“Don’t the bells seem loud to you this morning?” I asked the woman standing in my kitchen.
“Not any different than normal.” She answered glancing toward the door.
I finished mixing the herbs she wanted to relieve her headaches. I’d asked her to share a cup of tea but she declined, preferring to stand in my kitchen with her coat still on.
“Same dose as before?” she asked.
“Yes and might I suggest a different hiding place this time. So Harvey doesn’t find them again.”
She kept her head down as she mumbled, “of course.” She handed me my fee and scurried out the door.
I watched her hurry down the street toward the center of town. The bells were a new addition along with a new priest. With a gentle voice belying strength of will, he’d begun a revival of the town’s faith and morals. The bells now governed everything.
I returned to my morning work, mixing the remedies, which the people of this town have learned to rely on. The hours pass as I work steadily.
A knock interrupts my thoughts.
“Hello, Mary. Won’t you come in? Would you like a cup of tea?” Mary is the wife of the storeowner and a frequent visitor in my home.
“Brenna, I’m sorry I can’t stay. William has become suspicious of my walks and has ordered me to return quickly. I hope you have more of my tea. I am nearly out.”
“Certainly, I will get you some. Surely William wouldn’t begrudge you a cup of tea to warm you on this cold day.” I stepped into my workroom to get her remedy. “The water is already heated.”
The bells began ringing, just as loud as before, for the mid-afternoon prayers. Mary started and reached for the door.
“My goodness, Mary, you are jumpy today.”
She gave me a slight smile but didn’t look up. “William was insistent that I be home before prayers today. So I will have to pass on the tea.”
I paused before giving her the package. “Thank you so much Brenna. This has been a big help.” Mary slipped a few coins into my hand and walked out the door.
Again, I watched a woman hurry away from my home and wondered at the bells. The air felt strange today with a stillness that seemed out of place. There were few sounds coming from the village.
I continued my work pausing only near suppertime. Vespers would be called soon and I wanted to be ready. The soup I’d begun earlier was now ready. I looked forward to a tranquil evening.
The soup had been ladled and set at the table. I had just picked up a loaf of bread when the evening prayer bell rung. I stopped, for those bells were louder than ever. Setting the bread near my soup I went to my door and looked out. There were no sounds except for the echo through the valley. Turning back to shut the door, I heard something else. Voices loud and harsh were coming from the church. I stood for a moment longer and listened. They appeared to be moving closer. A pit formed in my stomach and I couldn’t move. They weren’t far away now. A name was shouted among that babble. Brenna. God help them.
They were coming for me and the priest was leading them.