Holga and Digred, a Love Story
Holga and Digred, a Love Story
Holga smiled as heard her husband knock at the door. He was a little later than usual, which meant he’d probably be a little drunk and more than likely frisky as a spring ram. Holga didn’t mind frisky, in fact she loved the feel of Digred’s hands on her skin. Hard and calloused from tending their little plot of land but gentle and caring. Treating her like soft ripe peach. As she went to open the door she unbuttoned the top button of her blouse to give him a welcoming view of her ample bosom. All things considered she’d done well with Digred. He was a quiet man, whose skill and devotion tending their little field meant that they always had enough to eat. Every so often there’d even be enough to take to town to sell on a market day. If his fares sold well he’d always bring her home a sweet pastry from the bakers on the square. So often recently that she’d filled her clothes with a soft curvy plumpness. Digred used to smile when he saw her,
“That’s the body of a mother-to-be”
And she’d blush bright scarlet as he moved towards her with a frisky twinkle in his eye. Even if they’d not been blessed after 6 years of marriage his enthusiasm for her and hers for him hadn’t faded a bit.
Before she’d woken this morning he’d been out with a barrel and a half of sweet red apples fresh picked the day before. His neighbours had laughed when he planted the seeds 9 long years ago. Planting twenty or so seeds along the back wall of his garden to ensure they got the most of the summer sun, he’d nurtured and cultivated six healthy trees. Each year he’d carefully watered, pruned and trimmed them into perfection. For each of the past 4 years he’d harvested more and more of the bright red apples that brought a copper piece each in town.
Like a giddy girl she pulled open the door, ready to wrap herself around him in a hug and plant a deep kiss on his lips. She’d missed kissing him goodbye this morning.
Her smile faded to an expression of surprise when she saw instead a salt and pepper bearded town guard. She took a step back and quickly buttoned her blouse. Her surprise grew to fear as the guard took off his helm and cleared his throat.
“Are you Holga, wife of Digred Grenright?”
“I am, what’s wrong?”
The guard asked to come inside and gently sat her at the table.
“I am Itguar Rerad, captain of Six Oaks Town Guard. It is my sad duty to inform you that your husband is dead”
She laughed, what nonsense was this guard talking about? Digred was young, strong, healthy, bursting full of life. People like him didn’t die. She couldn’t stop laughing. But why wasn’t the guard laughing?
The guard just stood there, his face flat and expressionless. He put a hand on her shoulder.
“Ma’am, Your Husband has been killed”
She heard laughter but it clashed with and drowned out with his words, like fingernails on a blackboard. Then it changed from laughter to a low wail. A moan of visceral pain keening in the distance, a siren warning of impending doom. Then the words hit her. Like a hammer to her spine, she fell to the floor. Every part of her on fire as the siren got louder and louder.
The guard knelt down beside her and lifted her up like a ragdoll. Softly he laid her on the bed.
“His body is at the undertakers, he’ll be there when you’re ready to make arrangements”
Itguar couldn’t be sure she’d heard him. This was the worst part of a guard captain’s job. He’d known Digred by sight; he had the best fruit and vegetables in town. Only this morning he’d had one of his famous red apples. Tasted like honey and was a crisp as a winter morning swim. Well worth the copper, even if a copper got you two apples from all of the other traders.
Digred smiled, this was his best ever day at market. He’d sold over 300 apples and still there were a few left. It wasn’t even noon yet. In his head he pictured Holga’s warm smile when he took her home a sweet cake from the bakers in the square. They’d struggled when they first got married, she sometimes looked so thin and tired. But the last couple of years ,as he could provide more she’d filled out beautifully. ‘A Good Yielder’ she’d be called on a farm. He knew that it wouldn’t be long now before her more motherly body blessed them with a baby. He wouldn’t be surprised if they were blessed with twins. If business kept up this well he’d be home by three bells after noon with nothing to do but get busy working on being blessed with Holga.
As he smiled thinking about Holga, he saw a dirty little hand dip into his barrel and swiftly pick an apple. It stuffed the apple into a pocket and continued on as if nothing had happened. The hand he saw was attached to a raggedy little child, impossible to tell if it was a boy or girl from behind. He took a couple of quick steps and grabbed the child’s collar. He wasn’t a greedy man and once he’d explained that stealing was wrong and the child said sorry he’d probably give them the apple. He hated to see anyone go hungry, especially a kid. His paternal instinct kicked into action whenever he saw a needy child. The only time he’d ever been in a fight was when he saw a father beating his son over a spilled jug of milk.
The child made to run but Digred’s strong grip meant that they were getting nowhere. The child turned, squirmed and spat a string of oaths to shame a sailor. When it finally realised it was going nowhere from the iron grip it stopped struggling and turned to look at Digred. Digred had thought the child to be around six or seven years old. But as he turned and locked eyes Digred saw that he was probably eleven or twelve. A hungry childhood could stunt growth he knew, but this child must have been hungry since he came screaming from his mother. The child’s eyes had a dull emptiness, an emptiness he’d only ever seen in old soldiers and old whores.
“Have you got something of mine?”
Digred smiled, he’d done this a few times with the town scamps. A tearful apology usually came right after a threat to tell their father.
The empty eyes stared back
Digred chuckled inwardly, he thought all boys should have a little defiance in them. He put on his sternest face and asked
“Do you want me to fetch the guard?”
“Then have you got something of mine?”
“I saw you take it, it’s in your pocket right there” Digred pointed at the spherical bulge in the child’s pocket
“No you didn’t”
“I did!” Exasperated, Digred’s patience was starting to wear thin. “Now are you going to give it back or do I need to fetch a guard to take you home?”
“Don’t do that” The child reached into his pocket.
Digred let his collar loose and smiled kindly at the child.
The child looked back with his dull eyes and a smug smirk danced over his lips.
His hand flashed out of his ragged pocket and Digred felt a punch to his groin. For a stunned second he looked down at the growing grin beneath the muddy brown eyes then he stumbled forwards. He felt his knees weaken as wetness filled his trousers. Then he saw the blood stained dagger in the child’s hand. As his vision blacked out the last thing he saw was the humourless grin turn into a wide toothy smile.