As she spun, she turned over in her mind his last instruction. Somehow it chaffed her, like a damp shoe rubbing too long against the skin.
Before he went, he had tossed resentfully on his deathbed. One day he had caught her wrist and ordered, “Do not leave this place, wife. You must stay here so that our boy inherits it when he leaves the army. Otherwise the king will give it to someone else.”
Hana looked down at her shrunken husband and protested, “But our son does not want this cottage or your job as forester. He wants to live in the town.”
He gripped her harder. “He will want it later. He must.” So fierce was his jaw that the white stubble of his beard seemed to shake with rage and purpose. “What are you saying, woman, that my life means nothing to our boy? He must come after me.”
Hana suggested, “He can come after you anywhere, even in the army, simply by being your son.”
“The army was a mistake,” her husband said. “But I forgive him for it. Just you remember this one thing, woman, no matter what else leaks from your sieve of a brain. You must stay.”
And she did.
When people from the town brought her fresh bread in exchange for spun flax, they said she must come to live with them now. She did not answer those people. Instead silent tears would mask her face, because although her husband’s order chaffed, she could not really be sure what she herself wanted. Who was she, to want a thing and know it, like a queenly lady might? The townsfolk saw her tears and, thinking that she loved the cottage, ceased urging. Mistakes and uncertainty had always followed her. They often made her husband angry despite his good intentions. Sometimes she wondered if the curse might have been breakable, if he had been angry less.