TITLE: The Nettle Spinner
GENRE: YA Fairy Tale Retelling
After the death of her mother, all Renelde wants is to provide for herself and her great-grandmother. But the Count Burchard's jealous attentions spur a rash oath, requiring Renelde to complete what seems an impossible task: spin cloth from nettles—or risk losing the man she truly loves.
“Ay, lamb, it’s time.”
I took the flaxen burial shroud from the wooden chest at the foot of my bed and clutched it to my chest. The spongy layer of crushed, fresh rushes lent a sweet fragrance from beneath my thin-soled shoes.
There were eight gathered in our little cottage, including great-grandmother Adela and me. Too many.
“Joan must have longed for death, even before she became ill,” said Mrs. Molke.
She hadn’t even tried to lower her voice.
“Hush.” Mrs. Bette chided softly and darted a glance in my direction. “Speak well of the dead or not at all.”
Mrs. Molke pursed her thin lips and turned away.
“Joan?” Great-grandmother Adela called from her bed in the adjoining room. “Joan! Come here!”
I handed the burial shroud to Mrs. Bette and hurried to Grandmama's side. “Mama can’t come right now,” I said in a hushed tone, fairly at wit’s end. I’d already told her three times that morning Mama had passed.
“You tell her to come, Renelde.” Grandma Adela insisted, her lips trembling.
I nodded and brought a wooden cup of mead to her lips. “After you take a nap—“
“And what are all these people doing here?” She pushed the cup aside. “You know I dislike visitors!”
“Shhh.” I hushed softly, and drew the blankets up around her. “Mama’s sleeping.” I felt terrible to say it again, but didn't know what else to do.
“With all these people here? Unlikely!”
“You’ll wake her,” I warned in a whisper, and my heart broke again.