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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1664477-Lady-of-the-Moon--Chapter-3-4
by Zoe
Rated: 18+ · Novel · Emotional · #1664477
One woman's story of her life before and after becoming a Lady of the Moon.
                                                                                                Chapter Three.

From that moment on, I began having fantasies about that woman, and how I would one day be one. It let me forget the pain and torment I was feeling during that period. I think I would have grasped anything then that would have offered me a reprieve. The war was taking its toll on my small village and my family. We started going without food, because the roads to the lands were being blocked by soldiers. Though the war was close to over, the after effects it was having were horrible. My father became like a ghost, only speaking out orders for my sister and I. And while my father was a ghost, my mother was loosing her very essence. Often when I felt troubled like that, I would find myself dreaming images of the women I so looked up to. Even my mother, who I knew was one of the most beautiful women in all the lands. I found comfort in the fact that perhaps one day, I too, would be a woman and beautiful. Perhaps when I did, I could end my families suffering.

Weeks passed and though our land was troubled, some  townsfolk did begin working where they could again, but I can’t say it was ever the same again. I came home one afternoon, after fetching some water from our well, to find a strange man standing in the entryway of my house, talking quietly to my father. They didn’t see me, so I shifted into the shadows of the doorway and listened.

“...this is my only proposal. I cannot take both,” the strange man was saying.

“I would prefer you take neither, sir,” my father replied, sighing loudly. He looked so tired it was a wonder he stood.

“Think of our men in Galthea, surely they deserve the support after everything they have done to end this dreaded war. Look at your land Yusuf!”

I ducked further behind the door as the man started waving his hands around.

“Yes I know this. I just don’t understand what my daughters have to do with this,” my father replied, his voice sounded frail and weak, defeated.

“Do you want to help this land or not?”

“Yes of course but-“

“Then I will assess your daughters at dawn.”

I quickly ran down the alleyway with my buckets of water, as the man left my house and continued down the path. When he was gone I returned to my house, my father said nothing to me.

After the man left, I tried to busy myself in the house duties, but I felt weak and I more than once made more mess then clean. I found I could hardly see things before me, a sort of fear and anxiety was consuming me. I think, I was more worried for my little sister. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t worried for myself either, because I was. I could make nothing of what I had heard, only that it had to do with my family and my calm life in Haskana. I don’t know how much time passed as I cleaned, but at length I started hearing my father making sniffling noises and my mother weeping and crying our names softly, it all made my face burn and my eyes sting. I felt a naive girl, dreaming of being a woman when my family suffered. When I did see my father, I saw him staring at my sister as she napped on a small pallet. When he looked up at me, I thought I had never seen such a broken man, a broken old man.

About an hour before dawn, in preparation for the meeting with this man that my father had not said a word about, I scrubbed at my dirty skin and my sisters too. My mother was nowhere to be seen. My sister and I were dressed in our finest clothes for commons. Abigail wore a blue and white striped dress that peaked out around her knees and she had blue ribbon woven through her brown hair. Anyone else would have said she looked gorgeous, I thought she looked a doll. My father dressed me in a beige pink skirt and a lacy blouse the same colour. My long blonde waves were pulled high into a ponytail and wrapped in ribbon too. I felt a stuffed present and looked none the closer. It made me more anxious to see myself this way, my sister too.

Though, at dawn, the man did not show, a woman did. My father answered the door and led her into our small house and gave her a cushion to sit on. She walked with a grace of a queen and looked magnificent in her crimson gown and ruby slippers. A black veil covered her face and only after we were all seated did she remove it. I think I may have gasped aloud, for there in the middle of her forehead was a crescent moon the same colour as my eyes. She was beautiful, as beautiful as the first painted woman I had seen, only this one had a sweet smile and soft nature.

She smiled at my sister and I, then turned to my father, who was looking at her the same way as I.

“Yusuf, my name is Vanille and these are your daughters yes?” her voice was lightly accented with the tone of a city woman.

My father shuddered at her words before answering, “Yes, this is Abigail and Helena.”

At our names the woman looked us over, first my sister and then myself. I gazed admiringly at her and she seemed to frown at me when I did.

My sister turned to my father and asked, “Daddy, who is this?”

Instead, Vanille answered, “I am a teacher, little one, and I am here to choose a new student. Do you like to learn Abigail?”

My ears pricked in attention to her words, for I was without schooling and learned only through my parents. I later learned what this woman really ‘taught’. I think if I knew then, I would have said I hated school, but this was one of those moments when my mother’s advice would have been relevant.

“I would love to learn Miss, Mother is sick and Father is old,” I said, happy when she gave me a small smile.

“Why Helena, that isn’t a very nice thing to say about your father,” she replied humouredly.

“Oh well, Mother told me this. But I do so want to learn!” I said eagerly, beaming at Vanille.

She laughed lightly and sipped at the glass of water my father offered her. “And what of your little sister? Should she be taught too?” she asked.

I looked at my sister, dressed in her silly dress and sucking her thumb. I had never really felt the need to be selfish until then, for I was caring of sister. I had never wanted anything more than what this woman offered me.

“Abigail is a little girl, maybe when she is older like me, she can learn too,” I replied.

“Hmm,” she said, thoughtfully.

My father then shooed my sister and I away as he conversed with Vanille. I went with Abigail outside our house and drew lines in the dirt on the ground, thinking of how badly I wanted to go to this school. I had no idea then, of how I had just changed my life for good.

“You’re mean Helena!” Abigail cried, a pout on her chubby face.

“Oh Abi, don’t be angry,” I said, taking my struggling sister in my arms.

“I want to go to school!” she complained.

“Helena, could you come back in here please?” the soft spoken voice broke into my sister’s ramblings and I looked up to see Vanille smiling down at me.

Brushing dirt off my skirts, I followed her flowing crimson gown back inside the house. The first thing I noticed was that my father was nowhere to be seen. It probably should have come as a sort of warning for me, but I admired this woman, more than I really should have. She motioned for me to sit on the cushion beside her and I did happily.

“How old are you Helena?” she asked me.

“Eight years old, Miss,” I answered.

She reached a hand out and ran her fingers through my long blonde hair, pinching and testing it between her fingers. She made a sound in the back of her throat and dropped her hand back to her lap.

“Where are you from?” I asked her curiously.

But she was just staring at me. “You are rather pretty aren’t you?” she said. I blushed and dipped my head slightly, shy that such a beautiful woman would pay a common girl like me any sort of compliments. “Tell me, Helena, why is it that you have none of your handsome father in you?”

“Oh, my mother was saving it all up for my little sister,” I answered.

“Do you like the night Helena?”

I thought this a strange question, for at that age I was still afraid of the dark, I cant say even now I have overcome that fear.  Out of worry for displeasing her, I nodded my head and agreed that I did like the night. All the while, she took my face in her hands and began turning my head at different angles, and tilted her own head to have a better view. I was silent through the probing, until she started at the tie around my waist.

“Miss!” I protested, slapping her hands away.

“Now, now. Helena, I just need to see if you will fit into our uniform. You want to go to school don’t you?” she raised her perfect eyebrows at me in question.

“Yes, I would love to,” I admitted, lightened at the fact that she may let me go still.

So with that, her face became serious and she took on a note of concentration as she helped me out of my blouse and slipped my skirts to the wooden floor of my house. She took me by the shoulders and made me sit on the edge of the small table that served our tea and food. I felt uncomfortable being naked, but not because of the nudity, it was because I couldn’t help comparing myself to her. I didn’t have much time to do so though, because the next thing I knew, Vanille put her hands on my knees and spread my legs apart. I think I should have known by then that it really wasn’t about the uniform, but I was a confused little girl. I couldn’t bring myself to watch as she bent over me and began touching and pinching my body. I chocked back tears, I didn’t want to look bad in her eyes, or my fathers.

After what seemed like forever, she finally leant back onto her cushion and told me to dress again. Her  face was unreadable, but she never took her eyes off me.

“You are healthy, little one,” she said gently, her face more relaxed again.  “Though a little skinny, are you eating?”

“Mother and Father say it is good to go without sometimes. There are others who eat nothing at all, Miss.”

“How thoughtful!” she said brightly.

Looking back now, I noted that Vanille was in fact a very good actress. Because the way she spoke hid the arrogance she really held to those lower than her. Yes, she was fond of me, but it would be wrong of me to say it was for the right reasons.

She left not long after that, saying nothing more but that she would send word of her decision soon. That night while lying in my pallet beside my snoring sister, I tried to picture the whole confusing situation from every angle. I wanted to believe that everything would be okay, I was happy that I was getting such an opportunity. But I felt a guilt for my sister and my parents. To begin with, I wondered, how could I go on living without my mother? Or even my father? Did I really want to give up my family and move away? I had after all, never left my small town, so it was both exciting and scary to think of leaving Haskana.

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Three days later, I was carrying a basket of wool to a reopened dye factory when a messenger boy ran up beside me. He stopped for a moment to catch his breath and I tapped my foot impatiently, weighing the basket back and forth on my arm.

Finally he said, “Your father... calls,” and he ran off again.

I hastily delivered the wool and practically skipped back to my small house in high spirits. I found my father sitting at the table, sharpening his shearing blades and Abigail was playing with her dolls in the corner. I stepped slowly into the room, anxious for the news I had waited so badly for.

“Father? The messenger boy told me you wanted me?” I said.

He stopped short of sharpening his blade and looked up at me. He seemed to be looking at something more distant, far away. Then he turned his eyes away and looked heavily towards my sister, he gave a small nod towards a piece of paper on the table before him.

Hesitantly I walked towards it, picking it up in my hands. I opened the letter and turned it in my fingers, praying silently that I would be accepted.

I looked at my father, “Father... I cannot read it.”

My father looked up at me and then snatched the paper violently from my shaking hands. With a heavy sigh, he read it out loud. 

Even today, years later, I remember this letter word for word. For this letter, was what made the start and end of my life:

Mr Yusuf Gordin,

Vanille has informed me of her examination of your daughters. We have decided to take Helena into our Moonshire, in Alicance. I’m sure you will be thrilled with this news, for one day she will make it up to our men at arms. Your family must be very proud.

I thank you for your offer. Pack nothing, I myself will escort Helena in the Morn.

Signed,

Jonas Cunnings.


I felt my face light up and a smile turned its way on my lips. It quickly faded when my father threw his shears against the wall, my sister let out a surprised yelp and my mother entered the room.

I can’t truly describe the feelings I felt when I saw her again, she looked a stranger. Deathly pale and skinny, she had a suitcase in one hand and her other held a travelling coat. Her eyes, so like mine, were trained on my father with so much hate I stifled a gasp of shock.

“Your hate for me must be so strong, for you sell our daughter who holds my looks. I cannot bear your darkness anymore, there is not enough light in this world to equate for you. Goodbye Yusuf”

And she walked away. 




                                                                                                      Chapter Four.

I’d imagined this day for weeks, but I’d never expected to feel as frightened as I did. From the moment I woke from my restless sleep, my heart had been beating at a fast pace and my body was covered in nervous sweat. 

I didn’t know how to react to what had happened the night before. Hearing my mothers words, watching her walk out and seeing my fathers broken face, was far too much to bear. So I found myself concentrating on the fact that I was actually being taken to a school. I still couldn’t believe I had been accepted, it seemed unnatural. A young girl from Haskana! Who would have thought?

My sister held a constant pout all morning and kept her distance from me. I looked at her for a long time, I was sad to be leaving her, especially after all that had happened.

As promised, I packed nothing and Jonas Cunnings arrived at my home that morning. He seemed so strange to me, dressed in a long colourful robe that looked more like a dress to me. He had blonde hair, dark brown eyes and he wore a stern expression. I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by him, especially when he led me outside without so much as a word. He didn’t say a thing to my father, who sat staring blankly at the scene in his house. Abigail didn’t seem to realise anything above the ordinary was happening that day, she just stood in the doorway to our small house and waved at me.

It would be many, many years before I saw her again, but I never saw my father again after that day.

Jonas led me by my arm to a carriage he had waiting on the main road outside of Haskana. A small crowd of townsfolk watched as I was loaded into the back and Jonas slid into the seat beside me. The driver gave a whip of his reins and the horses took flight, taking me away from my small village and my calm life.

--------------------------------------------

Jonas was strangely cold to me, he didn’t speak a word most of the trip. I suppose this should have been my first warning that things weren’t going to happen just the way I had imagined.

The carriage had small curtained windows, when I reached my hand up to pull it aside for a better view, Jonas slapped my hand painfully away and gave an annoyed grunt. Without a view, I couldn’t be sure where exactly we were heading. I didn’t know anything about Alicance, or anywhere outside of Haskana, so I was more than nervous about my new destination.

The horse and carriage came to a stop a couple of hours later, my eyes were heavy by this time and I forced myself to stay awake. Jonas stepped out first and I feared for another slap if I followed, so I waited on his instruction. Eventually, he opened the door and ordered me to get out. I stepped onto a patch of dirt and looked around. We were on a main road, surrounded by forest. A crowd of people walked and drove their wagons along the roads, carrying various sacks and crates full of things to trade. Our driver was attending the horses and Jonas was talking to a heavy looking man, wearing a robe that wasn’t as fine as his. He had rough black hair and held the reins of a huge chestnut horse beside him. Like Jonas, he struck me as out of place in our land, particularly there besides the farmers and tradesmen. Jonas said something to the man, and when he turned to peer at me, I decided at once that I was more frightened of him then Jonas.

With an impatient motion of his fingers, Jonas called me over. He introduced me to the man, Bronson, Lord Bronson I was told to address him. Bronson said nothing at all, but only looked closely at me in a way that made my skin crawl.

“I have brought some clothes for the girl and some water skins for your journey, a token of my appreciation,” Jonas said, in the kindest voice I had yet heard from him. He motioned for the carriage driver to bring them over.

Bronson didn’t seem as pleased about this as I had thought. He simply nodded his stone like head.

I certainly hadn’t expected any of this. I wanted to ask what was going on, where was I being taken? I didn’t think anyone would take notice of my questions, so I tried to answer myself. Perhaps this man, Bronson, was to be our new guide. He would take us to Alicance and deliver me to my school.

While I tried my best to convince myself that this was what was happening, Jonas, wearing an out of place smile, led me some distance away from Bronson where he wouldn’t hear us. As soon as we were alone, his smile vanished and he said:

“Listen to me girl!” He looked around to be sure no one could see and he gripped my ear with his fingers. I cried out in surprise and lent into his hand. “If you do anything to embarrass me, I and others, will make you pay for it! Bronson is a serious and stern man; you must pay attention to what he says! If he tells you to stand under that horses hooves, you’ll certainly do it! Understand me?”

From the expression on his face, I knew if I didn’t answer quickly he would hurt me more. I was in such shock I could barely speak, only when he pulled my ear harder did I yelp out a “Yes!” I felt like my ear would no longer be there, he had pulled it so hard, I heard myself whimpering. Jonas wiped the tears roughly from my face and dragged me back towards Bronson.

“What’s going on? Is there a problem?” Bronson said gruffly.

“No, no. Nothing at all. You should be on your way, before the sun sets,” Jonas replied, mockingly patting my head. My ear was still aching with pain.

Bronson led me towards his huge mare, swung his leg into the stirrups and let Jonas hand me up to him. I didn’t want to touch this man, but I feared I would fall off if I didn’t. So I wrapped my arms around his waist and he kicked the horse into a gallop. The last thing I saw before we were truly moving, was Jonas’s face, the expression he wore was warning enough for me. I was so upset by now, I would have plunged in anguish through the dirt we rode on if I could have. I buried my face into Bronson’s back and chocked back on sobs.

He peered at me over his shoulder after awhile, a look of disgust on his face. “You smell of manure!” He arched his back strongly and knocked my face away, I tasted blood in my mouth.

This was all my fault, was all I could think.

We were riding for hours, without food or water. The sight of Bronson drinking from the skins he was gifted and chewing on dried beef, certainly got my attention, but he ate and drank without so much as looking at me, I felt as though I couldn’t take another minute of torment. We stopped riding just before dark, stopping into a large town, which I took to be Alicance. By the time we arrived, I felt so sore from riding that it was a wonder I could walk, I could barely stand.

I couldn’t see much of the town at first, Bronson towered over me and I was a step behind him. Eventually, though, I caught sight of the vast town before me. To my astonishment, I saw that the town reached as far as the base of hills in the distance. I never imagined a city could be so huge. Even to this day, the sight of Alicance reminds me of the terrible feelings of fear and emptiness I felt that first day I left my home.

Back then, the town of Alicance wasn’t as huge as it is now. Cars were a rarity and trains were in the making. People were everywhere, standing by their wagons or squatting nearby, smoking, eating and some lying asleep there and then on the street.

I was led by my elbow, like trash, into the town by Bronson. I think he probably thought I’d have run away if he let me go a moment. I still don’t know if I would have, I’d have preferred not to be cast out alone into a sea of foreign people and great expanses of streets and buildings.

We climbed into the back of another carriage that was ordered by Bronson to take us to the Moonshire. I had no idea what this meant then and how much it wasn’t truly what I expected. The driver tugged at his reins and we set off at a trot. After crossing a number of alleyways, I couldn’t take the silence and mystery any longer.

“Could you please tell me where I am going?” I asked hesitantly.

He answered me with a glare that made my blood run cold.

At this, my eyes finally overflowed with tears. I was suddenly struck by Bronson’s hand and I let out a loud gasp. My eyes remained dry after that.

As we twisted and turned throughout Alicance, I couldn’t help comparing it to Haskana. My small village could have fit ten times over in this town. I could hardly see anything past the sea of people and shops. I saw a car for the first time, they looked so cruel to me, as if they alone held the ability to hurt a person. My senses were overwhelmed. I felt terrified as the night settled around me. Buildings actually had there own lights, street lamps lit the roads, and I’d never seen anything like it. Everything was shrouded in puddles of golden glow. We trotted past buildings that looked so grand to me, like a palace for queens, more exuberant than our mayor’s home.  The way everything was packed together made it look like everything was connected-which gave me more terrible feelings. I saw women running down the streets, men in fine suits smoking cigarettes, children my own age ran around making more noise at once than in my whole village. The women looked so elegant to me, the men royal and the children... happy.

We came to a halt by an ancient looking building. I was instructed to get out and I did. Bronson climbed out behind me and handed the driver a few silver coins. He dragged me inside the building, only stopping when we neared a woman I had in fact seen before. She was just slipping on a beautiful pair of stone studded black slippers. Her exquisite gown fell past her feet and she held one side up as she walked. It was the woman I had seen in the alley with Mr Fernard not so long ago. Her brown curls were pulled back that night, making her strange crescent moon gleam like the moon itself on her forehead.

Nothing much had changed from that day I first saw her, she still wore a scowl as she looked down at me. Though, when she saw Bronson, she smiled at him and said, “Lord Bronson, How I missed you. I’m sorry but I must be on my way.”

She stared at me again and it took me awhile to get past my shock to notice she was waiting for me to move. When I did, she sauntered away down the street, blending into the sea of townsfolk. I still didn’t know what this woman or any of the other women actually did and I decided that with their beauty and grace, they had to be stage performers.

“It’s a wonder she didn’t strike you!” Bronson snapped, grabbing my arm harder again. “You will show more respect to your sisters from now on!”

I didn’t say anything, I only had one sister and that was Abigail. She certainly wasn’t with me, but I later learnt what he meant.

I was led further into the Moonshire until we reached the front room that also led out into a courtyard. This room alone, was larger than my whole small house in Haskana. This room, along with the other houses I had glimpsed, was lit by the yellow light of electric lamps. Opening off the front room were sliding doors with strange papered walls. The papers were pictures of night skies filled with stars and mostly centred with a beaming moon. One door stood open and I could just make out something that looked like a shrine, a statue of some sort was standing tall in the room. I was yet to learn that was where I would spend some times of my days, praying to a god of night that I hadn’t believed in. I had yet to discover a lot of things, though I would learn most within a day or two. I stood there in the room for a long while, wondering about the sort of place I had been brought to and feeling very much afraid. Bronson had disappeared somewhere, but I could hear his rough voice from somewhere in the Moonshire.

Eventually someone entered the front room from one of the many side doors. It was a girl who looked to be about my age, perhaps older. She carried a tray of tea cups and a pot full of brew, her face was in deep concentration, like her life depended on that tray. I later learned that she most likely was thinking exactly that. Her face was round and her body narrow. When she reached the table in the middle of the front room, she set the tray down carefully and stood up straight. I think she only then noticed me standing there watching her. She looked me up and down, frowned and pursed her lips. I felt like I should probably say something, but my throat felt thick and I couldn’t speak. She opened her own mouth to speak, but just then Bronson returned to the room and shooed the girl away. Not long after he entered the room, an older woman entered. She walked tall and wore a heavy black veil over her face. Even now, I couldn’t tell you anything about her face, because I never saw it. No one did. I was introduced to her, Mother Moon, she told me to call her.

Mother Moon led me into the courtyard. It had a beautiful look to it, there were trees and plants everywhere, with stepping stones leading to the different entrances. It smelled beautiful too. It wasn’t long before I was told to undress, I immediately thought of Vanille and what she had done, I was so scared it would happen again. It did, but I found it easier to ignore when I couldn’t see this woman’s face. Afterward she handed me my clothes, which were nothing but simple skirts and an old simple blue blouse. It took me awhile to notice the crowd of people peeping at me through the various papered doorways, I felt mortified.

“I want you to listen to me,” Mother Moon began, her voice was raspy, kind of like she had been yelling all day. “We are finding it harder and harder to keep girls inside this Moonshire.”

“Will you keep me?” I asked timidly, my voice was barely audible for I hadn’t spoken nearly all day.

“That is all up to you,” she replied simply.

“What is this place? Is this the school?” I asked a bit more confidently.

“It’s a Moonshire. It is where Ladies of the Moon live. If you are good enough to be kept, you too, one day will grow up to become a Lady of the Moon yourself. But you won’t make it as far as a day unless you listen very closely to your teachers and sisters. Most importantly, Lord Bronson, you must never displease him.”

I had so many questions then, what was a Lady of the Moon? What would I be taught? How could I not displease Bronson? I didn’t get a chance to find out just yet though.

“Come closer,” Mother Moon whispered.

I approached her and she knelt down to my height. I couldn’t see past her dark veil, so I couldn’t say how she reacted to me. My eyes darted about as I stood in silent apprehension, people were still watching us closely, and even Bronson stood down the stoned path watching carefully. I concentrated on Mother Moons clothes, they were made from a beautiful silk, with a lovely gauzy texture. It was pure black, but the moonlight made it glow almost blue. As her hands swept over my skin and through my hair, I saw that her skin was roughly wrinkled and there were a number of scars covering her wrists. There were so many it would take forever to count! The pain she must have gone through to receive such wounds, it made me sad for this old woman.

“Why is there sadness in your eyes?” Mother Moon asked so suddenly I jumped guiltily.

“I’m... sorry?” I stammered. Mother Moon tilted her head to the side and lifted the sleeves from her wrists. “Oh...” she showed me all the way up to her elbow, she was covered in various sized pinkish scars.

“Do you know what these mean?” she asked me.

“No, Mother Moon. They must have hurt...”

She laughed softly, “Yes, but there is no pain without gain. These are Honour slashes, given to me by many men who I have honoured with my presence. Do not feel sad for them, they are part of me and perhaps one day you will have your own.”

My eyes widened at this, the thought of the pain I could face for these ‘Honour slashes’ scared me. I couldn’t grasp anything, why a man would slash a woman just from her company was baffling to me, even at that age.

“How old are you little one?” Mother Moon asked, I snapped out of my reverie and was about to answer when Bronson approached.

“She is eight years old, Mother Moon. Now what is your decision?” his voice was impatient and annoyed. He stood with his broad arms crossed over his chest.

Mother Moon sighed and stood to her towering full height again. She too, crossed her arms over her chest in a challenging way. “She will remain in this Moonshire,” she answered him.

“What do you think of her?” Bronson asked, eyeing me carefully.

I thought it was strange that they were talking about me like I wasn’t there.

“She has lovely eyes and her hair is a rarity, her body is healthy and fully in tact. I can see through her eyes that she is a clever girl, adaptable. She’s rather pretty don’t you think?”

“There are many pretty girls in Alicance. We need smart girls, not pretty girls.” he scowled down at me, I cringed.

“Didn’t I just say she was clever Bronson?” Mother Moon questioned, her voice took on a tone of authority.

“Yes, but what is your word against the world!” he snapped back.

“Sometimes I wonder how anyone gets along with you...” Mother Moon sighed again.

“I am just concerned with the Moonshire,” Bronson confided. He was most sincere when it came to the Moonshire.  He then turned towards me, “You are lucky, girl.”

“Helena,” I replied, I was so tired of being called girl.

“What?”

“My name... My name is Helena!”  I snapped.

This was another one of those moments, where, looking back I realised I should have listened closer to my mother’s advice.

As soon as the words left my lips, I was backhanded across the courtyard and torn to my feet by my hair. I cried out in pain and watched as Mother Moon shook her head and walked away.

I was hit again, “Don’t you ever, ever talk to me like that again!” Bronson yelled, his face red with fury. I pleaded for him to stop, but he kept hitting me. “You have no name here, girl! Everything you have is gone!” He then pulled my head back and called for a maid and scissors. “You’re in Alicance now and a Moonshire. You’ll learn to behave or get a beating far, far worse than this. I normally give it, so you’ll be sorry. You will work hard, very hard and never leave this Moonshire until I say. You will do as you are told and maybe, I say just maybe now, you will learn to be a woman. You don’t get thrown out here, you never leave. Ever!”

I didn’t dare move, not only for fear of being hit again, but because I was in such intense pain that moving only doubled it. I had a sudden image of my father watching my sister sleeping quietly on her pallet. Then my mother walking hand in hand with my father through the streets of Haskana, smiling and laughing. I saw Abigail looking around to see where I had gone. Tears pooled in my eyes before I could think of how to stop them. My vision glazed, Bronson’s furious face seemed to shimmer in and out of focus. Then he took the scissors from the maid, grabbed a handful of my long blonde hair, and began hacking it all off.

I watched the wheat coloured stands fall to the ground, so like my mothers hair, and felt my old life slip away completely.

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