The Secret

The room was dark and lively, with a strong scent of ale.  Shouts flew toward the tavernkeep’s pretty wife.  “Where are you really from, Sarie?”  It was an old game, one they never tired of.

“My mother was a Xemish pirate,” she called across the room while wiping up a spill.  “She was shipwrecked in the southern sea and I was raised among the Synalei.”  Snorts of laughter, hoots, and careless splashes of ale greeted her latest outrageous lie.  “Why do you think I’m so good at telling the weather?” she demanded with exaggerated innocence.

“Don’t believe her for a second, boys.  She came here straight from heaven!”  Her husband seized her by the waist and buried a kiss in the crook of her neck.

She laughed, and put a hand up to his hair.  “You heard the man.  He’s the authority here.”

The results of that were, as she expected, lewd.  She flipped her skirts at them, swept an armful of empty tankards up, and swept off to the kitchen.  She dumped the tankards reflexively into the basin for washing, and then stood, hand resting on the edge, and sagged.

She was married.  What had she been thinking?   She scrubbed at her face in frustration.  It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, a good place to land, to spend a few decades among people who liked her even if they didn’t know her.  Someone who could love a piece of her while she did what she had to.  And she’d been happy, happier than she’d been since the day the city where she’d been born had become a name that could never be spoken.  The one thing that could keep her from staying had never occurred to her.  Their birth rates were so low, and she was so young.  It had never even crossed her mind.

Her hand curved protectively over her abdomen.  He hadn’t noticed yet, but he would soon enough.  And then he’d look for her if she disappeared, and not stop looking.  An errant wife was one thing, but…  She closed her eyes as his voice carried through the doorway, and allowed herself to picture, just for a moment, how he would take her leaving.

She turned away, lifting her chin defiantly against the tears.  He wasn’t what mattered any more, and neither was she.  That game might never find the truth, but once they saw the baby, there would be no question.  That was the only thing that mattered now.  There was no more time, and nothing left but the baby.

She wiped her hands carefully on a cloth, dropped it on the table, and walked out the back door.


This week, I’m taking my first pass at Write On Edge‘s Red Writing Hood challenge. The prompt calls for up to 450 words inspired by the following Robert Frost poem:

The Secret Sits

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

This is part of the same series as The Fall and assorted other prompt responses that I should probably link together.  I’ll get on that!  Thanks for reading.

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  1. Gina says:

    That is a very big secret. I could sense her stress and fearfulness. Boy, the courage it takes to turn around and walk out that back door. But would it be safer to stay? Love the torment here.

  2. Alissa Shea says:

    I love this! I didn’t read it carefully enough the first time so by the time I got to the end I was ULTRA confused, but once I gave it a more thorough reading it made sense. LOL

  3. How she flees might make a lovely short story, Annabelle. Or why she really does. She’s clearly got secrets, besides the one she’s carrying.

  4. I love this bit of story! It definitely begs for more, like why she doesn’t stay, why having a baby would inspire her to leave. I’d expect just the opposite!

  5. sonya says:

    This is my favourite writing prompt you’ve written yet! I love it. I expect copies of the book someday you know.

  6. May says:

    Mmmm…..well done. We know just enough about her to care and little enough to want to keep reading to find out more.

  7. Cameron says:

    SO glad to see you linking up here! I love your spin on the secret.

    Most of all, I love the bawdy opening. Sarie really comes to life. You can breathe in the tavern. It makes her sadness so much more poignant.

  8. Tessa says:

    Now that is a secret. Makes me want to know more about the baby and where she came from. Nice job!

  9. Oh, the layers of secrecy in this entry! Well done. I enjoyed your writing style, too. Very alive.

    Thank you for visiting my site, Annabelle.

  10. Jester Queen says:

    Oo – I fear yon innkeep is in for a heartache. You’re as bad as I am about linking things up. I want it automated. I want a place on my blog where I can drop things that are part of X series, so I can just click a button and connect them all.

  11. lexy says:

    ooh, I love this! So many secrets you left unsaid in it, and they all sound so important – what on earth is she if she’s concerned that seeing the baby would show her husband what she is?!

  12. Annabelle says:

    Thanks for all the love! I feel bad for both of them, honestly. She knows that a normal life is not in the cards for her, but that doesn’t keep her from wanting, and as for him, none of this is his fault. Poor guy.

    Andra, the reason she flees does indeed call for a story. The big picture stuff is novel territory (a novel I am working on, in fact), but it might be fun to follow her a little and see where her personal story goes.

  13. Rita says:

    Indeed a big secret… So well written. It’s the first time I visit your blog. Is that part of another story?

  14. Annabelle says:

    Thanks, Rita! It doesn’t follow any other stories directly but I’ve written several prompt responses showing different people coping with the same crisis, which are now in the “Calere” category. And “Reunion” now follows this one!

  15. stephanie says:

    Good work. I’m interested in why she wants to leave or has to leave. And of course her history that she runs from. Nice dialog and description as well.

  1. […] to wrestle with my profound lack of enthusiasm for short stories.  This follows last week’s The Secret, so if you’d like a little background on how Sarili got where she is, take a look.  Thanks […]

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