from Chapter 3
In the washroom, Alinda scrubbed the remaining sleepiness from her face and examined herself in the mirror. She had little time for vanity. Only on occasions such as these – funerals, weddings, other rite-of-passage ceremonies – did she give her appearance much scrutiny. Her wrinkles were deepening, lending her eyes an expression of perpetual acuity. A few laugh lines had formed around her mouth as well. Her skin had lost most of its youthful softness and smoothness. Her hair, however, remained nut-brown through and through.
She began plaiting it in the traditional sign of mourning, her hands moving mechanically. She had attended enough public funerals to learn the braiding technique by heart. She was too young to remember her own mother’s funeral, but she assumed a helpful aunt or older cousin had done what she could with the fluffy curls of a two-year-old. Twenty years later, she had known how to put up her own braid when she said farewell to her father.
She stopped mid-braid. Was she seeing things? She leaned closer, her hands falling free. No, she hadn’t imagined it. There it was, a single strand of silver.
“Oddo,” she said hoarsely, barely a whisper. Then, rising to a shout, “Oddo!”
He came running, appearing in the washroom with his hand clutched to his chest. “What’s the matter?”
She was still staring at her reflection, at the thin line of white amid the brown. “It’s my first silver.”
He blinked and came closer. “Oh. I thought something was wrong. Are you sure?”
Gently she pulled the strand free.
He grinned. “What do you know! You’ve started your Silvering.”
“Symbolically,” she said faintly, as if someone else were speaking and she were merely listening, watching from a distance. “There’s only a minor correlation between silver hair and being a Silver.”
“Well, symbolically, this is an enormously important event.” He seized her in a tight hug. “Congratulations, Ali!” He was breathless. She wasn’t sure if she was breathing at all.
He released her at last. “All right, all right. You’d better finish braiding that. We’ll get through the funeral, and then –”
“Oh, I don’t want a big noisy celebration,” she said with a slight frown. “Just a simple ritual, that’s all I need.”
“Right.” He couldn’t seem to stop grinning. “This is it, isn’t it? Any day now you’ll start lifting things across the room, or tell me exactly what I’m thinking –”
“Maybe. It might be five, ten years still.” She began doing her hair up again, but it was a struggle. Her hands seemed to be trembling.