Hello. Today I have a short story I excerpted from one of my early novels. Sadly, my first four novels are all very much practice works. To make them presentable I’d need to start almost from scratch. Nevertheless, there are scenes I’m quite attached to. Today I pulled out one of my favorites and shined it up a bit. Hopefully you enjoy it. 🙂 ~ReGi

Haddie pinched the base of the head of lettuce, deftly twisting to harvest the tender leaves. At the sound of footsteps, she looked up from her work. A man had been walking by with his one possession, a pot, under his arm. Haddie stared at him. He looked like any other serf man, but she didn’t recognize him from her village. He must have been close to twenty, but there was no woman with him, and no child. Perhaps his first wife died in childbirth. Maybe his village didn’t have enough women to go around and he had taken to the road to find one.

She bent back to her work. This man was none of her business. Besides, at eighteen, she was an old maid. The last of her friends to wed already carried her third child. No one wanted an old maid for a wife. It was silly of her to let her mind ponder any man, let alone a passing stranger.

His eyes met hers. She jerked her head down, setting to work with renewed vigor. How long had she been watching him without knowing it? Brazen, her mind chided her. She yanked Barron Worth’s lettuces out of the ground, uprooting entire plants, ruining more than one lovely leaf in the process. It doesn’t matter, she told herself, the Barron only uses it as garnish. She continued working at a frenzied pace until she was sure the stranger must have moved on before she settled back into the sensible pace of an experienced serf woman.

A pair of well-worn boots stepped into her line of vision. Startled, Haddie looked up again. The stranger stood over her, smiling. Wordlessly, he squatted behind the line of cabbages across from her and pulled up a large head. Haddie opened her mouth to protest, but before she said anything, he placed the cabbage in her basket. Too flabbergasted to say anything she paused to stare at him again, this time in open bewilderment. She shook her head and returned to work.

The stranger kept pace with Haddie, though she knew by his rough hands and sinewy forearms that he could probably out work most of the men in Barron Worth’s fields, let alone herself. Maybe his Barron died and he needed a new place. Or… she pushed the violent image put of her mind. If he was a murderer, she hoped he would be quick about it.
With her basket full, Haddie stood and stretched, arching her back to pop out some of the strain. She bent to lift the barrel-sized basket onto her shoulder. Before her hand touched it, the stranger hoisted it onto his own shoulder. Haddie thought to call for help, afraid he planned to steal the vegetables, leaving her to pick a whole day’s quota before the sunset, but her only smiled and waved for her to lead on.

He didn’t speak, so neither did Haddie. She only led the way to the wagon where the foreman was weighing baskets to be sure everyone had picked their quota. Some, like Haddie, came with vegetables, a few brought cheeses or milk and eggs, the hunters hauled in their game, but most of the other serfs labored under large baskets filled to the brim with grain. The stranger stopped a little ways from the wagon, behind a tree where the foreman would be less likely to notice him. He carefully set the basket on Haddie’s shoulders, smiling as he did. She adjusted it to sit more comfortably across her back before carrying it to the foreman. He raised one brow when he saw the weight, more than she ever managed to bring him before, but did not comment. Satisfied, he waved her off.

Haddie turned in the direction of her home, afraid that if she walked back the way she came, she would draw unwanted attention to the kind stranger.  In the corner of her eye, she saw him following her. He moved slowly, almost casually, but stayed behind trees, his brown clothes blending in with the forest. Haddie hastened her steps a little.

When she was beyond sight of the wagon, she turned off the trail toward the river her village used as a water source. Few people would be going that way this late in the day, but a woman walking the path would not surprise anyone.  When the sounds of people died out, the stranger stepped in front of her. Haddie jumped, a little startled in spite of  knowing he followed her.

He smiled. Haddie found herself suddenly breathless. Her cheeks warmed. When she spoke, she barely managed to whisper. “Thank you, for helping me.”

“You’re welcome.”

They stood there, the stranger apparently at his ease, while Haddie grew more flustered with each passing second. Finally she blurted, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why did you help me?”

“Because I liked working with you.”


Portrait of a Young Peasant Girl by Guido Bach, c. 1860

Portrait of a Young Peasant Girl by Guido Bach, c. 1860