“It has to hurt to heal, y’know.”
I nodded and looked back to the window. The sting eased as the soothing aroma filled the room. Through the dusty windows, the commotion of the courtyard continued. Above the carts, golden banners swayed and rings of smoke from the butcher’s carts rose. Shadows danced along the bricks below the watchful eyes of the guards. A shiver ran down my spine.
The longer I looked, the dimmer the facade seemed. Between the golden banners, worn ridges and dilapidated brick threatened to fall. I smiled, recognizing the technique. I had a few posters hung strategically in my room as well. When the damage wasn’t visible, it was easy to ignore. I just didn’t understand why, here in all places, the walls would be broken.
“Is it always so busy out there?” I asked, lowering my gaze to the women dancing in the middle, vibrant scarves whipping around their bodies.
“Oh yes, especially this time of year.”
I smiled warmly at her, we had lots of celebrations and fairs in the summer at home too. I guess some traditions were shared everywhere. “Summer is a great time to celebrate.”
She stopped for a moment and re-dressed my arm. “It’s not time for the summer festivals yet m’dear. This spectacle is for the rebels and their pitiful refusal to accept the inevitable. They’ll be parading around like fools all month.”
I jumped up, careful to cover the rag as I walked to the window. I watched the women twirl, coins glittering at the hips, and thought back to Deakon and Pipes. Rebels? Panic began to rise and my hand holding the cooling rag slipped. “The rebels? Who’s side are they on?”
“You must’ve hit your head a little hard in that forest,” she chuckled, waving me back to the chair. “The rebels are against King Berkos of course. Some of these peasants still hold out for change, but I know better. I hope you do too,” she added, before mixing a bowl of apple cider and vinegar. “I won’t deny things were different under King Helio and Queen Alexandra, but times have changed. Like m’papa always said, you can either jump on the cart or get trampled under its wheels. No, when they let King Berkos in, they should have known what was coming. The signs were there, had been for years.”
The mixture dripped off her fingers as she reached for more vinegar. “You can’t blame someone for acting the only way they know. I never blamed King Berkos. Everyone knows you don’t turn your back on a snake. No m’dear, he’s been good to his supporters, provided safety and trade opportunities. I won’t turn my nose to that and certainly not my back on him. Everything has to change at some point, even the good.” She waved her hand towards the window. “All of that’s foolish. You can’t eat dreams.”
“Why do they do it then?”
“In remembrance of the queen, so they say. But some things are better left forgotten, or unspoken. Now, let me work on your hair too,” she changed the subject. “It’s not right, someone as young and beautiful as you walking around like this. What does your mother think?”
Auntie Quinn covered her mouth at my shrug. “Oh no, she’s not…”
“No, no, nothing like that. We just haven’t been talking lately.”
“Well, perhaps if you talked more, you wouldn’t be dressed like this in public.”
“Ouch,” I protested, as she rubbed the dirt and dust from my head.
“Sorry dear, there’s quite a few branches tangled here. This vinegar will strip the mud. Just a moment. Oh --.” The steadiness left her hands. “Oh dear, it can’t be,” she trembled, picking leaves out of my hair. Auntie Quinn’s demeanor quickly changed. “No, no, no,” she fretted, her eyes darted over the small shop. “Where did you say they assaulted you, dear?”
“I wasn’t assaulted,” I replied cautiously. “I was just lost in the woods.”
-Dreamscape: Saving Alex by Kirstin Pulioff