RETICENT: Shy Smiles By Sharon Collins

Word: Reticent
Word Count 500
Shy Smiles
By Sharon Collins

Sister is shy. So am I. It is difficult not to be shy when you look so different from the rest. I think about how different Sister looks from other wolves. In the deep pine-shadows of the forest, she must have shone like a ray of moonlight with her yellow-bright eyes. It is no wonder the She-Wolf kept her hidden. Being different is dangerous. I know this to be true, for I too know what it is to hide my smile, to walk with eyes cast down, to try to remain unnoticed.

I have finally come to understand just how different I do look, for I have seen myself in the still water puddled at the mouth of our cave. I have known always that my bones are too long. But staring back from the water’s surface was a stranger with green eyes far too large, and a pale face much too flat. And then there was the seaweed-tangle of her strange hair. “It is true,” I almost sobbed to Sister. “What the women used to whisper behind my back is true; I am ugly.” How their hushed words hurt. They claimed my ugliness was the result of a curse put on the Headman by Grandmother as she fell from Judgement into Justice. They said she cursed his seed, that he should have only ugly, useless girl-children from that day forth. They said his laughter roared as the echoes of Grandmother’s cries faded and he gave Mother the choice of her punishment. Offering the necklace of guilt and shame, he said she could take her turn on the cliff-edge for her part in Grandmother’s crime, or she could don the shattered shells and take her place in his bedroll, as his least wife, and become servant to his First and Second. Knowing she was already carrying me, babe of a man taller than most with fox-red hair and green eyes recently met at the Summer Gathering, she chose the Headman’s bedroll, the necklace, and endless obedience. He claimed his rights immediately and often, boasting that Mother’s quickly swelling belly held another handsome son to sit at his side. When I was born, a girl, useless and ugly, no one dared speak aloud of Grandmother’s curse, but everyone whispered of it. When I grew old enough to understand, I stoped smiling and learned to hide my hurt in plain sight.

Remembering makes me hungry so I call Sister and we sneak to the top of the dunes. The gulls lay their speckled eggs in sea-grass nests. Both gulls and their eggs are delicious. My mouth waters at the thought. Luckily Sister blends well with the white sand, and the gulls never notice her until it is too late. She snaps one by the neck, shakes it hard, sending feathers floating on the breeze. She does this again. We will eat well tonight. Swallowing the still-warm insides of an egg, I smile.

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