Possessions of a FatherbyRedHairedandFriendly©
Syeira and Rawnie Lacatus watched in silence as their father's linen wrapped body was carried toward his wagon. The two young women held onto each other, moving as one behind the men that carried the last male of the Lacatus family, Ion Lacatus. Few words were spoken by the leader of the caravan as the burly men of the troupe climbed the steps into the vardo, a brightly painted and carved wagon. They laid the lifeless body on Ion's empty pallet. No words were given to the girls as the majority of the troupe walked away and only a select few bothered to spare them a passing glance. Syeira and Rawnie remained at the wagon's entrance until the last of the men left. They climbed the steps into the wagon, Syeira first and then Rawnie. Once they secured the steps to the inside wall of the vardo, Syeira closed the door, turned and stared at the remains of her father. A cold wind brushed across her cheek, lifting several strands of dark curls. She shivered and smiled softly when she noticed Rawnie closing the shutters of the wagon's only window.
Six months ago Ion Lacatus and his daughters left Europe to make their mark on the soil of America with promises of grandeur spilling from Ion's lips. The girls, both wise beyond their sixteen years, knew those promises were just stories their father told for his own benefit. Those stories allowed him to slowly lose his grip on reality. The long, arduous journey across the North Atlantic had been too taxing on the Lacatus family. Ion's wife, eldest daughter, and young son had all been lost. The conditions in which they had been forced to live had left many sick, weak, and dead. Most of the lower class had fallen ill; burials at sea had become a common everyday occurrence. When the ship had landed, Ion Lacatus had only enough coin to purchase the wagon and the rights to travel with the troupe of entertainers and traders.
The barking of a dog outside brought the girls back to reality. Simultaneously they breathed deep, their noses curling at the fuel that had been spilled earlier. Each one spared a glance of sorrow at the other. Both knew that come morning they would be forced out of Ion Lacatus' small home and forced to find their own way. Tradition must be followed; the troupe had insisted.
They each took a seat on the small bed that they shared, neither one ready or willing to claim the meager possession they were being 'allowed' to keep. "It makes no sense!" the youngest of the Lacatus twins exclaimed.
Syeira glanced at her sister and tried to smile. "I know," she whispered, as she too looked upon all they owned and yet they owned nothing. Women had no rights when traveling with the gypsies, everything belonged to the man and everything but a few possessions were to be burned. Syeira and Rawnie did not see the logic, but knew it was pointless to fight the rules of the troupe.
"Father never should have brought us here. We would still have mother, Kyra, and - -. "
"Would we?" Syeira asked, interrupting her sister's tirade. "You know the paths that were laid out on our hands. You have read the cards, the lines, and the stars since you were four and not once have you been wrong."
Rawnie could not argue. Her gift was one she both embraced and dreaded. She had foretold the deaths of her family and though she had warned her father, he would not hear her words. "He should have listened," she whispered, as a tear slid haphazardly down her cheek.
Syeira leaned over and wiped the drop away, smiled softly and pulled her sister into her embrace. They held each other for almost an hour. The sound of the troupe's evening activities became quiet, signaling that the majority of the people were resting in their wagons, consumed by their own wants and needs.
"Remember when he told us America was different; that women were valued and that we would have more jewels, dresses and knick-knacks than we could imagine? Do you really think he believed that?"
Syeira took a deep breath, tucked a strand of dark hair behind an ear and settled her back against the boards of the wagon. "I think he had to believe. There was nothing left but his dreams."
"And now...what are we to do now?" Rawnie asked. "We are nothing here, just two women who will be forced to become yet another man's property."
Syeira rose from her seat, moved silently around the vardo's interior, lighting candles as she did. The scent of wax infused with perfume surrounded the women, blocking out the stench of fuel that had soaked into the wagon's boards. Syeira sat down beside her sister and took her hand in hers. "You are right," she whispered, pressing her forehead against Rawnie's silken strands. "But were we better off where we were? We were nothing more than slaves to the wealthy, and as women, we are not valued any more than we were before?"
Rawnie sighed. "No," she admitted. "America is no different than the filthy streets of London. We are nothing but mouths to feed and a way to bring in coin for a man to spend on his desires."
"Possessions," Syeira whispered.
Syeira picked up the bottle of wine that she had prepared a few hours before their father's ceremony had started. She poured a generous amount into Rawnie's glass, handing it to her before pouring her own. They both worried their bottom lips with their teeth before closing their eyes, saying a mental prayer and downing the amber liquid. The sweet pungent taste rested on their tongues, they smiled knowingly at one another while Rawnie refilled the cups. Soon the bottle was empty, its doctored contents settling warmly in the twins' bellies.
The two girls shifted on their pallet so they could lie pressed together. They stared at their reflections: mirror images of long black hair, blue eyes, and upturned noses spoke without words. Syeira, the eldest of the two, reached out and stroked Rawnie's face. "Close your eyes little sister," she whispered.
Rawnie chuckled softly; the "little sister" quote had always made her giggle. Rawnie had emerged behind Syeira within minutes of the first twin's arrival. The sound she made now however was not the same childish laughter that often accompanied the endearment, this time the sound released was more a stifled wail of pain and sorrow. They moved closer to each other, attempting to become one just as they had been sixteen years ago in their mother's womb.
"Regrets?" Syeira asked, as the candles burned brightly.
"No," Rawnie answered, "after all we are our father's possessions."
The women closed their eyes as the drink they had consumed took its path through their bodies. They each felt the heaviness of their actions weigh on their muscles. Each breath became more shallow and silent. The panicked bark of dogs and screams of women did nothing to squelch the flames that consumed Ion Lacatus' belongings, including his most treasured: Syeria and Rawnie.