What I thought would happen when Toci declared this to the entire village was total panic and chaos, with some wailing, cloth-rending and ash-wearing.
But. That’s not what happened.
There was a small group of women who came up to Toci and spoke to her in quiet tones. They leaned in toward her, raising their arms to hold her, to hold each other. As others heard the news, they walked calmly over to the small group already formed and began to circle around that group, their arms resting on each others’ shoulders and backs, and then another group formed around them. It was like watching a blooming flower in reverse. The women closed ranks, holding each other, holding the center. There was some quiet crying but more patting of backs and stroking of hair than I'd ever seen in such circumstances back home.
Isobeau and Ruis stood to either side of me, watching in amazement as much as I was.
“Did you think this would be the response?” I asked Isobeau.
“No, I really thought there would be more panic and fear,” Isobeau said.
“I did not expect this either,” Ruis said, “I thought there would be angry shouts and a call to arms.”
I could see Ruis was still lathered up. She held her body so rigidly and her gaze was...