Oh boy oh boy, do I have some exciting news for you!
There's no Taylor's Time next weekend!
I know, why is that exciting, right? I mean, I've been here cheerleading for her every weekend, enthusiastic about her work, so why would I want her to miss a week?
Because she's editing SAFE NOW!
She's going into the pre-edits, working on the chapters we haven't seen, which means she'll then hire Adam to do the pre-publication edits and squeeeeee!
Right. Calm. I'm calm.
So we have a new story this week, nothing next week, and who knows what the week after.
I'm so excited!
Don't forget, if you've subscribed, I have my newsletter coming out tomorrow!
Part One - Son
My sandals crunched along the cinder streets as Asim and I made our way to trade a wool blanket for some bread. It was rare for us to go to the baker, especially this close to winter. Asim hardly ever had enough money to buy the hearty loaves that were preferred by the higher class. We were lucky this time: the baker had agreed to our trade.
The day had grown icy and our breath fogged out in front of us. My brother put a hand to my arm.
"Do you need to rest?" he asked me.
I smiled. As a child, Asim always looked after me. Now, he was a man nearing his twenty fifth year and was still as attentive as ever. I placed a hand to my swollen belly, on the life growing inside me.
"No." I smiled at him.
We continued on. I kept my head low, ignoring the stares and whispers of those around us. Here I was, a girl of nearly fourteen, venturing out of the house with a child stirring in her womb. What a disgrace I must be to my family, a girl tainted by lust, her virtue stolen. But they didn't know. They wouldn't understand.
I had never been with a man, not then, not ever. Asim knew this to be true. I was never out of his sight outside of our house. He never asked me what had happened. He never questioned this virgin pregnancy. He simply accepted it.
I didn’t want a child. I wasn’t ready to be a mother yet. However, I couldn’t, wouldn’t, turn my heart against my unborn babe. On the contrary, I loved this fatherless little one the moment of the first kick. It was the sight of the beggars, mothers sitting with their starving children in their laps, that made me dread motherhood. Starvation was a common fate in Ludecia, dying children just as common. Would I be blessed with a little one only to watch them die of hunger before my eyes?
I shivered and wrapped my veil tighter around my face. This child came to me, not by the will of a man, but by the will of something greater. It seemed impossible for such a tragedy to strike both of us. Even so, I was terrified. When I looked deep within, I loved my little one as truly and purely as a mother could ever love her child. I couldn't bear the thought of anyone but my brother and I laying hands on them.
It snowed heavily the night I welcomed my son into the world. Though the pains of labor had been brief, minimal, I was frightened.
"It's too soon!" I cried, gripping Asim's hand.
But he would wait no longer. My son was coming no matter what I said or how I felt.
Propped up against a pillow, crying and trembling, despite the heat of the fire, I waited, silently praying, hoping that my little one would come out healthy and strong. At birth, my son was true to his nature. He was too gentle to hurt anyone. After a few moments of pushing and grunting, there he was.
Tears streamed down Asim's cheeks as he held the baby, wrapped him up, and handed him to me. When the child fussed and cried out, I drew him to my breast. In all my life, I never thought I'd get to hold something, someone so beautiful in my arms. He was like a blooming flower, so vibrant, so wondrous, yet fragile and needing to be cared for. And he was mine!
As I pressed my lips to his head, daylight came. No, it couldn’t be. It was too early for daylight. Yet, there was the sun in all its brightness, shining through the windows, its rays warm and wonderful.
Then, as soon as it had come, it was gone. The light I thought was the sun disappeared, leaving nothing in its wake. Everything was as it had been before, dull and dim in the glow of the fire. I shivered.
What happened? Had others noticed?
Had Asim noticed?
I looked at the baby in my arms and all of my questions faded from my mind. It was as if the light had never been. The memory of it would return later, but it didn't matter to me now. Here was my son, and I was his mother. His name came to me the instant he opened his eyes.
"Zahir," I whispered.
My shining light.