Notes: Kierseth challenged me to write something using J.J. Waterhouse's painting The Lady of Shallot as an inspiration.
Down by the river, in the part where the bank grows into a baby cliff, and the weeping willows are bent over like old, old ladies with fair green skirts, there is a secret place. It was once a noble little grotto— framed with white neo-classical style pillars of marble and with an intricate mosaic flooring of geometric patterns.
Jenevire thinks that, once upon a time, it was a courting spot for gallant knights and their graceful ladies.
She imagines that the inside would have been lit up with flat, scented candles floating in copper bowls full of water, highlighting the delicate bas-relief carvings that wind across the pale limestone walls and ceiling. If she closes her eyes, then Jenevire can imagine the single bench, curved to fit neatly at the back of the grotto, glowing faintly in the reflected candle light.
Sometimes, she fancies that the bench would have crushed flower petals strewn across it.
When Jenevire sits cross legged on the mossy, lumpy floor and concentrates, she can almost hear the faint sounds of footsteps and the creak and jingle of armour as the gallant knight professes his love on bended knee to his lady-light (she always gives him her hair-ribbon to wear as a token).
Jenevire never sits on the bench itself— that would be wrong somehow— and she can only afford to bring dribbly and mis-shapen candle stubs that she gets from the big house as ‘perks’, so the inside of the grotto is always dim and almost gloomy.
The willow trees and the great creeping ivy vines completely cover the bank and hide the entrance to the secret place behind variegated green curtains.
No-one else on the estate knows that it exists, apart from Jenevire, and she has promised to herself (and perhaps to the ghosts of knights and ladies) that she will never tell anyone.
On her one half day a week, when the other maids and kitchen staff go down to the village to spend their pay and gawk at all and sundry, Jenevire slips away through the woods and comes to the secret place.
Sometimes she brings apples, or other fruit, and she makes sure that she always leaves one behind for the ladies and knights when she leaves.
When it’s spring or summer, Jenevire brings flowers— sometimes she risks picking some from the far corner of the formal garden, but more often than not, she just picks wildflowers— and she carefully scatters the petals over the bench. In autumn, she brings freshly-dropped tree leaves, bright with colour, and in winter she brings holly and mistletoe.
She also always brings a sprig of rosemary, because rosemary is for remembering, and that is always laid in pride of place at the centre of the crumbling little bench (it’s almost like an alter, and the vicar would be scandalised to hear her think like that).
Sometimes, if Jenevire sits very quietly, and concentrates very hard, then she can almost picture herself as a lady-fair in a flowing white dress, waiting for her knight errant to meet her in the grotto.
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