The Light (1500Words Round 2, Week 3, Day 7, 2/4/18)
Elsbeth stood at the door watching her girls playing in distance. It was new for Fiona to give Gertie this kind of attention and it made Elsbeth feel like she’d succeeded as a parent so far. Raising the boys had been different and if she were honest with herself, easier. They were simpler people with predictable needs. She’d had years of practice as she got used to living with her husband and, for the most part, her boys were like mini-Merons. They took after him in look and in personality. She loved Meron, and she loved the similarities her boys had to him.
As she watched the girls shift into some game that involved singing she smiled. The girls had brought music back into their home. They had come late enough to have been unexpected. Elsbeth thought back to the early days with Fiona. The gap between her and the boys was ten years – one of the longest gaps in their community. It had been challenging to start over again, and it took a lot of effort for Elsbeth to remember what to expect from a baby even though she’d done it five times before. Watching Fiona dance and sing with her little sister, watching them play together like youngsters, brought all the memories rushing back.
Elsbeth pressed her hands to her belly and took a deep breath. These two, born five years apart, were her last two. Her body had made that clear enough over the last few months. The way Elsbeth felt now was so clearly different from before having the girls. Everything was quieting inside her, preparing to become fully dormant.
“Mama!” Gertie called for her mother as she bounded towards the door, her braids bouncing as she ran. “Mama! Fiona scared me!”
Elsbeth opened her arms and scooped Fiona up and onto her hip with the strength of a woman half her age. “What’s to be afraid of, Gertie? You’re safe and sound here with me.”
Gertie buried her head in Elsbeth’s thick, curly hair and squeezed her mother with both her arms and legs. “I wasn’t with you when she scared me, mama.”
“Oh, Gertie. You weren’t 30 feet away. You’d think you were still in your First Childhood.” Elsbeth’s words made Gertie jerk herself off her mother’s shoulder and wriggle her way down to the ground. “That’s better, Gertie. Now, what’s all this fuss about?”
“I wish I was in my First Childhood,” Gertie mumbled as she stepped back from her mother’s side and smoothed her dress down over her thighs.
Elsbeth saw that Gertie still had most of the attributes of youth – her face was still round and full, her legs were short and thick, her arms were without tone, her hair was wild. The signs were clear, however, that it was going to be Gertie’s turn to embark on her Second Childhood very soon and it was Elsbeth’s job to be sure she was ready.
Elsbeth pulled a chair over and patted the seat to invite Gertie to sit. The pout on her child’s face was almost too much for Elsbeth to see without laughing, and she knew now was not the time to toy with Gertie. Once her daughter was settled on the chair, Elsbeth crouched down and put her hands lovingly on Gertie’s knees, looking up at her pouting face.
“Gertie, there are wonderful things to come for you in your Second Childhood. I promise you, it’s worth making the transition. Fiona…”
“Fiona was better before!” Gertie’s words exploded out of her, startling them both.
“I was YOUNGER before, Gertie. I’m better NOW.” Fiona had appeared at the doorway and was staring at her little sister with a smug expression on her narrow face.
“You are NOT better now, Fiona!” Gertie pounded her thighs with clenched fists, narrowly missing her mother’s hands.
Elsbeth stood up and slowly looked from girl to girl. “What exactly happened out there, ladies? It looked like you were playing so nicely together.”
“Nothing, mama.” Both girls spoke the lie in unison. Elsbeth crossed her arms over her chest and stared at Fiona.
“Really, mama. Nothing happened. Gertie didn’t like my song and I didn’t listen to her when she asked me to stop. That’s all.” Fiona put both hands to her belly with her thumbs and index fingers forming a diamond around her navel.
Elsbeth’s eyebrows went up, surprised that Fiona would choose that moment to invoke The Sign. She gave her daughter a small nod and turned to Gertie. The younger girl didn’t understand that something had happened between her mother and sister in that moment.
“Yeah, mama. She wouldn’t stop singing and that, um, that scared me and I ran to find you. I shouldn’t have let it get to me.” Gertie’s attempt to finish out the lie was transparent and, to Elsbeth, endearing.
“Gertie, go round up your father for me. It’s almost time to eat.” Elsbeth chuckled at how fast Gertie tore out of the house, clearly not wanting to wait for her mother to change her mind. Once she was left with only Fiona, Elsbeth turned to her daughter and opened her arms for a hug. Fiona fell into her mother’s arms and Elsbeth was pleased to note that her daughter, as old as she was, still fit on the bottom part of the hug.
Without letting go of her mother, Fiona said, “Gertie’s turn at The Ritual is coming soon, Mama.”
Silence filled the room. Elsbeth let the words wash over her. She wasn’t ready for her baby to transition. It hadn’t been long ago that Fiona had her first trip to The Light – how could it already be time for little Gertie to do the same?
Gently pulling back from the hug and holding Fiona at arm’s length said, “The step from First to Second Childhood is a big one, Fiona. The Ritual is a part of that process and is something every girl must experience.”
Fiona squared her shoulders and said, “I’m going with Gertie. I will Accompany her.”
Elsbeth stared at her daughter with pride in her eyes.
They held hands as they walked across the rocks on their way to The Light. Neither of them spoke as silence was part of the ritual. Gertie stole glances at her big sister every few steps. This was her first time womaning The Light and she wasn’t sure how much she should believe of the stories she’d heard. There were things she was pretty sure wouldn’t happen, like the explosion of sound when they stepped into the circle, and there were things she hoped wouldn’t happen, like being greeted by lionesses. Her sister had participated in the ritual for over two years and always came home. Gertie trusted Fiona. That was all she knew for sure.
This was the furthest from home Gertie had ever been in the dark. Nothing looked familiar with all the shadows dancing around. She could see the rocks getting bigger around them, and could feel the ground getting more uneven, so she had a general idea of how close they were to their destination. Fiona didn’t look left or right. Gertie tried to mirror her in every way except for the comfort glances. The heaviness in her belly made the hike challenging. She knew Fiona felt it, too. It was part of the journey and what made it so the two of them were traveling together. Gertie looked up at the blue moon lighting their path. Knowing that it was responsible for the heaviness and the journey and The Light made Gertie feel small. She stole a quick glance at the smaller red moon hanging behind the blue moon and felt sorry for it for a moment. She imagined the red moon felt like a little sister, and that feeling was familiar to Gertie. The blue moon was the leader, just like Fiona.
Gertie almost broke the silence when she bumped into Fiona having been so distracted by the two moons that she missed that Fiona had stopped walking. The squeeze of her hand was the only clue Fiona gave that she was frustrated, and Gertie felt that squeeze on both her hand and behind her belly button. The moons would be there when they were done, and she needed to pay attention and play her part in the ritual. Looking around, Gertie saw that they were at the mouth of the cave they would need to walk through to get to The Light. Her pulse sped up and she could feel her palm get sweaty beneath Fiona’s grip.
In unison as they’d been trained to do, both girls lowered themselves first down to one knee and then down into a bow. This space was the beginning of the sacred ground, and deference had to be displayed to cross the threshold safely. They held the bow for ten counts and then, again in unison, rose to standing. Fiona released Gertie’s hand and took two steps forward before pivoting to face her little sister. Gertie waited two beats before taking two steps forward to meet her sister, palm to palm and forehead to forehead.
* All 1500Words are fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *