The second story I wrote in the Chocolate series for the Fortnum and Mason contest was for a beautiful bar of ruby chocolate. The chocolate is called so because it’s pink! Here was the title given: “Red Sky at Night, Ruby Delight” – The charming story of the last remaining night shepherd. With handmade nets and endless ladders, she seeks the priceless rubies of the red skies.
I was drawn to the idea of a more fanciful story with an adventurous female lead. I actually wrote this story first but decided “Beneath the Amber Moon” was the stronger contender. I am glad I have a place to share this sweet story. I am still toying with the idea of expanding both stories beyond their 500 word limit to give it just a bit more… story! But for now, enjoy Arusha’s journey.
Red Sky at Night, Ruby Delight
by Shanel Wilson
The clouds steadily move east across the afternoon sky. She knows in her bones that tonight will be time for a Red Sky night. Arusha’s mother and her grandmother taught her the way to watch the sky since she was a child. Nerves tingle her spine as she makes her preparations for the evening’s expedition. This time she makes the preparations alone.
She sits next to the stack of well-trod wooden ladders leaning the cottage wall. She tests the strength of her handmade nets, ensuring the weave is taut and secure. For luck, she is using the net her mother made especially for her. She wove it with golden and crimson strands of the highest quality. It hung from Arusha’s bedroom wall glittering in the moonlight each night until it was Arusha’s time to shepherd the Night Rubies.
Once the nets are checked, she attaches her gold and crimson net to her long net pole, and she places the extra ones at the bottom of her satchel. Arusha’s grandmother taught her the value of a well packed satchel many years ago.
The nights are long, and the Night Rubies are elusive, she always told Arusha.
Aside from her nets, she needs her worn-in leather gloves and a few things to nibble on when hungry will threaten interrupt her hard search. On top of the nets, she places a small crusty loaf and a small wedge of hard cheese folded in an embroidered tea towel her grandmother had decorated with sliver and blue stars.
Most importantly, don’t forget the chocolate, my love. To comfort and to give courage.
Her grandmother’s words whisper in her mind. She returns inside to the pantry and finds a small tin on the top shelf. Inside are tin wrapped squares of which she takes three. She places two of the squares securely in the top of her satchel. The third she unwraps and takes a small bite. To comfort and to give courage. She felt her mother and grandmother’s warmth swirl around her as the chocolate melts on her tongue. Her doubts of being the last night shepherd depart with each morsel she eats.
When she finishes, she hoists her satchel onto her back and adjusts the straps. Arusha lifts as many ladders as she can manage and takes hold of her net pole. She takes one last deep breath before she leaves her empty cottage.
“Be with me tonight, Mother and Grandmother. May the Night Rubies be shepherded to my nets,” Arusha says to the Red Sky above her.
When only the wind rustling the nearby trees responds, Arusha walks out, net at the ready.
© Shanel Aileen Wilson 2021