I'm here, though, with a fresh Tale of the Navel, thanks to Paula Wyant. During Wednesday Words on June 28, 2017, she offered up a prompt at ptwyant.com. It involved a bag of garbage, a ring, and a prison. This Gabrielle centric story was the result.
It looked like nothing more than a bag of garbage. Soiled ends of hair ribbon tangled themselves up with unwoved bits of basket. A chunk of matted hair with a piece of stained green cloth trapped with it.
“It’s all trash.” Gabrielle might be the smallest and least accomplished of the Four Directions, but even she could figured that out. “There’s nothing here of value.”
“Are you sure, ‘Brie?” No one other than Mireille called Gabrielle ‘Brie. No one was quite like Mireille. She sat, with her orange skirts flared out around her, printed with red poppies and twisted green vines. Mireille arranged them around the fallen log in the forest, completely comfortable in her surroundings. Light shone off the golden charm around her ankle. It didn’t matter where she walked. Mireille always went barefoot. “Look closer.”
Gabrielle decided to humor her. Mireille was, after all, only part of a dream. ‘Brie could wake up whenever she wanted to.
She stared at the strands of black, golden, and red hair clumped together in a fuzzy mess. The golden tendrils gleamed bright, no. It wasn’t the hair. Something was caught inside the hairy tangle.
Gabrielle reached inside, trying not to grimace. “I don’t like touching other people’s hair. Not like this.”
“Yes, it’s a part of someone which has been discarded.” The green flecks with Mireille’s hazel irises glinted. “That someone didn’t want to touch it, either.”
“Why should I, then?” Gabrielle demanded, tearing her way through the messy strands. She found something hard, smooth, and solid. Fingers locked around its rounded edges, she tugged it loose.
‘Brie looked down at the golden ring she’d discovered in the lump of knots.
“How did you know?” She held it up to the light, admiring its gleaming edges. “How did you guess it was really a treasure?”
“Everything is a treasure, not just that shiny metal.” Mireille sniffed at the sight of the ring, completely unimpressed. “Typical. You tore through what was once human to get at the gold.”
“What of it?” Gabrielle was hurt by Mireille’s attitude. She’d just discovered a golden ring in a mat of hair! Why wasn’t her mentor proud of her? “Humans are weak!”
“Maybe.” Mireille stood up, letting her skirts fall around her long, brown legs. “You might be, too, if someone just ripped through a part of you.”
“It’s just hair!” Gabrielle protested, but her own words made her uneasy.
“So it this.” Mireille raised a hand to touch one of the loose, coppery brown curls which fell to her shoulders. “It’s still attached to me, but it may not always be.”
“What do you mean?” The air prickled in warning. Gabrielle could feel her body quiver, where it was strapped down to the bed.
Of course. She was still in the Temple of Direction. Rafaelle was coming. Perhaps she’d noticed Gabrielle sneaking off into her dreams. She hadn’t mentioned Mireille to any of the other directions. Not that Mireille was one of the many things that were forbidden, but too many things were. Gabrielle didn’t understand why there were so many things she couldn’t do, when she was awake. This was why she decided to keep Mireille secret. Best not to mention that she dreamed of Mireille on such a regular basis, Gabrielle wasn’t sure if she was real or not. Best to not to say anything. Dreams with Mireille were her only escape from being Gabrielle, the Western Aspect.
“Sometimes people lose parts of themselves.” Mireille piroutted. Tiny motes of light drifted down to settle on her coppery tresses and bare brown shoulders. “They think they’re better off without them, but they can throw away things of value when they do.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing?” Gabrielle stood up from the log. “Throwing away something of value?”
“You said it was just hair. I might say your Temple of Direction was just a building.” Mireille stopped twirling. “You could leave it.” She stared straight at Gabrielle. “Your temple is just a building, though, not to you.” She pirouetted again to face the path before her. “It’s your prison.”
Mireille started walking away, heedless of the brambles beneath her feet.
“What do you expect me to do?” Gabrielle yelled after her. “Rafaelle ties me to my bed every night so I can’t escape!”
“Does she?” Mireille glanced over her shoulder. “Have you ever tried to escape?”
Gabrielle shuddered, half expected to feel the cot in the temple beneath her. Relieved, she pressed her lips to the smooth counter of the Navel instead.
“I’m home.” Home in her Place of Power, where Rafaelle could never find her, let alone drag her from.
“If you can call this that.” Damian popped his head out from behind the shelves. “Presiding day after day over a pile of junk.”
Gabrielle smiled to hear the echo of her former self in her protege’s words.
“Look closer.” She repeated what Mireille had once said to her. “Once everything here was part of someone.”
“Which is why someone discarded it.” Damian grimaced. “Right.”
“Maybe, but you never know when that someone might want it back.” Gabrielle glanced at the crystals, the chicken statues, the robes with smiley faces.
One could consider it all to be trash. Until you looked closer. Until you saw something you hadn’t noticed at first glance.