The day was breaking, and she was not afraid anymore. Her knees were sore from kneeling but her soul was cleansed. As the first rays of sunlight entered her room, she stood up to look outside her window—a thin blanket of snow covered the courtyard as people came and went around the tower, preparing for the events of that day. 

She welcomed the biting cold as one more memory to take with her on her journey. Her life had been short but still full of memories—the peace of reading next to the fire in an empty house away from the judging eyes of her mother, the prayers she learned as a child, the smell of the roses in her family’s garden, her sisters’ laughter, the strength she found when she rose and the resilience she discovered in her fall. 

Was it vanity to take delight in her parent’s horror to discover she wasn’t the meek little creature they hoped for? She allowed herself to smile, hoping God would forgive her. Obedience against her own judgement got her into that mess, after all, and she was paying dearly for their ambition.

At night, when her maid finally fell asleep and panic set in again, she entertained herself with the idea of the life she thought she’d have. She saw her children’s faces, heard their laughter as the played in the same gardens of her childhood, kissed them goodnight, saw them grow taller than her, smarter, stronger, more pious. She held her husband’s hand one more time, unburdened at last, enjoying a loud home and fertile land. She saw the change of seasons many times, buried her parents, grew old like them, feeling her body become slower, more feeble, and died in a warm bed, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, washed one last time by their tears, and her soul was finally free.

The heavy door of her room opened, echoing in the dark hallway behind two men, a priest and a guard. “It’s time,” the priest whispered.

She stood up, head high, her book still in her hand, trying not shake from fear, and followed the men through dark corridors and narrow stairs to the courtyard where the scaffold waited for her. Her maid’s sobs were comforting, in a way—at least she knew someone would pray for her.

The scaffold rose above the snow like the boat that’d free her from the chains of earthly life—from sin, from vanity and ambition, from her mother’s biting words and her father’s scheming and her husband’s resentment, from the anger that sometimes seeped inside her heart. She was only 16 years old, after all, and she didn’t fancy herself a woman grown anymore. It was a blessing she wouldn’t be able to feel angry for much longer.

The day was so beautiful it felt like a gift. She was grateful she’d get to say goodbye outdoors, under February’s white veil, feeling the merciless air on her face and letting it stroke her hair, console her, give her something else to bring with her. But above everything, she had a stage to declare her guilt and innocence one more time. Her chest grew tighter again. It was important to make a good impression, to set the right example, and to be truthful. All she had left was the truth.

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