by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)
3rd out of 5 segments in the Rescued Lives series (Deliverance, Obstacle Course, Ripening Fruit, That Was Then, This is Now, Generation Gap).
Set a few years after Obstacle Course, this is a little tale of coming of age and the maturing of the family. This story is very much character-driven, not plot driven.
All original characters (main characters Dera, Fafa, Arafa, Ilafa, and Adelna), with concepts, vocabulary, etc., borrowed from Storm Constantine.
Obviously the two previous story, Deliverance and Obstacle Course. No spoilers for any specific book in the Wraeththu trilogy, but it is imagined that this entire storyline takes place after the Ascension. There are still original incepted hara, but Wraeththu civilization has stablized.
It was mid-afternoon when the sun came out from behind the clouds, catching Adelna’s shining auburn hair. My youngest son took after me in looks and now, he approached six years old, the resemblance was becoming more and more striking. He was out in the yard creating some sort of sculpture. He’d been working on the project for some day. All along I had decided not to look too closely, as I was sure he’d rather have the final product come as a surprise. I was looking at him out the window of my workroom, having just completed a long string of orders on my jewelry.
Fafara was sitting in his usual chair in the corner. He’d come by twenty minutes before to talk to me and I’d told him I needed to complete my work. Still observing Adelna, I signalled the end of my work hours with a question.
“I haven’t seen Ilafa out there or heard from him in a few hours. Do you know where he’s gone off to?”
I put away one last tool and turned to face the corner. Fafara sighed.
“Yes, Dera, I do.” A slight smile twisted his lip. “In fact, that’s what I came by to speak to you about.”
I stepped over and slid down on the floor in front of his chair. I always loved to lean back into his legs. “Oh, I see. So where is he?”
Fafara’s hands began to play with my hair as he replied. “It’s not so much where he is as what he’s doing.”
I turned my head around swiftly enough that my hair snagged on Fafara’s fingers. “Ouch!” I muttered.
“Do I have your attention now?” he asked, grinning.
I nodded. He always knows just how to get to me and at that particular moment, he was doing a splendid job.
“He’s off in his room, Dera. He’s been spending more and more time there. Have you noticed?”
I thought about it and nodded again. “Yes, I have. I thought he was just tired.”
Fafara shook his head slowly form side to side. “It’s more than that, Dera.”
Suddenly it dawned on me. Feybraiha.
As always, Fafara knew just what I was thinking. “Time flies, doesn’t it?”
I stared at him, feeling a bit stunned. My son was soon to become har, no longer harling. I still remembered him as my mewling little one, the child I had borne out of such grief, his father killed in a random assault in the desert while he was but a pearl. Now he was hiding in his bedroom, about to become an adult.
I sighed. “I feel like such a bad hostling! I didn’t even notice!”
Fafara patted my head. “It’s all right. He’s just barely begun to show the signs.”
“Then how can you be sure?”
“Oh, I can tell,” he said, his fingers by now twining through my hair again. “I saw five of my own go through it, don’t forget. You learn to pick up on things.”
“Like what?” I asked. Unlike Fafara, who had been incepted as a human teenager, I was pure-born and had gone through Feybraiha myself. Still, he had many years more experience and in our years together, I had learned to trust in his ability to make judgements that were beyond me.
“Various signs,” he replied. “Like sitting out in the garden staring at the clouds. Not finishing his lunch because he’d rather go lay in the bath. Showing a bit of temper with Adelna. You know, small things.”
I turned my head forward and settled my shoulders between his knees. “Yes, I know. I remember when my own time came. Our house was always such a bustle of activity that no one noticed anything until one day I had a fit at dinner and threw a plate through the window.”
“Oh, my!” Fafara laughed. “Let’s hope that doesn’t run in the family!”
“Yes, let’s hope,” I said, laughing a bit myself. “Actually I think we might be fine, because I remember Ilana telling me that his experience had been relatively mild. I actually knew him then and my memory of his house during that time doesn’t include any smash windows.”
Fafara chuckled. “Good, Dera.” He moved his hands down and began to give my shoulders a serious massage. “Still, there are some important matters we will need to discuss.”
I nodded in understanding. “We need to talk to him, of course.”
“Of course,” he agreed, sending a ripple of pleasure down my back as he squeezed the tightness out of my muscles. “We can do that tonight. In the meantime, we have to make some decisions.”
All at once I knew what he was talking about. Someone would need to be brought in for the occasion, the ritual aruna that would mark my son’s coming of age. This was most often a known, often close, friend of the family, someone agreed upon by the parents. Occasionally harlings overrode their parents’ decisions, either disliking the choice or having one of their own. In our case, however, I was certain our choice and my son’s would coincide quite nicely.
“Arafa,” I said.
Fafara gave my shoulders a tight but affectionate squeeze. “Agreed. Arafa.”
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