Wish #5

Think back over your years at school, over the good and bad. Then tell me about your favorite year in school. Why is it your favorite? Because it was the easiest? Or because it was the most fun? Tell me why you picked it, then don’t forget to give us the rest of the details. Just because it was an excellent year, doesn’t mean nothing bad happened, right? Did you break an arm the year you were voted Class Clown? Maybe failed Algebra the week before you started going steady the first time? As always, I want you to think, revel in your memories, and share every last detail with us. And have fun with it!

Easy. Third grade. Hands down. No contest. In third grade, I was in Mrs. Elliott’s class. The first day of school started off in a grand fashion. She had already made a seating chart for us. On each of the desks was a little slate made from black construction paper, popsicle sticks, and white paint. The slates had our names on them, along with the school year and Mrs. Elliott’s name. She also painted a little apple on each slate. I was so touched. No teacher had ever made anything like that for me. I’m sure making one for each student required a great deal of time. I kept it for years and years. Eventually, I told myself it was silly to keep it, and I threw it away. I’m so sorry I did that.

In third grade, I learned I was the best speller in my class. As a girl who always got picked last for athletic activities, it was a real boost to my self-confidence to be picked first for spelling bee teams each time. I earned my reputation when Mrs. Elliott asked me to spell “giraffe,” and I did it! The kids in my class were in awe. I missed one word on a spelling test the whole year. It was “receive.” I never spelled it wrong again. Mrs. Elliott used to call out the scores on our spelling tests. She would say, “Dana], minus zero,” as she gave me back my test. I will never forget the collective shock as the class recited with her one time: “Dana,” she began… “minus zero,” the class groaned the way kids groan at smart kids who blow the curve (not that Mrs. Elliott had a curve). She smiled and said, “Minus one.” The entire class gasped. My own jaw dropped.

In third grade, I also learned to write in cursive, to multiply, and to divide. I learned about the Living Desert and got to observe the Gila monster who lived in a terrarium in our classroom. I learned about rocks – sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. When we were assigned to go out and collect rocks of different types, my friend Danny was the only one who knew what Mrs. Elliott meant when she said to find a rock with something growing on it. How could something grow on a rock? I wondered. So I learned about lichen.

I think it was in the third grade that I gained my deep appreciation for books. I certainly read a great deal before third grade, but it wasn’t until third grade that I discovered the joys of chapter books. Through Mrs. Elliott, I was introduced to the wonders of Superfudge, The Boxcar Children, and Shel Silvertein. I tried to check out Superfudge from our library for months after she read it to us. Everyone else in my class must have been trying to do the same thing. A few years ago when I saw a copy of The Boxcar Children in a store, I had to buy it. I remembered with perfect clarity how Mrs. Elliott read it to us, and how we cheered out loud as Henry was running the race. We were ecstatic when Henry won. Talk about getting kids involved in books.

The year wasn’t all moonlight and magnolias. My beloved cat Princess died that year. That was very hard. I’d never lost a pet before. She had feline leukemia. It was only about two days from her diagnosis to her death. She died on my grandmother’s couch. She let out a cry, seized up, and then went limp. And my dad cried. I don’t think I had ever seen him cry before. I cried for days. I visited her grave in my grandparents’ backyard for a long time.

On the plus side, I became friends with the best girlfriend I ever had while I was in the third grade. She’s rotten at keeping in touch, so we have lost each other over the years. But from third grade until eighth grade (when I moved), we were inseparable. We played lots of games together. She told me what I needed to do when I kissed a boy (years later), but didn’t offer to demonstrate on me, thank you very much. She taught me how to put on lipstick by holding the tube in my bra à la Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club (that too was years later). She is a very special person. I love her very much.

And lastly, one of the most important things that happened to me in the third grade is that I was encouraged to write. Mrs. Elliott wrote on my report card, “Please encourage Dana to write. She has a gift…” Those words are stamped on my heart. In the third grade, I was given a plastic stencil toy. I made up a book about a little bug named Herman who was balding and lived in a mushroom. I made the drawings with the stencil toy. I shared the book for show and tell. I tried to give it to Mrs. Elliott, but she could not accept it. She told me one day I would want to have it. I believe my grandmother has it, but I’m not really sure what ultimately happened to it.

Mrs. Elliott made me feel good about myself. She told me, in her indirect ways, that I was talented and smart. She was loving and nurturing. She was the best teacher I ever had.

Third grade was the grade when I showed my peers I had value. Second grade for me was hell on earth – I was teased mercilessly by my peers, my parents separated in a very nasty way, and it was my first year at a new school. But third grade… third grade was when I came into myself.

Mrs. Elliott, wherever you are, God bless you. I love you.

Sarah’s Writing

Sarah found her writing folder from her old school. I couldn’t resist sharing some of her writing with you all (even though her teacher made corrections, I left her writing in its original):

“Today is my first day of school in 2nd grade and I will have fun.”

“My weekend was nice Because my Step Sister and Step Brother came to vist.”

“My favoite color is Blue Because it is Blue as the Sky.”

“today is going to a be nice day Because I’ll Have it nice.”

“If I Could take a pet to a pet show I would take a foal Because there cute.”

I think she is quite a talented artist, so as soon as I can get the scanner hooked up, I want to post some of her pictures here. Stay tuned!

Harry Potter and My Daughter

I feel better today. I got a bite from one place I sent my résumé. I am, after all, going to three interviews (of sorts – two of them are really tests of my ability to write and edit) this week, and I am cautiously optimistic about my chances with all three. Make that four, once I get to talk to the other person who responded to my résumé. Ahhhh… I feel myself relaxing a bit.

I played around at Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter website. I was totally psyched that the Sorting Hat put me in Gryffindor! I was just like Harry, sitting there going, “Please put me Gryffindor, please put me in Gryffindor…” Although Harry was really just hoping not to wind up in Slytherin. If you haven’t read the books, you have no clue what I’m blathering on about, but it’s my diary, so deal with it.

While I was there, I went shopping in Ollivander’s Wand Shop, and I found the perfect wand: Phoenix Feather, Redwood, 8 ¾ inches.

Finally, I practiced Quidditch. I sucked at being a Keeper and a Beater. As a Keeper, I kept letting the other team score. As a Beater, I ran into my player twice and hit the Bludger right into his head three times. I couldn’t get my computer to run the Chaser practice. But guess what… I totally KICKED ASS at being a Seeker, just like Harry Potter. I’m not usually good at sports, and I know it was just the computer, but it still kind of made me feel good. I’ll take it where I can get it, you know? Anyway, I am going to join the Quidditch diaryring to celebrate my extreme Seeker talents.

Anyway, the site is really cool, and I’m a dork. So what.

So I talked with Sarah’s father, and he says she tells him she really likes it here. She likes her school. She is making friends. She told me today she was making up a song about her new home.

She’s such a sweet kid. I was upset the other day (over everything), and she asked me what was wrong. I said I didn’t feel well. She asked me if I had eaten. How’s that for a little mother hen? I said yes. She asked if I’d eaten dinner. I said no. She concluded that was the problem and promptly made me one of her peanut butter/graham cracker sandwiches. How could I not feel better after that?

Speaking of these sandwiches, she “invented” them the other day, and she is very proud. She even submitted her “recipe” to the Zoom show on PBS. She came out of the back bedroom asking how to spell “cracker.” I told her, and she went trotting off. Then she reappeared wanting to know how to spell “squish.” I followed her back, as my curiosity was piqued. She had signed on AOL, found the Zoom website, figured out how to submit a recipe, and was in the process of doing so. All by herself. Pretty soon, she’s going to be smart enough to figure out how to get around the parental controls I put on her Internet access.

Literary Agents and Chapter One

Well, I took the plunge. I sent a query letter to a literary agency, and they want to see my book! Cross your fingers for me, Diaryland. I could use some good news right about now. Thanks to those of you who offered encouragement. I think your encouragement coupled with the sheer joy of discovering Harry Potter have both been positive influences. That means you made me get off my rear.

I am so tired. No sleep. We ran lots of errands this morning.

To celebrate the fact that my query letter evoked some interest, I am posting the first chapter of my novel below. Cheers!

Continue reading “Literary Agents and Chapter One”


Yawn… Baby Maggie is fighting sleep tooth (well toothless) and nail. She’s exhausted, but she won’t settle down. Poor little baby. She’s just nosy. That’s what my mom always says about her — that she’s a nosy baby.

I have very little of interest to say tonight.

I guess my cousin got married today. Today was also my great-grandparents’ 72nd anniversary. Yes, you read that right. My great-grandparents are still alive, and they’ve been married for 72 years. They married when they were teenagers. My grandfather has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home. I had the distinct feeling last time I saw him that I wouldn’t ever see him again. He is 91. I have had that feeling about two other important people in my life, and so far, I was correct both times.

Grandpa no longer remembers who I am. I was scared of him when I was a kid. It’s funny that he knows my daughter Sarah is his great-great-granddaughter, but he doesn’t remember me. Sarah was born before he got really bad, so he remembers his link to her. Let me see — I think he has 5 great-great-grandchildren now (6 if you count step-great-great-grandchildren) and one on the way. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many great-grandchildren he has, but I’m the oldest.

Grandpa’s brother came over for one of their anniversary parties. I think it was the 65th. Anyway, Grandpa pointed proudly at Sarah and told his brother that little girl was his great-great-granddaughter. Grandpa’s brother said, “Well you’re getting old.” Grandpa said, “Not too many of ’em gets to see their great-great-granddaughter.” That is true indeed.

Writing… Again

Something I really hate is when someone who interviews you says he/she is going to call you regardless of his/her decision, then doesn’t do it. I don’t blame this person… much. I wouldn’t want to make the rejection call. But dammit, respect me enough to let me know.

On a lighter note, I took a big step. I met Karen Cushman at a conference a couple of years ago, and she recommended her agent to me. So today, I contacted the agency through their website and submitted my book “idea” to them. Of course, I have completed the thing. I’m getting tired of sitting on my ass. I believe in that book. It had been a while since I had looked at it, but I worked on some revisions pretty steadily over the last couple of days. Each time I come back to it after being away for a while, I realize anew how good I think it is. I am very proud of that accomplishment. Those characters became so real to me. I created them, but they seemed to really spring to life and do their own thing. It is hard to explain if you’ve never seen it happen. I used to think writers who talked like that were full of it. Of course you steered your characters — anything else makes no sense. But you know what? When the magic is really working, they start doing things you didn’t expect. And strangers walk into your story and give it life.

Diana Gabaldon divides characters into three categories — mushrooms, onions, and hard nuts. Mushrooms are those great characters that spring up out of nowhere. Onions are characters you work on layer by layer — mostly your protagonist(s). Hard nuts are characters that it is tough get inside of. I can’t think of any of my characters as being hard nuts. A lot of them were mushrooms, though.

Dad says Mom was frisked at the airport. Mind you, someone walked through a metal detector WITH A GUN at this same airport. He realized he still had the gun on him (it was a mistake, and he had forgotten), went to the nearest law enforcement officer. And they gave him a ticket. I am shaking my head. Airport security is still a joke when they’re frisking my mom and letting someone with a gun walk right by.

Well, I need to find out what Professor Snape is going to do to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley for flying to Hogwarts in the Weasleys’ car, and thus confounding Muggle witnesses. Sorry if I ruined anything for you. You all should really read these books. Maybe Steve is right. Maybe they did inspire me to get off my ass with my own book. Well, that and I would like to see if I can get it published and make some money.

Remember that song “Reunited”? Wasn’t that Peaches and Herb? “Reunited, and it feels so good… ” That is how I feel about my book. Like I reunited with it. And it is great to have those crazy people back in my life. Good God, I sound like Anne Rice talking about Lestat. Oh well. I can think of worse things.

Job Interview

Okay, everyone, wish me luck. I went on a job interview today. And it is a writing job. I really, really, really want to get it. Did I mention I really want to get it? Or that I really want to get it? I should know by tomorrow. Yikes, I hate waiting.

I tried to call Steve on the cell driving home from Athens (interview was at my alma mater UGA), and he didn’t answer. I came home and he and baby Maggie are napping. I can’t call my mom because she is en route to Texas to go to my cousin’s wedding. So I can’t tell anyone about it right now, and it’s driving me frickin’ crazy!

I think I made a pretty good impression. I was supposed to bring samples of my writing, so I brought the first draft of that study guide I wrote and the chapter of my book that I put in my diary the other day. That was really just for fun, because I would be writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, columns, brochures and the like. But the lady who interviewed me did appear to be *ahem* rather engrossed in the chapter.

I was interviewed by three people. Don’t you hate it when they panel you like that? I hate answering the questions “What are your strengths?” and “What are your weaknesses?” Ugh. Well, I hope that they hire me, because we need money. Plus, it is part time, so I wouldn’t have to put Maggie or Sarah in day care. Not that it is bad — they were in day care when I was teaching. But now I’ve gotten used to being home with Maggie and being there to pick up Sarah from the school bus in the afternoon. I’d miss it. At the same time, I need to work, or we’ll be up a creek. And I think you know what kind of creek.

Thanks for listening to my nervous job-interview rambling. And back to Harry Potter I go.


Brief update. My new addictions:

  1. StorTroopers. I spent an embarrassing amount of time playing with them yesterday, making dolls of everyone I knew.
  2. Harry Potter. I am ashamed to say I only just now started reading the books, but I devoured the first one and jonesed all day yesterday because I didn’t have the second to get started on right away. Only other time in my life when that’s happened is with The Lord of the Rings. I finished The Fellowship of the Ring at around midnight. I actually had to go downstairs and pester my friend K. at that hour for The Two Towers because I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. Luckily, she and her roomate were still up.
  3. The self-checkout lines at K-Mart. Sad, isn’t it? I’ll actually go to K-Mart when I’d rather go to Wal-Mart or Target because they don’t have self-checkout.

Sarah is taking Health this week. She alternates activities like P.E., Art, Music, Computers, and Health on a weekly basis. The day before yesterday she told me there is the equivalent of five cups of sugar in a Coke. Is that really true? Anyone know? If it is, I am getting WAY too much sugar. Yesterday she told me all about the perils of smoking. She volunteered that her grandmother goes outside to smoke, which her teacher said was good. Wish she’d have done that when I was a kid. Both of my parents smoked heavily around me when I was a kid. Now I have asthma. Thanks a bunch!

Thanks again for the kind words in my guestbook. I’ll have to post some more of the book here. I was thinking about posting my character sketches later today, but I’ll have to find them. Hmmm…

Chapter Three, The Midwife

Trying an experiment, faithful readers. Sticking my neck out and posting a sample chapter of my book. It is my favorite chapter. The book is tentatively titled A Question of Honor, as the theme of the book centers around what honor is and what is required of an honorable person. It is set in the Middle Ages, specifically Wales (at this point in the story) in the year 1175. King Henry II is on the throne (father of Richard the Lionhearted and John, popularly mocked in Robin Hood stories with a great deal of inaccuracy, but I digress). Wales is still sort of a separate country, but is pretty much under the dominion of the Normans (they had conquered England 100+ years earlier, which I’m sure all you history buffs recall). My heroine is called Gwenllian. She is a harpist of some considerable talent. She’s willful, and though she’s 17, hasn’t been able to catch a husband. She becomes interested in Elidyr, another minstrel, but he is betrothed to the perfect (and boring) Tangwystyl. Broken-hearted, she pines for him, but decides she can’t quite give up the hope of seeing him, maybe changing his mind. Who knows? Why do women ever torture themselves with unavailable men, but I digress again. Anyway, it is here that I will insert the chapter.

So (yikes) let me know what you think.

Chapter Three – The MidwifeGwen fiercely plucked another weed from her mother’s herb garden. She was tempted to believe one of the fair folk stole into the garden at night and planted the weeds; they seemed to appear so quickly. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand. Her mind began to wander — Elidyr. What was he doing at this moment? Gwen closed her eyes and touched her lips, thinking of the kiss they had shared. She could almost feel it still. Gwen opened her eyes and shook her head. No use thinking about him, she scolded herself. He would marry Tangwystyl.

Gwen scowled and searched for more weeds. Tangwystyl. Gwen rubbed her cheeks. What would Elidyr tell her? Would he tell her he no longer wished to marry her? Did he want to marry her?

“Weeds,” Gwen said aloud to herself. “Find every last weed.” Gwen had hoped weeding the garden would help her turn her thoughts away from Elidyr. She had already tried sewing, taking up a pair of Iorwerth’s breeches to mend. Unable to concentrate on the task at hand, she had sewn one leg to the other.

Gwen’s eyebrows knit together as she uprooted a particularly stubborn weed. She worried about her harp. She had not dared to touch it today, for each time she thought to play it, she thought of Elidyr. She thought of his face as she had played for him yesterday. She thought of his hands as he held her harp. Would she be able to play it again without thinking of him? Foolish girl, she scolded herself. Give it time. It was only yesterday. One day. Give it time.

There, almost done, Gwen thought. Just one more. Now what to do? “Oh, Mam, what would you do?” she said softly.

All around her, Gwen felt her mother’s presence. It was in each carefully cultivated plant in the garden. It was in the soil. It was in herself. Gwen could almost hear her mother, giving her lectures on the medicinal uses of each herb, testing her memory.

“What is the use for yarrow?” her mother had asked, pointing to the plant.

“Ah … it is used in a poultice for wounds. Taken in the form of tea, it relieves headache, flatulence, and…”

“Very good,” her mother had replied.

Gwen smiled, remembering her mother’s gentle hands, tending her garden. Her garden was the envy of every woman in the commote. There was not another like it, excepting the monks’ gardens at Llanddew or Llanfaes. Gwen’s mother supplemented her garden with plants she gathered on pilgrimage to Rome. She also bought from peddlers and collected wild herbs for cultivation in her own garden. How many hours Gwen had spent with her mother, in the little stillroom by the herb garden, hanging herbs to dry, grinding and mixing herbs, brewing teas, and making ointments.

Gwen bent down and cut several stalks of rosemary. She opened the little door to the stillroom and went inside. It was here that her mother had kept all her drying herbs and her equipment for making medicines. The walls were lined with shelves stacked with bottles, jars, mortars and pestles, spoons, and knives. A large vat of water sat in the corner. Gwen would need to empty and replenish it with fresh water from the well.

Gwen sniffed the tiny pale blue flowers of the fresh rosemary and fastened it to a drying rack that hung from the ceiling. Rosemary. Mam said if a girl tapped a boy on the finger with a sprig of rosemary, they would fall in love and marry. Smiling, Gwen reached up and took down one sprig of rosemary and tucked it into her apron pocket. If I happen to see him, I’ll give him a little tap, she thought.

Gwen noticed that the sage she had hung the previous week seemed to be dry. She removed it from the drying rack and lay it on the table. She selected a mortar and pestle from the rack above the table. She crumbled the dried sage leaves into the mortar and began to pound them with the pestle. His eyes were just this color. Sage, with flecks of brown. Gwen pounded the pestle harder. Crushed fresh sage was good for fleabites, she reminded herself. Taken in tea, it stopped night sweats in the sick. Gwen took an empty bottle from the shelf and uncorked it. She shook the mortar lightly, tapping the side to coax the powder on the sides into the bottom of the bowl. Tipping the mortar slightly, she poured the powder in to the bottle and replaced the cork. Wiping her hands on her apron, she looked at the bottle of powdered sage and sighed. It was no use.

Gwen removed her apron and hung it over the table. She licked her fingers and smoothed back a few unruly wisps of hair. She was going to find him, and discover exactly what his intentions were. Her hand was on the door handle when she remembered the rosemary in her apron. A blush crept up her neck. How foolish she was. Yet she did remove it from the pocket and tuck it behind her ear.

Gwen thought it had been a long time since she had seen such a beautiful day. There was not a cloud in the sky. Everyone was outdoors, making the best of the agreeable weather. There was a skip in Gwen’s step. Elidyr was probably staying with Owain. Perhaps she would call on Angharad, to see how she was faring. If she would happen to see Elidyr, well, so much the better.

Gwen rapped on the door of the cottage Owain shared with Angharad. Owain opened the door. Gwen was astonished by his appearance. His face was drawn and pale. Deep circles framed his bloodshot eyes.

“Thanks be to God that you are finally here. I did send for you an hour ago,” Owain said, pulling Gwen inside the cottage.

“Send for me? Why, I received no message from you.” Gwen’s brows drew together in confusion.

“No? How did you know, then, to come? ’Tis no matter; you are here.” Owain said quickly. “The midwife cannot come. She is gone this day to Aberhonddu. Her man says she goes to purchase herbs of the monks at Llanddew. Did you not bring any medicines with you? I fear she does not fare well.”

“Angharad? Is she birthing the child, then?”

“Yes, and she is in great pain. I have been sitting with her all night.”

“I see. What … I should say … The difficulty … Do you know what it seems to be?” Gwen stammered.

Owain shook his head. “She be a small lady, though her hips seemed wide enough.”

Gwen scratched her head. “I will talk with her.”

“That may be difficult as she is often in a faint, it seems.”

Gwen looked at Owain. Poor fool. He was helpless. “Where is she?”

Owain pointed to a bed in the corner of the room. He was right. Angharad almost looked to be sleeping. suddenly, her body convulsed. She gripped the side of the bed and shrieked. Gwen ran to her. Her shift was covered in blood. Gwen took Angharad’s hand and smoothed her hair.

“Owain, bring some cool water. And a cloth.” Gwen pulled back Angharad’s shift and looked between her legs. Blood. Gwen knew women in childbirth often bled like that, but usually after the babe was delivered. Something was wrong.

“Owain, I must go home to fetch some herbs. Sit here and bathe her face,” Gwen ordered. Owain hurried over to the bed with a cool, wet cloth in his hand.

“I shall return directly,” Gwen said as she hurried out the door. Gwen took her skirts in hand and ran back home to her stillroom. Once inside, she grabbed a basket and scanned the shelves. Comfrey. She snatched the bottle and tossed it into the basket. Birthwort? As much as it was needed, she had none prepared. Angharad might birth the child in the six to eight hours it would take to prepare it. Yarrow, blackberry leaves, raspberry leaves – what else? Mam help me remember – what eases the pains of childbirth? Peony. What had Mam said of peony? The flowers were poisonous. Peony extract, in very small amounts, eased convulsions in childbirth. Gwen had never used it before. It might be necessary now.

Gwen rushed back to Owain’s cottage and threw open the door. Angharad’s condition had not improved in the minutes that Gwen had been from her side. Owain’s head snapped up when he saw Gwen come in the door. “Tell me what to do,” he said quickly.

Gwen glanced at the fireplace. “Put some water on to boil.” Gwen rifled through the contents of her basket. Yarrow, blackberry leaves, raspberry leaves. She carefully estimated the amount needed of each and mixed them together, placing them in the small linen bag her mother had made for holding teas. She placed the bag in a tankard that sat on the table next to the bed. There – the rest would have to wait for the water. Gwen walked across the room and stood in front of the fire. Would the water never boil?

After what seemed like ages, tiny bubbles began to rise to the surface of the water. Gwen snatched the pot, burning herself.

“God’s teeth! The tankard, Owain, the one by the bed. Ow!” She set the pot down on the table, a little less than gently. Owain handed her the tankard.

“A ladle?” Owain found one hanging by the fire and handed it to her. She dipped the ladle into the water, then poured the water into the tankard.

“Stir this. It will have to steep,” Gwen said gruffly, handing the tankard to Owain.

Gwen took the jar of comfrey from her basket and poured the contents into the pot, then set the pot back on the fire. Gwen walked over to Owain and looked at the tea brewing in the tankard. It was ready. She took it over to the bed.

“Wake her,” Gwen said, glancing at Owain.

Owain sat on the bed next to his wife. He shook her gently. “My love,” he said soothingly. “Wake up my love.”

He is gentle, Gwen thought. Too gentle. Gwen lightly slapped Angharad’s cheeks. She stirred.

Drink this. It will help the pain,” Gwen said, holding Angharad’s head. She managed to swallow most of the tea.

Owain looked at Gwen, pleading. She cast her own eyes on the floor.


“Now we must wait,” Gwen said, crossing the floor to check the comfrey.

Five hours later, Angharad still had not given birth. The tea had not made much difference. Gwen was alarmed by the amount of blood. She had only seen two babies born. She had never delivered one by herself. Gwen rubbed her forehead. Her head ached with fatigue. Owain slumped in a chair by the bed, unable to stay awake.

Gwen lit a candle. It was likely to be a long night. She rubbed her back as she looked out the window. Elidyr, she thought suddenly. Where was he? In all the excitement of the day, she had forgotten him.

A shriek from Angharad startled Gwen from her thoughts. She raced toward the bed. Owain, awakened by the scream, was holding Angharad’s hand. Angharad’s body lurched in convulsions. A fresh gush of blood broadened the stain on Angharad’s shift. Gwen glanced at her basket and thought of the peony extract. She soaked a cloth in the comfrey and handed it to Owain.

“I will need this in a few moments,” she said firmly. She took the peony extract from the basket and uncorked the bottle. Tipping the bottle, she let a few drops fall onto her finger. She forced her finger into Angharad’s mouth and rubbed her neck to induce her to swallow.

Gwen moved to the end of the bed and lifted Angharad’s shift. A tiny bottom was emerging from the opening between Angharad’s legs. Gwen gasped. The babe was breech!

Owain looked at Gwen with alarm. “What is it?” Gwen pulled back Angharad’s shift and pointed. What little color Owain had left drained from his face. “Will she live?”

“I … I cannot say. These births are difficult. I know not what to do,” Gwen said, trembling.

“Owain,” Angharad said weakly. He turned to look at her, still holding her hand.

“Tell her she must push,” Gwen said licking her lips. She felt so thirsty and tired. Crouching at the end of the bed, Gwen reached for the babe.

“My love, you must push,” Owain said softly.

“I can’t. I am too tired. Owain … I am dying. Please call the babe after your tad if it be a boy.”

“Hush, now. You’ll not die.” He put an arm around her and rocked her gently. “You must push, now. Push.”

Angharad’s face contorted with pain as she tried to push. She had not the strength. Gwen tried to slide her hand inside to pull the babe as she had seen the shepherds do with breech lambs. Angharad let out a piercing scream. Gwen thought quickly.

“Owain, make her stand. You will need to hold her up,” Gwen said, scrambling from the bed.

Too distraught and confused to question, Owain did as he was told. Gwen crouched beneath Angharad. The babe’s legs were emerging.

“Good! Now push,” Gwen shouted.

Angharad pushed. Gwen pulled. One arm appeared. “Push again!” Another arm appeared. Gwen anxiously held the quivering babe. “Once more,” she ordered, her voice wavering slightly.

Gwen pulled gently, moving one hand up to catch the babe’s head. Slowly, the head emerged. Gwen held the child in her arms. A girl. Owain quickly lifted Angharad and carried her to the bed. Her skin was pale and clammy.

The air was filled with tiny, mewling cries. Gwen handed the babe to Owain. “Bathe her with that cool water, then swaddle her in those,” Gwen said pointing to a pile of cloths on the table.

Gwen bathed Angharad with the comfrey compress. Taking the empty tankard from the bedside table, she briskly walked over to the pot in the fire. She dipped the tankard into the boiled comfrey and picked up a cloth from the stack on the table. She smiled at Owain, who was attempting to wrap the babe in the cloths, afraid to move her for fear she would break.

Comfrey to stop bleeding, Gwen recited to herself. In the absence of proper straining, Gwen hoped a cloth would do. Gwen placed the cloth over Angharad’s mouth and pulled her to a sitting position. Holding the tankard to her lips, Gwen forced her to drink. Exhausted, Gwen sat on the floor and rubbed her temples.

Owain handed her the baby and grabbed his wife’s hand.

“Gwenllian,” Owain said. His voice was strangled.

“Mmm?” Gwen said blearily. She lifted her head and looked into Owain’s eyes.

“Gwen, she is dead.” His eyes were brimming with tears.

Gwen leaped to her feet. “Are you sure?” She grabbed Angharad’s arm, hoping he was mistaken. Limp. Lifeless. He was not.

Gwen felt as if all the blood had drained out of her own body as surely as Angharad’s blood had drained from hers.

The tears began to spill freely down his face. “What should I do Gwen?” His soft brown eyes were large and pleading, like those of a deer. “I can’t … I can’t.” Owain choked, then began sobbing like a child. Gwen shifted the babe to one arm and reached out to touch Owain’s head with her free hand. He slumped against her chest.

Gwen shook her head. She felt numb. What should she do? What should she do? She raked her fingers through Owain’s hair. Think. Think. The babe would need to eat soon. How would they feed the poor little thing?

“Elen,” Gwen said suddenly, thinking of the plump miller’s wife, Tangwystyl’s mother. “Did she not birth a babe a fortnight ago?” Gwen asked.

Owain did not reply. He likely did not even hear, Gwen thought. Perhaps Elen could nurse the babe.

“Owain, get up.” Gwen grabbed a handful of hair and gently shook Owain’s head. “We must go see the miller’s wife.”

“Why?” Owain’s voice was childish, pleading.

“Your daughter must nurse,” she said softly.

Owain looked alarmed. “Will she die, too?”

Gwen shook her head. “We must take her to Elen.”

“I do not want to give her to Elen,” His voice was rising with panic. “She is all I have.” He impulsively reached for the babe. Gwen carefully handed her to him.

“That is not what I meant, Owain,”

“I can take care of her. I’ll get her some milk from one of my ewes.”

“Owain, you cannot feed her that. Not until she has grown.”

“But Gwen, what will I do? What do I feed her? I know not what to do.” Owain was truly helpless, Gwen thought. Elidyr’s face came to her mind. His sage-colored eyes. His hair, like honey. She looked at her feet.

Lord, I cannot, she thought to herself. She looked down at the tiny babe. Elidyr will marry Tangwystyl, reminded a tiny voice inside her mind. Gwen rubbed her eyes. Elidyr. Elidyr.

“I will marry you,” she whispered, half-hoping he had not heard. “I will be her mother.”

My Puzzle Awaits

Woo-hoo! Got my Titanic puzzle in the mail today. I am going to put in a short entry before I start on it.

My girls spent last night with my parents. Mom and Dad bought baby Maggie a really cool new car seat. She was outgrowing the other one. We got one of those 4 in 1 travel systems, and so far, it has been great. But she’s got to be pushing 20 pounds now, and she’s just getting big. Mom also got her a cute little outfit with a tee-shirt and little pants. The little pants have a bear on the butt! So cute. Sarah got a school bus full of dolls. She loved it. She loves riding the school bus, so playing with one was really fun. Mom also got her a Halloween book and a book about bats. They are the kind of grandparents that have a present every time they see the kids.

So I had to drive down and pick them up. Long drive. Dad bought yummy dinner.

I have a puzzle waiting. If you think that’s geeky, then bite me.