I am the oldest of ten children—five girls and five boys to be exact. I live deep in the dark forest where hardly in light makes its way through. And I hardly ever leave. My abia—mother—left several years ago and never returned. My aba—father—goes for days at a time to town, working on who knows what. My father believes that thirteen year old girls are quite capable to do anything on her own. So he leaves me here to care for the younger children.
“Alexis,” he’ll say, “My abia was left on her own—no family at all—when she was eleven. She survived until she was taken to be the wife of my aba. All thirteen girls are capable in the forest on their own.”
Why do we live in the forest—the dark forest? It’s all because of my mother and her choice.
Abia was—and if she’s still alive, which I think to not be true, still is—a woman warrior, the first in fact. She defended many towns, won victories, won wars. She followed that little rule that says, ‘Put others before yourself,’. But she did it in a different kind of way—she put other towns before her own. And the people didn’t like that.
Once, her village was under attack. But another was also on fire—and there wasn’t much left of the other village—but my abia jumped onto the back of her trusted stallion, Arrow, and went to help the other town.
When Abia returned—the other town had been lost—and her own village was near destruction. The village elders decided to disown her. She had to leave her family, the town, and she was never allowed to reenter.
My abia was very upset with this, but she packed her things and rode away on Arrow. She moved from village to village until she finally found one that would allow her to stay with them.
She married Aba and had us. She was a very happy woman.
Then one tragic night, several men from the village pounded on our door for what seemed like hours. It wore on throughout the night. They all demanded to see our abia.
Finally Aba asked why.
They replied saying they knew who his wife was and they didn’t want her in their village—and that if they didn’t leave by dawn our house would be in flames that licked the walls.
Aba rushed us through packing. We didn’t have much so it didn’t take more than an hour ‘til our house was stripped that anyone had ever lived there.
The men that had pounded on our doors followed us to the edge of town, just to make sure that we didn’t stay with some friend of ours. They drove us out into the woods and said that if we were ever spotted in the village—or even just outside of the village—we would be killed on sight.
Then we knew that wherever we went, nobody would take us in—no village would ever give their village to be the home of the great Alexandria Luria.
The dark, cold forest then became our home. And before long Abia heard the cries of war, she followed them…and never returned. I have lived three harsh years in the forest—by harsh I mean that I must go out every morning, noon, and dinner time to fetch three pails of waters from somewhere in the woods, I must find some sort of meat that I can kill with my bow and arrow, it’s just exhausting to do those things plus caring for nine younger siblings.
The oldest of the boys, Axel, is eleven and helps me look for food that I can kill sometimes. He is my only brother who does not want to learn how to use the bow and arrow. For he is already skilled with the sword and the knife. Thank the heavens above that my nine year old sisters—Abiba and Abeni—cooks everything. I cannot cook, and even if I could, my poor back would ache from being bent over the post of boiling stew!
Alexander and Adair—eight and six years of age—are quite naughty. They help me keep in shape for sure, chasing them for hours because they stole my only writing feather. Achava makes friends much easier than I did when I was five. He makes friends with all sorts of creatures—he even tried to let me let him keep hawk that he had tamed.
And the triplets, Abana, Abhay, and Abigail are the youngest of us all. Abana and Abigail don’t talk often, but then, with Abhay, even though his words are few, will chatter with us all day. They are sweetest ones, and are the least mischievous.
Aba and Abia are the most wonderful parents, well, Abia was, and Aba still is—that is, when he is home. He goes into the nearest village and works for days without returning. He brings many presents to us. For example, we now have Abe—the adorable scruffy puppy that Aba brought home two trips ago. And from the last trip he brought a beautiful—but sadly, untamed—stallion. Aba said that once he was tamed, the horse—whose name was Austin—would be mine for keeps.
I don’t blame Abia for our lives in the forest. I would never blame her for any harshness that comes our way. I want to thank her—for even if we don’t like it, it has made us strong, in many different ways.