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In her sleep, her body arched upward deep within the memory of pleasure, then it relaxed again. Her hand found the form of her sleeping baby and again she sunk deep within her dreams.

When he finally pulled from her body, he looked within the deep pools of her eyes and then turned and dressed. As he pulled on his boots, he again sought out her eyes with his. His task finished he started dressing her. He knew what he did meant instant death from her clan so he left her but not before he tried to tell her of his love for her. Not knowing his language, she didn't understand what he said, her mind only knew he was leaving. As he rose once more to his feet, he took her hands in his and pulled her upright. He then gently kissed her, that gentle kiss lingered and the passion again rose but he knew he had to leave. He then walked further into the wood and out of her life.

She was ashamed of herself and knew if others found her like this with the smell of the stranger, she could never marry and would be driven from the clan place into the desert. She got her bearings and walked purposely to the river and bathed. She heard the cry from the village high above her and the cries of war in the voices of the warriors. All were searching for her, hoping what had happened did not happen. They feared the stranger and knew what he wanted, did he take her away from the clan? Did he have his way with a maiden turned woman? Would she be found and if so, dead? The warriors and women broke into groups, some searching the cliff abodes and others climbed down the ladders to search the area.

When they found her, her bathing was finished and she was again dressed. Her grandmother was amongst this group and hurried to her.

"My child! Did he harm you? Did he touch you in anyway?"

"No grandmother," she lied, " the cries from the village scared him off before he could do anything. I am bathing to take the touch of his fingers from my body."

"It is good child. Now let us return to the village and you will marry tomorrow."

The rescuers surrounded her and walked back to the village unaware of what conspired. Some may have guessed, but unless the woman said so, no one voiced this. She entered her own adobe and was given her food. The rest of the community went back to the feasting while she ate. That night she tasted nothing but the kisses, she felt nothing but his caresses and his love deep within her. She knew the rest of her life would be but a lie, but that lie was something she had to live with because the only other option was to die in the desert.

She laid down and pretended to sleep for to stay awake would mean to her family she'd lied and could not be trusted. She was afraid of both the future and also the emotions the stranger wakened within her. The next day she'd live a lie, but she'd live. Tomorrow she would marry and she'd be the wife of a warrior. The ceremonies were drawing to an end, she wore her second best regalia for the final feast for the first was considered tainted now. All the beautiful work so lovingly prepared spoiled by the stranger and now thrown on the ceremonial fire, soon to be consumed by the flames. As was expected, when she danced, she laid her shawl at the young warrior's feet and he picked it up. It almost appeared he hesitated just a moment but that could have just been too her eyes. He carried the shawl to her father and went back to the circle and the next time she danced past him, he took her arm and they went away from the People. As was the custom of the tribe, they were now married and he came to live with her family. He took her gently back to the adobe she'd grown to womanhood in and followed her within its walls. He looked around since it was the first time he'd been in any other dwelling but his own.

She was suddenly shy, although she'd lain with a man and knew the pleasures he could give, she didn't know what to do now. Her husband looked just as uncomfortable, he'd never lain with a woman and didn't know what was expected. He did look however into her eyes and saw the fathomless pit of her soul. There was a stirring in his loins and he knew what to do. She showed him around the adobe and to her pallet. The straw her robe laid upon was fresh and sweet, her grandmother must have changed the straw after she left tonight knowing it would be used as the first bed of marriage. She turned around and started undressing and her husband did the same. When she finished she turned around and looked in his eyes. There was a spacing between them and both were afraid to take the first steps forward. He reached out and touched her arm and found her trembling. He clasped her arm gently and drew her close to him. His hands were gentle as he stroked her skin, a moan escaped her lips as she melted into his arms. She turned and blew out the lighting made of animal fat that served as lighting and then they laid down on her, no their bed. She covered them both with the woven blanket and in the darkness they discovered the joys of marriage.

Someone brought food for the young couple but hearing the noises inside, quietly put the dishes on the ground and left. The dancing for the older married continued for several more hours while the young couple being young, made love several more times before dropping into a dreamless sleep within each others arms. When her parent returned to the adobe, her father glanced over to his daughter and was pleased with what he saw. Her mother looking at the couple smiled softly and turned and undressed and laid down on their marriage bed. She beckoned to her husband to join her in the remembrance of their marriage night. They also coupled in their joy and love before sleep.

The next morning, she awoke and at first froze in fear until she realized she lain next to her husband. She quietly rose and climbed down the ladder with the rest of the married women to bathe in the early morning. Some of those who came were the newly married. The day after the marriage ceremony was the day of teasing. The older married women teased the new brides about the prowess of their husbands and the size of their members. Much laughing and blushing occurred when the mother's of the grooms boasted to the mother's of the brides how big their sons were in comparison to their own husbands. All this talk was deliberate to make the new brides blush. Some of the women were not amused however, the brides who didn't get the husbands they wanted were somewhat disappointed with their choices and some of their marriages would not last long. Since marriage and divorce were easy, many women had several husbands while others, by choice, had none. One of the newly married splashed water on one of the older ones, a large water fight broke out with all participating with full joy. Much laughter and screaming prevailed before all withdrew from the water and dried themselves. Each dressed and hurried back to their homes but not before taking water from upstream back to the village.

The sun made its appearance about this time and it was the time for eating. All enjoyed the walk back to the village and none thought of the hardship of making several trips down the ladder during the day. The newly married hurried back to their homes to check on their husbands and to start fixing meals. Since more then one family lived in an adobe, there was help making the simple meal of maize porridge and a flat bread made of crushed corn and roots of the river. The men rose from their beds and made their way down the ladders to the stream to do their morning washing. Much laughter from the stream drifted up to the cliff houses. Women blushed knowing the same kind of teasing they'd endured was now what their husband's did also.

This was the pattern of the next few weeks, much laughter, much hunting, and much love making. Life was perfect in this village. Then she felt something changing. A bitter wind struck the village and the sounds of coughing came from some of the huts. This wasn't the changing time, not yet for the strong sun season wasn't upon them yet to leave. Yet, there were mornings with ice formed in the water vessels. She wondered what changed within herself, was she finally feeling married or was it something else. She felt restless and to sit and bead or tan hides didn't hold her interest. The womanly tasks done so easily before were now chores to be dreaded. The time of her bleeding came and went and wasn't realized for a few days until her mother asked her if she needed the quiet place alone. Then she thought about how it was past her time by two times, when she mentioned this to her mother, she was met with a smile.

"My child, you are probably with child yourself," her mother said, "if you are, your time of aloneness will not visit you again for many moon changes."

She thought back to the time of ceremony and blushed. Could she be with child from that time? Then her heart turned to stone when the rest of her thoughts came rushing into mind. Whose child is it? Her loving husband, or the tall light-skinned stranger? Both had possessed her, both caused her body to arch in acceptance, which one planted the seed of life? Her mother caught the look of terror on the face of her daughter. Mistaking that look for the fear of childbirth, she told her daughter not to fear the coming.

"Child, you are but a babe yourself, but you are the same age as I when I had you. You will feel good while the child grows within but there are many things that now have to change. No more can your husband sleep in your bed, you must not share a blanket with him for the power of birth will sap him of his power to provide. Have him start making you a separate home away from him, a home for you to live in until after the baby is born and you are past that time of bleeding. Until then, you cannot touch him or anything of his or he will no longer fight battles to win or hunt with heart. So go to him with your eyes downcast and tell him these things. Do not look into his eyes and tell him he must sweat tonight to keep himself strong."

She hurried to her husband and told him of the coming child. Her young husband wanted to shout to the whole village about his wife and soon-to-be child, but protocol prevented him from doing so. He did turn from her and hurried to find his own father to help him build a small adobe for her use and the use of the birthing. While they built her little home, she went about gathering clay to make pots for herself since she couldn't use the utensils of her family any longer. She'd made some from the time of childhood, but she wanted new utensils and she wanted to decorate them herself with good luck symbols to assure the child she carried was her husband's. within a few days, she moved out of her parents home and into her own. The first night seemed strange, her grandmother came and helped her make the bed for one and told her the stories of how childbirth came to be. These stories were to comfort her and in someway, to explain the mysteries of that act she was so unprepared to do. Her grandmother came to her everyday to give her the herbs to strengthen both her and the child within. The old woman also made the woman take long walks each day, further and further from the village. Questions sat behind the lips of the old woman; questions about the night the girl was taken. She felt concern and wondered if the girl spoke the truth, but their culture discouraged questions and prevented her from asking.

The first time the girl felt life within her was a wondrous time, she realized that it was true , she was with child and that child was growing strong within. She tried to visualize her child, the color of its hair, the curve of its cheek, and the color of its eyes.

"Creator, please let them be as dark as night! Please let my child be of the seed of my husband!"

She whispered that prayer to herself every time she felt the child move within. The village had something more to worry about then just her birth for amongst them was a sickness no one had seen before. At first it struck mildly and a few died as do when a disease starts; it struck the elderly women of the village and no one could explain where it came from. All who became sick saw apparitions, some say the faces of the ancestors, than a fever struck, then red spots and then they died. At first it was just a trickle then it was a deluge. The disease only struck the women, and then they all died. If a man should happen to take sick, he never saw the apparitions but would get the spots and recover. It touched her family and killed her beloved grandmother. Her time was coming and she couldn't go to the funeral and do her part in lighting the pyre, it was forbidden during her time of life. some of her grandmother's possessions were saved for her for after her time.

Time passes quickly when you doubt; too quickly some say and before she realized it, the birthing pains came to her. They started slowly as just whispers, a little tightening of her stomach and she thought nothing of the feeling. Then as the day grew, so did the pains, she did her best to contain her sounds but when her mother came to check on her she found her child writhing in agony. She quickly entered and made the preparations for birth. A sturdy pole had been erected in the center of the home, a birthing pole. Her mother placed her daughter next to it so she had something to hold onto when the last pains of birth gripped her daughter. She dug out a small hole between her daughter's legs and lined it with the fur of a rabbit. Her daughter's time was near and she was panting with her exertions, she held her breath as one strong pain came and then the gush of fluids rushed from her body. Holding the pole tightly she pulled with all her strength and pushed…pushed harder then she'd ever done in her life! The pain encompassed her, it owned her but it abated for only a moment then she felt it building again. This time she felt the life within slipping out of her in a gush of blood, then it was out and there was a crying.

Her mother scooped up the child and looked at it quickly and saw it was a girl. She laid the girl baby on the ground softly to help deliver the rest. When it was over, both the mother and the newly born daughter lay on a pallet; the baby its face mottled both red and blue screamed with the indignity of birth and the rough entry into this world turned looking for her mother. The young mother gave this child of hers her breast and felt them swell with the giver of life. the baby suckled eagerly accepting the offering gladly. The feelings welled up in the mother of never letting anyone or anything hurt this child. Then she looked into the concerned face of her mother and questioned her look.

"Child of mine, why is your child so light of skin?"

To be continued in Part IV

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Reviewed by Judith Bailey 6/17/2003
I was so interested in the story that I never noticed anything amiss with the writing.... let an editor take care of that part... You are the creator...
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 6/16/2003
enjoying this
Reviewed by Wendi Cali 7/22/2002
Another great addition to the story, though this one seemed to have a few "slips" in it, such as repeated words, lower case letters and other minor erros. It's great writing, though. Good story. One thing I don't understand is how the women could be treated so fragile by their people, being chaperoned and guarded 'til marriage, then be allowed to divorce and re-marry as often as they'd like. What's the point in putting a young girl out in the desert for having sex and then allow her to re-marry and re-marry with no consequence. I know it was just a passing statement in the story, but it caught my attention. On to part four.
Reviewed by Amor Sabor 6/30/2002
A little difficult to stop is building up momentum at this point despite those minor sentence problems and wording hurdles.
Reviewed by Poop Monkey 5/30/2002
There are a few problems with formatting, but I love the story. It reminds me of Sister of the Sky by Margaret Allen. I like the way this installment ends.
Reviewed by James Samdavid1 4/3/2002
I find myself sitting there watching and waiting for the next shoe to drop. This is a very exciting write. Wonderful job, Lady Clay. SD1
Reviewed by Lawrance Lux 3/27/2002
Excellent piece, but still a minor problem with paragraph organization. You will probably shoot Me, but Harliquien might pick up something like this.
Reviewed by Roger Nelson 3/27/2002
Another smash hit Claywoman!
Please keep them coming.
Reviewed by Peter Benson 3/26/2002
Keep it up, Claywoman. A fine job.
Reviewed by Peter Benson 3/25/2002
Wow! This is getting very interesting! More, pleeze. Can't wait to read what is happening next. The last sentence left me in suspense!
Reviewed by Theresa Koch 3/25/2002
This is simply a fantastic storie Claywoman I look forward to more~

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