Also, I’m going to be on hiatus next week; I’ll be working for an awesome theater camp in upstate New York (or as one of my friends calls it, “Narnia”), and I’ll be way too busy to post anything and probably won’t have access to the internet anyway!
Enjoy some more Miska after the break.
Lying in bed, Miska stared at the bottom of the bunk above hers. Her sister Leonora was snoring again, which helped to drown out the other night noises of the house. Across the room, Mirabelle’s bed creaked as she rolled over and snuffled in her sleep. If it weren’t for the rhythmic creaking and low voices coming from her parents’ room, she’d have said she was the only one awake.
Even in the chill of an early spring night, when the whole room felt just a bit too cold for her to want to get out of bed, it somehow still felt stuffy, confining. The regular noises of her sisters couldn’t cover up the sound of the wind outside, nor could it mask the protests of the old house they all lived in. Their place was a good one, part of a joined row of houses with a shop for her mother’s seamstress work down below; most everyone else had lived on the block for generations, but her mother, as Miska well knew from her father’s proud stories, had saved and scrimped and put together enough to get the place from a distant relative when their great-grandmother had died.
Miska stared at the bottom of the bunk above her, not sure why she couldn’t fall asleep. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried. She also couldn’t say why all of this had started feeling so old and, and tired, instead of still being comforting. Her sisters, smugly asleep in their beds didn’t seem to be having any trouble with it. But they also somehow liked sewing and designing, and they worked with mother in her shop.
Miska couldn’t imagine what it would take to make her like sewing. She’d been doing it since she was little of course, ever since her mother gave her her first needles when she was four or five. She could remember sitting on the floor in front of her mother’s chair, proudly piecing together rags to show her mom. At some point, she’d realized that what she was doing wasn’t actually helping. She’d tried doing some of the other work that her mother had shown her, but she could never deal with the fine details that her mother demanded. The needle would slip and turn in her fingers, prick her endlessly until she bled and spotted the fabric. Sewing was the most frustrating, laborious, and terrible thing she’d ever had to do. She’d been glad the moment her mother had let her make deliveries instead of working in the shop.
Delivering her mother’s finished goods was nothing like the rest of the work her mother set her. It gave her an excuse to wander through the city, to travel around the port and see all the ships in harbor, to learn their names and crews and learn what it was that they’d brought, and what they wished to buy. It was magical. She didn’t care that it meant carrying heavy loads long distances day in and day out. That didn’t matter if it gave her a chance to see something new, meet someone different from those who frequented her mother’s shop. She dreaded the idea that her mother might leave her with part of the shop as her inheritance, or expect her to work in the shop more now that she was almost an adult. She could no more work for that shop and survive than she could breath water.
Visiting the docks with her father had always been the best part of her childhood. She could recall the vast ships towering above her, huge floating houses crowned by wind-catching trees, or so she’d thought at the time. Ever since she could remember she’d spent all of her free time following her father around on the docks, first helping out with the various small bits of the stevedores’ loads, then packing the loads, then finally helping out in her own right. It was the closest she could get to the ships, and the best chance she usually had of speaking with sailors from far off lands.
Leonora snorted and rolled over above Miska, the bed creaking and lurching slightly as she did. Miska sighed. How could she ever think she’d be able to get away? How could she have let herself even dream of that? She could see, just as easily as anyone else, that she’d be roped into working in the shop sooner or later. She’d only managed to postpone it by working as a porter for her mother, but she’d have to be disowned before her mother would consider not making her work. It was good work, and profitable from what she could tell. She just wished that she could follow in her father’s footsteps instead, or disappear off to sea entirely.
The only thing that she’d found to console herself these days was the large crowd of sailors at the harbor front bars. There she could settle into a crowd and listen to some old salt tell her tale of crossing the Outer Sea, or speak of the perilous journey around the southern cape of Elfhome, or of dragon turtles in the New Sea and the way they’d eat a ship for sport. In those bars, in that crowd, she was just another fresh deckhand on shore leave, anxious to hear stories of distant places that she hadn’t yet seen. She’d spent enough time in them already that she had started to learn their speech, and knew the names for parts of a ship and what they did even if she couldn’t point to them in person.
She’d started to learn the customs of the sailors as well, those who hailed from distant cities and ports unlike her own. People like the Northmen, with their prickly sense of honor and propriety, but who were all smiles and friendship again the moment their temper had been assuaged. Or like the Londoners, or the Amsterdamers, with their love of juniper spirits and all their good songs. She even liked the sailors from Bospor and beyond, who brought spices to share with the cooks and told outrageous stories of the creations of the Enlightened Ones, or of the things that the Enlightened Ones and Good Masters alike had let grow feral long before the Great War ever came. She loved those stories. She wanted to have some of them of her own.
She stared at the slats of the bunk above her, pressed her finger into the wood’s grain and traced it in the dark room. She wanted stories of her own, but at this rate she’d never have them.