We spent the entire morning racing our parisals down the stretch of light rapids just beyond the furthest edge of the village.
The water was still frigid as it came straight from the source of the river, high up in the Anatala Mountains to the north, but the warmth of the sun kept us from feeling the chill.
We splashed around and laughed together just like on any of the other days when I’d been lucky enough to escape my duties as Chieftain’s Daughter.
It wasn’t until we were walking back upstream, carrying the light parisals on our backs, that reality started to intrude once again.
“Are you worried about the ceremony tonight” I looked over at Shari but she didn’t notice my gaze. She was looking down at her feet. Her expression, blank to the point of being frozen on her features, a stark contrast to her normal carefree and light-hearted demeanour. That look spoke volumes.
She finally responded but her eyes remained firmly fixed on the floor, blank mask still firmly in place.
“How can any of us not be worried. It is literally a case of life or death.”
I supposed that was true but I was kind of hoping for a little more from her than just the obvious. Usually, no matter what, we told each other pretty much every thought that popped into our minds.
When my mother had died in childbirth and my baby sister had followed her to the afterlife a few short days later, Shari and I had been nearly inseparable. I had pretty much moved into her family’s home for a while because it was too hard being in my family’s lodge surrounded by all of my mother’s things.
Glancing at Shari, I pushed down my disappointment at not having my friend to open up to. It was a terrible thing that we were both facing, after all, I couldn’t really judge her for not wanting to think or talk about it.
“How about we go see if Tyria has any blueberry honey cake ready? I know father said that she was making some for the feast, maybe she’ll let us steal a small slice each?” I tried for an enthusiastic smile but I’m not sure that it reached my eyes. Shari didn’t seem to notice though, probably because she still had her eyes lowered, but she mumbled an agreement anyway so I let it drop. We dropped the parisals off at her parent’s lodge and then headed across the village to Tyria’s kitchen.
A few hours later I said goodbye to, a still unusually stoic, Shari. I told her that I’d meet her at the torches which marked the forest path which led to the ceremony circle. She threw her arms around my neck in a tight hug. I had asked her if she and her parents wanted to come and sit with me and my father at the head of the feasting table, but she’d mumbled something about not having much of an appetite and just wanting to spend the time with her family. I was a little hurt at her refusal, but again it sounded reasonable considering the circumstances, so I didn’t push her any further.