by Valeri Kathleen Paxton-Steele
She sat upon the verdant hilltop, grass beneath bare feet, chores forgotten. She had come to gather firesticks and water. Instead, she gazed at the ripples on the water, then looked up to the sun, then back to the shimmering water again. She wondered How far to the nearest shore? Her father, a warrior, had left two years ago. Had the lovely water taken him? She didn’t think so. He would return. Maybe battle-scarred, maybe wealthy, maybe to come and take her to that far shore…
She could see mama making dinner, alone, sad; and he would come home again. He would smell like salt, and smoky fire, and love. They wouldn’t speak, but hold each other…tightly, silently, seemingly forever… Then it would be her turn. Until that time she would be standing, watching…silent, also.
And she would cry when she finally felt his strength around her. His calloused hands would find purchase in her braids, intricately woven by mama, the same braids the hot sun was finding purchase in today on the hill. And then he, too, would cry. The tracks would follow his tan, wrinkled face, and the dirt of time would be washed away…
She started to worry about this time she had passed on the hilltop. Her pail sat beside her, empty. Mama was waiting for the fresh, cold water, so unlike the water she was busy daydreaming to. Her basket for kindling wood lay discarded at her feet. The sun’s shadow had grown long.
When she got back to the cottage she would tell mama about what she saw and felt this morning on the hill. And mama, too, would recount her own vision. He would be home… soon.