September 30, 2013

30. Secret Practice in the Woods

“Moth Dancer” by Electric Rainbow
Before dawn, the clanhold of Sycamore Stands already throbbed with the sounds of women pounding nuts. The astringent smell of acorn drifted from the leeching ditches between the clay domed huts. Once Zavaedi Brena made certain her snoopy neighbor, Auntie Ula, was not following her, she urged her two daughters, Gwena and Gwenika, past the clanhold stocade, down the embankment, to a spot hidden by sycamore trees. They did this every morning, yet every morning Brena had to battle all over again to force them to move, as if it were the first time.
Gwena, the oldest, spent an inordinate amount of time combing her hair. On the way to the woods, she craned her neck to attract the attention of young men burning brush for gardens. Several of the hoolilgans smiled at her like idiots, until they saw Brena and hastened back to work.

Gwenika, younger by two years, started her whining earlier than usual. “Do I have to practice today?”

“Yes. You have to practice everyday.”
 “But I’m feeling very dizzy this morning.”
“Hrmf.” Brena still smarted from her cousin Ula’s admonishments last night. For fifteen years Ula had failed to have children of her own, but she insisted on lecturing those who did. “You’re too soft on the girls, that’s why the little one is so lazy. A good mother wouldn’t put up with that.” In the next breath, Auntie Ula went on to say, “And why do you push those girls so hard? It isn’t natural for a mother to put so much pressure on her daughters to become Tavaedies. What’s wrong if they just want to be wives and mothers?”
Brena wanted to shake her. Well, which is it? Am I an unfit mother because I’m too soft on them or an unfit mother because I’m too hard on them? She already knew the answer. She couldn’t win either way. A woman, even a Zavaedi, had no business raising a family without a man, and Brena had made it clear to the whole clanhold years ago that one husband had left her bitter enough for a lifetime. The last thing she needed was another man in her life.
And if my girls become Tavaedies, they won’t be dependent on a having a husband to tend their fields either. After her husband died, what would have been her lot if she had not been a member of the secret society, able to earn gifts from the community by her own skills? With one hungry babe toddling at her feet and a belly full of a babe to come…she shuddered at the memory. It had been hard enough as it was, returning to the troop after she’d quit to raise her family.
She checked the clearing again to assure they had privacy, then clapped her hands to retrieve her daughters’ errant attention. “Today, girls, I want to see you walk through the Badger and Deer Positions, in both the Still and Moving forms.”
“Yes, Mama,” they chimed. Warblers chirped overhead.
“Dancer in the Dark” by marlene-d

“Begin girls!” commanded Tavaedi Brena. “Deer Leaps, from Still to Moving.”

Gwena flawlessly performed the steps several times. Gwenika, however, slumped through the forms with limp arms. She kicked at the dry leaves on the ground, then bent to pick up one of the spiky sycamore balls that littered the dust of the clearing.
“Can we dance somewhere else? These keep poking my feet.”
“No,” said Brena. “This is the safest place. I don’t want anyone spying on us.”
“How can you expect me to dance with poked feet?”
“Gwenika.” Every day it was some new complaint. Maybe Auntie Ula is right. I must have done something wrong with this one.
“Besides, my head is spinning. I’m feeling dizzy again.”
“Gwenika, I’ve told you—”
 “Also, I’m suffering from fatigue. And my heart is beating more rapidly than usual.”
“Your heart is supposed to be beating more rapidly. You’re exercising.”
“Yes, but my face is…





Tara Maya

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