The Grey — Photo by Paul Itkis
Chapter 02 — “Born” Anew
When Anne was fifteen and her father gave her into marriage to the lord of the neighbouring estate, nobody could tell what kind of life she would lead from that day on.
Anne was desperately hiding in the grey place where she could run to hide and cry without being seen or heard. After three years of childless marriage, when she understood that her husband would not shy from killing her in order to get himself a new wife and try again to produce an heir, she decided to play a desperate card and lie, pretending to be pregnant.
Her grey place was there for her anytime she was in trouble. If she put her mind and soul to it, when in the grey she could find the things that would buy her some peace in the marriage. Like when her father had passed on and there was no money left to her in his last will, because Father had remarried and begotten a son by his second wife; Anne had been threatened with a beating by her husband, as if she were at fault. She had disappeared in her grey place and wished with all her heart for a pouch of gold to appease her husband, and a pouch full of gold was waiting for her there, like a miracle…
Now, at the end of her ninth month of faked pregnancy, she wished with all her heart for a new miracle, or her fate when returning to the colorful world outside would be certain death for lying to her husband about the child… Through her crying, she heard a crying echo, an echo that grew to cover her own sobs. A baby was crying not far from where she lay crushed by her unhappiness. A new ray of hope bloomed in her heart. The new miracle of a live, new born baby was too much to even hope for, but here she was, coalescing from the grey of the place. A baby girl! Oh joy!
She could not explain the miracle, though she could take advantage of it. As soon as she made sure the baby was real , she shed the pillow that had been her proof of pregnancy, cut herself to smudge blood on the baby and on her clothes, then enveloped the tiny creature in her discarded maternity clothes and returned to the colorful world leaving baby’s pink coverings behind.
Soon, Anne was found lying on the ground, in the tilting yard, holding a tiny baby to her heart. Her husband was angry but could not take his anger on her. She was looking so beaten and suffering, now that she had been delivered of her baby…
He had not believed her, not in the beginning, when it could have been a lie to avoid lying with him, but her growing belly was proof enough, and now the baby, though a girl, was better than nothing. He would let his useless wife live until the little girl could take care of herself, and then, just like her grandfather, would get rid of the mother and get a son by another wife.
In her chamber, cleaned and changed into new clothes, with a wet nurse to feed her new born baby, or better said, born anew baby, Anne spent the first month of her newfound motherhood pondering on a name for her little one. She decided that to appease her husband she would let him name her after his dead mother, Lady Marissa.
The peace was short lived. Anne knew her brother-by-law hated her, but not how much more he hated his older brother — her husband. She continued to seek refuge in the grey, taking Marissa with her and teaching her little girl how to find things in the seeming nothingness into which she could so easily hide… In a way, she felt that Marissa had a bigger affinity to the grey than ever she could hope to achieve.
Years passed and her marriage became visibly a mockery, as her husband, her lord and master, did not seek her bed anymore, but had many of the working women in the castle and the bailey to appease his needs. And she was glad of the reprieve from marital obligations, but lived in continual fear of repercussions.
Strangely enough, her brother-by-law had taken a liking to little Marissa and even after a hasty marriage to the daughter of one of their retainers, very much under a heavy cloud of anger on everybody’s part, he continued to dote over his niece, so at least Anne did not need to fear for her daughter’s life.
When Marissa was in her fifth year of life, spring came with terrible rains and storms; all roads were washed out, making travelling nigh impossible. But when the need arose to go to their liege lord for the annual visit with no excuses accepted, her parents could not beg out from this yearly obligation and they set on the journey leaving the girl home with her uncle and aunt. It was a long drive and the cart was filled with pillows and furs to keep them comfortable and warm on the way, and of course the presents for the liege lord and his family, as custom required.
Anne had fallen asleep, tired of the interminable journey, when a noise like a mountain rolling down to smother them woke her up with a start.
The horses were puling wildly and trying to escape their traces, while her husband was furiously lashing them, as if that would change the cruel reality — the mountain was really rolling, taking them along for the ride. Scared to death, Anne closed her eyes and wished with all her might to be safe in her grey place, and lo and behold — quiet replaced the terrible noise, the horses neighed and calmed in their turn, and her husband stopped cursing, stunned by the change.
They were in her grey place! They were alive! They could not go back!
Because nobody could explain what happened, she would be judged to be a witch and no matter that she had saved his life, her husband would take full advantage and make sure to get rid of her. While he was still awe-struck of being alive, she wished herself into a place of peace and quiet for herself and interesting enough for him to let her survive.
And just like that, they were out of the grey and onto a field bordered by tall trees and far on the horizon they could see the tops of very tall buildings. A metal box on wheels, but without horses, was traveling the road towards them and she signalled it as if it was just another wagon… Though covered in mud and looking far from their best, the man inside the box stopped the conveyance to ask if they needed help. Anne smiled fetchingly and said she needed help, yes, so much help, please… as she descended from the cart and fell to the ground.
Her husband looked at her disgustedly and cared not that the unknown man took her in his arms saying, “I’ll take her to the hospital if you do not mind. You will find her there, for I do not imagine you would prefer to abandon the cart and horses here. The car will do the job much faster. And by the way — I see you have some valuables in there — I suggest you cover and disguise them, if you do not want to be robbed before you reach the city.”
Thus, Anne got finally separated from her husband and promised herself to never get in touch with him again — enough was enough for a lifetime. She also found out that her saviour was a magician with the local circus, though he went on tours quite frequently… He was very solicitous and for his benefit, she had to make up a story about an accident which had left her without memory… The Magician found her very much to his liking and after she was discharged from the hospital, he felt duty bound to care for her. Soon he was far too entranced by her charms and by her disappearing talent, so that he asked her to share his life…