The Bride Quest

embroidery

Alexei was a good husband. At least, he was ready to be a good husband.

He could hew wood with his axe at a speed that put every other man in the village to shame. He could light a fire quicker than you could draw a breath. He could stack firewood, build a table, a chair, a bed. He was ready.

It was time for him to begin his Bride Quest.

What he wanted was not just any wife, he wanted a wife who would embroider his shirts, sew patches on his boots, lance any boils that might erupt during his married life.

He took to striding up and down the village’s main street, on the look out.

First he thought Ljuba would do nicely, she had long blond hair and looked sturdy. He didn’t want a wife who would take a chill every time the temperature dipped below zero.

But she was a little too ready with her tongue. He thought of her mother and knew she was not the one for him. He didn’t want a wife who would seize her husband’s axe and chase some poor merchant from the door and out of the village, screeching at the top of her voice. His axe was too fine and he took too good care of it to allow it to be used for that kind of thing.

So Magda, Anya or Ekaterina. He had such trouble deciding – Magda was the prettiest, Anya had a sweet singing voice and Ekaterina was the best baker. If only they could all be rolled into one person.

Oh get on with you, said his mother impatiently when he asked her to find out the sewing talents of each girl.

But she was keen to get him off her hands, much as she loved him. He was a big eater and always forgot to take his boots off when he came into the house.

Let one of those girls cook for him and clean up after him, she thought, stoking the fire so briskly with the poker that sparks flew in the little kitchen. She personally would like Ekaterina. She had tasted Ekaterina’s jam tarts.

News came that Anya was betrothed to that no-good Serge so that would save her one visit. It took only a glance to see that Magda’s sewing was clumsy and careless, the stitches on a blanket in her trousseau box were lumpy and loopy.

Ekaterina’s embroidery was exquisite, tiny featherlike stitches, perfectly spaced. Out of her needle had flown birds, exotic and colorful with long tail feathers and exuberant crowns on their heads, and animals – four, five and six legged, some with two heads, some with eight. And such a variety of tails on those animals – you wouldn’t believe.

Alexei’s mother was particularly enchanted with a tree of life Ekaterina had embroidered on a pillow cover. Such a beautiful tree of life, bursting with reds and blues and greens. What a shame that it had to be used. It should be kept always pristine and bright. She couldn’t bear the thought of the embroidered tree of life ever fading.

Reluctantly she handed the pillow cover back to Ekaterina and watched her place it in the wooden trousseau chest and snap the lock. She walked home slowly.

Ekaterina was definitely the girl for her son if he desired a wife who could embroider and she a daughter-in-law who could bake exquisite jam tarts.

But how could she allow him to marry the girl? She knew that no sooner was that pillow cover out of Ekaterina’s trousseau chest than it would be marked with a splotch of tomato ketchup or a stain from dripping or chewing tobacco.

Before the girl could become her son’s bride, she needed to find a way to get her hands on the pillow cover.

That night she stole into Alexei’s room, picked up his axe and quietly left the house.

*****

2016 is my Year of the Blurt – quick spontaneous stories written at odd ‘spare’ moments and posted on Thursdays. This is #39.

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