Carroll Ann Susco holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Pittsburgh and numerous publications including three essays in The Sun Magazine. She writes and teaches in Alexandria, VA. Her chapbook: True Fiction: A Pseudo Autobiographical Chapbook in Three Parts is available at Smashwords.com
You can read more of Carroll's work in the December 2014 and April 2015 issue's of IVJ.
Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s wife, not the actress)
I am a river flowing out to the sea. My new son flowed out of me into the waters of the earth and I, too, flow around the world, guided by currents. By the moon. Into a netherworld where I watch and wait. I feel its pull. I don’t tell them. They already know. I saw the looks on their faces. My ladies in waiting and the midwife. They were afraid they, too, would lose their heads if they could not stop the blood that came out of me, that followed my son. It was as if my blood wanted to give more life, and more, and more. Too much.
It leaked out of me.
I was so cold. They put more blankets on, stirred the fire. But nothing stopped the chill.
More blood on the sheets. They changed them so it would look like less.
Henry. I wake up and see him standing by me, holding my hand. He has the look of a man who is trying not to cry, but has. Red eyes give him away and that look he gets when he gets sentimental. Pursed lips that won’t unpurse. He knows he is losing me. Everyone does, but no one tells me. So I tell him. I say, remember the day we walked through the garden?” I have to stop to breathe. “And I took your arm and told you I was pregnant?” He nods and his eyes are wet. “Remember that.” I said. “Not me like this.”
He grips my hand, but I cannot grip back.
They had changed the sheets, but it was time to change them again. More blood coming out of me. I gave life. It took mine. This is a good thing women do, brave. Perhaps God will forgive me for betraying Anne, seducing her husband, and conspiring to have her accused of treason. When they cut off her head, a lightning bolt shot through me. I would have to pay for what I’d done. I wouldn’t have my happiness. I knew it then. But I gave Henry what he wanted. In my saucy days that would have been a baudy joke, but I can’t think that way right now. Can’t be that woman, saucy, on my death bed, full of life. Too tiring. They bring me my son to nurse and the milk leaks out of me into the world. Giving my life to him feels good. My life leaks out of me into pools, into streams, into rivers, into seas, around the world. It circles dolphins and whales, freezes in the Antarctic and melts from my fever.
“You are so beautiful,” Henry says. I want to stay. I want to take care of him and my child. He leans down and holds me and sobs into my hair. I feel the tears on my ear. I say, “I love you.” I say, “Henry, Henry.” I say, “What a sight you are!” It all comes out a whisper. I smile.
And that’s all I remember.I am in a netherworld. Something was missed. A point. Something needed to be said. So I tell this story to those who will hear. Over and over and over until I get it right. The words flow out of me. They won’t stop flowing. They shoot out into the sky, picked up by stars and sprinkled back down to earth. Your history books are wrong.