The door was open, and the day was gray and cold, a soft snow sussurating on the forest floor beyond the great black gates of wrought iron. In all the years I spent here, they never faded, never rusted, never corroded.
Sister Lunette looked kindly at me, but didn’t seem to sad to see me go.
“May I not wait until the spring thaw, Sister?”
” Abbess Celia won’t allow it, Neesha. You know that.”
“But the wilderness–“
“Is one you have been well trained to survive. And besides, you have your…powers.”
Ah, now we get to it. They see me as an aberration, maybe even a demon.
I tried to act like it didn’t affect me, but I couldn’t; this was the only place I’d ever known, ever called home, and now it was being pulled out from under me like a prankster’s trick.
I turned to go, and said over my shoulder: “Well, at least thanks for putting me out when it’s daylight.”
“Neesha…” her voice held a warning note, “you know I don’t want to do this.”
I stopped, but as I was turning to say, ‘Well then, don’t,’ the door closed with a soft click.
My smile was sad. She did that for herself, because I might have persuaded her to get herself in trouble with the Abbess. There was no love lost between them, but they were civil enough to each other, definitely so in front of the novices, but we all knew.
It was unfair of me to ask Sister Lunette to put herself on the line for me, though, and I knew it. I just didn’t care. I didn’t want to leave, because in spite of my ‘powers’ I had no clue how to survive in the world.
They’d only told me last night I was being put out.
The Abbess came with Sister Lunette and Sister Ceyri, a scribe, to my room.
Under Sister Ceyri’s arm, our Book of the Sacred Oracles. They made a show of opening it, all the while taking covert glances at me. I was different, I knew, but they looked at me now as if something was wrong.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
Sister Lunette’s look told me to let the silence reign, so I did. Abbess Celia saw it, and threw her a daggered look. Sister Lunette didn’t return it, but she didn’t cower under it either.
“Tell the girl the truth, Abbess.”
I raised my brows at Sister Lunette’s impertinence, but the Abbess sighed, and looked at me the way a scientist would regard a new species of slime-bug, part fascination, part disgust.
“Neesha, we have come upon a passage in this book that seems to reference you. It is indeed problematic for us all, but more so for you. It concerns the…issue…of your new eyes.
“Sister Ceyri will read the passage.”
Sister Ceyri couldn’t look at me as she cleared her throat, and ran her hands downward to smooth a habit that folded naturally, then pushed the few strands of hair that escaped her headpiece back over her ear, another unnecessary gesture.
But she didn’t bother to read it. she just told me.
“Neesha, this book tells us of you, and that you’ll become an enemy of our Order, and use what you’ve learned here not only for your self-interests, but for our destruction. It speaks of the eyes changing irreparably, irrevocably, to red, as yours have now done.
I guess my new eyes did something, because they all backed up a step.
I put my hands into the pockets of my cloak to hide the shaking, and to check the impulse to lash out.
‘A model novitiate.’ they called me at one time, as I distinguished myself from my peers, and now, they were telling me I was the undoing of centuries, if not eons, of an Order dedicated to helping others.
“That’s what your book says, Abbess Celia. What does your heart say?” I asked.
The question was overbold for one in my position, but I sensed my future was at stake, and there was no time for protocol and formalities now.
There was only decorum, and that hanging by a thread; it was the reason I’d used her title instead of calling her what I wanted to say.
“My heart tells me that you, whose very name means ‘night’, that all said of you in this book shall come to pass, and since we are now forewarned, we are exiling you, Neesha.”
Sister Ceyri spoke then, as head of the Novices. “Your lessons with us are ended, too. I will send a novice to help you with packing. You leave tomorrow.
I hadn’t realized I sat down as Sister Lunette handed me a cup of water and gave me a sympathetic look.
I took a sip to keep from sobbing, from screaming, from showing them they’d frightened me as they turned to go.
Sister Lunette stopped in the doorway to tell me how ‘so sorry’ she was.
‘Me too,” I said, wiping away the tears, and seeing the red light that filled my eyes reflected and refracted in the water on my hand.
I sat back, finished the water, and breathed until my heart slowed, and a dark thought crawled across my mind like a crippled worm: Well then, if you are so quick to make of me an enemy, Abbess Celia, then I shall prove myself a formidable one, indeed.