Monday, August 8, 2011

531 - An Arts and Graces of Hair Class

The young Serinas down in the atrium of the Silver Night Sun, are a little older’n me and I’m not supposed to be watching them.  But Regent Kallijas and my big brother went off to some ceremony in Yeola-e and I wanted to come.  But they left me and I’m very angry with them.  I’m furious.

I didn’t want to do all this boring listening to Ailadas and preparing essays for Gian when he and his people got back with Gan and Farasha.  I’m supposed to be nice to Kaita since she gave up another good job with somebody else, but I’m mad at her too.

So I latched Jia into his tank and he has all the stuff he wants and needs but just not to follow me, and snuck off to hide in the halls they say are all for the girls.  It’s a good place to sulk and they’ll ask all the guards if they saw me try to go outside by myself and they’ll all say ‘no ser’ so they’ll know I’m safe and I’m going to sit right here and sulk.



Sulking is kind of boring.

“Young Serinas!  Service in the Marble Palace requires delicacy!  It requires precision!  You may not ever, ever, ever allow your hair to get out of your control.”

The teacher is an older Sera whose name I don’t know but she has a voice that makes you sit up and take notice.  “Recite and present the moves!”

The row of Aitza down there all start moving a little like the warriors upstairs and a little like the Mahid girls when they do their dance training.  “… side sweep.”  They all have the left arm come out to gather up and brush all their different hair-patterns to that side as they chant together.  “Right side-sweep.”  That’s the other side.

“Gather.” They aren't singing, they're saying it all together.

“Remember, Serinas." The older Sera instructs.  "Grace is the key to unlocking the best of your service in the Marble Palace.  There will be another Imperatrix and her attendants.  Perhaps you will be part of the women’s gathering around the Mother of Crystal and Vessels of Light.  Perhaps one day you will rise to the ranks surrounding the Madonna of the Empire!”

It looks like a dance.  But it’s all the practical moves for hair.  Even clubbing it up in one hand to get it out of the way, or wrapping it around the left arm.

“Serinas.  Your chairs are here, please sit.”  There’s a rustle as the girls, some of them hot and sweaty by their pink faces, settle to their chairs, some more graceful than others.  Maybe nobody ever made them move so much all at one go.  The Sera sits down with them and takes up a sewing basket and so do they all.

I’m sitting on the top of the big false vase.  I say it’s false because it’s not hollow.  It’s just shaped like a big vase just over from the Goddess’s big statue, sized for Her.  It looks like She just set it down or might take it up again, from outside.  But the inside is still full of uncut rock, so I can sit on the edge of it and it won’t even wobble it’s so heavy, but it is way, way taller than me, than them.  But it would be a little loud for me to try and sneak away without them seeing or hearing me.  Not doing something as quiet as sewing.

“Sera Finiren,” one of the girls says.  “The wrap move.  My brother says it used to be part of an old and forbidden art.”

I sit still still still again.  That sounds interesting.  They’re all quiet, looking at the girl who asked and the Sera, whose hands are still sewing as if no one spoke.  She’s looking down at the cloth in her gloves and speaks to it.  Her voice is quiet enough that I almost can’t hear her and I hold my breath so I can hear better.

“It was.  It might still be so used.  Serinas. You have all heard whispers of your mothers and aunties and grannies, every one of your women relatives, about one of their sisters, one of their friends, someone, a woman down the street, at another manor, strangled by her husband… with her hair?”

Strangled with her hair?  That’s weird.  I hate that.  It makes me feel like I can’t breath and want to run out and beat up men like that.  I think of my pseudo-mama, but that’s all right.  She’s a Mahid and Ice-Eyes is dead… and then I think, ‘yes, he could have’  and ‘I think he did, a little.’  I have a faint memory of something like that, but I’m not sure.  And it’s such a sick idea.

They’ve all stopped pretending to sew, except the teacher Sera.  Her needle never stops moving.  “Just as that happens, women have used their hair to defend themselves from such things.”  Even as I’m trying to understand that, she goes on.  “They have wrapped the hair to use as a shield against knives and broken glass.  They have used their own hair on their sleeping husbands who would have killed them.  They have even, rarely, used hair ornaments in the tip of a long braid as a whip to defend themselves.”

“Oh, Goddess.”  The murmur is shocked and low.  “Really?  Really?”

“This is still a secret in the heart mothers’ of Arko.  ‘A woman’s hair is her glory.’ It is a truth.  Even the oldest grandmother in Arko, in the midst of her hair classes, would have had this little chat with her graces teachers.  Do not ever tell the men.  Do not mention this.  Too many already use their wives’ hair against them.  Let us take back control of our own hair.  Now that we may vote, we take back control, but it is slow.”

I bite on the edge of my sleeve and a sequin bends under my teeth and tastes of shriek metal in my mouth.  I won’t tell anyone.  I want to giggle.  I want you yell at them that it’s bad they keep secrets.  I want to yell that they don’t have to anymore.  I mean… that means Kaita knows this stuff.  And Binshala did.  And Kyriala does and Nuni’s mum.  I tuck my head down till my forehead touches the cool stone inside the lip of the vase that’s big enough I can lie flat on my stomach.

All the girls I know, were taught this.  All the Arkan girls and women.  They aren’t any different, but they are different.  They haven’t changed but my way of looking at them is different. I’m different.  I didn’t want to hear this.  I didn’t want to know this.  Pseudo-mama knowing this stuff, I figured because she was already creepy-mama.  But all the other girls?  It makes me shake inside.  I want to quit sulking.  I want to quit hiding.  I want to run up to… well… Ailadas more than Kaita because HE isn’t different.  

All the girls, and me, know this now.  We know this and we can’t stop knowing it.