Children of the Sun
It was several hundred years ago, now, that I was immortalized in a young man's eyes.
I was born the daughter of a simple puritan landowner. And being born late in my parent's lives I was seen as the highest gift from God; something that they had each prayed earnestly for, for many years. But, as with every gift, there always comes a cost, and that cost, in my case, was the life of my mother. She took ill of infection not long after I was born. The doctor could only shake his head sadly at the entreaties that my father's soft blue eyes made. Neither said a word, they simply understood each other: who but a man who so loved and studied in the words of God, for surely he knew them better than the Reverend, and a would-be God could understand so well the wills of such things.
My mother passed into our Lord's hands on the morning of my seventh day: the day of rest. I still bore no given name when she passed into the Lord's hands.
My father's eyes wept as the service that lay my mother's body in the ground was delivered. I cooed softly in the arms of a town's woman, Mistress Gallatin, as my father stood forlorn, fidgeting with the simple black hat that he held in his fine and flexible hands. Moving only, from time to time, to push a soft curl of salt and pepper grey hair from his eyes. The woman would later comment to half the town about the remarkable color of my eyes; not at all the soft, dark sapphire blue of my father, but an icy and altogether strange shade of blue that hopefully God would see fit to remove from me. Such a strong and unnatural color, she had observed.
Within a few days, it was the talk of the entire town and a day after that the authorities appeared on my father's porch demanding to see the child. My father, still in a daze at the loss of his wife and the gain of a daughter, carefully placed me in the arms of the Reverend, in whose presence I began to cry. It was not the man's stout build and uncomfortably large stomach that made me wail so, it was the incredible hatred, coldness, and fear emanating from him that made me cry out. It was being handled like a piece of lead. He frightened me immensely, as he pried back my tender lids to inspect the colors beneath.
"This child bears the mark of the Devil, sir," he announced to all present, glancing around the room. My father looked up from his fidgeting. "Listen how she doth cry out in the arms of a Holy Man. To whom did you finally pray, John, to receive this child? Her hair will surely be as black as the night skies and her skin is already ghostly white. To whom did you pray?"
"To my Lord and Savior surely Reverend Hawthorn, for without doubt there is no other to whom I might pray."
"Then to whom did your good wife pray to give you such a child? You both desired one greatly."
"She would only do the same good sirs. The woman had not an evil bone in her body. She spent her days beside mine in life, work and prayer alike. Perhaps, sir, it is just the way that you hold her. She likes a gentle touch." My father stepped forward and removed me from his arms and cradled me in his own. My crying stopped within a moment. The Reverend looked indignant.
"No good will come of this child! She is indulgent and willful already in her short life. We will keep a close eye on this child and you John. She is a vessel though which the Devil may enter our midst, and I will not have it!" He spun on his heel, as did his little mimics, and was gone from our home. I fell asleep in my father's warmth.
"If that be his prediction for your fate, then we shall harness thy joyful spirit this day with a suitable name," he whispered to me as I slept. "You will be known as Synnove: Gift of the Sun, or shall we say Son?"
And so it was that I received my name, but it gave me great pleasure to remove the image that inspired it from my father's mind as he lay on his own deathbed twenty years later. After that he saw only my mother's angelic form whispering the name and its meaning into his ear. All this I saw through his mind's eye that autumn night.
My life was essentially happy, however, I was in general shunned and so was my father for allowing me to live as I did; which was as I chose. Fathers, I think are meant to be indulgent to their daughters. It is simply the nature of the relationship, or at least that is how it was with us. Let the town be unhappy if they like. But neither of us seemed to knowtice the town's discontent too much as long as we had each other. Amongst the so-called refuse that we were abandoned to, we found many a comfortable companion, who cared nothing of our standing with the Reverend and his Praetorian Guard. My father found a fast friend in Goody Callaway: a motherly woman in her early fifties, who had never married. Their hair was of the same spiced grey and her open laughter and easy smile complimented my father's shyness well. Nothing would have, nor did it, come of the match for she was too open for my conservative father and no one could replace my mother in his heart, and she understood that. She didn't ever try to win the marathon. She simply listened and lifted our spirits when they were down in the muck.
Another wonderful quality that Goody Callaway possessed was an orphaned nephew, Fillip. He came to her when at five, I was just three, under "mysterious" circumstances. It was never released at more than a rumor as to what had befallen his parents, but the entire town knew the Devil was in it. So we were set in life: a new family out of the ashes of something else. Fillip and I called ourselves Phoenixes and raced with arms spread wide across our wheat fields. Father told us to be careful that we didn't cause trouble to test that idea after a close call with a scythe during the harvest.
Between us, we worked hard, played hard and studied hard, but most of all, we prospered. Father instructed Fillip and I in the words and ways of God, as well as our letters and numbers, while Goody Callaway taught us other matters of the heart and home skills. She wouldn't hear of Fillip not being able to take care of himself. And in the time betwixt it all, Fillip and I ran wild, though it was mostly I. Fillip, as he aged into a young man, became conservative like my father, and even earned some small measure of merit and worth about the town, though I don't know if respect was ever actually included with either of the two in his lifetime. One of the three was always to be sacrificed by him. I, on the other hand, became everything that the Reverend said I would be. At the age of seventeen no girl in the country could match my beauty. For all their blonde hair and soft eyes, no one could match the long and straight black hair that flowed down my back like a waterfall at midnight, nor could they ever hope, in their brightest moments, to emulate the spark that lit up my unnatural blue eyes. Their men folk lusted after me after denouncing me in the church; their women knew it and took every opportunity to slander me in any public domain. But they envied and coveted me in private. I could feel their eyes burning on my breast as I passed through the town. And I heard their lust as they lay with their men, convincing themselves that they were me, as wild and free as they dreamed that I was, to survive the visions that came to them during their love making. These are the thoughts that I have heard reflected through time.
I ran wild across the fields of gold at any time of night or day. I wore a cloak of blood red wine when I went towards town. I owned a bathing gown and swam naked in the river behind our homestead. And I danced nude under the moonlight, letting the wind brush over my skin, enjoying the freedom after knowing the restriction of a corset and heavy skirts. My father would tirade about it; Goody Callaway would laugh at it remembering her own youthful days and what the town was saying, I could only guess at, or merely wait for the circulation to come back to me. Fillip, though, was the only one who would speak to me of it.
"You really should give up the practice of it, Synnove. Your poor father is going to burst a vessel one of these days; the physician has even spoken of it to him."
"That is no reason to give up the practice of it. If I do that, I will dream all the days and nights of it, lusting hungrily after the lost feeling of the wind on flesh. And that is a sin equal in the doing of it, is it not?" I smiled down at him from my perch in an ancient oak, letting my legs swing in the breeze as I chewed a barely ripe apple. "For a society that was so desperate to escape their persecution, they have very quickly forgotten what it was to be held back. The good Reverend spouts words of God's will and the preservation of the Puritan way of life, but I do believe that God made Adam and Eve naked, and it was only after sin that they felt the need to cover themselves." Fillip opened his mouth to protest but no words would come to his tongue so I continued instead.
"It is only because of lust and vanity that we cover our bodies, and it is such a waste. Were they not made in the exact image of God himself? It is a mortal construct."
"And I suppose that the Reverend's denunciation of your clothless escapades is just because he is lusting after your flesh too?" he sneered and snorted as he said it. I shrugged playfully.
"I had no idea of it Fillip. They are your words, and you are more privy to the minds of men and the town than me." He looked up sharply, but seeing the playful look in my eyes, relented as always.
"You are incorrigible, Synnove. No good will come of it: its savage behavior, and will never be seen as anything but. Mr. Ferrington's son, Paul, said he saw you swimming naked in the river on last Saturday eve, under the waxing moon. You'll be accused of witchery if you are not careful."
"I hath not committed any such crime, only cleansed my flesh in the river, and besides, it was not even full moon. I should think it should be a greater sin to go unbathed. Paul Ferrington is one in the same with the lad that went running through the town telling everybody that crossed his path, that he had delivered a bathing gown to our farm. After discovering from a brief interview with the housemaid that it was for the'Ślady of the house.' What a scandalous bit of information that! Imagine! I bathe! I swear the boy thinks that physical dirt is completely eliminated from your person at the time of baptism, never to return."
"It would certainly explain the scent that greets my nostrils every time that he places his bottom close to me in church."
"Fillip! I had no idea!" I remember laughing for some time at that with Fillip, watching his sandy hair blow gently in the breeze. He had simply amazed me with the statement. My brother, for certainly we were siblings in the heart, had thought ill of someone. "Pray that you are careful, good sir, your name will be the blackest muck in the town should you continue to spout such things!" Fillip only nodded with a smile.
"A European has come to New England." I dropped immediately from my perch in the tree, spooking Fillip in the process.
"A European? Have you seen him? What doth he look like?"
"Pray calm yourself Synnove! No I have not seen him. I know only this: that he is young and beautiful in appearance. He came in through the night. Few have seen him as he only goes to midnight mass and he is already a favorite amongst the young misses. You shall have competition should you wish to be first in his eyes. You shall have to go to church."
"I shall not. I shall only have to pick you up after it. Now, what hath the towns good gossips had to say of him?"
"He is generally well liked, but too pale for the good wives and he offends them by not touching their offerings; baking that is Synnove. He possesses fine dark hair and grey eyes that shine in the moon's light. He is tall in stature, and skilled and learned in words and such. A gentleman they say, wishing to see the Americas and explore our culture.."
"He studies religion then?"
"Yes, the good Reverend greatly esteems his knowledge of the Good Book."
"Fillip, pray, don't forget yourself. The Book is certainly good but the Reverend is definitely not!" Fillip shot me a reproachful glance before continuing his earlier tract.
"They shall burn you for a witch for sure! As I was saying, the Reverend is persistent in his invitations to call upon him in his study, but the European is even more persistent in his gracious declines. He says that business keeps his days, though no on knows with whom he has business." I reverted.
"Very strange," I puzzled, but quickly tossed it off, my mind alert to other things. "He is not staying here I hope?"
"No, he only stays three months: the summer's time. I know that you want to leave New England, Synnove, but be wise. Do not rush off and marry the first handsome fool to escape it. Your family is all here, your father, Aunt Callaway," he paused then added meekly "me." I smiled sweetly at him.
"The dark hell that I call my life is here also. Do not worry for me Fillip, I would only marry for love. The Lord saw fit to never make me desperate."
"But He certainly gave you lust!"
"Hath you ne'er spoken to Mistress Gallatin or the Reverend! The devil gave me that in ample supply! But still, I would certainly like to meet this man, learn what there is to learn of Europe; the great many freedoms that I can imagine there!"
"Well then, you shall have to pick me up in the wagon after church tomorrow night," he replied as he rose to his feet. "And with that settled, we should be off for dinner before Aunt Callaway feeds it to the mongrels." I slipped my arm thought his and we were off across the fields as was proper.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Children of the Sun ©2000 by Amadan
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