Whitespace S: The Girl in the Way
Shady hillside in Okaloosa County, FL

Whitespace S: The Girl in the Way

Skreyola's White Pages

- Whitespace S -

- The Girl in the Way -

by Lincoln Sayger

If you'd like to see the date of each posting, click here.

1. The Girl at the River

Elga stepped wordlessly to the edge of the shallow river, a short distance upstream of the footbridge, and waited in silence for the eldest to make their way down from the village.

The men and women of her village waited along the opposite shore for her to step into the water and join them on the village bank. The children waited in a row behind her. They stood along the river's latest crest line, so that no child would be in the water. Elga tried to ignore their subdued chatter. Starting today, they were no longer her playmates.

Elga tried to wait patiently, the way the adults across from her seemed to be, but it was hard. She'd been imagining this day for months. She'd been thinking about the decisions she would get to make when she rose out of the water for weeks. And she'd been almost shivering with anticipation for all the minutes she'd been standing here. And already, she was getting to do adult things, even though she hadn't yet been welcomed as one. The children around her wore thin shirts that fluttered in the slight breeze, while she wore a shirt that was thick enough not to cling after a swim, like the ones the adults wore. And perhaps, somewhere in the group waiting across the sparkling water, there was someone she would share her life with.

Eventually, the villagers parted as the group of the five eldest people in the community came through.

They stood on the bank of the river, well above the edge, and the one middle in age called to her, “Elgafrida Mariah Chessmean Beckfar, the village has need of you. Come and take your place along the adults of the village.”

“Grandmother,” she said, though her own grandparents were all younger than this elder, “I can’t come to you, for the river runs between us.”

“Child, step into the river and come to us,” said the youngest of the group. “Though you may be covered in death, you can still arise and come to be a new woman in the village.”

She wanted to go then, but she responded as she should, “Grandfather, I am not ready to come to you, for I should miss my fellow children.”

The oldest of the eldest said, “Woman, you have no peers over there. Your place is in the village. I have been told of your…”

After a long moment, the second youngest whispered in her ear, and she said “your readiness by the other women. You are a child no longer!”

The children on the bank picked up clumps of dirt and threw them halfheartedly in her direction. She held up her hands, and the children backed away. Then, she turned and said, “I’m no longer a child, but I am not an adult yet.”

She stepped into the water and sighed as her knees went in and the water carried her body heat away from her, along with the last moments of her childhood. She reached the middle of the river, barely deep enough to cover the top of her belly, and squatted down until the flow covered her head. She stayed a moment, enjoying the sensations of the water flowing past her, and then she stood up and walked, dripping, out of the river on the side of the village.

“I stand here, on the side of the village,” she said, as custom decreed, “a new woman. I make my own decisions. My parents are no longer responsible for the actions of their child, who has been left in the river!”

The women of the village came forward and enfolded her in awkward embraces. People didn’t hug nonfamily often.

The two remaining eldest said in turn, “Come in to our village,” and “Find ways to bring utility to the community.”

Then the children ran across the bridge, yelling and screaming, and rushed off to play in the village, finally freed of pomp and circumstance.

Elga made her way happily through the crowd, accepting welcomes and advice. The village chief handed her a few gemstones. The baker’s wife gave her a loaf of bread. The witch said, “Come by my house if you want a blessing from the gods.” The weaver’s daughter handed her a length of tan cloth suitable for making into an outfit. And the physicker said, “Be sure to come back and visit the middle of the river every time you have been sick, and after your river times.”

But what she knew she would remember most fondly was that her own grandmother had left her house in the hills above the village and made the difficult hike to come down and see her become a woman.

Elga made her way over and stood by her grandmother until the villagers meandered away to their village tasks, leaving the two alone on the riverbank.

“Mama Electra, thank you for coming down to see me cross over.”

“Elga, I’m so very proud of you. Have you decided what you will do in the village?”

“Not yet, Mama Electra. I might learn to thatch. Or I might start running with the herds. I kind of like growing plants; maybe I’ll learn the secrets of soil. Have you noticed a talent I should explore?”

“I’m happy to say that I think you’d be good at any of those things. But you might also consider becoming an explorer.”

Elga gasped, then said, “Mama Electra! Explorers leave their families and visit dangerous places that don’t have villagers nearby to lend a hand. I could never do that.

“Perhaps. Perhaps you might be surprised.”

“I’ll think about it,” she said dubiously, “but I have a few weeks before I must settle down to a decision. For now, I should probably get over to the witch’s for a blessing.”

“Should you?”

Elga froze and didn’t turn as she’d intended.

Her grandmother had said it so calmly and inquisitively, Elga wasn’t sure what to do.

Elga was terribly confused. Didn’t her mother’s mother honor the gods? Didn’t Bosona look down and give light? Didn’t Ganus patrol the village to protect it from danger? Why was her grandmother suddenly being so irreligious?

“You think I’m old enough to make the decision alone?”

Electra smiled.

“Did I say that? Making decisions alone is rarely wise.”

With that, she turned and walked away from the village. Elga watched her for a moment and then turned toward the village square. She walked past the houses and workshops to the hatch of the witch’s house.

And then she kept right on walking.

She hardly knew why, or what she meant to do, or where her feet were taking her. Elga couldn’t figure it out until she passed the green field and stepped onto the path into the hills, towards Electra’s house.

The Girl and the Weaver

Lio ran across the bridge with the other children as their former playmate was surrounded by adults offering words to her. Lots of words. Elga would have to deal with lots of words every day, now. Adults used a lot of words instead of doing fun things.

Lio turned by the baker's store and ran toward the edge of town. He slowed as he neared the edge of town and stuck out his hands to touch each of the hatches along the path. Telju Fletcher's hatch was green. Abek Shirer's hatch was brown. And Rava Grower's was extra large. Some were smooth, and others were covered in squares.

He made his way out past the grain field and across the little stream that fed into the river that went under the bridge. He crossed the little bramble patch where the herbalist gathered berries.

He walked along the rail fence, running his hand lightly across the rough surface. When he tired of that, he climbed between the rails and sat on the bottom with his arms over the top rail. From this vantage, he watched the little rodents scurry around in the meadow across the path. He was still watching them when Elga stopped and stood in the middle of the path just in front of him.

He watched her stillness for a long moment. Finally, he asked, "Is this a weird thing adults do?"

She jumped like someone suddenly wakened from an active dream and looked over at him.

"Alwa, Lio."

"Alwa, Miss Elgafrida."

She scrunched her nose up and said, "Don't start that formality with me, all at once."

"It's proper for me to greet an adult this way."

"I'm only just now an adult. Stay with what you've been calling me."

"Accepted. What are you doing?"

She said, "I'm trying to figure out what my grandmother said to me."

"Deep words of wisdom? On your first day? They don't want to ease you into this whole adult thing?"

She smiled and said, "Not like that. But she said I should become an explorer. Can you picture me walking through the wilderness, alone?"

He put his finger on his chin and then said slowly, "You are afraid of the dark, of strange noises, and of crawling things."

She nodded, her face showing the shame she felt. He pointed at the fluffy clouds in the sky and said, "You want to learn to fly and go up past Jenu's woven clouds?"

"I already said I wouldn't make a good explorer. You don't have to make fun of me, on top of it."

"I didn't mean anything bad by that. But seriously?"

"Give me a rest, Lio."

He crossed his eyes and stuck out his lower lip at her.

She said, "The witch offered to give me a blessing from the gods."

"What did she bless you with?"

"I haven't been yet."

"Why not? Wouldn't that help you understand why your grandmother wants you to leave town?"

"I will, later. I thought I'd go ask her about what she said."

"Really? After she told you to go away and leave your home behind?"

"She didn't mean it like that, Lio!"

"Are you sure? I mean, I almost want you to leave, now. Your own family doesn't want you around."

She looked at him with scorn, and he crossed his eyes again. She ran over and smacked the top of his head with her palm. He screamed a short scream and fell backward into the field. Getting up, he laughed and said, "Go on, now. Fly over the clouds like Riman and see your grandmother."

She reached over the fence and tried to swat him again, but he dodged away and ran back toward the village.

The Girl and the Dark Woods

Elga turned back toward the hills and started walking. Lio didn't mean any harm, but his words had hurt her a little. Sure, she was afraid of the dark, but that wasn't something she felt he should have mentioned.

But it was only natural. Lio had been there that night. She an Lio and Tura had been playing Four Fates.

She grabbed Lio's flint knife from the collection of items in the circle between the three of them and told him he had to go to the baker's house and ask if they would adopt him.

He went, glaring at her, and Tura snickered as he walked up the path and up to the baker's hatch.

He glared at her again and knocked on the hatch.

The hatch opened, and there stood Reado, the baker. Lio cleared his throat and asked, "Would you and your wife adopt me?"

Reado's face darkened, and he reached beside the hatch to pick up his broom. He said, "You interrupted my dinner to mock me?" And he swung the broom at Lio.

Lio dodged to one side and took off down the path. Reado shook his fist at Lio, and Tura rolled on the ground, laughing.

Lio ran straight up to Elga and snatched his knife out of her hand. He walked over to the circle and knelt down. He picked up a glass ball with a metal figure in the middle of it.

Turning to Tura, he said, "Talk for two minutes without closing your mouth."

Tura sputtered and grunted and then started making badly formed words, talking without closing his mouth about Lio's parents, his personal habits, and his affection for woodland animals, but he made it for the allotted time and then took his glass sphere.

He looked over the circle and then picked up the carved figurine Elga's mother had given her for her last name day. He said, "You have to go a hundred steps into the woods and bring me a branch from there."

Elga stood up and looked toward the edge of town, to the trees that bordered the village on that side. She stayed in place for a moment, then took several paces toward the trees, akwardly slapping her feet against each other when she took a step. Then, she stopped. The woods were so dark, so full of unknown dangers, so shaky and frightening.

She turned around, almost tripping herself, and ran back to the circle, where she picked up the remaining treasures she'd put in hazard there. She pushed the carving toward Tura and said, "It's yours."

Then, she ran home.

That had been two years ago, and she still couldn't go into the woods at night. So, she'd better hurry to her grandmother's house before it got any darker.

The Girl in the Way (candles)

The Girl at the Forge

The Girl and the Minstrels

The Girl and the Grandmother

The Girl's New Job

The Girl Who Would Not

What the Girl Would Try

You've reached the latest portion. Bookmark this to save your place: Current Location.

You can also click here to start from the beginning.

Want me to write for your publication on a topic of your choice? Want to print this in your publication? Click here.

Related pages: | Nothing Related |

For questions, comments, or suggestions, contact the webmaster by e-mail.
This page was last updated on 2022.4.20b (template).