کتاب 02 - فصل 11

مجموعه: چهارگانه بخشنده / کتاب: پسر / فصل 27

کتاب 02 - فصل 11

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  • زمان مطالعه 6 دقیقه
  • سطح متوسط

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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Eleven

Twins! Two boys with bright red hair. Bryn, exhausted as she was, lay laughing at the surprise and the sight of them. Claire held one in each arm and then laughed herself as she realized she was raising and lowering them slightly, the same way Einar had her raise and lower heavy rocks to strengthen her forearms.

It was almost winter again. She moved Yellow-wing’s cage indoors. It had hung all summer and into autumn from a tree branch in the dooryard. Now, in the warmth, he fluffed his wings and chirped. Bethan was there, and Elen. Their mother needed quiet to tend her two new boys, and sent the girls off to amuse themselves. Now little Elen, squatting on the floor, twisted twigs into a bird shape and pretended she had made a wife for Yellow-wing. Bethan was busily helping Alys sort some dried herbs to be packed into bags and stored. Claire, watching, realized that Alys was beginning to teach the young girl in the same way that she had taught Claire for these past years. The village would need someone to take Alys’s place. It was clear that it could not be Claire.

She wrapped her hands around the thick branch that Einar had peeled and set firmly in place above the door. She lifted herself up until her chin was level with the peeled wood. She hung poised there and counted to ten, then lowered herself slowly. Doing this still hurt. That meant she needed it. She must do this each day until it stopped hurting. Then, she knew, Einar would tell her to put on her backpack filled with rocks and begin doing it again.

Briefly, on a day when she was exhausted, she thought of Einar with frustration, of how demanding he was, how relentlessly he made her do the exercises again and again. Then she thought of how he watched her, assessing and admiring her strength, and she knew that his gaze was also that of someone who loved her.

Tall Andras had married in midsummer, his new wife a fresh-faced, quick-smiling young girl named Maren. Standing at the ceremony, Claire felt no sadness; she had never wanted to be his wife. But once he had hoped for it, and now he had moved on and seemed happy. She thought sadly of Einar, alone in his hillside hut, and knew that a part of life was passing both of them by.

“Soon?” she asked Einar, after she showed him how she could hold herself raised on the branch with her arms taut and unshaking, even while wearing the sack of rocks at its heaviest. He ignored her question.

“One arm now,” he said. While he watched, she struggled to lift herself with just one. He wanted her arms to be equally strong on both sides, as her legs now were. On either leg she could hop up onto a rock slippery with damp moss and stand balanced there with the other tucked up like a waterbird. After rain she could slide, standing on one foot, down the steep muddy path and stop herself at any point by pressure on her heel or toes.

She could hold a pebble on her raised foot and then move it by concentrating on it until it was between two toes, then under. From there she could move it from toe to toe, under and over. It made little Elen laugh uproariously to watch and then try the same feat with her own chubby toes.

“Why do I need to spend time learning foolish tricks?” Claire asked Einar. “This seems a waste.”

“It won’t be. It’s important. You’ll see.”

She was eager to go. She had waited such a long time.

But she had come to trust Einar, his wisdom and caring, deeply. So she sighed and nodded.

In the winter she slept beside Alys. When the fire died late one night, with wind howling outside, the old woman shivered and Claire embraced her, trying to send warmth from her own body into the frail limbs that could no longer hold on to their own heat.

“You’re a good girl,” Alys murmured. “Your own mum must miss you fierce.”

Claire was startled. When she tried, in response to Alys’s words, to think of her mother, there was little that came forth. Parents. Yes. She had had parents. She could remember their faces, and could even recall the sound of their voices. But there was little else.

“No,” she told Alys. “I don’t think she loved me.”

Alys turned in the bed and through the dim light of the last embers that glowed in the fireplace, Claire could see her bright eyes, open in surprise. “How could that be, child?” Claire chuckled and hugged her. “I’m not a child anymore, Alys. Maybe I was when you found me. I was a young girl, then. But so much time has passed, Alys. I’m a woman now.” “To me you’re a child, still. And a mum always loves her child.”

“It should be so, shouldn’t it? But something stood in the way of it. I think it was a—well, they called them pills. The mothers took pills.”

“Pills?”

“Like a potion.”

“Ah.” That was something Alys understood. “But a potion is meant to fix an ill.”

Claire yawned. She was achy and exhausted.

“My people—” (“My people”? What did that mean? She didn’t really know) “They thought that it fixed a lot of ills, not to have feelings like love.”

“Fools,” Alys muttered. Now she yawned too. “You loved your boy, though. That’s why you’re soon to climb out.”

Claire closed her eyes and patted the old woman’s back. “I did,” she said. “I loved my boy. I still do.”

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