Day Two: 1,522 words. (Total: 2,786)
After eating, they left their bark plates on the wicker table and Omoachel lead Talau down the beach to see her sculpture. The clouds had moved closer and they could see the rain above the ocean a mere two stone throws away from the beach. Talau seemed anxious as she followed her niece who skipped to her creation, dancing with each step. Upon reaching the tortoise, the young girl jumped and squealed full of joy from seeing that it was still standing despite the storm. Omoachel described it to her aunt, using great emphasis, how the tortoise would guard itself and be safe until the storm passed, but when she looked up at her aunt she saw her, arms folded, watching the other people eat at the awning. The older woman’s full red-stained lips were pressed tight together and her dark eyebrows were scrunched so fierce. Omoachel struggled to understand what she was so concerned about; everyone was happy and feasting.
"What's wrong, Aunt Talau?"
The tall woman adjusted the flowers in her bun, "They're pretending all is well and everything can remain as it is."
The little girl cocked her head to the side, "Won't it?"
That caused Talau pain. She closed off, "What have you named your tortoise?"
Omoachel's eyes lit up, " Oh! I haven't even decided!"
"How about 'Sechelei'?"
The little girl pointed a finger at her mouth and made a gagging sound, "That's HER name," gesturing towards the fizzy-haired girl playing volley.
Talau laughed, "I suppose you could just call him 'Uel'. Although it's not very creativ-"
"Uel! Uel uel!" Omoachel exclaimed.
Talau patted her little niece on the head and ran her fingers through her thick black curls. Omoachel was young. She could not comprehend the severity of what was happening. Perhaps it was even for the best that she didn’t. Talau was glad her niece felt such blind joy, but feared for the day when the danger became far too visible. But as she thought to herself, she noticed a plump, oval-shaped man panting and waving his arms out of the corner of her eye. He rushed her way; she rolled her eyes.
"Chief Talau!" He yelled, holding his pants so they wouldn't fall.
Talau turned to him, unamused. Omoachel sat down in the sand beside her. The volley game continued on and she shared a gaze with the well-dressed boy. They attended school together so she gave him a polite wave. He responded by sticking out his tongue while the other children laughed. Omo glanced away fast. Her aunt witnessed this as well, but before she could act on it, the plump man was in front of her.
Upon reaching her, he was out of breath, "Talau, my chieftess, forgive me for my ears have a fault, but I thought I almost heard you call a village meeting tonight. With the festival so soon- TOMORROW! It's tomorrow!" He looked as if he would begin to choke as he watched the laborers prepare for the celebration, "There is so much still to be done! Half the banners aren't even hung!"
She crossed her arms, "Well, that would be what happens when you plan a festival in the wake of a hurricane."
"But, my chieftess" you could almost watch the hairs on his head turn grey, "it is the moon who chooses the festival."
"Yes, a moon that will be obstructed by that very cloud," pointing to the dark menace on the horizon.
"All will be well. The sailfish will cut through the storm and we will feast and celebrate as normal."
Omoachel pulled on her aunt's dress, but received no attention. Talau stated so plain, "If the sailfish will cut through the storm, then the macaw will hang the shells, and the butterflies will make sure all the flowers are in bloom. If the spirits will make sure the festival persists then we have no reason to worry about the village meeting tonight."
The oval man sounded as if he were having a minor heart attack, "But, Chief Talau!"
"It will begin at torchlight. Let the village know."
His face contorted into ten different expressions a minute, but he merely bowed and rushed away, pants in hand. Talau cackled and Omoachel laughed with her, admittedly nervous. But their laughs were cut short when a ball came crashing beside them, inches from the sand tortoise. Omo gasped and her lip trembled ever so slight. Talau picked up the ball and inspected the damage, but there was the none; the tortoise had guarded himself well. The chieftess watched unamused as a very well-dressed boy came flailing their way like a drunken rooster.
"How did he stay so clean playing in the sand anyway? Voodoo perhaps? Most likely." Talau thought to herself.
The boy, without saying a word, grabbed for the ball, but the chieftess held it high out of his reach. You could hear the grain grinding in his head as he struggled to think of polite words.
"My ball, Chief." He said.
Talau's eyes met the volleyball hoisted above her head, "Oh? What of it?"
One could tell this wasn't a situation he encountered often, "I need it to continue my volley game."
She looked over to Omoachel who had a devious grin. Talau gave her a playful wink.
"Whoops." She said as she launched the ball out into the vicious ocean waves, "Wind got ahold of it, I suppose."
The boy's face turned red like a bright betelnut. He ran toward the awning, fuming and calling out his mother’s name. Talau struggled to hold back a laugh.
"That was not chiefly of me, Omo. Eventually you'll have to stand up for yourself."
Omoachel turned her head towards the sand. There was no point standing up to that boy, Tuang. He cared only for those who flattered him. And those who flattered him would give an earful to the non-flatter-ers. Not to mention, his father owned the banks and his mother was largely a gossip. There was nothing to gain from standing up to such a boy and now Omo would feel only more lonely at school after what her aunt had done.
"Omo? Are you listening?”
The little girl bowed her head, "Sorry, Aunt Talau."
The chieftess hugged her niece, "I have to prepare for tonight, will you be fine by yourself?"
Omoachel looked over to the playing kids throwing shells into the ocean farther down the beach. She then looked down at her sand tortoise. She smiled, half-forced, "I'll be fine."
Talau gave her a kiss on the head and cut through the palms to walk on the stone pathways of the village. There were many shops along the southern beach pathway including the jewelers where two women decked in gaudy coral and pearl pieces cackled and gossiped to each other.
“Good afternoon, chieftess” they both echoed with a graceful bow.
Talau nodded to them, “Has Chais made his rounds?”
“Well, he is quite round,” the one woman said, patting herself on the back as her friend nearly choked from laughter. Talau’s eyes narrowed, so the woman added, “But yes, Chief Talau. Chais has announced tonight’s meeting.”
The chieftess walked away down the pathway and the women bowed their heads. She massaged her temple as she neared the village square. Empty barrels of rum roamed free, villagers danced, and sang as performers pounded on large drums. As Talau attempted to travel through, she was stopped by a stocky man with more hair on his eyebrows than on his head.
“Chieftess! Fancy seeing you take part in the festivities.”
Talau grunted, “Good evening, Mesaul. I’m afraid I haven’t the time to hear your bragging.”
Mesaul chuckled and gulped his cup of rum, “But I have such a tale to brag,” villagers were circled around him, eyes wide and mouths open, “I was just telling my dearest friends,” the villagers squealed, “of how my son, Tuang, will earn our family yet another totem…which number will it be again?”
“Five! It will be your family’s fifth, treasurer” a villager proclaimed with such pride.
Talau forced a smile, “I’m sure the spirits feel nothing but joy when they dote upon you with such generosity.”
“Charming woman, I hope that was not sarcasm.”
“I’m no charmer.” She said, shoving past him.
“Good luck at the meeting, tonight.” He called out.
She stopped in her tracks and turned around.
He continued, “Shame the village doesn’t see eye to eye with you.”
She gritted her teeth, “No, I suppose they just see what you slip in their pockets.”
He reached in his pocket and grabbed a large iridescent coin. He slid in between his fingers and watched it glisten, “Yes, something of such beauty is hard to deny,” he grinned, “No offense, chieftess.”
She ignored his words and entered the longhouse, the largest building, seated in the center of the island. Mesaul chugged the rest of his rum and threw the coconut husk cup on the ground. He staggered through a sea of flatterers to get to the awning to meet his son and wife, hiccuping like someone stepped on a frog.