Layla had never missed her husband as immensely as she did today. The phrase “widow” haunted her,caused the hairs on her skin to prick up.
“You filthy widow,” Her mother in law had hissed. “May God have taken you instead of Alfred.”
Layla sobbed into the palms of her hands and prayed. The death of her dear husband, Alfred, kept replaying in her mind followed by the five years of torture from her mother in law and sister in law, Helga. Layla did everything she could to please the two ungrateful women, but they were never satisfied, they found fault in everything Layla did.
Layla was getting more and more impatient as the days passed by, but she stuck around for Alfred. Her biggest fear was upsetting his soul; she knew that Alfred was awake, near her heart, and always watching her even though he was physically absent.
“You three are my favorite women,” and the dearest people in my heart,” He’d always tell Layla.
She would just smile at him and hug him for the pure heart that he carried. She didn’t dare mention how Helga and his mother acted behind his back, she just hoped that one day he’d see it, but his death came soon before. One day, Layla was busy arranging the dishes when suddenly, she heard her mother in law screech followed by a shattering of glass. She huddled toward the dinner table and noticed her mother in laws plate full of food, shattered all over the floor, her beady eyes wide and her thin lips pressed together.
“What’s wrong mum,” Layla asked.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN,” her mother in law shrieked. “You nearly killed me with this distasteful dish.”
“How so, mum?” Layla asked, tears appearing in her eyes.
“I’m allergic to beans,” She roared.
“She wants to kill you like she killed Alfred,” Helga said.
And with that, her mother in law stormed out of the room, with Helga following her. Layla proceeded onto cleaning the dishes, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her mother in law and Helga ignored her the entire day. That night, Layla couldn’t stop crying, she raised her hands up in the air and started praying. Her night was full of tears, heartaches, and prayers.The next morning, she woke up, her eyes puffier than usual.
One evening, as Layla was mopping the floors, the villages siren went off, indicating that the the King had an announcement to make. Layla ran outside and walked hurriedly toward the middle of the village where the King usually made his announcements. The hot sun baked the skin on the back of her neck. By then, the entire village had huddled up and more were piling in like an army of ants. Everyone was excited for they loved the King, he always had good news. Once the crowd became quiet, the King cleared his throat. Everyone lured in with anticipation.
“Thank you everyone for coming, I have some big news to make folks,” He said, his voice loud and thunderous, yet gentle and welcoming. “The gold token has gone missing. With that said, whoever finds it, will be rewarded generously. I will reward you or allow you to ask for whatever you please.”
The crowd started to whisper amongst one another, excitement filled the air. Everyone knew that the King was a man of his word.
“Anyhow, go on now and treat this like a game. No killing. No violence. Respect one another and be gentle during your search. Otherwise, there will be consequences.”
The King walked away and the crowd roared with excitement, everyone already heading out every which way in search of the gold token. Layla’s heart was racing fast, a smile plastered on her face, it stretched from ear to ear. This was her escape. This was her chance to ditch the witches. Soon, her happiness started diminishing because she started doubting her ability of being able to retrieve the gold token.
Rather than running around like everyone else, Layla sat down below a tree to relax her mind. She started meditating, breathing in and out, slowly. She closed her eyes and pictured herself living lavishly like a queen. Finally, when her anxiety decreased a bit, she started walking toward the forest. She walked and walked down a lonely trail when someone caught her eye. It was a tall silhouette and looked like that of a mans. She continued walking, when she noticed something sparkly fall out of the mans pocket. Layla ran to the sparkly item on the floor and to her astonishment, noticed that it was indeed, the gold token.
By the time she looked up, the man was gone. Layla didn’t know what to do.
“Listen up, kiddo, take it,” a red figure said. It was the devil. “It’ll change your life forever, you’ll never ever have to deal with those witches. You’ll look like a queen.”
The figure slowly disappeared into a puff of smoke, when a white figure appeared in its place. It was an angel.
“Don’t take it, it belongs to someone else. You wont see any good by taking it,” The angel whispered before vanishing away.
Layla sighed, she was about to take it, but ran after the man.
“Sir, you dropped this token,” She said.
“Why, thank you, i’m startled that you chose to hand it to me considering the great reward,” The man said.
“I just didn’t feel right taking it,” She said.
“I will never forget you. I would’ve allowed you to take it due to your act of kindness, but i’m really really poor and have hungry kids at home,” he said. “But you could take it if you like.”
Layla studied the man. He was old and looked tired. His face looked like a wrinkled piece of paper and was filled with brown sunspots as was his neck. His clothes were worn out and had random tears everywhere. He looked like he needed the gold token more than she did.
“No, sir, you take it,” Layla said with a warm smile.
“You will be paid for your kind heart, wait for it,” the man said as he walked off.
Later that night, the King announced that the search for the Gold token had finally come to an end. Layla’s stepmother and Helga were devastated.
“You foul girl, you couldn’t have found one token,” Layla’s stepmother hissed.
“She can’t do anything, mum,” Helga added. They both started chuckling. “I would’ve stolen it from that old man.”
Layla often thought of what would have happened if she had taken the token, but she was happy that she used the good morals that she was raised with and felt as though the old man deserved it more than she did.As a matter of fact,she knew the old man deserved it more than she did. One day, Helga started screaming at the top of her lungs.
“What’s wrong?,” Layla asked.
“I broke my heel,” she hissed.
“I’ll get you new ones,” She said.
“Now,” Helga said, sobbing into her sleeve.
As Layla was heading back home, an old man appeared in front of her. She shrieked and dropped the heels in her hand while taking a step back.
“Do you remember me?” The man asked.
Layla studied him, her eyes expanded wide open. It was the old man whom she’d given the token too, but he was younger and had an angelic appearance. He was glowing.
“I told you that you’d get rewarded for your good heart,” The man said. “Drink from the lake that appears when i’m gone.”
“Wait…” Layla said. She had so many questions; she was so confused.
Before she could get her thoughts together and ask questions, the man vanished. Soon enough, a gold lake appeared, it nearly blinded Layla. She didn’t know whether to trust the old man or not, but figured she had nothing to lose. She went in and took a sip, it was heavenly and sweet like sugar. She was still startled, once she pulled back, the lake disappeared. The man was nowhere to been seen. Everything looked normal.
Layla figured she’d just been dreaming, until she started heading back home. She noticed everyone in the village staring at her, smiling, and complimenting how nice her skin looked.
“You’re glowing,” A little old lady selling bread said.
Layla smiled, but all of the compliments made her feel slightly uncomfortable. When she finally arrived home, her mother in law and Helga were standing at the doorway.
“What took you so long,” her mother in law hissed.
“She’s wearing makeup, mum,” Helga said. She leaned forward and dragged her long finger against Layla’s cheek.
“I’m not…and, sorry, there was a lot of people there,” Layla said.
Later that night, there was a knock on the door. Layla opened it and realized it was one of the King’s assistants.
“Is Layla, the seamstress, here?” He asked.
“Yes. Yes, that’s me,” Layla said.
“The King would like to have a chat with you,” The assistant said. “Now, if you can go.”
“Oh, i’d love too,” Layla said.
All of a sudden, her mother in law started screaming at the top of her lungs.
“I’m sick,” she heaved. “That girl needs to stay and look after me.”
“No worries, i’ll have the King send over a nurse,” The assistant said.
Layla’s mother in law gave her the death stare and shook her head. ‘I’ll kill you,’ she mouthed. Helga stood there, wide eyed. Layla decided that she’d had enough. She was tired of listening to her mother in law and knew in her heart that Alfred would’ve never let her pass this opportunity. And so with that, she squeezed her eyes together, her heart nearly aching with excitement and guilt.She nodded her head at the assistant.
“I’m available right now.”
“Alright then, follow me to the carriage,” The assistant said.
“You filthy, useless human. Alfred will never forgive you. You’re selling yourself to the King! You were never of use,” Her mother in law yelled.
“Of course mother, God will punish her,” Helga said before the door shut.
Layla walked as fast as she could toward the carriage. She sobbed in silence all the way to the castle.
The castle was beautiful. It was the largest building in the entire village. It was handcrafted with pure gold and jewels. All of the villagers could see the castle from the outside, but not many had the chance to view the inside. The inside was even more beautiful than the outside, with more gold and more jewels. It was elegant, sparkly, and full of beautiful flowers which made it smell delightful. Layla saw her reflection everywhere she looked.
Layla followed the assistant past a few gates, guards, and a long hallway before reaching the King. The assistant removed his hat, looked down at the floor and said,
“I have brought the seamstress.”
“Very well,” The King said before looking at Layla.
Layla glanced down out of respect. She was intimidated by the Kings kindness and charm.
“Miss Layla, this castle needs a seamstress,” The King said. “And your work puts everyone else to shame.”
“Why, thank you,” Layla said, her head still down.
“If you choose to become the Castle’s seamstress, you will be given one thousand gold coins everyday, the coins from the altered clothes, and two goats,” The King said.
“I would love to become the seamstress, but all of that is unnecessary. I will accept and work out of respect for you and the villagers,” Layla said.
The King was quiet, he looked setback.
“You, my dear, have the kindest heart. Just because of your kind gesture, you will be given two thousand gold coins daily and will be given the best room and workplace in the castle. I had heard a lot of good about you from the villagers, but didn’t expect it to be this true,” The King said.
“Why, thank you, your majesty,” Layla said.
“Very well, I will call the lady assistant to assist you to your new room, this will be your home until you wish,” The King said.
Layla’s eyes swell up with tears of joy. She couldn’t believe her fate. While following the lady assistant to her room, Layla thought she saw the man who had told her to drink from the golden lake, wink at her and disappear.
This is my reward, she thought.
And it was. Layla never had to go back to living with her mother in law and Helga, who were servants now. She lived happily in the castle as the most well known and well respected seamstress. Alfred lived on in her heart.