Last week I re-read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I don't quite like the way McKinley's stories have so much of princesses marry princes (or kings) and living happily ever after, but other than that, it's good.
It's a fantasy novel, but its heroine, a woman named Angharad who goes by the nickname Harry, comes from a more modern world than than the typical fantasy novel. I'm not a history expert, but I'd say it could be Victorian era. Harry is from a place referred to as the Homeland, which resembles England. She is an unmarried young woman, so when her parents die, she must be sent off to live with someone. Her next of kin, her brother Richard, is in the army in a country colonized by the Homeland. Richard is posted in a village taken over by Homelanders, bordering the wild area which the Homelanders have been unable to conquer. Richard finds an older couple in his village to take Harry in -- the ambassador and his wife.
The couple is warm to Harry and she is fond of them, but she is restless there, with nothing to do but to be a burden on her hosts. Because of her restlessness, she awakens early. The book says, "she was adapting to her new life as best as her energetic self could. She might have screamed, and hammered on the walls with her fists...but she was trying her best to be good. So she was merely first to the breakfast table."
That is how I feel sometimes. I could hammer at the walls in frustration, but I'm trying my best to be good, so I merely read novels and write blog posts.
Then Harry comes into contact with Corlath, from the wild area the Homelanders have been unable to conquer. He and some of his people have a sort of magical power which they call kelar or the Gift. Corlath's attention is caught by Harry, and eventually he realizes that what he sees in her is the Gift.
"But it wasn't her size or her coloring that held him beyond the first startled flick of notice; nor was it her beauty. There was too much strength in that face and in the long bones of the body for beauty. Something about the quietness of her, perhaps? Or her self-contained straightness....like the contained straightness he himself had learned, knowing well what could happen if he relaxed."
"He knew...that she did not know. She met his eyes too clearly....He wondered if she'd learned by accident not to focus her anger, or whether people she hated had a habit of falling downstairs or choking on fishbones -- or if perhaps she had never hated....she couldn't have ever been in love. If she had ever turned the full intensity of her kelar-brilliant eyes on any average mortal, they would both have had a shock; and she would never again have had the innocence to meet someone's eyes as she now met his."
In my case, I've been in love, and I've turned full fire on those I love -- full fire of anger, and full fire of love. But with the rest of the world, I do feel that "contained straightness." I contain myself, because I know they don't want to hear it. They don't want to know how annoying and stupid I think they are. Or they don't want to know the depth of the loyalty I feel for them.