Writing Challenge- The Maid of Fanner’s Green

by V Rose Dahrke

“I thought your kind were shy. The ones in Greece were”

“Were they?”

“Well,” I mused, shifting to ease the growing ache in my chest, “I never saw any.”

Sixty years. Sixty years, five continents, a husband loved and buried. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Private wars won and lost. Sixty years since I last saw Britain.

Her laugh, so like the summer rain through the branches above us. Perhaps I only hear rain. “We are, when we have reason to be.”

Sixty years since my grandmother, moved near tears by the sight of a Cambridgeshire sunset over the wind-roiled fields of golden rape, asked if I thought there might be something in us which remembered the land of our ancestors.

I did not know.

I could not know.

I was born to a different land, and raised an expat from the same. My blood knew nothing of any country.

“And you don’t have reason to be?” It was a cold, spreading ache. Perhaps I had walked too many footpaths, thrown my cane over too many paddock gates.

Smiling, bark-brown eyes. “No. The moment you started across the field I said to myself ‘That must be one of Jack’s girls’.”

“Jack?”

“Jack the Strong. Was he not your father?”

I nodded, nonplussed in my understanding. “Jacques le Forte. He fought for the king.”

“He did.”

“Saxon tongues couldn’t say his name.” I was panting now, and terribly weary, too weary for longer sentences. “They called his children…”

“Shackleford. I remember.”

“So then you are…”

The willow above us bent to nod with her. “Of course. I would have to be, to remember Jack.”

“He fought for the king.”

“He did. Well.”

“At Hastings. He fought for William of Normandy.”

“And lived to leave his bones here in Essex.”

“Nine hundred years.”

“Nearly a thousand now.”

“Two hundred since his children left.”

“Welcome home.”

I shook my head, and heavy as it was it flopped drunkenly on my shoulders. “I was born in Atlanta, raised in Prague. I have searched a hundred countries, and I have never found a home.”

“Ah, but you had never been to Essex.” There was pity in her eyes now, and comfort. “Your search has tired you. Lie down.”

I shook my head again, staring out over the waving, rain-rippled green fields. “There is nothing in me which remembers this better than any other place.”

“Sabra, lie down.” Too exhausted to be startled, a laid my head upon her knee. “You misunderstand. Home is not the land which you remember; home is where the land remembers you.” She sighed, fingers like willow leaves on my brow. “Poor lost daughter of Albion.”

I nodded. “I think I’ve come to leave my bones.”

“I know.”

I shut my eyes, and listened to the summer rain through her branches.

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