Shai awoke in a cold sweat, fear caught in her throat like the silent scream she couldn’t sound. Standing on shaky legs she wobbled over to the small porcelain wash basin in the corner of her tiny room. The cool water smelled fresh still. Her sleeves fell into the bowl as she splashed her face. Sighing, she methodically re-rolled them and wiped the water from her face with a thin towel. Surveying the room brought Shai back to reality. The thin, woven rug beneath her bare feet did little to block the chill. She hopped onto the thick bearskin that covered the middle of her room and scurried into her bed beneath the heavy down quilts. Reality. The walls of the Moon Temple. She could not remember life before becoming a Priestess.
Small, even among the Priestesses, Shai’s robes had to be shortened, bound, and rolled in every capacity. She even pinned them at the shoulders to compensate the wide neckline. No matter how heartily she ate, in spite of the extra vitamins after prayer, Shai could not make gains in height or breadth.
Blowing a tuft of unruly silver hair from her face, Shaie pulled her knees up to under her chin and rubbed her kneecaps through the waves of cotton. What she wouldn’t give to be just a little less skeletal, to have some minor curves instead of the body of a young lad. Asa and Kriya reprimanded her vanity constantly but it wasn’t vanity, not really, she just felt so small and insignificant, and, well, weak. Shai could not draw water from the well or work the laundry press, she struggled to clear the tables on dish duty and needed both hands to carry the pitcher of tea at meal time. Certainly her sisters were too pure to resent her but Shai hated not pulling her weight. Chuckling at her own joke, Shai pictured Asa’s reprimanding look. There were no mirrors in Temple so she certainly was not standing around looking at herself and yearning for a body. She didn’t even know what a woman should look like since all of her sisters wore the same shapeless white robes. Shai just felt small. The nickname ‘wee one’ did not help either. Not that her sisters were cruel, it was against the very foundation of their faith, but she still felt wrong somehow. Nobody knew how old she was, who her parents were, where she came from, Kriya could not even tell if or when Shai had transitioned. The thought of being stuck in such an insignificant body for the remainder of her long life seemed the worst part of it all. Every day at prayer she asked Muna for her transition.