It was May Day. The sky was blue. The air crisp with dew . The promise of tomorrow lay on the village green.
All seemed well..
She picked out her dress uniform from the few clothes she had in her cupboard and began quickly to change.
She was proud to wear it today …proud …for she had been chosen.
She ate little for ‘breaking-fast’ …a strange bile rose in her throat at the thought of food. It was probably nerves…an honour like this was not to be handled lightly. She must be at her best…for what lay ahead. She held her breath and forced down a spoonful of meal.
There was a noise of running footsteps outside …she went quickly to the window of the house she lived in and caught sight of the boy as he ran across the field to the enclosure.
The enclosure had been there since the village was founded – a round patch of grassland …raised high as if for show . Cattle show.
But more recently a wired electric fence ran round the perimeter – she knew that because of the signs. It was the first thing she had noticed about it…that and the putting up of the large screen.
Did others think it strange ? A screen…for cattle?
She saw him again as he reached the paddock gate …
Trust him to get there first …she thought … He has to be first in everything …so arrogant…so…
Then she stopped herself…
“Bad thoughts beget Bad things!”
… She remembered the Teachings and moved back from the window to the table – temptation removed from sight…she sat and took the book that lay open on the table.
It’s pages were worn, passed down to her from another and another …and so it went on…
She turned to the first written page and recited the words
…we serve you , dear Fatherland
Home of the Free;
Forever your children,
We bow unto thee.
We kneel at your altar
We fall on your sword,
We may lose our blood
But we’ll reap your rewards.
Something made her stop ….a chill passed through her like the cold steel of a reaping blade…
For a fleeting moment the words said almost seemed to have a darker meaning than before.
Had she read them wrong? Or was it just today making her mind confused? The pressure to be at her best suddenly made nothing seem as it was before.
She focused on the melody playing in her head and was strangely calm once more. The words pulled her back to the open page …like a lamb to silence
…our love asks no question
Our love feels no shame
Your traditions we’ll honour;
United we sing in your name
She smiled … for no comfortable reason other than it made perfect sense.
A buzzer sounded from afar …loud…abrasive…foreboding as the doomhead snow clouds that hung over the village in winter
It was time for her to go.
She closed the book put the ‘now cold’ bowl of Oatmeal in the sink, drew a glass of water from the tap and drank slowly to steady the last of her “girlish” nerves.
Through the window she could see sunlight dappling the shadows between the trees surrounding the village square.
Northbridge never saw the sun as much. Something in the lie of the land.
This was a darkness they all shared. One they all lived their lives by.
But May Day was their time to shine.
The festivities would go on until Sun down …no censorship, no all- seeing eye…the young would play and the elders …well they would enjoy ” older ways”
Theirs was a strange heritage…one borne of long custom, tradition and the absence of “the light”.
But wasn’t everyone like this she thought?
She pulled the rough wool cape round her broad shoulders, took the book in her hand and swore to herself that by the hand of the Provost she would make this day her best ever.
She had a hard task ahead but one she would cherish for the honoured time-worn sake of this celebration
They would listen to her …they would do as she commanded. They would sing their hearts out as if this day was their last.
And her name … would go down in Northbridge history.
She put her pale hand on the iron latch of the door and lifted it open. It swung wide …wide enough for her to see him again …leaning defiantly against the wooden posts of their makeshift arena.
Strange they had chosen to have them rehearse there?
But hers was not to question why …
“Do as you are given!”
The annoyingly handsome boy looked directly at her. They were never going to be friends that was clear – but she knew how to work him. He needed attention that was all – she would give him that and he would do anything she asked. As an only child she was used to getting things her way.
He motioned her teasingly towards the enclosure’s gate …she went to go on his male command but thought…for a moment.
“Power comes by making others wait…status is the climb to success!”
The words of the ‘Book of Provost’ came back to her again.
She would make him wait … First she would go and round up the others … He would be easier to manage that way. Others would distract him. As a female she knew how hard it was to be respected in Northbridge.
The things you had sometimes to do …to be heard. The sacrifices to make.
She’d heard that Southbridge girls were different…she’d heard rumours about that place that made her insides churn …about what went on there…the things that were allowed to happen…that did happen!
But hadn’t everyone heard ?
He caught her eye…had he read her mind?
She felt a bright red flush creep up the side of her face. She pretended to scratch her face … And then she repeated the gesture on her arms …sheeps clothing could be so difficult to wear.
He smiled with half interest in her little game. Then looked up at the camera that was pointed directly down at him above his head. He saluted the mechanical device with what seemed like disdain.
Was he serious?
The Klaxon sounded loud and the gate opened for him.
He was gone now …no need to pretend anymore that she didn’t care what he thought. She had a bigger role to play than ‘him ‘today …that was enough for her to feel better. She closed her eyes and breathed out slowly…
The village moved around her…she heard the bleating of the goats ,the clacking of clogs on the cobbles and the mannish laughter of the elders huddled together in their traditional green caped splendour
She had about ten minutes – her time disc was never wrong. Time to go and round up the stragglers and then return to this place to begin the final rehearsal.
She turned from the enclosure path and headed smartly down the hill towards the gathering place. Her cape twisting behind her as she ran.
It was going to be some May Day for them all
( more connections to follow…)