The Suspicious Widower
K. A. Williams
I awoke with a headache and soon discovered that I didn’t have any more chamomile to make a soothing tea. When I went outside to my garden, the plants were starting to wither from lack of rain.
It was becoming a bad day.
I knew where to find the chamomile flowers and walked up the trail that led to a hill where they grew in abundance. A man was standing there near the edge of the cliff that overlooked the sea. I approached but didn’t talk, not wishing to startle him. He must have heard me because he said, “My wife fell off this cliff last week.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, and I was.
“I think she was pushed.”
He turned to face me. “Mayot, my wife, came here to pick blackberries with another woman named Belda who said that Mayot got too close to the edge and fell off. I think Belda pushed her so I would be single again and could marry her.”
“Aren’t there other single men in your village?”
“Yes, but I can tell that she’s interested in me.”
“Is that all?”
“I can’t help being suspicious. They were here alone and now she is being very nice, cooking lunch for me every day. Today, she is fixing stew.” He looked at the position of the sun overhead. “I’m going to be late.”
I now knew what to do. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Ritma and I can help you.”
I had brought my bag so I could have something to put the flowers in but there were other items in it already that I had not removed. I pulled out a folded piece of cloth tied with string and handed it to him.
“It’s a chopped, tasteless herb I discovered that will cloud the mind. Dump it into Belda’s stew when she’s not looking. Bring her back here and we will find out the truth.”
“Hurry. She will wonder why you’re so late.”
He walked away – slowly at first then began to run. I couldn’t do anything about my headache yet but at least I had found some lunch. Carefully I started picking and eating the blackberries near the cliff’s edge and wondered how many lives had been lost here through the years.
When I had eaten all the ripe berries, I picked the chamomile flowers that I had come for and put them in my bag. Then I waited.
Jonay finally returned with a woman who looked dazed. I pulled my cloak’s hood over my head and stepped forward. “Belda. It is I, Mayot. Are you not sorry that I am dead?”
Jonay’s eyes widened but he stayed silent.
Tears poured down Belda’s face. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you. I warned you not to go any closer to the edge but you wanted the big blackberries on the furthest bush. When you slipped, I tried to catch you but I wasn’t fast enough. Can you forgive me?”
I hugged her. “I forgive you and wish you a long and happy life.”
I whispered to Jonay, “Take her home and let her cook for you. She is innocent.”
“How can I thank you?”
“I’d like your first born son in exchange.”
“What?” He looked at me in horror.
I laughed. “I’m kidding. You can bring me some food later. I live down that way near the other village.” I pointed in the right direction. “Look for the small house just off the trail with a wilted garden in front.”
He smiled. “I will bring you lunch tomorrow.” He held Belda’s hand as they turned and walked away.
On my way home I watched the sky darken. When the rain began I was glad I had worn my hooded cloak. My garden was getting watered now and today hadn’t been so bad after all.