All that is left of me now is my skeleton. But once I had a life, the last chapters of which were dark, but in the darkness there was a light. My light was Leon, my baby boy. But I am getting ahead of myself.
My story really starts on a narrow cobbled street in the seaside town of Morecombe where I spent my childhood days. I was one of four girls upon whom a name was bestowed, a name which some called a blessing, but which I called a curse. Our house was named "The House of Wild Lilies,"I and my three sisters being the "Wild Lilies."Word spread, as words do, of the four beauties whom to call beautiful would be an understatement and at first we thought ourselves the luckiest girls alive.
When my oldest sister Lucille turned sixteen the first of a long line of suitors appeared at our door. It was this suitor who in my fathers eyes was unworthy to even consider one of us as a bride who named us the "Wild Lilies."The widower, Robert Smith was no "spring chicken,"he was at least thirty-five years old and my father turned him away with these exact words, for I shall never forget the day my father began to turn from loving and caring into a pigheaded, greedy man who wallowed in liquor. The day and consequently these words which started to turn my life from heaven to hell.
My father said,"Do you really think that I would let any of my precious daughters marry you! and here you are asking for Lucille's hand in marriage, the apple of my eye. No daughter of mine shall marry a man like you, a man who is worth so little to this community."
He said this so loudly that half the street heard and I ran into the house blushing, but not exactly knowing why. I was only twelve when this incident took place.
I was the second youngest but for some unknown reason to me, Carina, my younger sister and the fourth "Wild Lily," was married before me. I did not feel jealous as I watched first Lucille then Rosabel and finally Carina get married, all I felt was a desperate sadness that it was time for the four "Wild Lilies"to part. For my sisters, my breathtaking, beautiful sisters, were also my best friends.
Then one night when I was seventeen I watched from my bedroom window as my father came around the street corner, once again drunk and stumbling his way towards me. He was almost at our house when he spotted someone in the shadows, someone that I could not see. As I watched, a slim, wiry man with small, evil piggy black eyes, stepped into the little light there was in the street and I shivered. This was a man I knew by sight, a man whose oily voice saturated with menace, made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. He was known throughout the town for three things; his wealth, unpleasantness and his uncontrollable temper.
In the instance that I saw him I knew and dreaded the reason for his visit. Looking down on the street that night I felt my freedom, my life slip between my fingers. Because behind those gold wired spectacles, behind those piggy black eyes, his evil mind had been working and now my time was up. He knew two things about my father. He knew how my father couldn't resist a fair amount of money (for that is how three lucky, decent and kind men had become my brother-in-laws) and he knew that my father was most likely to agree to his proposition whilst wrapped in the warm folds of liquor.
I prayed as hard as I could that my father would come to his senses, for I knew that somewhere deep inside he still cared and loved his daughters, but luck was not on my side and Morgan Smith was right about my fathers night I cried myself to sleep for I knew then that there was know way for me to escape becoming Maria Morgan Smith.
My wedding was something of a grand occasion to say the least. For it was Morgan's first opportunity of show me off to the people of Morecombe. Although the occasion was bright and the decorations glorious, the tears I cried were not for what I had gained or for joy, they were for what I had lost and my mother and sisters cried with me.
They had done all they could to help me, my three brother-in-laws had each offered money to try and buy my freedom back, but times were hard and their generous offer did not match the price Morgan Smith had given my father. Even if it had, I'm not sure it would have done any good, for once my father set his mind on something or gave his word, it could not be changed, and so I was married and my fate sealed.
Time started to pass by and with it my life and my beauty (which I now saw as a curse from the gods) dwindled. During that first year and a half of my marriage I painted a picture of my life within my mind. It was a confusion of colors growing ever darker to show the path my life had taken. Although I worked on my painting every spare minute I had, it could only be completed with my death and so for some time it hung unfinished in my mind.
I started this painting with the image of a blank canvas hanging upon a bland white wall. Then the colors began to unfold. In the centre of my life's work, to represent my birth, bright, beautiful colors unfurled to paint my happy childhood days. As the image grew from the centre the colors darkened and changed into murky blues and grays, colors so desolate that even now I weep for those bleak years of my life.
As the colors ever darken into black a faint golden thread of joy began to weave its way through the swathes of deep sorrow the black represented. That faint golden joy was Leon. With the golden thread and ominous black my artwork was almost complete, my life captured in a painting.
As the golden thread entered my painting, Leon arrived in my life. He was the most beautiful baby the town had ever seen and away from Morgan's scornful, disapproving eyes they doted on him, cooing all the while.
Morgan could not understand the joyful love everyone felt for his son. He saw Leon as merely a troublesome occupation. Leon to his father was just another mouth to feed, another person to clothe. Morgan loved nobody but himself and his son was no exception.
To me however, Leon was everything. He gave me a reason to wake each morning and a reason to keep myself from simply fading away. Leon was my life, my reason for living.
As Leon began to grow, Morgan started to drink too much and too often. The rich alcohol made his temper flare up and he would beat me as though I were no more then a dog. I took this treatment without complaint, for the last thing I wanted to do was to enrage him further. I would have nightmares that he turn from me to Leon and on one warm summer's evening, when Leon was just three years old, my nightmare came to pass.
The sun had sunken below the horizon and night was once more upon us. Once again I found myself watching from my bedroom window as a man stumbled around the corner. As I saw him I felt a terrible coldness creep across my skin while the hot, foggy night air lay lazily over the town. I stood frozen in fear, knowing without having to be told that something unforgivable would take place on this innocent summer's night.
I stood watching the man approach, a feeling of utter helplessness washing over me as I knew there was nothing I could do to stop whatever was coming. As I heard the door being roughly opened I turned, my son asleep in my arms and walked to the bed. As the door gave a protesting moan as it was slammed shut, I lay Leon down and as the footsteps of my husband reached the landing I turned to face the door.
Morgan, my husband, stood, gazing at me with those black eyes that I had learned to loath with a slurred smile formed upon his lips. No, it wasn't a smile, his face was contorted into a sneer that made a shiver run down my spine.
"You know what they told me down at the tavern, blossom? Huh do you?" he sneered."They told me that it was a shame how your beauties faded. That you should really learn to be less clumsy."With that he snickered and took a step forward.
Apart from my family, the people of Morecombe thought that all my bruises and battering were due to my"clumsy"behaviour. Deep down though I think they knew the real reason why my body was so broken and beaten. That my husband used me as a whipping post
for all his terrible tempers. They knew I was not clumsy, oh yes they knew the truth, but what could they do? What could anybody do to save me now?
I still said nothing and he took another step forward."Your nothing but a broken lily. Just a waste of space and time. Your nothing Maria."
"Your right, I am a broken lily, you would now since you were the one to break me. Yet I am still a lily. To you however, I have never been anything but an indulgence, a thing to play with, something, someone to ruin and in a sense you have done so. Somethings though you cannot take from a person. I thank you for one thing, and one thing only, Leon. You have broken me, whipped me and stolen my freedom. I am wild no more, just a broken lily."
Tears pricked my eyes, as, for the first time did not just let him beat me without saying my piece. For I knew then, that my live was coming to its end. My painting was complete, there was just one last thing left for me to do. I had to save my son.
"How dare you speak like that to me, you ungrateful, unworthy, ignorant woman."His voice was a deathly low snarl to begin with but by the end of his tirade he was yelling.
With one last step he closed the distance between us an slapped me across the face. The onslaught left my cheek searing with pain, but the the cry that split the air was not mine. It came from behind me, Leon.
Morgan whirled around to where Leon was lying on the bed. "That blasted baby! Not a night goes by without him crying. He's as useless and troublesome as you! and with that he made for Leon.
What happened next happened so fast that it's just a blur in my memory. I scrambled onto the bed and placed myself once more between them. Shielding Leon with my body I turned to face Morgan. His face was set in a mask of fury and hatred.
I have never quite understood why Morgan hated his son so, but I think it's because people loved Leon spontaneously and without need of reason. He was just somebody you couldn't help but love and I think somehow Morgan had always wanted to be loved like that.
"Get out of my way Maria!"he said and grabbed my arm. Yanking me off the bed he propelled me into the shelf that stood beside it. My head cracked against the corner and as I sunk to the ground I felt hot, thick blood trickle down my face. The last thing I saw was Morgan's shocked face before my own blood blinded me and I could see no more.
The last thing I managed to say was a plead for my sons life, the last things I heard were Leon's heartbroken wail and Morgan's strangled scream before the blackness engulfed me and and the cloak of death wrapped itself around me.
My heart has long stopped beating. The blood that once ran through my veins runs no more. My skeleton lies in an ornately carved coffin, the silken gown I was laid to rest in shines no more and every year a white wild lily is placed upon my grave.
My mother and three sisters brought Leon up and when he turned fifteen they told him how I had died. They told him how I had died to save him and how much I loved him. As for Morgan, Leon never saw him again.
At four in the morning on that summer's night Morgan went to my parents and told them of my death. He then gave Leon to them and bade they look after him. After he had left my mother persuaded my father not to send people after him, for she believed that he could change and so he left with a promise and never returned.
Whether or not he did, I cannot say. I believe that after he left he tried to never look back on what had happened. Morgan may have been a tyrant but he had some humanity left in him and those few shreds lead guilt to encase his heart.
And so my story is told and the third "Wild Lily" can finally rest in peace.