The Journey Has Lost Its Novelty
Written By: Aratouial
I had never thought about ground before, but I was thinking about it now. Who thinks about ground? I walk on it, I helped plant in it, I’ve dug my toes into it, and I’ve never paid attention to it. It was always there, but not worth noticing. No one ever thinks about it not being there, it just is. Constant, unchanging.
I was paying attention to it now. Every stick, every pebble, every clod. Mostly I was paying attention to how they stuck into my back and the bruises that covered it. Ending a day of riding and walking by bedding down on the ground, I pronounced to myself solemnly, was the worst possible thing imaginable.
I tried to imagine other things; how soft the beds would be at this “Tower,” wondering if tables would be easier to clean, if men still emptied their trenchers as fast as the hungry farmers at Da’s inn, if entering the Tower would make me less clumsy. I also dreamed silly, girlish dreams of wearing dresses made of summertime and having gossamer hair.
But not all the daydreams of shimmering dresses and downy pillows could get rid of the lump shoving into my back with what had to be malicious, malignant, deliberate force. I pulled my cloak tighter around me, glad that my mother had thought of it. “Here, ya take this. It was meant for yer namin’ day gift, but it’ll serve ya better now’n then later,” she’d said as she’d plunged the heavy wool into my arms, her eyelashes clustered and dark. They almost looked wet, but I had never seen Marm cry.
I rolled over, worming my body into a convoluted lump, trying to squirm into at least one sliver of ground that wasn’t infested with a branch or knob. I wasn’t successful. I harrumphed into the dirt, annoyed that taking out my frustration on the soil would only serve to make me appear senseless. I would be so shamed if I ever made myself less in her eyes.
In the past two nights, as I hadn’t slept and as I had tried to ignore the misshapen bulges assaulting my back, I had grown accustomed to all sorts of new sounds. Bird calls that warbled, leaves skittering, boughs knocking together as though in greeting. The wind triggered the most captivating sounds: whispers and hums, clatters and thuds, swishes and clinks. Every night there was something new, something I’d never heard and couldn’t identify.
Startled, I realized that wasn’t the wind. I rolled again, onto a larger knot that pummeled my stomach, and met laughing brown eyes that gleamed in the light of the moon.