8.

280 36 38

My mother gave birth to me inside of Ljerumlup. This might seem like a minuscule detail, hardly worthy of a mention, but to us—to my family and to the Bikjaru—this is a custom older than our nation. Moreover, it's a custom which sets precedents for life, and thus, it's celebrated as such.

My family hardly possesses any photos from that time. The little I've pieced together is from years of retellings from aunts and uncles that have had too many glasses of setvi during the holidays. They say it was a festive night as much as it was a somber night. A night of long waiting and hushed conversations over glasses of strong liquor. It was a night which favoured the men over the women.

As Bikjaru custom has it, the men and women were separated. The men all gathered in the downstairs living room. A hum of background clatter cut through the palpable anticipation in the air. Glasses clinked together and jokes were tossed around the room. The odour of incense intermingled with the thick cigar smoke, rolling up against the ceiling. Gurgles of laughter seeped through the walls into the dead-quiet corridors. Their echoes rippled until (somewhere between the two floors) they were greeted by those from my mother's screams.

My nineteen year old mother gave birth in a rarely used room in the west wing. Her groans, and later on screams, carried downstairs where they slowly frayed my father's nerves.

One such time when the pain of her labour had been loud enough to dent the festive mood downstairs, my father flew up from his seat. He didn't care for the barrage of good-humoured insults the men in the room threw his way. He stood and paced the length of the room. No one dared persuade him otherwise. My father's friends and family had all been to at least ten kiil in the past—enough to understand his frustration and fear. He wasn't allowed so much as a glance at his wife; the soon-to-be mother of his child. His reaction had been like that of all Bikjaru men before him, and this was the source of their amusement. Stefan Konstantin, who was usually so composed, so analytical, was acting out of character.

Some say that when my father saw me for the first time, he fell to his knees in relief. Some retellings took it as far as to say that he cried and prayed over me, but I have a hard time believing that. My aunt said that his hands had trembled when he had held me. She'd described him as a child touching the first snow of the year. She had been there, in the room that night, together with my mother and a midwife. She witnessed my father as he looked down at my cocooned form and said, - He's a carbon copy of my great-grandfather. I would be blind, if not outright stupid, not to name him Ru. Ru Konstantin.

My mother hadn't objected, nor had my aunt. And why would they? It wasn't their place. It was the father who named the brevidije mal.

Yuri Karamov had little reason to suspect that the rug was anything other than a piece of decoration. He knew nothing of its story, or of the Bikjaru. I don't even think he realised the motifs that were staring back at him. He would eventually tear his eyes away, free himself from its responsibility, whereas I was doomed to look at it every day. The rug was woven into the foundation of my being. I carried the name of my ancestor on my tongue, like a bud waiting to blossom in my mouth.

Something about the sight of him staring so intensely at it made me nervous. The muscles in my hands spasmed. A restless burst of energy fuelled me into action.

- Do you want to see my room or not? I called out to him.

Yuri looked up at me, his eyes reflected an awe which made me queasy.

- Hurry up. Irritation licked my words as they flew out my mouth.

Casting one last glance at the rug, he obediently followed my orders.

My room was three times the size of Yuri's, with ceiling-high windows covering almost an entire side of the room. There were thick, dark, velvet draperies set in place to minimise the cold and light exposure. Together with the heavy mahogany door and the plush carpet, they created the perfect sound isolation.

If We ExistRead this story for FREE!