“Why don’t you take a seat, Dr. La Montaigne?” asked Dr. Grace, pointing to the chair in front of her desk.
“Thank you.” I look around the office. It’s a nice office, though not to my taste. The walls are covered with floor-to-ceiling bookcases. The carpeting was a rich-green color, dotted with tiny flowers.
The psychiatrist sat down in her large leather chair. “Why don’t you tell me what brings you in today?”
“There are a lot of things, actually,” I confess. I had never been a fan of psychotherapy, but I had promised my family that I would try.
“Well,” Dr. Grace picked up a notepad from her desk. “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
I raised an eyebrow. “From the very beginning?”
“Yes, Dr. La Montaigne. I need to know everything so I can create a treatment plan.”
I glanced down at my wristwatch. “All right.”
“Where were you born?”
“I was born in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to Sir Joseph Richardson and Mary Catherine Whitehead Richardson in 1667.”
Dr. Grace looked up from her notepad. There was a confused expression on her face. “Don’t you mean 1997? You can’t be more than twenty-five years old.”
I shook my head. “No. I was born in 1667.” I waited for her to regain some semblance of composure. “I assure you, Dr. Grace. I am not crazy. I am telling you the absolute truth. Would you like me to continue?”
She took a long sip from her teacup before nodding.
“Very well. My father was a very cruel man. My elder brother was fortunate enough to die in infancy and escaped my father’s tyranny. I was not so lucky. My father wanted an heir, not a daughter. My mother left this world after giving birth to her fourth child, my younger sister, Felicity.”
Widowhood did not sit well with my father. A mere six weeks after my mother’s funeral, my father married a distant cousin of my mother’s to help raise his now-motherless daughters. Her name was Georgianna. Georgianna was a sweet girl, only three years my senior at the time of her wedding to my father. Despite her best efforts, I do not think she was equipped for motherhood with her poor health and nervous constitution. She too left this world during childbirth after giving birth to her sixth child, a boy they named Caleb.”
“How many siblings do you, I mean, did you have?” interrupted Dr. Grace.
“There were ten children after me.”
“I was a burden to my father. I was nearing my twenty-fifth birthday and still a maiden. I was a disgrace to him. We did not speak much those days, for he was busy courting the eligible daughters of his peers to become his third bride. I was home, tending to his large household and raising my younger siblings and the children of my widowed cousin.
A few months later, my father had arranged my marriage to Mister William James Gooding Esquire, the boorish son of one of the village leaders. The younger Gooding had no interest in marriage. He stood to inherit his father’s substantial fortune and position on the village council. He never wanted for drink or female companionship, spending most of his time at the local tavern. Rumors circulated around the town that the younger Gooding was the father of at least a dozen illegitimate children throughout the county.
On the night of our engagement, Gooding took me on a walk, bringing me to an empty patch behind his father’s barn. He tugged at the laces of his trousers. As his betrothed wife, he demanded that I show my fealty to him. I refused, and he beat me.
Rumors spread around the village that I had tried to seduce our Mister Gooding, but he refused my advances. When the crops began to fail, I was to blame. When a child fell ill, my name was the name their parents cursed. Things took a turn for the worse when the young Mister Gooding was found dead in a ditch by the side of the road. His head had been smashed in by a rock.
Despite his addiction to alcohol and his frequenting the homes of married women, the courts found me guilty of his death. I was ordered to be hanged by the neck until dead for witchcraft.
I looked nervously at the other girls standing next to me as we waited for the hangman. They were all good girls. I saw them at church every Sunday. They had families. Sarah Jane, one of the other women condemned to die, had just given birth a few weeks prior.
We listened as Reverend Mathers read a passage from the Bible, and then… no more.
Dr. Grace looked up from her notebook again. “Do you mean you were—” Her hand went to her neck.
“Yes. That was my first death.”
“How many times have you died?”
“Frankly, I have died so many times over the years that I’ve lost count.”
I awoke the next morning as if nothing had happened. Instead of my nice, straw-filled tick with a bedpan filled with hot coals at my feet, I was laying naked in the middle of a grassy meadow. I didn’t know where to go. No one in the village would take me in in such an indecent state, and my name had been published across the county as a witch.
I ran deep into the woods until I found the cabin of Goody Margarethe La Montaigne. The elderly woman took me into her home, making me her daughter. She feed me, clothed me, and gave me the first love I had experienced in my life. I carry her surname to this day to honor my benefactress.
I didn’t pay much attention to the passage of time while I lived under Margarethe’s care. have heard it oft joked that “time is relative” but it’s relative to those who pay attention to it. I lived with Margarethe until her death twenty years later. I hadn’t left our little farm in all those years, nor had I wanted to.
When Margarethe died, she gripped my hand and made me promise her that I wouldn’t spend the rest of my extended life living in hiding. She stared at me with her clouded eyes until I promised her that I wouldn’t. With a sigh, Margarethe passed away.