TITLE: The Nettle Spinner
GENRE: YA Fantasy
"Ay, lamb, it's time."
I stood away from the wooden chest and gave the burial shroud to one of the attending women. The spongy layer of rushes, crushed underfoot, lent a sweet fragrance from beneath my thin-soled shoes.
There were eight gathered in the room, including great-grandmother Adela and me.
Too many for our small cottage.
Grandmama had dozed off--a blessing as she was not asking me over and over where Mama had gone, or why she was not answering.
"Surely Joan must have longed for death even before she fell ill," said Mrs. Molke, who kept an inn at the north edge of Fenside, near the crossroads.
She hadn't even tried to lower her voice.
"Hush." Mrs. Bette chided her softly and darted a glance in my direction.
"Speak well of the dead or not at all," she cautioned, and Mrs. Molke pursed her thin lips and turned away.
I longed to speak in my mother's defense, for they had not known her as I had. Mama had been blessed--or some would say cursed--with determination. She was a proud woman who refused to accept that God had punished her with her illness.
"Richard Rupp is as healthy a man as ever there was," she once told me, "and he's never said a prayer in all his life."
Mama had said few prayers, herself.
And while her pride and independence kept the villagers' opinions from our doorstep, the price I paid was solitude.