Whenever we traveled, our home stacked neatly behind us on the graying slats of Midan's wagon, I sat quietly beside my mother on the seat we shared. Midan drove. He was my mother's uncle, a big man, dark and quiet with great white whiskers. I was afraid of him just as I was afraid of everything, even though he took care of Mama and me. He sweetened me with treats, always silent as he made his offerings of cake or candy in the rough palms of his enormous hands, and I would steal them like a mouse, heart hammering in my chest. Now that I am grown I see how like him I am. Sometimes I wonder what he thought of me. He only spoke when words were needed. I never saw him smile.
Mama was dead eight months before word reached me. I was living in the desert then. My shoa came to me during meditations, rousing me with a firm hand on the shoulder. It was one of only two times he ever interrupted the sessions he himself prescribed, and I knew even before I opened my sun-stung eyes what news he bore. The paper was brittle from much traveling and changing of hands; the ink was smudged, no doubt from the damp of some dewy eden worlds away. I can still remember the hot, sterile sand shifting over the tops of my feet (always swathed in leathers to the knee, a desert-dweller's humble protection against the scorpion's sting), the sun baking into the crown of my head as I carefully unfolded the fragile note and began to read. Ever brief, Midan's letter was quickly read even though I was only just learning my letters. "Take heart," he'd written, "she suffered well." My heart mourned. I understood why she had begun creeping into my dreams, returning always to those balmy Faire nights when I slept in her arms. Only in my dreams, I held her.
To this day I can feel his overwhelming pride as I refolded the letter, solemn but tearless, returning it to the man who had become my teacher, my mentor, and my guardian. He was not yet my lover, not in those days. He had made me strong, and like Midan, he did not speak often, but his satisfaction and displeasure were as unmistakable to me as my own when he permitted me to see. Soon there came a time I could read him as though he were written on paper, whether he allowed it or not. This, he said, was my power.
It made me valuable.