I stayed with my mother when my father moved out, because she was higher ranking in society, and based much closer to the Soothsayer, where my mother felt I needed to go frequently because she wanted to figure out more about my so called destiny. So, I went every couple weeks or so, whenever it struck my mother’s fancy, to stand in the crowded room and stare at a man who said nothing to me or about me ever. Although, he did always make eye contact and give me a little wink. Every three or four months, I went to visit my father and his “god sister” and those children for a couple of days, or weeks if I could convince my mother that I could afford to miss that much schooling, which I managed to do once every year or so.
Other than constantly being referred to as “The Child That Flows like Water” by most of the temple staff, including all my teachers, my life held nothing that would even begin to resemble powerful or life changing. I was allowed to run a little more wild than the average child, because everyone was desperate to make sure they didn’t “contain me” and “do damage” to the prophecy. So, I didn’t take to dresses the way that proper ladies of the house of the second order should have, I didn’t always have the best manners in social situations, and I was pretty bad about sitting still during classes.
I didn’t have many friends. In fact, I’d venture to say that I didn’t have any friends in The City of the Order. Partly it was because of the aforementioned lack of manners and disregard for rules. Partly, it was because even with my disregard for rules, I often didn’t get into trouble for things that the other kids did get in trouble for. But, in a big way, I think it was a lot to do with the fact that adults talked about me as this great child, which the other kids probably resented because most of them saw themselves (in many cases rightly so) as better than me, but I got a lot of the glory. The “Prophecy Girl” was a good mocking point, and they latched onto it. It really got to me, which of course only encouraged them to mock me more. My mother told me what I had already assumed, that they were jealous, but I didn’t really give a fuck why they were doing it at the time, I just wanted them to stop, which pretty much guaranteed that they didn’t.
I had one good friend, David, who lived out in Ingel, two houses down from my father and his little family. We were close, but I could only see him every so often. We’d write letters often when we were apart, but it wasn’t the same as having a friend that you could see whenever things got tough. And he couldn’t be there to help me through the rough parts of my day to day life, so sometimes I didn’t count him at all.
So, perhaps I was little bit more bitter and cynical at nine years old than I should have been. It was shortly after my ninth birthday when I went to see the Soothsayer like I had already done what seemed to be several thousand times before, expecting it to be like every other time. However, when I walked into the hall, it was completely empty. Except for myself and the man sitting on the raised platform on the other side of the room, smiling calmly, which only served to prickle my temper. When it became apparent that no one else was going to turn up for this session, I approached him carefully, not one hundred percent sure that the protocol might be for this type of situation, and if I would have followed it even if there was one. He watched me as I approached, but didn’t do anything but sit serenely, still smiling. When I was only a foot in front of him, I stood still and stared him down for a little while.
We stared at each other for twenty minutes of silence. He looked at me a little more steadily, and said quietly, “Ask.”
“What did you see for me? Why am I dealing with all of this? What am I supposed to do?”
He narrowed his eyes and analyzed me for about three seconds, and then he grinned broadly and said, “Ah, Lovely River. Twenty five is a wonderful number, isn’t it?” and then he stood gracefully and walked out of the hall.
I swore aloud for the first time in my life. And I swore loudly, so that it echoed and reverberated around the hall. It made me feel better for a moment. If my mother outside the hall heard, she didn’t say anything, she just took me home and I sat in a premature teenage angst for a week or so.
I can’t say for sure that that’s when I gave up on prophecies as a whole, but it was pretty close to then. I was quiet about it growing up. I couldn’t decide how I felt about our Gods or the other aspects of our religion, but I firmly didn’t believe in the Soothsayer and his prophecies, which I told to my Journals, and when the time felt right, to my friend David. He had always been steadfastly religious, and the idea that the soothsayer was lying to us all would have never crossed his mind. He never tattled on me, and I was sure that he’d still be there for me if I really needed him, but it became very obvious very quickly that he didn’t agree with my thought process, and it made him a little bit uncomfortable. So, over time, we slowly drifted apart.
But despite all that, the number twenty five stuck with me, lingering in the back of my mind. The night before my twenty fifth birthday, I went to bed with a little jolt of thrill. True, I was always excited before my birthday (my favorite day of the year) but this seemed to be a little bit more than that. Due to that fear of “damage” that my mother held so strongly to, I wasn’t subjected to any paternally arranged engagements, or jobs that I didn’t want. I didn’t believe in the prophecy, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t above taking the advantages that the prophecy afforded me. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but whatever. I went to bed that night, with plans for the next day, and wondering what that year had in store for me. After all, a very strange man once told me that twenty five was a very interesting number, and here was his last chance to prove to me that he wasn’t a fraud.