Word Count 499
Chapter 9. The Hiding Game
By Sharon Collins
As Mother Superior’s thoughts deepened, the dreams of another sleeping dove darkened into nightmare. Lisette again played the Hiding Game. Alone, her six-year-old-self scratched the dirt, mimicking others she had watched. But her efforts were useless. There was nothing to glean. The summer wheat, which had screened her from threatening eyes, was not nearly ripe. Frightened but obedient, she hid, muffling her sobs as Mireille, of the Gitane, limped within earshot.
A copse of beech on the outskirts of Lisette’s tiny village yearly sheltered bands of the traveling people known as the Gitan. The month of May was waning and Mirielle’s family was making its way to the coastal town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to celebrate the Feast Day of Sainte Sarah, the Patroness of the Gitan. Contrary to the popular belief that all “gypsies” were thieves and scoundrels, Mireille was well respected by the Cathar villagers and welcomed into their homes. Mireille, a healer, and Lisette’s Grandmother, a midwife, had much in common, and so, each eagerly anticipated their yearly visits.
So when news of more Cathar burnings reached the encampment, Mirielle strode off toward the village, intent on helping where she might. In her rush she stumbled, turning her ankle sharply. Although she stopped to wrap it with a dock leaf and a tight linen bandage, she did not take time to brew willow tea. So pain slowed her progress, giving her fears ample time to multiply.
As she neared the village, the ache in her ankle and her growing unease were stoked by the smell of smoke on the breeze. As she limped, Mirielle nearly missed the faint sobs coming from deep within the wheat field. Torn between her mission and investigating the cries, the fire-charred timbers she could now see in the distance made the decision for her. There was no longer anything she could do for her friend the midwife; of that she was sure. Heartbroken, she turned toward the center of the field.
Not much taller than a child herself, Mirielle, could barely see over the dancing wheat stalks. “Qui va là? Who is there?” she called. The sobbing quieted, leaving only the hum of insects to fill the tense silence. Picturing, the midwife’s small granddaughter, Mireille shivered with fear and hope. “Lisette? Is it you? Fear not ma petite; it is your Miri. Cry out child so I can come to you.”
Squealing with relief, Lisette rushed toward the sound of her Miri’s voice. Watching the wheat flow like a wave heading straight for her, Mirielle ignored the blaze of fire in her ankle, and scooped the child up. No shoreline could have held back the tidal force in those tiny arms and legs as they wrapped themselves around her. It was clearly Lisette’s intent to never, ever, let go. Responding in kind, Mireille pledged her own heart with equal embrace, and in that moment, a bond was forged. Knowing the child would never have been abandoned, Mireille turned her back on the ruined village.