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The Woman in Red
Years ago, before the smoky stacks of London blackened its bordering forests, there lived a beautiful, young maiden with silken skin and golden hair. Every day since she could remember she would look up into the star soaked sky and wish that love would find her.
Day in and day out she lived her life working the fields of barley with her family trying to make a living and every night she would once again wish for love. Though the men of her village often sought after her, none of them were the man she dreamed of so she would very graciously turn every one of them down.
Then just before the fall harvest, on the eve of her twentieth birthday, a stranger blew into to town. His eyes were mysteriously dark and his hair wildly curled and his smile was like a candle burning on the darkest night. Whispers of his arrival spread through the small village bringing the curious to the village’s only inn.
The maiden was one of these curious villagers hoping to catch a glimpse of the new arrival rumored to be more handsome than anyone had ever seen. She walked into the inn as confident as ever that the stranger was the love she had wished for. She pushed herself through the crowd of other single women only to stumble upon the stranger himself.
And as his dark eyes met with hers, light and fair, the sounds of the inn vanished around them. The maiden had never felt her heart beat as it did when she was with him. She had never felt her cheeks rise in such a heat as she did when his eyes met with hers. Her head was spinning and though her feet were on the ground she knew that she must have been flying.
From that day on the stranger and the maiden were always together. They took walks together and spoke in low voices to each other if others were near. When the church bells rang they entered the building together and left together as well.
As time went by and the maiden was sure more than anything that the handsome stranger was the love she had been wishing for since she was a little girl, the maiden decided to give herself completely to him. So time and time again she lost herself in the stranger’s arm until months went by without her monthly bleeds.
Feeling in her heart that the stranger would make things right she approached him, but when she told him of her condition the stranger shook his head and told her that marriage was never in his plan. No longer a maiden, she was a lost and broken woman, unmarried and carrying a child.
The no-longer-maiden, who was never one for fits, cried for days. She could not eat; she could not sleep as the stranger’s rejection filled her mind. She began to shrink inside herself, no longer gregarious or charming as she once was.
Then one day, a few weeks later, the no-longer-maiden saw the stranger walking with another woman, laughing and carrying on as if her very soul had not shattered. She could feel the heat rising and her chest heaving as she saw him twirl a lock of the girl’s hair around his finger. She watched as he whispered in her ear trailing his fingers on the gentle curve of her neck and something else inside of her broke.
That night she lied awake in her white nightgown thinking of him. She replayed the scenes of him with the other girl over and over in her mind until a single thought possessed her. She rose from bed slipping out the door barefoot in the snow making her way to the inn where the stranger still resided.
She crept unknown into the inn and up the stairs to the stranger’s room ever so quietly opening the door. She stood at the door staring at the stranger sleeping peacefully, the moon shining brightly upon his beautiful face. She walked softly over to him and ever so gently crawled onto his bed so that she was sitting on top of him.
The stranger stirred and opened his eyes to see the no-longer-maiden smiling curiously down at him. He did not think to panic until the moonlight reflected off of the knife she held in her hand. His eyes grew wide and the last thing he saw was the no-longer-maiden bringing the knife down upon him. There were no screams for the knife’s first blow was to the throat.
Both of them were found late the next morning when the owner became concerned that the early rising stranger did not show up for breakfast. He opened the door shocked to find his beloved guest dead in his bed and the no-longer-maiden holding his lifeless body in her arms covered in his blood.
The villagers were outraged and terrified at what they saw and they dragged her from the bed to the hanging tree. She gave no fuss as they tied the rope around her throat; she merely smiled, her eyes blank starring off into the far distance, as they kicked the stand from her feet.
When they cut her lifeless body down from the tree her once white nightgown was still wet from the stranger’s blood.
Even now, though the woods where the maiden had once worked and lived was consumed by London’s urban growth, you can still see her roaming the streets of her homeland. They say she comes out when the moon is bright and the streets are covered in snow. She sings a sad tune walking slowly leaving prints in the snow. And she is covered so much from head to toe in blood that she is known as The Woman in Red.