In Old Woldan, a woman's value was dependent on her beauty and manner. Rebecca Ellgood had a fairly plain face, but still this did not affect her. She was a small woman who moved as gracefully as the incoming tide and had a smile you could feel homesick for -'pretty', they called her. While Philips inherited more of her mother's physical characteristics it was Isla who was told she took after her- she had the same demeanor. Isla had her father's golden hair, which was liked in Flouris (unfortunately the government had a very hostile attitude to immigration leaving little diversity in even the greatest cities). Isla was, even at thirteen, considered 'beautiful'. Philipa had hair the brown of wet sand- not cared for. Her mother cut it to her shoulders and tied it in pigtails to try to make her look better. Philipa was stuck with her mother's face- pale down turned eyes, an angular nose and chin, strong eyebrows with the posture of her father added with her own poor hand eye coordination- clunky and awkward. "More like a boy!", "taking up too much space...", "too tall for her own good."
And of course, a series of purple, never-healing scars running from below her right eye back until one nicked her ear. "Ruined." They said. Not merely "ugly." Ruined.
Though just 5 at the time, Philipa would never forget that terrible day as she lay in bed, her hands in bandages (they too were scarred when she tried to shield her face) and her mother mopping up the blood from her face, weeping for her unmarred face. Her father paced the room in a rage.
"And the gods wouldn't let her grow up pretty! She has nothing for her now. We may as well have one daughter!"
"We have one marryable daughter. Philipa's barely spoken since she was an infant...not to mention...I doubt she's really there. Not a word we say registers with her. I wouldn't be concerned if she had a pretty face...but.."
Tony Ellgood genuinely believed Philipa couldn't understand what he said. No. She heard every 'stupid', every 'ugly', every 'as good as dead'. She wondered if he missed her now that she was dead- to Old Woldan, at least.
Rebecca was silent. Eventually she sighed and said. "It'll healed by the time she is of age."
Yet here Philipa was, eighteen years old, a woman by the laws of her home country. Now a sea separated her from her birthplace, but she had a home here.She had people here who liked-loved her. She wondered if her parents would like them- no, she didn't want to think what sort of words they'd use to refer to them. To her.
Even now, she still struggled to accept herself. It didn't matter what Flouris told her concerning other people. She only had problems with herself. At fifteen she cursed herself for finding more ways to become an abomination. Even so, she was happier here.
Sometimes Philipa still dreamt about Isla's last breaths. Glimpses of Adnett's face, blood in the sand, her sister gasping for breath despite her chest being ripped open. So much blood. She couldn't turn away until her sister went completely still. Then she fled, and never came back.
Eight years. She's been dead eight years. Was her life a worthy price for Philipa's freedom? Of course not. Her first thought as Philipa woke on the 23rd June, 1837. Funny, really, she had no reason too. Isla would be twenty one-
She pushes the thought away, as always. She was no one's sister anymore. It made no difference who was alive the other side of the sea. Forget.
Instead of despairing, she pulled her blankets up to her neck and tried to get back to sleep. Next to her was the girl who just hours ago, told Philipa she was beautiful.
I am not any man's daughter, nor girl's sister. The ocean is my mother. Otherwise I am alone. The scared little child is long dead. There is only me. There is only now and the future.