July 06, 2006

The Witch’s Eyes

This continues the Hello and Goodbye story.

A candle was lit in the cool darkness of the house, its flame flaring wildly for a moment on the fresh wick. My eyes were drawn first to it, and then to the man that held it, set it down with such care that it hardly shifted in the dish. For half a moment, he watched the flame as it flickered and subsided, then turned to me.

“You have my eyes.”

My ears had grown accustomed to babble, and it took me a moment to realise I understood the words. Even then, their meaning puzzled me. In the south, blue eyes were rare, almost unnatural. Once, as my older cousins liked to tease me, they had even been considered the mark of a witch.

“No… I have the Witch’s eyes,” I said with all seriousness, not understanding his meaning. He didn’t smile or frown at this, merely nodded.

“That’s what she told me as well.” I almost asked who she was. But he was staring at me with such thought in his eyes that I felt my own grow silent for a moment.

“Are you my father?” I asked after a long pause.

“I am. And I suppose that makes this your home.”

He made the briefest of gestures about him, and I followed it, eyes dancing from shadow to shadow in the faint light. The fabric of the chairs was finer than any of the clothes I had ever worn, and I looked almost cautiously towards the walls. Pictures were traced into their perfect white surface, lions and eagles in gold thread, hardly recognizable in all their artistic ferocity. My home. For a moment, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the lion, frozen in it’s eternal roar.

“Are you frightened?”

“No.” I replied on principle, before falling into admission. “Or… I’m not sure.”

“It must seem strange to you.” He said. “As strange as your lands were to me. But there is a difference, you know. You belong here. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” An automatic response, half hearted. But it was enough for my father, and he quickly changed the subject.

“I regret that I won’t be able to see much of you for a while. This is a very bad time of year for me. I would have waited to bring you… but we couldn’t delay any longer.” His words were formal and difficult, and I remember working to understand them, sometimes even having to guess.

“Delay? Wait? Why not?”

“The time had simply come.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s harder to change as you grow older, you know. Harder to gain, and harder to lose. We become as rigid as old stones.” Then he smiled for the first time, though not with happiness. He reached out towards me, and I felt his hand touch the dark waves of hair near my forehead. Distantly I noticed that his hair parted in the same way, peaking a little first. “But you’re still young.” He said, and slowly pulled away. You must be tired after the voyage, so go and rest now. The girl’s name is Dania, she’ll take care of you.”

I wasn’t tired, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wanted to talk to this man who was my father, little as that meant to me. I wanted to ask about the eyes I couldn’t see in the candlelight and what he meant about the old stones. But Dania was wordlessly beckoning me, and I found myself going to her. I looked back once, and my father had already turned away, already busied himself with something new. But he held his hand against his head, as if suddenly wearied.

I dreamt that night as I rarely had in the southlands. I was lonely that night. I’m convinced we dream out of loneliness, to fill the emptiness inside. I dreamt of being on a ship again, lost, years older. I couldn’t admit I had nowhere to go, and nowhere to return to. The ocean was blue as the eyes my father and I shared. In the distant past, those eyes would have cast me out as a witch. Even now, they damned me to wandering.

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