Word Count 499
By Sharon Collins
The right choice feels very much like the wrong choice. I know that Shadow cannot remain with us. He was born wild and lives wild. Sister was born wild, this is true, but she lives with myself. We are not an entire clan, but we are more than one, and we are not entirely wild. I do not like this dark feeling I have looking into Sister’s eyes. I do not like making her choose between Shadow and myself, so I tell her she may leave. I tell her I understand. I thank her for sharing herself with me for so long. I tell her that I will feel great sadness if she chooses to go. I tell her I will feel great happiness if she chooses to remain. Then I give her the gift I have made for her.
I finished the gift the day the walls of our cave began to shake, warning me of the mighty wave. Sitting near the fire, I held the yellow-brights to the flames so that they might feed. I feared they hungered from giving away so many sparks. I remember how pleasing they felt, warm as skin. Turning them over and over in my hand, I thought of First-Wife’s Necklace and wondered if I could make one too. None of my bone sewing tools would be strong enough to pierce the hide of a yellow-bright. This I knew to be true without trying. I thought of the yellow-bright that melted, but when I put another into the fire, it did not melt. It captured a flame and burned itself up into white smoke. I am sad it died. I can still smell the green, forest-scent it left behind. So I thought I should not try to burn a hole through.
I closed my eyes, trying to remember how First-Wife’s was made. I tried very hard and I did remember. Carefully I chose as many yellow-brights as are on one hand, the ones whose hides wore the most bumps and knotted the thinnest piece of rabbit-gut around and around. Then I pushed my sewing tool, pulling a thicker piece of gut, through the knots to make a necklace. I made Sister’s first as practice before making one for myself. It is my wish to travel to the Clan Gathering and receive welcome as any Head-woman would. In this wish of mine, when the Wisemen ask me to name my clan, I hold out my necklace and howl our name in wolf-song, Sisters of the Yellow-Bright-Sea I sing for all to hear. It is a fine wish. But it is only a wish. I have made my choice. Shadow has made his. Now Sister must make hers. I place my gift around her neck and scratch behind her ears once more. Then I release her and go from the cave myself to gather clams. I am weak; I fear I would not be able to watch her leave without begging her to stay.