Twenty One years ago (Mortal Time)
I pulled down my brown tunic to try and cover my ever growing stomach. Sweat trickles dow Sky Eden@Bedok n the back of my neck, as the sun burns high in the sky, yet I have a sense of peace as I dig my hands into the cool soil that surrounds the flower beds. I close my eyes and inhale the beautiful scent of thousands of roses with lavender lady flowers and violets as there companions that surround me. “Suis could you fetch me a beaker of water?” Suis jumps up off her knees “of course ma’am” she runs off along the path that winds through the rose beds.I kneel back on my hunkers while waiting for Suis to return. My mind wonders to the festival only two days away I am excited yet terrified. The festival is held every ten years for women of the age of twenty five. We are matched personally by the King and Queen for our future husbands or wife. I rub my belly gently, I have all I need for now. “Here you are ma’am” Suis hands me the water. “Do you have a stomach ache because if you do,my mum always says that some rosemary leafs settles it” A tingle of fear ran through me I have to be more careful if Suis saw me rub my stomach who else had. I square my shoulders and take a deep gulp of water. “I will remember that. I actually grow some in my garden thank you. Suis pushes the clay off her small hands already forgetting about my stomach,. She is only sixteen and my first apprentice so I am not entirely sure if my teaching is in any way good. The bell rings once signalling it’s time for lunch.We wash our hands by the fountain before making our way to a large barn where food is served for the gardeners. There is about twenty of us that are spread out amongst the four sections of the gardens that holds hundreds of different flowers. The section that I work in is S1 which is the smallest of all the sections and only me and Suis work there.
When we arrive at the barn there is a large queue formed already and I have to stand in the sweltering heat waiting in line. It never bothered me before but with swollen ankles and a sore back it is getting harder. “Next” the server calls in a rough voice and slops soup into a wooden bowl while another and equally rough server hands the man a roll of bread. I can’t blame them for their lack of enthusiasm. Once we are finished eating they have to serve all the workers from the vegetable and fruit gardens and they exceed our numbers three fold. I take my soup and roll while thanking both men not receiving a reply. I sit myself at one of the long wooden tables that has been worn down from years of use. The cracks that run along the wood are wider allowing me to see my toes peeking out of my sandals. Suis sits down beside me glancing around the barn looking terrified. “Why are the guardians outside ma’am?” she asks her eyes wide and innocent. “First of all Suis please call me Marta, and the guardians are always stationed here to make sure the work is done. If it is there will be no trouble” Suis looks into her soup “and if the work is not done?” her voice quivers a little. I can see by her face someone has told her some nasty rumours the children seem to think it fun to scare the others but its hard to make someone feel safe when they are so afraid. I pat her gently on the back “the work is always done, don’t fret child” then I give her a square look “and don’t be listening to silly stories. Unless an adult tells you always assume it is untrue”. She relaxes her posture relieved that everything will be all right and she digs into her soup. Nicon sits down across from me “Marta” he looks at Suis and acknowledges her with a nod. Then he raises his eyebrow in a question, is it OK to talk in front of her. I give him a nod. “any word on the supplies?”Nicon asks in a whisper so none of the guardians can hear. He is referring to wine I am getting him. It is a rarity here in Saskia as the Queen has band all alcohol from our village saying its for our own good but not everyone agrees, it is only allowed at times of celebration. Dominic my best friends husband knows people who know people. “Not yet but soon” I whisper back. He inclines his head and starts eating, he is a rather large man and would be more suitable as a wood cutter with his build, but he had signed up to be a gardener. Everyone has called him “small”since we were children. He towered over all of us but would never hurt anything. He is a gentle giant. I eat my soup quickly “See you Nicon” he sets his wooden spoon aside and is draining his bowl by using the bowl like a mug he wipes his face with the back of his hands. “That was tasty see you later” he says with a smile. I laugh as he has bits of bread stuck in his beard.