I like to think I'm pretty.
It sounds strange, I know. And it's probably not true. To someone I grew up with, I probably look a fright. Maybe not so much, now that I've stopped dressing like a Scout, but still--the beads in my hair, the hard suntan, the scar on my right cheek? I don't much look like a lady, I bet.
I like how I look. When I look into my mom's handmirror, I like the face I see there: blonde hair, tanned cheeks, bright green eyes. I like my smile. I bet back home I could have pulled the heart of any boy I wanted. I spend a lot of time wondering about that. Would I look different if I'd stayed in Ornith's Pier? It's strange to think about. I can't imagine dressing the way my mother used to--the dresses, so stiff and heavy. I like my Song-Keeper's robe--it's light, it's comfortable, and it's the same color as my eyes. I don't even mind the way the dogbane strands fray at the edges, any more than I would mind the dirt on my feet, or under my fingernails. I don't think I need fancy makeups or perfumes to be pretty.
I could probably pull the heart of any boy I want, even now. But I don't want to. What's the point?
I like to think I'm pretty. There was a time when that mattered to me. But ever since the Reunion, since the shipwreck, since the burial, it's hard for me to care. He's gone. He's been gone for a month now, and without him it's hard for me to remember why I cared in the first place. It wouldn't have even mattered anyway--that night I talked with Madeleine, before Misha, before the Siege? I was supposed to live forever. I was supposed to take the Elixir, like any other Child, and when I was done I would have stayed this way forever. But it didn't work out like that. If I try to take it again, she says it'll kill me. And now it's too late, anyway. Everything I knew is different. The world is different. I'm different. But I don't know what any of that means. Or why I should care.
I'm glad to be the next Song-Keeper. I am. But for what? It's like Madeleine said, I'm marked. I'm pretty. But I won't be forever. As years go by I'll start to get weak. I'll get gray strands in my hair. I'll wither up like one of Rowan's dried herbs, and when it's all done nobody'll remember me like I was. Nobody will remember Alina, remember Tree-Dancer. It scares me. One day, I'm going to look around and all I'll see are Children--tattooed boys and girls dressed in hides. They'll do what they've always done--pound their grains, sharpen their darts and spearheads--but I'll be too far gone for them to remember me.
I'm scared. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
I'm going to grow old. I'm going to die.
I feel like I was cheated sometimes. I was supposed to be like them. I was supposed to stay young. I was supposed to live forever here in the Wood. And now I can't, and even if I could I'd just forget the things that brought me here in the first place. Used to be, I was scared that he'd stop loving me, or forget that he loved me in the first place. But now he won't. He's gone. And I'm not sure what's worse--missing him, or being glad he won't be around to see me.
Madeleine says the Spirit doesn't give us more than we can bear. But can't I just have a little less?