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May Writing Contest

Each month we hold a writing contest for our members, by our members. Writers are given parameters, such as a word count and/or a prompt. Entries are judged and discussed blindly. For May, writers had to compose a 1,000-word story in which the first line is a central metaphor of the tale.



Her Hands Brought Good Fortune

by Gabrielle Gold


Girls are shards of glass: beautiful but rough-edged, all charm in their potential. Whether they become polished crystal, or are crushed and melted down again? It depends on who holds the tool to shape them.


At eleven years, Amber was a precious thing. Named for her hair, or the highlights in her eyes, her mother never said. Gradually, she shed the childhood habits of tossing wet leaves at her cousins and bounding off in giggles, or rolling hoops along with a stick. She combed her bangs and stopped staining the hems of her skirts. But mischief lingered in those eyes, perhaps more coy. She turned heads as she grew, as if tugging on unseen lines to draw attention.  


I knew she was more than she seemed.


One spring day, I took her into my workshop and demonstrated how thread melds together like so much liquid on the loom. She hung on my words, running her fingers over the finished weave in wonder. The warmth of her touch stayed on the cloth, if only for a few moments.


I was right.


I told her she had a fantastic gift, like in the tales. A half-truth: her hands brought good fortune. “Don’t tell anyone,” I said quietly. “Don’t tell your parents, or your cousins. They won’t understand. It’s something for us to share.”


Once she came to believe me, Amber clung to the promise of secrets. I spoke with her mother, and she acquiesced. What better for a girl, I said, than to have practical skills in this world? Start her on a lucrative path, and the man who weds her will be grateful for her contributions. 


She became my assistant, carding and spinning at first. When she returned home each night, I inspected the cleaned wool and neat skeins. All warm, all thrumming with the energy from her hands. I knew what to look for.


She started to weave after the second year. I convinced her parents to wait on local betrothals, or on searching for a wealthier suitor. It was easy, since the hair tie she had braided sat snugly around her mother’s bun.

 

“It’ll look lovely on her,” I said. “And they’re proof of your handiwork. You’re not idling in here, you’re learning.”

 

Amber’s longing for my approval was twisted into the thread she had spun herself.


And she did learn, quickly, how to master the loom. In sequence, her movements formed a rhythmic dance from one side of the frame to the other. Watching her was almost spellbinding. Almost. I knew how to check myself when I felt the lines tug. I knew who would stay in control.


Halfway to her fifteenth year, she took me aside.


“I know you had a gift once, too. You said they wouldn’t understand.” She took a long breath. “What could be bad about good fortune?”


I smiled sadly. I assumed the question would burble out of her long before now. “Parents’ love is a fickle thing. They give it freely until the day comes when you are worth more to them as an asset than as a person.” I shook my head. “I don’t want them to use you.”


“They want me to marry so I’ll have a good home.” Amber flipped back her hair, a harried gesture. “I’m sure that’s all it is.” 


“Don’t fool yourself,” I said. “Your bride-price would increase a hundredfold if everyone knew about your gift. It would be too much for them to resist.”

 

Amber’s lips trembled. “I don’t want to believe that.” 


Her voice ached with enough denial to assure me, now, that she did. 


“I could take you to a school in the city,” I ventured. “I lived there when I still had my gift. Everyone has one there. You could spend your life learning, instead of being married off.”


“That really exists?” She lifted her head. “If so, I’d like to see it.”

 

I sat beside her. “We’ll go there soon. Give me time to prepare for the trip.” 


Her eyes sparkled as she caught my gaze. Like crystals.


Our supplies and permission to travel were all thanks to her own desire.      


We rode to the city, and I showed her the pale stone buildings atop a hill. We climbed to the peak, where gatekeepers welcomed us into the entrance hall. Its domed interior glittered, adorned in blue velvet curtains and brass chandeliers. A servant greeted us.


“Amber’s here to see the school,” I said. “She would study here, if you would have her.” 


The servant nodded, his smile soothing, his gaze impassive as the walls as he began the tour.


After this long, no one recognized me. I made sure of that.


Amber saw the halls and tapestries, the silken tablecloths, the lure of wealth and comfort without the bonds of high society. She saw what they showed her, and wanted more.


After we returned, she delivered the lie we had concocted: a potential suitor waited in the city, someone who would protect her and make her happy. He wanted to see her again in the next month before he came to finalize the marriage contract. I listened from behind the front door. It sounded wonderful to her parents, but they would miss her dearly. Even more than the fine, soft garments sewn from her woven cloth. 


Two years ago, Amber brought me good fortune. She brought me vengeance on the man who stole my future. He may have died peacefully, but his bitch of a daughter paid with her only child.


When I left her with the factory that could wring every drop of power from her until nothing remained, she was still a brilliant shard of glass. I am sure the shine is gone from her eyes. 


No matter. She fetched me enough gold to start my life over in the city.


Girls can be polished or crushed, but I was carved into a vessel for poison. I had my revenge. But I fear the vial will never be drained.


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