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Drama Historical Fiction

The sun started to rise, but to Ada, it seemed as if this new day would just herald the end of all time once more.

Her eyes drifted thoughtlessly over the surrounding fields. Despite the harvest and the greenery, she found the land before, in its rigid immobility; empty, lifeless, and sad.

The birds sang their merry salute to a new morning; a flock of pigeons shot through the air flapping their wings and the larks clamored about the cornfields. And yet there was something sad and depressing about all this.

Why can't I run barefoot through the grass, pick an apple, and eat it somewhere on the side of the road?

 A rooster crowed. The mist over the fields evaporated into the blue sky. 

Ada was startled from her musings by Becky, who stood in the doorway carrying a tray of freshly picked fruit, mild and cheese.

- “Good morning my lady.” 

- “Don't call me that!” Ada said in a sad voice” I'm not your lady, you're my friend.” Ada walked up to Becky, hugged her, and kissed her forehead.

- “Did you sleep well? „Becky asked, while she put the tray on a table near an open window.

- “I was visited by strange dreams.” Ada answered dreamily

- “Oh,” Becky replied,” well then; nothing like a good breakfast to chase away gloomy thoughts.”

Ada sighed: I'm not hungry. Becky threw herself on her bed:

- “I´m not leaving before that tray is empty.”

- “Do you have any medicine to make me undergo a metamorphosis, Becky? Ava asked

- “Oh... “Becky said again and what is it exactly you would like to be transformed in?

- “A bear!”

- “A bear?”

- “Yes!”

Becky let herself drop in the cushions again: - “A bear she whispered to the ceiling.”

 - “Are you eating?” she asked with a smile

- “Come on Ada, jolt out of this sadness now. For me! Please, please, please. Becky sat up and looked at Ava with blinking eyes like a puppy begging for a piece of meat.

- “You are a beguiling mixture of sacredness and irreverence.”, Ava said, looking thoughtfully at Becky.

- “I know,” Becky shook her shoulders, “that´s why you love me!”

Ada started eating the apple and looked lovingly at Becky full of love for the young woman. Becky, an ancient child with an old soul. That was not her real name of course. She had been given a different name by the people who bought and sold her. Ada´s husband had bought Becky somewhere in the Caribbean as a wedding gift. And what a gift Becky turned out to be. Her previous owners were Jewish, and the lady of the house had called her Suzannah, after the dramatic story of the beautiful Susanna in the Old Testament: a fair Hebrew wife who was falsely accused by two lecherous voyeurs as she was bathing in her garden. Susannah also means Lily, a symbol of purity. Susannah was saved by a young prophet called Daniel in the story – and Ada`s Susannah became Becky when an English man bought her as a present for his bride…

Both women grew up in different worlds and had to straddle them all. Becky was a medicine woman who never had to quest after visions and the living proof that ancient wisdom is never lost or totally dead.

Becky´s bravery mesmerized Ada. How she dared to hold on to her own, secret soul. There was a resistance in this, and an overcoming Ada still had to learn to master. 

Ada´s mother had been an unmarried laundrywoman. She never knew her father. From the moment she was born she was labeled and marginalized. She grew up to be transgressive and rebellious. Ada embraced those traits.

When she was five years old, her mother was tired of the stigma of being an unwed mother and sold her off to a lady from the city.

Ada came to live in a small area that had managed to retain a certain village flair. In her early teens, she fled to the Bohemian quarter of Paris, where artists, prostitutes, pimps, and other creative and unusual characters lived. She felt at ease there. she roamed the streets, creating mischief, and worked as a housecleaner. The streets were home to Ada, it was only there excitement, love and ideas could be found.

Ada was attractive with big blue eyes and golden-brown curls framing her face. She had a vivid imagination and often told stories, just to suit her needs, regardless of logic or veracity. She would lie about her age and told everybody her father was a writer (she picked a name from a 15th-century poet).

She was always determined to create the life she wanted, rather than accept a somewhat lesser or expected reality. She always showed an interest in the written word, and she would write on any scrap of paper she could find or the walls of her room, even on the pavement, often with only a stub of a pencil.

She became a dancer. She loved that. Unfortunately, she fell off the stage and injured her back. That was a devastating blow that resulted in a sadness that would never again leave her.

She got pregnant at the age of fifteen and gave birth to a little girl. She worked odd jobs to support her daughter.

At a time when barely anyone paid her any attention, let alone affection, she met her husband. He strengthened her and supported her, and they started a passionate relationship. She strived to become a serious writer. He proposed to marry her – she accepted and came to live near London with her daughter. He expected her to be a proper member of society.

After thirteen years, during which she lived a comfortable bourgeois life, the marriage had become troubled. She felt suffocated by the lifestyle of a country lady and wife. She started to suffer from depression, wild rages and drank lethal amounts of alcohol. 

- “I need your encouragement and tutorage, Becky.” Ada sighed.

- “You know you have my unwavering friendship.” Becky answered in a serious tone, anxious about what would follow.

- “Help me to write clean, clear, and not so natural or my husband will end up having me committed.” Ada lamented.

- “You might become an important role model for generations of women to come.” Becky thought out loud.

- “Don´t muse with me, friend. I lack the courage for that.” Ada cried.

Becky jumped up and sat on her knees in front of Ada. Becky was a creative and passionate individual, but she could see no way out of this slowly but surely deteriorating marriage and the erratic behavior of Ada´s husband.

- “Don´t give up now.” Becky said, “You might yet succeed in challenging the traditional male...”

Ada didn´t let her finish her sentence by shaking her head violently.

- “Calm yourself, Ada. You´re helping nobody like this.” Becky tried to soothe her.

Ada gasped for air and said:

- “I have yet to learn to transform disrespect into a heightened respect for men.”

Becky frowned:

- “I´m not following Ada.”

- “Don´t you see Becky? Women are only allowed domestic life- and for me, there´s no path outside of society´s expectations. My husband declares it unbecoming for me to write- to really write. Write about my dreams, transmit to the paper how they mesmerize me, how I can hear the haunting chants of the mountain gods. I want to write words, capable of changing those who read them. Yes: I like to see the sunrise and set, hear the birds singing, wind and water running and write about it. But I also want to be free to write about how I like to feel hot and cold and hard and soft. And smutty sex, instead of patterned carpets and tablecloths to reveal the prosperity of the milieu of which I am a part.”

Ada exploded in tears.

- “I want to write about women and honor them as people to be considered, rather than objects to be possessed.”

Becky looked at her with tears in her eyes. She realized that the Ada she once knew; the sensitive, fun-loving woman, with electrifying energy and a contagious thirst for life, was slowly fading into nothing.

- “Rules are different for women.” Becky thought out loud. „They don´t exist except to protect the family. Men place themselves above everyone else; they make their own rules. Only they can live a life of living a more rarefied experience. Women are forced to take things as they are and always have been.”

- “Go to London for me, please.” Ada asked

- “London?” Becky asked.

- “Yes! I need you to go see a lady who replaced the old divine rights of kings and men with greater faith in human reason and liberty. She wrote a book in which she proposes women are the equal of men.”

Becky looked at Ada with great interest.

- “I suppose people are not comfortable with her ideas.” Becky whispered.

- “Go and find her!” Ada begged, “tell her of my situation. Ask her for advice on my behalf.”

- “What´s her name?” Becky asked.

- “Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft.” Ada hurried to write it down on a piece of paper. “She will vindicate the rights of women, Becky. I know she will!”

Becky nodded and stood up.

- “If anybody asks you, why I sent you out, tell them you´re picking up fabric for my new dress.” Ada added.

Becky nodded again:

- “What will you do?” she asked Ada.

- “This afternoon I have to face Reverend Keith. My husband summoned him to talk about my condition.”

- “Your condition?” Becky asked with a high-pitched voice.

Ada nodded and said:

- “The last time I told my husband that the pastor just makes me laugh, his toxicity reached a peak I have never seen before.”

- “Be careful.” Becky said. She gave Ada a kiss and a hug and left the room.

I am petrified in this desolate way of life, Ada thought dejected. There was absolutely nothing to indicate the progress of day or time. She walked to the window, her gaze drifting aimlessly over the land that displayed its ornate splendor of crop fields and gardens in undulating lines.

I want my daughter to have a sense of freedom and safety, she whispered to the clouds, she deserves a good and happy life and to be free to explore the world, with a happy heart and a large mind. I hope she finds the strength and courage to rise above a depressing and primitive environment. I pray she develops a yearning to rise above a restrictive life. That she´s able to see through the inner insecurity and fearful doubts of men and sees it for what it is: stories they tell themselves about whom they are, and not a law written in stone. Virile animals who glare at each other, pretending to have class, unable to separate themselves from what is true and what they want you to believe. The collective endeavor of men wading through uncommon sense and common nonsense. And above all, she must never lack a sense of humor.

- “God´s boredom must be infinite Becky”, she said, while she followed her friend with her eyes, making her way to London on her behalf.

Becky made a left turn between two hedges over which the heavily loaded branches of fruit trees displayed their summer opulence. A fresh scent filled the air, of ripening grain, roses, and white hawthorn.

- “Farewell my beloved sister,” she whispered to the vanishing image of Becky.” Forgive me!

Take care of my girl. Raise her to be a great woman like you!”

Ada walked back to her bed and laid down, welcoming a deep slumber. She would never hear the speech reverend Keith had prepared about how he labored in vain to find someone Ada could be compared to in respectable society and the vices of a turbulent personality.

A trembling of power and violence went over the earth. Becky sat down at the edge of the road and held her hands over her face. her heart was so heavy... so heavy.

Becky's road climbed past green meadows and rich cornfields. Her gait slowed down. She looked over the sunlit lane she had yet to go.

A violent trembling swept over the earth. Becky sat down on the side of the road and held her hands over her face. Her heart was so heavy. So heavy.

- “Rest in peace, sister.” she whispered, a tear rolling down her cheek.

Ada´s daughter grew up to be notably stubborn, independent, and hot-tempered. Inspired by Wollstonecraft, she went on to write a harrowing indictment of the patriarchy; its restrictiveness, and the repression it entailed.

 A most terrible accusation indeed.

-      

September 15, 2021 18:58

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