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Let’s have a break from my early and sadder years for me to share with you an uplifting original fairy story from my book, ‘Tales From Turnaround Cottage.

Once, there was an old woman who was very lonely. “Oh, if only I had a husband who I could care for and who would care for me,” she sighed every day. ”I feel so alone!” Indeed there came a day when the loneliness swept over her so strongly that she cried out aloud: “I don’t care who or what he might be; I would marry him, whoever asked me!”

Three nights later there was a knock on the door. A tall man stood there, face and body masked by swirling grey and white clothing, or was it mist?

“I am the husband you have asked for,” he said. “Will you agree to a betrothal, a sure promise of marriage?”

She started to protest that she didn’t know who he was, but he cut her short.

“My name is Death,” he said, “but you agreed to marry anyone who was sent to you, and I will take you with me to my castle for the wedding itself”.

Well, the old woman was so lonely that she said she would marry him, but asked for more time. Death agreed and told her to be ready for his next visit.

She looked around at the bareness of her cottage and started to make things for a dowry. She made clothes for herself, serviceable and plain. She made warm things for a husband who would never wear them and toys for children she would never have.

After a year and a day, there was a knock on the door, and there was Death again.

“I’m not ready,” she protested. “Look at all the things that aren’t finished!” So Death agreed and went away again.

After a year and a day, he was back, but once more she protested she was not ready and he went away again.

The third time, after a year and a day, she had finished all she could think of to make, and she was tired. She rested until the knock came on the door, and then let Death in.

“What shall I do with all the things I’ve made?” she asked him. “Leave them,” he said. “You won’t be coming back here.”

“What about locking the door?” she said. Death shook his head and she wrote a little note and put it on the table, that anyone who came should take what they wanted. Leaving the door open, she went out with him, to where a great grey horse waited.

Death swung her up before him and rode away so fast that in an instant, it seemed, they had left the familiar fields and farms behind and were riding deeper and deeper into a dark forest. Branches whipped her face and body. She cried out and tried to escape, but he held her fast. The twigs whipped her so hard she could feel the blood running down her face and body.

It seemed to go on forever, but suddenly, they were free of the forest and running across a dazzling desert. The sun shone on the white sand pitilessly, even though she tried to close her eyes against the light. Death suddenly swerved and bent her first one way and then the other. She cried out again, then realised that he was avoiding arrows, shot at them from every direction. She could hear them hissing like snakes, as they went past, occasionally grazing her, so that again she felt the blood running down her skin and soaking her clothes.

Suddenly again, the grey horse stopped and reared. They had come to the shore of a wide and restless sea, stretching to the horizon. Death held her closer and the horse waded in, deeper and deeper until it was swimming and she was almost submerged and drowning. The saltwater soaked her clothes and washed away the blood, but oh how it stung in her myriad cuts and bruises!

At last, she felt the horse climbing onto sure ground and opened her eyes. They were in front of a towering castle. She saw high walls, turrets and windows, gleaming in the morning sunlight as golden as the dawn itself.

“This is my home,” said Death, lifting her off the grey horse, and leading her up a magnificent staircase into a great hall. Ahead, the old woman saw a figure coming towards her as if to welcome her. It was a woman, young and beautiful, with skin as pearly as dew, clothed in rainbow colours of the finest fabric.

She stretched out her arms and smiled and so did the woman, but when she moved forward, her fingers met glass and she realised that it was a mirror.

 “That can’t be me!” cried the woman. “She is young and beautiful, not old and battered!” She looked down at her arms and body, and touched her cheeks, for of course, we can never see our own faces. Sure enough, all the blood and signs of age had been washed away. She appeared to have soft young skin and was dressed in a rainbow of beautiful colours.

As she looked up again, amazed, but now recognising her own reflection. The mirror dissolved away and she could see shallow steps, leading to a great throne. So much golden light came from the figure on the throne, that she could not have described it in any way except that her heart was filled with awe and love.

“I am the High King of all the Universe,” said the man on the throne. “I heard your plea, and I sent for you to be my Bride. You consented, but I need to hear it again from your own lips, my beloved one”.

When she began to stammer in surprise and shock, the King spoke again,

“A King cannot go out to fetch his bride; he has to send a proxy who will arrange the betrothal and bring her to him.” He turned his golden look towards Death. “I sent you, my servant, to bring her to me. Surely you explained it all, and exactly who she was marrying?” he said.

Death shuffled his feet and looked extremely sheepish. “Well… not exactly, Sire,” he said. Then added defensively. “It’s a bit of a boring job you know, riding around all the time, getting shot at and never having anyone of my own. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as open about it all as I should have been!”

And the woman who had once been old, understood at last that she was the Bride of the Golden King, Chatelaine of the Castle and most of all, was totally loved and no longer lonely.

Reaching up on tiptoes she pulled Death down to her and kissed his cheek. She said to him “Indeed you told me everything I needed to know, and you brought me here safely, which is all that matters. Thank you!”

Death turned and stumped off down the steps. He rubbed his cheek thoughtfully for a moment, then went off to look after his horse, smiling to himself for once.

The woman turned back to the Golden King, who held out his arms to her, laughing. She ran up the steps to him and was enfolded in the golden mist, forever with her Beloved.