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The night before the wedding

An excerpt from 'A Woman of Noble Wit'.
1531, Modbury

The Court House seemed full of unfamiliar sounds as the guests slowly retired to bed, feet echoing on the stairs, voices and laughter slowly dying away. All night long the sound of pots and pans banging and rattling drifted in through the open window as, in the kitchens, the cook set everyone to work on the wedding feast. But it was not the unusual nocturnal activity that kept Katherine awake. It was her struggle with the demons of the morrow that held her rigid into the small hours, sent her eyes flitting toward the still-dark window, and kept her mind in a turmoil of possibilities and fears. The linen sheet felt itchy against her skin. Her mouth felt dry. Her heart thumped in her chest. She turned this way and that and listened enviously to Frances’s steady breathing. She tried to take deep breaths herself, but the air felt like a lump of ice stuck in her throat.

She must have drifted off, for she dreamt she was aboard a ship on a cold, dark, storm-tossed sea with no land in sight. Waking with a start, she saw that dawn’s light had outlined the faint grey shape of her window. But Katherine did not rush to welcome the joyful day. Instead she lay huddled in the bed she shared with Frances. This was the last night she would spend there. After today, all would be changed.

The sun was rising, just as it did on any other day. It would set again that night, as it always did. Tomorrow the party would be over and life would continue just as before at the Court House. It was she, Katherine, who would be changed.

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