Aneti had breakfast at home with ler family. Le left early and paused at the steps of ler family home, cupping ler hand under ler mouth while le ate the last bites of a filled meat pastry.
The way the sunlight hit lim reminded me of a few lines of a poem I read last year by Akah Laioñi Karodanė:
This is the first river in the cosmos,
seeing you lying there in the dappled sun.
The morning light cascades between your
golden breasts like the first rivers from
which Enakhiavoshei crawled out.
Today is a Sabaji holiday. The lines of that erotic poem are wholly inappropriate considering that fresh henna covered Aneti’s arms from the household rituals. It chipped and caked as ler arms bent. A collection of cousins, uncles, and aunts came out of the house just as le finished eating. All wore white tunics under purple stolas, nothing embroidered.
The women had double-bound their hair beautifully, covered with simple headbands. The men wore single-bound buns and elaborate face paint. Four who could have been women or jomela wore their hair double-bound, unadorned.
Someone in the crowd looked at me once. I recognized one of Aneti’s cousins, a person whom I had seen one or two times in their home. Le did not recognize me.
Liga would have hated this. I would have messaged Deisurås about it had I not been wholly certain that Liga would have coerced Deisurås into telling me no.
The wall screen messages stopped this morning, incidentally. Liga hasn’t contacted me via comm band, nor has le inserted limself into messages between Suka and me. Perhaps the Kohjenya want lim to take a break. Suka revealed when we spoke last night that the most trying thing about ler father being in the Kohjenya is the anxiety Liga has for ler daughter’s future. I understand it, but why couldn’t they have assigned someone else after the initial contact? Someone is at fault.
Aneti alone wore a small backpack. Le walked with ler thumbs tucked under the straps, but lowered ler arms before the group passed one of Enashisha’s temples. I followed at a distance. Staying unseen wasn’t hard in the crowd. Everyone swelled around the temple’s left side.
Enashisha and Tsemanok, of course, we consider the same god — but knowing how to worship Tsemanok did not prepare me to wander into the temple precinct’s amphitheater with the others to watch a religious performance. Almost everyone wore the same white and purple uniform regardless of class. I stood out.
According to the Galasu Knowledge Foundation, the Eneiji sect prefers these colors during formal temple worship. Stolas are a Galasuhi Eneiji phenomenon. Outside of the Galasuhi areas, the Eneiji Shiji wear their hair loose like mourners during worship, and they wear purple tunics with white sashes. The white sashes contain embroidered sacred verses, usually stitched by the wearer a year before le reached adulthood (or the year after?). It is similar to the practice in Amurja or Kakmejė.
I found others who did not look like Eneiji, and I sat with them towards the back. The religious ritual looked nothing like the sacrifices I have attended in the city center. I think that the Sabaji around me were tourists because one of them took several dozen covert photos.
Two dancers on the stage whirled around and clicked wooden sticks together while a priestess and a priest incanted. Thirteen children carried offerings down the center aisle and burned them in a great fire. When the chanting started, I could hardly hear my own voice. It was in Old Tveshi, so that is just as well. I stumbled through even recognizing any of the chants, let alone the words.
Most people left after the ceremonies. Outside of the precinct, several Eneiji passed out documents about lectures from their philosophers, topics neatly printed on thick cards.
Aneti kissed ler relatives goodbye and made ler way down the road alone. Again, I followed lim without drawing much attention to myself. We ran into a procession from the Hariji Galasuhi. A man with light hair met Aneti towards the crowd’s edge. They kissed, and I gritted my teeth. I remembered to duck underneath a café awning so they wouldn’t have a good look at me.
I took three quick photographs of Aneti and ler associate. When Aneti turned abruptly, I wondered if either of them had noticed me. Neither said a word, and they walked away from the festivities. I blended in with some Karoji philosophers walking in the same direction.
We all walked towards one of the bridges. The man handed Aneti a file folder and left lim. As soon as Aneti crossed the bridge, le left the path to sit on some benches along the creekside park. Le opened the documents delicately.
I lost cover because the Karoji philosophers also went to the park. They opened a picnic basket near some young children playing games with wooden balls. I looped around until I found a tree that would give me a good vantage point. When I zoomed in with my camera, I saw a symbol at the top of the documents that I did not recognize. I uploaded the photographs to my smart paper just in case Liga is checking it, but otherwise, Liga has no context for any of this. Le will have to call and ask.
Aneti annotated the documents as le leafed through them. Le shredded most of the original papers into tiny pieces and went down to the water, where le discarded them before leaving the park.
I scrambled to follow lim out. A group of worshippers stopped me. They were chanting and carrying a deity’s statue, and one of them adorned me with flowers. I allowed this because I didn’t want to cause a scene, so I now have the blessings of a god I don’t even know.
Aneti walked to a residential building about six blocks from the park. It was small, about the size of Adviser Tenes Sari’s home, so the family was small. They let Aneti in, and I watched outside until the prickling at the back of my neck drove me to doubt. I left.
Back at the park, I looked for fragments of those documents near the water. The pieces I recovered were so waterlogged that I couldn’t make anything out. I don’t know what I could even say to Liga on vid other than that I know an address where Aneti probably meets with ler co-conspirators — unless that was a benign house call and the only Daybreak-related occurrence was the document handoff.
The intimacy that man shared with Aneti makes me very uncomfortable, and I don’t know that it is my place to feel uncomfortable. They may have emotional connections because they are in the same Daybreak cell. Aneti is already betraying the Progressive Movement and ler family, so what good is it to feel jealous for ler other duplicities? I am seeing Kitesrati, and I haven’t told Aneti anything.
Aneti is a temporary love interest involved in an assassination plot. Kitesrati is Narahji. Le has an interest in politics, and my family obviously can afford the bride-price for taking a daughter from another family.
It is horrible to be alone, to work out one’s thoughts without others in this way, and to have no training to stop a maelstrom of doubts. If I betray Aneti, who is to say that a second relationship falling apart won’t deter Kitesrati from pursuing me, especially if my involvement goes public? Am I strong enough to do what Suka has done? That is a relationship with clear hjathoma. It is different when one family must pay a bride price.
How am I supposed to navigate a current in complete darkness? Do I trust myself enough to feel the rocks beneath my feet and understand the way the water pulls me? I have ambition, but is ambition the same thing as resolve?