“Kizzie?” Hela asked. “Kizzie!”
“It’s not like you think. We weren’t keeping him for the pot! I swear it!! I would go to the big dark before anyone were to … to …”
Hela ran over and started to try and rip up the floor boards. Torm came over and gently pulled her back. “Here now. He ain’t used to that kind of ruckus and you’re dumping sand all over him. Come. There’s a hidden way.”
“Show me! Show me now!!”
While Torm quickly walked over to a built in bench at the side of the room and lifted the lid, Kizzie held herself and rocked to and fro. I looked at the children who stood in shock, and I didn’t know which direction to move. Was I to comfort or would it be best for me to stay out of it? Did I have an obligation here or would anything I do only make the situation worse?
Then there was a cry of joy from below us and Kizzie buried her face in her hands and somehow made it feel like her sadness nearly sucking all of the air from the room. Not a one of us dared breathe.
I don’t know how long the tableau would have lasted but suddenly Hela was running into the room and over to Kizzie. “We have him! We have him!! He’ll never be a Chosen and they’ll never have him … because we do!! Oh … the Light of it! The Light of it!!”
Hela was dancing around with a complaining bundle in her arms and then pulled Kizzie up but had to stop when she noticed her sister nearly frozen with emotion. “What? We … we always take care of the Littles together. Always. Didn’t we take turns carrying Damsie when we weren’t much more than the younger she is now? And Rulie and all the others? Didn’t we?! Don’t … doncha want to … do it no more Kizzie?”
“You’d … you’d let me share in the carrying of him?”
“Don’t be stupid,” she smarted off, lightly pushing her sister’s shoulder. “Just ‘cause you think you’re an older doesn’t mean I think you’re an older. We always did the carrying together. Made the load lighter and the sands easier to cross.”
I stood there in awe. I expected a horrible melodrama and yet what was playing out was more like a moral story my Gram would have told. The simplicity of it. The purity of it. All of the bad that could have come out of it and yet it never seemed to stand a chance to take hold. It was only Kizzie’s fears and those were obviously being laid to rest at Hela’s assumption that her sister was naturally going to be an equal caretaker for the boy.
I glanced at Torm and he and Ropsy stood together as if they too were in essence two halves of a whole sharing duties, protectors whose responsibility was to keep the dark from overshadowing Kizzie and Hela and now Roj. After some thought on it I supposed it to be a continuation of their roles when they were all together as youngers in the Borderland desert. And I was correct per my conversation with Rulie later. But first I saved the meat from burning and the herbs from wilting and though the food was shared out of a communal pot, for once there was more than enough to go around.
Later, after everyone had gone inside the hovel, I needed room to think and that I was not going to find in there. I like children – or at least I’m pretty sure I do given my limited exposure to them en mass – but the cooing and attention, and the regaining the tight fit they once had as a “family” left me feeling like a loose wheel on a sanitation wagon. But privacy to think I was not to have for long.
I felt a tug on my skirt and turned to find Rulie looking at me with concern. “Yer heart ain’t hurt over Damsie only wanting Kizzie is it? She don’t mean nothing by it. Jest … see Kizzie … she …”
Trying not to sound fretful I told him, “Absolutely not. You bunch are a family. Perhaps an unusual family but a family nevertheless. I’m happy for you, all of you, it is merely the circumstances that are giving me heartburn. That old man and his mysterious knowledge … it bothers me.”
“I thought you believed in the Light.”
“I do. And were my cousin here he’d probably be reading me a sermon that amounted to something like not looking a gift horse in the mouth.”
“Wots that mean?”
“It means I should be grateful for what I’ve got and to stop fretting that it came about in unexpected circumstances.”
“Yer cousin sounds … er …”
“Yes. He has an abundance of good sense and I love him more than words can say, but it does get irritating on occasion trying to live up to such magnificence.”
“If you say so Lady.”
“I do. Now back inside. The bugs are coming out.”
“Hah … these bloodsuckers are nothing compared to the ones back the other way.”
“Maybe I agree with you, but you are not proof against the fevers they can sometimes bring so don’t make me worry over you. Get back inside. Besides, you’ll make the others wonder if you are having to babysit me because I’m pouting or something embarrassing like that.”
“Aw … you ain’t so bad as that anymore. For an older you learn pretty fast.”
“Oh. How … sweet,” I told him trying to keep a straight face.
“Wellllll … I’ll be going in now. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t being a girl and crying and stuff.”
“Thank you,” was about all I could manage and he turned and went inside.
As soon as I was sure that no one could see I nearly doubled up with the effort at not laughing. Once I had taken myself in hand I sat upon a rock and gave my situation some thought. My hilarity soon retired as I realized while in one sense I was much closer to my goal, in another I was as far away as I had ever been.
War. What a ridiculous faradiddle. Over me. That was even more preposterous. It couldn’t be. I don’t accept it. Perhaps a few are using me as a figurehead of some type – and excuse as it were – to set in motion what they’d spent so long planning. Who by all the murdered Saints would possible start a war over me?