Once there was, and once there was not, a young girl. She lived with her mother and father and an assortment of cats, and if they never lived in one place for very long, it was alright. No matter where they lived, they were always surrounded by artists, musicians, actors, storytellers, magicians, and other misfit sorts of people. It was a hard life, to be sure, for Society doesn’t like people who don’t fit into its neat little boxes or don’t have deep roots, but for all that, it was hers and she was happy in it.
Then, one terrible morning, her mother died, and with her, the way of life the girl had known. Her father remarried and her step-family, while pleasant enough people, were very different from the people the girl had grown up around, and they didn’t understand why she was the way she was, nor she, them. Soon enough, all of the people from her childhood were gone, as well. When the last of the musicians drifted away and the house fell silent, the girl put her face in her hands and wept for all she had lost. It would be the last time she did so for many, many years to come.
She learned to live like the Rooted People, or at least go through it’s motions, and pretend she didn’t desperately miss her old life. She grew up and took a job she hated to her marrow because it was expected and made her father and step-mother happy, and if she dreamed of open roads and a life of stories and music and art, she didn’t say a word.
She tried to escape from time to time, but it never worked. She married briefly, but he was one of the Rooted People, and while he liked the idea of her world, he didn’t want to live in it. When he decided that he didn’t want her living in it, either, she packed her things and her cats and left him behind.
She wandered for some time, trying to fit into the Rooted People’s world just enough to find her way again and build a life from what shattered pieces she still had, but the pieces were so old and fragile and the Rooted World still refused to accept her, Unrooted misfit that she was. Eventually, she met someone who was neither one of the Rooted People nor the Unrooted People, but was something else in between. He had no interest in living an Unrooted life for himself, but understood and accepted that she needed to and if he stayed home while she wandered in search of stories and songs, he didn’t try to stop her and she knew he would be there when she came home. She unpacked her things and the cats found sunny spots to sleep in, and there was music of a kind and stories and actors and the freedom to be again, and she was mostly content.
There were still issues, though. The Rooted World still didn’t want her and as she grew older, she grew tired of trying to fit into a world that had never done anything but reject her.
One night, she took out the box she kept the chipped and faded shards of her old lives and held them in her hands. She cast them onto a cloth to see what she might see, but no matter how hard she looked, or how many times she recast them, the only thing she could see for certain was that the pieces were simply too broken to ever be put back together again. The girl put her face in her hands once more and wept for all she had lost and for so many years of pain and grief and loneliness until she had cried out every last tear she had in her.
When she was done, she washed her face, poured herself a mug of tea, and considered the pieces again. She couldn’t piece them into anything that made sense, that much was clear, but maybe there was some other thing she might do. She sipped her tea, thoughtfully. She thought about her lives, the child she’d been, the sound of her mother singing while she painted, as her father played his guitar along with her, and the silence that came after her mother died. She sighed deeply, and gazed into her tea. As she watched the faint wisps of steam dance along the deep amber surface, she had An Idea.
She gathered up the broken pieces and, one by one, considered each carefully. She discarded some and kept others and when she was done sorting them like millet from ashes, she put the pieces she’d chosen to keep into an old stone mortar and ground them into a fine powder. She mixed this powder with seawater and rosewater and turned them into ink.
She couldn’t rebuild her broken life but, using the parts she loved most and the things she had learned over the years, she could write herself a new life, with all the fantastic stories she could think of or find. It would be hard, for the Rooted People probably still wouldn’t understand, but that was fine, because she found that she no longer cared. If they wouldn’t accept her no matter what she did or did not do, then their opinions didn’t matter.
She smiled, and began to write…
(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)