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Tobar a leighis (Healing Well)

Beside the well a female figure stood. It was a cool winter’s morning and the mist hung in skirts over the ripples of the hills that rose above. She stayed facing the well, it was as though she knew of no one else in the world. She wore a green dress that could have come from a costume box as it was like none I’d ever seen. Her hair was long and luscious auburn red, wavy, down her back. I was coming to say prayers. To tie a ribbon. To go through many requests and novenas. To get it all off my chest and to safeguard them all. I cleared my throat deliberately as I descended the stone steps, shivering a little. The mist was denser beside the well, as though it would try to swallow it. 

A chipped cup with faded roses on it sat in the stone enclave, where many people had dipped and drank or poured. The woman didn’t flinch. Eventually I gathered the courage to draw closer. Still she stood unmoving, even when I crouched down and went for dipping a hand in the cold, earthen water. I blessed myself and then I dared a look up at her. She was older than me but possessed a beauty that made me gasp and my mouth hang open. On her milky décolleté she wore a round pendant and within it clasped a circular amber or citrine crystal. Her eyes seemed to contain a red orange fire and when we made eye contact it was all I could do not to bow my head low as though she was some deity. 

I wanted to ask her something, but I didn’t know what. I wanted her to share in my prayers or to take them from me, one by one, like strips of ribbon that she could deliver to God since they very surely knew one another. She focused on me now and I felt seen in a way I wasn’t used to, like she might glimpse right inside me. 

‘Who are you?’ I wanted to say. But the answer beat me to it. 

‘Breeeeeeeej,’ it came like a whisper, not quite human. As though the wind had delivered it, brushed it through the spindly wintered fingers of the White Thorn. Exhaled it from the rabbit holes in the ground and just as I heard it she began to fade and disappear. I could swear I felt a hand on my shoulder for a few moments after. It was neither warm nor cold but the weight of it brought tears to my eyes for it was a blessing and my prayers all dried up inside my mouth, so I took the cup and dipped it over and over and drank and drank. Till it ran down my chin and travelled up my nose. 

To my left a dandelion, as bright as spring sunshine. Clattering birds in trees gathered and watched, as though they could still see her. I looked down at my reflection, but it wasn’t me looking back. It was her, and I startled. I blessed myself thinking I must be in a dream. Yet later in the day I saw my shoes covered in grass and dew, the ribbon that I never ended up tying to the thorn and a dandelion plucked and left like an offering. I took it and put it in water in a tiny glass, and it lasted in my kitchen for an unnatural amount of time. 

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