© Charlotte Cyprus
The woman kept to the shadows, avoiding the torches that lit the streets. A hood concealed her face and black cloth was thrown over the basket in her arms. Little whimpers came from the basket, but the woman shushed it, moving through the unfamiliar village slowly. She avoided the men walking home from the pub and went farther to the outskirts of town where there were smaller houses stuffed with squalling children.
Fog rose up from the ground in the cold night air. The streets were tracks of dirt that the recent rain had turned into mud, and it sucked at the woman’s boots as she struggled to keep herself unnoticed. A pitiful cry came from the basket in her arms. The woman paused to reach her hand in and stroke the baby’s cheek. She was rewarded with a happy gurgle.
The woman was caught off guard. She looked at the baby, so sweet and small and innocent. Had she gone far enough south? The king would be hunting her, she knew. It had been a foolish thing to take revenge on the king, but she hadn’t counted on getting pregnant. The baby’s father had no idea where they were, or that the baby existed, but it was for the best. The babe could live out an anonymous childhood away from the chaos of her own life.
A child’s cry rang out in the night, but it wasn’t her baby. The woman froze and listened hard to find where the noise was coming from. The child called out again, and the woman determined that it was the little house across the street. The roof was crumbling and the door was hanging at an angle. As the crying continued, a light was lit. The woman could see it through the shuttered window.