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Darasuum Aliit ((Anabela))

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Raana left Ba’raka and Tiakos standing in the hallway, staring awkwardly at one another while she gently shut the bedroom door and locked it. She gave them both a look as she ducked back inside, chuckling quietly, “Girl stuff, you boys understand.” Once the door was closed, she turned to Tara.

The girl sat quietly beside her mother, smoothing Ana’s blonde across her forehead and over her ear. Ana did not even acknowledge their presence, engrossed in the picture she was drawing with a stubby piece of crayon. Tara looked at her aunt, her expression forlorn as she kissed Ana’s cheek and whispered softly to her.

“Mama… its Tara, can you hear me?”

Raana frowned and took a step toward the pair, crossing her arms. She watched her niece and sister, all the while her thoughts racing. This was so much worse than any of them had expected it to be. And Ba’raka had indicated that her sister was actually getting better! Raana shook her head, her lips pressed into a thin, tight line. If this was better… she was glad she was not there to see the worst. Raana watched as Tara placed a hand on Ana’s head and closed her eyes. A faint blue light radiated from her fingertips and traveled over Ana’s body.

“I see… there are pieces missing, like holes in a moon.”

Tara opened her eyes and bent to kiss the top of Ana’s head, causing her to finally turn around and notice their presence. She stared at the two women, her sister and her daughter, as if they were total strangers. There was no recognition in her features, but a warm smile spread across her face. She lifted the piece of paper, showing them the picture she had been working on. “Raka,” she grinned, pointing.

Tara broke down into tears, pushing herself up off the floor and running into Raana’s arms. The battle-hardened veteran’s eyes widened in surprise and she awkwardly offered a gentle pat on the back. Raana, always stoic even in the face of something such as this, was having trouble expressing her feelings for this whole situation. Except in ways like punching walls and screaming until her lungs gave out and her throat ended up bloody and raw. That had only happened once though, when she had first gotten the news. But Tiakos has reminded her that such fits might harm the baby.

Raana’s hand idly caressed her growing belly as she consoled her niece. Ana watched them, her smile so blank Raana could not even stand to look at her. It was like a stranger wearing her sister’s face.

“Come on,” she murmured, leading Tara toward the door. The second it opened the young woman threw herself into her surprised stepfather’s arms. He was much better at this than Raana, his arms immediately closing around Tara and holding her tightly. His fingers twisted in her hair as her body shook against him. He shushed and cooed to her gently, holding her while she fell apart.

“Don’t cry Tara baby, don’t cry… you’re momma’s gonna get better,” there was a certain level of uncertainty in his voice that only Raana noticed. She caught his gaze and gave him a look, which he returned. Neither of them believed him, not completely. Raana gently took Tara’s hand and pointed back toward Ana.

“Tara, give us a minute… spend some time with your mother. I think you just being here is helpful…” it wasn’t entirely a lie, every little bit helped as far as she was concerned, but as Tara left the group Raana pulled her husband and her brother-in-law to the far corner of the hall.

Her voice was hushed when she spoke, “Is there nothing else Khajeesh could do?”

Ba’raka shook his head, running a hand over his smooth scalp. He looked worn out, like he had not eaten or slept in days. “He didn’t say there was nothin’ he could do… he said he would keep lookin’” His voice held that same undertone of uncertainty, as if he had lost sight of the path and wasn’t sure which direction to turn next. He looked back at the doorway, slightly ajar, the voices from within making his brow furrow.

“She don’t want no more rituals, no putting back what they took out. If that’s the only solution, she’s made it clear she ain’t on board.”

And there was certainty in those words. Raana’s lips pursed. She was careful before she spoke again.

“Let’s consider the possibility that without mystical intervention, she’s made all the progress she’s gonna make…” she followed his gaze to the open door of the bedroom and gave voice to the question everyone in the room was thinking.

“She’s more child than wife… Are you prepared to spend the rest of your life being more like her father than her husband?”

She watched him deflate in front of her, biting her lip.

“Raana, don’t you think I want her back? Not like this… back the way she was? But I won’t put her through any more rituals and force mumbo jumbo if that ain’t what SHE wants,” he threw up his hands, making to pound the wall in frustration but Raana caught him, her grip on his arm surprisingly strong. She gently lowered his hand and cupped it in her own, staring up at him. Raana never let her emotions surface, not even in front of Tiakos, but there were tears glazing her eyes as she pressed a palm to her cheek.

Ba’raka let his grip loosen, his fingers slowly uncurling.

“It can’t have all been for nothing…” he murmured softly.

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