“It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?” Sister Aloisia dabbed at her teary cheek. Down on the gravel shore, a man wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist. The woman turned her face into her husband’s chest and refused to watch as the novices sent the small coracle adrift in the currents. The man’s eyes were dark with exhaustion but his second arm came around his wife, holding her gently to him. The wind blew strong from the east, skimming the coracle quickly out of the rocky cove, the sacred stone point, and the grieving parents of its passenger. The spray plumed all around and salt water splattered the blue robes of the novices standing calf deep in the sea.
Mother Abbess Tessandra stood on the rocky ledge above the shore and listened to the novices recite the Leaving. No tears trickled down her cheeks. She slipped her hands into opposite sleeves of her dark habit. “They were heartbroken before they came here, Sister.”
“I know, it’s just, to lose a child…” Aloisia shook her head. “It’s too cruel.”
Tessandra hid a sigh. “Sister Aloisia,” she said her voice warming as the idea came to her, “would you lead the Shantare for the Living?”
Tessandra overrode the breathy protest. “You clearly empathize with this family,” She unfolded her arms and took Aloisia’s hand. “They will see and it will comfort them.” Aloisia dipped her head in acceptance.
Tessandra waved her left hand over Aloisia’s head. “Go with Tuil’s blessing.”
She watched as Aloisia picked her way down the worn stone steps to the couple and said a few words before collecting the novices and raising her voice in the Shantare for the Living.
“Why did you do that, Mother?”
Tessandra looked over at the newest sister in the order. Kailash waited for a response, her arms resting lightly at her sides and her wheat gold hair dancing in the tricky wind.
“Because it eases the most hearts,” Tessandra replied at last.
“You are not doing them the honor of performing the chant yourself,” Kailash pointed out. Tessandra smiled, quiet insistence would work in Kailash’s favor here. If only she’d been as discreet at sixteen.
In response to the implied question, Tessandra shook her head. “What the Sisters of Tuil do,” she said, measuring her words, “may change like the light on the sea or the color of water, but the cycle is as unending as the moon pulling the tides. It is never exactly the same, but the heart is always there.”
The final bell like note of the Shantare for the Living rang across the water.
“Sister Aloisia said this was heart breaking.” Mother Abbess Tessandra watched the small grey dot of the coracle bobbing over the grey blue sea then looked back at the couple on shore thanking Sister Aloisia. “After ten years of this I discovered that hearts are stronger than we think. Hearts ache.” As the couple walked back toward the shelter of the point, the wife slipped her arm around her husband and he pulled her closer. “We share the ache and remind them that in time hearts ease.”
“The tides ever rise and fall,” Kailash murmured.
“Come, we’ll share a cup with them.” Tessandra glanced once more at the white caps on the sea before starting down the steps help the cycle along.
I’ve joined an international ring of first line thieves! The first sentence of this story was stolen from my friend, Bekah, over at Building A Door. You can see what she wrote with this line on her blog tomorrow, and be sure to head over today and see what she stole from another of our friends.