Letting Life Lead
The spent pits where the clams and shellfish had baked for hours still smelled of hot salt and cooked sea weed. Delu chased sand on her teeth with her tongue and wondered if there was ever a way to be rid of it. She’d been told that the solar lights were covered during festival; bonfires would blaze all night. A year ago, she thought the livingship with its multi-hued skinwood had been all she could handle in a world appearing to have no end nor reason. The blast that had torn her white pod apart in the city and the strangers who had taken her, had left her lurching.
Aleyn plopped himself beside her, a jovial lilt to his voice. “Find ye landlegs yet?”
“I did not know one needed many legs. In the pod, I had only to walk to the meeting room.” On the livingship seasickness had overtaken her many times before her insides quelled. Now the beach made her limbs wobble.
The villagers — fisherman, merchants, landlubbers, families — began a frenzy of movements within a circle of bodies. Their colorful garments reflected in the flames. Drums and flutes and strings mimicked heartbeats and trilling voices.
“You sound as if ye miss it still.”
Delu paused concentrating on the swaying, twirls, and foot motions. Hands clapped and faces beamed. “I had — purpose.”
“Nay, a slave to norvies.” He spat upon the ground.
“I knew it not. This world did not exist. Serving clients for the proprietor was all.” She did not shift her gaze from the merriment of bodies. “You speak sometimes as if I should feel shame.”
Aelyn snorted. “Never shame. But anger, yes. Have ye none yet after all this time?”
“What’s the significance of that hip movement?” Delu pointed to a group of mostly women but some men and the aquit-noma — the ones between.
“Aye. Is it a story?”
He shook his head. “Some tell stories, but this is a dance of celebration. They move how they feel.” Aelyn tilted his head, smiling. “Ye need t’find yer dance legs.”
Delu made a face. “Ach!”
He offered his hand and she took it. After placing her palm on his chest, he told her to feel his heart and listen to the rhythm. “D’ye feel that?”
“I was not trained to feel only to give what was asked.”
“T’is there when the livingship speaks with ye.”
She furrowed her brow thinking, analyzing, and calculating. Her days were once planned to the last second. Lights to rise; darkness to sleep. Health analysis, exercise, sustenance, and client briefs. She could become any desire. A different persona every day. Delu absently touched her short, brown curls where once none grew. She’d never known the color. When the livingship spoke the first time, that was when she realized her own heart thumped.
“I do not feel as others.” Delu’s skin grew clammy and her breaths came quick and shallow. “I am like the colored shatterglass — broken pieces and none touching t’other. Why do I fear things I cannot remember?”
Aelyn squeezed her hand as he always did when panic washed over her in swells. When she calmed he said, “Broken or not t’is still one window.”
Moonlight and low fires in the homes lit the shatterglass panes. Most formed intricate pictures but others were formed only for their chaotic beauty. The peoples of this coast seemed to revel in the unpredictable.
Delu’s emotional storm ended as quickly as it had begun — staunched and cut off. Her shoulders straightened and she lifted her chin. “I will be a dancer.”
Aelyn let her hand go acknowledging that this part of Delu meant practical business. “Ye already are. All of us be born to it.”
She stood and motioned for him to follow. “Come. Show me these dance legs.”
They moved to the fringes of the group and people parted to make room. A few shared their wrist bells and ornaments and Aelyn joined the fray pulling her along.
Aelyn playfully waved his hands in front of her face like a child who had gotten into the hard sugar. “Ach! No thinking!”
When the individual chaos mellowed to a slow group shuffle which grew slowly into an energetic burst, Delu found the part that recalled a long-ago joy and a distant echo of a melody. Like a wave breaking, she spun with abandon, and for the first time Aelyn heard her laughing.
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