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Fiction: Agatha by Danielle Lowery
Words by Danielle Lowery
Image by Christine Stoddard
Under, over, under, over, the motion is constant. The ground is damp. The trees are woven together in an intricate design, adding to the mystery of the forest. I smell the earthy scent of dirt, bark, and moss with each step I take. The movements through the trees make me feel graceful; as if I am dancing with the forest. I can't remember how long I've been doing this dance. When exactly did I enter these woods? Why did I step into fog at the edge of that beautiful, sparkling, river that morning?
Mother and I had been arguing. It was all over that stupid dress. Light blue satin, with delicate cream lace, laying gracefully over the elbows and elegantly ruffling just above the bust. The corset would be pulled so tight I would hardly be able to breath. There really was no point to all this costumed nonsense in my opinion. Geoffrey was going to marry me whether he fancied me or not. What was the use in pretending and playing all these games? The 'courting' was exhausting, so much petty and meaningless conversation. He had no desire to hear my thoughts on anything. As far as he was concerned, I had no thoughts. When I wasn't spending time with my betrothed, I was drinking tea with his awful mother. No matter how beautiful the weather outside, we sat in her stuffy living room. The air was dense, and smelled of bad perfume, and order. The tall wooden clock seemed to tick endlessly, yet never chime. The two of us sat stiff as boards, sipping our tea in almost complete silence. Every now and again Geoffrey's mother would look down her nose and scoff at me. By the end of our long afternoons, I sucked in more fresh air then my lungs could handle. 'Oh to be free' I thought.
Those afternoons seemed so far now, as did the river. How far was it flowing from the trees? Somewhere in my continuous dance in this magical place, I let my hair down. Dark, loose, curls lay upon my shoulders. My feet were free from the confinement of my shoes. I dug them into the earth, relishing the soft feeling of the dirt between my toes. I felt the scratch of the bark against my skin; the sun warming my face. If I hadn't known better, I would think I was one of those Amazonian Princesses I'd read about. No such things were ever taught in my lessons, but I loved to learn about almost anything outside of 'proper society'.
My childhood never really felt like a childhood. My whole life has felt like a stiff preparation for my ensuing imprisonment. After my marriage to Geoffrey, I shall continue seeing his hideous face every day until the day I die. I will have to sleep in the same bed as him (a task I loathe) and I will have to produce his children (a task I loathe even more). I will continue spending my afternoons in a stuffy sitting room with his mother, under her constant inspection and disapproval. Forever tied into overly restrictive corsets. Forever stuck in too tight dresses. My fate has always been sealed in this manner. It is a fate I never desired.
My reluctance to fulfill such a dreadful destiny is what brought me to the river. I'd watched it flow, crystal clear, full of small, colorful rocks, since I was a girl. It ran through a field not too far from my house. One afternoon on my way to tea with Geoffrey's distasteful mother, I found myself following the river instead. I was supposed to be awaiting my own mother to accompany me, but the river looked so tantalizing I had to go near it. I walked along the river, entranced by its beauty, for a long time before entering the misty fog. Walking through the fog is what brought me to the trees. I've been stepping under, over, under, over ever since.
Tears start filling my eyes. I'm startled by their presence. Why didn't mother follow me? Why had no one found me? Why did no one want to look? Geoffrey would probably be happy I was gone, as would his wretch of a mother, but my own mother? Not so much as a policeman had come close to the woods since I'd entered.
That's when I saw it. In my thoughts and tears, I had somehow made my way back to the river. In it was something too terrible for words. Floating in the river, lay a girl with dark, loose, curls spread about her shoulders in the water. Her shoes were farther up the bank. I noticed a large gash on her forehead, tainting the surrounding water red. And nothing was the same after that.
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