A reimagining of Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Green Man’ from the wife’s perspective
They’ve been coming here for years. I remember seeing them as a child, wanting to clamber up into their painted wagons, peer inside, run away with them. Away with the gypsies. Away with the fairies.
There’s talk of course. There is always talk. They’ll throw a curse on you soon as look at you, take your children from you. Not overnight but little by little. Superstitious nonsense. Mark thinks they’re filthy, tricksy. If you ask me, they liven up the place, give it some colour once a year, all the fun of the fair. No harm in that.
We walk hand in hand into the field with our daughter. In front of us, one of their horses lets off a spray of pee, the warmth of it steaming from the ground. I can see Hannah staring, nudging her Dad as I step back. I shouldn’t have worn my peep toes.
It’s her birthday today. Thirteen. I remember that, being on the brink, of womanhood I suppose it must have been, longing for something to happen. A kiss. A secret. An adventure.
She may not know it but they’re looking at her, those gypsy men, smelling of earth, firewood and the forbidden.
‘Ice cream?’ one of them says, pushing forward, raising his eyebrow, his gaze lingering too long on the white swan of Hannah’s neck. I pay and she moves towards the horse, her child’s hand on its shoulder, its conkered chestnut girth swaying slightly. Say what you like about the gypsies, they know how to take care of their horses. Hannah’s always wanted one but what with the extension and the new car, we can’t stretch to it. She’d only get tired of it anyway.
I lick my ice cream as we walk away. Mark will want a go at the shooting gallery. He’ll accuse them of fixing it, the way he always does. The truth is he’s not good with his hands and his eyes aren’t what they used to be either.
We are neither of us what we used to be, not twenty-one anymore but what do you expect? You have to grow up. We have a family now, responsibilities, a home, a garden. We still do it, once every two weeks, more on holiday. I make sure of that. But years of seeing him tease out his ear wax, clip his toenails on the bathroom floor, it changes things.
It’s not how I thought it would be, our marriage. My first time was here, one midsummer’s eve, the night of the fair, the fires ablazing. Not with Mark. He doesn’t know. Nobody does. I was wild that night, sixteen and brazen, a forgotten self I left here, at the fair. I’ve never seen my gypsy love again but oh, if I did, I would know. He smelt of earth. Of firewood. Of the forbidden. A kiss. A secret. An adventure.
Becky is studying online for a PG Diploma in Creative Writing at The University of York and has recently had her first submission acceptance. When she isn’t teaching English in Granada, Spain, she loves adventuring through words, as much as through the world. She tweets at @beckymaywriter