The story of Thumbelina is breathed new life in this retelling of the classic fairytale. Maia is a young woman. Short, sweet, and sheltered. Her life was quiet until her best friend, Ben Swallow, admits his feelings for her. Then her mother announces it’s time for her to get married. She’s quickly taken away by Mama Claiborne, whose son is perfect for her. Will she ever see Ben again? Faced with horrors she’s never imagined, Maia will have to learn to fight for herself.
Here’s a sneak peek at K.D. Reed’s next novel, Maia
Maia confidently, but carefully, walked through the front door. It was time to face Mother, and though nervous, she was ready.
Mother sat at the table, facing the door. A statue, with her mouth in a strait line. Her face didn’t change when Maia entered.
“Oh, hello Mother,” she smiled. “Do you want me to set out dinner now, or wait until six?”
“I want you to sit down, and it is six o’clock.”
Maia looked to clock in the living room. She saw it was one minute after. “I can set out dinner first-”
“I said sit!”
“Yes, Mother.” She sat. “How was your afternoon?”
“I don’t want to discuss my afternoon, I want to discuss yours.”
“Well,” Maia began, “I finished the things you asked me to and cooked dinner. Then, I noticed we were low on a few things, so I made a grocery list. Maybe we can go to the market tomorrow?”
Mother stood so fast her wooden chair fell over. “Where were you?” she demanded.
Maia was startled. “I went for a walk,” she answered, as calmly as she could. There was only a small tremble in her voice.
“It was such a lovely day, I thought I’d take advantage of the nice weather. Winter isn’t that far off. I wanted to enjoy the sunshine. I really didn’t go far, and I guess I lost track of the time. I’m sorry if I upset you, Mother. I only-”
“Stop rambling this instant!” She took a step closer to Maia, towering over her. “You were with Mr. Swallow.”
“That is true.” Maia decided before she walked through the door to be honest and finally stand her ground. She did nothing wrong. Well, almost. She really shouldn’t have let Ben kiss her the way he did. But, one crisis at a time. “Ben did accompany me.”
“I knew it!” Mother shouted, banging her fist on the table. “What have I told you about that boy? He’s a sinner! He’s a ruffian! He’ll ruin you!”
“Oh Mother, please. Ben is very kind, and generous. He’s smart too-”
“He must be smart! He’s convinced you to defy your mother and your God! He’s probably taken your virtue too!”
“He would never!” Maia raised her voice, then caught herself. She relaxed before adding, “He’s a gentleman, and has too much respect for me to do such a thing.”
Mother did not calm down. “A gentleman? He’s a scoundrel and you know it! He’s just like his father. A good-for-nothing who took advantage of his mother and abandoned her before she gave birth. It’s a blessing she died young, so she didn’t have to live with the shame of it all.”
“He’s not a scoundrel! Ben is a good person!”
“Why are you so quick to defend this boy?”
“He’s my friend.”
“I think he’s more than that. Has this boy tampered with your innocence?”
Maia rolled her eyes. “No.”
Mother bent down, bringing her eyes level with Maia’s. She stared hard at her. “Have you let this boy touch you?”
She didn’t look away, and hesitated only a second. “No.” Maia’s heart thumped like a stone against her sternum.
Taking a deep breath, Mother stood straight. “I’m not sure I believe you. But, at any rate, things are going to change.”
“What do you mean?”
“You may set out dinner now, while we eat, we’ll discuss your future.”
Maia stood slowly. There were too many thoughts to choose from. Her future? She mechanically took the roast and potatoes from the oven. Her hands shook as she carved the meat. She set the plates and silverware on the table, trying hard not to clang them together. She was afraid to look at her mother. But, she felt eyes watching her. After she poured them each a glass of milk, she returned to her seat.
“I thought we were having peas?” Mother asked.
“Yes, sorry.” Maia jumped from her chair, and retrieved the peas from the refrigerator.
Once they were both seated Mother bowed her head and said grace. Then, she plucked her napkin from the table and draped it across her lap. She loaded her plate modestly. Maia was too nervous to eat, but took food anyway. There was a fight coming, and she didn’t want to appear weak or afraid. So she ate steadily.
After a few minutes Mother said, “We formed a new committee at church a few weeks ago.”
Maia had to clear her throat before she could respond. “Oh?”
“Yes. Just three other ladies and myself. It’s a temporary committee, and the task is almost complete. I only mention it because it involves you.”
Swallowing her lump of food, Maia asked, “How?”
“We’re finding you a husband.”
“You’re what?” her fork fell with a clank.
“Please don’t be so dramatic. It’s not that ridiculous. You’re old enough. A husband wants his wife young, so she can keep up with his children. I don’t really want you much older. Then you’d become undesirable. I’m not going to see you having to settle for a widower, or worse, a divorcé. You’ll be a good wife, if you follow all the guidance I’ve given you over the last twenty-two years. I want to see that you end up with a good husband. Now is the perfect time.”
“We’ve found a few candidates. A few from town, you’ve seen them in church. Mrs. Donahue’s boy, Charles. A strapping man, with good genes and upbringing. He’s a bit old, though, may have some bad habits. I’m also considering Mrs. Brown’s youngest son, Emmett. Although, I have yet to ask her about him. There’s a young man in Traversville. Mrs. Wilcox used to give him piano lessons and is good friends with his mother. He’s very promising. He’s going to run the bank sometime in the next few years. Again, a bit old, but can you imagine! Being a banker’s wife! Quite a life you’d have with him. Let me see…”
“But what if-”
“Oh! That’s right. There’s a young pharmacist in Pleasant Junction. At least, he’s going to be a pharmacist. Still in school. A bit of a risk, but still a contender. He’d be able to take care of you nicely. He’s the college roommate of Mrs. Brown’s other son, Joshua. Of course, I considered Joshua, but then I learned he’s studying art. No daughter of mine is going to be the wife of a painter or the like.” She shook her head. “Despicable. At any rate, you should be pleased to know the committee is dedicated to finding the most suitable match for you. In fact, Mrs. Bradshaw (she’s on the committee) is insisting we inquire about her nephew. Her husband’s sister is visiting from down south a little ways, but returns home tomorrow evening. We’re meeting with her after church tomorrow. Mrs. Bradshaw didn’t give us much detail on the young man, but she did mention money. So, I figured he was worth a look.”
“Mother stop!” Maia shouted and leapt up from the table. “I don’t want to hear another word! Have you even thought to consider what I might want?”
“Don’t raise your voice to me,” Mother said, calm but direct. “My patience is thin with you this evening. I don’t suggest you continue in this manner.”
“Your patience is thin? My patience is thin! My whole life you’ve chosen everything for me. Every last detail! Shouldn’t the man I marry be my choice? I’m the one who has to live with him!”
“I may not want to marry at all! I could go to college. I could have a career. I may want to run away and join the circus!”
Mother was silent.
“I realize you only want what’s best for me,” Maia went on, trying to regain control of herself. She unclenched her fists. Folding her hands neatly she said, “But, you can’t choose for me. Not this time.”
“Are you finished?” her mother asked.
“For the moment…”
Mother set her napkin on the table. She slowly stood. “Let me make myself perfectly clear, Maia. You don’t get a choice. You will be a wife. That’s what God has intended for you. You will serve your husband and obey him. You will bear him as many children as he sees fit. You will raise them with a heavy hand, and you will raise them to fear God. That is your lot.” She took a deep breath, “I don’t know what happened today that changed you, but it has only convinced me that the time for you to marry is now.”
“You will say nothing more tonight. You will clean up your dishes, and go to bed. I am ashamed to be your mother, and I will not lay my eyes upon you a moment longer. Now, go.”
Maia silently followed her orders. Shaking, she set her plate in the sink. She dumped her milk down the drain. Then, she made her way to her room. As she reached for the knob Mother had one last word.
“Maia,” she said. “You will never see Ben Swallow again.”