She wraps herself in light
The radiance of good words and actions
She screams peace and whispers love
Her heart sows seed in the golden wheat fields
And her touch shifts sand along the beach
She used to be beaten and bruised
Abused with the lash of other’s tongues
The secrets burned like a hand set on a hot stove
And the loneliness permeated her center like acid
She didn’t know how to climb out
Her mind trapped in a dark sinkhole
The edges were round and there was no foothold
No one showed her an inch of compassion
They didn’t know the chaos on the inside
They saw her sweet smile
And ignored the darkness in her eyes
They saw her open hand
But not the bruise hidden beneath her clothes
Someone with a voice of crackling paper saw
Someone offered her wrinkled, but strong hand
Someone grasped her in her arms
Holding tight, never to let go
The secrets spinning like thread off a spool
She was undone
She was free for the very first time
Power to breathe was hers again
Her strength shone
Like a lighthouse on a cold dark night
Into the hearts of men
A wheat field two miles away from the closest village lightly swayed in the night breeze. A lone farmer with his hands on his hips stared out over his crop, thinking about when to harvest as well as what his wife had prepared for dessert. The rugged fellow raised his eyes to the stars then narrowed his lids as a bright meteor moved toward him on the horizon. As its velocity grew, the farmer’s eyes widened and his feet shuffled backwards. It stopped looking like a star and became a burning mass of fire in the atmosphere. “Dragons!” the farmer exclaimed and ran further away. But it wasn’t a dragon.
With a screeching sound, the object abruptly smashed into the earth making the ground shudder as if in an earthquake. The vessel, like a ship with metal armor lifted slowly with a groan above what was now a massive crater in the lone farmer’s wheat field. A shiny light emitted from the bottom and the farmer closed his eyes in fear.
A merchant and his wife could not have children. They tried everything earthly that was possible to try, but nothing came of their actions. A saddened woman, the wife took ill and never fully recovered, but the young merchant was sure that they hadn’t tried all possible avenues to increase fertility. He would kiss his sick wife on her pale forehead, and trudge to the town square where he worked daily in the uniform rows of red, blue, purple, and yellow tents; he sold silk fabrics and fine thread and met many people there he wouldn’t have known otherwise. This thought of regular opportunity ignited his curiosity so he started to ask any and all of his patrons if they knew anything about conception superstitions, if any couples with too many children were willing to allow him to adopt, or if they had heard of any abandoned children recently that needed a warm home.
After an entire year of the young merchant’s questions, his patrons began to only feel pity for him and avoided him by going to other fabric sellers in the brightly colored market. His wife became weaker as the days passed: only drinking tiny sips of broth and unable to eat solid food. All hope of the laughter of children in their home seemed to be lost for the young couple until an old woman with twinkling eyes and a stout frame came to the merchant holding a wriggling purple bundle. The merchant’s tired eyes alighted on the bundle and his hands shook as he reached out.
He looked down into the old woman’s eyes questioningly as if to ask if the baby was real. She gently transferred the baby girl to the shocked merchant’s ready arms and told him one thing with the voice of crackling paper, “You may have her. I found her in a great crater in an empty wheat field that slightly smoked. The only thing I require is that I am her godmother and that I have one favor that I shall use at any time.” The merchant disregarded the strange place the baby was found as well as the old woman’s cryptic favor and readily agreed to the lively old woman’s request, closed up his fabric shop for the day and ran to his ailing wife.
Once the ill woman saw the small bundle of purple afghan and a small fist poking out abiding in the cradle of her husband’s arms, she cried out in joy and a light pink color softened her pale cheeks. Her health returned to her for a while; she was able to eat solid food again, get out of her bed for hours at a time, and follow full conversations but the damage of long suffering was already upon her.
When that beautiful baby girl, named Angel for they insisted that she was their saving angel, grew to be age six, her mother took ill again, this time for the last time. She died leaving a worn merchant and young girl bereft and in need of a womanly love. The merchant thought to remedy this after half a year of grieving had passed since his wife’s death and began a search for a bride. He planned this strategy for his daughter only, for his heart was heavy and his eyes dim. He did not want a young bride, but preferred a widow like himself, with a child, so that he could depend on her knowledge of motherly love for his Angel.
By this time, Angel had shown extreme capabilities in all that she put her mind to. She could read, write, sew, dance, play the piano with perfect politeness all at the very young age of six. Her father even began to teach her how to read maps, understand battle plans and learn how to do business because he saw the seed of great intellect in her. Some of the merchant’s patrons said in quiet whispers that they even thought that she could read minds!
“Father? If the moon gravitates around the earth, why do we believe that the sun revolves around us? Wouldn’t it make sense that the smaller planet would revolve around the larger? The gravitational pull would be much stronger with a larger mass star…” Angel mused while sitting atop the merchant’s work counter, swinging her legs steadily and eyes upraised.
The merchant’s eyes lightened for a moment then steadily dimmed back to their grey gaze as he pondered his small daughter’s question. He picked up azure blue silk, measured its length for a customer, and thought no more of her question.
Angel was the perfect child in every way but one: she physically and mentally crumpled at the display of insincerity and lies. Her father didn’t know this though because he was always sincere and honest to her, as well as any guest he ever brought into the house, until he married his new wife only a day after he met her. The woman with grey black hair came to his silk tent at noonday and asked about a black silk for mourning. His grey blue eyes lifted to her coal black ones and saw another widow, bereft by the death of a spouse. She met all his requirements for a mother figure and was fairly pretty with tightly pulled black hair and light wrinkles that appeared to be from laughter. He found that she had two daughters who looked very well fed and they appeared polite and quiet. He figured that his daughter would have no problems with them since Angel was polite as well. But oh was the poor merchant ever wrong.
The first night that Angel met her new stepmother and sisters, she instantly felt a throbbing pain in her stomach. It was a slow ache that seemed to travel up to her heart and down to her knees. After her father left for work, this pain escalated at the precise moment the stepmother said, “We’ll be the best of friends, won’t we? It’s a little dusty in here. You should start sweeping… Your father loves you so much. I will too. Soon I’m sure.” And with a smile of disdain, her tight haired new mother thrust a broom at her while Angel held back tears of pain in her green eyes. Angel raised her shaking hand to receive the straw broom and Angel’s life went on this way, in extreme agony and loads of work, for many years.
Her father already had forgotten to pay attention to Angel when his young wife had died. His eyes remained glazed over and his thoughts distant, perhaps with his wife. He only wanted a new wife for his Angel, not for himself, so he began to get up before the sun rose and work long past the light’s fade. This arrangement didn’t bother the widow one bit because she loved the power he unknowingly gave her over the two-story house, the money he brought home, and her newfound servant, Angel. When the merchant came home, he immediately trained his grey eyes on any written articles about life after death and a bottle of whatever liquor was in his study. He spoke rarely to his daughter.
Angel saw the pain that her father felt in his mechanical actions and didn’t want to bother him with her problems. She thought that a loving daughter should be humble and bear all troubles silently with strength of character. But this agony she felt in the core of her being no longer allowed her to excel in all the things she used to be perfect in and she began to have a hard time even taking care of her physical appearance. Angel’s increasing amount of chores began to mark her face and body with dirt, grime, bruises and many times she was so tired, she could not make it up the cold grey stone steps to her room to sleep, but slept in front of the fireplace in the kitchen.
Although she endured the overload of physical work silently, as well as the taunting and name-calling of her new siblings, she found solace in the outdoors. When she went outside of her stepmother’s domain (what used to be her very own home), she felt free and the inflicted pain throughout her petite frame eased to a slight ache. Her stolen moments in the green courtyard were the only times she could really think freely.
Angel would feed the little mice in the brightly colored courtyard and strategize a variety of ways she could one day leave the presence of her stepfamily. The pink flowered bushes would wave as she breathed deeply. She could become a seamstress or a governess for a noble family, or she could marry. But the thought of marriage was a distant and unrealistic dream because who would marry such a dirty and openly mocked woman with calluses on her hands? But she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her father, not to her stepmother’s clutches. While Angel was in the house, her stepmother’s abuse only lay on her shoulders and her father was protected. She never wanted that burden on her father alone.
She sat under a large oak tree, brown leaves falling to her feet as her encrusted brow furrowed in thought. “Oh Angel? Angel!” her elder stepsister screeched from the second story window above the ancient tree.
“Yes, miss?” Angel scrambled to her feet as a wave of nausea rolled throughout her previously painless body.
“Why are you sitting out there right now, you stupid girl? You aren’t done fluffing my pillows! If they aren’t fluffed, I can’t take my mid-afternoon nap! Don’t you care about my rest? I’ll tell mother if you don’t come…” the elder stepsister screamed out the window, her lips in a snarl as her double chin jiggled with the effort of projecting her voice. Her lips parted and she panted, her eyes glaring into Angel’s eyes. Angel’s green eyes connected with her elder stepsister’s black ones and before she could quickly look away, her hands began to tremble. A ripping, tearing feeling like fabric being torn violently burst in her head. Her vision went a fuzzy black around the edges and her heart’s pace quickened to a rapid canter.
“Y-ye-yes, miss. I’m c-coming right n-now.” Angel took a step and stumbled on the mossy flagstones. The flowering courtyard wavered in Angel’s eyes like she was on a ship. Her elder stepsister smirked and straightened her fleshy form as she stepped away from the window. As soon as the elder stepsister disappeared into her room, Angels searing pain lightened to a dull ache.
A couple of months after Angel had turned age seventeen, a great uproar turned the organization of the house on its ear. Her stepmother and sisters began running around like they were on fire in preparation for this great party the duke was hosting in celebration of his son’s return from studying abroad. The stepsisters believed that if the duke’s son saw them wearing the best silks in the finest purples or blues their stepfather could find, he would be compelled to marry one of them as if by magical enchantment. So the two sisters fought endlessly on who got what and what was considered the trend while Angel thought to herself that this would be just another opportunity to be free from her duties. Relief already dawned on her face while her stepsisters screamed insults at one another, fighting over a pair of purple heels. Her bones felt stronger and she was able to straighten her back for the first time in years in the sparsely lit house.
The day of the party came and the whole family except for Angel took the carriage in all their silken finery to the duke’s estate. The merchant had not argued with his tight-haired wife over Angel’s presence at the ball, but merely had suggested her presence, his suggestion trailing off before its end. His eyes grew dimmer and he locked himself in his study for a couple hours before their departure. So they left without her in the black carriage, her father gazing towards her, but not truly at her with tired and sad eyes whilst her stepmother smirked and half-waved with her claw-like hand.
Angel sat in her normal spot against the oak tree in the courtyard and let loose a long sigh. She did wish that she could wear all sorts of finery without a care in the world, but it wasn’t for her. In the middle of this wistful thought an old stout woman with twinkling eyes waltzed on the mossy flagstones into the courtyard as if she owned the place. Angel looked up with surprise and felt as if she somehow knew this woman.
“Did you need anything, grandmother? Something to eat? A place to rest your head?” Angel asked. She sat up straighter against her oak tree, waiting to assist the older woman with whatever she required.
“No, not at all my dear. The only thing I need is to get you to that welcoming party for the duke’s son!”
“Excuse me? Do I know you?”
“Not quite, but I know you. I am your godmother. I found you long ago and brought you to your lovely parents. I never thought you would be treated with such cruelty and neglect, looking at your appearance; you look like the lowest servant! I bet you would like to know exactly where you came from though. Not so low a status as this…” The older hunched woman gestured to all of Angel with her small stubby hands. She squinted with distaste upwards at the two-story grey house where Angel miserably spent her existence.
“I’m sorry. I know that I am not related to my father by blood, but I have no clue as to what you are talking about” Angel whispered as she bowed her head and wrung her petite dirt smudged hands.
“No matter, no matter, I’ll explain,” her godmother said as she slowly lowered herself to sit beside Angel, “After I found you in that crater, I did some digging. Not actual digging, but social inquiry, you see. I asked around and no one knew about an abandoned baby, but one quivering farmer told me that he witnessed something beyond our understanding. He saw a great flash of light come from the sky and a vessel unlike any one you’ve ever seen crash into the surface of the earth. He said the vessel opened and two people wearing strange clothing set down a bundle with tears in their eyes and they put a letter on top of that bundle. That man was so frightened he ran and didn’t speak of it for ten years. I found you and I found that letter, but I didn’t want to give you the letter until I thought you were old enough. Here it is, deary.” The charming old woman handed the letter to Angel. Angel clutched the letter with a shaking hand then slowly opened it and with the prodding of the old woman, read it aloud:
“Dear people of this planet, please take care of our little loved one. She is very precious to us and is a princess in our world. Our world is at great risk of war and we knew of the promising safety of this world in comparison to ours. We wish to return for her, but if we die, please take care of her with all the love in your hearts. She will be exceptional at all she does here and may have more power than we know thus far. If her abilities are nurtured, we know she will better your world greatly. And darling daughter, please know that we will always love you. Sincerely, King Atadkin and Queen Teramin of the empire Quazxdilui.”
“I know it’s a lot to take in deary, but as your godmother, I believed it the right time. I believe your birth parents when they say that you are exceptional so in knowledge of this upcoming party, I prepared a gown for you. I actually purchased the silk from your father months ago. I dare say it was his finest fabric in years. You must go to the duke’s party, but you also must not stop there. You need to become an advisor to the king. I have heard news that we are on the brink of war with our neighboring country and we could all be in great peril. Now is the time for action!” The small robust old woman scrunched her face adamantly and pointed to the sky to accentuate her point.
Angel held her breath with much tension in her chest and sighed, “But godmother, I don’t know if I can do anything like that. I really have become a simple servant! It has been years since I learned war strategies and read histories on war. I don’t know if I can do what you are asking of me,” Angel said with downcast eyes and a trembling lip.
“Nonsense!!! You can do anything you can put your mind to!” her godmother said with vehemence and conviction. The old woman scrambled to her feet to add stature and power to her speech.
With these words from her godmother, Angel felt that ever-present aching pain in her stomach flutter away and a familiar yet almost forgotten sensation replace it: it was the truth, her godmother was sincere, and Angel did have the strength! So Angel picked herself up and the two women made their way into the house. Angel took a sudsy bath with her godmother helping scrub all the dirt and grime of years of hard labor away. Underneath the dirt a clear creamy skin appeared as well as a beautiful young woman with green eyes and mousy brown hair. Her godmother helped her into her new gown which was an intense emerald green made of silk. Her long scraggly hair was washed and dried into soft curls that framed her face and a fierce look shone upon Angel’s heart-shaped visage. She would heed her birth parents and godmother’s words of encouragement and she would help shape a better future for this world where her parents could not do so for their own.
The two women sped to the duke’s castle in the godmother’s small white carriage and arrived only two hours after the party had begun. Music and laughter spiraled out of the massive oak doors as Angel took in a deep breath and clutched her godmother’s wrinkled, but strong hand. She entered and stopped at the threshold, her godmother staying behind her. Her godmother’s sincere spirit emanated, pushed forward, and Angel straightened her spine painlessly. Angel’s beauty and intelligence won over the duke and his son as they sat to the side of the dance hall and discussed the state of the kingdom.
“So what do you think about the water crisis in our southern colony?” the duke asked leaning forward with eyes intently focused on Angel’s.
The duke’s eyes sent rhythmic pulses of energy and focus to Angel’s frame as she answered, “Sir, as of now I am unaware to the situation in the colonies due to my recent living conditions, but if you please inform me of the colonies’ status I will gladly offer my educated thoughts.” The duke leaned even closer, subconsciously feeling the power that Angel possessed. He explained the recent world news. They sat for hours, the duke, his son, and Angel, discussing politics and reports. After informing Angel of the state of the economy, they heard her speak intelligently of all the issues they proposed to her and decided to offer her the supplies she needed to travel to the king. In the meantime, her godmother had talked to the merchant and his wife and reminded him of the favor she asked seventeen years ago. Her request that Angel would be given to her care as she traveled was weakly granted by the merchant. The two gentlemen gave her a carriage, parchment, a sum of money, and all the articles of paper concerning world news that they owned. Angel gave them hope.
In the same fashion, she soon won over the young king’s heart and became his closest advisor. He offered her the spacious book-lined walls of the library for her further education. Angel grew even stronger in the king’s presence, her body and mind healing so much that she only needed to rest for four hours out of the day. After six months of service to the young bookish king, she fell in love with his innocent, humble, yet strong spirit.
“Angel, my dear advisor, I found another book for you. This one isn’t about military strategy though.” The king’s pale cheeks blushed crimson as he looked down at his feet while scratching his tousled brown hair. Angel looked down at the book of love poems he handed her and knew that he loved her too.
“Why thank you, your Majesty. This is the best book that you have given me so far.” The young king looked up into her green eyes and for the first time, Angel shared her power with another person. He felt a whirlwind of strength wash over his whole body, starting in his heart, until he felt like he could lift a horse unaided. They beamed at each other as they shared their souls. Angel became his most-precious wife and queen only months after he gave Angel her most precious book.
Although she was now queen, Angel still traveled all the lands as an advisor to the king, sharing her wisdom and with her great ability to know who was sincere and who was not, she demoted or exiled all the evil lords who had power over the good people. Many called her The Avenging Angel, but the ones who knew her called her their hope.
About the Author
Hello, my name is Alyx Steensma. I am a graduate student finishing my Master’s degree in English literature as well as a First Year Composition teacher for college freshman students and a writing tutor. I love to read multicultural works, write, bake bread, and stand on my head to see a different perspective of the world. Both teaching English and the physical practice of yoga go hand in hand in my life, helping me attain balance, creativity, and peace. I hope that you enjoy my writing!