‘The Ballad of Lucy Lightfoot’ by Jan Edwards
Only one remained on the Isle of Wight who remembered Lucy Lightfoot. He was the reason she had returned, and the reason she stood in the church porch, debating on whether seven hundred years was long enough.
She hesitated, glancing toward the setting sun, and then retreated to her house, just along the street. She wondered yet again why returning to her old home, and this island, was so important. She had prepared well, and she felt she had a very good chance of success, but the stakes were so damned high.
Lucy headed straight for the study, sloshed a large measure of brandy into a waiting snifter, and knocked it back in one. She stood motionless for several seconds whilst the alcohol seared its path, and her eyes watered momentarily.
What a waste of good liquor, she thought. Father would be horrified, despite all of those casks he slid past the Excise. ‘Brandy was fer gentry’ he’d say. Father would be surprised at a lot of the things I get up to now.
She lowered herself into a chair, as the drink finally hit, and poured another good measure. Sobriety didn’t appeal so much, today.
She set a decorated box on the desk and stared at it; and took another mouthful of liquid courage before she prised up the lid. She lifted out a small goat-skin pouch, fingering its contents through the hide, remembering where each lump came from, and when. A wrinkled sliver of dried gristle, cut from the umbilicus of her first child; a small chunk of dried flesh from her stillborn second son; a snip of cloth, brown with the first blood of her eldest daughter’s womanhood; a small human bone that she preferred not to name even to herself; two gold coins and a short length of coffin wood. All were powerful mementos of those who had been closest to her during her long life. The pouch leaked fine dust onto her fingers. Grave dirt – from her first husband’s resting place…