My Father is a Lesbian
The Second Coming of K'Miel
The Old Woman
Excerpt from Into the Yellow
Tyhe looked over her flock of sheep with satisfaction. They were freshly shorn and the bales of wool were stacked in the wagon ready to go to town. The black wool was treasured and fetched the most silver of any kind of wool. Yet luck of the distaff kind was supposed to follow where black sheep had tread.
Luck was something other people seemed to have. Raising black sheep never affected Tyhe's life one way or the other.
She soaked up the summer sun and the quiet that floated on the breeze and walked down the small hill behind her house to the gate. She liked to try to capture the feeling she got on days like today in the music she played on her sea fiddle when the moon replaced the sun and the breeze had a bite to it. The contentment and peace she felt on that hill early in the morning didn't seem to be a part of the rest of her life.
The gate loomed on the other side of the stand of young trees much too soon. Once she stepped through, she had to enter the real world. A world she inhabited but never really learned to live in.
She paused before she pulled on the gate and cleared away some overgrown shoots that clustered near the hinges. At least the physical representation of her inner world would be tidy.
Jeight, her horse, whinnied a greeting as Tyhe's feet crunch the straw in the stable.
"Hey, girl." Tyhe patted the white blaze on Jeight's muzzle. "Ready to get the wool to market?"
Jeight snorted and stamped a foot. She knew the word "ready" and that seemed to be enough for her.
Tyhe put the bridle on Jeight and led her to the wagon. She noticed more blue paint had chipped off the side boards. Maybe the wool would bring in extra silver to buy paint. Not that her family seemed to care what her wagon looked like as long as she made it available when they needed it and her to drive it.
She hitched up Jeight and pushed those thoughts away. Her life was of her choosing and it was no different from any other women of her age and position in the village. Yet . . . she sighed and paused before she climbed onto the driver's bench . . . Yet others like Swile and Yerno seemed to be happy and satisfied with their lives and she just couldn't fathom what they had that she didn't. She often wondered if they were just better at acting out how everyone expected them to behave.
If we have to act like everyone expects us to act, where did these expectations come from? From people not wanting to admit they're failures at life.
Tyhe pulled herself onto the seat and gathered the reins. After a check over her shoulder that the wool was secure, she shook the reins and Jeight walked the wagon onto the rutted lane. The wagon rambled to the end of the lane and turned onto the freshly raked dirt road. The downpour three days earlier deeply rutted the road and the villagers did what they always had to do--complain loudly until the mayor ordered the good for nothing Master of Roads to do his job.
She heard the commotion before she rounded the hill. She didn't have to see to know what was happening. Just another normal morning at Kynda's house. Everything was high drama and high passion for her sister. Life at a constant squeaky high pitch.
Tyhe rambled past the lane to the house. The six youngsters hurried in and out of the stone building, frantic, forgetful, and funny as they prepared for school. Despite the constant chaos that swirled around her sister and her family, everyone seemed happy.
Her sister would gush about the joy she had in her children, her husband, her life. Tyhe only half believed her. She had never felt such joy, at least with other people. She certainly couldn't believe the depth of the love Kynda professed for her husband.
Just a delusion enforced by fireside tales. No one would ever admit to not actually having the same heightened emotions as the perfect heroes and heroines in those stories. She was no less human than those around her, just more realistic about her feelings and too honest to give into society-sanctioned harmless lies.
"Whoa." Tyhe halted the wagon and waited for her sister to run to the road. No matter the chaos swirling around her, Kynda always looked impossibly calm with not a hair out of place.
"Hey Tyhe," Kynda said. "Such a beautiful morning. Would you mind picking up the children a sandmark early today? I know it's not your day to pick them up, but the schoolmasters are attending the annual guild meeting and they have to let school out early to get to Glaus in time for the meeting. If you're busy . . ."
She wasn't busy. Her life rarely had the kind of structure where she actually had to be specific places at specific times. Her days just seemed to ramble from place to place and from person to person.
"I can do it." As always, a bit of her inside flame seemed to dim when she agreed to do something that was plainly not her business. Something she had done so many times that the expectation she'd agree to do it again bordered on taking her for granted. Just once she wished she could say, "Sorry but I have something else to do at that time." But she never had such an excuse.
"Great, I knew I could count on you." Kynda glanced back at a tremendous crash from the house. "Got to go, see you later."
Tyhe shook the reins and tried to get away as quickly as possible without it looking as if she was rushing away.
Glaus. Three sandmarks by wagon due south. How she envied the schoolmasters for having a good reason to go there. She knew every landmark and angle of the road from her house to the harbor at Glaus. The road on her map was finger-worn, she'd followed it so many times in her mind.
She'd been there once and the odor of salt water and fish and the breeze hitting her face with a caress she never experienced inland always permeated her senses when she thought of the sea.
She sighed. Why couldn't she have been born next to the ocean instead of boring old Higland, a tiny hamlet hemmed in by tree-covered rolling hills?
She sighed and pulled on the reins. She twisted around as old Keteran ambled out of his shop and dodged around bins of vegetables and fruits.
"Morning, Keteran," Tyhe said. "I see the houndberries have ripened."
"And a good tasting crop they are this year," Keteran said. "Do you a have a moment? My niece just visited Ingor and stopped by on her way home to Kittles. She brought me the most interesting shell she found on the beach."
Tyhe frowned. "Ingor doesn't have any beaches."
Keteran nodded. "She said it came from up the coast, Merchants Bay. Where the Ingorans go to get out of the city."
"Merchant's Bay has the longest beach of black sand on the continent," Tyhe said.
"Reile tried to explain the black beach to me," Keteran said. "How the water rolls up on it and leaves different shades of gray from charcoal to ash as the water seeps from it."
Tyhe's nostrils twitched, and she could almost see the beach, alive as the water sifted through the volcanic sand, and feel the salty spray on her face and hear the waves slapping the shore.
"Yeah," she said. "I hear the beaches are spectacular."
"Anyway, I was wondering if you had a moment to take a look at this shell," Keteran said. "My niece didn't know what kind it was."
Tyhe grinned and pulled the wagon off the road. Her hands shook with anticipation as she jumped to the uneven ground and wound the reins around a cross post.
"I told Reile, if anyone knew about the shell it'd be you." Keteran scurried ahead of Tyhe and disappeared into his shop.
Tyhe stepped through the oversized doorway and braced herself for the strong but not unpleasant aromas of rich earth and ripe fruits and fresh picked vegetables.
Keteran pulled a head-sized shell from behind the service bench and held it out to Tyhe.
Tyhe gazed with wonder at the swirl of bright blue and orange. "She found it on the beach?"
Keteran grinned in delight and nodded. "She's been beachcombing since she was a youngster and has never seen anything like it."
Tyhe took the shell in both hands and was surprised at how light it was. The bright colors gave it a counterfeit substance. "It's a blue sun shell. From the Jearwada Islands."
Keteran whistled. "That's halfway across the sea."
"That's why it's so rare to find a whole shell," Tyhe said. "And even rarer to find one so perfect. Usually all that's found on the beaches are small bits of blue and orange."
"Reile will be pleased to know she found a treasure," Keteran said.
"A valuable treasure," Tyhe said. "Collectors pay good silver for a perfect blue sun shell."
"She's coming back through in a few days." Keteral took the shell and found a soft cloth to wrap it in. "She always asks after you when she visits. Perhaps you can come by for an evening meal while she's here."
Tyhe sighed inwardly as she gave him a pleasant smile. "Let me know the day."
Keteran's grin creased his eyes. "I'll do that."
Tyhe walked out of the shop and climbed back on the wagon. The downside of living alone was that everyone knew someone who was a perfect match for her. Keteran had been trying to get her together with Reile for years now. Senik, the weaver, was always arranging for her nephew to stop by to see her sheep. Oegta, the silversmith, made sure her daughter--a student at the University of Artocia--sat next to Tyhe every Midwinter Feast Day.
It was all a part of the games of courtship that everyone played. And it wasn't that she was adversed to finding a life companion, she just didn't feel anything more than friendship for these potential candidates. She wished she felt more, but she didn't.
She waved at Jinde the blacksmith. She probably spent more time with Jinde than anyone. They grew up together and never outgrew each other. Tyhe always thought that Jinde could have been the one because she was so comfortable with her. If Jinde had shown any interest, Tyhe would have probably settled down with her and would have been happy she was sure.
As happy as she thought anyone could be.
Jinde shoved an unfinished sword blade into a pile of pink coals and turned to Tyhe. "Did Keteran show you the shell?" She grinned through a face streaked with sweat and soot.
Tyhe rolled her eyes. "Yes."
"Worth spending an evening with Reile?" Jinde's sapphire eyes sparkled with good humor.
"At least she's half-way interesting to talk to," Tyhe said.
They looked at each other and sputtered a laugh. They had too many stories between them about being the captive of absolute bores for an evening.
But sometimes that illusive something happened. Jinde had met a weaver over the hill in Honfrey and Tyhe knew that Jind thought she could be happy with this woman.
Or did she just decide she liked her well enough to stop the endless attempts of neighbors to find her a life companion? Could I ever think that about a person? Tyhe sighed. She wished she could let herself go enough to consider the idea.
"Are you sure Sihle doesn't want any of this wool?" Tyhe asked.
"Not this season," Jinde said. "But don't be surprised if she bargains for some next year. She was really impressed by the quality."
"Enough to take on more sheep?" Tyhe asked.
Jind rubbed her smudged chin with a sweaty hand. "Maybe. I'll talk to her about it."
Tyhe grinned. "Did I just give you an excuse to pay her a visit?"
Jinde returned her grin and her eyes sparked with amusement. "Maybe."
Tyhe laughed and nodded at the coal tray. "Your blade is getting too hot."
She couldn't believe the amount of silver her wool had fetched. Triner, the wool merchant, had told her war was brewing to the north and Ynit was buying up wool for the soldiers. Lucky for her, black wool was needed for nighttime raids.
With extra silver in her belt pouch, she ventured into the central market. Maybe she'd buy something special. She grazed from stall to stall, nothing catching her fancy enough so spend hard earned silver on.
She blinked up at a voice behind her. The distinctive mountain inflection grabbed her attention with an almost aching familiarity. She spun around and stared at the woman chatting with Kryra the candlemaker.
K'Miel wore the thirteen years since the last Tyhe had seen her better than well. She looked magnificant, with her tousled blonde hair so sun-bleached it was almost white. She was tall and lean with long strong muscles and looked as if she was born to wear the uniform of the warriors of the sea. The confident yet amiable glow that Tyhe had always envied still radiated from her.
Tyhe had never seen so many shoulder sashes on a warrior, including a captain's sash. So K'Miel had made captain. Braids hung from her belt. She was a real Emoran warrior and the village whispers had been that the sash with the purple thread running through it showed she was of royal blood.
K'Miel strolled Tyhe's way.
Tyhe's breath caught at the light blue eyes she remembered so well as they glanced around the market from a sun-darkened face. Some had said she was descended from the great Hekolatis.
"K'Miel," Tyhe said.
K'Miel stopped and turned to her. She blinked and looked shocked, probably at being recognized.
"Uh, you don't remember me," Tyhe said. "I was one of those children you taught warrior skills to years ago."
K'Miel gazed at her. "You're the one who asked all the questions about oceans and about being a sea warrior. I gave you a list of books to read."
"And I found and read every one of them," Tyhe said.
K'Miel nodded and played with the lacing on her bracer. "I, uh, even memorized your name because I thought for sure I'd see you around Ynit. Tyhe. Right?"
Tyhe stared at her in amazement. "I was only twelve."
K'Miel shrugged. "You haven't really changed all that much. You've just grown older but I still see that curious eager girl in you."
"But that was thirteen years ago," Tyhe said.
"You remembered me," K'Miel said.
Tyhe laughed. "It's hard to forget a sea warrior for a teacher. Even if it was for only two moons."
"It was a memorable time for me, too," K'Miel said. "Recouping from my first severe battle injury and performing my first noncombatent assignment in a place very different from where I grew up."
"I never thought about it that way," Tyhe said. "To a twelve-year-old you were a worldly sea warrior who had lived an exciting life."
K'Miel threw her head back and laughed. "I was a green cadet barely out of training in Ynit, wounded less than a sandmark into my first battle. Hardly exciting."
K'Miel put her hand out to indicate that they walk. Tyhe gladly strolled next to her. K'Miel certainly was now what Tyhe had thought her to be years ago.
"Truth is," K'Miel said. "I was homesick and missing my family. I was young myself. Only nineteen years."
"You seemed much older," Tyhe said.
K'Miel gave her an amused look. "But not now, I bet."
Tyhe realized K'Miel was right. She didn't seem that much older than herself. "No, not now." Her breath caught as something odd inside her stirred.
"I thought for sure you'd go to Ynit." K'Miel looked truly perplexed.
Tyhe gazed at her feet as those desires to flee this village to be a sea warrior flooded her mind. She felt lightheaded and blinked up in surprise by K'Miel's warm strong grasp on her arm.
"Share a meal with me." K'Miel's gentle persuasive voice seemed to caress Tyhe's soul.
Tyhe took in a ragged breath and nodded.
K'Miel released Tyhe's arm and Tyhe felt a sense of loss. What was going on with her?
"I remember the inn had excellent food," K'Miel said.
"It still does." Tyhe gave her head a shake. "What are you doing here?"
K'Miel gave her an odd almost embarrassed look before erupting with another laugh. "I found myself landbound for a spell and decided to visit some old haunts."
Tyhe didn't doubt this, but there was something else from the way K'Miel said it and her curiosity was on fire.
"You've never settled down with a life companion?" Tyhe sopped the last of the stew with a chunk of bread. Nearly everyone in the village had some kind of crush on K'Miel before, and even now, the people around them watched her with fascination.
"Emorans who wander far from home have a different approach to finding a life companion," K'Miel said. "It's hard to explain, but sometimes we first meet our future partner at the wrong time and we have to retrace our steps so to speak."
"Do you usually know who it might be?" Tyhe asked.
K'Miel's cheeks reddened under her deep tan as she gazed into her tankard. "Usually."
"So that means you'd return to where she lives," Tyhe said.
"I really thought you'd go to sea," K'Miel said.
"You've said that already." Tyhe frowned at K'Miel's strange look. Almost a cross between misery and embarrassment.
She felt the heat rise in her own cheeks as her subconscious insisted on filling in this puzzle with unsettling pieces from her heart. How many times had she allowed herself to imagine being on a ship at K'Miel's side, exploring different lands with her, reveling in her companionship?
"What exactly are you saying?" Tyhe was surprised at the hoarseness in her voice.
K'Miel ran a shaky hand through her hair. "I was sure you'd moved on. I was . . . I came here to find out where you went."
"Through the years my thoughts and dreams kept coming back to this village as if I'd left something important here." K'Meil sighed and captured Tyhe's eyes. "Sometimes the woman is too young on the first encounter."
Tyhe felt lightheaded as her own thoughts and dreams collided with reality. "Me?"
"You were the only one who truly made me feel at home and comfortable here," K'Miel said. "We spent a lot of time together."
"Because I was being a pesky tagalong asking a million questions," Tyhe said.
"You were interested in what I did," K'Miel said. "More than interested. You had the spark within you to follow what was clearly a desire."
Tyhe ran a finger around the rim of her tankard. "You're right. I wanted to become a sea warrior so bad, I ached from the longing."
"You would have been welcomed at Ynit," K'Miel said. "You excelled at the warrior arts."
"I . . . I . . ." Tyhe wipe away an unexpected tear. "Sorry."
K'Miel gazed at her with those gentle blue eyes and captured a tear sliding down Tyhe's cheek between her thumb and finger. "Leaving home is the hardest thing a person does. I left home when I was fifteen and was uncertain about it every moment of the journey until I entered Ynit. It was foreign and exciting and I was training to achieve my dream to become a sea warrior." She looked down at the table. "Before I have to return home to assume my duties there."
The feelings Tyhe had buried deep for all those years flooded through her. She had hidden, even from herself, the reason she'd never been interested in potential life companions. It had been too painful. Even as a twelve-year-old, she knew what she had felt for the dashing young sea warrior had been more than a crush. She had made herself forget the long months she couldn't keep the tears and the pain deep in her soul away after K'Miel left the village.
K'Miel grasped Tyhe's hand on the table. "Come to the sea with me."
Shock numbed Tyhe's mind. "What?"
K'Miel released Tyhe's hand.
Tyhe's whole soul ached from the loss of warmth as her reality and dreams crashed together.
K'Miel wrapped both hands around her tankard. She gazed into the dark ale. "I guess you're settled here. Found someone."
Tyhe shook her head. Her mind was in a chaotic panic. "I, uh, have sheep."
"My countrywomen can watch over your sheep," K'Miel said.
The haze of unreality suddenly lifted. "You really want me to come with you?"
"Yes," K'Miel said. "Just as a companion. An old friend. Someone I want to show my world to."
"And if I'm not the one you're looking for?" Tyhe asked.
"We'll still be friends," K'Miel said.
Tyhe swallowed on a dry throat. How would her sister react? What would Jinde say? What would Keteran tell Reile? What about everyone she saw everyday? She gazed at K'Miel, who stared at a knothole on the table. K'Miel was afraid. Afraid she'd say no. She didn't want to say no.
What did she care what everyone thought? It was her life. But she never really believed it. Before now.
"I know this is all kind of crazy." K'Miel sighed. "I had to give it a try--"
"What?" Tyhe was beyond panicked. "I . . ."
"If you're contented here--"
"I'm not." The words caught in Tyhe's throat.
K'Miel blinked up.
"I've always regretted not going to sea," Tyhe said. "I can't even give a good reason why I didn't."
"Most people can't." K'Miel put her hand over Tyhe's. "It's not too late. It's never too late."
"I could go on a ship?" Tyhe asked.
"I've been given a new one. It's still being built." K'Miel shrugged. "The reason I'm on leave right now."
"New ship." Tyhe couldn't keep down the rising excitement. She had visited the shipyards on her one trip to Glaus and had dreamed of being a part of the crew on a ship's maiden voyage.
"I'll need a navigator." K'Miel picked at the lacing on her bracer.
"I don't know--"
"There's time for you to be trained in Ynit," K'Miel said.
Tyhe sucked in a breath as her brain tried to grasp what K'Miel was saying. She had dreamed . . . no she had ached for K'Miel to show up at her door and take her away to sea. It was the most outlandish of all her longings, and she only dared to let her mind roam through that fantasy when the real world pounded her down too hard.
"Say yes." K'Miel's soft voice cracked.
Tyhe gazed into K'Miel's eyes. They were filled with a heart-breaking vulnerability. This magnificant warrior of the sea truly had feelings for her. Deep feelings. For her. A nobody sheep farmer from nowhere.
K'Miel's expression of shock and joy stole Tyhe's breath away. Yes. It seemed so simple now. She didn't have to face life alone anymore.
Tyhe grinned and felt free . . . and happy. Maybe all it took was the right person. "Yes."
(c) 2007 Bedazzled Ink Publishing Company