Dandelions and Lambs Ear

Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Set your story in a silent house by the sea.... view prompt


Drama Horror Fiction

TW: abuse, gore.

The soft glide, the mellifluous grey floss puncturing material of a half embroidered flower. A prick of sharpness diving into tight threads, straining to pass, then breaking through. The journey of the thread, drawn away from the subject in a long hiss until it doubles back to create a quiet symphony. It was the only note that Helena would appease. 

   She never used to be so solitary. Her house was once filled with artifacts, parties, and guests that would make Queen Victoria blush. Extravagance filled the library and parlor, painted in Scheele’s green. The drawing-room was wrapped in a deep burgundy of textured wallpaper, keeping all the noise inside as it ricocheted from room to room, echoing down the halls. She would laugh and gleam, misguided, young, and in love. He was a boisterous man, full of life and wealth. Lucky, she thought, lucky that he chose me.

   Another prick, another pull, creating a dainty flower of the same grey shade. Helena’s mind reeled. 

Oh, Joshua

Once their lives were vibrant, colossal. Now it remained insipid and ashen in her mouth. It was never sunny anymore, any golden rays, vanished upon the water's edge. No shine to caress the pellucid windows of this old, silent house. Only space and silence, for which she was endlessly grateful.  

Joshua was a kind man, brimming with affection toward his bride. All Helena had to do was merely suggest and he would reward her with every desire. They spent long summer days, walking beside the beach, romanticizing the rest of their lives together. They planned parties, elaborate dinners, family gatherings, and a family of their own one day. The entertainment ensued but Helena never became the mother Joshua always yearned for her to be. Nor he, the father. Their conversations never stopped, only shifted from light to a dull and lifeless pale yellow.

Helena threaded another colorless floss on her needle. 

Money began to attempt to fill the void that a child might have. The couple poured every decadence into masquerade balls, elaborate dinner parties, and their own home by the sea. The only thing Helena requested to keep was her Scheele’s green parlor. Conversations with Joshua became trenchant. The incessant deblaterating about politics, money and the lack of family became nauseating. At first, Helena would try to be patient with her passionate and deafening husband, occasionally nodding to his excitement of ideas. Sometimes she would offer a polite and weak smile at his passions until she was exhausted by the folly of it. Joshua became broken, pieces of him strewn about in the house. Parties became increasingly smaller as money ran dry. He wrapped the past around his palms like a life raft, inviting some neighbors from time to time for tea and brandy. Those neighbors talked. They spoke of hysterics, compared notes about their wives. Wives spoke to their servants and gossip was rife in their home. It became unendurable. 

“Helena could not give her husband a child and now, she won’t give him the small courtesy of a word!” 

“Oh, how melancholic she is! Her husband fauns at her every request. How could she be so ungrateful?”

Helena writhed. Her isolation grew and she took up textiles. She began with embroidery as a way to help ease her mind. She tried her hand at knitting and crocheting. Sometimes she sewed but she loved the art of embroidery the most, feeling safe with thick skeins and floss in her hands and her Scheele's green on the walls. Vibrant color on the edge of mint and dandelion. A green that was alive, demanding to be seen. Although the paint was chipping, Helena refused to paint over it. She never minded, it was part of a pact she made with the ocean long ago when she picked this place for her own. She often left the windows open, letting the sounds leave so that they were never stuck inside to harm her. 

She struggled to pull another thread through, almost ripping the weathered material as it strained against the floss as it pulled. A grunt followed by a pregnant pause before she continued. Her flowers were truly taking shape. 

After years of silence, Joshua decided a change was needed. He ordered a carriage and asked that Helena purchase all the skeins and floss she desired. Her face stoic, she complied. Her stomach was already bubbling with anticipation to get back to her quiet abode. She loathed being in public with those… prattlers. Several hours proved useful when Helena found colors that appeased her tastes. A sooty grey, with silvery flecks that caught one's eye if you turned it ever so slightly against the light, a red, deeper than blood, and an amber. She clutched them like a newborn babe. 

When the carriage arrived, Helena felt her stomach drop and boiling heat rise up around her collar and neck. Her arms stiffened, the floss digging into her palms as she stepped into her favorite room. Her green, her comfort, her solace were peeled away. Gone. Left in its place was a mummers brown, textured and sluggish. Helena could barely stand, her knees bent slightly, her supplies strewn on the hardwood floor. A sound that hasn’t been released from Helena in a decade fell from parted lips, skewed and twisted in horror and rage as Joshua- sweet, maudlin Joshua- approached his adored wife. 

“Do you like it?” he asked. 

Helena’s throat strained and pulsed as it released another sharp cry, an animal being tortured. She lept at him, contorting and scratching until it was all black and the sounds stopped jouncing off the walls. 

Helena pulled the last bit of stitching through and tied off the end. She stood back, drinking in her masterpiece as she grinned. For the first time in a decade, her smile traveled up from her shoulders, up to her eyes, crinkling her nose in childlike glee. Joshua sat, struggling through his bonds, covered in blood. Delicate embroidery of dandelions and lambs ear upon the lines of his mouth, woven shut. His face was wet with blood and tears as he strained to speak, muffled by filagree. His tongue writhed wildly at his closed lips, his teeth, and upon the roof of his mouth. His throat worked hard to scream but it was guttural and choked. He already knew his attempts were futile. As he looked upon his wife of twelve years, her smile splayed upon her pale and withered face as two large knitting needles jutted out from each ear, blood pooling where her corset met her breasts. The taste in her mouth matched her husband’s, now. Ashen.

Helena cachinnated, hugging herself, wild with the sound of silence. 

Lucky, she thought. Lucky that he chose me. 

November 08, 2021 00:02

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Julia Townson
02:55 Nov 21, 2021

Very well done. I like that you tied the "lucky he picked me" into the beginning and end. Loved the ending in general... "wild with the sound of silence." "your "showing not telling" - using descriptions were very vivid.... "wild with the sound of silence.... Gone.I thought her motive was quite clear... he took away her when she became a killer "Her green, her comfort, her solace were peeled away" You mention earlier how she relied on her "quiet abode" You also painted her husband as a villain too but it was through tragic circumstances that...


Marie Martello
03:14 Nov 21, 2021

Thank you so much Julia! I am glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the feedback!


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James Crilley
22:24 Nov 17, 2021

Reedsy CC: The story was well crafted about a woman who murders her husband in a fit of rage after an unfulfilled marriage. I liked a lot of the diction, e.g. "She often left the windows open, letting the sounds leave so that they were never stuck inside to harm her." Though, why would the sound of the ocean harm her? Some word choice I questioned e.g. cacchinated versus cackled, jounced versus bounced, which distracted me. Overall, I wanted to know more about the protagonist, in particular, her motives, especially given her seeming stren...


Marie Martello
01:13 Nov 19, 2021

Thank you so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it. It wasn’t so much the ocean was harming her but the conversation of others and with others that harmed her. I agree with you on fleshing out the character and giving her more substance and not just a nameless villain. I try to take a variety of words and create an aesthetic around those words to help me grow my vocabulary but I can totally see how some of those words don’t flow with the piece. I will definitely implement these suggestions! Thank you again!


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