“Peace of life,” said the chideman as he poured the blue water from the glass urn into the pool. It was surreal.
“Peace of life.” My response was automatic.
My heart pounded. For thirteen years I’d trained for this. Still I was not ready. The machine’s copper pipes gave off a warm smell that drifted to my nostrils as if precious biscuits were baking in the eating room. The calming scent only made it worse. I was leaving.
On display before every citizen in the community, my bare feet stepped the few inches further to the edge of the pool. Fear haunted my mind. Shivering from head to toe caused my short golden dress to tickle at the tops of my thighs. I brushed away the itch. Goose bumps peppered my arms and legs. I was freezing. For a moment, the massive musics and sounds on the stage overwhelmed me. I was small in comparison to everything here, all present and to this wondrous event. Through dazed thoughts, my focus returned and I remembered to count to three before placing my foot in the shallow liquid.
With eyes watering, my every heartbeat echoed in my ears. Never again would my father’s eyes look upon me. Never again would I feel his warm embrace. I would so miss his gentle, loving voice. How would I bear it? I fought my great desire to turn and dart to him, or steal a look as he sat in his chair upon the stage. Instead, I kept my step.
There would not be another last goodbye. We already said it, and he wanted just the one. It would be my greatest honor to him to leave with the dignity, respect, and position he bestowed upon me, to act older than my meager thirteen years. I had to be brave and pave the way for the others, as he had instructed.