Beatrice lowered her hands and heaved a sigh of exhaustion.
“That was…” Mr. Statusian said to the group of students arranged in a circular formation around a stand-in for the statue of hero Jon Knoll. “That was… Let’s practice it a bit better next time, alright?”
There were murmurs of resigned acceptance.
“Let’s finish,” he said. “Alright, be out of here in ten minutes, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.”
Beatrice went into the dressing room and changed out of the loose clothing she had been wearing for practice. Sweat dripped from more places than she thought possible. Oh, Gods… She was very much not physically prepared for coordinating a mass magical ritual, and she could feel exactly the spots that’d be sore tomorrow morning.
With how these practices were going, she had no idea how they were going to be ready in time for the Winter Ceremonies, even if they were still a couple months away.
Okay, she was dried up and back in her school uniform, and now it was time to make her way home. She decided against stopping by the library–she’d given up going there every afternoon just to wait on Emi–but she did still need to go by the marketplace and picking up produce for her Mom.
She just wished she was less tired from practice. Who knew that practicing for a sacred ritual where most of the work was moving in a circle and chanting would be so physically taxing? It seemed so effortless to an outside viewer. And now she realized that that was because of how hard the performers practiced it beforehand. If only willpower alone could create magic spells, this would have been so much easier…
It was getting darker a lot faster these days; she remembered when the sun would still be shining high in the sky by the time she left St. Helens Academy; now, it was already at the edge of sunset, and several of the moons were visible in the sky.
Despite the growing darkness, and the growing aches in her body, Beatrice pressed on. At the marketplace she picked up a wheel of cheese, a bottle of wine, and some cloves of garlic. It was all costly, but hopefully together all of it would get the Ragnell family about a week’s worth of meals.
And then another few minutes of excruciating walking awaited her… before she finally arrived at her apartment and stumbled inside.
Look what the Mammoth dragged in… Wait, that didn’t even work as a joke. Beatrice was so exhausted from Winter Ceremonies practice that she couldn’t even muster her master wit.
Well, now she was home, and she had a bag full of produce to add to tonight’s onion soup. It was her Mom’s own recipe this time, so it wouldn’t be as much of a mediocre disappointment as the last time Beatrice tried cooking.
Speaking of Mom, she was right there sitting in her usual chair next to the supper table, sewing her current project together. She wouldn’t say what it was, but Beatrice had a feeling it had something to do with that ancient Balarand fashion stuff that Dad had been researching a while back.
“Hey, Mom, I got the vegetables you asked for,” Beatrice said.
Mom looked up from the outfit and smiled. It was quick, almost trained, but it looked genuine enough. “Thank you, Beatrice,” she said.
Mom, a princess-like figure who took everything about Beatrice and made it more extravagantly beautiful. A young Mom Ragnell would have been the catch of a century, and somehow, Beatrice’s own Dad snagged her like a salmon in a putcher basket. Maybe, with age, just as her skin and hair had lightened, her figure had lost some of that radiance, but it wasn’t enough to convince anyone that she wasn’t of regal descent in some distant family tree branch.
After just a moment, Mom moved back to her sewing, again focusing intently on her project. Whatever it was, it looked nice, some kind of gray top with navy… something, accenting it. Was it a… cape? Mom always made these kinds of nice outfits, made pretty much everything Beatrice had ever worn. It was a kindness that she would never be able to repay her for.
She wanted to reply, to say something, start a conversation with her Mom. But it was kind of tough. She stood there, put a finger to her bottom lip, and came up empty. Instead, she simply watched for a while longer. Studied the way she weaved her thread, the way her eyes followed along in a drifting motion, before jumping back to the other side as she started again.
Like performing a religious ritual, like taking all the information out of a book and laying it onto the page, her Mom created an entire piece of clothing with nothing but string and cloth, pins and needles, patience and practice. She had done this for so long that she hardly even had to take notice. It was as impressive as any incantation, any group spell. It was a whole different kind of magic.
For Mom, sewing was more than a hobby, then, perhaps. It was a whole life, and not one that Beatrice well understood… until now.
“I love you, Mom,” Beatrice said.
“I love you too,” she replied without hesitation.
Beatrice had never thought about how much it meant to her that her Mom made all these outfits for her, for the whole family. How in the world had she never realized her Mom was so… cool?
Once Mom had finished up the project for now, she went to the kitchen, and Beatrice followed her over to help her prepare supper. By the time Dad got home, there was boiling hot soup for the three of them, and there was nothing more Beatrice could ask for than that.
Beatrice looked at her Mom, skilled at everything she did, willing to set aside whatever youthful ambitions she may have had to raise a family, and wondered why she ever felt like the two of them were far apart. Aside from looks, and maybe interests, they weren’t apart at all. They were two beans in a barrel.