Finally on market day, I cornered old Tavish and asked him. “Everyone is treating me oddly,” I said.
“Your neighbor,” he said, “He’s telling everyone you are a witch.”
“What?” I scoffed, “And they believe him? Why would he say such a thing?”
“He told his wife that unless he promised to give you their unborn child, you would curse them and kill them all with your powerful magic.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I said, but I hurried on home. Of course, my neighbor had to think of a reason to give me the baby. Let people think what they would, I was getting a child. A perfect baby.
That night I started formulating a plan. I would leave the village. I would go back to the woods where I had been born. My father had been one of the king’s guard. He had been stationed in a tower in the woods and my mother and I had lived there with him. My father had been killed and my mother and I forced to leave so we had come to the village. Sometimes I walked back in the woods and the tower where we had lived was empty now. It seemed it was no longer needed as an outpost. I could make it my home. For the baby and me.
I continued to work in my garden. I tended my precious plants, especially the rapunzel. I made sure I had a steady supply for my neighbor. More and more, I just stayed home. People in the village treated me with contempt and suspicion, my pregnant neighbor looked at me with fear; her husband was the only one who seemed glad to see me. I could tell he was relieved to have a place to send another unwanted child. I suspected his wife was relieved as well.
Gradually, I moved the contents of my cottage to the tower. I created a comfortable home for our future life there.
Finally, the day arrived and the baby was born. I paced nervously inside my cottage all day as I heard the cries of the mother. After dark, the baby’s father delivered a tiny bundle into my arms. He hardly looked at me, or the baby. He quickly left.
I unwrapped my precious gift and beheld the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen. A baby. A perfect baby girl and she was mine to love and care for. I knew I couldn’t waste time. I gathered the last of my belongings and fled to the tower. I didn’t want anyone to know where we had gone so I took a circuitous route and tried to cover my tracks the best I could.
Exhausted, I climbed the stairs to our new home. The baby had been sleeping through our journey but now she was awake and ready to be fed. I was prepared with everything I needed to keep my precious one happy.
I decided to name her Rapunzel, after the leafy plant that made her mine. She was a happy child with golden hair. I taught her all the songs my mother had taught to me when I had been a child in the same tower. She had a beautiful voice. Occasionally I thought about her actual parents. I felt slight pangs of guilt that they were missing out on this wonderful girl of theirs but I mostly felt immense gratitude that she was mine. She was safe and far away from the neglect and poverty she would have lived under with her parents. I created a vegetable patch in the clearing behind the tower. There wasn’t much sunshine but I was able to grow enough vegetables for our use and I crept into the village and sold the excess to Tavish. He didn’t ask questions and gave me a fair price for the produce.
I was happy. No one bothered us, I was back at my childhood home, Rapunzel was growing, thriving even, and she called me mother.
Read tomorrow to see if their peaceful isolation will last.