The dreams of adventure consumed her every night before sleep claimed her. Wrapped in the thick comforter as the heat from the downstairs fireplace lent the last vestiges of warmth before cooling, the ticking of the contracting timbers further lulled her entry.
The hero charging the menace and saving the town. The crowd cheering in grateful abandon.
The rescue of hundreds from a dense jungle.
The rush to save the boy trapped on an ice floe.
She had done it all.
And always, the gratitude, the beaming congratulations, the modest thanks.
Hard work in the morning. Helping her father with the hay, the sheep, the cows, running, hauling, pulling, sweating in the sun.
And, staying out of her mother’s grasp. The tight, hot kitchen with its endless jobs repulsed her. The real work was outside. But somehow, her mother’s company appealed to her, even as she hated it and fought it and forced herself to help her father.
Outside was important. There were many possibilities there. But you had to prove yourself. Prove your strength. Prove your mettle. Prove your unemotional goodness.
Inside was different and to be avoided at all costs. It wasn’t important. It was … it was … it was less.
But there anyway. Forced into it. Dragged into it. Her father ordering her back to the kitchen and telling her that her mother needed her.
Listening to her mother’s stories of long-ago dances when she was pretty and admired, the dream shifted. She became concerned about what she might wear to the jungle. How would she look? What would she do about her hair?
And later … she was the one being rescued from the jungle.
But still … but still. The desire for more!
To be able to choose. To choose to accept.
No. You’re a girl.
But working outside … yes.
No. You’re a girl.
She didn’t know when the crying started. Why are you crying, her father asked.
She couldn’t answer. Inarticulacy choked her. Shut off the air. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Women, her father muttered before stomping off.
Later, she dreamed that she was trapped on an ice floe.
There was no one to rescue her.