Goddess

Free Goddess by Kelly Gardiner

Book: Goddess by Kelly Gardiner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kelly Gardiner
told them my name. I don’t even remember what it was, now. Any old name. It didn’t matter, at that point, who I was—not to me, not to them. My first few days were spent locked in a cell, with the odd hour prostrate on the chapel floor; they called it a spiritual solitude, to allow me to reflect on my past sins and my vocation. Which I truly did. I felt as if my life had been wasted—as if every moment of every day had led me to that perfect hour when I first saw her face—as if my destiny might dwell in that place. As perhaps it did.
    I saw her on the fifth day. They released me from my room—not a moment too soon—and sent me out to work in the orchard. It was cold by then and my fingertips ached, but I remember the air on my face and the scent of turned earth.
    She was feeding the chickens, calling to them. I’d never heard her voice. I stood there, with dirt on my hands, listening—gazing at her—willing her to look at me.
    She turned. Slowly. Saw me. And smiled.
    Someone spoke to her and she walked away, not looking back, and it didn’t matter because I knew she would come to me.

Act 2, Scene 2
A duet
    T HEY MEET—SPEAK—FOR THE VERY first time that night after supper. In the dark. In a corner of the cloister, where even whispers seem to echo off the stone walls, they both talk at once.
    ‘I knew you would find me—’
    ‘When they sent you away—’
    ‘Somehow.’
    ‘I searched everywhere.’
    ‘I thought I’d never see you again.’
    ‘And yet here I am.’
    Clara breathes for what feels like the first time in hours. ‘You must be careful.’
    ‘Clara.’ Julie smiles at the music in it.
    ‘Please. Say it again. Just like that.’
    ‘Clara,’ Julie whispers. And then, ‘I love you.’
    The breath shivers out of Clara’s body. ‘And I … but it’s ridiculous. Isn’t it?’
    ‘Not at all. It just is.’
    ‘Whoever heard of such a thing?’
    They’ve never been so close before. They wonder at each other—stripped of jewellery, satins, even hair tucked away, naked under the rough linens. And yet they are glorious, glowing. Julie marvels over every eyelash, the tiny wrinkles in Clara’s lips, the flecks of agate in her brown eyes.
    ‘You’re trembling.’ She takes Clara’s hand—the skin silky against her own—and trembles a little herself at the touch. ‘Are you scared? Don’t be.’
    ‘It’s not that. Perhaps a chill.’
    ‘I’ll warm you.’ Julie presses the precious hand between her own palms. ‘Come with me. We’ll escape.’
    ‘Impossible.’
    ‘Not at all.’
    ‘Where could we go? How will we live?’
    ‘It doesn’t matter, Clara. I’ll find a way. I always do.’
    Clara shakes her head but can’t stop smiling. ‘My father—’
    ‘He banished you here.’ Julie says it too loudly, as if she’s on stage.
    Clara flinches. ‘Shhh.’
    ‘You owe him nothing.’
    ‘But God—’
    ‘God is love, remember?’
    ‘Yes. But this—’
    ‘Is perfect. You are perfect. Clara.’
    ‘And you …’
    Julie strokes the soft skin inside Clara’s wrist. She shudders. They both do.
    ‘I am yours.’
    They meet every evening in the poultry house, after Vespers. The chickens snicker and shuffle. The girls sit in the dirty straw, fingers entwined, not speaking, sometimes smiling. They kiss once but it frightens them so they stop.
    At other times, in hallways or behind the kitchens, they whisper to each other. There are secrets. Desires that can only be spoken in daylight. Plans that can only be discussed in darkness. Fears. Memories—little things—mere moments.
    ‘Yesterday, I watched you in the chapel.’
    ‘Julie, you mustn’t.’
    ‘I can’t help it.’ Julie’s cheeks hurt from smiling wider than she’s ever smiled.
    ‘But God will see.’
    ‘He sees us already. He knows.’
    ‘Don’t say that!’ Clara glances around to check that nobody’s watching.
    ‘It’s all right. No need to blush so.’ Julie draws her down onto the stone bench next to

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