And here we are again. I've been working steadily on this story. It's kind of funny, really. Why didn't all these words come years ago? *Sigh* BTW, I've changed the name Tigana to Tigara. I don't know who was first--me or Guy Gavriel Kay--but I do know which one of us is more famous. So Tigara it is. I wonder what other land mines lurk in the old names I have for these characters?
Rough draft. Please don't quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.
This scene is still fairly early in the story. Tasha, her cousin Alli, and her Aunt Lana went to the marketplace on Lotus Street where Nikky saw them and gave Tasha a feather despite Lana's protests. This birthday party happened not long after that event took place.
People crowded the small courtyard. Tasha stood on the edge of things, trying to escape notice. Large groups of people made her uncomfortable, especially those gatherings where she had to be concerned that she didn’t spill food and drink on her clothes, or say the wrong thing.
Her cousin, Alli, stood at the very heart of the crowd, talking and laughing vivaciously. The birthday party was hers—a celebration of turning fourteen. Alli never lost an opportunity to point out the year's difference in their ages.
Tasha watched her. For Alli, a party gave her the opportunity to shine. Aunt Lana always made sure she dressed impeccably and invited the right people. The new peacock blue party dress Alli wore made Tasha feel like a dowd by comparison in her older green dress, and the party was definitely full of the right people. Members of the Fifty Families roamed the courtyard, forming little cliques and groups.
Loud laughter caught Tasha’s attention. A group of boys about Alli’s age or older stood near the fountain, flicking water on each other. She recognized Raul Destero and Conn Sanyata among them. Their Family names were influential—she had heard her father say the Sanyatas and the Desteros had the direct ear of Governor Arin Tigara. She did know that Raul and Conn thought a lot of themselves.
Alli turned and saw her. “Oh, Tasha,” she said in a dismissive voice. “I’d forgotten I invited you."
“You didn’t. Aunt Lana did,” Tasha said.
“Well, this must be like a grown-up party for you. I’m afraid there’s no one else your age here.”
Alli’s patronizing tone set Tasha’s teeth on edge. “That’s all right. If I get bored, I’ll go play hopskip on the patio while I drink my milk.”
Alli shot Tasha a dirty look. Without another word, she turned and walked away to join some girls standing in a giggling group near the boys at the fountain. She said something and the girls turned to stare at Tasha. More giggles erupted from them.
Tears stung Tasha’s eyes but she fiercely blinked them back. I’m not going to cry. Not in front of them.
She turned and walked to the table that Aunt Lana's servants had spread with food. Tasha eyed the dainty offerings and settled for little finger sandwiches even though she wasn’t really hungry. Eating alfresco never appealed to her, especially not at social events. She settled her back against one of the statues and nibbled on her food.
Lost in thought, at first she didn’t realize that Raul Destero stood in front of her holding out one of the decorative white rocks that lined the pathways. Puzzled, Tasha looked up at his smirking face. Nearby, she could see the boys and girls from around the fountain obviously listening in, including Alli.
“What? Don’t you get it? I figured if you’d take a feather from common trash, a rock from me ought to really set you on fire,” he drawled.
Raucous laughter from the others rang in Tasha’s ears.
Tasha felt the blood drain from her face. She took a deep breath, and lifted her chin. “No, thanks. Haven’t you heard? It’s the thought, not the gift.”
The others stopped laughing, and a flash of rage lit Raul’s face. He hefted the rock as if he contemplated throwing it in her face. Tasha held his gaze, showing no fear.
With a short, derisive laugh, Raul turned his hand and dropped the rock at her feet. “In case you change your mind,” he said, and sauntered away.
Only one place could Raul have heard the story. Alli had told him. Tasha gave her cousin one flashing look of disbelief and betrayal. Alli shrugged, looking faintly uncomfortable.
Tasha turned and made her way to the patio where she knew Aunt Lana sat with the older ladies, talking and laughing. When her aunt’s eyes fell on Tasha, a frown crossed her face for a moment.
Tasha found that it took every ounce of her willpower to ask her aunt in a pleasant voice to call up the chair so she could go home.
“Why are you leaving so early, Tasha?” Lana asked her suspiciously.
“I’m sorry, Aunt Lana. I don’t feel well. It might be the heat.”
Tasha guessed that she didn’t look well because Aunt Lana didn’t ask her any more questions. She summoned a servant and directed the chair be brought for her niece.
“What a shame!” one of the other ladies commiserated. “You’ll miss the rest of the party.”
Tasha gave her a sickly smile.
“But I suppose you won’t enjoy the party if you don’t feel well,” the lady continued, and a discussion ensued about different ailments the various ladies had experienced.
Tasha gratefully escaped and waited out in front of her aunt’s house for the chair. The two burly men who carried the chair placed it on the ground to allow her inside. Tasha drew the curtains and let the swaying movement of the chair soothe her. She wished she could run home and tell her father what Alli and Raul had done, but she knew she couldn’t do it. Tasha had been taught not to bear tales, and telling her father seemed too much like doing that. She sighed. This seemed one more thing that, as her nurse put it, “must be endured rather than cured.”
At that moment, Tasha missed her mother with an ache that seemed as big as the world, and just as endless.