Posted by: jolantru | November 1, 2010

Thirteenth Branch: Missing The Sea

They welcomed us with happy laughter, ushering us into the main hall. I could not see anything beyond the red veil, only the embroidered shoes and Auri’s hand in mine. I knew Josh was on my right. We formed a triad, joined together by love. I knew that Auri was also wearing the red veil. Before the ceremony, we were surrounded by our female friends who made sure we wore our wedding pao correctly. Auri laughed, pouting at her mirror image. The shouts outside our room indicated that Josh’s wedding entourage had arrived. Auri carefully placed the red veil on my head before I did the same for her.

We bowed to the sky, to the ancestors and to each other. It was my family’s custom, passed down from generation to generation. It was Auri’s too. Josh’s Innerlander custom of throwing the bouquet of flowers to the crowd was incorporated later, at the wedding feast.

More shuffling of feet and the giggling of girls. Hands pulled me into a perfumed room. Jasmine. More giggling, the door closing with a click.

I was seated on the bridal bed, feeling Auri’ presence beside me. I could hear her chuckling away. Someone lifted my veil and it was Josh who smiled, kissing me on the lips. I gently removed Auri’s veil, gazing into her eyes.

A table had been placed in the room, laden with lacquered bowls filled with delicacies and sweetmeats. Even the eating sticks were lacquered, beautifully crafted and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. We fed each other glutinuous rice balls, laughing sheepishly while we fumbled with our finery and eating sticks. The sweetness burst in my mouth, flowing straight down my throat. “May the rice balls remind you of complete harmony and sweetness in your marriage,” the lady of ceremony had said with a mischievious twinkle in her eyes before she guided us to the bridal chamber.

That was so long ago. When the world was right and Auri…


I sobbed into Josh’s chest, the dream finally retreating with its phantom claws. I still dreamt of her. I still dreamt of Auri.


Little Lhasa is a settlement with buildings cut right into the face of the mountain. The yaks are brought in at night, when the winds are the coldest, and fed the best of grains, their milk a fermented beverage and their hair harvested for the production of blankets and vests. The people are a hardy folk, rugged and cheerful. They hang colorful prayer flags to pray for good fortune and for general protection. In the dawn, they ring the large bronze prayer wheels.

We stayed with these folk for a while, recovering our strength. Our spirits, however, remained low. As much as I was grateful for Tenzin – the yak driver – for saving us, the mountain was not my home. I was lost in the land of hard snow and ice.

Auri’s death had torn away a part of my soul.

I remained in bed, refusing to eat or drink. Rakshya, Tenzin’s wife, had to coax me to take a few mouthfuls. I was rapidly losing weight, she told me a few months later, when I came out of the fugue. By then my pregnancy was already obvious. Rakshya cared for me and watched over me like a mother hen, feeding me the best of tonics and “mothering” food.

In moments of lucidity, I thought of home, of the sea. How I missed Her. And Auri. She was never too far away from my mind. The blue urn rested on a mantel. Auri’s essence. I was empty without her.

When my mind was clear, I spoke to Josh, holding his hands. We walked along the interconnected corridors, listening to the laughter of the mountain children. He placed his palm on my growing belly and caressed my cheeks with his hands. The baby kicked in response, three hard thumps in my abdomen. We both smiled. And I knew that somewhere, Auri smiled. The dark clouds were quick to roll back; I sequestered myself in the room, wrapped in the blankets, bleak. In pain, torn apart.

Auri was always so happy in my dreams, not the twisted anguished body I pulled out from the wreckage. Not the angry sea witch holding the men at bay. Circlet glittering in the sun, she danced in the sea, her feet kicking up diamond sprays of water. A little girl, light of hair and sparkling eyes, danced with her. In the background, women harvested oysters and a forest grove of she-oaks shimmered in the light…

… Or Auri would be dancing under the wishing tree, though this time, it was the she-oak Josh had nurtured, back in the City. Glass shards hung on its delicate branches. Prayer flags hung around its gnarled trunk. Tiny bottles swayed in the breeze. I found myself examining them. They contained beads, tiny sea shells and pearls. I felt Auri kiss my lips, feather-soft, and I would wake, with tears hot on my cheeks. Remember me, she had whispered in my ears, the she-oak branches brushing against my skin, her fingers on my cheek. Remember me. Remember kindness. Then she walked away, with the litttle girl holding her hands and Grandmother beside her.

Dirge For Auri: The Sky Is Dark

May you go back to the sea,
Our Mother’s embrace –
Ti oh oh:
The sky is dark!

But with Her, you will find
Eternal rest.

May you be with the sea,
Our Mother’s love –
Ti oh oh:
The sk is dark!

But with Her, you will sleep

Ti oh oh:
The sky is dark!



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joyce Chng (JDamask), Karen Wehrstein. Karen Wehrstein said: Rt @jolantru Thirteenth Branch: #weblit #OPM […]

  2. More bittersweet feelings but hints of hope. I like this.

    As this story grows the people and the land become more real in my mind. I hope to be able to have it all collected in a book when the entire story is done.

    • Thank you for your comments! =)

      I am going to collate the two Books into one – hopefully, by the end of the year. 😉

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