White frothing water surges over boulders down the seam of the valley.
“Take it away,” she murmurs over the noise. Bitterness has eaten holes in her like moths. She feels spools of ache wound tight within.
The woman picks her way down the shepherd’s path, flat shoes and black stockings poking out of a calf-length black skirt like the legs of a spider.
She squats and dangles one leg down, then the other, till she reaches a cold granite boulder covered with curving fissures like an aerial view of rivers.
A steep hillside tumbles down to the rushing stream, vertical grass trailing strands as long and thick as her hair was, once.
For it to work, you have to really feel it, her grandmother told her.
Below, large rocks lie scattered at all angles, as white water streams from every fissure, smothering words and enfolding the valley in a rhythmic white-noise hush. A reprieve from the house that shuddered with his shouts.
At the stream’s lip she crouches.
From a faded tweed coat she withdraws an object. Metal and oblong, a lock of hair sealed beneath glass and attached to a chain. The hair is a curl of chestnut-gold summer. A time of fervent promises and emotion flowing heedless as the stream.
Holding the locket, she plunges her hand into swift freezing water, feels the drag of the current. Releases it. Stands back and watches it drift, as the shard of herself attached to it drifts with it and it vanishes into the water’s endless flow.
She feels the sense of a knot loosening, of bonds like iron shackles dissolving and falling away. She speaks his name, and in the same breath, “I release you.” She stands and breathes in air moist with spray. In sure, swift steps she starts up the slope.
The locket shoots down rocks, swirls and eddies and drifts to the lower banks, where a woman with full cheeks and pink skirts gathered into one hand plucks it out of the silt. Turns it over in her smooth unlined hands, and dries it on her hem. She holds it lightward, blesses it with a kiss.
Slips it into her pocket, to treasure as a talisman to summon the man who will love her.
“Bring him here,” she whispers, voice shushed by the murmuring stream.
Malina Douglas was awarded Editor’s Choice in the Hammond House Literary Prize and made the Official Selection for the London Independent Story Prize 2020. Publications include Wyldblood, Opia, Typehouse, and Consequence Magazine. She was a finalist in the Blackwater Press Story Contest and published in their anthology in 2021. iridescentwords.com | @iridescentwords