The Moon and her Maiden

The Moon and her MaidenDo you see that little star, just by that big, blinking one? Yes, I know the blinking thing is a plane, but there, right by it, see? So small, so lost in the sky. A new star. It was in the papers, you know? I tried to show them, it was proof… But there, now, they’ve made up their minds. I can’t blame them. I wouldn’t believe me, either.

They think I killed my child.

Leonie, that’s her name. My baby girl, my little star. She was only seven. I don’t know how old she is now. Do stars grow old? Do they count their age in light years? That was a joke. You can smile, you know. Doctors are allowed to smile, I think.

She had a thing for the moon, you see. Ever since she was a tiny babe. I would feed her in the rocker, pulled up to the window for the summer night’s breeze, and the moonlight would shine softly on her little head. And she would stop feeding and gaze up. Girl and moon, loving each other.

I thought it was sweet, then. I didn’t know the moon was poison, whispering sweet promises in my little one’s ears.

She was a bad sleeper, my Leonie. Oh, she would drift off okay, long lashes dark against her skin. But she always had to have the curtains open, all night long. Her da said she was a spoiled little thing, but how do you spoil a baby? Anyway, he left soon after and then it was just me and Leonie and the moon.

I got suspicious when she turned five. She was up on the windowsill, glass spread wide and she sat there bathed in the moonlight, laughing like a fairy thing. Oh, my heart was in my mouth it was, with the drop outside and she could have splattered herself all over the garden. I was in such a state! I put a lock on the window after that.

Next full moon she found her way outside, through the kitchen door. I saw her there, twirling in her little nightie. Dancing, she was, dancing for the moon. I knew it then, though I pushed it away into a corner of my heart. If you don’t think a thing, it can’t come true, right? But I knew my child was moon-touched.

I put a lock on the kitchen door, too. A big strong one. And I locked all the windows to keep my Leonie inside with me. Away from Lady Moon who loved her, because I loved her more. I’m her mam, of course I loved her more!

When she turned six I caught her rattling at the downstairs window, trying to get out. “Come now, Leonie,” I said, “Why would you want to go out with the night so wild and windy?”

“Mammy,” she answered, “The Moon is calling. She wants to dance.”

So I told her, “The moon isn’t real, my sweet. It’s just a big, dead thing in the sky.”

But my Leonie, she looked at me with those big eyes and said, “No mammy, that’s what she pretends to be. But when she calls me to dance she’s a beautiful lady with all her maidens around her in their glowing dresses.”

So I asked her, “Do you mean the stars, my sweet?”

And she told me how the stars were just little girls like her, that the moon chose as babies, setting her mark upon their brow. And when the girls were ready she would take them up to the sky and they would dance forever with Lady Moon, a dance for all time, never-ending. She told me all this, and so serious she was, up and down on her little toes as she talked…

Oh! Thank you. That’s very kind. I always cry to think of it. Yes, you can just leave the tissues right there. All right, I’m better now.

So then she leant forward, her face so close to mine, and she showed me Lady Moon’s mark on her own smooth brow. And I told her, “No, my sweet. That’s the chicken pox scar from when you were a tiny thing.”

But she smiled and shook her head, little curls all dancing. “Look closer, mammy.”

And I did, and that’s when I saw it looked just like the moon, with all the craters and such. And my arms went all shivery and I pulled my Leonie onto my lap and held her tight. Because I finally understood that she wasn’t just moon-touched, but chosen.

After that, I stopped sleeping right, except on dark moon nights. I would wake and pad silently to her room and watch her on her bed, lying there so quietly staring at the moon. Loving the moon and the moon loving her right back.

On the day she turned seven, the Lady came to fetch her away. It was a glorious summer night, with the full moon rising early in all its splendour. And I was so, so tired from watching over Leonie, that I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Or maybe she witched me, Lady Moon. All I know is I fell asleep, just for the smallest while, and when I woke up my Leonie’s window was wide open, lock shattered into a million bits.

And my baby was gone.

At first the police thought she’d been taken, you know, by some fellow in a van or something like that. But they found no marks, no footprints, no evidence. So they set their sights on me. And when I told them it was the moon, they thought I was the one touched. And they brought me here.

But I know it was her. The moon. Lady Moon. And now she has my Leonie high up there with her other twinkling maidens, and I have nothing left but a star to gaze on.

© Juliana S Mills

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