Give me strength when I can not see my weakness.
I sit in the back, away from everyone. I watch her from afar. I have always watched her. Daughter of the Chief. The most prized possession of our Tribe.
She is a rare find, eyes blue as the sky, hair dark as night. The tribe has always spoken of the sky blue gift that would bring peace. Then she was born. From that day she was valued and treasured. I never understood why, until now.
As kids, Aiyana was my best friend. We spent every day together running the grounds, playing games, causing our parents to go crazy. It was the best childhood. Just before we became teenagers, my parents sat me down and told me I had to stay away. She was to be promised as a future bride to another tribe as an act of peace between the tribes.
It killed me. Every day she would ask for a walk, to play a game, to see me. Every day I had to tell her no and turn my back. My best friend. Her best friend. Gone.
She would come to my house every day to see me and each time my parents had to tell her I couldn’t see her. I remember the day she stopped coming by. It felt like an arrow in my heart. Slowly every day I felt death become me. I wanted nothing in life but my best friend. When I would see her at the tribe council meetings or gatherings, she refused to meet anyone’s eye, especially mine.
But, I always watched her. For years. She became my silent heartbeat. Every day she woke up and walked the outskirts of the grounds… I saw her.
I am the best tracker and warrior in the tribe. I had to occupy my time because she occupied my mind.
We are sitting at the tribal dinner. A big announcement is underway and I know what it is about. It involves… Her.
Everyone is eating and waiting for our Chief to talk, I watch her pick at her plate and my heart is slowly being torn to pieces.
“Tala, you good brother?” Kota asks. He is my closest friend and even when I don’t say anything, he knows what is going on.
“Fine,” I respond.
“You are watching, again,” Kota says.
I quickly look around and no one seems to notice, but Kota.
“What is the plan?” Kota asks.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Will you ever talk to her again?” Kota continues.
“I was forbidden, the tribe comes first. You know this,” I say angrily.
“Tribe comes first,” He repeats.
“She is the Chief’s daughter. Well off and promised to the next Chief of the Tsuna Tribe,” I explain.
“Does she know?” Kota pushes.
“I don’t know…” I say.
He shakes his head at me but he understands.
“What are we celebrating?” Kota asks. “Things have gossiped about the warriors, the only thing the Tsuna Tribe is visiting.
“I think we all know what this is about,” I say with venom.
I can only grip my own hands. The thought of her leaving, marrying someone else is painful.
I have denied every female that was arranged, If I can’t be with my best friend, I don’t want to be with anyone else. I have been hoping this day would never come, the other tribe would pull out of the agreement. Looks like I will be wrong…
That is what my name means. I have been told since birth that I am a treasure… to bring peace…
I am only here to serve as a bride to the next chief.
Peace bargain… to keep war at bay.
The moment I was told as a teen, was the moment I knew my life was over.
Tribe first. No choice, this is my path set forth by the Elders.
My best friend, correction former best friend, turned his back on me. I’ve had no contact with him in years. I’ve been alone being groomed as the next wife of the chief.
I spend my days alone in solitude, walking by myself. My parents and I visit the tribal members for different reasons, but every time I can’t seem to find a reason to speak. I will be leaving this place in a few weeks and starting a new life. No reason to make relationships with anyone if I can help it. Plus the only one that meant anything at all, Tala, turned his back on me.
We are sitting at the tribal gathering eating together and my father is making an announcement. I will be leaving to fulfill my duties. I can do nothing but poke at my plate of food.
“My fellow members, let us thank Mother Earth for the blessings which lay in front of us on the table.” Chief Axe says. “We are fortunate these days to have such prosperity. As you know, our treasure is now being summoned. The Tsnua tribe is traveling here to meet their future leader’s wife, my daughter, Aiyana. This is a great honor for our tribe. This union will continue to bring peace and allies to our community. “
My father waves me to join him and my mom at the front. As I stand to join them, I am finding it hard to look up. He nudges me… so… duties. I lift my head high and look at the members of my tribe. Trying to be strong and brave to accept this goodbye. I make eye contact with most everyone here so they can see that I am committed. Tribe first. As I look at the back of the room is when my eyes fall upon Tala. I can feel anger, hurt, and resentment building inside of me. My best friend who promised to stay beside me turned his back on me.
There is nothing left for me here.
“They will arrive by the end of the week. I trust my brothers and sisters that we give them our biggest welcome, and embrace them as family.” Chief Ase says.
As my father commences his speech and everyone goes back to eating and celebrating this unholy union, I try to excuse myself.
“Father may I be excused?” I ask.
“Are you ok?” My mother, Rozene, asks quickly.
“Yes mom, I am ok, I would just like to turn in early. We have a lot to do this week,” I express.
“Good thinking! Aiyana I know you don’t understand this, but I appreciate you not fighting us on this.” Chief Axe says.
“You are right, I don’t understand. But… Tribe first, right,” I say.
“It’s not always the case,” He tries.
“If you want to say no, we should make arrangements,” Rozene tries.
Choices are for those who have a choice. I was never actually given a choice or asked if this is what I want. “No, this is what was planned. I will do my duty. May I leave now?”
“Yes,” Chief Axe says softly.
I quickly leave the meeting hall, trying to get out as quickly as I can. As I am walking home I see the private garden. Only a few are allowed in this private garden. It has become my favorite place to be where no one can disturb me. Instead of heading home, I make my way there.
I used to come here to cry, but I don’t cry anymore. I can’t find a reason to cry.
I lay down in the middle of the path between the flowers and look up at the stars. It is quiet and for a moment I lose myself in the stars. Connecting starts and making mental pictures. In the distance, I hear someone calling my name.
“Aiyana?” She says.
I internally roll my eyes. Sweet friend, well she tries so hard to be a friend but there is no use.
“Here,” I call back.
Citlali comes and lays next to me. A friend is a loose word. I won’t get attached to anyone and I’ve tried to keep her at a distance but it seems to only pull her closer in. She is nice and kind. Too kind to me.
“Are you ready for Tsuna to come?” Citlali asks.
“Yes,” I responded.
“You can tell me the truth you know,” Citlali pushes.
“I am,” I say. I’m not.
“Liar,” she says. “I am sad you will be leaving.”
“Why?” I say with confusion.
“You are my friend and a big presence here in the tribe. You walk into rooms and captivate everyone. I’ve never seen anyone hold a room’s attention before.” She says.
“I don’t want attention. I only want to do what’s best for the tribe,” I say trying to cover the hurt.
“We know, we see it. I still wish you didn’t have to go,” Citlali says.
Does she not get it? “You have other friends here, surely you won’t miss me that much,” I try.
“You don’t bug me about everyday nonsense. You bring quiet peacefulness. Calm.” Citlali tries to explain.
I see quiet hostility but sure we can go with what she said.
“It’s why I like to bug you, you do not judge me.” She says.
“I wish I could stay too,” I lied. Another lie, that is all I do these days is a lie.
Citlali and I lay there for a while until we can hear everyone leaving the meeting hall. We sit up and leave the garden in silence.
“Listen, I don’t believe you are happy about this. If you ever need to talk, I am here. I hope you know that” Citlali tries.
“I do, thank you. I would do anything for our tribe,” I express.
That statement is true. As much as I hate this feeling, this is my family, these are our people. I would do anything to keep them safe.
I just wish I was able to live before that life was taken from me.