Chapter Five- The Fire Dance

That night, after it got dark, a huge fire was lit. Everyone gathered around it and talked in their little groups. Respato talked with some of his advisers. Hannah sat talking with Hypoleta. Matthias,Sahara, Senepha, and I sat talking together on one log, a girl in each of our laps. The little girls had their heads together and were giggling about something. Catania and Joeté sat quietly talking on their own log. They were acting like brother and sister for the first time since he had come back. I smiled a little and leaned against Matthias. He smiled and leaned against me. Then he pushed harder, almost throwing me and Senepha off the log. I laughed and tried to push him back, but he was too strong. The little girls started pushing at each other and trying to push the other off their person’s lap. 

I noticed that Hannah had changed her clothes to clothes that looked strangely similar to mine, but were Antioch. Her hair was also braided back in a complex braid, rather than the plain ponytail at the nape of her neck that she usually wore. She seemed to look more like me. I frowned, but decided I would ask Hypoleta about it later, if at all. 

Someone started beating a drum. Catania and I stood up, and I grabbed Sari and Senie’s hands and led them to the circle of light around the fire. 

“Do what we do”, I whispered to the two girls.

 Cat and I spun in circles, going around the fire, and the two girls followed after us. We raised our hands in the air and clapped to the beat of the drum and kept spinning.

 An older woman started singing an ancient tribal song, and soon we were joined by all the girls of the tribe, except for Hannah. Everyone started singing the song, and we kept dancing, adding steps. I caught Joeté watching me as I whirled past. Then the men and boys joined in. Matthias went to Hypoleta, Respato-for some strange reason- went to Catania, and suddenly, Joeté and I were the only ones not paired up. He came up and slipped into the circle we all had formed. The boys got on their hands and knees, while the girls stepped on their backs, and the ones that were able, flipped backwards off their backs. Then the younger and older couples backed out, leaving the girls and boys around my age to do the hardest part of this dance. The girls went to the outer part of the circle while the boys put their arms out in front of them. They bent their arms so that their forearm was in front of them. The girls ran to them and grabbed their forearm with both hands. We pushed up into handstands, and the men started spinning around the circle, like we had at the beginning. We held our handstands for a while and then came down into our boy’s arms and they wrapped their arms around our stomachs and spun. The world blurred with one very bright light when we would pass the fire. As we went around and around, my head was spinning, but it was okay, because this was what we had needed. We needed this to lift our spirits, just like Hypoleta said. We needed this to show that, even through the pain of losing the people we love, we can still dance. We can still be happy, because no matter what, we are in God’s hands and nothing can take us out. Finally they stopped spinning us and the dance was over.

 Catania and Respato smiled a little at each other, and I looked at her curiously, but she didn’t see me. Respato was much older than her, and it surprised me that either would have an interest in each other. Catania and Joeté sat back down together laughing and I went back to my seat. My stomach hurt from laughing and dancing so much, but it felt good. It felt freeing. 

Respato stood again after talking with one of the elders for a few moments. 

“Wonderful! Wonderful, everyone.” Respato stepped into the circle of light. “That was one of the best dances I have seen in… well over a year.” He looked around the circle, scanning the faces. “Now, I need two people to go and get the torches.” I stood up and then noticed that Joeté had also gotten up. “Joeté and Antepi! Please go get the torches.” He paused and thought for a moment. “And don’t hit each other over the head with them on the way back.” He laughed, knowing that it was very possible that that might just happen, and sat back down. I sighed and walked toward the supply house. Joeté followed behind me.

“Do you want to talk?” He asked quietly. “Rather than hit each other over the heads?” He cracked a smile. I glared at him. 

“You want to talk? Here it is.” I turned to face him. “But I won’t promise that you will like anything I have to say. 

“How? How could you have changed so much? You were gone for what, a year? And you get engaged to some Englishwoman? How can you fall out of love, and in love that fast? If you ever really loved me, you wouldn’t have been able to do that. This is exactly how I felt when you asked me to marry you after asking someone else and getting rejected.” I grabbed a bundle of torches. 

“You want to know the truth? I don’t actually love her. Okay? I don’t love her! I barely even knew her when I proposed to her. I was forced into proposing to her by her father. If I didn’t marry her, he would kill me, and if she ever found out I didn’t actually love her, he would kill me. I didn’t have a choice.” He looked at me pleadingly. 

Now I was upset that he was doing something like this to her. 

“You always have a choice.”

“Not when you are in a foreign country, specifically one where under normal circumstances, I would be a wanted criminal.”

“Why didn’t you tell her? She doesn’t deserve to be lied to- no matter who’s daughter she is!” 

“Well, you see, before I was in England, I was engaged to this girl. And this amazing and strong girl, also had a temper. If I ever told her that I didn’t actually like her, she would have thrown a knife at my head. After that,I didn’t think it was the best idea.” 

“I wouldn’t have thrown a knife at your head, I-” he cut me off:

“Oh yes you would have!” 

“I would have thrown something much, much bigger that would actually do some damage! Something that would knock some sense into your head. Something that would let you know that maybe, just maybe- only a little bit- that it wasn’t okay to play a girl like that.” I heard someone gasp next to us. 

In unison, we both turned and saw Hannah. Her face was pale and her mouth was slightly open. Her eyes were open wide in disbelief. I felt my own eyes go wide before I shook my head. I didn’t know how much she heard and I didn’t care. Why should I have? 

“Good luck getting yourself out of this one Joeté.” I picked up all the torches, because I had a feeling he wasn’t coming back to the fire, and brushed past Hannah. I had a feeling she had heard our entire argument, and wasn’t going to be very happy about it. Our secret was out, and we were both going to feel the consequences. I walked back to the fire with the torches, and when Respato only saw me he started laughing. 

“Are we going to find Joeté sprawled on the path with a big bump on his head?” He laughed again. 

“I’m not sure where he is right now. We argued, Hannah heard us, and I walked away. Hannah knows, everyone.” 

The talking died down as what I had said registered. I realized that I wasn’t the only one keeping my secret. This has been hard for everyone. 

“I’m sorry for making you keep my secret elevo*. It was wrong of me. I just got mad at Joeté for keeping something a secret, but this whole time, I have been too. I’ve been making you all keep a secret I should have been honest about from the start. Now everything is in the open, and I wish I could have started out like this.” Respato came over and wrapped his arms around me. Then Cat and Matthias and Hypoleta came, and soon everyone was there, all of us in a big circle, with me in the center. 

“Whatever you do, wherever you go, we will always stand behind you, Teps.” Respato told me. He raised his voice. “We are a family. All of us Antiochs together. We provide and care for each other, No. Matter. What. We have been through thick and thin together, and we will not crumble and break now. We are Antiochs, now and forever.” He started praying.”God you are so merciful and good to us. You have protected us through everything, and I have faith that you will not fail us now. You are good and you will always love us. In your name, Amen.” I heard people murmuring “amen” throughout the crowd and felt a sense of peace come over me. I was safe here. I had people, and a good God that loved me. Respato was right. God had protected me in the past, and he would protect me in the future, and I would not fear what tomorrow will bring.

After the fire died down, we started cleaning everything up. I ambled over to Hypoleta and nudged her. 

“Did you actually help Hannah to look like me?”

She sighed. “She just wants Joeté to look at her more.”

“She doesn’t need to look like me to have Joeté notice her.”

“Well, that was what she thought would help.”

“And you helped her? I mean, cemeo Hypoleta. I get that she thinks that Joeté cares more about me than her, but we just talked about this today. What happened to showing our true selves? And I know for a fact that my true self is not Hannah’s true self in any way.”

“All I did was braid her hair and find her some clothes.”

“Some of my old clothes?” I raised my eyebrows.

“They might have been in an old crate labeled ‘Antepi’ with fading charcoal.”

“Leta! Really? You went through my stuff?”

“Anetpi, they were in my house. Technically they are my property now.”

“Hypoleta, you were there when Matt and I talked about that. I was storing my things there until I could bring them over to my hut. They weren’t your property.” She opened her mouth to reply when a voice behind me spoke.

“Is something wrong?” I turned around to find Matthias looking at the two of us.

“Your wife went through my stuff and gave it to Hannah.” I raised my eyebrows. I cared about Hypoleta, but this was crossing a line.

“Leta? Is that true?”

“It was in our house. It is our property.”

Matthias rubbed the back of his neck and tilted his head. “Hypoleta, you know that wasn’t right and you are trying to make excuses now. You should have asked me. Except that I think you didn’t because you  know what I would have said.”

“Matthias, I can do what I want in my own home.”

Our home is also Antepi’s home. She is my family and I won’t let anyone in my home disrespect her privacy like that. I know you and I know that you know it isn’t right.”

“She shouldn’t have left her things in our home then.” Hypoleta smirked a little, as if satisfied with her reply. 

 I raised an eyebrow skeptically, and I could see Matthias’s completely unamused expression out of the corner of my eye. Her argument was completely invalid.

“Hypoleta, I heard Antepi just tell you this, so I will repeat it for her. You were standing right there- and you agreed with me- when I said that Antepi could store her things in our hut until she was able to sort things out in hers.”

She threw her hands up. “Alright, I know it was wrong. But she was so desperate.”

“That doesn’t mean that it is right to go through and steal my stuff! Leta, my mother made those things for me. They are very special to me and they all have a very personal meaning to me. I love you as my sister, but that does not mean that I am alright with you taking my things!”

“I am sorry.” She smiled a little. “I didn’t think about how important your things were to you. I realized afterward how wrong it was, but by that time, I didn’t want to make her give them back. I was weak, and I should not have been. I didn’t want to admit I was wrong, so I came up with all the reasons why it was okay. I know that none of them are true. I will get them back from her, I promise. No matter how much she begs, I should have known better.” Her eyes still held a hint of defensiveness, but I was more concerned with dropping the matter than figuring out everything right now.  

“Thank you Leta.” I smiled softly at her.

This was a cornerstone in our relationship. And thank goodness it was past. I didn’t think that I could take it if this had blown any more out of proportion than it already had. I did know that getting Hannah to be herself after what she knows now would be even harder than it was before. But that was just what I would try to convince her to be. I could tell that deep down, she was a kind and sweet person. This situation could bring out the worst in anyone, but especially someone in a new situation with people they didn’t like, this would be harder than ever. Herself is probably the last thing she wants to be right now.

Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please comment with any feedback and critiques! I appreciate it!

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