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This is a cover that I just purchased from Canva. It’s a one off purchase, to be used just for this blog post, but I really wanted to get an image of a new character that I’m thinking about. Her name’s Hester and she lives in early Victorian England. Her mother dies in the first scene of the story, killed by her drunken father, and she is left alone to raise her sisters in poor conditions in a village on the outskirts of London.

She discovers that she has a ‘talent’ for helping the sick and needy, and quickly builds a reputation as a witch…..

That’s all I have for the moment BUT I’m thinking of linking Hester with a modern woman, to see how that would evolve.

Read the first ‘bones’ of the story and feel free to add any suggestions…all thoughts/ideas gratefully accepted!

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Hester

England, 1842

They were at it again. Hester pulled the rough woollen blanket over her ears, snuggling up to Elsie’s warm back. Her nose tickled against her sister’s curls as she drew her near; small and bony against her own hips. Then it sounded again; the incessant banging of the bed against the chalk wall, just feet away from where she lay with her sisters. Elsie moaned in her sleep, restless but not waking, her breathing heavy. Her younger sister had always slept through any storm. The thin sheet that separated them from her parents moved as her father stood up, and Hester sighed with relief, their rutting over.

She heard him pull on his boots, then the heavy thud as he walked to the doorway. The sound of the door opening, and then silence. She could picture him leaning against the doorframe. The smell of tobacco filled her nostrils and she squeezed her eyes shut, hoping for sleep. Then, the squeak of the bed, and the whispering of her mother, calling him back to bed. Winifred stirred and called out in her sleep. Hester prayed that her father had not heard her, but the blanket opened and her mother stood, silhouetted by the dark grey of the skyline through the open doorway. She stood for a moment, listening. Hester held her breath, hoping that she would go back to bed. When there was no further sound from Winifred, her mother disappeared beyond, and she could hear her father return to bed.

Then, the only sound was the wind outside, rattling on the window above their trestle bed. An owl hooted, eerily near. The bed on the other side of the blanket yielded to the weight of its occupants, then the familiar thudding of the frame against the wall started again.

 

Hester opened her eyes in panic. What had woken her? She sat up and looked across at the dark mounds lying next to her that were her younger sisters; they hadn’t moved. She sat for a moment, listening. Then, the wailing noise sounded again and her heart gave a thump in her chest. It sounded like a cat, perched outside, but she knew the noise anywhere; it was her mother.

‘Quiet, will you?’ A gruff voice pierced the silence, and Elsie stirred and sat up. Hester placed a hand on her sister’s mouth, Shush!

The wailing started again, followed by a thud as her father hit her mother. She could hear her fall onto the wooden floor, and pictured her, sprawled out under the window.

‘Please, Ed; not again. I beg you. I may be with child; I cannot stand it!’ she wailed again.

He ignored her wails as he continued to hit her. Again, and again, the steady thump of fist on face, breasts, hips, legs. Hester felt the knots fill her inside, as she held onto Elsie, stilling her sobs.

The wails seemed to go on forever, then stopped. Hester heard the door open for the second time that night, then slam shut as her father left the house.

‘You stay here, do you hear? Not a sound mind!’ she whispered to Elsie, who nodded, shaking and pale in the dim light. Winifred hadn’t stirred. Hester could hear her heavy breath through the silent night, her chest sounding raspy from a recent bout of cold.

She crawled out of bed, gingerly pulling back the thin blanket that divided the shabby room. The bed loomed in front of her, filling this corner. A thin light pierced the room from the smeared window set high above the bed, allowing some light from the pale grey sky. A chair sat in the far corner, roughly hewn by her father some years back. It held a candle and usually her father’s jacket and breeches, but they had gone. Hester adjusted her eyes to the breaking dawn and peered over the ruffled sheets. Her mother lay on the floor, unmoving. Hester could see her bare feet in the light, a blanket across her face. She moved around the bed, glancing outside where the door had opened slightly; there just the distant chink of bottles from the public house and the bleak call of a rooster from the farm opposite.

Hester pulled at the blanket covering her mother’s face, then gasped. Her head was at an angle, seemingly removed from the rest of her body. Even in this light she could make out the bruises across her eyes, already puffy and dark. A slick of blood could be seen around her nose and mouth, spilling onto her soiled dress. Hester moved closer, stepping on a sticky mass at her feet, trailing under the bed. The smell of shit was overwhelming as she realised her mother had soiled herself.

She turned and pulled at the door, then retched into the open air. The sun had appeared from behind the rooftops allowing her a clearer view of her feet, dark and smeared in dirt and vomit. She had seen enough pigs slaughtered on Haskin’s Farm to recognise the blood on the edges of her dress.

Working quickly, she washed her feet under the pump in the narrow alleyway, walking back inside. Her mind felt numb, her senses dulled by the sight before her.

He had gone too far this time.

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