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Chapter 8: Sunrise

April 10, 2013

Fatima sat cross-legged on the altar-rock. On each side of her a tea-light flickered.
She had come up the hill as soon as the grey light of dawn made it possible to see where she was going. She had come to watch the sun rise.

Throughout her young life amongst the chimney-stacks of a Birmingham skyline, she had never seen the sun rising over a real horizon. As a married woman, barren and bleeding, she had gradually lost even the will to look up.

“You don’t mind, do you?”
“I’m just so busy with the children.”
“It’s not as though you’ve anyone of your own to look after.”
“Oh. Fatima will do it. She doesn’t mind.”

Fatima had experienced her first widowhood as a punishment.

She rested her hands on her knees and breathed deeply, evenly.

The second time round, it had been a liberation. To lose one husband might be regarded as misfortune, but to lose a second looked like carelessness: her relatives had gradually stopped calling on her.

She drew the little patchwork bag from her pocket, and thought of the Grandmother-women.

She thought of Helen with her bundle of herbs, her calm eyes and her layers of meaning. She thought of Lena, her auras, her Goddess. She thought of her own mother, who had taught her to love Allah and to be obedient. She watched the first golden gleam of the sun, and she wondered if perhaps it was all the same.

Separating out one more sprig of the sage bundle, she held it up to the morning. The dried leaves still had a touch of burr, soft against her lips. She made up her mind, held the little sprig in the flame of a candle, and watched it burn. The smoke curled, aimless in the still air.

When the sun was clear of the horizon, she ambled back down the hill. She heard – somewhere near, in the woods – the howl of a wolf. Her head snapped round toward the sound. A wolf?
She quickened her pace.

“Good morning!” she called, back at the caravan she was sharing with Zane and Rosh. They were sleeping outside, of course, in a tent.
“Morning.” Roshan was muffled, sleepy.
“You’d better get up if you want breakfast,” she warned. “I’m making it now.”

She put the porridge on. That was the agreement – she got to sleep in the van on condition that she took charge of breakfast. She’d been cooking for so many for so long, that it hardly seemed a burden. A good deal, as far as she was concerned.

“Thanks, Fatima,” said Rosh, taking his porridge plain and wholesome.

She added a spoon of honey for Zane, but didn’t get a thank-you. Zane wasn’t a morning person. Later, he would wake up properly and make chai. He made it better than anyone. She wouldn’t thank him when he passed her a cup, and they would exchange a wink instead.

“What are we playing tonight?” she asked Rosh. He was a natural leader. He loved planning their sets.

They discussed themes, argued about what to include, worked out variations. They always liked to leave things a little open, some flexibility to catch the mood of a place. Fatima liked the feel of the zip and crack of ideas falling into place, back and forth, a shape and a structure emerging. Zane was easy-going, especially before breakfast. It had always been like this.

She was glad to have these two men in her life. They were undemanding and appreciative. And not the kind, she had eventually realised – after a long innocence – to give a woman any trouble.

Fatima had made music all her life, but it wasn’t until the age of forty-eight, six months into her second widowhood, that she had begun to take herself seriously. She had played and sung at the local Islamic clubs, for little children in playgroups and bigger ones in youth clubs, for women at weddings and at birthday parties. When she met Roshan, a distant cousin on her mother’s side, he had introduced her to Zane, and they had begun to play together. It had been like a homecoming. Like the sun rising.

“Are there any wolves around here?” she asked.
Zane shook his head. “No. No wolves anywhere in Britain any more.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. I thought I heard one earlier. I expect it was just kids.”

Their set was late in the afternoon, and Fatima had the rest of the day to do as she pleased. Early morning was her favourite time, when everything was clean and fresh and quiet. Nothing much ever really happened until ten or eleven o’clock. She decided to start in the Master Crafters’ area.

Most of the tents were still closed up, but the signs outside proclaimed basket-makers, stone-masons, garland-making workshops, pottery demonstrations, rocket stoves, bead-making, more basket weaving, copper-working… The coppersmith was up and about and she stopped to greet him.

“Good morning!”
“Mornin’,” he said. “Alright?”
She nodded. “What are you making?”
“Coal scuttle,” he said, putting his tools aside and lifting up a completed scuttle to show her. He waved at a half-finished scuttle near his feet. “I’m working on the handle.”
“Mind if I watch for a bit?”
“Be my guest.”

It was entrancing, to see the metal bend under the hammer. He turned over the edge, folding the copper like paper. He curved it around his anvil to shape the handle. Satisfied, he polished the black of the hammer into a bright shine.
“Have a good day now,” she said.
“Aye-aye, you too.”

A woman was setting up her workshop. Later, she would be making glass mobiles. “Morning!”

A couple had built a clay oven and were baking small cakes. She stopped to drink tea with them and try a rich, buttery scone. A man in shorts and sandals, torso naked, garlanded with leather necklaces, played guitar and sang about learning to tie shoelaces.

A woman spinning wool, under a felted sign that read: Fibre poetry, at The Sheep Pen.

“Good morning!”
“Morning.” The woman glanced up from her work, smiling broadly. “Do you spin?”
Fatima shook her head.
“My grandmother used to spin. In India.” It was India then. Not any more, of course. “My mother too, when she was a little girl. She gave it up when she moved to Britain.”
“That’s a shame.”
“Perhaps,” said Fatima. But then, perhaps not. In those days, spinning hadn’t been a hobby. Easy to regret traditional skills when you’re not a slave to them.
“Do you want a go?”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2013 10:53 pm

    Word-count – 1115
    Prompt (1) Wolf (SBF) and (2) Sheep pen – wool (BrendaAlicante)

    Please leave a comment with a prompt suggestion for Chapter 9
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. April 10, 2013 11:06 pm

    yey spinning!
    prompt – cringe

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