Chapter 6: Boyhood Dreams

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"If you would like, Aunt Anna," Hildegund smiled.

"I think we've already visited every stall in the market," Adso complained loudly.

"Hildy, would you help my son carry that satchel back to our house? This is my last stop, and I will catch up with you shortly." The woman gave Adso an exasperated look and turned back to the merchant to discuss the price of his goods.

When the two children were out of earshot of his mother, Adso asked, "So, are you going to tell me about yesterday or not?"

"Adso, you are not going to believe it," she began as they walked around a bend and out of the town square.

"That bad?" he interrupted, his eyes widening in expectation.

"No, nothing like that," she started again. The buzz of emotions from the night before still lingered in her chest. "Father and Grimbert have decided to go on pilgrimage to the east, and," she paused dramatically, "I'm going too!"

"Wow, a real adventure!" He had a look of wonder in his eyes as he then asked, "Am I invited?"

"Oh, Adso, I wish you were. That's the worst part. Having to say goodbye to you."  The excitement of the previous moment quickly fizzled away. Their conversation paused as they continued to walk towards the edge of town. The streets here were less busy and easier to navigate. Stray dogs curled up in corners, laundry hung on ropes strung across rooftops, and they could hear the sounds of women singing as they prepared evening meals.

Adso broke the silence as they headed off the road and onto a path through a fallow field. "When are you leaving?" he asked, a pleading look in his eyes.

"I don't know. Several months. Maybe even a year. There's lots to plan for." She bit her lip and scrunched up her eyebrows as she sat down on a large tree stump that stood a few steps from the path.

"That's a long ways away. We will worry about goodbyes later," he said consolingly as he sat next to her. "What do you need to do to prepare?"

Hildegund took a deep breath and turned to look her cousin square in the face. "They want me to dress as a boy," she said in an even tone. She studied his reaction and was relieved to see his lopsided smile.

"Uncle Richart suggested that? After he tried to forbid you from playing with me because I'm a boy?" he scoffed.

"Actually, Father Christianus suggested it. My father and Grimbert agreed that it would be safest for me to travel in disguise."

"It won't be much of a disguise for you, now will it?" he said with a hearty laugh.

Her excitement returned and a deep warmness filled Hildegund's stomach. "I don't think I've ever been so happy and scared about a single thing in my entire life. The idea of being able to be myself and not get in trouble is so ... so ..."

"Liberating?" Adso suggested.

"Yes, freeing! Fantastic! Wonderful! But, what if it's discovered that I'm really a girl?" she bit her lip again and hesitated.

"Well," Adso started to say before Hildegund interrupted.

"Would you teach me how to act like a real boy?"

"Are you kidding me? You don't need any help there." Adso laughed again.

Reflexively, Hildegund balled up her fist and punched Adso on his shoulder. He dropped the satchel he was holding on his lap and apples rolled everywhere.

"Hey!" he yelped, "Help me pick up these up before my mother whips us both." Adso grabbed his now empty bag, and they started gathering the spilled apples.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit you so hard. But I'm serious, Adso. I could get into serious trouble if I'm caught."

Adso softened his tone, "Hildy, I wasn't trying to tease you. You run as fast as me. Scream as loud as me. And I think you hit harder than I do," he said rubbing his shoulder, "As long as you look the part, acting it won't be a problem."

"I also need to learn to ride a horse and fight with a sword," she said as she placed the last apple into the bag that Adso was holding open for her.

"Well, those are skills I lack as well," he replied, kicking at a loose stone at the base of the tree stump as they both sat back down.

"You're right. I doubt my father or Grimbert are very skilled in those areas either, and they are respected men," she said, her confidence building.

"Well, your father is a respected man," Adso began with a chuckle.

"You better watch it, cousin, my father trusts Grimbert with our lives."

"That doesn't mean you should," he said, his face now serious.

Hildegund didn't particularly like Grimbert either, but she didn't understand Adso's naked distrust of the man. Before she could think of a suitable response, she heard their names being called. She and Adso turned their heads to see Aunt Anna walking towards them. "Adso, come along. You too, Hildy, if you would like. I need help with supper," the woman implored.

The two cousins rose in response and walked briskly back down the path, knowing they would have to continue their conversation another time.

...

Author's Note:

What do you think of Hildegund? Do her early struggles with gender-identity seem authentic? I appreciate the feedback!

I really hope you enjoyed this chapter. If you did, please let me know by supporting it with a vote.

Thanks,
- Brian

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