Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sandra Davies

Arc of Adaptation

The circumstances of her first time taken had added to the hurt. The confusion and the absence of her father and her brothers, her being left alone, knowing but unknowing danger, never known before, the dark and pain of edge of stone pressed in her back, of hands on thighs and throat, of alien breath too close of tongue too wet and wetness elsewhere grunt and shove and shout of strangeness, pain within ...

But she had become accustomed, had understood, in time, his need, at times had felt it too ...

And then he died.

A new man - he said men called him Yarl - had claimed her as his woman even as the body of the other lay still-fleshed, unstripped, unburied, rites not yet performed. His haste prevented her from mourning chaste as was the custom, gave her too small a space of time to pay the honour due and so she broke the ring to acknowledge that first man had been a man of worth, had begat a son on her and she’d been glad to bear him such.

This new man, this Yarl, was much younger than the man before; near to her and not so much her father. Black haired, his striding loud, cocksure, roughshod across her life had made her angry from the first with him. She respected, for his rank, but did not like, had refused to be submissive even to be sure she would survive. But also from the first the urgency of Yarl told her she had some power, though she wanted not to let him see he had it too. Perhaps such skills were also learnt with rank ...

Having power stopped her hurt – or was it that she would not let herself be hurt that gave her power? For that he’d chosen told her she had something that he wanted, something that he thought she would supply. She knew such wanting was worth knowing, for the fact it gave her worth.

She asked what other than her body was it that he sought from her and he told her that her value lay in family land, in tribal name, in ancestors, for land with men all gone was then known and held by women and her status as a woman of the white tail eagle tribe did add to and increase what was already his.

She told this Yarl, ‘You do not, cannot own my ancestors’ and he to her surprise did say he knew that but the sons that she would have by him would call them theirs and thus the land would stay with those who owned by birthright not by force.

‘Why force?’ she asked since he was calm and listening and he told her that her family men had been too few, too weak, had failed to fight for what was theirs, deserved to lose their women and their lives, to lose their freedom and their birthright. He told her that his people risked their lives for land, in seeking land on journeys across sea and if and where they won it was they who were entitled to the land and to the women and the sons that they would bear.

‘My first born son should rank above all sons of yours since he was born of your people.’

‘He will not: his father was of lesser rank, was a fighter not a leader, you cannot insist ...’ and she knew he had both power and the mind to take him - not kill, but send away since boys could work elsewhere - and she stayed silent so that she would keep her first born son nearby and safe from harm - accepting since she had no choice.
But first to him she had a daughter.

And then she was afraid.

For she knew that one might be allowed to live in times of glut of fish and meat, in times of health and wealth, but rarely more than one and only then when sons had come before.
She would not plead for that would weaken her, and she was certain he was hard enough to do the deed himself. But the first - his first - he had allowed to live, and the second was a son, and he was proud and then the third another girl but first had caught his heart and he could not end the second daughter’s life, knowing what she could become, and in hope of times of glut.

And for that, from the first of his reprieving, and doubly so the second, she had changed her view that he was not a man to like.

© Sandra Davies 2011

Sandra Davies is an artist and printmaker and recently-emerged writer of fiction, with a long-established interest in family history. Born on the Essex coast, she now lives in Teesside in the north east of England, both places having the flat landscapes and sea-edged horizons considered essential for a sense of well-being. More writing can be found at lines of communication and some prints at Print Universe
This piece can be found in Sandra's excellent book Edge which comprises Curve of Early Learning, Arc of Adaptation, and Circle of Celebration

1 comment:

  1. Sandra, this was outstanding! Probably one of your best pieces. Congrats on your book.

    Jeanette Cheezum


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