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 A woman’s story for Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

Amber left the last town behind her, deciding village life would be better for her. All she wanted to do was to help people with her gift, but it always back-fired. After the gossip and slander, she had ended up as an outcast. The medical authorities criticized her, calling her a charlatan, a witch, and a quack with a sick mind. The people she healed were grateful and awarded her with donations though she never asked for a fee. Going from town to town, she sometimes stopped at fair grounds and practised her clairvoyance skills. She would sit in a stall and feel the people before they walked in. A single glance into their eyes told her their stories and their future, a future sometimes she felt she should not impart.

She arrived at a charming seaside village called Mermaid’s Cove and strolled down the narrow cobbled streets, looking around. Not too big, not too small, this is just fine. A two-storey stone house with an overgrown garden came into view. She felt sadness coming through its windows. The drapes drawn tight across. The front door looked forlorn, its paint chipped and splintered, colour faded. An estate agent’s sign caught her attention and she stepped in.

“I’m looking for a house to rent. The stone house around the corner, is it available? It looks deserted.”

“No, madam, that house is occupied. A lady lives there with her daughter. I have a small cottage by the woods if you’d like. It’s in perfect condition and has a lovely garden.”

When Amber saw the cottage of honey-coloured stone and a thatched roof, she fell in love and rented it. In the village, she bought a bicycle, some provisions, and returned to spend her first night in her new home. Before she went to sleep, thoughts crossed her mind. Never deal with people, again. A castaway in a sea-side village, that’s what I’m going to be.

The new day dawned with the sounds of nature. Birds chirping, a squirrel munching nuts on a tree by the open window. She stood and watched, inhaling the sweet aroma of the herbs and blossoms. Sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, she observed her new surroundings vibrant with the activity of the flora and the fauna.

Over the following days, Amber discovered herbs in the meadows and the forest she could make her potions from. She called all animals in distress to her garden. They came, with their injured limbs, wounds, bites, and many birds with broken wings. She healed them applying her lotions and treatments, gave them love and set them free once they recovered from their ailments.

The children of the village visited her garden and saw the animals recuperating. They called her Lady Healer, and brought their pets in need of attention. Amber told them stories about the animals and the therapeutic plants that helped them. The word spread with the wind and even the village Vet brought her cases he had difficulties dealing with. Sometimes she went along with him to farms in the neighbourhood and helped him diagnose the problems.

One day a woman came to her door. Amber took one look at her and knew she was the lady who owned the stone house in the village.

“Hi,” she said, “Can I help you?”

“I believe you can.”

“You’re in pain. Someone close to you is in distress.”

“Can you help, please?”

“I only deal with animals, not with people.”

“But you’re a healer, aren’t you?”

“That’s what people say. I try to help the animals in pain. People hurt me if I perform healing on them.”

“I understand how some people can be cruel and ungrateful. If I tell you I have spent a fortune trying to cure my daughter’s addiction, would you believe me?”

“I can see it, yet, like I said …”

“If I tell you she’s only twenty-eight, her teeth are falling from crack cocaine and she only weighs forty-five kilos, would you consider it? I’ve tried everything. Psychologists, psychiatrists, rehab, acupuncture, hypnotism … nothing worked. Meanwhile, I have sold and spent the funds from four properties. My house here is the last property I own, inherited from my parents. If I don’t give her money, she goes into prostitution. She’s had three abortions, and the last one was after five months of pregnancy. Murder, but that baby would never be normal. If I give her money, she indulges. Please help.”

Amber looked at the mother’s anguished face and pondered. “Does she want to be healed? If not, nothing will work.”

“She does, yet doesn’t want to go through any of the treatments again.”

Amber sighed, this was a test. “If she does, she must come here and tell me. I have one condition. No one must know.”

“You have my word. I’ll never tell anyone. Thank you.”

Jade, the young woman with a hazy, green gaze showed up at Amber’s doorstep the next morning. Her eyes spoke, yet Amber needed to hear it.

“Help me, please.”

“I need an assistant to look after my animals, convalescing. They need love and care. Can you do it, regularly, on my schedule?”

“I love animals.”

“Good. Follow me.”

Amber showed her the herbs and plants stacked in jars on the shelves in the kitchen, and instructed her about their therapeutic qualities. Marigold, coriander, lemon balm, mint, mullein, thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, St John’s wort, capers, sage, nettles and wild mushrooms. Then, her herbal mixtures for different remedies. Afterwards, she made a list for Jade’s chores.

Each day before Jade left, Amber gave a her a cup of herb tea. A week later, Jade’s eyes looked brighter, her skin fresh and youthful. She was good with the animals, she spoke their language.

At the end of three months, Jade, completely rehabilitated, continued her education to become a veterinary physician, and helped Amber with the animals during her school-breaks.

Amber cycled down to the harbour, sat on a bench and watched the sea. Castaway on a fishing village to save a soul …