Friday, 6 January 2017

The Three Lives of Lady Bluebeard

I was born into a village where people are sometimes seen with wings. These wings or wing-like “things” that we have sprouting from our shoulder blades are unique. No one has the exact shade of colour or shape as anyone else. Not everyone could see these wings, because of this they are called tamno, which is “talents” in our people’s tongue. Each person’s talent is different. For instance, my talent, from what I could see, has the colours of pigeon’s wings. No one else could touch them except me. I could pluck feathers from my own wings and, if I was at a loom, pass each feather through the loom like a shuttle, weaving cloths of various colours, patterns, and designs.
My brother, Toki, tells me his are like dragonfly wings with thread-like mesh. When he is working at his workshop making blueprints for furniture, his talents “unravel”; each “strand” then of his talent laid itself out on the parchment as he wills it. He then takes his writing materials and traces the designs he sees on the parchment. Once he is done, the strands retreat back to their places returning to their wing form.
My sister, Ling, is mute, but has the talent for music. When she plays the flute or the fiddle, she tunes herself to the music her talent brings out.
In our village, we try to help each other out to the extent of our abilities and talents. It is our right to use our talents as we wish, but it is our responsibility to use it for our Patron.
Patron is a tall gentleman of unusual royalty. We call him “Patron” in our dialect because he gave us our talents and supports us, encouraging us to use it in a way that he instructs us to.

            This is my story told in three parts. I call them lives, because parts of me have either been lost or dead in the process. My name is Mitsuru and here is my story.


[I]

            My story begins with a grim prophecy that my mother told me when I was eight years old: that I would undergo much hardship. Years later when I recalled the prophecy, I asked her what that meant. She would tell me she had no recollection of telling me such a depressing thing – and so it was forgotten.
            When I turned 20, I met a merchant who came to our village to trade with us. He was tall man, with rugged good looks. His hair was black and he had a beard that appeared blue in the light. We all called him “Bluebeard” for that was what his name was.
            One day, Bluebeard approached me asking for my hand in marriage. Without discussing the matter with my family I immediately agreed, for I yearned to leave the village and see the outside world, and for the money (for my family owed a debt to a neighbouring lord that was passed down from my grandfather).
            The first person I told, however, was Ling. Ling was mortified. She communicated to me in writing and pictures that Bluebeard was not the sort of man to marry.
            “But I already agreed. I have even made a promise to wed to him by my next birthday. Besides, he is a rich man. Grandfather’s debts could even be cancelled.”
            Still she would not agree.
            I told Bluebeard that it was customary for the groom-to-be to meet with the family of his fiancée. A week after we engaged, he came to our home for supper and announced our engagement.
            “I will take good care of your daughter.” Bluebeard promised. “I will even cancel the family debt. You may even come to my home in Atlantia. It is only a two day’s journey from Erdeenah.” Erdeenah was the kingdom we lived in. Our village was near the border dividing Erdeenah from Atlantia.
            Even then, my parents refused.
            That night, I snuck out of the house and waited for Bluebeard at his wagon. There we met, left for Alantia and eloped.
            During our first few months together, everything was wonderful. In fact it was so wonderful that it was too good to be true. His home was a mansion filled with every luxury that a girl could dream of. Every room was decorated with fresh flowers; furnished with beautifully carved wooden furniture; porcelain, silver and crystal graced our tables at every meal; wardrobe filled with garments made of every silk, satin, linen, and lace that a man could find; a stable of the finest breed of horses; and servants at our beck and call. Truly it was heavenly. Yet as days pass, I felt unease. I could sense that something was not right, but I did not know what it was.
            Feeling the need of something to do, I asked my husband if he would allow me the task of making cloth, for I saw on my way to our mansion that there were poorer neighbours nearby who could not afford clothing.
            “We could cloth them with garments made of my cloth. It would keep them from the cold of winter and the harsh sun of summer.” I mentioned.
            My husband looked at me strangely, “Why would you go through such measures for those strangers.”
            “In my village it is expected that we help those in need by sharing with others what we have. This will be solely something I will provide from my hand and it won’t cost you anything.” I argued.
            My husband slammed his fist on his desk and stood up. With one look he silenced me. I was so shocked. He had never given me such a look before. Yet, I felt that I have given my request at unreasonable timing that I decided not to mention it for some time.
            The next day, my husband returned from his day of trade and called me to him.
            “I have a surprise for you.” He led me to a room in the west wing. There in a nicely furnished room, sat a loom made of bright yellow wood.
            “It is yours for your weaving. I have had the servants arrange this place for you as your workshop. You may weave to your hearts content.”
            I threw my arms around him filled with joy.
            “However, I have a request on my end. I would like you to give me your cloth so I could have them tailored into garments. And be sure to show me every piece of cloth you have woven.”
            At this I agreed.
Since that day I wove cloths of every pattern, colour, and texture with my wings. Sometimes I would combine linen and weave some wool in to make warmer materials. There were times when I even went into the garden and took some herbs, wildflowers, or grasses to weave into the material to give it a unique fragrance and texture. When the cloth is done, I would take them to Bluebeard. He would examine them and compliment me in my skills and technique. He then would give the bolts of cloth I have woven to his private servants, who would send them to his private tailors.
One day I wandered too far from the land of our mansion and saw the people who lived in shacks. These were the same people whom I have seen on my way to the mansion who had only rags and no shoes. I noticed that they were still wearing their rags, and wondered why they were not clothes with the garments that Bluebeard promised.
That night I spoke to Bluebeard over supper, asking him what had happed to the bolts of materials I have given him.
“They are still at the tailors being made,” he explained. “You need not to worry, everything is taken care of.”
“But I saw those people are still wearing rags. Why is that?” I asked.
“Are you accusing me of stealing you cloth?” he asked, his tone dropping a few degrees.
“N-no,” I answered nervously. “You promised that those people would be clothed. I gave you materials for the past three weeks. Why is it that they are still not clothed?”
“These things take time, Mitsy,” he said, calling my by my pet name. “The tailors are doing the best they can. They want to make as many garments for those people so they won’t have to worry for days to come. Be patient.”
With that I did not question any further.

Three months pass as my husband underwent some subtle – no, sudden, changes. He was not as tender as he once was. He became a bit rough.
There was that one time when I decided to help the servants around the mansion by cleaning the house. As I dusted his study, I found a ring of keys on his desk. I just lifted them from their place to dust the area of his desk, and placed the keys back exactly as I found them. That evening, he came to us, the servants and I, and roared furiously who touched his things. He was about to strike a servant, when I intervened explaining to him that I only moved his keys to tidy his desk. Everything was as they were found.
He warned us all never to touch his things again and fired the accused servant. That same night, I had trouble sleeping for I began to fear my husband.


Ñ               Ñ               Ñ               Ñ               Ñ

Six months passed since our elopement. Missing my family, I sent a letter to my sister and brother about my whereabouts and my new life. I wrote to them saying that I would really wish to see them and asked them to visit me. A reply came saying the entire family would come.
I was a bit nervous, for it had been months since we have communicated.
I have forgotten to mention that Bluebeard gave me two things under my custody on the day after our wedding. One of them was a tiny pewter key, which I wore around my neck on a silver chain. The other was a black lacquered comb. He told me that both of these belonged to his mother. The key he told me opens a certain door in the mansion, which was never to be opened.
I rose up early the morning I planned to announce my family’s visit. With Bluebeard’s comb in my hair and his key around my neck, I wore my favourite dress and met him in the dining room.
“I was wondering, my lord,” I inquired, “If it is well with you that I have my family over while you are on your trip. I will keep the place in order as you wish it,” I promised.
Bluebeard looked up from a book he was reading. “That would be good for you, my sweet.” He smiled. “Do invite them over. Though regretfully I will not be here to greet them, I trust that everything will be as I requested in my absence.”
“Of course,” I said with a bow.
“You look very lovely, my pet.” He complimented, “That black comb brings out the chocolate highlights of your hair.”
“Thank-you, my lord,” I said with a smile.

The next day, after my husband left for his merchant trip, I stayed home and met my family as planned. My brother and sister were happy to see me, but I sensed a rift had developed between us.
“Mother could not leave with us, but sends her love and greetings to you.” Toki told me.
I nodded. I did not have the courage to face Mother yet, for I have married Blue Bear against my family’s wishes.
I gave my brother and sister a tour of the place, introducing them to the servants and showing them to the rooms they would be staying.
“So, are you happy, dear sister?” Toki asked.
“Yes, of course!” I laughed, perhaps a bit nervously. Was I trying to hide something?
Ling only watched with a distant look on her face. She was not her communicative self that day.
“Are you tired from your trip, Ling?” I asked.
She blankly nodded.
“Well, I could use some rest myself.” Toki announced. “How about a nap until supper?”
Ling nodded again – a single nod this time.
“Well, that settles it then.” And so I let my brother and sister rest as I sent a request for the meal to be prepared.
An hour later, Toki and Ling sat at the grand dining room with me over a wonderful meal our cook had prepared for us.
Ling signed to me asking where Bluebeard was.
“He’s on one of his merchant trips.” I explained.
Ling signed some more swiftly, mentioning about Bluebeard’s business – something about ruining other people’s businesses in order to succeed his.
I was shocked. “How dare you say that about my husband!”
Ling signed some more saying that there were rumours of his former marriages and mistresses that were from well-respected prosperous families that drifted to their village. She explained that there was even a story about a talented young woman who was married to Bluebeard only to be never to be heard again.
I was furious. “My husband is not the sort of man you think! He is – kind and gentle! He would never do anything that would be of such scandal!” Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind a flicker of an image of his violent rage came and went.
My sister snorted. Ling was rather blunt and harsh when it came to bringing her point across, but I knew she was not a liar.
“Now, now, Mitsy. Let’s just forget about that for now and enjoy our meal. Ling apologize to Mitsy.” Toki suggested.
Ling immediately stood with a swift sign of “excuse me” she left the table.
What followed after my sister’s sudden retirement to bed were gentle words from my brother, telling me not to be bothered by my sister’s comments.
Despite the shaky start, the rest of the visit went pleasantly. We made some meals together. The servants enjoyed the presence of my brother and sister. They complimented me that I was lucky to have such family members.
Once we had tea in the garden. The garden was large and beautifully kept. As we strolled amongst the roses, Ling pointed to the key around my neck.
“Oh, this?” I held it up for her to see. “I was told that it belonged to Bluebeard’s mother. I was told that it opens a particular door in this mansion, but I don’t know where that is. ”
After that it began to pour, and the matter with the key was forgotten.

The day finally came when my brother and sister would leave. I bid them a safe journey and returned to my role as mistress of the mansion. It was then my curiosity piqued me. What door does my key open?
Part of me warned it was better not to get involved in affairs that were not my own. However, curiosity won in the end. I decided to start with the main entrance to the mansion, then worked my way around the place and outwards to the edge of the property.
Though the key was made strong, it was too small for most of the doors. I tried our bedroom, the guest rooms, even the hall closet and wardrobes. Then I came to a cellar located beneath the western wing. The cellar door was old, with rusted hinges and iron bolts. It was hidden from view, behind an old tapestry. I asked myself if I really wanted to do this. With the key clutched in my hand, I put it into the lock. The key entered and turned with a click fitting the keyhole perfectly. I opened the door and screamed.
The room was dark heavily draped with old velvet curtains that forgot their original colour. At the back of the room staring back at me was an old skeletal looking thing, dressed in a black moth eaten dress. In her hand, for it was a woman, was a portrait of a man that looked much like my husband. On the corpse’s shoulders draped a shawl made of the cloth I had woven. But what mortified me more were the urns displayed beside that female corpse. Each urn had a name and a portrait of a woman on it. Each woman was different, but I knew that they were the missing women that Ling had told me about.
I ran, horrified by what I saw, out through the back entrance, all the way to the edge of our property. My throat was sore by then from all the screaming, but I knew. I knew that I had been married to a monster all this time and refused to admit it. I found myself weeping for those women in that awful room, for me who brought my own misfortune; all because I refused to listen the advice of my loved ones. I wept and wept and wept – until I could weep no more. Then I sensed someone there. I looked up and gasped. It was Patron.
            “Mitsy,” Patron reached out towards me.
            “Don’t touch me!” I wept. “Oh, please don’t touch me, Patron.”
            But he knelt down beside me and held me. I wept some more.
            “Toki and Ling sent me for you,” he explained.
            “I can’t!” I sobbed. “I can’t go back home. Not like this. I’m soiled. I – I am bound to that monster. We swore an oath that we will be together until death. Even if I were able to leave, he would find me and – and kill me.”
            Patron looked at me. “Show me what it is you are talking about.”
            I looked up.
            “I have seen you run from that mansion screaming. I am here with you. Show me what it was that you saw.”
            I shook my head. “I can’t do that. I’m sorry, but that I cannot.”
            “What are you afraid of? I will protect you.” He looked at me with those fathering eyes.
            I gave in, but my hands still shook. “Very well, but it’s definitely not pretty.” I warned him.
            It felt like a long way as I lead him back to the mansion. I led him through the back entrance and to the cellar door. Fortunately, it appeared no one else had discovered it yet.
            I kept my back turned and pointed to the room.
            Patron looked at me, his eyes filled with tears.
            “Oh, Mitsy,” he said sadly.
            “I know. I’m terribly sorry that this had come to this for me.” I heard myself say. “I should have listened to Ling and everyone else. I should have realized –” I broke down crying again.
            Patron put his arms around me and wept with me. When we finished weeping, I finally found the strength to close the door and locked it.
            “You cannot stay here, child,” he told me. “You must leave.”
            “Leave?”
            Patron nodded.
            I glanced at the door, now hidden by the tapestry. “I don’t know where to go, Patron. My family won’t want me. I lost contact with my friends. I – I can’t –” Tears began to fill my eyes once again. “I can’t let them see me like this. I have changed. I know I have. I know I am not the Mitsy I once was.”
            He wiped my tears and told me, “Listen, no matter what happens, you are still the Mitsy that I knew and have given the talent for weaving.”
            “Where can I go?” I asked quietly.
            “When will Bluebeard return?”
            “Not for another two months.”
            “This is what you will do. Leave this mansion. Tell the servants that you are going to visit a friend. There is an elderly woman and her son who lives near the border. Stay with them, until Bluebeard returns. I will arrange help by then.” Patron explained.
            And so, it was arranged. I left the mansion as instructed and went to stay with the elderly woman and her son.


[II]

            For two months I stayed with the elderly woman and her son. The old woman was Lita; her son Iain was a shepherd. The life that their home was peaceful, I enjoyed the quiet life they shared with me. Lita had a spinning wheel, which she taught me to use. With the spinning, she taught me how to knit, sew and mend clothing. Sometimes I would miss weaving. Although I have seen Lita weave with the wool they harvested to make cloaks, I still could not make myself to weave again for I could not help remembering that horrible room located beneath my private room. Just standing at the loom brought back memories of my connections with Bluebeard.
            One day in thanks for their kindness, I finally decided to weave once more. I borrowed Lita’s loom and made a few attempts to make my cloth. At first it was painful for I could not weave as before. Finally, after practicing with wool, I decided to make the best bolts of silk and satin for them so that they would not be in need for winter. I unfurled my wings and plucked my feathers weaving them into the material for this was going to be my masterpiece. I wove every night until dawn. By the time I finished, I made one bolt of the finest silk and another of satin that even Bluebeard would covet. I nervously looked at myself in the mirror that morning and saw that very few of my feathers remained on my wings. I knew that my time was fast approaching.
            I gave Lita and Iain the bolts of cloth, telling them to sell it to the most respected merchants in the city. They did as they were told. While they were away, I wove one last bolt for them before they returned with my feathers. Just as I wove the last of my feathers into the cloth, I heard the door open. They have returned sooner than expected.
            “So that was how you wove those cloths.” Iain said in wonder for I have not told them of my talents.
            I immediately folded my wings and removed the finished bolt from the loom. “Here is the finest linen I could offer. I must now go for I cannot stay here longer.”
            As I packed my things Lita approached me and gave me a tortoise shell comb. “Thank you for all that you have done, my dear.” She then added, “Would you not consider staying here any longer?”
            I shook my head. “I will be expected home,” I told her. The word “home” tasted dry in my mouth.
            “Take care,” Iain said as he helped me onto a horse-drawn cart that would take me back.
            I told the driver where the mansion was. The horse began to pull the cart as I waved good-bye.

            Back at the mansion, I entered the place with a laden heart. As I passed the mirror in the hall I remembered that something was missing. I stopped. Immediately I went back to the mirror to see what it was. I felt the colour drain from my face. I did not have the lacquered comb or the key with me. I panicked. Where did I lose them? I tried to remember. Then it came to me. The last time I had those with me were when I was at the cellar door.
            I dreaded going back to that place, but I knew that if Bluebeard discovered that I did not have those things with me he would surely kill me. Not wishing my fate to be as those women in that cellar, I ran back to that wing. I stopped in front of the tapestry that covered the door. I prayed that the key would be in the keyhole. I reached over, distancing my body away from the door as I moved the tapestry. Thankfully the door was still closed with the key in the lock and the chain hanging from it. Just beneath the door I saw the lacquered comb, its fine long teeth just caught between the door and the floor. I quickly yanked the comb from the floor door and ran away from that room as fast as I could. I ran into our bedchamber and leaned against the door.
After calming myself for a moment, I looked down at my hands. I felt the floor beneath me give away, for in my hand was the broken chain and the comb with a couple teeth missing. I must have broken the teeth when I yanked the comb from under the door and snapped the chain when I ran from the room. I wanted to cry for I knew that my doom was in evitable.
“Oh, Patron, please help me!” I prayed, hoping that his help would arrive soon.
            That night I could not sleep a wink for I paced around our chamber for hours wringing my hands in agony. Though I was able to fix the chain it still had a section of it missing making it noticeably shorter. I wore it under my dress in hope that Bluebeard would not notice. But the greatest damage of all was the broken comb. The first three teeth were noticeably snapped off and were beyond repair. I had no choice, but hid it from my presence for I could not bear to see it.
            I heard the horses bring the carriage bearing their master home. I decided that I would try to buy as much time as I can, hoping that my help would come soon.
            “Where is my lovely wife?” Bluebeard called.
            I swallowed. I checked myself in the mirror before I made my way to see him.
            “Hello there, pet!” he held out his arms to me for an embrace.
            I smiled and embraced him, praying that he would not notice a change in me.
            “Did you miss me?’ he asked.
            “Of course!” I forced myself to say.
            “How did you fare in my absence?”
            “I kept myself busy.” I told him.
            “That is good to hear.” Then I heard the words I dreaded, “I hope you still have that key I put under your custody.”
            I swallowed. “Yes, yes, I do.” I held up the key to for his inspection.
            “Why is the chain shorter?” he asked.
            “Well, I – I accidentally got it caught and I snapped it. You know how long it was. I did repair it.”
            His eyes narrowed and travelled to my hair. “That is a new comb you have there. Where is the one I gave you?”
            I froze. “I – ” I could not speak.
            “Where is my mother’s comb?” he demanded darkly.
            “I have it. It – ”
            “If so, why do you not wear it? Let me see it.”
            I nervously went to the guestroom and lifted the rug, to my hiding place. From there I retrieved the comb and brought it to my husband, handle first.
            Bluebeard grabbed the comb. Seeing its missing teeth, his face filled with fury and hate. He gripped my wrist and held the broken comb to my face.
            “How did this happen?”
            I felt myself shaking once again.
            “How did this happen!” he roared, gripping my shoulders shaking me.
            “Please don’t hurt me!” I begged.
            “So, you have seen that room have you?” He threw the comb on the floor. I tried to wrestle from his grasp, but he was too strong.
            “Help! Somebody help!” I cried out.
            “They can’t hear you! Those servants cannot hear for I have given them leave for the town festival.”
            I bit his hand and broke away from him. I blindly made my way through the mansion, its halls twisting like a maze. I felt the heat coming from his hands as he reached towards me. I saw a door, praying that it was a way out I opened it. Only to my dismay, the door led to the rooftop.
            “Where are you, wife?” I heard him say.
            I ran from one end of the rooftop to the other, over looking the edge, hoping to see if Patron had sent his rescue as promised.
            “You cannot get away.” I turned and saw Bluebeard with a long knife in his hand.
            I ran away from him, trying to keep a distance. But his size and height seemed to overpower me.
            Suddenly something flew into the air and landed on Bluebeard’s head with smack. He turned furiously.
            “Run, Mitsy! Run!” I heard Iain’s voice say.
            I made a dash for the door. The knife landed deeply, waving on the doorframe, narrowly missing my head.
            I grabbed the knife and held it with both hands in front of me.
            “You think you are good with that?” he lunged at me.
            I ran to the edge and threw the knife far out of his reach.
            “You!” I heard him say as his big hands circled my throat. I felt myself lifted up, or was it because I could not breath.
            “Mitsy!” I heard another voice say.
            A horrible cry, then I felt myself fall caught by a pair of strong arms.
            “Mitsy!” I heard Toki’s voice. Dazed, I coughed and saw Toki cradling my head, while Patron stood over Bluebeard with a bloodied rapier. I heard more footsteps and saw Iain with his leather sling followed by some servants who came back to see what had happened to their master and mistress.



[III]

            As it happens the rumours were true. Bluebeard had indeed murdered his wives, to acquire their wealth and take over the businesses that came with them. Patron took me to Iain’s home again where I was to recover. During my stay there, the families of the murdered women came to claim the urns of their sisters, friends and daughters to give them a proper burial. As for Bluebeard’s mother, she too was buried with Bluebeard.
            Days turned to months, and months into years. I had Patron and Toki arrange the properties that were taken from the victim’s families to be returned to the original owners. For years I did not marry. Something died within me during my marriage with Bluebeard. Now he is dead and I am a widow, I dedicated my life to help those in need, those whom Bluebeard had cheated from – especially when I have woven materials for their garments.
            There were moments when I long to be married again, I told Ling this. She later recommended me Iain, whom Patron also suggested.
            Next spring I will be wed to Iain, which will bring an end to the third part of my life with Bluebeard and start a new life with Iain, one I hope would last long and be good.

            Oh, one last thing. My wings grew back, only they were not as they once were, but I was told that they look even more splendid than before. Even I have to agree on that.

1 comment:

  1. Just posted something I wrote a long time ago and transferred from another blog site.

    ReplyDelete