Excerpt from Ash by Malinda Lo. For more, head to her website.
Aisling’s mother died at midsummer. She had fallen sick so suddenly that some of the villagers wondered if the fairies had come and taken her, for she was still young and beautiful. She was buried three days later beneath the hawthorn tree behind the house, just as twilight was darkening the sky.
Maire Solanya, the village greenwitch, came that evening to perform the old rituals over the grave. She stood at the foot of the mound of black soil, a thin old woman with white hair bound in a braid that reached her hips, her face a finely drawn map of lines. Aisling and her father stood across from each other on either side of the grave, and at the head of it, resting on the simple headstone, was the burning candle. Aisling’s father had lit it shortly after Elinor died, and it would burn all night, sheltered by the curving glass around it. The gravestone was a plain piece of slate carved with her name: Elinor. Grass and tree roots would grow up around it as the months and years passed, until it would seem as if it had always been there.
Maire Solanya said in her low, clear voice, “From life to life, from breath to breath, we remember Elinor.” She held a round loaf of bread in her hands, and she tore off a small piece and ate it, chewing deliberately, before handing the loaf to Aisling’s father. He pulled off his own piece, then passed it to his daughter. It was still warm, and it smelled like her mother’s kitchen after baking. But it hadn’t come from her mother’s hands, and that realization made a hard lump rise in her throat. The bread was tasteless.