Amina gazed down into the well, eyes blurry with tears. She stood, chest heaving, fingers clutched longingly around a fistful of hopes. She turned her eyes from the well to the bright beams in her hands.
They were shimmering things, those hopes, delicate as sparrow eggs. Too delicate, and so easily crushed. Too easily crushed. They were innumerable, those hopes, the countless wishes and dreams and fantasies of a child. Amina had collected them one by one, day by day throughout all her childhood.
Only now, that childhood was over. Those hopes would now never be fulfilled, could never be fulfilled, for they were the sort of silly prattle at which adults must laugh and then ignore.
Only Amina did not wish to deny her hopes, could not deny them howsoever hard she tried, would die herself if she were to deny them.
And yet deny them she must, or she could never stand among adults with her head held high, an equal among equals, but must forever exist as an infant among men.
So Amina wrestled. For to emerge from child to woman like caterpillar to butterfly was Amina’s greatest hope of all. This was the surpassing hope, the hope upon which all other hopes were truly founded, the hope fundamental and necessary to Amina’s very existence, as needful as bread and water. Or perhaps even more so.
And so, eyes wet, hands shaking, Amina opened her fingers and watched, breath catching in her throat, as the iridescent gossamer fluttered from her grasp and into the still, cold water of the well. They fell slowly, like petals caught in a stiff wind, almost dancing their way to their death.
Amina watched them die. She watched and blinked hard so that not one tear would fall, would desecrate the ritual of the Giving Up of Dreams.
The hopes touched the surface of the water but did not sink immediately. They floated for what seemed a thousand hours, and then slowly let the water rise and cover them, hiding them from Amina’s sight for always and forever.
The hopes, like Amina, did not let one tear fall in parting, but kept their sorrows at their abandonment locked within them, silent for all time.
Amina saw the hopes sink and though they shed no tears, felt their pain as acutely as her own.
And then she turned and left them to drown alone.