I wake in a narrow space with a bowed roof, having no idea where I am. A red accordion hangs on a peg, smiling at me with long teeth in ivory and black. I am sore and need to move, but searing pain stops me, every muscle in my body is throbbing and tender. What has happened?
Sunlight streams through french doors near a porcelain washbasin and pitcher. The smell of fir and camp smoke fill the air. I move my hands to my eyes, finding them scarred and beaten. I lay in the quiet of the room, listening to myself breathe, my senses open and raw. Music plays at a distance, guitar. It is lively, there is laughter. I close my eyes again, into the comfort of darkness.
Time passes, maybe a little, maybe a lot. The music stops. I hear children yelling in words I don’t understand. An olive-skinned woman in a patterned headscarf pushes open the door. Her bodice is bright and gathered, a full blue skirt swinging below. She carries knitting needles and a length of yarn being made into cloth.
She speaks, as she tucks the knitting in a basket near my bed. I turn my head away, not understanding, but her fingers bring me back. They are nimble and soft as she touches my face. “Hello,” she says in my language. “I am Angelina. I’ve been taking care of you. Do you remember what happened?” Her hair is the color of midnight, with slumbering curls at rest near her forehead.
I search my mind and find nothing. “What do you mean?”
“You’ve been badly injured. Do you remember the accident? We found you by a river in the north, sleeping in the arms of death. That was more than two weeks ago. Now we journey to the sea, but can take you home when you’re strong enough or send word to have you met.”
I am silent.
“I have burned the clothes you came in, saving the ribbons and beads. White is the color of death and mourning, inviting trouble. You could not get well in such clothes, even if they were not ruined. I’ve made you a nightdress in orange and we have plenty to lend when you are able to leave the bed. Who are you, friend? Who shall we find to take you home?”
I mull over her words like little birds that have flown through an open window. I’ve had an accident. I don’t belong here. Where do I belong? She gives me questions without answers.
“What is your name?” She asks again.
I gaze into the arched wooden roof and then out the window. “I don’t know.”
“Angelina!” A man pokes his head through the double doors, a hat sitting crooked over raven black hair. His feet are bare and dirty, his shirt loose fitting with bright flowing sleeves. He and Angelina speak in their own tongue. When they finish, he turns to me. “Ah, the mystery woman is awake at last.”
He comes to my bed, gently lifting my fingers. His mustache tickles as he kisses the gash on the back of my hand. “So, you are with the living again.” His eyes are deep and kind.
“This is Luca,” she tells me. “He is my brother, the one who carried you here.”
Angelina gets a silver brush from her dresser and begins stroking my hair. Its auburn color falls to my waist, feeling odd and strangely separate. I view it like it belongs to another.
Something urges me toward gratitude but I say nothing. My mind is clear like an open sky. There are feelings and impulses, but words hide, coming slowly, with hesitation.
“There are others to meet,” Angelina tells me, “but only when you are ready. For now we will name you……Maya. And one day soon, you will leave your bed and remember, telling us who you are and where you belong. For now, you will rest and heal, as I cook quail and pirogo for our dinner.”
A bright green apron hangs outside the door, on a small covered porch. Angelina grabs it, drapes the fabric around her waist, and descends wooden stairs.
“And I go into Cheshire to mend chairs and sharpen saws,” adds Luca. “But first, I’ll bring coffee to clear your mind and pick a jar of bluebells for your spirit.”