“Mayten,” her mother called. “Stop daydreaming and get out here.”
Mayten quickly slid off her sandals and hurried out onto the porch, down the wooden steps, and into the front yard where she took her place in the family circle. The cool earth beneath her toes sent a shiver up her spine. She inhaled deeply, tasting eucalyptus spice on her tongue.
Da took little Aster from her arms, settling their youngest brother on his shoulders, then taking Mayten’s right hand. She reached out, taking her little brother Wollemi’s hand in her left hand. Wollemi grinned up at her, poking his tongue through the empty space between his teeth. Mother stood next to him gently swaying from side to side, calming the babe strapped to her front. Then came Taiwania with Oleaster completing the circle.
Her oldest brother Oleaster was the mirror image of her father and like her da was happiest with his hands in the dirt. Where her father sang their flowers, though, her brother sang their food.
She also had two older sisters—twins—who had married men from the Ocean Clan and had gone to live by the sea. She thought of the twins this time each night. She also thought about the two siblings who had died during that awful winter when fever swept through the clan.
Her da raised his arms, and the family joined him. He looked around at each of them, seeming to drink in each face with such love it made Mayten’s heart hurt.
Had his gaze lingered overlong on her face?
It was hard to tell in the lamplight, but she thought his eyes glistened more than usual. He had to clear his throat before speaking the sacred words.
“Our feet are planted in the earth from which we came. Our hands reach to the stars which give us hope. We thank You for all that we have. We trust You for all we have lost.” His voice broke, as it did every night. Her da still hurt over the loss of his children and desperately missed his older daughters. Perhaps he was just missing them more tonight. “For everything and everyone between the stars and the earth we give thanks to you, Great Singer.”
“We give thanks, Great Singer,” Mayten echoed with the rest of her family. She never tired of her da’s warm voice.
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