|Your cart is currently empty|
My grandmother was full of secrets.
On her deathbed, she confessed that I wasn’t a gypsy.
No, I was a highborn lady they kidnapped years ago.
Could she have spoken the truth, or were her words utter nonsense?
Duke of Harrisford
How dare she set foot upon my land!
I threatened to call the constable and have her whipped for trespassing
But she had a way of calming me down…
The way her hips swayed and she danced for me was spellbinding.
Now I can think of nothing else.
No one else.
My bride-to-be will be here any day to greet me,
And all I can do is daydream about the gypsy woman…
*** Currently available exclusively at Amazon ***
Rural England ca. 1840
Luca shook his head, clenched his fists and stared at the small child. The women were doting on the child and showing her a flower. The girl had been treated well while they waited for her family to pay her ransom. Now Luca knew that they would receive no money for her. It had been a waste of time.
He was young, and it had been his idea to kidnap the child and hold her for ransom. It had seemed like an easy income. The girl had been out, walking with her nanny. He seized the child and told the nanny that the child would be killed if he didn’t get a good price for her.
Luca had been the leader of their caravan for only a few short months, and it was his responsibility to feed and care for his family as they traveled from one place to the other, usually making a circuit around England, working for farmers, and helping them harvest their crops on time. The money that the girl would have brought in would have been enough to get them through the winter as they traveled. They needed the money, and he had every intention of returning the little lady.
But there would be no money. The family refused to pay, claiming that the girl was probably already dead. He marched over to the child, his thoughts racing as he approached her. “Her family refused to pay.” He lifted her into his arms and yanked her away from the women. He carried the girl to the raging river that they had made camp alongside of.
The women followed him, asking him what he intended to do with the little lady.
He didn’t answer them. The last thing he needed was an extra mouth to feed this winter. The river was loud, and the girl was crying, knowing that something was amiss.
When the women realized what he was planning to do, they cried and begged him to spare the sweet girl. He ignored them, until Vadoma called out his name.
He turned to look at her when he heard her, showing his respect. Vadoma was considered to be their luck. She knew the most about herbs and medicines. She treated him when he had aches and pains. The caravan had seen her do wonders, saving people who should have passed to the other side. She wasn’t the oldest woman in their caravan, but she was respected although she never had any children.
“What are you going to do with the girl?” she asked him softly, fearing his temper. A mere woman should never provoke a man, and Luca was their newly elected leader. He had yet to prove what sort of leader he would be.
“Her family refused to pay for her. I can’t afford to feed her.”
“Could I have her? I have no children. I could teach her my ways, and when she’s older, she will repay me by caring for me,” Vadoma explained, making it sound as if she didn’t really care one way or the other.
A woman without a husband and children was normally no one, but because of her knowledge of healing, she enjoyed a little respect. That same knowledge had cost her a chance at finding a husband. She had been a bright girl and learned quickly. Unfortunately, she thought she was superior to others because of her knowledge. No man had wanted her because of her haughtiness. Her father hadn’t been able to make a match for her before he died. By then, she had been older than the young men who wanted a wife. None looked her way. The child would mean that she wouldn’t have to be so lonely. She would also be her insurance that she wouldn’t die alone.
Vadoma wanted the child with all of her heart. She saw it in a dream that a small girl would enter her life and be hers. This must be that girl, but she had to play her cards right or Luca would feel pushed and then he’d do the opposite of what Vadoma wanted, only to prove that he could.
Luca thought for a long moment. The only sound that could be heard was the raging river as he contemplated his choices.
“You will care for me and my family first, and you shall receive no gifts from us for your care. The girl is to be kept out of my eyesight, and if she causes any troubles, I’ll punish her myself. If she causes too much trouble, I’ll get rid of her. She is no longer a lady, and she will earn her keep. No Romany man will marry her.” He set the child down by Vadoma’s feet and walked away from her, still furious that his plan hadn’t worked.
Vadoma knelt down in front of the child and looked at her. She had avoided the girl as she avoided all children when it could be helped so she could contain her jealousy, but this girl was her child. No, she was too old for the girl to be her child. She would be her grandmother. A grandmother enjoyed more respect than a mother. “Look at me. Look at your grandmother, child.”
The girl peeked up. Her face was pale with fright. Her eyes were huge and filled with tears. “We are going to be a family.” Vadoma smiled at the girl. Then she rose to her feet and took the girl by her hand and walked her back to her wagon. “What’s your name, child?”
“Lizzy,” she answered softly.
When Vadoma gazed down at the pretty child, she thought that the girl had hair and eyes the color of cinnamon. “I’ll call you Kizzy, like your hair.” The name was close to the name the girl had carried before.
That was how it came to pass that Kizzy stayed with her kidnappers and grew accustomed to their ways. With time, she forgot that she had ever lived elsewhere. Her grandmother taught her the ways of healing. She became an important person in the caravan, but the others kept their distance. She wasn’t considered a true member of their group, and when it was time for her to get married, no man stepped forward. Her grandmother tried to arrange a marriage for her with another group, but no one wanted her.
She didn’t know that Luca threatened the others, forbidding them to marry Kizzy because he knew that Vadoma would go with Kizzy, leaving them without a healer.
Rural England ca. 1860
Kizzy gazed out of the window of the wagon that she shared with her grandmother. It was still raining. All it did was rain this year. The bad weather had cost them lots of money. There wouldn’t be enough to get through the winter. Normally, they moved from farm to farm, picking food and earning what they needed to get through the year, living hand to mouth.
A year had a steady pattern for her caravan. It started off in the spring with strawberries, black and red currants. Then came the cherries. Their hands moved on to pick peas, beans, and other vegetables in the hot summer sun. It was their job to bend their backs and quickly gather the fruits and vegetables as they ripened. In early autumn, the hops were ready. Those were followed by apples and pears.
It was now early winter. That meant that it was time to get the potatoes picked and stored for the winter. But this constant rain had made the seedlings drown. Those plants strong enough to survive the rain without being washed away rotted with mildew. The farmers, who usually welcomed the extra hands the gypsies offered at picking times, sent them away.
Their caravan also went to fairs. There, the women danced for the local men. Older women told fortunes while the men offered their services sharpening knives, and selling their wares. The leader of their band was a gifted carpenter. Luca could make beautiful wagons. This year, he mostly repaired wagons and carriages for the farmers and townspeople. No one had extra money to buy a new carriage this year. They also didn’t have extra money to hear their fortune told either.
Some farmers let their caravan stay and pick what could be salvaged. But the farmers couldn’t pay what the gypsies usually earned because they hardly had enough to feed their families.
Families were very important. Kizzy’s family was large, consisting of twelve wagons. Most of the wagons had several people living inside of them. She and her grandma were the smallest family.
Though she never really knew her parents, she did know that her mother had committed an unforgivable crime. She had fallen in love with an Englander, and gotten pregnant. The gods punished them for their crime; she and her husband died from a fever when Kizzy was only two years old.
Because she was only half a gypsy, the others avoided her. Fathers didn’t consider her when their sons needed a wife. She was destined to die an old maid. But she wasn’t a maid. To earn money, the money they needed to survive, Kizzy had to go with men who offered the caravan money for a moment alone with her. She did what had to be done to get by, earning her keep. Because her grandmother could no longer work in the fields, Kizzy had to earn her grandmother’s keep too. Her grandmother was the most popular fortuneteller at the fairs. Together they brought in enough for them to survive. When the others needed healing, they came to Kizzy’s grandmother. She sold her knowledge and help for mere tokens of appreciation. The tokens weren’t enough to keep them alive. If Kizzy hadn’t gone with the men, they would have starved.
Their little family wasn’t treated equally when compared to the other families. Kizzy figured that was because their family didn’t have a man to watch out for them. Women weren’t as valuable as men were. When she went away with a man, the man paid Luca, not her. Later, he often forgot to give her the ten percent share that they had agreed on.
Kizzy was used to being treated differently than the others because their family had no man and because she was only half a gypsy.
The other women disliked her because she wasn’t a virgin. No unmarried girl should know what it was like to be with a man. Kizzy knew about that mystery, and the others hated her for it. It would be better for her to leave the caravan. They only tolerated her because of her grandmother. Once her grandmother was gone, Kizzy feared that she would be cast out. Could she live with the Englanders and fool them into thinking she was one of them? She had her father’s pale skin. It might work.
Kizzy decided she would cross that bridge when she came to it. There was still time to make that decision. At least, she hoped there would still be time.
Kizzy sat down beside her grandmother. Lifting her hand into hers, she patted it to reassure the old woman that she wasn’t alone. Her grandmother was so weak, and this cold weather was making the cough she had worse.
“We’re coming up to a fine manor, Grandma. I’ll dance, and the men will throw money at my feet. You’ll see,” Kizzy spoke with a confidence she didn’t feel in her heart. Men didn’t come out in the rain to watch a dancing girl. If they left the warmth of their home, it was for a different reason. Kizzy understood that the Goddess was punishing her for her parents’ sins, and it was her place to take the punishment without complaining, but who would love her after her grandmother passed away?
Kizzy longed to be loved by people who truly loved her. She wanted what the others had: a husband and children of her own. At her age, she should be caring for her mother-in-law and her husband’s grandmother. She was already twenty, an old maid by gypsy standards. No man would want her. Men were married by the time they were sixteen. No man would agree to marry an older woman. A wife needed to respect her husband and her father-in-law as the heads of the family. She was more than willing to do that, but she had two counts against her: she was no longer a virgin, and she was older than a woman should be when she got married.
Perhaps an Englander would marry her and give her babies to hold in her arms? But Englanders didn’t want to marry whores either.
An hour later, the wagon slowed down. Were they stopping?
Kizzy flew to the window and saw that they had found a clearing. The sky above her was also starting to clear. This could be their chance. If she earned a bit of money, then she could trade it for the food they needed to survive the long winter.
Fonso jumped down from the wagon and smiled at Kizzy. He was twelve and using their wagon to practice his skills, learning how to guide the horse. “How was I?” he asked. He was young and still needed lots of praise.
“Perfect. You did wonderfully. Thank you.” She averted her eyes, as a woman should when talking to a man.
Fonso raced off to brag to whoever would listen that he could guide a horse on the soft muddy roads, leaving Kizzy to tend to their old horse. The horse, like her grandmother, probably wouldn’t survive to see the spring.