Title: Girl-Woman
Time Period: March, 128 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: Constance experiences a rite of passage.

Doors in Eilean Donan castle are closed more often than they are open, but there are a few rooms that its inhabitants can count on being welcomed into depending on who's inside when they come knocking. The suite that Aislinn shares with her husband and newborn son is a collection of such rooms when Edmund is out in the field and there's no one to occupy the doorway with a tall frame, broad shoulders and eyes that are difficult to read. She's left it open a crack in anticipation of his return, allowing the glow from the hearth to spill out into the adjacent corridor and warm the castle's cold stone floors and walls.

She sits in an armchair facing the window with the best view of the loch and its shoreline edged in tall green trees, a bundle of dark reddish brown hair and pale skin cradled in her arms. The baby's hands make tiny pink starfish on her exposed breast, and Aislinn's left rests on the back of his head for support while nursing him under a blanket of furs. He is not old enough yet to be able to hold it up by himself.

Closed doors may often mean occupants don't want to be disturbed. So when Constance finds herself in the hallway outside of the suite, she is relieved to find that there's a tiny crack. The worried expression on the young woman's face becomes somewhat relieved to see the slightly open door, but she moves towards it almost hesitantly. Her fingers press against the wood of the door to push it open a little more, her knuckles tapping at the wood to announce her presence.

"Um," she hesitates, voice soft before she raises it, just in case the woman didn't hear. "Can I come in?"

Wood creaks as Aislinn shifts in her seat, adjusting the blankets to cover what she feels should be covered, which isn't much; Constance is only a child, and the Irishwoman has little to hide from her. It would be different if her visitor was a soldier, or one of her husband's male relatives, but this isn't the case, and Aislinn's smile is easy. "Speak softly and stay as long as you like, sweet one. Is something wrong?"

"Yes," Constance replies as soon as the question is posed of her. She hadn't meant to sound so dire or broach the topic directly and it's clearly visible as her cheeks redden. She pushes the door mostly shut, hesitates, then pushes it shut entirely before moving to head to Aislinn's side. "It's an emergency," she says, softly, making sure not to startle or disturb the infant with the tone of her voice.

It must not be an emergency in the truest sense of the word, Aislinn imagines, if the girl is seeking her out and not her father. She takes her feet off the armchair's ottomon so Constance will have someplace to sit, then rises from her chair, careful not to jostle Ariel more than the movement demands. The furs she drapes over the chair's high back. "You're hurt?"

The ottoman is considered for a moment, but Constance doesn't sit. She stands, awkwardly, peering at the ottoman like she wants to sit. "Um," she says again. Usually she's not at a loss for words, but the words don't come easily. "Yes, there's… there's something wrong." She very, very gingerly takes a seat on the very edge of the ottoman. "There's blood, I don't know what happened…"

Aislinn crosses to the bed and lays Ariel down on it, smoothing the infant's hair from his brow as he reaches sleepily up and gropes for his mother's face with a croaked cry that rouses her familiar from the bed's foot. Hush lifts his head off his front paws and pauses to stretch out on the blankets like a cat, back curved like a bow — at a glance, it might even be easy to mistake him for one. The familiar's fox shape isn't much larger than a feline, and large gold eyes dominate a face with small, pointed ears and long white whiskers that quiver when he yawns, slinking over to resettle at Ariel's side and curl his tail protectively around him.

"Blood?" Aislinn prompts.

Constance watches Ariel and Hush briefly, but her eyes focus on Aislinn. Her cheeks redden, more than before, wiping sweaty hands on her skirt. "Yes, blood. I wasn't riding or doing anything active and I don't remember hurting myself in any way it's just…" She looks back to Aislinn. "P-Please tell me you know what to do."

Hush's tongue washes over Ariel's face until he stops fussing and decides he'd rather bury his face into the fox's silver and brown fur than make noise at his mother, whose attention has been given over to Constance. Aislinn returns to the chair and ottomon by the window and takes a piece of the girl's hair between her fingers so it can be tucked behind her ear.

She is sorry that Constance is afraid. Sorry, too, that her mother isn't here to have this conversation with her.

She knows what that feels like.

"I do," she says, pressing a kiss to the top of Constance's blonde head. "Take one big, deep breath for me and then let it out for me again. There's nothing wrong with you, my little doll."

A hopeful look replaces the concern in Constance's eyes as she observes the other woman. She takes in a breath as instructed, letting it gently out as she tries to take a moment to calm herself. "Then I'll be alright? I didn't know what to do… you won't tell anyone, will you?" This part seems most fervent. Not that she expects Aislinn to tell someone, but it's more that Constance has a growing feeling that this is something she should know about.

"Your body wants you to know that it's ready to bear children," Aislinn says, taking Constance's hand, "and no, I won't tell anyone. I know it seems horrible now, but this is really very special."

"It has a really horrible way of telling me that," Constance says, brow furrowed. Her eyes go back to the tiny infant on the bed. "It'll get better, though, right? I don't have to worry about it? I mean, I guess I won't die, I know that… losing blood is bad, though, isn't it?"

Aislinn closes her fingers around Constance's and gives her hand a gentle, reaffirming squeeze. At some point between putting Ariel to bed with Hush and pacing back to the other side of the room she started to button up the front of her dress, and she finishes this task now, head bowed and eyes on her fingers while she maneuvers the buttons through the appropriate slits one at a time until she reaches the top of her breastbone. "You'll bleed for a few days every month until you're Leann's age. Some times will be better than others. Some will be worse. If it begins to hurt, I can show you what I do for the pain. When I was a little girl, my father sewed strips of cloth for me to place in my clothes so my dresses and stockings wouldn't stain. We'll do the same for you."

There's a tiny frown at the prospect of this ordeal continuing until she's as old as her grandmother, but Constance seems a little relieved that there's a process to dealing with this. A simple method. Aislinn certainly doesn't seem concerned. Her head turns to look back towards the bed. "He's so sweet… I just don't see how I can have one. I think my body's confused. Shouldn't this happen when I'm older? I don't feel like an adult."

"No," Aislinn agrees. "You still have some growing to do yet, and your father will take the head off any boy or man who thinks otherwise. My Eamonn, too. Here—" She wanders across to a wooden dresser and pulls open a drawer with a heavy brass handle. Although her back is to Constance, she doesn't make any effort to conceal what she's doing from her, and a few moments later she's folding up one of the aforementioned strips of cloth made of plain white fabric. It has either been recently sewn or Aislinn has taken very good care of it; if there are any stains, they don't show up in the firelight. "Use this for now," she suggests. "Tomorrow we'll go to market and pick a material you like. Any colour, any pattern."

"Thank you," Constance says, casting a genuinely grateful look in Aislinn's direction. She takes the cloth gently, managing to muster a smile. "I am glad you are here, Aislinn. You're good family." And she is family, blood or not. "I would appreciate if my father, ah, didn't have to know for a while. I know I'm young, but… I'd rather him not think of me as an adult. Not yet. I'd still like to be a little girl. At least for a while." She straightens herself up, clearing her throat. "Tomorrow, then."