Somewhere in the distance a rooster crowed. The town was about to wake. I limped to the window. As though a giant signal had gone of people appeared simultaneously their timber doors, blinking in the bright sunlight.
The baker wouldn’t be out yet. He has at least a dozen loaves of bread to take out of the oven and let cool. Some of the older villagers always bought breakfast at the baker’s house.
The other people were hurrying along in the bustle of the town, getting ready for associations and the day ahead.
Kermit would be scurrying around his coop, lifting chicken after chicken in the hope that one of them had laid an egg. Eggbert would be much more successful in his chicken coop across the street, placing them lovingly in a basket to sell.
A few girls my age was chatting loudly as they made their way to the well in the middle of the now crowded street. I knew I was supposed to join them.
With a sigh I hobbled down the stairs again and picked up the bucket. Diya was humming cheerfully in her room.
People greeted me as I made my way to the stone well.
“Well, father’s been extremely busy with his new project – “
“Did you see the mushrooms I picked yesterday? As big as melons I’m telling you – “
The chatter filled my head as I drew close to the well.
“Hello Astrid,” a short girl my age greeted me. She was stout and friendly, one of the village favorites.
“Morning Clara,” I greeted her.
“Heard you and Bevan have been running around again,” she said cheerfully, lowering her tin bucket into the well. “Rumors are flying you know, they say you and Bevan are getting a little more friendly.”
I was about to reply but a shrill laugh cut me off as another girl turned to look at me.
“Surely dear Bevan isn’t interested in her,” Marietta’s voice said. Curly red hair framed a delicate face with pointed features. Her eyes sparked yellow with amusement. Every girl around the well looked up, keen to hear my reply.
“Hello Marietta,” I said cheerfully, “see you’ve left your apron at home.”
Her smirk faltered a bit. Clara let out a faint snigger.
“And I see you’ve forgotten your place, as usual,” she sneered. “Tell me, have you been to the lake lately? I can hardly tell whether the smell is coming from Kermit’s coop, or your clothes.”
A few of her friends behind her cackled.
“Funny,” I replied, “I thought it was coming from your hair, those curling concoctions must leave an odor.” Everyone knew Marietta’s hair wasn’t curly by nature, and that she used copious amount of mixtures to get it that way.
The glee faded from her eyes and she surveyed me with detest.
“Maybe if your mother was still here she could’ve taught you some manners,” she said fiercely. There was a sharp intake of breath around the well. Everyone looked at me fearfully, wondering what I’d do. Marietta’s friend tugged at her, trying to get her to go.
“You’d better get that water back to dear old mummy,” I said coolly. “So you can get into the kitchen where you belong.” I was shaking with anger, but tried to hide it.
“Or maybe she was just as bad as you, fouled with stink and indignation,” she went on.
“Come on Marietta,” her friend said, tugging at her dress’s sleeve.
She threw one last look of utmost repulsion before turning on her heel and heading toward her house.
The girls were still staring at me. I gulped down my anger and hastened to get the water, hobbling away as quickly as I could, my bucket of water slopping terribly over my clothes. I could still feel the girls’ eyes on me.