Day of the White Goddess
Like everything else in the Church, the Day of the White Goddess was all about Serafina, and at the same time not about her at all.
What would be known by normal people as Serafina’s birthday, the Day of the White Goddess was treated like Christmas by Church community.
It wasn’t her actual birthday...or maybe this year it was. Serafina didn’t know the exact date. Her mother hadn’t known either—she’d been on bed rest or something and lost track of time—and Elder Macklin also claimed not to know. Serafina wasn’t sure she believed either of them.
The Church followed the lunar calendar and since Serafina was born on the first day of a February full moon (that, no one seemed to have any trouble remembering) that’s when the Day of the White Goddess was celebrated.
The day began with the Church’s annual White Goddess festival, a huge event that drew people from Willow Beach and surrounding areas with rides and food stalls and artisans selling jewellery and hand-dyed scarves and fancy soaps.
In the evening, a special service was held for congregation members where the White Goddess demonstrated her love for the faithful live onstage by healing three non-terminal members of the crowd selected by a random draw. It used to be five, but the Elders toned things down after King’s dramatic visit two years ago.
As King had ordered, the Elders stopped bringing in outsiders to be cured. But healing was a pillar of the White Goddess’s responsibilities to her people and they continued running holiday and Friday night services as always, secure in the knowledge that King hated religious ceremonies only slightly less than he hated crowds, and never showed up to Church events.
Friday night services involved only one healing now, occasionally two if the first was something simple like a broken limb or a slipped disc. Three absolutely wore her out.
This year’s celebration was an even bigger deal than usual. According to Church doctrine, at age twelve the White Goddess enters womanhood and with it, a new phase of divinity, the details of which Serafina had not bothered to listen to Elder Macklin explain. She’d stopped taking him seriously a while ago.
Since the full moon fell on a Saturday this year, the Elders decided to roll the holiday and Friday night healings together and kept them simple enough that Serafina would be recovered by morning. She’d enjoyed herself today, roaming the festival grounds in baggy jeans and her hair stuffed under a knitted cap, going on rides and stuffing herself with forbidden treats AKA anything with sugar.
It was about halfway through the afternoon when someone recognized Ian—a few female someones, to be specific—and soon people were approaching Serafina for blessings and selfies with the White Goddess. It was fine, until it wasn’t. Like always, Ian knew exactly when she started feeling overwhelmed.
Serafina slid her arm around his neck as he picked her up and carried her out of the crowd. Ian’s arms were as safe and familiar as her own bed. More, actually.
“You’re the one who should be going incognito,” she teased, looking over Ian’s shoulder at the disappointed—and some jealous—feminine faces behind them. Serafina loved to tease him about his ever-expanding female fanbase.
Ian didn’t rise to the bait. “Maybe next year I will.” He dropped to her feet at the Church entrance and opened the door.
Serafina’s steps slowed as she stepped inside. The main hall had been transformed with fairy lights and white bunting and more flowers than she had ever seen indoors. People had been buzzing all week about tonight’s special service, featuring some big surprise that the Elders were being all weird about.
“Perfect timing!” Elder Roselina walked up with a broad smile. “We’re going to need a little extra time preparing you tonight.”
Serafina wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that. She looked at Ian, who was frowning. The happy, relaxed Ian she had spent the day with had disappeared. “Extra time for what?” she asked.
“This is a very special occasion, Goddess.” Elder Roselina wrung her hands in excitement. “It requires very special preparations.”
“Okay...” Serafina definitely didn’t like the sound of that. By the look on his face, neither did Ian. She held his gaze over her shoulder as Elder Roselina led her away. I’ll let you know when she leaves.
Ian nodded almost imperceptibly. Let me know if they do anything weird.
They think I’m a goddess who can commune with nature. Serafina snorted, earning a strange look from Elder Roselina as she ushered her up the stairs. Everything they do is weird.
You can commune with nature, Ian pointed out, knowing better than to touch the issue of whether she was really a goddess. Ian believed she was, Serafina didn’t, and nothing could convince either of them otherwise. You made it rain last week.
That was an accident! Serafina huffed. She still wasn’t sure how it happened. Elder Brandon was going on and on at lunch about his golf game that afternoon right after lecturing her for going down to the beach by herself for an hour. Not because she could get hurt or lost—that was Ian’s concern, not his—but because the White Goddess didn’t slog through wet sand in frayed cutoffs and bare feet, her hair whipped into chaos by the salty breeze like some random tween.
Which was literally all Serafina wanted to be.
It wasn’t fair. All this goddess stuff, being locked away, worshipped and held apart from the rest of humanity, trained to fulfill a destiny she didn’t believe in...it wasn’t fair. And while Serafina was living a lonely non-existence here in the Church, she had cousins somewhere out there, living the life of friends and school and family dinners that could have been Serafina’s if her mother hadn’t given her away. To a church.
It wasn’t fair, and lunch was terrible (it was a vegan week) and Elder Brandon was being a wanker, as Javier would say. Serafina hadn’t meant to make it rain; she hadn’t meant to do anything. She’d just gotten madder and madder sitting there with her stupid quinoa bowl while everyone else ate lasagna and caesar salad, ranting to Ian over mindlink until she said bitterly, I hope it rains.
And it did. The sky went from blue to grey outside the dining room windows and before everyone’s startled eyes, the clouds opened up and it started to pour. No one was more surprised than she was.
Still counts as communing, Ian said, because of course he had to make his point. He was heading to his own room now, and Serafina had just reached her bedroom, Elder Roselina following close behind her.
Ian couldn’t see her roll her eyes, but Serafina knew he was picturing her doing it. His soft laugh was the last thing she heard before he closed off, the mindlink equivalent to hanging up a phone.
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