Ripening Fruit

Ripening Fruit
by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)

Story Notes

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.

Characters
All original characters (main characters Dera, Fafa, Arafa, Ilafa, and Adelna), with concepts, vocabulary, etc., borrowed from Storm Constantine.

Spoilers
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.

Chapter 1

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.”

Chapter 2

By sheer luck, Arafa was set to arrive that very afternoon. Since completing his apprenticeship, he’d been managing quite well on his own as a healer in a town a half-day’s travel distant. He had a family of his own, a delightful partner and two young sons. He carried quite a few obligations but he had always made it a point to visit at least once a month. Ever since Ilafa’s birth, he’d taken on the role of step-parent. To me he had become almost like a brother.

After concluding our talk in my workroom, Fafara and I decided to take a bath and do some relaxing. Adelna remained out in the yard working on his sculpture, Ilafa presumedly still in seclusion, no doubt beginning to feel hot and itchy and inexplicably tired.

We had just finished getting dressed when I heard Adelna call out from the yard. Arafa was here — and so was his son Kafarash! Kafarash was only a year Adelna’s junior and the two young hara loved to play together. I sent Fafara out to meet the visitors and went to fetch Ilafa.

I decided to exercise some caution. Feybraiha is nearly always a difficult time and the sensitivities of hara going through the change are notoriously unpredictable. They might appreciate outside concern and cling to their parents for support — or they might become angry and resentful. I hoped Ilafa’s disposition would allow him to accept my care, but I was prepared to be rejected.

I stood by his bedroom door and knocked. When the only response was silence, I thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep. I recalled how tired I had been in those weeks of my life when my own body had moved toward adulthood. At times my limbs had felt like they were made of lead and I would lie on the bed unable to move.

A a few moments, to my surprise, the door opened and there stood my son, looking spent and bleary-eyed. How I had failed to notice this earlier, I don’t know, but I certainly noticed it then.

“I’m– I’m sorry, Dede,” he stuttered. “Were you knocking long? I was– asleep.”

I smiled at him indulgently. “No, I just came to tell you that Arafa and Kafarash have arrived.”

“Oh.” He turned back into the room and walked to a dresser to find himself a change of clothes. His robes were rumpled and creased, probably with sweat. He was obviously not interested in much of anything at that moment. He was simply tired.

“I also wanted to let you know,” I continued, observing him, “that later tonight, an hour or so after dinner, Fafara and I would like to have a talk with you.”

For just a second, his shoulder’s tensed. I’m sure he knew what the topic of discussion would be.

With a quick goodbye and the promise of a good dinner, I left him standing at his dresser, staring listlessly at his reflection in the mirror.

***

I emerged from the hallway to find everyone in the great room.

“Ah, Dera!” Arafa called to me. We embraced and then he stepped back, gesturing to the table. “You should see what your son has made!”

Adelna pointed. “Look, Dede, I finished it!”

I went over to look. My son had, even before he had begun working with a tutor, always exhibited an impressive artistic bent. He was adept in all the arts — drawing, painting, and above all, sculpture. Recently his artwork had begun to show a growing complexity.

Still, when I saw this newest piece, I was startled by his powers. He had managed to carve, out of a single piece of wood, a scene of a har spinning gracefully on a hilltop. It was unimaginable, all the tiny details he had worked in, all the magnificent curves, the purity of the emotions. My son had made that!

“Oh, Adelna, it is exquisite,” I said finally, after circling it, examining it from all sides. “And just think — six years ago you were just a little black pearl!”

“Ah, yes,” Fafara murmured. “I remember that pearl quite well.”

Adelna blushed and look down, speechless. I think the idea that he had once existed in such a helpless form embarrassed him for some strange reason. He’d seen pearls since then, when occasionally he’d gone to assist Fafara on his healing assignments, but still, he was feeling rather grown up and to have his father reminding him of his infancy was not to his taste.

I decided to rid his mind of any discomfort. “Why don’t you set it on the dining room table for dinner. That way we can all enjoy looking at it.”

Fafara cracked a small smile. “Yes, that’s a wonderful idea. Why don’t you go along with Kafarash and set the table while you’re at it?”

The two harlings instantly set off towards the dining room. I didn’t expect Ilafa to appear anytime soon, as he’d appeared so sluggish and ill-inclined to socialize, but even so, I gestured to the door and led us out into the garden. Before Fafara and I had our talk with Ilafa, we had to to know if Arafa was willing.

Chapter 3

Arafa agreed almost before we had finished telling him.

“Oh, of course, of course,” he said. “I would be honored.” He grinned and ran a hand through his thick blond hair. “Makes me feel the passage of time, to be called in like this, but yes, of course.”

“I’m glad,” I told him. “You know you’re like a step-parent or an uncle to him.”

He nodded. “Yes, I know. I could say the same about you two and my sons. Someday, when the time comes, I may ask one of you to return the favor.”

The discussion continued for a few minutes. Ilafa would need at least a month to complete his Feybraiha. We chose a date for the celebration that came a few days after his body would have ripened. Fafara and I would be having a talk with him that evening. Over the course of his transformation into true har, we would be instructing him on the nature of aruna.

Finally Adelna called out from the house. Dinner was ready. Since I had gone back to handling my business on more of a full-time basis, we had hired a housekeeper and cook. Our meals were always delicious. The three of us headed back to the house.

When we arrived in the dining room, Adelna’s dancing har was the centerpiece, the rest of the table set up quite nicely. All of this was offset, however, by Ilafa, who was sitting alone on one side, still looking half-asleep.

“Hello, Ila,” Arafa said. My son looked up and managed a weak smile.

“Hello, Arafa,” he said. His eyes drifted to the table. We really needed to have our talk, give his mind and body something to look forward to. As it was, he was feeling lost and out of focus. Thoughts of aruna would change that, or so I hoped.

***

After dinner Arafa took the two younger harlings out for a walk while Fafara and I took Ilafa to a special place in the garden. On three sides it was surrounded by tall, thick hedges, giving it the feel of an outdoor room, comfortable in the open air but private as a place indoors.

“We wanted to talk with you, Ila,” I began. “About the changes you’ve been feeling.”

He said nothing, just stared into my eyes looking slightly intimidated.

“You know what is happening to you, of course,” Fafara said. “You’ve been with me on enough of my appointments, helped me give aid to others going through a similar phase in their lives.”

Still my Ila said nothing, but this time he nodded. Finally, after a few moments, he moved his mouth and spoke. “It is Feybraiha.”

“Yes, Ila, it is,” I confirmed, slowly reaching out and placing my hand on his. It was hot and slightly damp. “Do not have any worries. This is something that is natural to Wraeththu. I went through it myself. I remember how it was. It can be difficult.”

I paused, giving my words time to soak in.

“I… can tell it will be,” my son said, his voice small. “I… already feel so strange, almost as if I am losing myself and becoming something else. I feel as if some outside force has take possession of me.”

Fafara put his hand on Ila’s other hand. “Yes, Ila, and that force is the force of life, the force that runs through all Wraeththu. It is the force that will draw you forward and into the first step of becoming true har. You body is awakening.”

Ilafa suddenly broke out of his quiet mode and snorted. “Oh, is that what’s happening — I’m awakening!? Funny, I keep feeling like I’m falling asleep.”

“You’re going to be very tired at times,” Fafara admitted. “This is natural. Your body is working very hard. As you know, the soume-lam are flexing and growing, preparing for their role in your life. Your body is changing in many small ways. It makes you tired but in the end, you will feel more ‘awake’ than you have ever felt in your life.”

“I hope so,” Ilafa said. “What I’m about to go through should have its rewards.”

I smiled. “Oh, it will have, Ila. I think you know that. It must.”

Ilafa looked to both of us apprehensively. “Yes, I know.” He wanted to ask us who we had chosen. He did not ask.

“So,” I began, “would you like to know more?”

Slowly he nodded. “Yes.”

“Fafara and I think we know just the har for you.”

Ila was holding his breath.

“Arafa.”

He let out his breath. “Oh! Arafa.” He was looking less sleepy already. “Arafa.” He was thinking about it. “That’s… good.” I could almost see the wheels turning. “Yes, definitely that’s all right with me. A…” his voice drifted off.

“A what?” Fafara asked softly.

“A… a good choice,” Ila finished, sounding a tad embarrassed.

“I’m glad you think so,” I said. “We spoke with him earlier and he’s agreed.”

Ilafa looked down, but not before I saw his eyes were dancing. “Thank you.” He looked up. “You two are so… good to me. I… am grateful for you both.”

These are words that parents always want to hear but rarely do. Children, especially children nearing adulthood, rarely make such admissions. Hearing him speak those words out loud, I felt my heart swell.

Fafara and I embraced him. Our son. Soon to be a true har.

Chapter 4

I had long judged Feybraiha to be a wondrous — if abrupt and uncomfortable — process, something brought about by nature to bring us into the world of true hara. However, when I had to witness my own son go through it, my feelings changed; it became something from which I wanted to protect him.

Fafara and I released him from his daily lessons. He no longer was expected to accompany Fafara on his housecalls or attend any social functions — not unless he wanted to, of course. We instructed Adelna to grant his brother a wide berth. We wanted to make it easy on him, to lighten his burden.

For the first few days, there was not much of a change. Ilafa continued to be tired, keeping to his room or lying on the couch with the curtains drawn, hiding in the shadows with his eyes closed or staring off into space. At mealtimes there was a light sheen of sweat on his face, even though the weather was mild and he had obviously not been exercising.

Finally, however, the Feybraiha began in earnest. Sometime in the middle of the night I awoke. At first I simply stared into the darkness, but gradually I began to wonder why I was awake. It was then that I heard it. A faint whimper, coming from somewhere in the house.

Silently I slipped out of bed and padded down the hallway. I turned the handle on my son’s bedroom door and stepped inside.

“Ila,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. “Are you all right?”

From the direction of the bed I heard another whimper and the thrashing of blankets and sheets.

I stepped over to the windows and drew the curtain back slightly, letting in the light of the moon. All harlings going through Feybraiha crave the moonlight, and now that I wanted some illumination, I thought it would be appropriate.

I approached the bed and took a seat in the space near my son’s feet. His hair was tangled with sweat. “I understand,” I said. “You feel terrible.”

In the silver glow of the moon he shivered and nodded. “I– I can’t sleep,” he moaned. “Inside I feel like… like there are snakes and insects… crawling, fighting with one another.”

I understood. It had been the same for me, and I told him so. He told me how his skin had begun to itch. I explained to him how hair would spring up under his arms and between his legs, how he might feel feverish or burst out in tears. These things were all natural, I told him, and they would not last forever, just for a few short weeks.

I suspect he resented some of what I told him. In one corner of his mind, he appreciated that I was taking the time to explain things, but in a perhaps larger part of his mind, he thought, “Oh, but that’s easy for you to say — you’re not living in my body!”

Still, Ilafa seemed grateful on that first night. I went to the kitchen and brought him a warm mug of tea. From Ilafa’s pharmacy I brought him a dose of a medicine I knew would allow him to relax into dreams. When he showed me where the skin on his inner thigh had begun to chafe and burn, I brought him a cream and rubbed it on. By the time I was through with him, he had fallen asleep. There was sweat upon his brow, but at least his expression was peaceful.

***

Over the next two weeks, it became more and more difficult for me to induce in Ilafa that same peaceful expression. Fafara administered every manner of treatment and I’m sure each of them helped make my son’s discomfort more bearable, but even so, the path Ilafa’s body was forced to walk was far from easy.

Every night he would feel restless and lie in bed, unable to sleep, sometimes despite the soothing elixirs Fafara would prepare. When he did manage to catch a few hours, he spoke of nightmares. He was not afraid of aruna, he told us, but it was an unknown, and his mind wove together strange images and feelings that confused and frightened him.

Throughout those weeks, sweat poured out of him as fast as we could give him cooling, sweet water. Despite all the creams, his skin tingled and itched and there were patches of red, irritated skin, a kind of rash. From time to time, he was plagued by terrible, pounding headaches.

His appetite would come and go. Often he complained that his stomach hurt. Fafara and I knew that it was his soume-lam that were hurting him, not his stomach, but it had already been explained earlier and so we simply indulged him, offering him comfort without going into detail.

His moods were mercurial. Sometimes he would be so tired he barely put up a fuss except to whimper and, occasionally, cry. At other times he was filled with energy, talking non-stop. His attitude towards Feybraiha was constantly changing. At lunchtime he could be looking forward to the end of things, his expression warm with anticipation, and then at dinner he could be angry, complaining that he didn’t want anything to change or that he wished everyone would quit fussing over him and leave him alone.

Fafara and I spoke to him of aruna, what he should expect. We told him that he would be soume the very first time, swallowing Arafa’s fire. The pleasure he would feel would be like anything he had ever experienced. We explained to him, without going into too much detail, that afterward the roles might be reversed or that he and Arafa might experiment depending on the mood.

We also told him of the sharing of breath, how he would feel parts of Arafa that he did not know existed. This was the first step in his caste training, this new awareness. He had learned some of these things from his tutor and we had always been open about aruna before, but now that the Feybraiha was upon him, he took our words much more to heart.

For the most part, our household kept on operating as usual. Adelna was either at lessons or working on his sculptures. Fafara and I carried out our livelihoods. Of course we did take some time out to make preparations for the celebration. My parents and Ilana’s were already scheduled to take holiday with us during that time — timing was working out perfectly — but even so, there were people who needed to be invited, friends and neighbors from town. Our housekeeper delighted in creating a menu for the big day. Fafara insisted on hiring musicians. We had had a good year and he wanted to be generous.

Finally Ilafa began to improve. His rashes faded and there was less whimpering. The black, angry moods began to drop off. By the end of the month, a few days before the celebration, he was smiling and seeming more like his old self. When I looked in his eyes, I knew was ready. He would now become a true har.

Chapter 5

The day of celebration fell on a warm, slightly windy day near the start of summer.

My relatives had arrived two days beforehand and were surprised and delighted to find themselves just in time. Our housekeeper had prepared the most sumptuous foods, all Ilafa’s favorites, and he had ordered a full assortment of wines. Adelna had tended to the decorations, flowers and ferns mostly, but also special paintings and sculptures for the walls, the tables. Fafara and I were left the two remaining tasks: Overseeing the ceremony and preparing the new Kaimana.

I was with him arranging his hair when Fafara came in to tell us Arafa had arrived.

“Oh, Ila, you look lovely,” Fafara remarked, lifting Ilafa’s chin.

I had woven dried white flowers in his dark brown hair and edged his dark eyes in black. His robe was of the darkest blue with a silver belt fit snug around the hips. Truly, he had never looked more like his father.

“Thank you,” said my son. “I feel so pampered.”

“But naturally you must be,” Fafara soothed. “This day is for you.”

Earlier we had made a great show of redecorating Ilafa’s bedroom. A larger bed was something he certainly needed, but beyond that, we had let him choose the colors, decorations, changes in furniture. He was now an adult and more than ever, he would be exercising his own judgement and taste. He had chosen colors all in green and brown, the colors of the garden he had helped Fafara to tend for so long.

At last my son was ready. Taking his hands, Fafara and I led him out into the garden. All eyes shifted and a murmur rolled over the crowd. What a lovely young har I had brought into the world. Ilana’s hostling wept tears of joy, to see in his grandson the memory of his son who could not be witness to that moment.

It was a day of wine and music, dancing and laughter. Fafara led the ceremony that pronounced Ilafa ready for flowering, or should I say deflowering. Ilafa was now Kaimana and would afterward begin his caste training. Gone was my little harling.

A half hour before midnight, I led my son to his bedroom. Earlier I had decorated it with bright berries and scented the air with sweet-smelling herbs. Feeling romantic, I had strewn the bed with white flower petals. Candles burned low and the curtains were drawn.

“And now I will leave you, my Ila,” I said, pulling him to my chest. “Do not be afraid, but let nature do as nature desires. It will be the best.”

Ilafa smiled. “I hope so.” Gracefully he approached the bed. “Should I get undressed?” he asked.

“No,” I told him. “Just take off your sandals and slip under the covers. Arafa will enjoy taking away your clothes.”

He did as I suggested. I knew that at that moment, my son still had little but an inkling of the pleasure of aruna. How can such a thing be known, except through personal experience? We had tried to prepare him well, but true knowledge would come only after this night had come to pass.

Ilafa was beautiful as he lay in the bed. I thought about his father and in my head, I said a silent prayer: “May there be one for Ila just as for me there was Ilana, just as later there was Fafara. Please, let this be.”

I placed a gentle kiss upon his forehead. “Good luck,” I whispered.

On the way back from the bedroom, I passed Arafa, accompanied by Fafara.

“He’s all yours,” I gestured.

***

That night, despite all the excitement, all the guests and all the cleaning up we had to do, Fafara and I managed to have our very own tender moment.

I was curled up beside him enjoying another of his massages when he suddenly spoke. “Dera, I’m so glad I found you!”

It seemed I could never tired of that particular declaration.

“Me, too,” I murmured, meaning it. If he hadn’t found me, I would have died and Ilafa would never had been born.

Chapter 6

We slept a bit late the next morning. When I finally awoke, prompted by the sunlight streaming through the windows, Fafara was returning from the bathroom. I was thinking of getting up, but before I could, he held me back and snuggled into bed next to me.

“I wonder how things went,” I said.

“Quite well, I’d imagine,” Fafara chuckled. “Arafa should have been able to satisfy him in the fullest.”

I smiled at the reference. Before I’d come along, Fafara and Arafa had from time to time been more than master and apprentice. Aruna was, after all, necessary for health and quite a enjoyable. My son’s initiator was, so Fafara had told me as we’d come to know one another, quite a bit more sensual that he might appear on the surface.

“I hope so,” I said. “Shouldn’t we go see?”

Fafara nuzzled the side of my face. “Maybe,” he murmured. “Eventually…”

It was another half and hour before we even made it out of bed.

We found everyone — parents, the two harlings, and the caretaker — all sitting at the breakfast table. Two hara were conspicuously absent. I quirked a worried eyebrow at my partner.

“Don’t worry, Dera, they’ll be along.”

Indeed it was not five minutes later, as we were busy with our berries and muffins, that the missing couple sauntered in, hair still glistening, brushed back after a bath. My son glowed with beauty, even more so than he had during the celebration. Arafa looked pleased as well.

We continued on with the meal, smiling and chatting on about inconsequentials. No one was about to ask about what had passed in the night. No, such questions were to be posed discreetly.

***

It wasn’t until a few hours later that I had the opportunity to prod. Arafa was preparing to return to his family, packing his bag, when I caught up with him.

“So tell me, brother, did you enjoy it?” I asked.

“Mmmmmmmmmm,” he said. “Yes, I did.” He was grinning. “It’s so strange. I feel glad I did it, but now I’m going home to my partner and family and I think…” He shrugged.

“Ah, you are a true har then. We are not bound to the ways of men. You can return and have your pleasure whenever you would like, provided there is consent.”

“Oh, there will be,” he said, still grinning. “I think I gave him quite a good education. Should last him a lifetime.”

I offered an outstretched hand. “Well thank you then for a job well done.”

*** 

As we slipped under the bedcovers that night, Fafara told me what he’d gotten out of Ilafa. The aruna had been everything he’d dreamed and hoped for, only more. “The taste of his breath is like flowers, the warmth of his body like a warm stone only giving where the stone is hard.” He had loved every minute of it.

Chapter 7

A few days afterward, Ilafa began his caste-training. With his years of experience and status as Algomalid, Fafara was eminently qualified to be his teacher and so it was. In the meantime, my son became Fafara’s full-time assistant. Ilafa had been helping him informally with healing for years but now that he was an adult, he was helping him in much the same way that Arafa had assisted as an apprentice.

Speaking of Arafa, our dear friend stepped up his visits from that point onward. Now it was every three weeks, not just once a month, and his motives for visiting weren’t entirely social. It seems he and my son had discovered a situation of mutual benefit.

Not that Fafara and I were encouraging Ilafa to commit to any one person. It was important to experiment, we told him — part of caste training, the discovery of the many fires that burn within the body, the many ways to light them, the many ways to soothe them. We encouraged him to go into town and meet people.

I personally taught him the fine art of flirtation. Fafara argued that it should really be he who give that lesson, seeing as he had seduced me on my sickbed when we first met, but I assured him that he hadn’t known me in my younger days. He raised an eyebrow at that but conceded the point.

After nearly a year of caste progression and couplings with an impressive variety of hara, Ilafa met a match. Compared to many, his wait was shorter than usual, and so Fafara and I were surprised, especially considering who it was. It was not Arafa, although he remained a frequently visitor, nor was it any of the other hara in town.

No, this was another visitor, a har by the name of Ilam, who came on a visit with Fafara’s youngest son from his prior relationship. Ilam was Fafara’s grandson.

Willowy and falling more to the feminine than the masculine, he had Ilafa’s eyes at once, and I could not be blind as I watched their courtship dance. Fafara joked about how it was just another advantage I had gained in having a partner who was a grandfather.

Ilam never even returned with his hostling, but moved straight into the house. We didn’t mind at all, as there was plenty of room and, in an amazing bit of convenience, Ilam was interesting in the jeweler’s craft. Ilafa worked with Fafara and I worked with Ilam, each plying our trades.

Adelna was not forgotten, as you might imagine. Instead, he became everyone’s favorite, and his art began to draw patrons — astonishing at his age!

He was seven years old when one day I noticed him sitting in the garden, leaning against a tree and scratching his arms and neck furiously. Insect bites, I thought. The next day he begged out of his daily lessons to take a nap. Too much sun, I thought. Then, that night, I happened to glance out the bedroom window after midnight and saw him in the yard, staring up at the moon. It was early for Feybraiha, but the timing was not unheard of.

I climbed into bed. When I told Fafara, he could not believe it at first, but I only had to say two words to quiet his protests.

“Time flies.”

He groaned. “Yes, it does, Dera. They grow up so quickly!”

I nuzzled his throat. “What are we to do, Fafa?”

He put his arm around me. “Ah, I have an idea — make more!”

“Good idea,” I said, and rolled onto my back so that together we could bring life into the world, life that would grow, ripen, flower and one day come to bear fruit.

The End

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