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The booted feet stopped before me as I sat on the ground, hugging my knees. A well-worn, black military boot kicked forward, thumping against my shins. It smarted, but it could have hurt far worse. I looked up at the harried constable. He frowned down at usa troubled frown, but not an angry one. He was portly and balding, and was a common sight in our part of town. This wasn't an evil man, but a good man who had been sent out to do an evil task.
"Get up," he said, his voice so dispirited I almost felt sorry for him.
"Don't move," Mama said. It had been her idea that we wedge ourselves hip to hip in the narrow doorway of our shop.
He sighed. "Come now, I don't like this a bit more than you do."
"You'll have to move us," Mama said.
The constable looked over his shoulder. The fairy hovered there. She was tinyno larger than my handwith shimmery pale green leggings and tunic. Her beauty made it difficult to look away.
"Can you move them?" he asked her.
"I am not here to do your job, Constable," the fairy said, "only to see that you do it honestly."
The constable's sigh was exasperated now. He gestured to his men. "Move them."
Mama and I were both slight. Moving us took no great effort. Suddenly, as I sprawled in the dirt of the street, our defiant gesture seemed pathetic. I could feel the heavy gaze of our neighbors, and like any young maid, I was mortified.
Mama screamed and raised a holy fuss. She went charging back into our shop after the constable's men. I jumped up and ran in to make sure they didn't harm her, but I need not have feared. They ignored her as if she were a fly. She hauled on their arms and flailed on their backs as they picked up the spinning wheel and carried it out, and her efforts made little difference.
"My daughter," she said at one point, grabbing me. "Look at her. Do you think her face will ever get her a husband? That spinning wheel is her future."
The humiliation of it sent what I knew to be an uncomely flush to my face.
"You will be well-paid," the constable said, "as soon as it's destroyed."
"What about Willard?" I asked my mother, hoping to salvage my injured pride. Willard wasn't much to look at, but there was no question he was mine.
"Willard!" She snorted in disgust. "I'll believe he's willing to marry you when I see you march down the aisle."
They brought out the spinning wheel and flung it into the back of the wagon. Mama and I both winced as it crashed atop the heap of spinning wheel parts. I had no love for the contraption but had spent many hours dusting the spokes, polishing the surfaces and greasing the axle. The constable's men, however, had no regard for its fragile structure, its delicate beauty. They had no care that our lives depended upon the simple wooden structure.
The fairy darted out of our shop and hovered near us. She aimed her wand at our spinning wheel and a burst of colors flew out. The colors hit the wheel and buzzed around it like angry bees. When they dissipated, the spinning wheel collapsed into all its various parts, no longer distinguishable from the wreckage surrounding it. I blinked away tears I'd never expected to shed and thought of my fellow spinsters scattered all over the city, mourning, as we did, the loss of our livelihood.