Bloomsbury Festival Day 9
Writer In Residence: Vanwy MacDonald Arif

Letter found with billet at the Foundling Hospital

Cinderella Pearl. Beloved bairn. Your

indigo eyes are like the sky when dawn

breaks from night, like the sea in winter. Your

hair changes, depending on how the light

kisses it. Now fire, now fair, now tawny.

What hue will your hair settle on? Your eyes?

Softer than spider’s silk, than fairy wings,

downy tresses caress your neck. The most

it will grow. I have seen the aproned girls

in white, starched tippets, shorn hair branding them.

Father unknown. There. I have written it.

It is not your shame. It is protection.

He must not buy your freedom. He wanted

merely to taste me. I loved you from the

first missed bleeding, the first bilious wave

and the first fatigue. Your token is my

silver thimble, for you to know that once

I was respected. I sewed in the manse,

for Godly folk. Or so it seemed. Know your

Mother’s needle dances, her thread obeys,

her skein blends rainbows. See how the upper

thimble is dimpled all for business.

Misery comes by the pricking of a

seamstress’s finger. One bloody driblet

spoils a garment. And her life. Garlands, and

ribbons swirl, enlace, form an undying

round, as is my promise to redeem you.

You are named for Cinderella. A girl

who rose from the ashes, freed herself from

stark servitude, wore warm cloth, ate more than

once a day, slept beneath her own roof. So

will you, my darling. Pearl. For the jewel.

Lustrous and bright. Like your hopes now I have

surrendered you. Study. Work hard. Think well

of me. We will meet again, cherished child.


Back to 26 Writers In Residence 2022

Day 9 (Sat 22 Oct): Vanwy Arif