Sally’s jaw dropped to the floor when James told her that he would be going to work with his mum that week. Sally was so short, only 3’4”, so she had to stay in school. You could only enter the labour field once you were four feet tall.
“I wish I could go to work,” Sally said.
“No, you don’t,” James said. “Trust me.”
“Why should I? You haven’t even started as a labourer yet,” Sally said.
“My mum says the longer you can stay in school, the better,” James said. “She went to school for fifteen years. She’s even smarter than the king.”
“You can’t say that. Nobody’s smarter than the king.”
“My mum is. The king only went to school for two years.”
“That’s because he’s a king and not a dwarf, you dimwit.”
“Watch your mouth! I’m taller than you?”
“But you’re still complaining about starting as a labourer this week.”
“Maybe that’s because my mum knows what it’s like to be a labourer until the day she dies.”
“So you admit it’s better to be taller? You’re the lucky one, James. I’m stuck in school because I’m not even four feet tall.”
“Well, maybe I’ll see you around and show you the ropes when you become a labourer. Unless I’ve grown six inches by then.”
Sally had been working in carpentry with James for nearly eighteen months now. Last year, she had been two inches taller than James. She was filled with pompous glee watching him crawl at her feet as he swept the wood shavings from her projects. She had relished being eight years old. James, however, grew two inches when he turned nine, and Sally stayed the same height. She and James were often working on projects together now. It irked her. She was starting to understand why her father wanted to lie about his height, say he was 5’6” instead of 5’5”, to be a gentleman instead of the clergy. But getting caught would get him executed.
He thought about it often, though, and Sally was sure now that she would too.
Many of Sally and James’s friends didn’t live long enough to become husbandmen with them. Tommy had died in an electrical accident three years ago to the day. Sally was sure she was the only one who remembered, and probably, the only one who cared. Tommy had been her best friend in school.
School. What a terrible place to be. Sally was so glad she’d gotten taller. Maybe Tommy wouldn’t be dead if he had been taller.
Sally and James no longer had to scrounge for odd jobs. They were both permanent hands on their neighbour’s farm—well, they would be until they grew to five feet. It had been years of working on the farm, and some days it felt like it would never be done.
But Sally was 4’11”. Her time was almost up. But so, admittedly, was James’s.
She kept constantly outgrowing him by a couple of inches, then he would catch up with her the next year. When would she finally come out on top?
James had never worked in the clergy, and Sally resented him for it.
The last time she had been taller than him was years ago as a husbandman. They’d been of equal rank as yeomen. She’d figured the same thing would happen, where she’d be ahead of him by two inches for a year and then they’d once again be equals. But he’d spent no time with her in the clergy.
James was a gentleman. He worked in politics. His rank was as high as could be in his field. He was eons ahead of Sally.
Sally hated working in the church. She hated consoling lowly labourers. How could she convince them of a hope she felt abandoned by?
She hadn’t grown an inch in two years. James seemed to grow by the day.
How she wished she were taller.
Elizabeth Day is a writer raised in Henderson, Nevada. She has loved writing from a young age and writes literature, music, poetry, theatre, and film. She is a student at Southern Utah University studying English education with a creative writing concentration and double minors in theatre and film.