“Sruni, would you talk to me about a first for you? Something that was important and memorable.”
She leaned forward, placing her chin in her hand.
“What’s the point of these questions? ”
“Please just answer.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Significant first something. Well, I suppose a first that sticks out for me is the first class I attended in Lasdevan.”
“Why is that?”
“Are you serious? I came from Kaltua, do you have any idea what it’s like there? Women are little better than servants. My father was a rare man. He was educated and taught my mother to read. I was seven when he died. Killed in a street riot on his way home. My mother packed our few possessions and took all the money father had saved. She bought passage here right after the funeral.”
She sat up straight, regarding me with her deep brown eyes.
“You asked me why class was such an important first. In Kaltua a woman can be killed for reading. When I came here, mother enrolled me in a school. The fee was almost half father’s savings for the year. I was terrified to go. I can still remember the classroom. Children, my own age and younger were gathered in a room with pillows and simple chairs they were laughing. There was a fenced in garden out one of the classroom doors, it smelled of jasmine and honey.”
She smiled almost hesitantly.
“The teacher came over and knelt down, she smiled at me and offered her hand. She introduced herself as Talia Rewta. I stared at her. A woman teacher. My mother introduced herself and explained where we were from. Talia frowned then hugged my mother, assuring her that nothing like that would ever happen here. She knelt down again and looked me in the eye.”
Tears threatened the edges of Sruni’s vision. As I watched she blinked them back and tightened her lips.
“She told me that here I was safe. That I could learn about anything I wanted and that no one would hurt me because of it. She said she wanted to show me something. I looked at my mother who nodded. I followed her and she led me into the garden. Talia took my hand as we crossed the garden. I remember that her hand was soft, like my mother’s hands. She brought me to a quiet corner, a little bench was hidden there, shrouded by jasmine vines. She sat down and told me that she liked to come there when she was uncomfortable. She asked me if I would like to share her special place. I nodded. She smiled and asked me to wait for her here. She had to talk to my mother about some things.”
Sruni looked back at me.
“Talia Rewta changed my life. Before she returned four children had come over, introduced themselves and invited me to join them in a game she’d taught them. It was a letters game. I didn’t know the letters but they taught me. I never feared learning after that day.”
Her dark eyes studied me for a moment then she smiled crookedly.
“Does that answer your question?”
My thanks to Faith_theRivens for this fantastic February writing event. You should all check her out on Twitter @Faith_theRivens, and here on wordpress. She recently released her debut novella, Eléonore.