The Gypsy Fiddle

Her long black hair was Romany, they said- her only resemblance to the rõ m, the wanderers of the past, though she was a descendant of them. She smelled of rainwater and molten iron, this half-breed gypsy- her name was Rose.

She'd had her palm read once, by a rõ m one- one of the rare ones, who could sometimes part a curtain into the mists. And the rõ m woman had peered into Rose's rough chapped

palm and looked at her with sorrow and pity in her eyes:

"You were born of the rõ m, but you have chained yourself- you will never break free…"

Rose thinks of those words often, now.

Once she had not felt the tug of the north wind in her veins as often or as strong- when she was younger, and her skin was smooth, and there were no wrinkles beside the proud green eyes; and now she is old, and her Sam is gone- her Sam, the dark-haired one, the good one; the one who wrapped her in his arms and in his scent (of tobacco, dark-roasted chestnuts and warm apples), and held her when she shivered in the midnight hours, racked with restless wandering dreams.

Oh, Sam…sometimes she hears his voice, smells warm apples and pipe ash, in the eaves of her empty house- for her children are grown, and gone, and now she lies alone…but her black hair stays and does not whiten, long dark waves that reach her waist.

This is a big house, her father's house- the house that once was hers and Sam's, and their long-grown children's…

And now, hers alone, and lonely. During the day, when the sun shines through the leaves of the oak trees and lights them like emeralds- during the day it is easy. But when night falls and the wind whistles in the oak trees outside her window, when the stars shine far away with the promising glimmer of pearls waiting to be dived for…then her bare feet tingle with the wish to fling open the doors and walk until she falls to the ground, exhausted, letting the wind direct her as it will.

But she is too old. She leaves the window open sometimes, when midnight is long past and dawn is not yet come, and lets the wind blow in: it leaves again with the low roar of the listening whorls of a shell, and then the tears come unbidden.

She lies in the night as the wind swirls around her, and somewhere in the rustling of the trees she hears the far strains of a gypsy fiddle float up to the wheeling stars.