I understood very early that I was not Bonny despite what my parents named me. But I could make myself forget. I could do my chores or help my father down at the forge.
But when the other girls called me to go down to the stream to fetch water, I wondered if sometimes they were being cruel.
Eta would say ‘Come on Bonny, won’t we go and look for our husbands in the water?’ They would put down their buckets by the bank and turn their backs to the water. Eta said for it to work we needed to stand as close to the water’s edge as possible.
I could see, I could not avoid noticing that my silhouette towered over the others. Stretching down along to the hedgerow.
They would shout ‘My husband!’ and whirl around and stare in the water.
I had never seen anyone until I saw the otter. I thought it was a water rat at first. He looked at me. His eyes. Then he slipped under the water.
Eta and Una had both gasped that they had seen Hamm beautiful and naked looking up at them from the water. They argued over whose husband he was. I knew he would never be mine. There was no point in arguing.
But thankfully my father is a blacksmith and a celebrated magician. He makes silver swords and golden crowns. He made me a mirror to see myself. He gave it to me on my 13th Birthday.
SHE LOOKS IN A LOOKING GLASS
At first I did not realise I was me.
I thought someone was looking out at me from a circle of water.
How had he done it? How had he trapped this tiny pool for me?
And my mother so quietly and carefully had made me an otter pelt bag to carry my little magic pool around so it would not leak or drip.
I Iove this watery eye; it lets me see myself. My father’s magic has given me new powers.
Eta and Uma are fascinated by my magic eye--they ask me to show them what I can see in the dark waters.
I tell them there are glimpses of men but they are hard to see shimmering in the silver. But I keep my secret pool safely in its waterproof purse. Like my sadness, it is contained.
Mothers come to me now looking for their children. The children they want to have or the ones they have lost. That sorrow is bigger than mine. My face is different but I hope one day to have a child too, to find one floating in the waters like the Princess of Egypt found Moses in the reeds.
Who knows what is drifting down the stream towards you, what will bob past you in the waters at the river bank ?
SHE STROKES THE OTTERSKIN BAG ON HER LAP.
I guard it with my life.