The Power of Wind

Ever since her talk with Gracia, Cecily had spent many hours thinking hard over “power.” What could that mysterious power do, exactly? And how was it possible to make your thoughts into reality—merely by believing? Whether gardening or cooking or cleaning, the questions plagued her mind. She might have thought that the entire thing was an elaborate lie to give her hope, if she didn’t trust Gracia so completely. But she had to try putting this power to the test at least once, just to make sure that she wasn’t wrong.

Her first chance came when she went with a few other families to gather firewood from the nearby hills. It was achy work—bending down and straightening back up, noticing a dry stick here, a fallen tree over there—back and forth, again and again. But the job seemed easier when they were doing it all together, laughing and singing and seeing who could tell the tallest tales.
Fallen tree near Woodcutters path by Jack Picknell
Fallen tree near Woodcutters path, a photo by Jack Picknell on Flickr.

Alis was still feeling weak, and Cecily had insisted her mother stay at home while she worked with the Walpoles. The day felt more like spring than ever, and Pypa (a girl with fiery red hair and large lips) was whistling with an infectious, off-key enthusiasm that made Cecily want to do a little dance. But she noticed that Bess appeared more subdued than usual, almost colorless. She soon realized why: Robbie had joined their party and was gathering wood about thirty yards down the slope. Cecily decided to meddle.

Coming closer to him by inches, she eventually placed herself within arms-length of Robbie and worked slowly so as to observe. At first she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary; after a few minutes he’d looked in Bess’s direction only once. Then he looked again. After that it was almost comical to see the number of times he “casually glanced” in her general vicinity. If Cecily needed a sign, that was it.

She trudged to the cart to dump her basket of kindling and waited until Bess came along with her own heavy load. Then she cornered her.

“Tell me once and for all: do you love Robbie?”

Bess was startled, her cornflower eyes open wide and felt hat drooping at a ridiculous angle. “I, well I…I….”

“Out with it.”

Bess shrank away as Pypa came skipping down the hill to pitch her armful into the wagon, then she leaned in close to whisper a desperate, “Yes.”

That was all. Bess climbed back up the hill to wrench a few dead limbs from a dead tree, and Cecily was left with the uncomfortable knowledge that she’d gotten exactly what she’d asked for. Peeking at Robbie, she saw that he was now staring at Bess outright; he resembled a little lamb that had lost its mother.

What a sad couple of children. Bess would be so happy if that boy could only state his affections outright, and I know he’d like nothing more than to do just that. But they’ll never do it if something doesn’t make them. She bent down to pick up a twig, and when she rose her eyes fell on Gracia, working farther up the hill. She thought of Gracia’s words, “the power to change, to make things happen the way you want….” The tiny thought that had been growing in her mind suddenly blossomed into full thought-hood. It made her train her eyes on Robbie and stretch out her hand just a little way towards him (underneath her cloak, just in case anyone was watching), thinking very strongly of what she wanted him to do. Say something, tell her the truth; if you truly care then tell her plainly!

A gradual stream of not-quite-audible words clustered into Cecily’s ears and coalesced into a single, steady humming. Wind. Wind whips, wind rolls, wind flies through the branches. Wind breaks, wakes, shakes. Wind has the power to make things happen. The humming grew louder, until there was nothing in her ears or eyes but the single overwhelming desire for wind. She had tried to work up the desire, to push it up from somewhere inside of her, but now it was bubbling to the surface like a creature that had been longing to get out all along.

The humming was broken by a yell. Blinking for the first time in three minutes, Cecily doubled over in pain as her eyes seemed to burn holes in her eyelids. She felt her dress whipping around her legs and looked down to see leaves scuttling over the ground, kicking around in a frenzied dance as a fierce, spiraling wind swept over the hill. The yell had come from Bess, whose hat had been swept off her head and gone swirling down toward the wood cart, carried on the wind within a few feet of where Robbie was standing.

Quick as thought, the young man leapt to catch the runaway, stretching out to grab it by the brim just as it was about to land in the mud between the cart horse’s hooves. He held it in his hands for a moment as if wondering what to do with it, and then he worked his way up the slope to where a shy but grateful Bess was standing. He said something gentle, with a little laugh. A minute later they were collecting wood side by side, talking in lowered voices and brushing their hands together as they helped with the biggest pieces.

Cecily didn’t move for two solid minutes. The wind abated almost immediately, slackening to a shivering breeze, but the humming only faded from her ears by small increments. Her heart raced like a horse gone mad, and she tucked her hands beneath her arms to stop their shaking. Pale and suddenly weak, she sat on a fallen tree for support. It worked—it really happened. She had wanted something to happen, believed it would happen, and it had. She felt lightheaded and her intestines were tangled into knots, but she was excited.

It was true. Whatever it was, this power was real, and if she could summon up a wind that powerful on her first try, what else was she capable of? Could she cure her mother’s cough? Could she finagle a day without work? Could she learn to read the books in the castle library? Could she make Jevan Auvray fall in love with her?

That last thought shook her out of her daydreaming and she grabbed up her basket, filling it with pious fervor. She was not accustomed to getting something for nothing, and she was not about to fool anyone into loving her if they felt no inclination. Did he feel the inclination? It was difficult to tell. He might have been playing with her that day by the river. It didn’t seem out of the question. In any case, why should I want him to love me? He’s an arrogant prig. An extremely handsome prig who will one day be an earl, but a prig all the same.

Once they had picked the forest floor clean, Cecily wandered over toward Bess to walk home with her as they usually did. This time, though, it was Robbie Brooker who took Bess’s arm and walked at a leisurely pace down the rutted road, leaving Cecily and Walpoles left to follow several paces behind.

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Constructive criticism is welcome! Please remember, though, that nearly every excerpt posted here is my first rough draft.