Word Count. 499
By Sharon Collins
Geneviève swam back to consciousness and opened her eyes to see the broad yellow-green leaves of the sacred Laurel above her and hear Père Jean was repeating, ”Je suis dèsolè, ma petite, dèsolè…” as he tenderly tucked her wayward braids back under her hood. “My foolish, brave, petite colombe, I tried to shield you.” But the damage was done. Geneviève’s eyes had seen because her ears had heard the whispered word on the wind. “Demori.”
Père Jean she gasped from a throat choked with smoke and grief, “What, what does Demori mean?”
“It means, I Remain,” he replied, “that although the Light has been dimmed, because You remain, the Light has not been completely burned out.” He might have said more, but Hèléne’s insistent tugging at his robe finally drew his attention. “What, ma petite colombe, is it, that cannot wait?”
“Her hair! Père Jean! Geneviève’s hair…”
“Hush child…” he sigh. “Now is not the time.” Hèléne quieted but continued to stare at Geneviève, whose far-seeing eyes noticed not at all.
Once more in formation, Père Jean’s flock flew on. As the sacred Laurel receded into the distance Hèléne’s eyes remained glued on stray strands of Geneviève’s hair, waving like silken antennae in the breeze. Long hours later when they stopped by a quiet stream to rest, and feed their empty bellies, Geneviève finally noticed her friend’s awkward attention. Leaning over the bank, to catch a glimpse and tidy her hair, she gasped, then sobbed. Gone was the chestnut glory that Grand-mère so admired. Her unruly braids had turned completely white. Cupping dusty hands in the cool water, she blotted out her eerie appearance and turned to her ginger-haired friend.. When it came to matters of appearance, Hèléne knew how to turn plain girls into pretty girls, and how to turn pretty girls into even prettier ones. Despite the personal plainness embraced by the Perfecti-teachers , the girls’ small vanities had been indulged, and Hèléne’s beauty advice tolerated.
“Is it truly awful?” she managed to croak through her tears. “Tell me true, Hèléne ; it IS horrible is it not?”
“Non, ma cherie,” she assured her stricken friend. “N’est pas horrible. C’est très belle, like moonlight on snow…” But of course it was not tres belle.
‘It matters not, not really,’ Geneviève supposed. ‘ I will not be allowed to keep it anyway, not where we are going. Snow-white or chestnut-brown, it makes little difference.’ But she did not say this aloud. The other girls did not yet know the extent of sacrifice awaiting them at journey’s end. Grand-mère had fully informed her but had not wanted to frighten Hèléne or Marie-Claude. Geneviève was also certain that neither Giselle nor Lisette were aware of the vows necessary to become a novice. ‘Poverty, chastity, humility…the last one will take care of my ghostly hair,’ she thought, as she dried her hands on her patched skirt, picked up her bundle, and stepped back into her spot in line behind Père Jean.