I feel guilty that I write these words with a heavy heart. Catherine told me today we will have another child. It seems impossible that we would be allowed to have another, so late in life, and after so much failure.
I hated my own father, a man who ruled me with a master's tongue and proud words. I always though that, if I ever had children of my own, I would teach them as Grandmother taught me, and let them flourish. But I raised my sons with Ti'ana's complete freedom and trust, yet with no discipline, and they turned against me. True, I was not my father, but that led my sons to roam wild in the Ages, doing as they pleased. After Ti'ana's death... I fear I pulled away from my sons in their time of grief.
It is horrible to see this all in the glaring light of hindsight. I fear that even with this knowledge, I will not be able to raise this child as I should. Even as I watch Catherine, there is a far-away look in her eyes. I wonder if she has the same doubts as I do. She was devastated after the loss of our sons.
Atrus put down his pen and rubbed his eyes wearily. Catherine noticed and moved towards him, bending over his shoulder to read the words. "I'm sorry, my love," Atrus said, his fists over his eyes.
A smooth hand tilted Atrus's chin up, and he met her eyes. Catherine was smiling weakly, and there were tears in her eyes. "We will do better, this time," she said. "For you will teach our child to Write, and I will teach him to Dream.
"Just as Releeshahn will be a new beginning for D'ni, this child can be our chance to start over." She looked over at the heavy book on his desk. "We can leave this place, and start over ourselves."
Atrus looked down at his journal, reading the dark thoughts of only moments before. Catherine was right, as she usually was, but he still couldn't forget what had happened. "Let us finish Releeshahn, and then we can speak of our own second chances."
Releeshahn was finished within the month, and the D'ni took to the Age as if they had always lived there. Carving out a place to live would be difficult, but the people were determined despite all that had happened. Atrus couldn't help but note his own family's similarities to the people on Releeshahn. He hoped that things would end as well for them.
His birthday gift to Catherine was Tomahna, a home perched in the red cliffs of earth. Here they could raise their child, their desert bird in the sun. Atrus's hopes grew even as the settlement in Releeshahn grew.
Yeesha was born in the spring, just as the small trees he had planted on the cliffs were budding. As he cradled her in his arms, he still couldn't shake the feeling that he would fail again. She was such a small, delicate thing, and it would only take one wrong step to ruin her.
"Stop staring at her like she's going to kill you, Atrus." Catherine said, smiling slightly. "You still have about twenty years before you have to worry about that."
The dark humor, especially coming from Catherine forced a chuckle out of Atrus, but it faded quickly and he continued to stare at the infant.
Now that I hold her in my arms, the reality is overwhelming. I'm not suited for being a father, that much is clear. I don't think I could bear to lose another child due to my own foolishness. But I know now that Catherine is just as worried as I am, and we have both made a promise to do our best and learn from the past. Together, perhaps, we can let our Desert Bird flourish and grow, and write Ages of her own someday.