by Sue Johnson
INSPIRED BY “THE FIRST, THE ONLY ONE” PAINTING BY JOHN WILLIAM HAYNES
You are more precious than all the spun gold in fairyland. For you I have relinquished a castle and a crown. Seven nights ago I overheard my husband boasting to a visiting knight.
‘My wife can turn seashells into silver coins,’ he’d boasted. ‘Just think what power we’d have if all the seashells in the kingdom were converted thus…’
I listened, angry that he hadn’t learned from the last time tongue was loosened by too much wine. Did he not remember the fear of losing you when you were first born? How messengers were sent from one end of the kingdom to the other, searching for ‘the name.’ Did he not remember the old tales? Not all beings dwelling beyond the veil that separates the worlds are as honourable as Rumpelstiltskin.
My husband had ‘that look’ on his face and his eyes flashed like chips of ice. I watched from the gallery, knowing it was pointless trying to stop him. Knowing that this time I might not succeed. Then I would lose my life and be parted from you forever.
I left the castle in the quiet hours before dawn, leaving behind my crown, my velvet gowns and the gold ring that had lost its meaning. I have all I need here in this attic room where nobody knows my origins — a cradle for you, a chair and a cooking pot.
I am content. I sit by your cradle and watch you sleep, my first, my only one as the grey sky beyond my window brightens to pink, apricot and yellow. The only gold I need is in the morning sun, the colour of your hair and the love I’ll carry always in my heart for you.