed her right into a potted palm tree. He was handsome enough, but all he wanted to talk about was himself. When Laurie asked him what books he’d read lately, he laughed. He spent the rest of the evening with her, even though she encouraged him to dance with some of the other young women who were looking daggers at her. She told him she would turn into a pumpkin at midnight. And as the clock struck twelve, she ran away. She had thought maybe he would think she was crazy and leave her alone.
But no, he thought she was playing hard to get. He sent word to her father the next day that he wanted to marry her. Her stepmother tried to talk him out of it when she realized Laurie didn’t want to, but her father insisted. It would be a great boon to the family and it was important to keep the prince happy. After all, he would be king one day.
Her father locked her in her room so she couldn’t run away before the wedding, which was scheduled to take place in two weeks, on the full moon. Her stepmother brought her her favorite things to eat and gave her some of her favorite books to read. Even her stepsisters tried to cheer her up. They didn’t feel so jealous after meeting the Prince. Ten long days passed and ten even longer nights. Laurie watched the three-quarter moon and willed it to get smaller instead of bigger when she heard something outside her third story window. She saw fingers on her windowsill and then a head appeared, the head of Princess Jezebel. Laurie, afraid the princess would fall, grabbed her under her arms and pulled her in. The princess was dressed all in black and wore pants. On each hand and foot, she’d strapped small suction cups, a bunch of them tightly tied together. As she caught her breath she pulled them off.
“They worked!” She said. “I got the idea from watching my chameleon walk across the ceiling of it’s glass house.”
Laurie just stared in amazement.
“I’ve come to rescue you from a fate worse than death—my brother!”
The End For Now–To Be Continued
Here’s the rest of the story:
This week has been busy for me, and I am later than usual in getting my story “finished.” I am very excited because I wrote an article for Gateways, which is the journal for the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America. I think it will be in the spring issue. The focus of the issue will be on gender in early childhood, and I wrote about my experiences with a class of challenging, strong, amazing girls. It’s kind of a narrative and different from what I’ve written before. I was very nervous about writing it and wrote and rewrote. Then my two lovely daughters did some great editing for me–I’ve thanked them many times, but here’s one more–Thanks Rachel and Gabi! I feel so blessed to have such wonderful daughters who will not only take the time to read and comment on my articles but are also honest and direct, in a loving way, about what parts could be improved. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate them.
As I started writing this story, it changed from how I had first imagined it and also will be longer than some of my other stories. So I decided to post the first chapter.
As I thought about the illustration, I thought about a book of Japanese prints that I have–here’s one
The woolgatherer doesn’t look like her, but somehow she was still the inspiration.
I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for stopping by!