Smoke and embers filled the air, joining in in the chorus of ceremonial singing. Off-tune, drunken ceremonial singing, to be more precise. Samaria laughed as she danced around the circle with the other women, high on the celebration. The light of the bonfire mixed with that of the torches fanned out through the sand, casting everything in an orangish-red glow. Her mouth watered at the rich, appetizing smell of roasting boar mixed with the salty spray of the ocean.
Like all the women, Samaria had been decked out in traditional grass accessories and long, layered skirts of red and white. On each of her wrists and ankles she wore shell bracelets that jangled and clinked, adding to the music of the drums. Lifting her hands above her head, she swirled her hips, the grass and feathers that hung from them fluttering in the firelight. The other women were doing the same, earning some hoots and hollers from the men. A few of the men shoved the shoulders of Kaipo, pointing.
Tonight, Kaipo was a man. The entire tribe was together to celebrate his passing of the trials. He sat in a place of honor, his chair elevated on a platform of stones and his body painted with white swirls and symbols. A grass crown adorned his head and the clay cup tight in his grasp was kept overflowing. The men who were pointing were his friends, suggesting potential mates. Tonight Kaipo had the chance to choose a woman. One of the strongest warriors in the tribe, he would surely have his pick.
Samaria’s gaze caught his as she danced. One of his friends was whispering in his ear, and Kaipo was grinning like a cat, his eyes alight with fire and drink. He looked her up and down, and the movement of her hips slowed. Was he considering her? She kept waiting for him to look away, but his gaze on her was steady. Tu kai, she swore. Her stomach sank and she stopped the movements of her hips altogether. In an attempt to avoid his gaze, she quickly tip-toed out of the circle.
She had noticed his attention on her more than once the last couple months as he trained with the other warriors. She had hoped it was just to learn her techniques, but she had a bad feeling it was for another reason entirely. He could have any woman he wanted- she prayed he knew better than to try anything with her.
Instead of dancing, she joined a few friends who were sat huddled in the sand in a clump by the Elders’ table. When Lei spotted her, she waved her over. Samaria grinned and plopped down down next to her friend, waving her face with her hand to cool down.
“Are you sure you’re not trying to attract a husband, Mari’Sa?” Lei teased, her beautiful eyes crinkling at the corners. The feathers of a mated woman adorned her hair, expertly woven through her curls. “I saw the way you were dancing.”
Samaria gave her friend a shove. “Shhht!” A husband was the last thing on her mind, and her friend knew that. She refused to be stuck in a life of endless chores and drudgery. She was quite happy in her current role in the tribe. The only female warrior, she wore the title as a badge of honor. If she took a husband, it was a very real possibility that it could be stripped away.
Lei giggled, undeterred by Samaria’s violence. “Looks like Kaipo did too.” She lifted a hand to wave at the warrior, and Samraia blanched, tackling her friend.
“Ai, Lei’Lei! Quit it!” Samaria whined, only making her friend laugh harder.
“Why should I? Kaipo would be a wonderful match. He’s the strongest man in the tribe, a great warrior, and that body!” Lei’s eyes rolled back in her head and she shivered in mock pleasure. Samaria blushed and shoved herself back from her friend, mortified.
“Lei’lei!” She scolded.
“What?” Lei pushed herself up from the sand with a shit-eating grin. “Being a wife isn’t all bad, Mari’Sa. I’m telling you, you are missing out. And laying with a man is--”
“La la la la!” Samaria plugged her ears with her fingers, her mortification reaching critical levels. Her friend had given her this lecture a million times, but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.
Lei rolled her eyes. “You are such a child, Mari’Sa.”