By the Crazy Cat Lady

Feedback and constructive criticism is always welcome :)

Chapter 1

L'Mer was built upon a lagoon that was once pristine blue. The sky, invisible in the murky green water, carried the old ferry boats through canals and underneath stone bridges. As I stared out contemplating on the bridge, my hands resting on my chin, a soft breeze swept by a ferry boat played with my waist-length black hair. The ferry boat made a turn, and the wind died on a strand of my hair. The feeling of dread returned; I knew today was my last day enjoying my freedom as a Tash.

I suppressed the tears rising in my amber eyes. I had spent seventeen years of my life in L'Mer roaming the twisting streets and alleyways; I knew the hidden passageways in the cramped town as well as any thief. Though, such activity I engaged in were not very Katash or "womanly" in other words. Once I become a Katash, I would no longer freely watch the ferry boats being blown like feathers on the canal. I would be enslaved to create life like the rest of the women in town. Babies and making babies were the Katash's important duty in the Sacrylis religion. I, however, knew I never fitted in.

Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a scribe. Nothing elated my heart more than expressing my emotions and creativity on paper. Visiting the Library often did not help much either. It would become an accomplishment to publish my work in print. But since being a scribe was not an encouraged occupation for a Katash, there were not many female scribes that wrote books. In fact, a Katash was never ever encouraged to involve herself in any occupation other than housewifery, priestesshood, and nursery. Transitioning from a Tash to a Katash depressed me. I knew I would never be happy being a mother of many children.

The gonging bell from the Temple cut my trail of thought. Thrice it rang; half an hour before sunset. This would be my last time on this bridge watching the ferry boats pass by. My eyes wandered to the sky where the bright sun hanged at the lowest point of the pinkish-orange horizon. Unwillingly, I picked up my long white skirt and hurried home.

"Where have you been, Amarantha?" Aunt Lucia called out sharply.

Shutting the door behind me, I turned around reluctantly to face my aunt. An omen crept through my spine. I tried to read her icy blue eyes and etched scowl. Lines marked her small round forehead giving away her middle age, and thin silver hairs grew like whiskers in her long black ponytail.

"At Cousin Shana's bakery," I replied automatically.

Aunt Lucia searched through my eyes, knowing that I had been lying throughout the time. Swallowing hard, I forced myself to scrimmage through my mind for a backup plan.

Her hand flew over to right ear catching me by surprise. I winced as she twisted my ear brutally, yanking my head to the side.

"Do not lie to your own aunt," Aunt Lucia scowled. "If you were at Shana's bakery, then why did I not see you there today? I asked Shana where you have been, and she told me she hasn't seen you for years. I thought you were helping her!"

Tension flooded my head. I could not tell her I had been spending time at the Library, but what other lie could I had come up with? I remained silent, trying to come up with an answer until my ear got jerked even harder.

Unable to bear the pain, I stupidly stammered, "I… I don't know."

Aunt Lucia released my ear and slapped my cheek. Clutching my burning cheek with my hand, I clenched my teeth against the tears forming in my eyes. I could not cry in front of her.

"Tomorrow you will be a Katash, yet you still act like a Tash!" she exclaimed angrily, her hands on her wide hips. "I don't know what you were absolutely doing during those years. I foolishly believed you were working with Shana in her bakery, and you gave me a pathetic answer that you don't know where you have been! If your mother could look down at you now—"

"Mother is dead!" I cried. Tears rolled uncontrollably down my cheeks, and my body trembled at the anger rising inside of me. Again Aunt Lucia was bringing up mother. She was dead, and there was no point bringing her up.

Aunt Lucia glared at me icily. I returned her a glare; my eyes twitchingly stared at the distasteful woman who had raised me. "I promised your mother before she died that you would become a successful Katash than she was!"

Curling my fists, I wanted to knock some sense into that woman. "That was what she wanted, but that's not what I want!"

"And what do you want?" she mocked, cornering me to a wall. "To be a scribe? Hah! You'll be starving off the streets like those childless women!"

Venom seethed through my tongue. "At least I won't be a pathetic machine making babies for this 'oh so great Goddess,'" I retorted coldly, "and die like my mother after she had given birth to me."

Aunt Lucia grabbed fistful of my hair. "How dare you speak of the Goddess and your mother like that!"

I bit my lip hard, muffling the desperate cry trying to escape. She dragged me toward the stairs and hurled me on the wooden floorboards.

"You go upstairs, Amarantha. I don't want to see your face until daylight. By that time I hope you will think about what you have said and shape up to see your husband tomorrow."

My aunt's words echoed blindly in my ears. My long black bangs were fallen over my face; my eyes were covered by warm tears that blurred my sight. I felt my forehead, cheeks, and body aching from the pain she inflicted on me. At that moment, I wanted to disappear from the world. I wanted the Goddess to cut my life away. Give my life to another woman that cared to be a Katash.

Sniffing, I struggled to carry my body upstairs to my room. Before I ascended to the top, I heard Aunt Lucia mutter, "You are a disgrace to me, the Goddess, and your own mother."

I blindly stumbled into my room which was closest to the stairway. Slamming the door shut, I collapsed and wept on my bed. My frustration, anger, and despair rained down on me in chaotic fury. I choked in my own pool of tears, suffocated by the unfairness the Goddess had imposed on me.

I don't want to be a Katash. I stared down at the dampening bed sheets. My eyes moved over to my small wrist to pale hands. My life is not to be a mother.

My tears blinded me again. I could not do this. I could not. I could not give my life away to a man I had never met or loved. I did not want to bear his children, nor did I want to bear anyone's children at all. I could not have any living thing growing inside of me-in my stomach.

I trembled at the idea of a man's child growing inside of my belly. It made me wince; the idea tortured me. The thought had haunted my mind ever since I had been a Tash. I never wanted to have children. A Katash would often coo at babies. But the sight of babies sickened me. They were creatures with large round eyes and unproportional heads that babbled indiscernible noises. A baby from a Katash that cried always drove me nuts. I could not even stand being in one's presence. Its alienation made me unfit to have any.

But now, I was being forced into a union with a man tomorrow at the Temple. A man that I had never met or would ever love. And I would bear his children.

I grabbed my bed sheets and tossed them aside with such rage that it almost knocked the oil lamp off the dresser. My eyes stopped suddenly on crown of flowers that lay by the table.

Wiping my tears away, I slowly approached it. The fragrance had long disappeared from the crown of lilacs and white carnations that curled around the green vine. My aunt had probably gone to see me in the bakery to make me try the flower crown for the union. Unfortunately, that had led her to discover that I had not been with Cousin Shana all along.

Scowling, I knocked the flower crown off the table. I paced back and forth anxiously in my room, thinking about what would happen tomorrow at the Temple. Would I see my husband before the priestess conducted the ritual? And if I would, what would he be like? That frightened me the most. I knew I was not ready to meet him or be a Katash for that matter.

I pulled my hair, trying to calm myself down. Without thinking, I grabbed the Sacrylis Text lying dustily on the table. The sacred book of the Goddess was banded with gold lining in a black leather binding. It made me wonder how long this book had been passed down on my mother's side.

Forcing the book open, I almost tore the first page. My eyes glowered at the following text:

In the beginning, the Goddess was only darkness. She shifted her form to create light, and from this light, she created the Universe and all living beings that presided on Earth. She sent down Her daughter, Moira, to Earth to teach love and the acts of love. Only love would bring meaning to Life. And from love, beauty will be brought forth on Earth from the Goddess's gift, the gift of creative life energy. This was the gift to all females and all males. And because of Her gift, the Goddess wants all living beings to share Her power to the next souls that can equally cherish Life.

"A gift that is useless to me," I muttered.

Sighing, I tossed the book on the floor. My thoughts bombarded me as I lay still on my bed. More tears flooded from my eyes as my thoughts protested being a Katash until I found myself drifting into sleep.