by Roger Fritz, 3-25-02
During the Recent Unpleasantness, I was a boy living with my mom at her inn. Refugees trickled south, and brought what news there was. They also brought the last nuggets of magic they had gone there to mine.
One day Mom stopped sweeping and stood awhile looking distracted. I knew she was deciding something, and I headed for the barn. What if she sends me to my aunt in Flores?
And that's what she did. It's not that I disliked Aunt Agnez, but she was so strict and stuffy. I was just old enough to be interested in girls, and Aunt Agnez did not approve. My mouth was filled with dread. I hid in the stable, but it did no good.
I enjoyed riding the stagecoach to Flores anyway. It was an amazing adventure. I drank in every moment. But at the same time I worried about my mom, cuz I knew she worried too much about me. And I braced myself for the upcoming battle.
When the stage rumbled into Flores, and I'd been escorted to Aunt Agnez' house by an old servant named Bogoda, I saw that I'd misjudged Aunt Agnez. She was too frail to be interested in limiting my play. After the days of work at magic-smithing I was free to roam the streets of Flores, meeting boys my own age. And girls.
The summer passed. Bogoda nursed Aunt Agnez, and I helped. Neither of us noticed how quickly she was declining. I was so in love with a young apprentice to a sailmaker that I was startled one day to realize she was dying.
In the final weeks she longed to die, as though she were going home.
Bogoda and I sat together as she slipped away one dawn, and after she had gone I felt so baffled and angry and sad and transcendent all at once that I thought I'd burst. I looked out the window as light burst slowly into the sky.
I only saw Bogoda once, ten years later. At first he seemed like a stranger, but then he looked at me with a familiar expression, and I was back in that summer when death was so far away over the horizon and at the same time in the room with me. I was so far from home, and in love for the first time. With so many dying in war, it seemed odd for her to die in peace.