Flash Fiction Friday – Next Year’s Beads

Since it is the holiday season, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating holidays for fictional worlds. The other day I had an idea for a tradition I may use some day in a book, so I wrote this little piece below:

The ribbons are slippery between my fingers, and the house is quiet except for the gentle ringing of the chimes, propelled by the flames from the thin white candles. Occasionally a chair creaks as someone shifts their position, or clay beads clink in a bowl as a hand reaches in. This is my favorite silence, the longest silence of the year, wrapped around me like a well-known blanket weaved from years of marking it in the same way, with the same people.

This year, I need the stillness that the familiarity brings. Seven ribbons, braided so they look like two braids side by side, one in dark blues and one in light blues and little silver threads weaved into the pattern throughout. It’s the most difficult one I’ve ever tried and I feel as I remember feeling when I braided my very first wish-band. I feel the tension in my shoulders, and the movement of my fingers are so slow, so deliberate that I begin to feel as though my hands aren’t quite attached to me. I add the beads at irregular intervals, whenever a wish comes to me rather than according to a pattern. I will go to Waelin with mother. I slide a white bead onto a strand, another following after just two more twists of the ribbons between my fingers. I will see the Emerald Library.

A noise pulls me from my thoughts – great aunt mumbling under her breath as her thin wrinkled fingers slide a large bead onto her braid. Sometime in the last year or two she seems to have lost the ability to distinguish silent words in her mind and ones given shape in her mouth. It’s all right, though. She’s too quiet for any of us to hear her prayers.

My focus temporarily broken, I look around at the others. Great aunt is in her usual chair in the corner, mother and father at the table. Once in a while they’ll look up from their braids at each other and smile. Kelin is sitting across the table from me, cross-legged on his cushion on the floor. His brow is creased in focus, his tongue sticking out a little bit without him realizing. It’s the third year he braids his own wishband and, I think, the first year he has felt a desire to do his best with it. I suspect the puppy his best friend’s family just bought has something to do with that.

Smiling to myself I glance over at Derah, and my heart beats double when I see the simple, tree-strand braid in her hand. A trifecta of emerald, ruby and sapphire and not a single bead on it, not yet. A simple design, one she’s been able to do since she was four and I since I was five. She could do it in her sleep, could finish an entire wishband in a few minutes without a problem but even so, she’s only a few inches in by now, the loose ribbons draping down over her lap. I knew it! I glance over at my parents to see if they’ve noticed anything, but if they have they’re not letting it show. Everyone has more than one wish, but there are some occasions in life that are worth setting all other wishes aside for a year… Since my sister is not at school, nor with child or expecting to be taken into a guild anytime soon, I know what the one bead she will eventually add signifies.

I find I’m grinning and bow my head back over my work to conceal it, the tension at trying to surpass myself suddenly gone from my shoulders. . I fish a small, glistening bead out of the bowl, white with pink speckles. I will wear red to Derah’s wedding and someone will notice me. I slide it onto a thin ribbon and twist, continuing the pattern.

It’s nothing special, but I think it’s sorta sweet. Now I need to go write my adventboost post and then head to bed.

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