Day Four: 1,422 words (6,976 total.)
She walked barefoot through the garden, letting the sharp leaves cut into her legs. Were they leaves or were they vines? The sun was bright and she was unable to see. But she could feel. And they were painful. Most likely, they were vines. But there was more she could feel, all of which felt uncomfortable. It was hot, hot enough to melt. She was melting. She fell to the ground, sinking into the piercing vines. She bled. Still, she was unable to see, but she could hear. The chains chimed with each footstep. He always wore those chains. She saw a shadow in front of her and it extended it's hand.
"Dad?" Talau asked.
But she awoke to a crash from outside. The chieftess was drowsy and stumbled as she rose to her feet. She no longer could hear rain nor wind. The eye. Hopefully it would last until the end of the festival. Talau ascended the ladder, entered the backstage, and traveled to the longhouse doors. Her head pounded and all she wanted was for this day to pass. As she neared the doors there was another loud crash. It made her anxious as she pushed out into the square. What she saw distressed her. Laborers worked with haste to pull down palms that were broken and falling. They swept up the ragged remains of banners, scattered shells, leaves, branches, and petals. It was all as Talau expected, but still the festival would persist.
She checked the sundial that stood in the center of the square. The sky was still covered in dark clouds and she was uncertain of the time, but could tell it was early day as the pathways were empty save for those cleaning them. Talau ventured uphill on the western pathway back to her hut. It was almost a blessing that clouds blocked the sun as brightness would be too much for the Chieftess at the moment. Ascending, she noticed many families praying at their totems. It must have been later than she assumed as prayer was done midday.
"It is no use," she sighed to herself.
When she reached the plateau, she saw Mesaul's family, the tailor's family, the jeweler's family, and the potter's family all praying at their respective totems. There seemed to be tension in the Mesaul house. But Talau dismissed this; Imangel had probably broken a nail or Tuang probably wanted a new toy. Before reaching her own home, she saw the tailor praying at his sea cucumber and tried to mask her laughs as a sneeze. The family didn't notice, she hoped.
Talau's totem yard was hidden by high bushes. They were not flowering or carved; they were tall and did their job to block wandering eyes. She entered her hut and traveled straight to the yard, knowing Omoachel would be there. Her little niece sat, eyes closed tight, in front of the bear totem. She mouthed words with her lips, but her face could tell what she was begging.
"I needed time to think last night," Talau said, still standing at the doorway.
Her smile was half-hearted, "Oh."
The chieftess struggled to make conversation, "Did you have enough to eat?"
"Yea. Do you think we could have a labor-"
"No." Talau was quick to answer.
Omoachel whined, "But...you're gone so often. And...the storm was so loud."
Talau didn't respond. She returned inside her home and lit a fire on the hearth. Her home was one of few that did not have a laborer or even a team to take care of the family. Some just didn't have the coin; she just enjoyed her space. Even her niece, whom she loved, was someone she needed time away from. Omoachel, however, took it far too personally.
"My class is putting on a dance recital," Omo joined her aunt, "I didn't really want to participate...but if you came..."
"If you don't want to, that's fine, my dear." Talau had difficulty reading her niece at times.
"Maybe I'll just stay here today. I'm not sure I want to attend the festival."
The chieftess was busy boiling water over the hearth, "The storm will continue tonight. It would be much safer for you to be here."
Omo's eyes welled up and she ran into the bedroom. Her aunt was confused and followed her. She found the little girl in tears laying on the bed, curled up. Talau's heart sunk. She sat beside her little niece and brushed her hair with her fingers.
"Omoachel, please. What's wrong?"
But the tears persisted and not a word came out, "Omo! I can't know if you don't tell me!"
The little girl struggled for words, "I just..."
The sobbing continued, "Please, Omo!"
Her words were broken, "I want you here."
Talau was confused, "But I am here."
Her aunt did not understand and Omoachel stopped trying. She sat with her a moment longer and then the chieftess returned to the hearth. The little girl sat up. Her head ached from crying. She went to the mirror and was disappointed. Her eyes were puffy from crying. Omo grabbed her long black curls and twisted them up into a bun on the side of her head. She secured it down and then raided through a small wooden box on her aunt's desk. She found a small container of bright red paint and applied it to her lips. All dressed up, she looked much like her aunt.
Omoachel looked to her aunt as she exited the bedroom, but the stare was not greeted. She left the hut. Outside, she saw Mesaul's family walking down the pathway.
"I don't want to watch dancing! Why can't I play on the beach!?" Tuang screeched.
"You can, supervised." Mesaul was humorless, which was unlike him.
"Why!? I don't need to be guarded!"
"You were in the jungle, baby. You could have died." Imangel said.
Omoachel was curious what all their worry was about, but lingered slowly behind as not to let them know she was traveling behind them. As they descended, many families joined the pathway and it became less obvious that she was walking alone. When she reached the center square, she continued onward to the northern pathway to get to her school. She bumped into several classmates along the way.
"Oh, Omo! What a pleasure to see you," the chubby girl said with a grin.
"Hi Sechelei," she replied, questioning her motive.
"I see you tried to look nice today," she scanned Omo from head to toe and shrugged, "Well, you tried."
The chubby girl skipped ahead and the chief's niece stopped in her tracks. It wasn't too late to go home, no one had really noticed her. She glanced around. The square would be full of villagers watching the performance. Had she practiced enough? Would she stay on beat? Could she even fill out the costume as well as Sechelei? No. No she decided and she turned and headed towards the beach. She returned back through the square to the southern pathway. The shops were empty; no one worked besides laborers on festival days and even they were allowed to join the fun later in the festival when the shaman arrived.
Omoachel felt much more comfortable on the beach, but lonely. She decided to check on her tortoise. She hoped with every ounce of her heart that it had guarded itself. To her surprise, it stood. Not a seashell or flower out of place. But even curiouser, the fisherman boy was seated beside it. Hesitant, she approached her sculpture.
He looked up at her, equally as nervous, "I didn't think you'd be back."
Her attention was focused on the tortoise, "It survived! I made it to guard itself from the storm and it did!"
The boy with dread laughed shyly, "...yea," but then coughed and tried to regain confidence, "Aren't you joining the festivities? There's always something going on in this square around this time."
She twisted her mouth to the side, "I didn't want to attend."
His eyes lit up, "I...I could show you what I caught today. There's two parrotfish, a huge s-"
Her fingers glided against the smooth seashells of her tortoise, "No thanks."
He got quiet, "Oh...okay."
The fisherman boy rose up to his feet. Omoachel didn't notice. He began to walk away toward the dock. He stopped himself and turned back to the girl.
"My name's Beroel, by the way."
She didn't look up. He turned and continued back to the dock.