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I am so far behind on [profile] womenlovefest, I can't even tell you. I kind of knew this would happen, but I did have imaginings that I'd be able to sneak in a few posts here and there. Posting from a rock somewhere between the U.S. and Canada, though, has proved a little more challenging than I thought. Fingers crossed, though, that this works. If it does, this will be my post for Day 3 -- followed closely by Day 4.

Day 3 = more Vala. This is from a longer piece that I've never quite managed to finish, but have always wanted to. It's Vala and Adria (both the original and the namesake), and what makes them all tick:



The child was a lost cause.

The girl was entirely her father’s daughter: wanton, greedy, an unrepentant liar.

She wasn’t entirely a child anymore, either. She was gawky and untried, awkward, on the cusp of adolescence (and, oh, what troubles that would likely bring).

Adria Mal Doran was not cruel. She didn’t intend to be. She was bone-tired, felt old before her time, saddled with a weak man and a willful child not her own. Years of work had gnarled her hands, lined her skin, dulled her hair. The fine, grey ash in the city air had settled in her lungs, made it harder to breathe with each passing year.

She had no use for Vala, who refused to accept the reality of who she was, who took things too fine for her and lied to cover the theft. It wasn’t theft that bothered Adria. She knew the need to steal well: food, medicine, a weapon, an oil lamp. She’d taken those things herself over the years, when the only choice was to be a thief or to watch those you were responsible for die slowly.

Stealing, she understood.

But Vala stole without purpose: ear bobs, embroidered cloth, cheap ornaments made from blown glass. The kinds of things Jasec used to bring back for her in his pockets. She’d stopped accepting the trinkets from him long ago, and instead started stealing them for herself.

The girl was charming, to be sure. She could be sweet as anything, a perfect daughter, when she decided it was worth her while, but any flashes of maternal warmth Adria felt for the girl were tempered with caution. She wanted to love the child; she felt she ought to, but Vala just made it too hard -- and the rest of Adria’s life was hard enough already.

*

Back in those days, Vala hid up on the roof.

The building was four stories tall and listed decidedly to the west, crammed between narrow alleys. The buildings there were all the same: four floors, one family to a floor, in cramped rooms and narrow hallways, connected by dark stairwells.

From the roof, Vala could see the sprawl of the city to the west, mines to the east, the grey water of the reservoir to the south and wind turbines on the rolling hills due north. She was the center point of a compass, mapping the borders and valleys of the only world she’d ever known. She wanted to see what was beyond the city, but that hardly made her unique. Most of the other children wanted the same. Some talked of going to see the wide, sprawling sea they’d been told lay far to the west. Others repeated stories of wars to the south. Those stories were mostly old, from just before Vala or any of the others were born. Some, Vala included, wondered about the oldest stories of all – myths about forgotten gods, grand palaces and quests for treasure.

Vala liked to imagine herself in those stories, a queen among gods, always in the most beautiful dresses and with servants to bring her whatever she wanted. She was an adventurer, a great beauty, a wise and fair ruler, beloved by all.

Other times she daydreamed that she was a treasure hunter or a trader, sailing from star to star in one of the large ships that lumbered in and out of atmosphere above the city. In the past, these daydreams had included her father, but not anymore.
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January 2012

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