The Scarred Goddess, Chapter 6

Fiction By Bridget // 6/18/2009

I never saw the contents of the letter. Mante told us to pack up; we were leaving that night. Later I heard him talk to Liuna in hushed tones, but I could only catch fragments of what they were saying. However, after they were done, Mante went out the door and walked out with his head low, as Liuna sadly closed the door behind him.

She pulled me aside and told me that I would have to stay here. Mante was making arrangements for me to live with another family by the sea. Her eyes were bright with tears as she said this, and I hugged her, for she had been like a favorite aunt to me.

Mante came back with a short woman who was rather plump and expressionless. She eyed me carefully. “She’ll do, I suppose. Come with me, child.” I stayed where I was. I didn’t particularly like the looks of this woman, and I didn’t like being called ‘child’.

“Come on, I said! Don’t stand there staring like a flippertigibbet!” she screeched. I looked at Mante; he couldn’t be giving me away to this hag.
“Go on, child.” he said softly. ‘Child’ took on a different meaning when he said it. I continued to look at him in disbelief; could he not see the woman in front of him? Had he gone blind and deaf?

He pulled me out of their hearing and laid his hand on my shoulder. “It wasn’t the first choice I would have made. But the work is no harder than here, and you will not be working under Tatla.”

“Is that her name? Why couldn’t they have chosen a cruel sounding one, like Gipthut, or Jorp?” I whispered.

He chuckled quietly. “Partly because those are boys names. I agree, she’s not terribly sociable. But she’s agreed to pay you well if you work hard. You can continue working nights at the docks if you want to; she won’t care.”
I stared at him sullenly. I was still a goddess-child, no matter what had happened to me! I still thought things should be done my way. I had had visions of a cozy family with a fire at night, and good meals, and a few children to look after.

He looked at me searchingly and said, “You’ll do fine. You’ve had troubles before. Now that I think about it, I don’t know anything about your past life. You need to tell me that someday; that will give me extra incentive to visit you.” He reached down and hugged me. “Godspeed.” he whispered. I extracted myself and walked towards Tatla, head high and jaw set.

My first week with Tatla was not as bad as I expected, although by no means was it as nice as it was with Mante and Liuna. It turned out that I was working under Tatla, although this was arranged at the last moment. Tatla was loud and grouchy, but she was a late riser, and I usually managed to have a few hours in the morning to myself. I often wondered about Finde and the rest, and what was troubling him. I wondered how Thia was, and I remembered how much she looked like Shifa. I remembered Shifa. I remembered my vow to find her. I remembered a lot of things.

My chores in the kitchen were mostly carrying out slop pans to feed the pigs, and cooking. I thought I knew how to do the latter, but apparently I had much to learn. Tatla confirmed this, in no uncertain terms. She would hover over me whenever she was teaching me, and when she was not. I was constantly under her watchful eye. I didn’t have time to go to the docks until the second week. When I did, everything was changed.

Actually, everything was the same. But it seemed different, without Mante directing, and without Hurh to drive me mad. The docks seemed empty, quiet, even though they were teeming with people. I wondered how I could be lonely with people all around me.

Other times I stood there, dreaming dreams that would have been laughed at coming from me, a girl. But still I kept dreaming.

By the end of the third week, I had managed to settle into some sort of routine. Tatla seemed to think she could leave me alone in the kitchen now, at any rate, I only saw her for about an hour a day. The place where I was working now was the home of a rich statesman named Jhykop. I almost never saw him; he was busy most of the time, but sometimes I caught a glimpse of him as he left the house. He was tall, gray-haired, and had the air of a self-satisfied businessman. He made me feel uncomfortable, as though there were invisible insects crawling over my skin. Sometimes when I was watching him go out the door, he would look back at me with a strange hungry look in his eyes. Those times were the worst. But nothing came to a head until his wife left to stay with her parents for a fortnight.

His wife, Junia, was a young woman – more like a girl, actually, with black hair and black-blue eyes. Her features were beautiful, and rumor told that she had been the most beautiful woman in the country, until the plague hit, and ruined her skin. Now it was pitted, scarred, and lumpy. She would come down to the servants quarters often, and visit. Her husband was busy and ignored her often.

At this point, I was sixteen and beautiful by most standards. I was full about the hips and chest, and slim about the waist. My blond hair was soft and hung down just below my waist. My cheekbones were well defined and my forehead was high and my skin was smooth. My eyes were bright blue. I couldn’t find anything to compare them too. I couldn’t say they were as blue as the sky on a summer’s day, but I would be wrong; they were bluer than that. The sea was nothing to compare to them either.

At any rate, they were blue, and I was beautiful, and Jhykop’s wife was gone. One evening after I had just finished up in the kitchen, he appeared in the doorway and asked, “You work under Tatla, don’t you?” I nodded my head and turned away from him. “Come with me, please. I have something to show you.” I walked behind, unsure of what was going to happen, but certain something was amiss here. He led me to a small room, beautiful but simple, and walked about ten paces away from me. There he turned around and cleared his throat. He looked enormously uncomfortable, and silently I laughed, but outwardly I kept my features still. Finally he spoke. “My wife is gone.”

“I’m sorry sir; that must be difficult.” I replied.

“Not at all, not at all. Ours is not a happy marriage. Many men in my situation would have taken a mistress by now.” You may think it strange that I hadn’t guessed what was going on, but I hadn’t, and now I realized it. A great lump rose in my throat, and my heart pounded. I started backing away to the door, slowly.
“No, don’t go. I haven’t shown you what I was going to yet.”

I continued backing away, sure that I didn’t want to see whatever he was going to show me. He came very close and gripped my arm. “I said don’t go yet, didn’t I?” he whispered harshly into my ear. I tore away and made a break for the door, and slammed it in his face. Then I ran for all I was worth to my quarters. I packed my few belongings that I had brought with me from Mante’s house, and tied these up in a large kitchen rag. Then, fearing that he had followed me, I climbed out my window, then doubled back to the kitchen for some food. I wouldn’t need much. Just a little.

Tatla came to the doorway then, with an odd expression on her face. “You too? I’m not surprised. He always did want what he couldn’t have, that pitiful excuse for a man.” I stood there, trying to understand what she meant, and then it dawned on me. “I’m leaving. Thank you for – for…” and then I stopped. What was I thanking her for? “For taking care of me here.” I said stiffly. She nodded and turned back into the hall. She came back just seconds later and pressed a few coins into my hand. “Wherever you’re going, you’ll probably need this.” Now I stared with my mouth open. What on earth had come over her? “Shut your mouth. You’ll catch flies, and there’s plenty of them about, the little pests. Go on now!” she said, with her old vinegary tone. I smiled a real smile at her and ducked out of the side door in the kitchen.

At home, I would have been a full-fledged goddess by this time. And that’s what I was here. I could take care of myself easily. And I knew exactly what I was doing. I sat down and pulled out a knife that I had helped Mante make when I first came. Holding my hair in one hand, and my knife in the other, I hacked at it. The knife slid as if through butter, and my head was suddenly lighter. I tossed it back and forth. It felt so strange! I loved it. I loosened the tie around my robe so that it was hard to see my shape. Later, I would trim my hair more carefully, and find some way to flatten myself, but it was dark now, and hard to see, so it didn’t matter as much.

I strode down to the docks and walked up to the ships. Only three were getting ready to leave. One was leaving in the morning though, and I couldn’t wait until then. Another was a new one, with sleek lines and smooth wood. It was called the Harp’s Song. The last was an old one, and it looked familiar. The name on the side said Scarred Goddess. Now I remembered it. That was the one I had fallen off of! Most people would have recognized that as a bad omen, but I welcomed it. It was like meeting an old friend. I walked towards the plank leading up to it, and was stopped by a voice. “Halt!” A tall figure walked towards me in the dark.