North, South, East, and West, continued

North, South, East, and West (February 2019, Round 2 Winner, Day 7)

Once upon a time there was a family with four sisters, each of them kind and beautiful in their own way, all of whom shared a birthday. Their parents loved them dearly and doted on them equally, somthing that’s uncommon in stories starting like this. 

North was born first. She grew to be tall and willowy and quick to volunteer. Her hair grew down to the top of her bottom and was usually worn in braids. Music was her fuel and she would sing all day long, alternating between songs she found and songs she wrote.

South came second out of sheer will to be born. She was of average hight and above average strength. Her mind was just as strong as her body and she used her strength in both to protect. She had deep, dark eyes that were easy to get lost in if you looked too long. If there was a book nearby she would read it voraciously and remembered almost every word.

East came third, butt first and with some help from her sister still inside. She was the smallest sister in height and confidence, and she was the warmest sister in care and support. Her hair was a firey red and curled in every which way. Animals trusted her and would seek her company indoors and out.

West came last, head first and calm. She matched South in height and was unique in all other ways. She had a softness about her which showed in her shape and her personality. Of all the sisters she was the most adventurous. Her smile was wide and her teeth were bright. She almost always had a pen in hand and would draw and write in equal measure.

The early years for the sisters passed without incident or intrigue, so we’ll not discuss them here. Trust that they got off to a strong start, got along as well as sisters who share a birthday can,  and were, as mentioned earlier, well-loved. This bears repeating since, as many know, the start points to the end or at least the middle.

But what of their parents? How did the sisters come to be? Do their names give you a hint? 

Sun and Moon made the girls. They were concieved out of love and, for a time, the six of them lived together as a family on a large island in the center of a sea.    

Our story starts after that time, of course. Sun and Moon weren’t meant to be together. Their story is a tale of star-crossed love that we’ll save for another time. All you need to know is that they parented together long enough to give their daughters the strong start mentioned before, and that they parted out of necessity instead of desire. When OUR story starts, the sisters are on their own after Sun went up and Moon went down, leaving the girls alone on the island. They promised to return to check on the girls each day in turn. Their parents gave the girls gifts before they left. Sun, always one to focus on the positive, gave the girls three reminders :

The land will provide for you as long as you care for it.

Your home will protect you as long as you protect it.

Your love will endure as long as you prioritize it. 

Moon, always one to focus on darkness, left the girls with four warnings

Helping has a price.

Risks have a time.

Strength has a place.

Support needs a reason.

The girls were twelve. If you’ve spent time with twelve year old girls you’ll know that this is the age when the first glimmers of their future adult selves begin to take turns with their current child selves. The girls were glimmering and stretching and testing, each at their own pace. They accepted their parents’ gifts and stowed them away, not entirely sure they were needed. 

Shall we begin, then? It is a normal afternoon and the girls are all busy. South and West are inside the house, reading and writing. East is away having left to explore the forest down the lane from their home. North is sitting on the edge of the garden, singing a song to and about bees. She’s so wrapped up in her music that she only has eyes for the bess. She doesn’t notice the crunching of foosteps, the movement of the trees, or the pair of eyes watching her from behind the garden wall. She does notice the hunger of the bees, the softenss of their bodies, and the rhythm of their wings. Those things, unfortunatly, don’t prepare her for what’s next.

“That’s a pretty song, miss.”

The unexpected voice made North’s song freeze, and because she stopped singing the bees flew away. North was only used to the voices of her sisters and, when they were there, her parents. “Who are you?”

“I’m just a traveler, miss, not quite worthy of a name.”

North found the source of the voice and, finally, saw the eyes. “A traveler?”

“Yes, miss. I’ve traveled long and hard.”

“From where? How did you get here?”

“Ah, miss. You ask hard questions. Names and places and processes – oh my!”

The door to the house opened and South and West poked their heads out.

“Who are you talking to, North?” South’s voice rang out, strong and fierce.

“A traveler, South.”

West walked over to North and followed her gaze to discover the eyes. “How did a traveler land on our island?”

“And where,” South chimed in, still standing in the doorway, “did they come from?”

“Three misses instead of just one! And all with questions.”

North took West’s hand and whispered to her, “I’ve asked, West, and don’t have answers.”

South joined her sisters and the three girls held hands and shared important glances with each other before turning to face the wall. They looked like an oddly cut paper doll chain with North standing in the center, taller than the other two.

“Three misses, hand in hand. Do you have room for a weary traveler to join you?”

“What is it you need, traveler with no name?” South asked the question, becoming the spokesgirl of the sisters.

“Ah, Miss – what does a traveler always need? A place to lie my head, food for my belly, and directions for my journey.”

“You’ll need to continue on your way, traveler.” South pulled at North’s hand to quiet her sister’s objection. To North, she quoted Moon and said, just for her sisters’ ears, “helping has a price.” To the traveler, she called, “Ours is not the place for you. Continue on your way.” She dragged her sisters into their house and closed the door behind them.

It was hours later that East returned from the forest, accompanied by a young deer. She stopped in the garden to pick vegetables for their evening meal and noticed the eyes behind the wall before she’d reached the peppers.

“Who’s there?”

“Ah, miss! That’s a pretty pet!”

“The deer is a companion, not a pet. Who are you, and why are you hiding?”

“I’m just a traveler, miss, not quite worthy of a name.”

East looked to the deer as if she might answer the question better before turning back to the eyes. “No name? That’s odd. Why, I ask again, are you hiding?”

“Ah, miss. You ask hard questions. Names and reasons – oh my!”

East walked up to just out of arms’ reach of the wall and crouched down so she was level with the eyes. “My questions aren’t meant to be hard, traveler. Will you come out from behind the wall and show yourself?”

South stuck her head out of the window overlooking the garden. “East, come away from there!”

East got up and went to the window to stand beneath her sister. “There’s someone behind the wall, South.”

“Leave them be, East.”

“What if they need help?”

“Where did they come from? How did they get here?”

“I don’t know yet, South”

“Helping has a price.”

“I’m willing to pay it, South. We have so much – isn’t it right to share?”

East returned to the wall and did her best to ignore the glare in South’s eyes. “What do you need, traveler?”

“Ah, Miss – what does a traveler always need? A place to lie my head, food for my belly, and directions for my journey.”

“Stay there, traveler, and let me talk with my sisters.”

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