This is the prologue of my current novel – comments about the overall feel, style and quality much appreciated!
PART ONE: MAIDEN
Summer Solstice, 1913 – Crete
Gaia is surprised to see her bedroom mirror in this tent on the rocks above the Mediterranean Sea. Her mother and grandmother are there, waiting. They kiss her tenderly on both cheeks, stroke her hair and hand her a bowl of scented water. Chrysanthemum petals and sprigs of lavender float on its surface. ‘Remember child,’ her grandmother says, laying her hand on her arm. ‘You must leave all your belongings behind, all the trinkets of your childhood.’
Gaia fully understands the implication of her grandmother’s counsel. She swallows and nods. There will be no more childish games after this, after she has fulfilled her chosen path. Her grandmother holds her face, smiling fondly. She lets her go reluctantly, and her nails unintentionally graze her granddaughter’s cheek. Yet Gaia, after laying the bowl of scented water on the ground, takes hold of her grandmother’s wrist and tenderly kisses her retreating palm.
Standing alone in the tent, Gaia studies her own diminutive figure in the mirror. She wishes her legs were a bit longer, that she was just a little taller. And yet she knows the other women call her “petite” – with envy. She slowly removes her heavy silver necklace. Her fumbling fingers find the clasp troublesome. Her bracelets and earrings follow. She almost drops them. She wonders briefly which of her younger sisters will be the lucky recipient of these. Finally, she removes the clips that hold her black, wiry hair in place, which now drops loosely over her shoulders. The brown of her eyes and black of her eyebrows have always contrasted with her pale skin. Too pale for a Cretan girl. As for her dress, it fits tightly around her bust and hips now – it wasn’t made for them (earlier she had to pull the material over her new curves). She is relieved that this is the last time she has to wear this too tight dress.
Turning away from her reflection, she takes mental note of her position and executes the first circle. Stopping momentarily in all directions – north, south, east & west – centring herself and aware of the ground beneath her feet, as well as the sky above her head. Then, retrieving the bowl from her feet, she sprinkles the water in a circle, whispering the incantation she has struggled for months to learn by heart. Next she removes her dress and flat leather shoes and takes a final brief look at herself in the mirror. Colour rises to her cheeks at the realisation that she will be naked when she reaches the other side – naked in front of strangers, vulnerable, and exposed to rejection. She spins away from her image lest the urge to dress again overcomes her.
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