Friday, March 26, 2021

The Wandering (Part 4)

When I arrived back at our lean-to after my bath, I spread my damp, clean clothes from the sea upon the hut to dry. Ignose sat glassy-eyed by the fire, holding the sleeping man-child. She did not look up when I sat to add more twigs and sticks to the fire , rocking on my heals before our flame.

“I've named him Roan.” Her voice broke the silence and made me flinch. I looked up, and her face was towards me. Her cheeks were wet but her eyes looked beyond me, towards the trees.

I blinked again surprise and almost fell over.

“You cannot!” I said.

Ignose began to weep in ernest again. 

“They have taken my daughter from me. They have given her to another. All because she was ocean born, and I was not. Because I am cursed and she is not. Why did you fetch the Ogna. Why, why Solamae. Did I not tell you that I would give birth on land? Did I not instruct you, time and time again, to let me give birth as I wanted? A cursed life is the only life I had to offer a daughter. It was good enough for my mother to give to me, but now I am denied this for my own child.” She laughed hoarsely.

I gulped.

“I knew you would not want your daughter to suffer.” I said, slowly. “You said you were having a boy, so I thought it did not matter. The sounds you made scared me. I did not know what would happen. It might have been worse than the rocks.”

Ignose gently laid her son in a basket to her left. She stood, and her face was like thunder over me.

“It is not fair.” She said quietly, as I began to tremble. “My daughter is gone. You have greatly displeased me and the bad omens you have brought will never be forgiven. I will never--” here she picked up a thin branch from the ground-- “forgive you.” Before I knew it, the branch was over her head, coming down on my back. Switch. Again. Switch. Again. I covered my face and fell to the dirt. It stung. It would leave welts, but not bruises. Ignose is kind.

And while it was true she had asked me not to fetch the Ogna... in the deep in the night, she had begged me to never let her daughter turn out like her, out like me. I had done what I had to do.

Three switches later and Ignose was cradling me in her arms and sobbing into my hair while I clung to her.

“Why do you never fight back,” She croaked, squeezing me. “Why don't you yell at me, for a change.”

I smiled and hugged her tighter. For some reason, the switching had left me feeling lighter, somehow. Forgiven. Absolved.

“I need to go fetch some mushrooms for dinner, moon-sister,” I said “Or we will have nothing to eat tonight.”

Ignose released me, and she, too, seemed lighter, more relaxed. She tweaked my shoulder and grinned at me.

“The Ogna brought me a basket of spring vegetables for nursing,” She said. “There are turnips and broccoli, an onion, some peppers...and sweet potatoes.” Now I stared. Sweet potatoes? For us? My mouth started to water.

While Ignose held Roan, I fetched our clay cooking tray and strung it over the fire with kai reeds. Soon the smell of roasting veggies filled the air while Roan slept.

“Tell me the story of my birth.” I begged, to break the silence and to further cheer Ignose. Ignose smiled. She loved this story almost as much as I.

“There was a storm,” Ignose began, reminiscing. I relaxed, turning veggies. This is a story I had heard a hundred times over.

“I have never seen the sky so black. Everyone said the Creator was angry and I also was black and blue from being beaten for my ill luck. I remember crying in my lean-to, wet and miserable and hungry.”

“That night, I decided that enough was enough. Since I had not been born in the sea, to the sea I would go. The sea would be my forever home. I would trouble my sisters no more. My death would bring good omens, not bad, to my moon-sisters. And perhaps, in death, I would finally be forgiven.”

“I left my tent. The downpour was intense. I couldn't see beyond my two hands. The rain was pounding my body and the noise drowned out all else. I made my way down the path, slipping in the mud, not caring where I fell.

About halfway there I passed some of the women. They were huddled around another. She was screaming. I could hear her cries between the peels of thunder.

I ignored them, wrapped in my own thoughts. It wasn't until I reached the rocks that I realized what she was saying. My baby, my baby. And there you were. Tucked against the side of a rock, wet and miserable. When my eyes met yours, you started to cry again, mewing for me. I knew. I just knew. I picked you up and popped you in my shirt. The act of me walking must have soothed you to sleep, because your bald little head was nestled close under my chin in slumber by the time I made it to the village.”

I gasped. She had never said the part about going to the village after she found me. Ignose paused, as if searching for words.

“You were beautiful. And we both saved someone that night.”

I lean back, thoughts swirling. I'd never thought about it before, but who had nursed me back to life? Certainly not Ignose. Yet she always swore by the Creator she didn't know who my mother was, when I asked. Yet someone had nursed me. Hadn't they? Someone must have suckled me and held me close, and cuddled me in the night.

Someone else in the village cared for me. But who was it?


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