The Red Writing Hood prompt this week was to begin with the opening line:
“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf…”
500 word limit.
I’m continuing from a previous response, which you can find HERE. Go over to Write on Edge to add your link, or read the rest of the submissions.
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf, the streets empty except for the mail coach.
“We be packed in here right tight, eyah miss?” the jovial farmer across from her gave her a gap-toothed grin.
She mustered a wan smile in return, wishing he’d chosen someone else. “Like sardines in a can.”
“You’d know more’n me on that, from the shore, eyah? Plenty fishing out that way.”
“What?” her entire body tense, she spoke more sharply than she’d intended.
“Eyah, I travel t’market at Breda regular like, hear plenty of accents.” He tapped the side of his nose, a merry glint in his eye. “I’d bet my best heifer, you’d be from somewhere about Breskens, eyah.”
Her heart fluttering like a humming bird’s wings, she plastered a pleasant smile on her face. “Nieuwesluis.”
“Eyah!” he slapped his knee in triumph. “Last I was at Breda, I heard they had a witch a while back. Dealt her the water test. You heard ‘bout that?”
She twined her fingers in her skirts, trying to hide the tremble of anger that arose at the memory. “I heard the girl drowned – doesn’t that mean she wasn’t a witch?” She paused and pulled on a mask of indifference before adding, “Though I was not there at the time.”
The farmer’s gossipy smile faded somewhat. Dead witches were entertainment, dead girls, less so. “Huh, well that’s a right shame, that is – them witches be wily devils, eyah. Where be you headed, so far from home?”
“Oberentersbach.” The man had such a rambling manner about him, she hadn’t even paused to think about the answer. All this effort to stay hidden, and she would give herself up in exchange for sleep.
The farmer frowned. “In the black forest? There are witches there! What would bring a young girl alone to such a forbidding place?”
“An apprenticeship.” Exhaustion burned her eyes.
“Better to settle down with a nice young man in a good profession.”
A strike her own people had against her.
“I read about the position in the paper, wrote to my new employer,” she lied.
“Huh” he grunted disapprovingly. “Girls writing. Not proper.”
“Of course,” she snapped. “We wouldn’t want women to be educated, would we? God forbid they think for themselves!”
As with the people from her village, she read it in his expression. Witch. Good Christian girls don’t talk like that.
She regretted losing her temper, regretted the loss of a seat on the carriage.
“Sleep!” she commanded.
The old farmer’s eyes widened in surprise at the outburst before drooping closed. The coach was filled with light snoring.
When the coach rolled to a stop, the reins slack, she hopped out into the rain. She flicked her second finger sharply against the pad of her thumb. The downpour continued unabated, the drops avoiding her.
“There’d damn well better be witches in the black wood,” she muttered, slogging down the road. “After all the trouble it’s taking to get there!”