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Some relationships are like gravity

VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 245

  • pg 1
									Another Life



Prologue

Some relationships are like gravity.

We couldn’t escape if we tried.
          Let me just preface this by saying this isn’t a sappy romantic
story. If it was, so much wouldn’t have gone wrong… or maybe it would,
I don’t know I’ve never read anything like that. I just know this isn’t a
sappy romantic story because I’m not a romantic kind of guy. Maya
knows that… She’s known that in every life she’s known me. Hell I didn’t
even know before last month that we’ve known each other in other
lives; and still don’t know how many lives we’ve spent together.

        In all those lives she’s never said I’m romantic- sarcastic,
confident, arrogant (let’s not mince words), but not romantic. I keep
wondering which of these traits have lead me into this predicament I’m
in now- or maybe it’s one of hers. A Science experiment… That’s what
they are treating her like. On the brink of my Oath and the Watchers
decide to try and find out just how old her and my soul is. My mind is
being spliced open and projected in high definition for the other
Watchers to observe. Something normally so private, memories of her
and me that are not my own flashing before my eyes. These are what
they are after, the memories I cannot tell them because have not lived
them; it was another me.

         So that’s what makes this story kind of interesting. I mean we’ve
had choices, but, no matter what point we’re at, what lives we’re in, it
didn’t seem to make a difference. We still ended up the same.



                             A31.M1.01-02

A Classroom.

        I see her in the corner next to the shape blocks wearing a
brightly colored stripe shirt. She is maybe five or six years old. I look
down to the container grasped in my hands to find they are just as small
and soft as hers.

        I hand her the cup filled with rocks and say I love you.

        And that was it.
        It isn’t often we have leave from the A.S. Great Western, Once
every 6 months, in the 3 years I have been on board, are we granted to
escape the confines of its impenetrable membrane. Not that I’m
complaining. I was chosen to be an apprentice of the Watchers- one of
the most exclusive of professions in the modern world. The Watchers,
you see, like the Teachers are the only professions for which you are
chosen. It’s a destiny that no person would think to deny. Somehow, I
believe I knew I would be from the time I first heard of the Watchers
when I was 5.

         This life in the sky was not entirely solitary either- Our airship,
the Great Western is the largest steam-powered dirigible ever built. It is
home to over 600 Watchers, Teachers, Apprentices and guests. My
Apprentice class consists of 5; Myself, Basil, Jonah, Graydon, and
Starling; so you can see I am hardly alone.

        Basil and I had met a few years before training, when my
mother and I were on land in the beautiful coastal region of India. We
had gone there for my birthday, a vacation. I, then wanting to learn
how to dive, convinced my mother that a relaxing coastal vacation was
just what she needed, when in reality it was the thousands of miles of
drowned cities beyond that coast that had peaked my interest.

        I grew up in the air. I was the only child on our airship, as most
couples would retire from the skies before any children ever came. My
mother loved the skies too much, and in turn passed that love along to
me. So at 13, hardly a child really, I encountered my first friend in Basil;
goofy, short, coffee colored, with Carbon hair and eyes. Our
appearances and personalities were like night and day.

        His quizzical nature was what came apparent first, bombarding
me with questions about life on an airship, never having experienced it
himself. His father preferred his feet on the ground, and so he had
never left the Asian continent. His comical questions were only
overpowered by another trait in the presence of the gentler persuasion.
Ah, yes. Basil fancied himself as a Don Juan of some sorts, always
philandering, and making up for his stature with his exotic looks.

        We both learned to dive together.

        Later, after the vacation was over, we continued to converse,
through telegram. Every time my ship docked there would be a letter
waiting from him and one sent off in return. We met several times in
those years as well, when ever our ship docked on the Asian continent
he would be there waiting to greet me. It was nice to have a friend.

       At one point our captain managed a stay, and Basil’s family not
only welcomed me but also my mother into their home. We dined,
conversed, and Basil taught me a few land sports; like football.
         At 17, when the Teacher came to conscript me, I was shocked
and elated- not because of the Teacher’s presence, but because of
Basil’s. Never would I have imagined us apprenticed together. It was
smart for the teacher to obtain him before retrieving me. In the 7 years
I have known Basil now, I am sure on one thing; Basil makes everything
an adventure. It was nice to have a familiar face and Basil remained an
obedient friend throughout our training.

         The others I had only met once aboard the Great Western.
Jonah and Starling Lindi are the first siblings ever brought into training.
Siblings they might be, but it is not apparent in their appearance. They
looked how was always described in books as typical Irish, if such a
place still existed. Her hair was curly. His hair was unruly. Where
Starling is coppery and soft, Jonah is dark and hard; although both share
the same cream skin and bright green eyes.

          Being the only girl in several classes of Apprentices, you would
think Jonah would be overly guarding of his sister- instead it seems she
is always shielding him. It became apparent in our first month that
Jonah values his solitude, hardly conversing outside of training and only
then when prompted by Starling. If it wasn’t for her, I don’t believe he
would have agreed to train at all. Starling, on her own, appears to have
developed a hard outer shell. At first she appeared almost aggressive
and hostile, defensive at least. I imagine this is in part because where
Basil may be preoccupied with the opposite gender, Jonah is revolted -
sometimes even harsh to his own sister. Basil at first took this as a
challenge, but after countless rejections he abandoned all hope.
Graydon, on the other hand, seems to have chipped a piece away from
her shell without even meaning to. She seems to have found a kindred
spirit in him and she has proven to be a fierce friend.

         Graydon was the last to join our class. He is taller than all of us,
with blue eyes and dirty blonde tresses clipped at his chin. He was
raised in the mountains of America in a close farming community of
settlers. His family had lived there for generations and he was the first
to leave.

         I’m sure he always feels like the fifth wheel here. While I have
Basil and Jonah has Starling he has no one. He is pleasant of course, and
social, but you can’t help but feel his loneliness and see that he is
homesick. Usually at meal times he reminisces, telling tales from when
he was younger; his friends, his family. We all sit and listen while we
eat, not only to appease him, but also because he is a good story teller.

         These 4 have been my constant companions through all of the
training a Watcher must complete; Mathematics, History, Literature and
Science being our primary focus up to this point. Watchers, you see, do
just that; Watch. We observe the passage of souls through death and
reincarnation, carefully keeping track and documenting a soul’s
progression to Nirvana- that final bliss where there is no want. I am part
of the 5th generation of Watchers to be trained.

        I’ve learned it’s very mathematical, the movement, based in
Chaos Theory and Music. Where most civilians are familiar with a flap of
a butterfly’s wings in Brazil setting off a tornado in Texas, we see that
the death of said butterfly brings life to a girl in Spain. How do we find
them? That is purely music. Every soul sings its own song, strikes its own
note and only by recording the first life may we find the next.

         We do this usually from a far, of course, Training to be as
elusive as possible, not impeding on the lives Watchers track. Our
Airship, the Great Western, is completely outfitted with all necessary to
complete this task with the assistance of recon sparrows; small flying
recording devices which gather data where we cannot. Most souls pass
through only 3 lives before moving on, some require as many as 6. Every
soul seems to take a break, if you will a period of heaven before
returning, reborn into these trying lives.

         Our education, as with the education of all civilians, is the
responsibility of the Teachers. Teachers are the most virtuous of souls,
but have chosen to remain behind in order to guide other souls through
a path leading them to Nirvana. Our Teacher, known as just that-
Teacher, has been our sole guide from the moment we each shook his
hand, accepting the calling. He is strict and hard in the classroom,
drilling theories and practices into our skulls. He is also blissful and
humorous, ever so happy to give us a break when we have been
working hard and deserve a rest.

        The 5 of us started out in our course together, and now the 5 of
us wait for the portway to be opened, giving us a vital taste of freedom
for the next 48 hours. It is our last leave before we graduate and take
the Watcher’s oath.

         That makes this particular leave special, surely not only for our
locale; a floating city with a history dating back before the water flow,
which covered more than half of the once exposed earth. Most
residents of this city labor in archeological dives, uncovering the
mysteries of the original city, of which only the tops of mammoth
buildings remain. I only wish the leave was longer so that Basil and I
could commission a dive.

        The top of the buildings make the ground foundation of the city,
while also housing more than two thirds of its residents. Connected
together by large taught rope, iron trellis and salvaged wooden boards,
the buildings form a promenade and dock for airships, water vessels and
house boats alike.
         I’ve always liked this city. It was a favorite stop of my mother
and I’s when life in the sky got to be a little overwhelming.

        The reason for this particular destination, this time, is the Lord
Amsterdam’s Annual Gala and private ball, held in our honor. Now, we
don’t have leave often, as I said, and the opportunity to attend a ball is
even rarer. Over 50 airships have docked at the floating city to
celebrate the new class of Apprentices entering as well as our
impending graduation. Now, it will still be 3 months before our oaths
are exchanged- but as I mentioned, this is the last leave before then.
Most of the Apprentices have families and friends gathering here to
celebrate, some coming from across the Atlantic.

        The external port is sprung and we hustle down the gangplank
basking in the sunshine and fresh salty air.

       Basil’s father and sister await us on the dock. His family has not
known me long, but have welcomed me into their arms and home as if I
were their own son. I am thankful for their kindness, especially when
my own mother is so far away. His family very devote in their adoptive
responsibility, embracing me warmly on the dock.

       We prepare to wander the promenade, saying temporary
goodbyes to Jonah and Starling, having found their parents, as well and
Graydon who is off to find an old friend.

         We visit the museums first; relics lay out from generations
before the flooding. My favorite is one is dedicated completely to a
particularly complex traffic intersection. Historians have reconstructed
the building facades, all brightly painted over acrylic signs. The highlight
of the museum is a huge artifact mounted high on one of the narrow
facades. It was a display, of some sort; a screen. The historians have
managed to power the display, but without the proper input format it
just shines bright white, over powering the room. A recovered photo of
the intersection shows that this was not the only display; all these
painted acrylic, at one point had moving images and text constantly
bombarding the senses. Across the room a statue stands in midst of an
exhibit, wearing only the smallest knickers and a strange sort of farm
hat while holding a musical instrument, much like a guitar. I always
wonder is this how they all dressed back then.

         After the museums, we explore the market. Located in the
center of the city’s promenade, encompassing and overhanging the top
of the largest building, the market is filled with scattered rows of tents
from around the world; merchants selling everything from exotic fruits
and spices to recovered relics and kitchen gadgets. We wander the
market in search of lunch, Basil’s family insist I try a rice concoction
from an Asian merchant they are acquainted with. We sit at his family
table by his tent located at an edge of the market, enjoying the delicious
meal.

         After fed, we retire to a quieter area on the other side of his
tent. Pillows and mats are laid out, and a fire burning in a pit. Amused, I
think it isn’t so bad to have such a well connected adoptive family.
Basil’s father is conversing with the merchant. I soak up the sun and
enjoy the breeze coming of the water. I feel at peace as time slips slowly
by and I close my eyes. The only sound I hear is that of Basil and his
sister’s joyful banter, condemning his womanizing ways- reconnecting
after such time apart. A recon sparrow flutters around the market,
document all that it sees. Their presence is so expected I hardly notice
the flap of its mechanical wings.

         The wind shifts and I feel a static charge tingle down my arms.
Their voices turn to murmurs, as if they are speaking under the water. I
open my eyes to see there has been no change in their volume, but only
that my head feels like it is swimming away. Like part of my equilibrium
had deliberately walked off in the opposite direction of my body. Dizzy, I
try to close my eyes again but I find they will not cooperate. They scan
the market, searching, for what I do not know.

        “Abban, what do you see?” Basil asks from 10,000 leagues
away. And then I’m fixed. A flash of bright blue and a warm black swirls
at the far side of the market and I am on my feet walking towards it
before my mind can even answer him. I can’t explain, I can only say
what it feels like… And it feels like I’ve found a piece of myself where I
least expect it. How is that even possible? I am completely here.

         Before he can catch up I have crossed the entire span of the
market and am searching again. Whatever I saw, it is no longer here.
Must have escaped into the crowds and tents, but not before I caught a
glimpse of the softest green eyes I have ever seen. A girl. Never in my
life have I gone looking, never had any female ever caught my fancy but
sure enough, as if she was the first I had ever seen, I saw a girl. How
queer?

        Basil obstructs the view in front of me, panting after the
exertion of trying to catch me. “What was that?”

        “A girl.” I smirk as his eyes widen. “Basil, my friend, I think this
leave might have just gotten interesting.”
The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.

        Entering the ballroom my eyes cannot help but search for that
girl from the market, the whole city is practically in attendance-
hopefully she will be too. I nearly had given up when I spot her seated
by the wall in a secluded corner farthest from the door looking more
beautiful and mysterious than when I left her this afternoon. Basil is still
amused at the strike of Cupid in the market. He excuses me for my hunt,
as he calls it but not before attempting to give me a few pointers.

         She was dressed in a fitted light green bodice and pleated skirt,
the color of which matched her eyes so perfectly they seem to shine
even brighter. Shimmering silver strands of embroidered leaves adorn
the dress from the peak of her shoulders to the edge of her – oh, god
forbidden- diary. Her hand delicately dangles holding a silver locket near
the golden cream skin of her collarbone. Her face is pleasantly natural
with only a hint of color on her soft lips which only enhances the red in
her thick blackened hair smoothly falling past her shoulders. She turns
and laughs at something evidently amusing her company has said,
revealing her pearl white smile. Perfection; a personal seductress to my
soul.

       Her company, I then notice, is none other than Graydon, that sly
dog. How is it that he is seated next to her? It is not proper for a
gentleman to take a vacant seat next to a lady who is a stranger to
him…. Unless… She is not a stranger to him. There is a bitterness
churning in my abdomen at the implications. A tightness forms about
my chest in thinking perhaps my intuition was so wrong.

          I daringly beeline across the ballroom to position myself just to
his left, with her on his right. He is too enthralled in their conversation.
She notices my presence before he, and he only glances up when he
notices her laughter has cut short.

        “Abban” he addresses me with air of confusion.

       “Graydon Monroe” I answer with a nod “I was not aware you
were keeping company here at the Ball.”

         “Company?” finally recognition flickers across his face and he
glances down to his companion “Oh…Oh! No. It is not what you think.” I
can hear her giggling again at the insinuation “Abban Von Helm, may I
present Maya Nicholas. Maya here is practically my family. She is truly
the sister my parents never granted.” Again she laughs, but now in my
presence, a stranger’s presence, she hides her beautiful face and
glorious smile behind a simple fan she holds.
        “Is that so… Sister?” I cock an eyebrow and attempt to give her
my slyest grin. The feeling I felt in the market has returned full force and
I am having trouble keeping the astonishment from my face.

          She interjects softly “Well, it is true that we have known each
other since the day I was born, and that, being a mere two days after
Graydon’s. He has been ever the protector of an older brother.” She
smiles at him tenderly. As she does, I glance in his direction; I feel the
vice loosen from my ribs. All I see in his eyes is a look of true brotherly
affection and not any more amorous than the way he eyes a photo of
his cat. I glance back at her and am powerless as our eyes meet.

        I smile broadly at her, unable to form any words. Graydon looks
between myself and Maya several times, confused, before clearing his
throat “If you excuse us Maya, Abban- let’s take a quick stroll, shall
we?”

       “Hmm? Oh yes, or course whatever you say.” My eyes never
leave her form until he has physically dragged me from her presence
and there is a wall between us.

        “Abban? Abban! What has gotten into you?”

       “Oh Blimey! Nothing has gotten into me; rather something has
gone so completely right! Why haven’t you told me of Maya before?”

          He stumbles over his words. “What? What does that mean? I
have talked of her; of course I’ve talked of her… Half my memories of
home revolve around her. Why such an interest now?” I have enough
wits about me to seem abashed at this. Of course- of course he has
talked about her but surely he could not have described her in such a
life-like manner to me.

        I grasp both his shoulders with my palms and lean my forehead
forward nearly reaching the bridge of his nose so he can’t see my
expression, speaking low “I…” how to explain this? “I know her.”

        With a furrowed brow, I imagine, he spews reason “But…but
surely you don’t. Maya grew up with me in the mountains; you spent
your childhood in the sky. This most certainly is the first occasion you
two could have met.”

        “No no no! You are misinterpreting!” I turn my head up, fix my
eyes hard on his and whisper the words again slowly “I know her…”

         “But…” now shock and recognition strikes his face fast as
lightning. “But how is that possible? Christ! Weren’t you a beetle in your
last life?” He knows as well as me that while we might experience
moments like this from one life removed it was unheard of to embrace
beyond that.

        “I know. I know how crazy it seems, but the signs are all there-
even in a most peculiar way”

        “And how is that?” he asks incredulously, taking a step back in
order to be able to study my expression.

        Now, how to explain this to him without offending; it is so very
clear he is ferociously protective of her. “You remember how the
Bodhisattva, the Teachers, they used to be found in their new lives by
the objects they choose from their past… like a mirror or toy?”

        “Yes.” Always the scholar. “Before the Documentation of Souls
that was the only way they could be found. Even as young infants their
mind was aware. They were placed on a blanket containing dozens of
objects, they choose the ones belonging to them in their past life… but I
don’t see how…”

        I interrupt adamantly “It’s like that!”

        “Pardon?”

          “It’s like that.” And here’s where I need to be delicate, speaking
slowly and softly “I feel it so strongly. I know it’s crazy but I feel it. I feel
that she belongs to me.” My hands can’t help but fist at my chest, as if
in it is where she was supposed to be and I had only just now noticed
she had escaped. The whole sensation is most peculiar.

          I take a step back and look at the ground, waiting for his fist to
strike for my bold claim. Silence. Still waiting, but all I’ve heard since my
last syllable was the sound of his mouth dropping open. “Well?” I ask,
still not looking.

        “Well…” he states swallowing thickly. Pondering. “That’s an
interesting predicament.”

        I finally glance at his face, the anger I thought would be so
apparent is absent and a look of understanding surprises me in its place.
“Of course I don’t know if she feels it too… This could all be just a part of
my overactive imagination trying to pull some adventure from that
beautiful creature into our mundane lives” He smirks at my attempt to
appease him, knowing I am nothing like Basil.

        “Well, we will just have to go find out.” Smiling broadly now, he
states as if nothing in the world would please him more. “Now that you
have been properly introduced I believe you have a dance card to have
your name added to.”
         It only took a little coaxing to get my name added to that card. A
slight smile, a polite word, every moment in her presence my heart
expands and lifts like it is filling with helium. Of course, counter to my
desires, my name was not the only one that had been added to that list
and I had to endure sitting through watching her waltz and twirl with
three others. Sure, I could have spent that time in the floor dancing with
other ladies- but the dancing, as with the others, held no interest for
me, my mind was completely wrapped up in her. How is this even
possible?

         The third dance she was led to the floor by Jonah and I had
trouble keeping myself still in this chair, when my hands wanted to pry
him physically away from her of their own volition. They twine in the
roots of my hair instead and I want to laugh at myself. What was this?
Was I jealous? Surely jealously defies the virtues we all seek and this
emotion was so foreign to me. Jonah surely has never been the closest
of my classmates, but how ever ill at ease we had been together I would
have never wished him harm. I grind my teeth for 6 minutes before the
rolling in my stomach became too much.

         Taking a deep breath I stride to them on the dance floor. As I
approach I can hear their light banter, appropriate chitchat that all at
once settles my mood. I tap on Jonah’s shoulder lightly and clear my
throat. He glanced over his shoulder in my direction coldly before
huffing out my name. It appears maybe I am not the only one
experiencing strange emotions tonight… the set of his jaw is the most
clear sign of anger I had ever seen from him.

        With as much of a persuasive voice as I can muster I push back
the aggressive tension in my limbs and donned a sheepish smile. “Jonah,
I hope you don’t mind if I cut in.”

        He turns fully to face me and fix me a glare while still in
possession of one of her hands. Speaking through his teeth he says “Of
course not” and releases her hand directly into mine. Immediately at
the contact my heart is soaring and she looks on me with confusion. I
shift our bodies into a proper dancing position and delicately wrap my
other arm around her back before speaking.

         “Are you alright?” I ask as I hold her gaze with mine. Better to
start off with something light.

        “Yes… Yes. I’m fine. It’s just... It’s just…” she trails off as her
face flushes in embarrassment. I can’t help but chuckle at her
stumbling.

        “Yes? Go on…” I coax her.
          She smiles “I’m just having the strangest feeling of déjà vu.” She
says, plain and simple. With that French word I am elated. So it’s true. I
try to reel in my relief and still my excitement. It’s not often one of us
Watchers experience connections with our past lives and the average
citizen usually is unaware of the possibility, of the fact déjà vu really
does mean you already have experienced this, this connection, just not
in this lifetime.

        I smile tentatively at her. “I truly understand.”



         In the next day I could not bear more than 5 minutes out of
Maya’s sight. Like a sponge I just wanted to soak up her glances, her
voice, oh- her laughter and smiles. She quenched a thirst I was unaware
of until her entrance into my life and I knew it was all to be short lived.

        I was sure Graydon must be annoyed at my intrusion in his
private family time but he only sighed and stated “No. no… You are
more than welcome” with a hesitant smile to Maya. Maya was the only
family of his able to attend the festivities- she was actually residing in
the city as an archaeological assistant, cataloging the finds from the
underwater excursions.

        We stroll the promenade, the three of us, discussing everything
from the historical significant of a beverage called Coca Cola to the
excitement of our upcoming oath. Circling a hanging garden I get the
feeling of déjà vu once again and revel in the feeling. Needing no
answers now, I just choose to enjoy her warmth and spirit. Graydon
roams away a bit to examine the flowers and Maya takes a step closer
and I ache to close the distance and touch her, smell her, wrap my head
up in her presence.

       “So… Mr. Von Helm… I feel bad that we are monopolizing your
time, wouldn’t you be rather enjoying the company of your family?”

         I grin at her prodding for personal information “Oh no, no, not
at all. None of my family is in attendance.”

        She looks genuinely concerned “None at all? That is such a pity.”

        I hold her gaze, lean my head down closer to hers and whisper
smoothly “The pity would be in being without your smile for even a
moment. “ Her face flushes instantly and she rewards my flirting with
the shy smile I have come to adore quickly. I continue in a slightly louder
voice “My family is very small, just my mother and myself. She resides
on the A.S. Nomadic, where I was raised. They are currently over the
coast of Africa and were unable to adjust course for the festivities.” I
reach up to a basket of potted blossom, quickly snatching two red ones
before she notices and pocket them; a keepsake.

        Her eyebrows rise in surprise. “You were raised on an Airship?”

        “Yes. Actually, I did not touch soil for the first time until I was
10.”

         Astonished, she continues to bombard me with questions about
what it was like, where I have traveled, how I was found by the
Watchers. I answer her and continue the conversation, wanting to hear
her speaking and laughing. Eventually, Graydon meanders back and
with a look I nod slightly to him, thanking him for the short moment of
privacy.

         The leave is all too short and I find myself dragging as we all
walk back to where the Great Western is docked. Our 48 hours ending I
am reluctant to face the last moment of warmth in the sun, in her
presence. We finally arrive and Graydon embraces her and promises to
visit during his next leave while making her promise in so many words to
take care of herself and reach out to him for anything, anything she
needs. She smiles at him and nods at his eagerness “We shall be docked
here for over a week, and although this was our only official leave, I’m
sure I can persuade Teacher to allow me to debark briefly, for family.”
He steps back with a stern look in my direction “I’ll see you back in the
berth, Abban.” With a nod in his direction I step into his place
embracing Maya.

        She gasped at my movement; whether because it was
unexpected or because of the strange stunning feeling I believe we both
feel whenever we were in this close proximity. I still hold her close and I
lean my face down into her rich mahogany hair breathing deep,
indulging in what I have desired to do all day. She smells fresh, like salt
and the sun.

        She relaxes against me and releases a sigh. “This is just so
strange. So unbelievable.” She whispers “I know I’ve just met you- I
know practically nothing about you, but I feel like I’ve known you my
whole life.” I smile into her hair, if only she knew.

         “I know” I tell her. “I feel it to. Don’t worry, When Graydon visit
I will come too and we will have a lifetime to truly get to know each
other.”

       I hold her an arm’s distance away and fix her with my eyes “I
promise…”

        She sighs again; closing her eyes, and merely nods her head. I
chuckle internally at my ability to leave her speechless with a glance.
Releasing her, I reach into my pocket, pull out a blossom and tuck it into
her hand, closing her fingers around it. “A memento, to remember me
by.”

        I step around her and proceed to walk up the gangway as I hear
her mumble softly “I don’t think I’ll have a problem remembering.” I
glance back at her when I reach the end and notice she has not shifted
one step, gazing in my direction while she awaited my disappearance
into the membrane of the ship.

         I groan as I enter the berth and collapse onto my lower bunk.
Basil, already resting above me, peaks his head down. “Did you find
her?” I practically whimper. “That good?” he jokes.

         It is then I realize I haven’t talked to him since the start of the
ball. “You have no idea.”

        Graydon saunters in then and I am momentarily confused by his
absence. He seats himself on the bunk across from mine. “Well?” he
begins.

        “Well…” I exhale throwing my head back on my pillow. “This is
going to be the longest week of all my lives.” He laughs at that.

       Basil jumps down to join the conversation. “And why, pray tell
would that be?”

        “She is just right there… Right outside that port, and I am stuck
docked in here. One day and one night was not enough,” I pull the
second blossom from my pocket and twirl it in my fingers “I already feel
the absence. It must be so much worse knowing she is just out there” I
finish gesturing towards the direction of the dock before covering my
eyes with my arm.

         “She?” Basil directs at Graydon although I can feel him leaning
against my bunk, his shadow blocking the light. Clearly puzzled, in all the
years Basil has known me he has never seen me love sick, because
unlike the others I have never been in love. Not that I am comparing
this intensity, this desperation with the feeling of being in love that they
are familiar with- this is so much more…. so much more and so much
more than just me.

         Graydon elaborates in a potentially offended tone “It appears
unbeknownst to us, Abban here is quiet familiar with my Maya.” I still
like a deer caught by a lantern at his possessive adjective, then slowly I
peak from beneath my arm to look at his face.

        “Your Maya?” I mumble.
         “Well,” He chuckles “I grant it appears you may have more of a
claim to her than me, given your revelation, and of course, what she
confided in me after the ball.” At that he shifts and lies back on his own
bunk with his arms folded behind his head and I am flustered by his
disclosure. I leap from my mattress, quickly cross the small room to
kneel on the floor by his head.

        “She spoke of me?” I rush. “Please, for the love of god, tell me
that she spoke of me.” I plead.

        He smirks. “Now, why my dear Abban, would I tell you that?” I
groan and he continues to taunt “Even if she wasn’t as close to me as
flesh and blood and counting on me as a confidant, a gentleman never
tells.”

        He smiles warmly at me then and then finishes “But I can tell
you this. I do not believe you are mistaken…I think you should speak to
Teacher about this… this predicament”

         “Teacher?” I repeat, questioningly “Why on earth would I do
that?”

        “Well, because he is the only one who might have some
recollection as to what to do about this.” He states simple.

         “Oh, but I think Basil would know what to do about this.” I smirk
before I remember his brotherly feelings towards Maya; this was going
to get tricky. “Besides, if he knew he would most definitely want to
interrogate her and I cannot have her frightened when I have just found
her. I didn’t even know she was there!”

         He startles at the idea of Maya being interrogated, eyes wide.
He truly does worry about her like a fretting mother hen. “Okay. I guess
if you feel that is best- it is not my decision to make. I should warn you
though…”

         “Warn me?” I feel like a parrot now.

        “I encountered Teacher on my way here tonight, and I may have
let some information slip….”

         “You what!”

        “I was… I was just so excited you see. It’s not like something of
this nature happens every day- never mind to one of our own kind. The
implications are astounding!”
       “I know… I know…” I appease him, shifting away to sit with my
back against my bed. “It’s alright, I just wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t thinking
about anything but her. I’ll just have to tread lightly in the mean time.”

        “You mean lie” Graydon clarifies.

        Smirking, I say “Only if I can get away with it.” I pause. “Blimey! I
don’t know how I’ll even make it a week without her presence! Never
mind the 6 months before our next leave!”

        Quickly, Graydon tosses a Watcher’s medallion at me, which I
catch swiftly. He grins “Ah… but you won’t be without.”

        Basil interjects “Will someone please explain to me what is
going on!” as Jonah walks thru the port looking puzzled, I burst into
laughter- elated at Graydon’s veracity and amused as Basil’s naiveté. I
cannot explain. There is no explanation in the current universe, but I will
find out.
Banji wa yumé. - All things are merely dreams.

         The next two days did drag on, as I had feared. My every private
thought, every daydream revolved around her presence - which I was
constantly mourning. Graydon would notice and give me a sympathetic
smile. I needed to keep it contained though, keep it together- we were
embarking on the last Apprentice session before the graduation.

         It wasn’t as difficult to evade Teacher as Graydon and I had
thought. He seemed content to not broach the topic unless I brought it
up, so I managed to avoid even mentioning the leave in his presence.

        This final session was the culmination of our 3 years of studies
and observations. Watchers have been in existence for only a few
generations, before then Teachers bore the responsibility of both
documenting and guiding. This session was our opportunity to, not only
prove ourselves as Watchers, but also to become more aware of the
history of our true selves.

       Beyond the most immediate past lives, no civilian is truly aware
of the history of their souls- although that information has been
documented for several generations. Instead it is kept guarded and
updated, by the Watchers in this very airship.

         There is an important reason to keep this information hidden;
as if by knowing it would affect their chances alter their course. We are
raised to live each life as if it was our first or our last, never knowing
which.

        The Watchers and Teachers, on the other hand are chosen for
their past lives. Proven to be as ready to reach Nirvana, as virtuous as
any souls and for that reason we alone are to know our own histories
and this session, this moment is when that is revealed.

         Seated at our individual recovered cherry oak desks, the
Teacher beckons each of us forward, individually. Slowly, we each rise,
gracefully approaching his form with as much ritual as we can muster.
Starling takes her scroll first then returns to her seat before unfurling it
on her desk. Jonah is next followed by Basil and Graydon. I am called
last and I feel my heart pounding as I approach the front. The Teacher
reaches out to place the scroll in my opened palms and whispers with a
smile “I hope this may help you find the explanation you seek.”

       The oiled parchment is thick and heavy in my hands. As soon as
I am seated I turn the scroll over and break the wax seal with a letter
opener. I brace myself, as the others have done, taking a deep breath
before rolling out the document. The paper unfurls filling my entire
work space before spilling over the edge. I gasp, glancing around to find
my classmates shifting their attention to me. Basil and Graydon
abscond the lure of their own scrolls to study mine, each placing a hand
in comfort on my shoulder.

      “The most lives a soul has ever lived in all the history of
documented lives.” The Teacher speaks.

        “Pardon?” I pant. I glance down to find his delicate script, a
transcribed personal record of my own possession.

        “Yours is the soul that has lived the most lives of any in all the
history of documented lives.” He steps slowly through the room from
his place at the front. “Not to say that yours is any older than Graydon’s
or Jonah’s” He states glancing around the room. “You all have held lives
that predate the written history.” His eyes fix on mine as his hands graze
the edge of the parchment on my desk. “But you, Abban, Your soul has
returned more times in that period than any other.”

         It is only then I can focus on the script, on the words laid out
before me. The list begins as I had known: Abban Von Helm, Japanese
Rhinoceros Beetle. But then the list continues. No dates, no locations;
just a list of names or simple species spanning in various size blocks
accompanied by codes unfamiliar to my eyes.

        Gastrotrich, Humming Bird, Logan Midas, Chameleon, Eagle,
William Godwit, Dominic Donat, Mandarin Fish, Sea Cucumber, Mollusk,
Spinner Dolphin, Ares Concord.

        I’m bewildered. Speechless. Never in my wildest imagination
would I have thought….

        “And so…It begins” our Teacher continues.

        What came next we were anticipating, somewhat eager and
prepared. We were divided into pairs, Our Ngah la grogs, Starling with
Jonah, Basil with me, and Graydon with the Teacher- to which Graydon
looked somewhat shocked.

        Each pair was assigned a meditation compartment, a small dark
peaceful space located in the aft part of the teaching deck, containing
two reclining lounges on opposite walls. The space is made less peaceful
by the contraption centered on the floor between the two settees. The
contraption, identifiable on sight from our studies, is known as a
Remembrance Collector. It allows the subject not only to relive their
past lives, but to share those memories with the others in the
compartment and save them for the future. Only the highest of
Watchers are aware of how the device works, to us apprentices it is only
important that it does.
        “Abban, if you would be so kind as to volunteer.” Teacher
ushers us into a larger compartment, the one assigned to he and
Graydon, and seats me in a lounge before sliding my Watcher’s
medallion from my pocket into the device, turning a dial and then
beginning to attach its extensions to me.

         The contraption itself does not hurt, although by looking at it
you would think it must… Probes and sparks, shards and coils attacking
your body from multiple angles. Now, you would think all these spikes
would be directed and plunged into my head- my brain… I mean, if I was
to go looking for information that’s where I originally would have look
for it. Instead these instruments of potential torture are arranges in
groups not only around my face and back of my head, but also my palms
and chest.

        “What’s that supposed to tell you?” I asked the Teacher
attaching the probes to my ribs.

       “Just in case…” He smiles “We’ve never really determined
where the seat of the soul is, so we like to be extra cautious.”

         The experience itself is unbelievable. Who would have thought?
I take a deep cleansing breath, as he instructs, clearing my mind.

       “When were you happiest?” he asks.
The air is moving smoothly around me in a manner not only foreign to
  myself but to this past life. It’s peaceful. My body feels so foreign to
what I am used to but it still feels like my own; hard, guarded. The wind
   slows and I discover it is not the wind which has slowed, but I- my
   wings… I’m flying. But it’s tiring, after spending so much of my life
 underground, and so I land in a spot of sunshine on the most colorful
                    ground I have ever encountered.
         The moment fades and I refocus, suddenly tired and slightly
dizzy. I glance around the room to find the Teacher crouched over the
machine and all other eyes fixed on my form. I smirk as I notice the
large goofy grin on Basil’s face. “Did you see that?” I ask. Everyone nods
including the teacher.

        “That was part of your beetle life. Or rather…” He clarifies “one
of the most important aspects of it.” He stands after removing the
medallion from the machine and placing it in his own pocket. “The
Recollection Collector will only allow you to gather the most important
moments of your lives, but it will allow you to recall all of your lives- in
time.” With skill he begins to remove the sensors from my body swiftly.
“For the time you are each only to allow one moment slip thru before
disengaging, that is why you are Ngah la grog; to guide the collector.
You will need to build up a tolerance.” He smiles when he notices our
faces have taken a dejected form. “Don’t worry, I have full confidence in
each of your strengths, before reaching the end I am sure you all will be
able to revisit a complete life in one session.” He hands out a steady
hand to help me to my feet. “I caution you though, stay in order; do not
attempt to force lives before their time, the results would be deadly and
besides…” He smirks “all will be experienced in given time”

        “Now, who’s next?”



         The first 4 episodes, which spanned 2 days, Basil would only
allow me one moment to slip thru before disengaging. Digging, flying,
fighting, eating; it was an infuriatingly slow process- stuck in the life of a
beetle when I knew what moments my heart yearned for.

         We had the next 3 months to both complete this process, a
complete recollection of our documented and pre-documented lives. I
had initially insisted we each take turns, but as Basil pointed out I had
triple the number of documented lives to process and it would be much
easier to focus on one subject at a time. I didn’t put up much of a
struggle; after all, he was correct. I just did not wish to be the center of
his attention when all my thoughts still revolved around her. Basil,
knowing me best, easily picked up on my fretting, my agitation, but
chalked it up to the scroll- not knowing the person I was seeking.

         By the 5th episode Basil was more adept at attaching the
sensors and we were continuing thru multiple moments, closing in on
the end of this insect’s life- I could almost feel anticipation in my
memories; like the beetle too, knew something better was to come.
        These longer sessions were sort of like a strange therapy for a
schizophrenic… Basil would ask me an innocent question, my mind
would focus one answer but my soul would come to life; making me
see, feel, taste, smell and remember- only, they weren’t exactly my
memories and it wasn’t really my body. The first seconds would be the
loudest, the brightest; like music playing at top volume, being so loud
you can hardly focus, and then magically it is properly adjusted to a
comfortable. The more sessions we engage the fewer questions it takes
to emerge. This last one, I don’t recall Basil even muttering a word.

          Basil could see too, of course, as well as anyone who had access
to my Watcher’s Medallion after the fact. That was, after all, the
primary function of the contraption; it allowed not only for me to live
these moments, making the memories and emotions part of my present
self, but also for the Teachers and the Watchers to have a full view of
the innards of my soul, my thoughts… nothing held back. I couldn’t have
lied if I wanted to.

         As the moment of the Beetle’s impending death, my death,
came- a fear engulfed me that was my own; there was no way to truly
protect her from them.
        The most beautiful face fills my vision. Although- what would a
beetle know of beauty. She is smiling. She reaches out a finger to touch
the petal of the flower on which I am wresting, no, to touch me and the
moment she does I am gone.
         I have been in this city for just over 6 months. That is the
longest, really, I’ve settled in one place. If you can really say I’m ever
settled. I left the mountains 2 years ago, 1 year after Graydon. Since
then I have dived the Pacific, Indian, Arctic, Baltic, English, and now
Atlantic. You would think a girl from the mountains would want little to
do with the water, but it is the history, the finds, more than the water
that draws me. Who am I kidding; I wouldn’t be able to live without the
water either.

           The excitement of each dive site is contagious; the first
uncovered artifact causes an adrenalin rush unlike anything I had felt
before. I’m sure if I had settled at one site for longer than six months I
would be promoted, no longer classified an assistant. But, as usual the
excitement wears off and I feel unsettled, agitated at not finding
something, only I don’t know what I am looking for. Perhaps whatever it
is, it’s buried at the next site. This site, this city, had captivated me; as if
it was familiar and excitingly new at the same time. There was so much
to explore as well, at one point it was the largest settlement of people
in America, so many cultures coming together drowned in less than 700
feet of water.

         Life here was enthralling, until the ball. And since then life
wouldn’t seem to move, as it had before. I catalogued, dived; did
everything as I had, but my mind was only focused on him- now that he
had found me. At first it was warm and pleasant, as it was when I was
in his company, but some part of me was enraged, how dare he come
disturb my life?

       He had plagued my dreams since I was 12. If I am honest, he’s
beset my nightmares as well, and now he has invaded my every
thought. Perhaps he was the reason I could never settle.

        I had confided in Graydon long ago about this man in my
dreams, although at the time I had thought it some silly girlish fantasy.
Then I had realized there was nothing fantastic about it, rather just
ordinary.

        I hadn’t noticed him on the promenade, but I felt him, if that
makes any sense. It was as if a piece was missing to a puzzle and the
world didn’t look quite right until that moment. It was at the ball that I
knew, a culmination of elation and fear seeping through every bone. I
looked at him, thinking that is not how I remember him appearing in my
dreams- but sure enough it is him. His face was perfect, flawless angles
chiseled smooth Hair much darker brown than I had ever dreamed, eyes
a starburst of blue and grey darkening even more as he stared into
mine. He was dressed the same as all the other watchers; clean,
pressed, linen shirt and trousers with a black high-collared waistcoat
sporting ornate trinkets of bronze and several pockets about. When he
cut in, taking my hand from that poor gentleman I couldn’t remember,
it felt like my hand was on fire. He pulled me closer and a rush of un-
experienced memories flowed through my mind; a dance, this dance, an
embrace, a kiss, a promise, pain and more… So, so much more.

       It was much later, after the ball, when I had a chance to speak
about the matter to Graydon. He was walking me back to my flat. The
walk was silent as I attempted to conjure the nerve. “Your friend,
Abban?”

        He sighed with a smile and stated plainly “I figured as much.”

        “So you’ve known? You’ve known all along and you didn’t even
think to write me, to tell me?”

         “Well…” he began in his sheepish way. “How was I to know for
sure? Perhaps he seemed familiar to me for other reasons.” Glancing at
his feet now he continues in a mumble “and to be honest, I can’t say I’m
completely glad he’s found you… I was almost hoping it wasn’t him.”

        “Not that I haven’t weathered a myriad of suitors” chiding.
“Surely, you couldn’t have been hoping it was supposed to be you?” I
asked incredulously. Of course he didn’t.

        “No! Of course not.“ He seemed as appalled as I would have
been at the thought. “It’s just difficult, that’s all. Thinking about what is
to come.” He stops in the middle of the path, turning fully to face me
with a look of confusion. Struggling to find the words “I feel like I’ve
kept you safe in a little bubble, just you and me in a bubble and now
Abban’s come and popped it. I don’t know how to keep you safe, now
that he’s here.”

         I can’t help but roll my eyes at his attempts to shelter me. I’ve
lived the past 3 years without his interference and have managed quiet
well, although I doubt he was ever pleased to hear of the suitors. I
pulled his hands closer and embrace him with my arms around his
waist. The top of my head barely reaches his shoulders now but I still
squeeze as tight as I can. Pondering for a moment, I decide not to come
completely clean; best not mention the fear, I’m sure he fears enough
for the both of us. Speaking against his arm I mumbled “I’ll always be
safe. I promise.” And then for good measure I looked up into his eyes.
“Besides… what life isn’t worth living?”



         For over a week now after work I have walked the dock,
irritated, desperate, and now staring at the behemoth airship only
wishing it would leave. Silly, I know, but I cannot seem to find a place I
want to be more than here. The world just seems oddly wrong here,
although I wish it wasn’t. The ship should have left 2 days ago, but here
she still is and here I still am. Obsessed. That’s what I had become. For
the life if me I couldn’t think how to fix this problem and have little
hope.

        For the first time in days I hear the tell-tales signs of the ship’s
port opening; metal grinding combined with the hiss of steam or air
screaming out. Two shadows emerge from the belly and I hold my
breath. Taking a step on the gangplank I recognize the first one
immediately; Graydon, smiling at me.

        The second figure is not one I had met. It is a man with leather
skin, wrinkled and worn, White peach fuzz hair and dressed in plain
linen similar to the Watcher’s uniforms that Graydon was sporting, but
not quiet. The Linen was even plainer, if that was possible, and his
waistcoat – instead of being ornate and black was simple, pocket less
and orange.

        Graydon approaches first, with a hesitant smile. “Maya, may I
present to you my Teacher.” He steps aside so that the older gentleman
may take his place.

       “It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Nicholas.” He states earnestly
“Mr. Monroe here has told me so much about you.” Smiling like a cat
who ate the canary.

        Graydon clears his throat, addressing his Teacher “If you will
excuse us for a moment.” He slips my arm into his when his Teacher
nods. “Shall we take a walk, Maya?” I haven’t managed a word since
their appearance; I look up at him baulking as he pulls me along
chuckling at my expression. Once we are several feet from his educator
he speaks softly, leaning down to talk directly into my ear while
continuing his leisurely pace. “They’ve noticed you, on the dock, this
week.”

       “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed.” I take the defensive without a
reason why. Was I doing anything wrong?

       “Why didn’t you write me? Why didn’t you tell me if something
was amiss?”

       “Who’s to say something is amiss? Who’s to say this isn’t what I
do every afternoon when this ship is not into dock?”

          He clears his throat. “They are Watchers. Gathering information
is their specialty.”

       Again I am silent, reflecting and furious. “It is none of your
business and none of theirs what I do in my own time!”
         He stops his progression up the dock and turns fully to face me,
speaking in a harsh whisper “Honestly! How am I supposed to keep you
safe?” I bristle at that.

        “Is it really your job?” I speak through my teeth.

        “It is their business. And it is mine.” He nearly shouts before
checking his anger. “Look, I didn’t mean to be like this. I only want to
help you. My Teacher, he wants to help.”

        “Help?” I can’t let go of the venom so quickly. “Who said I need
help? Who said I want your help?” He grips my face in his large hands
forcing my eyes up to meet his.

        “I can see.” He articulates. “I know you, Maya. I can see that
you are miserable; I can see that you are lost. Please. Please let me help
you?”

        The fight has left me. I relax into his hands never diverting my
eyes. “How?” I whisper. “Even if I I wanted you to, even if I let you…
How could you help when I don’t even know what it is?”

        He smiles familiarly at that, knowing he is just about to win the
argument. “We are Watchers. We can find out.” And then he has the
audacity to wink. My brow furrows in confusion, I never truly did
understand, what was the job of the Watchers? “Please? Just come
inside and we can talk about it.” He exhales “Please just let me help
you.”

       My mouth pops open as I comprehend what he is asking me.
“Come inside?”

       His smile widens and he nods. “That’s why I’m here right now.
To convince you to come on board….”

        Without hesitation I interrupt, responding. “Alright.”

        “We can help you, we can help you remember… if you just.”

        “Alright.” I repeat again. “Graydon, Alright.”

        “Alright?” disbelieving, he questions me.

        “Mhmm.” I nod.

        “Are you sure?”

        “Weren’t you just trying to convince me?”
        “Yes, but… I didn’t think it would be that easy.” His eyes are
bright with excitement and something else, almost fear. “I mean. I
don’t know how long they intend to keep you on board.” I smile, at his
apparent conflict; wanting me close but afraid for me at the same time.

        “I’m sure I’ll be in safe hands, Graydon.” I raise my eyebrows at
him, daring him to contradict.
        Graydon’s Teacher was more than eager to take me on a tour of
the ship once on board, it seemed he was aware of my inexperience
with these soaring contraptions and it pleased him to show off his
home.

        We entered on the navigation deck, a large rectangular capsule
attached and suspended in the bottom of the ridged balloon. He
pointed out the galley and crew quarters before showing the maps
room and steer house. Leading back the way we came he guided me
past the external port and up an ornate spiral staircase into the base of
the balloon.

        The decks were not what I expected, from this perspective you
had no consideration of the mammoth structure in which you were
contained. The first deck above navigation housed the Apprentices and
young Watchers. The ceiling was barely tall enough to admit Graydon
and he had to duck his head when passing through a door. Graydon
pointed out his room, down the far end of the hall, which he shared
with 3 of his classmates.

        Continuing up the stairs brought us to a smaller floor with the
same low ceilings, wider than the last but only one fourths of its length.
This confounded me. Graydon chuckled at me expression. “If we filled
the entire balloon with living space, where would the gas reside to lift
us?” he smiled in response.

         This floor was the teaching floor. Classrooms, dining rooms and
sleeping quarters for all the teachers occupied its space. As we moved
back towards the staircase I hear a door shut down another hall with a
series of half sized doors packed closely together. “What are those?”

        “Meditation compartments” the Teacher responds. “I will
explain those in due time, but I’m afraid now we must hurry.” Graydon
eyes widen as he pushes me towards the stairs. Reaching the landing we
find ourselves on the 4th deck, the top floor- which ironically isn’t even
half way up the middle of the balloons structure.

        “This floor” the Teacher informs me with a smile “is saved for
special guests, like yourself.” He leads me down the hall and around
three bends and three halls then into a fourth bend into another hall, all
looking exactly like the first. The doors are plain and unmarked, the halls
dark without windows. He approached an assumingly random door and
opened it without preamble gesturing Graydon and myself inside.

        The room, intended to be my room- I realize, is a long rectangle
with one bowed wall opposite the door. This wall, the membrane of the
ship, contains a single small window, slanted downward, giving me a
view of the ocean below. The room itself is bigger than my flat;
complete with a large freestanding bed, bath, small dinner table, and
sitting area. All plainly arranged in colors of deep orange, cream, and
brown. I imagine it was designed for a visiting Teacher or Watcher,
opposed to a typical guest. At first I wondered why they would give me
these accommodations, unless Graydon is right and this is where they
think I would be most comfortable for an extended period of time. It
was becoming apparent Graydon’s Teacher has no intention in allowing
me to leave.

        “I hope you could be happy here, little one” he asks.

         I smirk, playing along “I think I could try.” Graydon remains
silent, carefully guarding his expression from both me and his teacher. I
walk to the window, then turn to face the two men. “Now, how do you
believe you can help me?”
        I felt overwhelmed at the education I was receiving on the
Watchers. Never had I fathomed their sole purpose was recording the
Histories of Souls; cataloging lives much as I catalogue artifacts from the
stock exchange- only with souls there is nothing to hold and everything
to experience.

        “You believe the answer to my unknown questions lie in the
memories of my past lives?” I clarify. The teacher still seems too eager;
too pleased at my easy acceptance of the dialog he just spew.

         “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and
the truth.” Of course, our souls were of no surprise to anyone. I was
only slightly taken back at his explanation of dreams and déjà vu, but
then I thought doesn’t it make sense, as I reflected on my most recent
experience. Their methods, on the other hand, the music of the souls,
the remembrance collector, I had trouble coming to grips with those.

        Graydon speaks now, pleading. “Maya, please. Trust me. Let me
help you.” As if my trust in him was anything but absolute. “Let me
guide you, we can recollect your lives and find the answers.” As if I
could deny him anything, he always had my best interest at heart.

        “How do we start?” I huff.

         He turns to address his Teacher. “If we could have the record of
her lives…”

         “Not possible.” The Teacher interjects. “Only Watchers are privy
to the record of their own souls.” He tilts his head towards me with a
smile “I’m afraid you’ll have to enter the lives blind. Now if you excuse
me, I have some business I must attend to. Graydon, we will prepare for
the first session in the morning. Please help Maya get settled tonight,
the ship launches in one hour.”

        “One Hour!” I screech after him as he opens the door.

         “Do not fret, little one. I have seen to all your affairs.” He smiles.
“And while your customary wardrobe isn’t suitable for the ship- I hope
you will find the closet acceptably stocked.”

         Panicked, I run out into the hall once the door had shut behind
him. He has vanished and I am left in a strange unfamiliar maze without
the faintest idea which direction to turn. Before I can make a choice
Basil is at my side and holding me tightly against his chest. “I’m sorry”
he mumbles into the top of my head. “I know it was wrong, I warned
you though. Just remember that, before you came on the ship I warned
you.”
       I break his grip, pushing him back away from me. "You didn’t tell
me I was going to be kidnapped!”

        He huffs “Would it have made a difference if I did?” he holds my
chin in order to meet my eyes. “Honestly, if I had told you- would you
have not come?”

        I grind my teeth because I know he is right. He has always been
troubled by my nomadic ways. Even if had told me, I would have come
because I trusted him fully. “Am I free at least to explore the ship?”

         He drops his hand, abashed. “Ah… You are more than welcome
to wander this deck to your heart’s content. Everything you could
possibly need will be provided for you here. Are you hungry? I could
have them bring us up some supper. Let me show you how to work the
call system.” He walks back into the room, looking around. I cringe at his
unspoken words; I truly am a prisoner here on this ship. “How about a
bath? I made sure they assigned you this room- it is the only one with a
tub. I didn’t want you missing the water.”

        I follow him slowly back into my cell. He is facing away from me
but I’m sure he can still hear the anger in my voice. “How long?”

        “Hmm?”

        “How long am I going to be held on this ship?” He turns his head
to face me.

       “Um… I’m not sure.” He states pitifully. “But I won’t let anything
happen to you. “

         The spite is out of my mouth before fully formed as a thought
“Well, it appears you already have.” His eyes drop instantly, saddened
at my allegation.

        “What about Abban?”

        “Abban?” He questions.

       “Yes. Abban. Does he know I’m here? Is he a part of all this?” I
gesture around as if this was a torture chamber and not luxury
accommodations.

        “No, and I think it’s best that he doesn’t know you are on
board.” His voice is stern now, serious. He truly believes he is protecting
me.
         The atmosphere changes curiously, breaking through my
molten crust. “What did he mean, your Teacher, about entering the
lives blind?”

         Graydon seems pleased at the question, happy to have the
tension dissipated; even slightly. “Usually, only Watchers recollect their
past lives. We have privileges that civilians do not.” He looks down at
me with a smirk.

        “Like what?”

         “Like permission to know the names and species of our past
lives.” He pulls a parchment out from his waist coat. It is creased and
crumpled, worn from being opened many times. “This is my history.
These are the lived I have lived. I was hoping he would give you yours,
so that we would know what to expect, but it appears that won’t be the
case.”

        “I’ll be entering the lives blind.” I reiterate, now understanding.

        His smirk grows into a crooked grin. “Well, not entirely.”

        “Not entirely?”

        “No, see, I’ve already relived my last life…” eye brows raised he
whispers, like he did when he had a secret when we were younger.
“…Little sister.”
          I was useless the rest of that day, not because of the death- I
was expecting that, a beetle can only live so long. It was because of that
face. I felt drawn to it and shocked, which was ultimately my demise. I’d
never thought a beetle could die from shock.

         I knew it was her from the moment I caught a glimpse. Even as
a beetle it caused that, now familiar, sensation- that world coming to
focus a little bit brighter. Basil had halted the machine as soon as the
end had passed but the image of that face was all I could focus on even
in the present time.

        It was her, but altogether not her. Of course, I should have
expected this- it’s not as if we come back looking exactly as we had in a
previous life. What was strange was that I could recognize her even
through the ‘disguise.’ She was older, much older. Withered and
slouching with a delicate web of lines covering her outreached hand.
Although she was beautiful, she didn’t look happy. Misery seemed to
cloud her vision, taking the sparkle out of her eye.

         With my brow furrowed I folded my knees up into my chest and
rested my chin on them. I told Basil we should break for the rest of the
day. He seemed fine with that and tossed me my sixth Watcher’s
Medallion, once retrieved from the machine, before he left the
chamber. I flipped it between my fingers reflecting on the images it
now contained. Here I was looking for answers and all I was finding so
far were questions. Surely this beetle couldn’t have been the only
connection. I was so glad the Medallion could only contain the
reflection of that life and not the thoughts from this one. I pocketed the
medallion and lay back on the lounge, allowing my true memories of her
to wash over me.

         True to his word, Basil let me rest for the remainder of the day
without pressure. Surprisingly, the teacher had not made rounds to
observe today but I was glad for the break. I went back to the berth in
time to shower before lunch and spent the time between then and
dinner playing Beethoven on the piano in the dining room. It had been a
while since my fingertips had touched those delicate keys and I missed
it. This day was the most peaceful I had although my mind was still
pleasantly filled with images of her.

          The following morning Basil woke me early, eager to get a jump
start on the next life. His eagerness was even more amusing when the
life of the Gastrotrich was over before he could settle back in his seat. I
couldn’t help but chuckle momentarily; it seems there is nothing very
memorable in a life which only last three days. Before he could react I
can felt a disorientating tightness, I choked as darkness engulfed me
dizzyingly and, just as quickly, a warm light slowly fades into the
darkness. I could hear Basil gasp at the emergence but all I could focus
on was starvation. Not my hunger I realized, but the life’s hunger. The
humming bird.

        Sweetness poured down my throat relieving the pangs of
hunger giving me a moment to reflect on what had happened. I could
hear Basil fumble with the controls and the life slowly faded back into
our quiet mediation compartment.
        Basil seemed pleased. This humming bird life, although
uneventful, was longer than the Gastrotrich, longer even than the
Beetles. So, while we were now recollecting a quarter a dozen moments
in each setting, the life was now spanning into its 3rd day for me, or 7th
spring for the bird. I think he was just satisfied to not be caught off
guard as he was with the last one. The rebirth wasn’t exactly a pleasant
experience, but the course of adrenalin it left in my veins caused an
excitement only matched in unknown memories. I craved it more.

        We took more breaks during this life too… A life of feeding,
mating, and bright flowers can only hold your interest for so long. It was
a peaceful life and a piece of my mind wondered what happened prior
to lead to such a rest. Today, I spent part of the morning tinkering at
the piano. After a brief afternoon session and dinner I accompanied
Basil back here, to the berth, where we are continuing a discussion on
the impending death of the humming bird. I think his imagination gets
the best of him at times. The room was strangely empty lately. Jonah
was silent and anti social as usual, his presence adds nothing as of late.
Graydon was…. Absent. Reflecting back on it, I can’t remember seeing
him at all today; not at meals, not in the hall. Teacher must be pushing
him hard.

         “Hey Abban?” Basil calls from the top bunk. “I was thinking…”
Interjecting another topic from his assumedly overactive mind.

        “Nothing good has ever started with that phrase” I respond,
while trying to cover my eye in order to fall asleep. It is two hours past
lights out now. “Go to sleep” Graydon has still not entered, I notice
then.

        “No seriously… I kind of understand why we need to recollect
our lives with the most recent first, and oldest last… it’s like I can easily
remember what happened yesterday, but not really what happened
when I was 2. But…” He pauses and I know this question a stumper for
him. “Why is it when we recollect a life we experience it in order… I
mean shouldn’t the death be first and the birth last?” he pauses again…
“Instead it’s in proper order…. I was just wondering”

        I let him ramble for a while, thinking for myself, before I clear
my throat to respond. “I think… I think it’s because it’s how life wants to
be experienced. “

        He’s silent for a moment… “Huh?”

        I stay silent, pretending to sleep, allowing him to reflect without
further interruption. In honesty, I don’t think we are guiding the
recollections- nor are the machines. The exhaustion of reliving finally
comes over me and I close my eyes momentarily and sleep swiftly
sweeps in. Pure bliss.
        I awaken to the sound of the door shutting, but, unwilling for
the rest to end, keep my eyes firmly closed. It is nearing dawn and the
light of the magic hour against my closed lids is pleasant. Light
footsteps tread slowly towards the bunks.

       “Where have you been?” Basil whispers.

        Tiredly, Graydon responds even quieter. “Please, don’t ask.”
Poor fellow, Teacher really is giving him a run.

        “How far has he gotten?” Graydon asks, I assume nodding in
my direction.

         “He’s in his third life; ever so serene humming bird” Basil
responds with a snort from above me. “He has a long ways to go… but
it’s only been a week.”

       I hear another noise, a moan, from across the room, as Graydon
has edged into his bed.

       Basil smirks “I’m so glad you’re pleased.”
        It came much quicker than I was anticipating. Just as the last, it
was her face I saw last. A few years younger but still creased and sad.
She’s distorted too, as if I was looking at her through warped glass. This
time the end was slower and painful, I gasp for breaths but the air won’t
come. I beat my wings quickly but I can’t make it past an unseen barrier.
I want to shout at her “Help me!” but I can’t make a sound. The
suffocation intensifies in pain and the world, her face, dims. I am gone.
        “I’m sorry” Graydon states from the doorway.

        “For what? The kidnapping or the early awakening?” I question
the time, the sun still is low in the sky, but a lack of equilibrium fogs my
brain. I don’t remember Graydon departing, nor do I remember falling
asleep, but now I do remember waking up to his knock only a moment
ago.

      “Both” he smirks and then more seriously “but also for what I
am about to put you through. It won’t all be pleasant.”

        He sets a ring of baked dough and spread down on the table
with a mug filled with hot sweet smelling liquid. Mmmmm, Tea. He sure
knows how to suck up. “You should get dressed, Teacher will be here
shortly.”

        I stumble over to the wardrobe, fumbling with the latch. As
promised, it is stocked. I giggle tiredly at what he has intended for me to
wear. Truly feeling out of my element now, I throw on the Watcher’s
linen; a skirt flowing to my ankles and a shirt with small shiny brass
buttons. The vest is there too, but I leave it hanging.

        As if on cue, I take the last sip of tea and there is another knock
at the door. Graydon admits his teacher, who is carrying a bulky brass
and glass apparatus. He places it on the floor in the middle of the sitting
area then empties his pockets of dozens of little shiny medallions. His
eyes spark like the medallions with excitement “Shall we begin?”

        “Ready as I’ll ever be.” I respond.
        The first memory is of Graydon- but my new-found memory
calls up a new name attached to it. Edward. How is it that I can
recognize him when he is so utterly not himself? His face is juvenile,
fuzzy to my eyes but smiling, laughing, disappearing behind his small
hands, and then reappearing; eliciting a shrill of laughter from my tiny
body.
        The second memory is of Edward, again. An older child now,
coaxing me jump into the water, catching me just before I hit the cold
surface and laughing as I splash him. It is a moment of happiness
amongst a sea of sadness.

       Those memories, murky and wet, stream through my
consciousness with little thought. I try to trudge through them, bringing
them to the fore front- but they slip through my fingers swiftly pulling
me back to the moment in the water.
         The third memory is of Edward, Older still- now a young man. I
look upon him with adoration, much as I do now. He is my protector; for
years it has been just he and I alone, sorrowfully against the world.

        He is dressed impeccably, I wonder if the suit was father’s. He
smiles at me telling me I am the loveliest debutant. Recognition dawns
and I look about. A ball, we are at a ball. He holds tight to my hand and
smiles sadly, as if he knows we will soon be saying goodbye. We waltz
and twirl ignoring the world around us and suddenly there is a tap on
his shoulder…
        “You knew!” I accuse the moment Graydon appears in the port
of our berth. It has been 2 days since I have seen him last. I don’t
believe he has even returned to sleep until now, he looks exhausted.

        “What?”He stills in the arch, taking in my pacing of the room
before he had the sense to look ashamed.

        “Edward Barton!” I holler.

        “Ah. Logan Midas” He sighs, finally “Well, I couldn’t be certain.”

        “Bollocks! You knew… and you told me nothing!”

        Cringing at my vulgar language he responds sheepishly “Well, it
wasn’t really my life to tell….”

       I stop, turning so I am facing him. He looks so pitiful, truly sorry.
“How long have you known?” attempting a more calm voice.

         He clears his throat. “I’ve known that I ‘knew’ you from the
moment I met you.” He pauses “I couldn’t have been, I wasn’t sure of
the rest until you met Maya.” Maya- I smile at the mention of her name.
“And I truly did not know, really, until my recollection.”

         I reflect on that for a moment. That means, that means this life-
the life of them as brother and sister, Clara and Edward Barton, must
have been their most recent in their past lives if they were to recall so
much without the contraption. Absently, I find myself shaking my head-
what are the chances that they would find each other? That he would
be here to be just as protective of her and that in turn I would find
them? He interrupts my inner dialog softly “Where are you now? In
your recollections?”

         Just the thought makes me chuckle. “At the ball… no wonder it
felt like déjà vu to her.” I remember reveling in the first sight of her.
Stronger than the emotions of our last visit, my present self as well as
my past were both overjoyed, rejoicing I’ve found her! Now removed
from the memory I wonder why Logan would think her lost, having not
met her prior. I had Basil disengage the contraption before any more of
the moment could slip by, I wanted to savor it, making it last as long as
possible and I had Graydon to address now.

         “Well, you have a full life to collect.” I glance at his face. He is
smiling, but there is something else, the smile is not truly reaching your
eyes. “What is it?” I ask. “You’ve already lived it? Tell me!”

         He lies on his mattress and closes his eyes in a clear dismissal.
“As I said; it’s not my life to tell.”
        I rush through the dining room, grabbing a box of sandwiches
before sprinting back to the compartment. These should last us the rest
of the day. Basil is already waiting for me there, anticipating my need to
complete this memory. He quickly dives in to a sandwich before setting
up the probes.

          It has only been a day since the death of the humming bird, only
a day since I started reliving the life of Logan Midas. The first 18 years of
that life flowed by quickly little memorable in that time but friends and
family. The first memory to come sharply was that first moment as he, I,
walked into that ballroom. “Ready?” Basil mumbles through the mouth
full of food.
        Imagine her, so purely her, but completely not. I think I could
recognize that true beauty even if it rested in a blob fish. I take her out
stretched hand from her brother’s and he gives me a sad smile with a
nod of his head. I can practically hear his thoughts; disapproval of the
entire debutant idea, it is too soon, she is too young to become a wife
but he does not have the funds to support them both. I sympathetically
smile back, having been informed of their situation so thoroughly by a
Teacher.

       “What a lovely flower.” I state as innocently as I can. I clasp her
hand, place my other arm delicately around her bare back and dance
her away from her brother.

       She looks confused for a moment, looking about her person to
confirm. “But… but I am not wearing any flowers.”

        “I know.” I state with a sly grin. Screw social graces. I might be a
stranger now, but I do not intend for that status to remain past this
evening.
         I am getting accustom to the sensations, the feelings of living
through another life. It is a completely different experience, though,
recollecting a human’s life. Animals are driven by the immediate need,
the immediate action and that makes for much simpler memories.

         Humans; on the other hand are not only driven by their needs
and desires, but also their own memories. At moments in this life I am
not only recalling memories, but memories within those memories;
References to times and places that are so familiar to me, but also
foreign at the same time. It’s as if the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’
have all been established in a novel- but I have skipped ahead 20 pages.

        At first I struggled, trying to keep in the present moment as the
soul wanted to pull me further in, further back into one of those
memories, but that just made me more exhausted… So I let it happen.
These don’t happen often in her presence. It seems with her here, I am
looking for nothing else.
        Unimportant moments seem to blur by, as if running in fast
forward before slowing down at an appropriate memory; a dinner, a
walk, a quarrel. Some moments seem to go in slow motion, allowing me
to reflect closely on the sensations; a wedding, a kiss. All these
memories revolve around her. Other players enter the stage briefly; her
miserable Edward, my happy parents; but it is her who is constant in
each.

         Sometimes the moments take my off guard; after zooming
through several tender passionate honeymoon nights with little detail,
my mind is suddenly engulfed. Her smell, her face, her warmth; the bliss
bombards me before I have a second to feel abashed at the audience,
Basil, which I am now utterly aware of. She is still so young I realize, it
may have only been a year or two since we first danced, time moves so
quickly for these two.

        “Please, Logan. Please?” She pleads. “I truly want this.” Then I
think, why would this night be more important than any others? Nine
months worth of moments later I have my answer.
      Basil disengages, removing a medallion to hand it to me. “No.” I
whimper, coming back from the memory.

        “What?” he asks preoccupied across the small space.

        “I said no. I’m not done yet. Start another medallion.”

        “Abban, you’ve been going at this life all day… and after that
moment” he smirks “I think I need a cold shower. Besides, it’s almost
dinner time. Take a break.”

         “No!” I practically shout. “Skip dinner. Start another medallion.”
I order hotly.

        He sighs, but in the end does as I ask.
        Our son is born. Gabriel. And like a moon, I cannot seem to
escape the gravitation orbit of my glorious wife and newborn son. I try
leaving once- only to go home to wash up, get some rest and take care
of a few things. I get as far as the corner and then I turn around with a
chuckle.

        I change my plans; call ahead to Clara’s favorite restaurant,
divert my path to intersect with it and then return immediately to the
birthing center, toting her favorite meal.

        The look on her face when I reappeared was worth it.
        My head is pounding, I’m exhausted. I feel like I haven’t left this
small dark space in days, I miss the fresh salt air, I miss the sunshine.
Most of all, I miss solitude. Since walking through the door I have not
had a moment to myself. I am in the constant company of Graydon and
his Teacher.

        I grind my teeth and rub my eyes as Graydon detaches the
device. “I think she needs a break” he whispers softly. “We are pushing
her too much. She didn’t have the preparation the rest of us have and
we haven’t exactly been following protocol” He sounds like he is
pleading angrily. I hear no response but I assume an affirmation as
Graydon leans over me bracing my arms to help me rise and leads me
over to the sole window of my guest quarters.

         The breeze revives me slightly, but only enough for me to
realize the churning of my stomach. Funny that I would be seasick
floating up here in the sky. I must have turned slightly green because
Graydon now has me braced under his arm asking if I am alright.

          “I’m fine.” I mumble, my eyes still closed. At this moment I
would rather be recollecting than here, at least in that life I wouldn’t
feel ill. Bile rises in my throat as my mind corrects that statement,
reminiscing the feeling of morning sickness I went through yesterday.

        The recollection itself I do not like. It’s an invasion, leaving me
feeling raw. It’s not physically painful…No… actually most of the
memories are quiet pleasing. It’s just afterwards…after the long sessions
are over and the Teacher has left the room… That’s when my stomach
turns to ice and I try to collapse into myself. I feel as if sorrow is just
around the bend and my mind is resisting. It usually takes hours each
night for me to pull myself together, even with Graydon’s ever
comforting presence, and then I’m left with these memories that are
not my own but make me feel the pain all over again.

         I’ve found him, of course, Abban. Or rather he found me. It
seemed as if he had been searching for me forever, once he found me
he wouldn’t let go. Logan Midas seems to be a name fitting of him in
that life. From what I can tell it wasn’t that long ago; still well after the
thaw, perhaps less than 100 years from the current time. We reside in
the mountains, although they don’t resemble the home I know
currently; more rocky and temperate with crystal clear lakes. You are
able to tell the passage of time through the changing of the trees. Most
of my memories since that of the ball seem to revolve around him; Him
and Edward, him and our son. Our son; only yesterday a thought and
now a baby I held in my arms. Time passes at a strange rate, it is
disorientating and confusing. All this emotion from one life, I wonder,
how many more can be?
         “I don’t believe this is best for her” he voice vibrates, tickling my
ear as it is pressed to his chest. I must be doubling over if my ear is only
resting on his chest. “We must slow down the pace, she’s wearing
herself out.”

         Another voice speaks, one that has mostly been silent; his
Teacher. “I believe I can address her nausea with a remedy. I will bring
it shortly and then we may continue. We don’t have much time.”

        “No.” Graydon asserts in such a foreign tone I have to open my
eyes to be certain it is him. “She will not continue today. She needs to
rest.” He pauses and then turns his head speaking softly now “But yes,
please do bring the remedy.”

        His Teacher appears as shocked as I at his tone. “As you wish.”
He states before turning and exiting through the room’s single door. I
envy him for being able to walk through that door. For days now I have
been contained in this room, my every need provided for here.

        It might be considered luxury to anyone else, room service,
private bath, and private entertainment even; if you consider recalling
your past lives as entertainment; but I know if I were to step out of that
door there would only be a befuddling labyrinth and darkness waiting to
stop me.

         Graydon has at least been helpful about it. He never leaves my
side until I am asleep at night, then waits at my door at my awakening in
the morning. He escorts me on walks in that perplexing corridor. At
least with him, it feels less like I am held prisoner, and more that he is
trying to keep me out of harm's way.

         He sweeps me up in his arms before I can even realize my legs
falling out from under me. Blackness impedes my senses.
        I awaken after god knows how much time has passed, lying on
the bed. Graydon, seated in a chair next to my side, has rested his head
down on the quilt. I shift ever so slightly and his head shoots up
immediately searching out my form. I smile at him sorely; taking in his
appearance. Disheveled, his hair is matted and dark circles encompass
his eye lids. “Here, drink this.” He reaches for a glass sitting on the
bedside table.

         I do as he asks, pleased to discover it is only water contained in
it. My throat is scorched. “How long was I out?”

        “20 hours” he responds simple. “Ah. And 15 minutes” he
corrects glancing at his pocket watch. “Apparently,” he smirks “You
needed to rest.”

        “I guess I know who won that argument.” I can’t help but smile.
I have a feeling if I was conscious when Teacher came back we would
have been right back at it. Speaking of which... “Where is your
Teacher?”

        “Oh, don’t worry. He’ll be back in half an hour. He’s been
checking in every hour.” He releases a breath, apparently held until he is
sure of my health. Finally asking softly “Are you alright?”

        “I’m fine.” I promise him.

         “Just be glad you were asleep for the last 20 hours. You
wouldn’t want to have experienced it awake” He says sadly, distantly.
He is thinking, I can tell, his brow furrowed, lips pursed. “You don’t have
to do this, Maya. I’m sorry I asked you to. I can get you off at the next
port in two days. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this won’t provide you
with answers. This life, it seems so ordinary. “

         I interrupt. “Perhaps it isn’t this life that has the answers.” I’m
amazed at my own revelation. What questions did I have? I had already
found Abban and Graydon. What was my unease? What was the
anguish emanating from? Surely, as I felt the need to search in this life I
had felt it in the recollections of that last. Where was this to lead?

        Most important, the question that came out of Graydon’s
mouth next “But surely you can’t be willing to do this again! Just look at
yourself! How many lives are you willing to relive to find an answer to a
question that has yet to be asked?” How many indeed. “You’re going
through this blind. We have no idea how many lives there will be. 3? 6?
22? Are you willing to relive 22 lives?”
        I ponder for a moment, not really thinking but surprised
because my mind was already made up. “Yes,” I would relive 22 lives
and even more if it leads to answers. At least I knew I would have
Graydon and Abban at my side, hopefully in all of those lives. “Yes” I tell
him eagerly again as my quarters transform in my mind. What was a
prison only moments ago feels like a launch pad now. I look at him
squarely now. He doesn’t seem quite so eager at my answer but looks
resolved. He wanted me to start this; he will stick with me as I finish it.

        “Now let’s get started, I’ve lost enough time.”

        “No.” He states firmly. “Not until you’ve eaten some food. If you
are so set in doing this at least I can make you take better care of
yourself.” He quirks his brow “I will protect you, even if it is only
yourself you need protecting from.”
         “What a lovely flower” I muse.

        I had returned home only a moment ago to find Logan waiting
at the door with Gabe in his arms. I had been traveling, visiting friends
on a long needed rest, but nothing was more peaceful as the sight of
them at the door. Logan awkwardly covered my eyes after handing the
small child into my arms and leading me through the house and out
what I assumed was the kitchen door. “Ready?” he asked eagerly.

         “I guess” I state flabbergasted. “But what is so surprising about
the backyard?” He chuckles as he removes his hands and I blink as the
bright light flickers through my lashes. The lushest buds, exotic flower,
enchanting smells overwhelm my senses. Bright vibrant colors, with
warm sunshine filtering through the glass enclosure, a small room
overflowing with leaves, petals, and a small bench; just perfect for
sitting.

       “I thought” he started. “That maybe next time you need a rest,
perhaps you could come here.” He smiles slyly, mumbling “I was just
about out of my mind with you so far away.”

         “What a lovely flower.” I smile back gently caressing the closest
petal.
        “I’m okay, Graydon. Let’s continue.” I say, before he even had a
chance to remove the medallion.

       “Are you sure?” He hesitates at the controls.

       “Yes.” I look at him now. “Please, let’s continue.”
        Water pleased me as much in this life as it does in the current.
It sooths, washing away misery and sorrow. Hope always floats up to
the top. I seem to have passed this love onto my son, Gabriel, and at
this very moment I am teaching him to swim while Logan watches from
a row boat with Edward, not to far way.

        Gabe is still small, child like, but with an intellect and self
possession years beyond his age. Sometimes it scares me; his intentions
often are hidden by the naivety in his eyes. I fear for the decency which
is sometimes lacking but love him still, as only a mother could. Logan
loves him too- with his whole body and soul.

        While other fathers keep distance; Logan is doting and
affectionate, fiercely protective as well. That is why I am here in the
water, teaching Gabriel to swim and Logan is in that boat. His first time
in the water it was Logan who accompanied him, but he was so afraid of
him drowning he wouldn’t allow him to even duck his head under the
water. Gabriel is fearless.

        Logan circles the boat around closer as Gabriel dives down to
retrieve a pendant. Logan is on edge, ready to dive in, as bubbles break
the plane of the water. Gabriel surfaces and Logan releases a breath.
Annoyed, Gabriel takes in his father’s ridged posture then decides on
revenge for his lack of confidence. “Hey dad! Have you ever seen a
Tsunami?”

        “No, Gabe… I haven’t.” Quick as a whip, just as I taught him,
Gabriel pushes a large wall of water from the lake, splashing over his
father’s boat soaking him and Edward to the bone. My laughter cannot
be contained.

        “I guess now you have.” He smirks.
         I am still laughing as I emerge from the moment. Graydon
removes a medallion from the contraption placing it in a wooden box
resting next to it. He chuckles “I was wondering if you were going to get
to that one.” I can’t help but giggle.

       “He was so much like his mother.” he grins, helping me rise.
That word stops my amusement; was… Because I am no longer that
person and presumably Gabriel, my son, is no longer as well. I gasp, as
my heart mourns the son who is not really mine. “What, Maya? What is
it?”

        I shake my head. “Nothing, nothing really. I just hadn’t thought
about it. I wonder what happened to Gabriel’s soul when he died. Who
do you think he is now? Could we find out?”

          He sighs as he dishes out my supper, handing me the plate. “We
can’t. It’s strictly forbidden. Even as Watcher’s we aren’t supposed to go
searching for them.” I reflect as he continues. “That life served its
purpose and this one serves its own.”

        I scoop a large chunk of something brown into my mouth, not
bothering to savor- just pleased from its nourishment. I really am quiet
famished. The nausea subsided with the herbal treatment Teacher has
given me and although it tastes despicable, I gladly would take it again if
it allows me to continue to eat. I think about Graydon’s answer, “But
what about me? Why am I an exception?”

        He smiles brilliantly “Because we found each other and
discovered, not the other way around.” Marveling he elaborates “You
have no idea how rare this is, this connection that transgresses lives,
and not only with me but Abban as well… Well, let’s just say, I think the
only reason Teacher allowed you on board was his curiosity.”

        Teacher smiles slightly at the mention. I glance at him and he
nods slowly, his eyes creasing in amusement. I had almost forgotten his
presence. Usually he just sits in the lotus position, quietly reflecting, at
Graydon guides the sessions and cares for my every need.

         Graydon hesitates. He is still smiling, but it looks forced; as if he
is willing his muscles to stay. “Um, do you want to break for the day?
You really could use the rest, it’s getting very late.

        “Nonsense!” I interject. “I’ve slept plenty, lets continue.”

        The smile disappears immediately with a huff. “Are you sure?”
       “Positive” I reaffirm, laying back on my lounge. “Set that
contraption back up.”
        Another happy memory, I think. A vacation. We trounce
around climbing grey speckled boulders and are surrounded by trees.
Gabriel laughs “Oh look! Another rock!”

         He is a little older now, 13 perhaps and very confident, fearless
really. A vacation in the mountains is not his idea of fun, but it is where
his father wanted to go and so he did however grudgingly. Not to say
Gabriel isn’t having fun- I believe he is well amused tormenting his
father like this very minute. I can’t help but chuckle at their banter.

        We have been hiking a good portion of the morning before
encroaching on the surprise, the trail Logan picked to appease Gabe. It
follows a shallow river, flowing over slabs and crevices. Gabriel has
been playing in the water; spinning in small whirlpools, using the large
granite slabs as slides. The diversions have extended the hike, but I am
happy to see him play. He doesn’t play enough.

           The roaring sound reaches our ears before we can locate the
spot. Gabe follows the sound down the hill with his father following
quickly behind. The trees give way and a clearing appears as if by magic.
It is all solid flat rock near us but across a span a hard curved wall jets
up. Water flows rapidly through a chute, down into a pot hole cut out of
this flat surface.

        “The Basin!” Logan exclaims “My father used to take me here
when I was your age.” Gabe’s eyes are wide. “The water has been
flowing here for over 16,000 years. Over that time the force of the
water has carved that bowl down there out of the rock.” He chuckles at
Gabe’s unchanged expression “I take it you like it.”

         I sign inwardly. This is peace, nature. Looking up through the
trees I notice the high position of the sun. Gabriel already is meandering
around the rocks, examining the hole by throwing sticks from a safe
distance. I set my eyes on a particularly dry spot, setting out a blanket
and the basket. I bask in the warmth of the sun for a brief moment
before preparing our lunch.

       I hear Gabe and Logan discussing the water from a distance for
a moment while I slice the still warm bread and strong cheese the
innkeeper had provided this morning and set it out on a tin plate on the
blanket. Gabe’s obsession with water has not diminished in his years. He
is not only the strongest swimmer of his age but also the most versed in
hydrodynamics. Logan couldn’t have chosen a better spot. Rummaging
through the basket I find the flask and three tin cups.

        “Stop, Gabe!” Logan shouts urgently. I look up to find them
both at the top of the wall, but only for a moment before Logan loses
his footing on the slippery rock and slides down its face into the
spinning vortex below.

        “Dad!” Gabe shouts. I rush to the edge as he is swiftly pulled
under. “Dad!” Gabe shouts again running down the rock toward my side
stripping off his shirt and pants as he comes running.

       I grab him about the waist before he makes it to the edge. “No
Gabe! No! You can’t swim in that.”

        “Dad!” He cries and we wait. Immobile, with my arms locked
around his waist, I wait. Please I cry inside my head. Please Logan. Tears
stream down my face as I wait for him to surface but he never does. The
sun shifts in the sky and I still wait. Gabe shifts in my arms, crying still
but now screaming. “He’s gone. He’s gone and it’s my fault.”

       “No.” I tell him. “No Gabe, No.” I pull his head to my shoulder
and muffle his sobs.

         “He didn’t want me so close. If I hadn’t gotten so close…” He
howls.

       I grab his face roughly with my hand piercing him with my gaze.
“No Gabe.” I wail. “This is not your fault.”

        The sun sets and we stand their waiting, waiting for him to
surface but he never does.
         Tears stream down my face uncontrolled. Only one moment has
passed but it has torn through my body destroying my resolve in its
wake. I sob uncontrollably. Graydon quickly wraps me up in his arms
and shifts to sit pulling me onto his lap. I grip at his collar burying my
face into his shoulder. Softly he mumbles slowly swaying to sooth me.
“I’m sorry, Maya. I’m so sorry. I wish I could make you skip that part. I
really do. If there was a way, anyway I would find it.” I try to quiet,
steadying my breathing. “Just remember.” He whispers, lifting my chin
with a finger so he can look into my eyes. “That moment… that is not
now, that was not this life. And you do not need to mourn. You know
where Logan’s soul is. You know Abban.” I nod, settling in one final
settle exhale.

        He is right; Abban is here on this ship. In this moment I am
missing him more than anything. How pathetic.

          Graydon wipes my eyes with his thumbs and sighs. The worry
has not left his face even though I have calmed. I chide myself to learn
control. He is liable to not let me continue if I breakdown in every life.
The feelings are so strong though and I question whether I can contain
it. I resolve to find the strength.

        “Come,” he affirms. Lifting me to my feet, guiding me to the
sole window to watch the sun begin to shine off the water. “It’s a new
day…”
        Logan’s life ended way too quickly. I couldn’t help but feel sorry
for Clara and Gabriel, wondering how they had managed the grief. All I
want, at the moment, is to be there to comfort her; I mused then,
realized she would have no idea what for and had to laugh out loud at
that thought.

         The longing I felt to comfort her, to be near her continued in the
next 2 lives. Strangely though, as the lives were animalistic. The only
thoughts of the chameleon were of her, being lost from her, finding her,
ignoring its own needs. That life was subsequently very short. After that
there was a time of pause, an absence of life, but not an absence of
need. It was as if I hungered for her, I wondered if my current state was
possibly seeping through into my memories of past lives. Surely I could
not desire in a state without a body.

         I realized I was going to have a hard time keeping her from the
Teacher’s if my own desires could so easily seep into the memories of
my lives. The only person in which I could confide, Graydon, was
strangely absent lately. He always entered in the dead of night, hours
after lights out and departed before sunrise each morning. He no longer
dined either and I was not the only one to notice. Basil had questioned
Jonah about his absence only at dinner, as if by sharing a side of the
room he would be more privy to Graydon’s actions. Jonah merely
shrugged in noncommittal.

        Lying in bed waiting for sleep to come after a particularly
lengthy session of nothingness, the absence, the longing was the only
emotion I felt now, painfully and permanent. 6 months was going to be
too long without word from her. I resolved then to write, in the hopes a
letter back might ease my tension and keep her safely tucked away in
my mind.

        My dearest Maya,

       My words are a prison to me for it seems 6 months will
never arrive. Just know my every thought is of you and please
quiet this poor soul by sending a sign in return. Send a single
character, it would appease me just as much as a novel. Throw a
rock, heck, just shout into the wind, know that the message
would reach me and nothing would please me more.

        Truly yours,
        Abban Von Helm
         The letter flowed from my hand quickly, scribbled words a
jumbled mess of desire, humor and sentiment. I must sound like a fool,
but alas, I undoubtedly am a love sick fool. Racing down to the maps
room I leave the sealed and addressed letter with the sparrow master
before lights out is called. The ship would not be in port for another day
and I simply could not wait that long.
        Unfortunately, the life did not end there. I tried to brace
myself, push through it. Pushing through the pain, sorrow and sadness
he had left in his wake. I could feel Graydon fretting about, as I tried to
hold back the emotions. The memories were now fuzzy and swift;
moments in the beautiful garden where I had now secluded myself,
moments with a caring Edward, and moments with an angry Gabriel.
Gabe was angry at his father for disappearing, angry at the water for
taking him, angry at the world for living on.

         He would not set foot in water again and the sadness and
frustration was apparent on his face. He took it out on the garden;
torturing humming birds, destroying buds; for years the anger did not
subside. For every flower he destroys I nourished more, trying to keep
Logan’s memory alive in this space. Even as an adult he remained bitter
and tormenting. Time slipped by and he slowly drifted away from me.
Then, as if a gift, the life itself finally slipped away and the sorrow lifted
like a weight.
         “What is he doing right now, Graydon?” I inquire as I come
back. I couldn’t help keep the remorse, the loss I felt in that life from
seeping in now. I know he’s here, I repeat to myself. He is here.

        “Hmm? Who?” he replies, looking up from the machine. He
replaces the medallion in the box, now filled with dozens, and then
closes the cover.

     “Abban, What is he doing right now?” His body stills for a
moment, debating whether to tell.

        The pause ends and he furrows his brow in distaste. “Oh. He’s
doing what you are doing; collecting his memories.” For some reason
this excites me. Even though he doesn’t know I am here at least he is
finding me there, in his memories. I smile broadly at the thought and
the happy memories, trying not to dwell on the end.

        “Really? What life is he on? Has he recognized me? Has he
recognized you?” The questions stream out of my mouth all garbled.

        “He…” He starts sharply “is not my responsibility. He has his
own partner. You, on the other hand, need to eat.” He comes over,
helps me rise from the lounge, and with a hand under my elbow leads
me to the table- already set.

         Recollections were at ease, for the moment. We continued,
after what Graydon agreed was adequate rest and nourishment. I was
beginning to marvel at the pampering. It has been 8 days, if I had
counted right. It was hard to judge the passing of the days with such
little sun. I could only base time on when Graydon told me to eat and
told me to sleep. Whenever I awoke he would be absent and the room
would be clear of all mess, closet restocked, and bath already drawn. By
the time I would emerge from the bath he would always be waiting at
the door with breakfast.

        The lives recollected were mundane, peaceful, and that of
animals. One in the sea, one in a cave, and one deprived of most of my
senses. It was strange, but I actually enjoyed it. After so much emotion
in that human life the absence was welcome. It was not a complete
absence of emotion, but there was only one I felt so strongly; thirst and
it was a thirst that was never sated by water. The first animal life, the
one in the sea, was summed up in one moment, one feeling; lost.

        The memories were also the only brief moments of solitude I
got; quiet times to reflect. The lives went smoothly and quickly, passing
from existence to not swiftly and serenely. I had managed to cover the
memories of three lives in only two days. Teacher seemed rather
pleased at that. His presence was less frequent now as well, popping in
every now and then, observing from his corner, and always retiring
unannounced and silently sometimes taking filled medallions when he
left.

        Today, the 9th day, I’ve woken up dazed. I try to recall the
reason, perhaps a dream? The answer forms a moment later as I focus
on the present. There is a person in the bath picking something up. I
quietly edge out of bed and reach my robe wrapping it around my torso
before tip towing into that room. There, kowtowing on the floor is a girl.
I’m staggered for a moment at her presence, then notice her out
stretched hand gathering up the salts that have spilled all over the floor.
“Oh! Let me help you with that.”

         Her curly copper hair bounces as her head shoots up, stunned
at my appearance. I kneel down in front of her, beginning to collect the
salts in my hand before pouring them back into their canister she holds.
“I’m sorry.” She blurts. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

         “Think nothing of it.” I smile. “I was beginning to think there
were elves on this ship that Graydon didn’t tell me about.” She giggles
at that, still collecting the salts. Once we are finished she replaces the
canister and starts to draw the bath. “I’m Maya.” I state with an
outstretched hand. “Maya Nicholas.”

         “I know” she smirks. Of course, I chide. Why else would she be
in my room. She takes my hand anyway. “Starling Lindi” she asserts with
a slight nod and a tilt to her head. She smirks, “at your service.”

         I can’t help but scoff. “I think I would much rather the elves
than a servant.”

       “Oh! I didn’t mean it like that.” Abashed she continues “I just
meant, as a friend… if you would like.”

         I smile at her openly “I would.”

         “Graydon not the best of company lately?” she chuckles and I
scold.

        “He worries too much.” Now she laughs openly. I wonder. “How
long have you been doing this?”

        “Since I noticed Graydon looking like the walking dead, 3 days
ago.” Her eyebrow quirks, “after that first night, I can understand his
worry.”
       I feel my face scrunch. “I wish he would stop fretting over me
and take better care of him.”

        “Don’t worry, I’ll see to that.” I can’t help but smile at the
weight to her words. I am glad he has friends here to look after him.

        I make Starling stay as I bathe and dress. We talk through the
door, mostly about Graydon, but even that topic is welcome with the
fresh conversation. She answers the door, much to Graydon’s surprise,
when he appears with breakfast. “I told you she could use another
friend” she states plainly as he enters.

        “I’m sorry, I’ve only got enough breakfast for two.” He cants in a
teasing way. She giggles.

        “I can take a hint, Jonah is expecting me anyway. But don’t
anticipate me staying away anymore. She wants me here too. Don’t you
Maya?” She calls from the door.

        “Of course!” I chuckle as Graydon turns his head to give us both
a stern disapproving look.

        “Good. I’ll be back at lunch.”




        Soaring, not only in body but also soul. I feel relief from the
desire, the thirst, for the first time in days. A majestic eagle swoops
around me, guiding the air current so that I follow him. We land atop a
tree and I feel at peace for the first time. We rest in comfort and then
take off to the skies again. Catching an updraft and spiraling to new
heights, the graceful dance catches me in amazement. Time goes
unchanging, undocumented and then it peacefully ends.



        Starling was true to her word. She returned at lunch and even
Dinner, toting the cart after her. We sit for the meal and I dig in to the
dishes before they can even be placed on the table. She laughs at my
enthusiasm. “I know he’s been feeding you, Maya! I’ve brought the food
myself.”
        “All these memories.” I mumble while chewing a mouthful of
bread. “They make me famished for some reason.”

         “It takes a lot of energy” she chuckles. “Especially for someone
untrained, like yourself.” I feel almost as if that were intended as an
insult, but in truth it falls short.

         “We are breaking for the night.” Graydon announces. “I have a
feeling this next life is going to take a lot out of you; you should be well
rested before we begin.”

       “But what am I going to do now?” I whine, bored of the room
and the bleak corridor which have contained me. “Not that the
company is bad, but the environment is a little tiresome.”

        “Has he shown you the library?” Starling questions eagerly.

       “The Library?” I ask with a mouth full. Puzzled, looking around
the room. I hadn’t noticed a book in this space, never mind a library.

        “I had forgotten about that! I’m so sorry Maya.” He quickly
grabs my hand and pulls me from the table and out the door while I still
chew my last bite. He leads me down the hall, turning left then opens
another unmarked door. “3rd port on the right” He states, reaching for
the knob, as if it were an important fact I would need on my own.

         The door swings open and I brace myself at the sudden warm
light radiating through the frame. I inhale sharply, boldly taking a step
forward into the room without waiting for permission. The room is
small, surely no wider than my own, but it is three times as tall. Three of
the walls contain shelves and shelves of books, from the floor all the
way to the ceiling. The fourth wall, the outer membrane of the ship is
slit in quarters by large windows nearly as tall as the bookshelves
themselves. The windows do not open, but they admit the golden glow
of the setting sun which fills the room with its warmth. I sigh at the
sight.

        Graydon scratches the back of his head as he steps through the
door, looking ashamed. “I don’t know why I didn’t think if this place
before.”

        “You didn’t…” Starling smirks. “I did.”
Chapter 7




          William Godwit’s life was not easy. The memories that spanned
its first 25 years spanned a full two days of recollection. This life started
a great distance away, on Gliese 581 C to be exact. The planet in turmoil
with an over turned government, riots and military patrolling the
streets. No place for a child.

        Once Teachers made Earth visas were available, when I was 3,
my parents had us bound there by the first ship. It was meant for cargo,
not people, but we managed a dwelling among its boxes. Even a ship,
such as this, is more suitable for a child than that planet was, my
mother would say in her rants. They both reminisced stories of Earth
and it’s abundance from their grandparents, never having been there
themselves. I question whether their grandparents had been their
either.

        I grew on the ship, from child, to teenager, and swiftly into adult
before we reached Earth. The crew educated me; they seemed to enjoy
watching me grow. The ship’s engineer took me under his wing and I
picked up mechanisms right away, always tinkering with gears or
helping him with maintenance. By the time we arrived I was sad to
depart, feeling as if I was losing part of my family with the ship and the
only home I could ever remember.

         Our new home was not as welcoming as their stories. Crowded,
filthy, and desolate, the narrow span of land found in the Pacific on
which the ship had landed contained more people than the entire
planet of Gliese 581 C. Why had we thought life would be better here?

         My father was sickly by the time we landed, and in no shape to
work. His muscles had atrophied from the travel and his heart raced just
to keep up with moving air through his lungs. I set out immediately to
find a job, anything really to pay for a modest flat and food for the three
of us, but work was scarce. I took to fixing mechanisms for people on
the street.

       One day, walking from factory office to factory office in hopes
of an opening, I passed a business man cursing at his new fangled
pocket watch. “If you please.” I state with an out stretched hand. The
man took in my ragged appearance skeptically before dropping the
watch into my hand. Surely thinking even if I bolted with it what would
it matter, the watch was broken anyway.

         Fingering the cover open, I taped the case lightly and then
raised it to my ear before giving it a gentle shake. Reaching into my
pocket, I pulled out a small screw driver and popped off the back and
then adjusted the tension in the spring. I gave it a quick wind, before
replacing the back, to ensure it was ticking and then handed it back to
the man. “How on earth?” He marveled and I just grinned. “I think I
could use a man like you... in my factory.” And just like that, I had found
a job.




         You would think a life of privilege would be a welcome
change, but I really was enjoying the life of an eagle with him. It was
peaceful, feeling like soaring the airs was the most peace my soul had
ever felt. One day into this life; the aristocratic life of Verdie Leveson
Gower, Daughter of a manufacturing tycoon, and I was already wishing
it was over. At least it was passing quickly. The life was so uneventful it
seemed nothing was worth remembering; one day had covered 27 years
of hair brushing, schooling and corset tightening.

         The second day of memories was a little more captivating. It
seemed there was a shift in my 28th year of life. My parents talked of my
suitability and were attempting to catch my eye with several gentleman
callers. Dozens and dozens all marching through the door,
complementing my father and then ogling me like a piece of meat. First
their glance would be on my hair. I’m rather short, so the top of my
head is the first thing they notice looking down on me. I’ve been told it’s
my best feature by several, jet black, smooth as silk and flowing like a
waterfall down to my narrow waist. My mother has always refused to
let me cut it and would seldom allow me to wear it up. I imagine my
small delicate nature is the reason my parents have humored me this
long; my mother unwilling to see me as anything but her little girl.

          The suitor’s eyes would then wander lower, my face, my neck,
down lower stopping on my bosoms… Men. They are all alike. They
poorly disguised glances leave me wanting and I dismiss them each as
politely as possible before my parents usher in the next.
        The comfort and luxury began to irritate me like an ill fit
sweater and I found myself staring out the window down the hill to the
factories below, as if some secret was locked within. One day, armed
with a pocket knife and a parasol I departed my parent’s mansion for a
walk. My parents, of course, thought I was destined for my typical path
around the park, the only place I am allowed unescorted. I started in
that direction, but as soon as I reached the woods I sharply turned right
and headed down the hill towards those factories.

         I wandered around the docks and buildings, the people dirty
and sickly glanced in my direction in question before averting their eyes.
I peeked in several windows to find men working shop in a smelting
factory. Their skin often scorched from where the molten metal would
splash, they moved the heavy material with little in the way of
protection from its heat.

         Women occupied another building, a sewing room it appeared.
The only way to tell they were women was because of their dress, and
the large number of those expecting. They look much like the men,
dirty, tattered and with hair chopped short. I imagine it was to keep it
from tangling in the machines. The room hummed loudly as I passed.
The next room took me by surprise. There, children were seated behind
large mechanical contraptions, each pushing a series of buttons at
particular intervals, while woven rope spooled around the back. Every
once and a while a child would rise, retrieving a bolt of material before
replacing it on his machine and continuing the button presses. This was
my father’s empire I marveled with distaste, those poor children.

          Still staring through the window I nearly jumped out of my skin
as I felt a tap on my shoulder. The Watcher was pleased; I’m sure, for
my clumsiness as I dropped the pocket knife when I had intended to use
it in defense. He chuckled “Won’t need that for me, Miss Verdie.”

         “You know me?” I queried studying his face; sure I was not
familiar with him.

         “I think anyone in this town would be able to recognize you,” he
states honestly “with the social times in the paper and all.” This fact
flusters me. Why should my life be so important it requires reporting?
“If you don’t mind me saying” he continued “This is not the part of town
for the likes of you to be walking in.” he glanced around. “You never
know what these immigrants are capable of.”

        “Immigrants?” The term confused me.

        “Yes miss, most of these factory workers are immigrants from
Gliese 581 C or Epsilon Eridani. We don’t have much of a record of them
before they arrive- so as I said; we don’t really know what they are
capable of.” And so you assume they are capable of the worst I
conclude internally.

         “Please allow me to escort you back home.” He takes my elbow
before I can protest and guides me back up the docks. The walk takes
longer, as my pace is much slower- wanting to delay our inevitable
arrival.

        Once we do turn up my front door my father is their waiting,
disapproval apparent in his stature and clenched jaw. “Please retire to
your room” he orders “I need to speak to your mother.”

          I do as he asks, not because he had asked, but because I need a
moment to reflect on my walk. Never in my life had I ventured
unescorted down to the docks. All my experiences of it had always been
as if it was staged, like walking through a mechanical zoo where you saw
only what was intended to be seen. I wondered if my father himself
knew. When he called me back down an hour later I was resolved to
ask.

        “Father? Do you know there are young children working in your
factory?”

        He was taken aback by the question. “What? Why the dickens
does that matter to you?”

         “So you did know.” I accuse. “You know and you continue to
allow it to happen.” My mother appears shocked, but not necessarily
appalled at my outburst. I gathered she was none too please with the
children working either. It was such a pity women had such little power
in these times; it was our responsibility to regenerate the population
now- giving new meaning to the phrase barefoot and pregnant. She,
currently pregnant with my 12th younger sibling, was so exhausted from
child rearing she hardly could put up a fight in business matters.

        “These children” I continued “They are the possible Teachers,
the souls that have yet to be found! How could you possibly treat them
so poorly?”

         “Bollocks” he shouts and I freeze at the language. My father has
never raised his voice at me, although my outbursts and tirades have
always been quiet frequent. We never have seen eye to eye, especially
in matters of the soul. “Don’t talk such nonsense! As if a Teacher would
be reborn as a lowly immigrant” He spits each word out for emphasis.
“As if these despicable leeches have souls!” I am stunned.

        “Do you truly believe that?” I press, squaring myself to him
firmly.“That their lives are less important than yours or mine?” He steps
closer and grabs my chin forcing my eyes up to his. My mother, I notice,
hovers uselessly behind him fretting away wearily. My father is not a
violent man I have to remind myself to keep from flinching.

       “Your life.” He grunts through his teeth “Your life will begin to
mean something once you are wed and start bearing fruit. We have
humored you enough these past 8 years. You have until the end of the
month to finally choose a beau.” He turns, dropping his hand from my
chin and I fall back on to the floor holding myself in. So this is what it
has come to, forced to choose, to be bred like cattle.

       Once my father has left, slamming the door in the process, my
mother approaches softly. She kneels down and wraps her arms around
my shoulders tight. “Oh, Verdi, my dear stubborn Verdi. What will I do
with you?”

        I try to relax my jaw, my teeth still clenched. “There is nothing
that can be done.”



        I can still feel the anger, the adrenaline coursing through my
veins. Graydon takes in one piercing glare before stepping back with his
hands raised in surrender. “Only memories” he reminds me “and those
are not even yours.”

         He delays for a moment, waiting for my heart rate to slow
before approaching me again to detach the contraption. “That man” he
utters, shaking his head. “Your father… That was not me. I know that for
certain. But, there is something very familiar about him. I can only
imagine how you will seek your revenge.” My favorite crooked grin
appears on his face as he imagines the possibilities.

        I beam eagerly now, knowing as well as he, that Verdie is not
one to break easily. “We’ll just have to see…”

         “Tomorrow” he rushes. “Tomorrow we shall see, tonight
Starling was thinking you and she could have a girl’s night.” He smiles
tenderly at the mention of her name, or perhaps the thought.

        Honestly, I want to be disappointed about not continuing the
recollection, but I am just too amused at the idea of a sleep over, as if
we were school girls. I have only known a short while, but I already feel
so close to the pushy redhead. I practically giggle at the sentiment. “I
think that would be great.”

        He pats my knee, exhaling “Alright then. I, umm... I have to get
going, but she should be here momentarily.” My eyes widen as he
stands, walks to the door and reaches for the handle. He looks back
with such a worried expression but merely nods and disappears out the
door. I’m alone. Completely, utterly alone and I am awake.

         I can’t help but pity Graydon in this moment. The idea of me
unguarded scares him greatly. It always has, he fears my desire for
solitude, but his protectiveness has only grown unbearable in the past
two weeks. I’m sure his departure and this lapse in chaperone is entirely
Starlings doing. I will have to thank her.

         I have almost forgotten what to do by myself, almost, before I
decide to scream from the top of my lungs and jump on the bed feeling
the freedom and releasing the pent up adrenalin. Starling enters, at just
that moment, and laughs as she takes in the scene; me, a 20-year-old
grown woman, jumping on the bed. The bed is a mess, I’m barefoot and
my hair is hopelessly tangled, I grab a pillow from by my feet and quickly
chuck it at her head where it explodes in a cloud of feathers.




         The job was perfect for me; factory mechanic. It meant I not
only got to observe and fix numerous machines, which I liked, but also
that I was of more value than your average assembly worker. Strangely,
the factory itself felt as if it called to me every day. I had noticed that
before I had even begun working there, I would pass it more frequently
than any other when I was searching for a job. The Gower factories
focused making use of recovered materials. That is, to say, raw used
materials were drudged up from the bottom of the sea to be sent here
and reshaped into new useful materials; Iron rails for the market of the
new suspended city, ropes for general purpose, sails for water vessels. If
it with trudged up from the bottom of the sea we could find it a new
purpose. The contraptions hummed perfectly now, freeing me to
wander the docks more often in between maintenance rounds and only
returning when I am buzzed by Damian, the guard.

        Damian and I have become fast friends, both having originated
from Gliese. He is roughly 4 years younger than I, but both of his
parents expired en route, he arrived without a soul to care what
happened to him. His humor is a little crude, but he is always polite
when mother invites him to dinner- which is often. She has such a soft
spot for orphans of any age.
         The money I earned was enough to keep my mother and father
comfortable, in a large flat occupying the top floor of a boarding house,
and provide enough for us to save up some to leave this hell hole of a
town. I dreamed of buying our own plot of land, somewhere in Europe
or America, those were the only places that there was land left.
Someplace where we could stretch, have neighbors more than 10 feet
away and our own bath. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t dream of a partner
as well, but marriage was a luxury only for the wealthy. That’s not to
say our kind, immigrants, did not have children; but let’s just say they
were not at all times the product of virtuous unions and were always
treated as such. I refuse bring a child into the world to be treated like
that, like a leech.

         Three uneventful years go by working in the Gower factories,
three years and we have managed to save close to 2,000. Nearly enough
to buy that plot of land, not yet enough for passage. I sigh; another 6
months should do it. Another six months of tinkering and daydreaming,
I could handle that.



         It was a shock, to walk into the dining room with Basil after a
brief session and find Graydon seated at our table. My first thought was
to ask him about Maya, but I adjust course once I assessed his
appearance. He looked anxious and worn, his brow permanently
creased in the middle. “Man! Where have you been?” Basil hoots
slapping him hard on the back. “I was beginning to think Teacher
pushed you overboard.”

         Graydon smiles, but it is fake. Basil doesn’t seem to notice. “I
got locked in a broom closet. The janitor only just let me out.” Ah,
classic Graydon; avoidance by humor.

        Basil goes to retrieve his dinner from the counter and I lean
close enough to Graydon to whisper with my hand firmly placed on his
shoulder. “Seriously… Are you alright? I’ve been worried sick. And truly,
you look like hell.”

         “I’m fine. It’s nothing” he mumbles, his gaze fixed on his plate.
“Teacher is probably the worst partner; I hardly get a break for meals.”
He finally looks me in the eye “It’s just these recollections, you know?”

        “Yeah… I know.” I puff, collapsing into my chair. “I know.”



       After an evening of pillow fights, Proust, and pampering I was
exhausted. We had dined in the library, amongst the thousands of
books, dozens of which were scattered around out plates as we
contemplated with mouths full of food. Lady-like was not an attribute to
describe either of us, especially at this moment. I never was much of a
book reader, but I found myself missing the feel of the paper and the
smell of the covers since I came on board. Some of my favorite
treasures I’d recovered were books and these reminded me of my last
home. Who knows? With the unlimited time I had available perhaps I
would become an avid reader.

         A good book was all I needed to be considered pampered, not
necessarily to read- but to examine. Starling, on the other hand, insisted
on a whole regime. She did let me take a couple books back to the
room, so I couldn’t put up too much of a fight. “Do you do this often?” I
ask, as she smears some mud mixture onto my face.

         “Never” she laughs. “I don’t think Graydon would care for a
facial and I know Jonah would rip my arm off if I came at him with a hair
brush.” I can’t help but laugh with her at the mental picture she has
painted. Graydon has told me about her brother, but I find it hard to
believe such a sour, introverted person could be related to Starling. She
is louder than life itself, harder than a coconut shells, and had no
control switch for the speed of her wit.

        “Aren’t there other girls on this ship?”

        “Oh, there are a few… but they are all full fledges Watchers. The
guys haven’t realized that yet, they are oblivious to the fact I’ve had my
own room up here for the past 2 years while they are packed in like
sardines! Well, except for Jonah of course- he’s been to my room.”

        “Wait, you’re on this floor? You’ve been living right next door to
me this entire time and Graydon doesn’t know?”

        Guiltily she admits “Two doors down actually.”

        “If only Graydon knew.” I muse. She blushes furiously. Really?
“Oh, I didn’t mean like that! It’s just he worries about me. You should
have seen him hesitate leaving tonight before you arrived. I honestly
don’t know what his qualms are about.” I try to be offhanded.

        “I do.” She admits, washing the remainder of the mud off her
hands. “Abban.”

         “That’s ridiculous! I have not heard from or spoken to Abban in
two weeks...” Mumbling, I admit “Even if he does invade my every
thought.” I fervently deny myself any possible idea of reciprocation. “It’s
not like he is feeling the same, it’s not like he has come looking for me.”
I find myself growing angry. He hasn’t come looking for me. I had been
pushing the thoughts to the back of my head, the feelings of
abandonment left from Clara’s life, but now that Starling mentioned his
name they came forward in a flash flood. “Honestly, if I meant that
much to him, you would think he would sense it.” My voice is shaky
now. “You would think he would realize I was right here under his
nose.” For some reason the composure I maintained in front of Graydon
was lost. I was ashamed, breaking down at a mere mention of his name.
I dropped my head into my arms, folded on the table hoping the
embarrassment would quickly fade.

         Starling stands behind my chair and wraps her arms tightly
around my shoulders where she rests her chin as I conclude my rant.
“Oh, if you only knew, Maya.” She mumbles. “Graydon is right to worry
though, and I worry too.” Kissing the side of my head, “So much is
coming together and you are only seeing a single puzzle piece at a time.
Just wait till you see the big picture.”

       “I hate puzzles.” I mutter.
Chapter 8




        True to myself, I would not be broken and bridled like a horse.
To start, I stopped playing nice. The month was almost spent and, in
spite of my parents, I was vulgar and berated every suitor who walked
through our front door. Some actually seemed to enjoy it, laughing at
my antics and I had to admire them for their spunk when they came
back and second or third time. Graydon would be proud. In the back of
my mind I thought if I offended enough perhaps the rest would give up,
but I knew the lure of my father’s money would always keep a queue.

         With only a week remaining I realized I would have to take
drastic measures or be promised, without my choosing, to the highest
bidder. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I left my parents
house before dawn with my trusty pocket knife, a camera, notebook,
clothing I wore, a modest purse and no intentions to return. I know,
running away from home might seem a little childish, but it was the only
way I could escape. I know deep down my mother will understand,
although my father never will. There were no passenger ships leaving
for weeks, so in the mean time I would have to blend in on this crest of
land. I should have planned this better.

          I made my way down to the neighborhood where the worker’s
were housing and stole a dress from a clothesline hanging between two
buildings. I left mine hanging in its place, so I saw that as a fair trade. I
wandered the blocks until I spotted the sign I needed, a boarding house.
The doors were locked, it being still too early for even factory workers
so I sat on the stoop and waited.

         My new ill-fitted garments helped disguise me only slightly, but
it was too painfully obvious I did not belong. I smear a handful of gritty
sand from the ground over my face and arms to mask their pure cream
tone. With a huff I stand and face the window to the house, using it as a
mirror. That has helped, but there is still one major difference between
myself and the factory women I need to impersonate. I pull the pocket
knife to the base of my neck, holding my long black locks tightly with my
left hand I swiftly slice through the strands at the nape. Some of the
tresses fall forward covering my eyes as I turn my head, examining my
handy work in the makeshift mirror. I pocket the spare hair, perhaps I
could sell it if money got too tight.
         The sun broke above the tops of the buildings and all the
sudden I was surrounded by a stamped of men, women, and children all
piling out of the front door. I stepped to the side as quickly as I could in
order to allow them to pass. They grumbled, bantered, and even pushed
into me, but not a single one stopped to question my appearance I
realized, pleased with my success. No one that is, until there was only
one woman left standing in the door. She was stout, with frizzy mouse
colored hair and dirt under her nails.

        “Now, who the dickens are you?” she practically shouted.

        “If you please, madam, I am in need of lodging. I have money.”

        She, rolling her eyes, immediately turned back into the front
room without a word. I hesitated… Did she intend for me to follow? I
pushed open the door and made my way into the dusty dark space just
as a small group of women descended the stairs. They moved to occupy
a long table lined with benches on the far side of the room while the
woman had taken her place behind a counter.

       I approached her. “Please, ma’am, I just need lodging for two
weeks. Possibly three. I can pay in advance.”

        “Is this some joke? Where did you come from? Kicked out of
another house I bet. We have no room. There isn’t a single boarding
house in the entire neighborhood that has an open bed.” That puzzled
me. What was I to do until I could catch a ship?

        “I… Surely there must be somewhere I could stay?” practically
pleading now while weighing my other options in my head. Surely I
couldn’t return home, nor go to any friends looking like this. I needed to
disappear and this was the only way for that to happen.

        “Sleep under the docks with the rest of ‘um.” She stated bluntly.
I should not have expected any sympathy from her.

         “Who are you child? Where are your parents? Where have you
come from?” a gentle voice sounded from behind me. I turned to find a
tall, but very gentle looking woman smiling at me tenderly as if to coax
the answers out of me.

         I didn’t want to lie to her. “I’m alone now.” I practically whisper.
“I just need a place until I can catch a ship.”

        She smiles at me with kindness in her eyes. “Mandy, she’ll be
staying with us. Please find another mat to send up.”

        I smile hesitantly at this woman, my savior. “Thank you, Ma’am”
I whisper. Finding kindness where one least expects it.
        “Think nothing of it.”




         It was a particularly long day to recall. Longer than any in the
lives I had experienced yet. Usually single moments would focus and the
rest would float by with the viscosity of a swiftly moving river. This day
on the other hand, flowed like honey, although not particularly sweet.

         There had been 3 incidents in the factory today. The first,
occurring with half an hour of the doors opening left a smelting oven to
be out of commission for the remainder of the day. The second was an
easy fix, but left me in an uncomfortable position, between an oven and
machine for the hours it took to fix. The third was tragic, and I believe
the reason this day must have come in such great detail.

          A small boy, affectionately known as Pear, had forgotten to roll
up his sleeves before taking his post behind a knitter. I arrived just
before the doctor, who had to amputate the arm on the spot, lest Pear
lose any more blood. With the help of Damian I removed the rest of the
children from the room and treated them each to a cookie before the
doctor could begin. I returned just in time to assist. Holding Pear’s head
still against my chest, I attempted to comfort him while the doctor went
at it. There was a small rod in Pears mouth, which he could bite in order
to ease the pain. The doctor carried no medication to sedate, but sent a
messenger off to retrieve some. The tunicate was tightened and saw
doused with alcohol before I turned my head. The sight of blood did not
make me squeamish, but the thought of this young child losing a limb
caused the bile to rise in my throat. He cried out into my chest.

         The day felt morbidly heavy as I walked home. The sound of
Pear’s screams still haunting my head. He was resting quietly now,
medicated, his mother retrieved him and brought him home; loosing
half a day’s worth of pay herself for leaving early. I shut the door to our
flat with a sigh, after ascending the long winding stairs, and immediately
stripped off the blood soaked shirt before reaching for the buckle on my
pants.

        A throat cleared and I glanced up to see my mother sitting at
the table with a guest; a strangely beautiful young lady with ink black
hair and the most delicate features. She giggled lightly, taking in my
bare chest and hand on the loop of my belt before I had the chance to
look ashamed. Dumbfounded, I couldn’t find a word to speak.

        “I apologize,” My mother started for me. “He usually waits until
after dinner before stripping down to his knickers.” She smiled at me
teasingly.

        I smile tiredly “I am sorry. It just was a particularly trying day
today, Mother.”

       She glanced back at my shirt left in a heap on the floor and then
at my pants, noticing the blood. “Oh dear! Another accident?”

          I nod. “Pear.” She gasps covering her mouth with her hand. “He
will be alright,” I rush. Then smile painfully “The doctor was swift. He
will just need to learn to write with his left hand now.”

         “Oh goodness, we will have to stop by tomorrow and see if
there is anything I can do.” She has turned to her guest them to explain
“Molly, his mother, can’t afford to take leave to care for the boy.” I fix
my gaze on the guest as well. There is something so elusively familiar
about her, not so much in appearance, but something else.

          “If you, um, will excuse me” I mumble, turning towards the hall.
“I shall change into something more suitable for dinner.” I escape to my
closet of a room. Quickly dressing in clean trousers and a shirt, wanting
more time with stranger for reasons my past mind cannot fathom.

          I return to the main room, where we eat and entertain, mere
moments later, to find my mother and her setting out the table. Father
has already taken his spot, seated at the head. I hover uselessly around,
not sure what to do with this predicament. I take a moment to reassess
her appearance; she is truly delicate, soft, with short midnight hair,
bright green eyes, and pale cream skin under the grime. She is younger
than me I imagine, by a few years, perhaps no older than 20. She and
my mother seem like peas in a pod, cooking and laughing together like
old friends, but the look in my mother’s eye is more of worry and care.
She begins setting the table. Like Mother and daughter, my mind
corrects the image. “Who are you?” I mumble only to myself, but a
little too loudly.

          She stops in front of me smiling hesitantly. “I seem to be
getting that question a lot today. My name is Verdie.” She reaches out
with her right hand to clasp mine, while holding tin plates for the table
in her left.

         “William” I extend my own and the tips of our fingers brush
lightly before our palms meet shooting familiar jolts of yearning and
ease up my arm, although my mind is still confused. Our eyes meet and
she drops the plates with a crash. My hand won’t release, still grasping
her’s; now more tightly than before. She has a look of shock on her face,
but not so much in fear. Can she feel this too?

       My mother interrupts. “Well don’t just stand there! Help Verdie
with those plates!” I smile bashfully and finally releasing her hand,
bend down to retrieve the dropped dishes, my eyes not leaving hers for
a moment. “Verdie will be staying with us for a couple of weeks” My
mom states after I stand, laughing at our strange dance.

         And then the plates are on the floor again.




       5 lives, I muse, well 6 if you could my own. 6 of my lives she has
entered now, making them feel more complete. I smile before more
thoughts catch up with me.

         Now, if she were only a little more present in this life. I sent the
letter 5 days ago. In that time the ship has docked and left port and still
I have not heard word, I groan in frustration.

        “Got a bee in your bonnet?” Basil questions, replacing the
medallion in the box.

         I mumble “Nothing, alright? Absolutely nothing. Life is perfect.”

        “Now that you’ve found her, once again.” He teases and I groan
even louder. “Well, isn’t that what you wanted?”

       “Yes… but no…” I’m jumbled. “Yes. I wanted to find her, I
wanted to know her. But I want to know her now, not then.” I huff,
exasperated.

         “Oh, you’ve got it bad.” He seems pleased at the idea.

         “Yes. I know.”

         “What are you going to do about it?”

         “I’ve already written her. There is nothing else I can do.” I
groan.

      “You wrote her?” he seems shocked. I only nod in confirmation.
“When? When did you write her?”
        “5 days ago. I sent a message via Recon Sparrow and have heard
nothing, absolutely nothing in return.” I can’t even place my emotion.
What was I? Rejected? Dismayed? How did this girl have me so jumbled
I couldn’t make sense of which way was up.

        “But didn’t you speak to the Sparrow Master yesterday?” He
queries.

        “What? No. Why would I speak to him?”

         He scratches his neck, ducking his head. “Oops. I guess I forgot
to tell you he was looking for you.”

        “You forgot to?”

        “Sorry man. I didn’t know it was important...”

        I rush out of the room and down the hall before he can utter
another word. Descending the staircase, I am panting as I reach the
door to the sparrows nest.

        “Oh good” the master greets me with a smile. “I was wondering
when I could expect you.”

       “Is.. There.. A.. Mess..” I catch my breath to huff out the word.
“A message?”

        “A Message?” He tilts his head. “Oh, no… No sir. No message.
Actually, quite the opposite.”

        “The opposite of a message?” I question, confused.

      “Mmm Hmm. The letter came back.” He looks at me with pity
“Unopened.”

       “Unopened?” again like a parrot, a very heartbroken parrot.
“But… Why? Would she not accept it?”

          “Quiet a mystery that one is. She wasn’t there. It couldn’t find
her.” That gave me pause. Surely a sparrow could find anyone- that was
after all, their purpose.

        “Is there data?” He nods “Can I take a look?”

        “Suit yourself.” He gestures to a lab desk in the corner where a
copper sparrow is perched, already connected to the monitor and in the
process of uploading. I approach the intricate copper mechanics gently
stroking the sculpted wings lightly as if it contained the most valuable
treasure.
         For the remainder of the day I sift through the sparrow’s
memory. It went directly from the ship to her flat, which was empty.
Not the ‘out to lunch’ sort of empty, but rather the furniture covered
with cloth, electricity shut off kind of empty. Abandoned. The sparrow
didn’t wait there long; it then flew back out the window and down to
her office on the other side of the city. Her desk was, you guessed it,
empty. The sparrow waited there for a while observing her coworkers,
they must have been familiar with the birds because they seemed to
give it no second thought. Waiting, the sparrow listened for any word or
appearance of Maya, just as I would have, but none came. It searched
the city more for sight of her but came up empty handed. After 4 days
of searching the Sparrow returned to its nest, bringing back my letter
with it.

        This was probably the first time something like this had ever
happened. Sparrows always find their mark. How could it not find her? I
rack my brain for any idea as to where she might be. On an extended
dive? Surely she would have surfaced in those 4 days. On holiday? How
could she be so careless to not send word? I pause at that- Why would
she send me word? She barely knows me. If she was going to send word
she would send it to Graydon or her family in the mountains, not me.

         Something was not settling well in my stomach and I wouldn’t
be at ease until I knew where she was. I pressed on, unwilling to disturb
Graydon with my obsession just yet. Remembering the sparrows in the
market when I first spotted her I did the unthinkable. I loaded the
mainframe data from that day to find her, and find her tune. If I had her
tune I surely would be able to find her anywhere in the world.

          The market scenes brought back memories of that day and
lifted my heart. From those images I could spot Myself, Basil and his
family, Jonah, Graydon and finally her. Clear as a bell, my desired filled
the screen. I tried to tune into the frequency but it was a jumble of
static noise. I try to break it apart, removing the bird’s familiar songs
and static, trying to focus on her position, but all that was left was
silence. It didn’t catch her tune. She was lost to it and me.
Chapter 9




        The next few memories were in complete awe of him, William.
After countless years of being apathetic to the opposite sex, it seemed
strange to be so infatuated. I marveled at the callousness of his hands
and the warmness of his smile. My present mind knew the reason why,
of course, but I could help but feel amazed- here he was, once again.
His mother could tell, I knew. She would smile at me, like she knew a
secret, when I find myself fumbling around him. He seems just as
uncoordinated as me at the moment.

         I was so thankful to the Godwits, for taking me in, I was
determined not to be a burden. I helped clean the dishes, and then Mrs.
Godwit showed me to my makeshift room. The dear sweet lady had
hung a heavy curtain in the far corner of the main room which divided
the space. Inside that tent lay a thick mat, small low table, and a
lantern. “It’s not much” She stated. “But it’s better than under the
bridge.”

       I smile warmly at her, reach out for a hug. “It’s perfect. Thank
you. You have no idea… Thank you so much.” Emotion flows into my
words and I can feel the prick of tears form in my eyes.

         “Hey now, none of that.” She smiles. Wiping my cheekbones
with her thumbs. “You’re safe and your sound. That is all that matters.”
I sigh and retire to the bed, sleeping soundly for the first time in weeks.



         For the first time, I mused, it seemed a day of memories actually
filled a day of recollection. And those memories! They were so vivid it
seemed my soul could recall each and every detail; the thrill of running
away, the fear of being found, the thankfulness, and even the feeling of
my heart skipping a beat when he appeared.

        Sunset was approaching and the memory had ended on a
positive note, which seemed to be a point with which Graydon was
comfortable. He didn’t seem very comfortable with this particular life,
actually he seemed quiet agitated. I considered asking him why but
thought better of it when he swore at the machine when he was trying
to shut it down.

        Teacher has been absent all day, although I’m not sure I would
have noticed his appearance if he had arrived. It seemed now my mind
was completely engulfed in the sensations of the memories and at times
it was almost unwilling to return to the present. Most of those times, I
had realized quickly were when William was there. I wondered if
Graydon had tried to end the session earlier, but found he was unable
to.

        At least Graydon was a slightly more at ease about my presence
here. Since my sleepover with Starling he had relaxed in his guard dog
responsibilities, having realized I was truly perfectly safe. I imagine she
has been chiding him for his hovering. After disconnecting the probes
he looked at me sadly and dismissed himself for an hour before Starling
would arrive with our dinner. I know he still wasn’t completely
comfortable with the idea but I was thankful he was willing to give it try.
Over bearing was not a quality of his I could handle for long.

         I decided to go back and explore the small library. It was easy
enough to find again, actually it was the only other place I could readily
find. I honestly did not even know which door hid the staircase, but I
could find the library. I opened the door and immediately had to squint
my eyes at the warm crimson light that pooled in the room from the
setting sun. The pink tinged light warmed my skin and I sighed,
contentedly stepping further into the room, going straight to the
windows.

         I hadn’t noticed the pile of books on the table, or the man
behind them until several moments later when I turned my back to the
windows. An audible gasp escaped my lips and I felt embarrassed for my
surprise. He, dressed in a Watcher’s uniform, seemed to be doing his
best to ignore my presence, although I knew I would be unable to do
the same. There was a strange familiarity to his jade eyes which glowed
in the sunlight, although they never left the book he held in his hands.
His hair, in contrast to his eyes was the darkest possible shade of brown
and the light did nothing but warm a few stray strands that hung into
his eyes. He did not have sharp features I noticed, but his face had a
strange hardened quality to it, as if it had been softly sculpted but
turned to marble.

         I noticed as I stared, that although he was in the same uniform
Graydon wore, his waist coat was slightly different. I was the same stiff
velvet black, with the high collar, pockets and leather strapping to hold
it closed, but the details; the buttons, clasps and chains were
completely different. This man’s was lined in brass filigrees about the
pockets, with a small charm of a mechanical bird dangling from the
chain of his watch. Graydon’s I recall, was not quite as ornate, solid
brass buttons and simple clasps. I hadn’t paid much attention to the
coats before. I wonder what details ordained the one hanging in my
armoire.

        I realized, through this lengthy internal conversation that my
eyes had not left his form. I should have felt abashed for staring so long,
but this was the first person I had seen in days; well besides Starling,
Graydon and Teacher, of course. I walked up to the table, approaching
from his side, and found him scowling at a book he held in his hands, as
if personally were responsible for my rude presence. I had intended to
introduce myself, but as I approached my stomach knotted causing the
words to catch in my throat. My intuition was to back away from the
man, run away honestly, although in my mind he was strangely familiar.
I cleared my throat trying to regain my composure even as my legs
moved me back to the window by their own volition. He looked up at
me, amused, when I made a noise.

        “Hello” He started slowly, charmingly.

        “Hi.” I managed to croak.

        “I am Jonah Lindi.” His dark sultry voice continued.

       “Ah,” the feeling started to subside. “Starling’s brother.” He
nods cautiously. “My name is Maya Nicholas; I’m in the room two doors
down from her.”

         “Maya?” he asks, surprised, confused. “Abb…..” He corrects his
slip up, but not before I notice “Graydon’s friend? I believe we danced
together at the ball. I almost didn’t recognize you in the linen” he
gestures absently to my garments with a quirked brow.

         I smile, ashamed at having forgotten him so completely. “Of
course!” I try to shake off the remainder of the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. I
can almost laugh about it. Graydon has had me locked up here so long
just being in another person’s presence has me on edge, even that of his
classmates.

        “So,” He rises from his chair to stand closer to me, still holding
his book in his hand. He speaks quietly, almost in a whisper, as if telling
a secret. “You are on board the Great Western?”

         I am almost confused at his question. Has Graydon and Starling
really kept this a secret from everyone? “Yes.” I answer hesitantly “Ever
since New Amsterdam.”

        He smiles back at me, assumedly innocent enough, before
closing his book one handed with a thud. “Well, that is interesting.”
        Verdie was still asleep when I awoke in the morning. I could
hear her steady slow breathing from beyond the curtain as I drank my
coffee. My mother teased me, quietly, about my display that first night.
Honestly I think she was just pleased that a lady could catch my eye- as
none had ever before. I don’t think I had much choice in the matter, she
was there and my vision could see nothing else. It was a strange happy
sensation that had me whistling all the way to work, much improved
after the hell.

         Three days went by and I had only seen her when returning
home from work at night. Each time she looked exhausted but happy.
Her and mother had cared for Pear most of the days. The little tyke,
although wounded, gave them a run for their money. He had never had
a day without work in two years, spending his weekdays at the factory
and weekends at a shoeshine cart. The “vacation” as he called it, left
him wanting to play while Verdie tried to keep him still in bed in order
to let the sutures heal. In the end the doctor’s sedation always won out.
Verdie seem surprisingly versed in first aid, and was able to clean and
change the bandages with little fuss from Pear. Mother has actually
taken to allowing Verdie to go on her own, while helping to tend to the
other small children in the house. It seems Pear was not the only
casualty begotten in the past few weeks and several were recovering
from not only injury but illness.

         We would all laugh about Pear’s antics at night, seated around
the table, warmly enjoying coffee and the stories. Mother, sly as a goat,
has taken to pushing father down the hall claiming exhaustion and
retiring early. She nags me like one too. “You’re never going to find
another girl like Verdie” she says, “They don’t make them any sweeter
than her, you bear.” I can’t help but grin at her; she knows I have a
sweet tooth.

         Tonight is just like the others. Mother and father have let us be,
by ourselves sitting at the dinner table. Dishes are done, coffee half
drunk, candles are burning down but she is just laughing away at a petty
story I’m telling her about the captain of our ship. I reach for the pot the
same moment as her and my knuckles graze the skin across the back of
her hand. She lets out an audible gasp, and the light moment has
passed. I feel my forehead wrinkle. This is only the second time I have
touched her, just touched her, and it feels like I might combust if I don’t
do it again. I give in, reaching across the table and grasping her hand
gently. Her eyes widen in surprise, but she doesn’t pull away, at least
not yet.

       “So, Verdie” I drawl. “You know all about my family, but we
know so little about you.”

       “Oh, you probably know enough.” She states offhanded,
dropping her eyes away from me, but she still has not removed her
hand and for that I can only be thankful.

      “Hmm? Well let’s see. I know you are alone. I know you have
some medical training. I know my mother has taken an extreme liking to
you.”

         She interrupts with a smirk “Isn’t that one the most important?”
I laugh openly at that before the amusement wears thin.

        “Where did you come from?”

        She removes her hand “Does it matter?” Mine is aching from
her absence. It takes all my self-restraint from reaching across the table
again towards hers.

          “I guess not. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I’m just curious.”
I try to smile innocently. She looks me squarely now.

        “Well, be curious about something else.”

        “Okay.” I drawl “Where are you going?”

       There, that elicited the smile I needed to see. “Anywhere” she
muses. “Anywhere off of this crest. I’m just waiting for the next
passenger ship.”

       “How coincidental” I banter back “That’s exactly where I am
headed.”

        She giggles, “I bet you use that line with all the girls.” Her face
flushes lightly and I slowly reach across the table to caress her hand
back into mine.

       “Honestly. No. Never a one.” I mumble, then attempt again to
make her laugh “Come on, you’ve met my mother. She’d slap me across
the head if she heard me say that!” Success. “No, really. We will be
bound on a ship too. Somewhere, anywhere, really just as soon as I
have the passage saved up.”
        “You want to leave here to?” She seems puzzled and I get the
strange sense that she is escaping, rather than finding something like us.

        “Can you blame me?” I smirk. “This place was never intended to
be our home. It was just where the ship landed. I’ve saved up enough
for us to buy a small plot anywhere else, where there is actually land,
now it’s just the passage.”

        “How much?” she asks curiously. “How much do you need that
is?”

        “Passenger ships to America run about 500 for a room. Cargo
ships we could get on for around 350.”

       “Really?” she seems shocked. Oh dear, I hadn’t thought about
her own passage and what little money she must carry.

        “It’s alright Verdie; your just one person, you’ll probably have
someone you can share a room with. And if you don’t have enough I can
lend you the rest.” She looks like she is about to argue, so I hold up my
spare hand in front of her lips to stop her. “I insist.”

        She smiles against my fingers, mumbling “Alright Will.”


        It was hard to concentrate outside of the recollections.
Although my emotions were high, happy from the memories, I still
found myself agitated and sulking because of her present absence. I had
taken to spending all the breaks Basil would allow down in the Sparrow
Master’s room at the work bench of the mainframe. The master himself
never was surprised at my appearance, he just smiled sadly at me “At it
again?”

         I would call up data that she was sure to be part of to catch a
glimpse and pray for a song. I started with things that were obvious.
Remembering Graydon’s stories of their childhood; they were
inseparable, so I started by tracking him. It was fairly easy to call up his
image in the machine, all watchers are well documented. I started with
the image from when he boarded the Great Western, caught the tune
and then cross referenced it with all available data for that particular
tune in the past 19 years- the span of his life. 14,254 entries the monitor
spit back at me. Uhg. This was not going to go quickly.

        I thought perhaps I would be lucky, but luck is as lost to me as
her and the only serenity I can find is in a still glimpse of her green eyes
as she glances at the bird in countless moments. But the tune, the song,
it seems can never be retrieved.
The imbalance in power, in resources, had never dawned on me
before; the fact that my family’s house resided on enough land to house
more than 100 people, or that these factory workers were paid the
equivalence of dirt when I ate on gold practically every day of my life.
How could I have been so naive? Geez! The modest purse I carried
would be more than enough for all of us to travel to another land.

         I awoke suddenly felt very guilty for all the hospitality the
Godwits had been affording me. They welcomed me in, fed me, clothed
me, I dare say loved me. I had not paid them a cent, nor did they expect
me to… but my life, my wealth should be theirs, not mine. They
deserved it so much more than me. It dawned on me then, it was in my
power to do so. Will was all so eager to lend me the funds to catch a
ship; surely he would not refuse it from me.

        My heart fluttered at the next thought. We, we could make the
journey together. I would have to approach this delicately, not wanting
to put him in an uncomfortable situation because of my assumptions. I
was not familiar with the feelings of affection I was having, nor did I
know if he truly felt the same way. I would hate to embarrass myself
and have nowhere to go. I checked the dock schedule which I kept by
my bed. The next ship to America was due in one week, 7 days. I would
wait 4 days before making the proposition. That would give the
Godwit’s 3 days to pack and make their arrangements, plenty of time.

         I dressed and hurried to meet Mrs. Godwit in the kitchen so that
we could tend to the children in the morning. Pear was doing much
better. The wound was healing nicely and he was up and moving about.
I was teaching him to function with only his left hand, but it took a little
practice. We settled on solid foods and not soups for lunch after the
first day of trial.

        Mrs. Godwit appeared in the door with a basket just as he had
settled down to eat. “Verdie dear, William forgot his lunch this morning,
and I am just too old and too tired. I was hoping you’d be willing to take
this down to him.” She smiles at Pear conspiringly before sitting next to
him at the table, handing me the basket. “We’ll be all set here for a
while. Please?”
         I can’t help but laugh at her antics; I take the basket and a sun
hat then head towards the door. I’m already in the hallway before I
realize I don’t know where there is. “Which building, Mrs. Godwit?”

        I stifle a cry of panic after she responds “Oh! Of course. He’s at
the main building of the Gower factories.” I cover my mouth in the hall
careful to not make a peep until I can control myself better. “He’ll be
out front dear…that’s where you’ll find him.” She hollers out. I quickly
depart with the basket in hand lest she notice my alarm.

         I approach the dock with my head bowed, hidden by my hat,
afraid of being recognized. It has been a week and I have not heard
anything of my family, but then again I hadn’t really been listening. The
children, the Godwits consumed my every thought, leaving little room
to worry about consequence. It was only here, in the midst of my
father’s work that I truly felt fearful. What would happen if they found
me? Surely, I would not be made to marry now, but what would they do
with me. I would lose the Godwits, I would never see William or his
mother or father again. I would probably be locked away back in my
childish room in my parent unreasonable house.

        The main building was easy to spot. It sat in the middle of 5, the
largest of all, with a brick walkway out front and iron bell placed in
directly in the middle of that path. I spotted some other workers,
foreman I imagine, based on the lack of grease on their hands, seated
around the bell on a raised granite slab, chow-ing on sandwiches. A few
Watchers emerged from the building, crossing my path and I ducked my
head even further. I studied each face in the yard to find one familiar,
but found none. I exhaled in relief but then panic struck again as I
realized none were familiar, not even William.

        I hardly had a chance to be worried before I heard the scream. I
turned to find a tall, muscular, dark haired man, emerge from the door
marked #4. He right hand grips his left wrist tightly, his left fingers
curled into a claw. Through clenched teeth he practically growls
“Doctor! Call the Doctor!”

         I do not hesitate to think what I am doing; a spare fresh
bandage and ointment from Pear are still in my pocket. I drop the
basket and rush to his side and push him so he is seated on a ledge of
granite. I take his wrist, pulling his hand to it is out stretched and he has
no chance to pull it back. There on his palm is a large red slash from
where metal has scorched, removing some of the skin and turning the
rest back and hard.

       “Hand me your water!” I say to a man gawking behind me, so
much for his lunch. He does and I pour it over the wound to clean it. The
man cries out in pain pitifully, and I notice his fingers are lacking the
grease and calluses of the other workers. “It will only hurt for another
moment” I tell him, half true. I take the skirt of my dress and wipe off
the excess debris from his palm, then taking the ointment I apply a thick
coat directly over the wound. His jaw softens at that and I can tell the
pain relief is working immediately. Carefully then, I wrap his palm
several times with the spare bandage and then tie it over his palm to
provide pressure. “That should do the trick.”

         “Very nice.” An unfamiliar voice muses from behind me and I
startle. I turn to find a middle aged gentleman holding a black bag; the
doctor I presume.

         A familiar voice sounds in then, but is slightly panic, trying to
make it through the now gathered crowd. “What is it? Who is it?” The
crowd parts to admit Will. He takes in the appearance, the man seated,
me still holding his outstretched bandaged hand, and the doctor to my
side.

        The patient smiles up at me now, painfully, crookedly, still from
his perch of granite. “Well, Hello Nurse.” He drawls and I can’t help but
laugh out loud. I finally release his hand.

         Will approaches my other side swiftly, placing an arm
deliberately around my waist. “Damian, one of these days you are going
to get yourself killed if you’re not careful.” He grins at the man now. “I
know you wanted to meet Verdie, but surely there must have been a
less injurious way.”

        “You know I like to do things on my own terms” he smiles,
although the pain is still in his eyes. He stands, towering over me, and
with a bow flirts “It is truly a pleasure to meet you Verdie.” Winking, “I
have heard so much about you.”

         The crowd dissipates and the doctor takes over the patient’s
care. Will guides me back to the discarded basket in the middle of the
path and I finally remember the purpose of the trip. He picks it up by
the handle and guides me back up the path, his arm still firmly around
my waist. People walk past and although I know I should by hiding my
face I can’t help but feel light around him, as if nothing could reach me.
“Let me take you somewhere.” He states leading me through a winding
fork in the path.

         I halt, causing him to stop as well because he seems unwilling to
break contact with my waist. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your work. You
just forgot your lunch. Your mother asked me to bring it down.” I point
to the basket.

       He smiles at me and tilts his head. “I know.” He opens the
basket holding it out for me to see its contents; a blanket, a bottle of
wine, two glasses, and a feast of vegetables, cheese and bread. “I think
she packed enough for two.”



       I have been daydreaming through the past day, both in and out
of recollections. The picnic was just so perfect; I hope I…William
remembered to thank his mother for its orchestration.

         We had spread out at William’s favorite spot, the end of the
  rd
43 pier. It was the longest pier, and made you almost feel as if you
were removed from the crest, just floating on the water. Verdie was
her typical shy self at first, but in the week and a half I believe I had
perfected getting her to come out of her shell. All it took now, really,
was for the two of us to be alone and a tender smile for her to relax and
smile at me without hesitation. I couldn’t think of a happier place to be
than that moment, even in my dreams. A Busker had taken up playing
the fiddle a short distance away, the notes carrying with the breeze, and
I saw it as the perfect opportunity to touch her, to dance with her. We
didn’t speak as we moved, but her sigh of contentment spoke loudly
enough.

        These tender moments seemed to appease my anxiety of not
being able to find her now, but only slightly. I still had hours if not days
poured into reviewing Graydon’s data; a birthday party, a picnic,
Harvest time. All these moments and her presence was there, but the
bird never could focus on her tune. I could see her at least. I almost felt
ashamed for watching. This was far from a proper way to get to know a
lady. I watched her grow as Gra ydon had watched her; from an infant
to a young child, blossoming into a young woman. Even as a mud
covered 12-year-old at a game, she was beautiful.

        There were other things I learned from this data as well, things
Graydon would have felt impolite revealing; like the sort of attention
she drew starting at the age of 14. It seemed in ever image I found of
her with Graydon there was another boy, a different boy every couple
of months it seemed. She would always be smiling at them and Graydon
stood glowering at them, towering like a sentry, arms crossed.

        Recon Sparrows have a tendency to turn up when there is a
large gathering or excitement and it seemed their lives the few years
before he came on board were filled with excitement. There were quite
a few times it appeared Graydon would get into a fight with other boys;
I can only assume she was the cause. She seemed saddened in these
moments. In truth, she always appeared a little sad, a little lost, but
what was I to do?

         I returned to the meditation compartment downtrodden. At
least… If I couldn’t find her now I could still be happy with her then.
         I came into this moment resolved. Verdie still would not talk
about her past, but I could live with that, as long as I had her present
and perhaps her future as well. I had intended to speak to her last night
about delaying her departure, asking her to stay with us, until we could
all leave together. Surely marriage was not an option, but perhaps in a
new land it might be, someday.

        I had intended, but when I arrived home I found her absent.
“Gone off to help the Connors,” My mother said when I was glancing
about the room. “The three youngest have all come down with the
Gliesen flu, she’s been tending to them all day.” She smiles sadly, “That
sweet girl, she tends so much for everyone else, it’s as if she’s trying to
make up for something.” Her eyes meet mine squarely now. “She would
rather tend to someone else than take care of herself. She needs
someone to take care of her, William.”

        “I know mom, I intend to.” I smile at her. She returned two
hours later, barely awake; my mother forced some stew into her hands.
I took her from the table after she consumed a few small bites and
slowly walked her over to her mat, where she retired, and I covered her
with a blanket. She fell swiftly, peacefully asleep.

        I was so busy daydreaming, recalling the look on her sleeping
face, that I hadn’t noticed Damian walk up to where I was sitting,
supposedly repairing a water pump. “So…” He muses “the ladies and I
are taking bets. How long before you propose you think?”

        I have sense enough to look embarrassed. “Am I that obvious?”

        “Only to us, I’m sure. We have to see that foolish look on your
face every day.” He taunts “I’m sure she hasn’t noticed. She’s only ever
known that look.”

         I stand, having finished the repair, and switch on the control
box. The contraption grinds and spits before I have sense to turn it off,
realizing I had neglected to prime the pump. “Ah. I think you forgot
some water there.” He points. I merely smirk and then pour the
contents of a large bucket in before flipping the switch again. This time
it runs smoothly. “You got to get it together man.” He pats my back
firmly. “The big boss is on a war path right now. Firing any delinquent he
can. You don’t want to get yourself canned.”

        “He hired me directly.” I state proudly. “I think I’m safe.”

       He just shakes his head. “It’s not personal; he’s just taking
revenge out on the wrong people.”

        “Revenge?” I question.

        “Yeah, you really don’t know?” I shake my head. “Seems the
boss’s eldest daughter skipped town the week before she was to be
engaged. Virtue, I believe her name was. He had graciously given her
one month to make a choice and she up and left after 3 weeks. Certainly
she must have run off with some ill-fit lover. Not sure how she managed
it though, he’s always kept her under tight lock and key.”

        “Bold” I mused. The boss was a big man, tall, fair skinned with
ink black hair and always dressed best. His presence was even bigger
than his stature, king of his domain, a single person would ever think of
crossing him. Leave it to his daughter to be the one.

        “You honestly didn’t hear about this?”

       I shake my head. “Sorry. I haven’t been paying attention to
rumors lately.”

        He grins “That’s because your mind is completely wrapped
around my lovely nurse.” I punch him on the shoulder lightly. “All you
have to do, Will, is cut your hand, or maybe your knee, and then you too
can have her undivided attention like I do.”

         “Did.” I goad him. “You had her undivided attention, but now
it’s diverted to children with the flu.”

         That night I arrived home to find her already asleep. “She’s
exhausting herself, the poor girl” My mother smiled tenderly, in awe if
the beautiful caring creature she had taken under her wing. Verdie truly
was like an angel in our house. I had peeked behind the curtain when
my mother wasn’t looking; just to catch sight of her soft delicate face
and the peace my heart knew when I saw it. Tomorrow. I would have to
ask her tomorrow.
          I woke up, exhausted, as soon as the sun had peeked above the
line of the curtain. I needed to speak with William, plead with him and it
seemed this would be my only chance today. I dressed behind the
curtain as quickly and quietly as I could, not wanting to disturb anyone.
Once I walked around it I found him leaning against the counter glancing
down in the direction of my mat. With the notice of my appearance his
face lit up in the biggest smile.

         “I was afraid I wasn’t going to see again, today.” He confesses.
“You have no idea how torturous yesterday was.” I can’t help but smile
at his openness, but the honest adoration still makes me blush and I
avert my eyes, if only for a moment, to approach the counter and get
my own cup of coffee. He slides down the counter, his back still to it, he
is close enough to me that he reaches out his hand and gently strokes
from my lightly covered shoulder to my elbow with his calloused finger
tips. I believe this gets the reaction he was hoping for as I raise my eyes
and his grin grows even bigger.

         “I have to speak to you about something.” I start, glancing back
down to my cup, determined not to be distracted. He seems taken back
at my firmness and drops his hand.

        “Alright.” He coaxes. “Speak. Please.”

        “I recall you saying if I needed to borrow money for passage you
would be willing to lend it to me.” I try to remain firm with my words,
but they seemed rushed.

        “Yes. Yes, I did say that. But...” I meet his eyes as he tries to
derail my conversation.

        “Please let me finish.”

        “But about that…” He glances down to his cup now.

        “William!” I practically yell. “Please. Please let me finish.”

        He huffs looking dejected.

         “If you were willing to lend me the money I think it is only fair
that I should be able to lend you the money.”
         “What?” he seems confused? I try to make it clearer. I grab his
hand take 500 out of my skirt pocket and firmly place it in his hand
closing his fingers around it. “What is this?” he looks down opening his
fingers. “How? How is this possible? How can you do this? Where did
you get this from?” I choose not to answer a single of his questions.

       “I want to lend you the money.” I murmur “I want you to have it
now, so that… so that we could get on the same ship, go the same
voyage and start our new lives possibly together.”

         He is silent. I drop my head so that my expression doesn’t
betray the hurt I feel from his dejection. “We… We don’t have to be
together.” I try to backpedal “I mean, we can go our separate ways
when we land. But it’s only fair that I give you the money. You would
have done the same and I won’t take it back.” I’m mumbling now, close
to disjointed and I can feel the wetness in my eyes. I’m only thankful I
have managed to keep my voice steady.

          I take a step back with my head still down and go to turn away
from him; to hide back behind my curtain until he leaves. Before I can
even take another step he has one of his large hands firmly on my
shoulder turning me back into him. His other hand reaches behind my
neck tilting my head back. My eyes are firmly closed, to hide the tears
which are pooling behind their lids. I feel something warm and smooth
firmly pressed to my lips. I gasp in surprise opening my eyes to find his
lips brushing against my own three times before I relax against him and
close my eyes once more. His hand moves from my shoulder to my
waist and I am thankful for its support, as I am sure it is the only thing
holding me up. He deepens the kiss, almost desperately, and a soft
moan escapes from my lips. He smiles against my mouth and then lets
his lips wander; kissing my cheekbone and temple before resting against
my forehead.

        “Verdie, you’re burning up.”

        He holds me away from him, painfully to both of us, and looks
at my face with concern. A hand moves from my neck to my forehead,
and then cheek; but I collapse before he could utter another word.
Chapter 10 –




        “Mother!” I shout as her body goes limp in my arms. “Mother!
Help”

        She rushes from her room still in her night clothes as I sweep
Verdie up into my arms moving her to her mat, tearing down the curtain
in my hurried movements.

        “What happened?” She asks shocked.

        “I don’t know. I kissed her and then she collapsed. She’s got a
fever. She’s burning up.”

        My mother can see the humor even in desperate times. “You
kissed her and she collapsed?” She muses.

        “Mother!”

        “Alright, Will, let me take a look.” She approaches her bedside
pushing me out of the way in order to get closer. I reach down and place
my hand on Verdie’s covered leg, it being too painful to be removed
from her now. She feels her forehead and examines the glands on her
neck before opening her mouth and looking down her throat. “Hmm.
Very strange. She has the same symptoms of Gliesen flu. But surely she
must have had it as a child.”

        She stands walking towards the tiny kitchen and I resume my
position by Verdie’s side, reaching for her hand as soon as it’s in my
reach.

       “What is this?” My mother calls from the kitchen. I glance over
my shoulder to find her staring at the pile of money I flung on the
counter.

        “That” I state “is the reason I kissed her.” I can’t help but smile
at the recent memory, even in such a confusing, stressed time as now.
“It seems my dear Verdie is unwilling to give our little family up and
wants badly enough for us to all travel together that she has made the
passage money magically appear.” She still marvels me.
         “But where did she get it?” My mother asks, returning now with
a cool damp washcloth and bowl of water. She takes one glance at me
and then shakes her head, moving to the other side of the mat as I
clearly will not move for the world in this moment.

       “I have no idea.” I wonder, taking the washcloth from her and
smoothly dabbing at Verdie’s neck and forehead.




         My stomach is at unease as I answer the door. Jonah stands on
the other side with a long square package dangling from his fingers.
“Starling said you could probably use these.” He muses dropping them
into my palm. “Saltines.”

         He takes in my green complexion and strolls into the room,
carefully closing the door behind him. Graydon is in the bathroom,
preparing a cool bath. The fever that struck Verdie seems to have taken
hold in my own body; although I am assured it will not last long. The
Teacher promises to return with another of his magical remedies.

         “Thanks.” I half-heartedly smile. “This is probably the only thing
I’ll be able to keep down today.” He leads me back to the lounge and
helps me lay back down before sitting on its edge.

        “Don’t you wish you could skip the bad parts? Honestly, who
needs to live through an illness twice?” He places a hand to my
forehead and I startle like a horse at the contact. The back of my head
hits the hard cushion with a thunk and he smiles sheepishly. “Sorry. I
shouldn’t have done that.”

         I try to smile back, but it’s painfully forced. “It’s okay.” My heart
races slightly and I know he can feel the sheen of sweat forming on my
brow. I try to turn away, but he only raises his brow at that reaction.

        He swallows thickly as Graydon reenters the room. “Well. I best
be going.” He heads for the door but not before a brief standoff with
Graydon in the middle of my room “Wouldn’t want anyone to get
suspicious.”
        The next three days went painfully slow. Verdie was in and out
of consciousness, barely aware when she was awake. I stayed by her
side the entire time; wiping her brow, holding a bowl, holding her hand
in comfort.

         Mother sent word to Damian and he returned to visit his
favorite nurse with the doctor. Verdie was exceptionally lucid for their
visit and insisted I allow her to sit up, although I thought her new found
strength was just a farce for the company. “Honestly, I’m feeling much
better.” She stated hoarsely as I position myself beside her to help
support her weight. She leans heavily on me and I can tell the wear only
a few minutes has taken.

         The doctor insisted on examining. “It is most peculiar Mrs.
Godwit. She does seem to have the Gliesen flu, as you assessed, but I
don’t see how it possible. All factory workers who have not had it as
children are given the immunizations.” Verdie drops her eyes, a sign I
have become all too familiar with, when a topic she wishes not to
discuss is approached.

        “Verdie, my sweet” I try to coax her, kissing her forehead
“Verdie, Did you have the Gliesen flu as a child?” She slowly shakes her
head, her eyes fixed on the blanket covering her legs.

        “Didn’t you have the immunization when you arrived on the
crest?” The doctor asks curiously. She again, shakes her head.

        A lump rises in my throat. “But why, Verdie, Why would you
care for those children if you had never had the flu. Didn’t you think?
Didn’t you realize you would come down with it too?”

        “I’ve… I’ve never been sick a day in my life before this.” She
rushes the words out as if she were ashamed.

        “How is that even possible?” Damian asks curiously “Everyone
here gets sick, especially here. You must have been sick before, maybe
you just don’t remember.”

       “No.” She states shakily and I can see how the conversation
exhausts her.
        “Only the Aristocrats escape illness” Damian hoots. “Any you….”
I know what he was going to say. He was going to say you’re no
aristocrat. But in that one moment recognition dawns on him and me as
we glance down at her familiar ink black hair. “Virtue” he whispers as
she bursts into tears. The doctor and my mother stare befuddled by
what has just passed.

       I pulled her into my lap, cradling her head on my shoulder and
whispered my promises of love and protection no matter what. Her
moment of awareness passed and she fell swiftly under the current of
consciousness.

        “Well this is a pickle.” Damian states and I shoot him a glare
dare he reveal her secret to the others in the room.

         “Doc, what can we do?” My mother changes the topic, obvious
to the tension in the room.

        “I’m afraid there is nothing to be done.” He answers morbidly.
“Adult cases of the flu are rare.” He pauses speaking quieter now as if
he were already at a memorial “Adult survivals are even rarer. All we
can do is make her comfortable, wait, and see.” I hold her tighter
against me, feeling like he personally were threatening to take her
away.



          “Please Graydon. Let’s just push through this.” I emerged
feeling violently ill, barely aware of him hovering over by the controls.
He wavers. “Please, let’s just finish this life, done with this ill body and
I’ll take a whole day off.” The pain of the illness is only doubled by the
suffering I can see in Will and all I can think is how can Verdie do this to
him? How could I hurt him?

        He moans. “You promise?”

        “I promise. “
         She only had another two or three rational moments in the
next week. The fever would not break. In the last one, she woke to fret
about having missed the boat. “There will be another boat.” I told her
softly, not wanting her aware of its departure 3 days before. I got her to
drink some soup then, replenishing some of the liquids. She would
awaken from cold sweats, shivering while the fever still ravaged her
body.

        She remained awake for a while then, allowing me to hold her
against my chest, kissing her forehead and lips gingerly. “I’m not sorry.”
She whispered to me, as I dreamed of a different life for us, of how it
would be, how it could have been.

        “Hmm?” I mumble into her hair.

         “I’m not sorry, for any of this.” She shifts her head to look into
my eyes. “I’m not sorry I ran away, I’m not sorry I met you, I’m not sorry
I took care of those boys, and I am truly not sorry that I fell in love with
you.” I lean down to kiss her lips, knowing that she will close her eyes
and the tears I am holding back can escape.

        That was the last moment she was truly conscious. Her life
slipped away swiftly the next night as I lay on the floor next to her mat.
My hand entangled with hers. My mother found us there in the morning
and had to have Damian come help remove me in order to tend to the
body. “Come on Will.” He pulled me towards the door. “Come on. Its
time you start living again.”

        We were in the alley now. “There is no life without her!” I
screech. Red faced, tears streaming from my eyes. “I don’t want to live.
I want to mourn. There is no one else to mourn her!” I realize then that I
am wrong. I step back, startled at my realization and sprint down the hill
towards the factory with Damian running close on my heels to keep up.

         “Stop Will! Whatever you are doing don’t!” He pants.” Reaching
to grab my sleeve but missing. “William Stop!” I increase the gap
between him and me as I approach the main factory building. Lunging
through the front door and head immediately up the stairs to the
offices. I am panting as I reach the room I seek and rush to open its door
and step through.

        He is alone in the room. Her father is alone and I realize, taking
in his appearance, that although I have only been mourning for
moments- perhaps an hour, he has been mourning for the past three
weeks. “I’m sorry” I pant.

       “William?” He takes in my appearance. “What in god’s name
has happened to you?”
        I drop to my knees as he approaches. I try to control the sobs in
order to say the words “I didn’t know who she was. I don’t know if that
would have made a difference. I love her. I loved her. I didn’t know who
she was or…or I would have made her talk to you. To tell you she was
safe.”

        He seems to pull the meaning from my jumbled words. “My
Verdie, My Virtue? My daughter? You know where she is? You know
how she is?” A sob breaks free as I unravel at his lack of understanding.

          “No more.” I cry. “She is no more.” He gasps stepping back away
from me. “I didn’t know she was your daughter, but that doesn’t change
the fact that I loved her. She came to me. She loved me too. If I had
known before it was too late, I would have made her tell you. But by
the time I knew, by the time I guessed her secret she was too weak. She
practically killed herself caring for others and I thought you should
know.” His face is red now. His jaw clenched, fighting back the tears that
I just let flow.

        “How?” He demands.

        “The flu.” I cry, my head bowed. “The damn, childish, Gliesen
flu.”

        Damian enters then, muttering “Oh, William… no.” He stops at
the door suddenly, as I hear a click coming from her father’s direction
behind the desk. I glance up to see his hand shaking from the pressure
he is exerting on the trigger of his gun. At least this will be swift.




        “I’m done Basil. I’m done for the day.”

        “Okay” he concedes softly.

        I rush down the corridor from my meditation chamber
searching. There was no way I was going to have lost her now. I
couldn’t. I couldn’t deal with the pain in both lives. The loss from
William was still stuck, causing my stomach to churn and my hands to
shake. I wasn’t strong enough for this, with her absence now.
“Graydon!” I round the corner leading to his chamber.

        Jonah emerges from the next port. “He’s not in there.” He
directs “He and Teacher have been working up in the Guest quarters.”
I rush down towards the black iron stairs, not even acknowledging his
assistance.
       “Graydon! Graydon! ” He quickly emerges from the port across
from the stairs and closes it behind him.

        “Abban! What is it? You are disrupting the entire floor!”

        “Where is she Graydon? Where is Maya?” I can’t keep the
anxiety out of my voice. “I sent her a message and she wasn’t there to
receive it. Her place has been abandoned. I started searching, but the
sparrows can’t seem to hear her.” His face was relatively calm,
calculated, until that last line. “She would tell you if she were going
somewhere. Where is she? You must know.”

        “I…” His face reddens has he diverts his eyes to the floor. “Um.
I’m not sure….”

        “No!” I reply grasping him around the shoulders, shaking “I
need her. You have no idea what it’s like. I need to know where she is. I
can’t be doing this without …”

       A withered throat clearing interrupts me before I can continue.
Our Teacher has followed Graydon out of the chamber. “Without what,
Abban?”

        I gasp, realizing what he might have just heard, at what I had
almost revealed. I know he has seen her in my memories, but I have
tried my hardest to keep her tucked away in my current mind. My heart
races at the thought. It is a strange reaction for me still, to feel the
Teacher is what she needs to be protected from; perhaps if I’m honest
with myself I feel she needs protection from everyone but me. Even the
thought of Graydon being close to her pulls a growl from deep in my
chest.

          “I….” taking a moment to compose myself, I step back away
from Graydon to fully face our Teacher. “I’m sorry Teacher; I think the
stress of the recollection has just gotten to be a bit much for me, this
last life was particularly trying.” I glance at Graydon apologetically,
hoping he understands my need for her. “Perhaps I should retire for the
day.”

        He nods “I think that would be best.”

       My eyes meet his and then Graydon as I slowly walk away.
Graydon exhales before shifting his piercing gaze on our Teacher.



       “What was that about?” I ask as Graydon emerges back through
the door. It has been a few hours since recalling Verdie’s death and I
am already feeling much better. It amazes me how much a memory can
affect the body physically. However pleasant it was to be wrapped up in
Will’s arms I am only more grateful now to have his suffering more
distant and my appetite back.

        We had continued the recollection, for a few moments beyond
that. The first memories of a life are usually peaceful, so I had convinced
Graydon it would be the best thing to settle us down. We both sighed as
the graceful life of a swan quickly trickled by. Nothing happened in slow
motion; the change of seasons in a valley, graceful swims in a pond,
countless years and years flowed by, peacefully ending as it had begun.

           He takes a moment to compose himself. “Oh, nothing.”

           “I heard raised voices.” I challenge.

        He smiles, cannily “Yes that was me. They sent up the wrong
soup. I specifically asked for potato and they sent up tomato.” I can’t
help but giggle at him, I’m famished and Graydon always knows how to
make me laugh. “And it’s not even the dinner hour yet!”

           “Where is Teacher?”

        “I believe he is retiring and I think you promised we could do
the same. With the wear you have taken I imagine you will need some
rest.” He raises an eyebrow.

           “I’m not tired.”

        “No. You might not be. But I am.” He collapses onto the lounge.
“Please? You promised… Let’s just take one full day. You have no idea
how tiring it can be to watch you like this.”

        I wander up to him and fold myself into the small space
remaining at his side, just as we did when we were kids.

           “Alright then” he sighs and we both drift into warm slumber
swiftly.
Chapter 11 -

         I was surprised to find Graydon waiting for me, back at our
berth. I had spent the last few hours emerging myself distractingly in his
past and here he was staring at me in disbelief. Did he know? It had
been days since he had last dined with us, so the fact that he was
waiting for me made me ponder. “I apologize, again, for earlier.”

         He dismisses me with a pat on the back “Think nothing of it.”
Then leads me into the hall towards the staircase, leading off “I didn’t
realize how painful this was going to be for you. I’m sorry, I should have
thought… I was just wondering.”

       “Yes.” I interrupt. “I truly have been looking for her. She has just
disappeared, as if she never existed, as if she was part of my
imagination. God in heaven, She can’t be a figment.”

        He smiles “Of course she’s not a figment… or I’m delusional too”
His eyes grow wider in amusement and a smile forms on his lips. We
enter the dining room and take our seats after collecting our trays.
“How have you been searching?”

Ah, there’s the rub - he doesn’t know. “I umm.” No sense in denying it
now, I huff the response embarrassedly “I’ve been watching through
you. Through your tune.”

His forehead creases in surprise. “How clever.”

“It was the quickest way I could think of, I just wanted to catch her
tune… but the blasted birds never seem to hear her. She is always there.
I can always see her, but I can’t ever hear her.”

“How long have you been looking?”

“I’ve been through twelve hundred of your entries so far.” I mumble,
ashamed at admitting this obsession “She really was always beautiful
wasn’t she?”

He heaves a sigh as Basil takes his seat. “Hey, nice to see ya Graydon.”
Basil bites into a roll. “Where the Lindi’s at?” Only then did I notice their
quiet absence. In fact, Starling has been absent almost as much as
Graydon lately.

“They are…umm… occupied.” Graydon answers quickly. “Told me not to
bother saving them anything, Teacher has them on a special project.”

Basil only smiles, chewing noisily with his mouth full. “Good. More for
me.”
          I woke up to a knock on the door, finding Graydon strangely
absent. I could tell it was time for dinner because of emptiness in my
stomach and the dim light. I opened the doors to find both the Lindi’s
waiting; Jonah with his cunning grin and Starling more cautious than
usual. There is a tension between them, thick enough to feel but it was
still a strangely pleasant dinner. Starling and Jonah banter like, well, like
brother and sister and I can’t help but laugh when Jonah tries to drag
me into their argument; as if I would ever cross Starling. I’m growing
comfortable with him, although not as quickly as I had with Starling.

         With her, it was like we were old friends from the moment we
met. With him, it’s like I have to break down a wall and hold myself still
lest I disturb myself back into a frightened state. I act as if he were a
rattle snake about to strike. He on the other hand seems completely at
ease with me, his passionate voice coaxing me into the discussion as if
there were nothing more common, I almost feel guilty at the effect he
has on me. Is this clever man really the same Graydon had described as
disagreeable?

         Jonah reaches for my bread plate, tauntingly, and steals my
dinner roll. He throws it from one hand to the other as I try to reach for
it back. Before he can even raise it to his mouth I grab his wrist firmly
and bite the roll and his palm on accident. He yelps “bloody hell” but
then just laughs as he looks at my wide-eyed innocent expression.

       “Your brother…” I start, clearing the plates with Starling after
Jonah amusingly retired for the evening. “He’s rather quiet nice.”

        “Mmmmh.” She mumbles. “He’s different around you. I’ve
never seen him like this before.”

        “Pardon?” I muse.

         “Jonah.” She smiles, hesitantly. “I’ve never seen him this
agreeable. I’m afraid I rather like it. You seem to have brought out the
best in him.”

       “Oh that’s just my way.” I pick up a plate and set it on the cart
to be removed. “Coaxing turtles out of their shells, turning bad boys
good…” She smiles at my musings “You should have seen the lines of
converts in New Amsterdam!”

        “That many, huh?” She laughs and I roll my eyes. “I don’t think
you understand.” Her face turns serious but there is still a smile on her
face. “For the past 19 years I have always wondered what was wrong
that he was the way he was. He is cruel, silent and spiteful and in the
matter of a day he is not. I wonder how long it can last.”
       “Oh, Starling…” I pull her into a hug. “I don’t know how I could
have that effect on a fly, never mind your brother.”

       She just smiles “You really don’t know what you are capable of
do you?”



         I had taken Graydon’s lack of a complete outburst at my
admission as permission to continue, however bold I might have been. I
had seen his reaction to countless of her suitor’s audacious declarations
before and no doubt I would have ended up with a broken nose if that
was his intent. Not that I blame him. After dinner I resumed by data
scan, covering another 800 scenes of her. It was odd to see her in the
images; I was beginning to understand I had not really known much
about her in our short time together. She seemed more confident, more
beautiful and strangely sadder in each image. How I longed to hear her
voice, but of course, the birds did not attempt to gather that, only the
tunes which were still peculiarly absent for her. I retired, frustrated
after yet another image of a random suitor grazing her hand with a kiss
and resolved to sleep in order that I might rise early in the morning and
start the next life.

         She haunts my dreams, unguided, at night. What would you do
with this ghost taunting you with her existence but never present? In
my rest I can find no comfort. In my awakening there is only absence.
Only in recalling can I feel at peace.

Everyone was still asleep when I awoke. Everyone, including Graydon, I
mused- It was so strange to see him slumber when he had been so
absent as of late. I took a moment to study him unabated. He did look
more tired and troubled than I had ever seen him. Cheeks sagged and a
new crease formed permanently on his brow as if he was always
worried. Teacher, I had noticed, had been wandering between us all as
of late; so it was highly unlikely Graydon has been recalling as much as
he claimed. Even the average Watcher would be able to recall a life in
the span of a week and if I remember correctly Graydon only had 3 or 4
lives, he should have been given plenty of time to rest in between. I
don’t believe he is resting up on the guest quarters.

Basil jumps down alarming me out of my observations. “Oh Good.
You’re up.” I look at him as he scrubs the sleep out of his eyes. “Let’s get
started. There’s a new life to begin.”
          It is always more difficult to start a life. Trudging through the
murky memories of childhood, my soul always searching in a now
familiar way for the one face I too want to see. What if she is not in this
life? I fear. Only to be rewarded for my reluctant patience in the 13th
year. Minta.

        We are boarded on a ship, together, with approximately 100
other adolescents; 50 male, 50 female; although we are among the
youngest when we board. It was apparent from the minute we locked
eyes what the Teacher’s intent was. Even at the age of 13 she was
everything I, Dominic, desired, although I would have never been as
bold to make that claim. Delicate, still, and thoughtful; she reminded me
a lot of Verdie with her black hair and small stature. Her skin, unlike
Verdie’s, was a golden brown much like my own and she had the
deepest brown eyes that reminded me of a fawn.

The ship is bound for home, Earth; one of the first to re-colonize the
planet now that it is once again habitable. It has been at least 150 years
since people were able to heavily walk on its surface.

Oh, how that surface would be changed. We didn’t really know what to
expect when we arrived, but my present mind is mused at the lack of
understanding about the water. The ship would arrive in 3 years time
from our departure and in those years we are educated; survival
training, health, and trade skills make up the majority of the boys, while
the girls are taught what I have been told are classic feminine studies;
sewing, cooking, child rearing.

By the time we arrived, Minta and I had only managed to spend a few
sporadic hours together in the entire 3 year trip. Before we could
debark arrangements were made and we were wed.

That simple.



I groan loudly as I emerge.

“Chill! You just went through 16 detailed years of life in a little less than
an hour. I wouldn’t think of stopping you now. I just have to swap the
medallion.” Basil chides me as he replaces the small metal disk and
switches the machine back on. I was amused, never having reached the
data limits of a disk in a single session before.




Our hands, intertwined by the Teacher who wed us, stay in that form
for countless hours as we wander the abandoned space in silence.
Provisions, like a tent, food and water, will be provided for us for the
next two weeks. After that we are to fend for ourselves, although we
are welcome to stake claim to any abandoned properties and resources
found in the city. We meander north through the city streets, littered
with dust and debris, some overgrown with vines, trees and grass. The
entire city surrounded by large obelisk structures in states of demise.

Other girls giggle and flirt, I notice, but Minta stays stoically silent in
reflection. My hand holds firm to hers still as if letting go would mean
her escape. I can’t help but glance at her, amazed that she, so simply, is
mine- as if by design. Her eyes never meet mine and I wonder what they
would reveal. Perhaps she isn’t as pleased with this arrangement?

We wander until the sun threatens to set and then return to the main
base, by the ship to retire for the evening. There is a lump in my throat
as we approach our assigned tent. She still has not mumbled a word. I
close the flap behind us and slowly creep to the other side of the space
taking in our surroundings. There is only one bed, of course, and she is
currently crouched into a tiny ball on top of it, her chin tucked tightly on
top of her knees.

She looks at me with a scared expression and I can’t help but pity this
poor creature. “Well, goodnight then.” I whisper, intending to rest in a
spot on the ground. She burst into a sudden fit of tears that has me
startled. I rush over to the bed in order to awkwardly comfort her but
she cringes away further as I approach. Why wasn’t there a class in
dealing with females? “Minta, what’s wrong? How can I help?”

Her voice is muffled against her arms. “I’m not sure. I… I…” she breaks
down into even louder sobs.

I think back to the comfort my mother would have provided and slowly
reach out to stroke her smooth hair. I try to be stoic, like she was
earlier, but my pride is wounded at the thought of being unwanted. “It’s
alright. I understand if I’m not what you were expecting. I’m not sure
what they can do to correct that. I mean, I don’t know the protocol, but
perhaps they could manage a… switch?” She gasps which confuses me
even more. “Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that what this is about?”

“No!” The outburst breaks through her now quieted sobs. “How could
you even think that?” She looks at me in horror and I sheepishly admit
my insecurities.

“So…This isn’t about you not wanting me?” I murmur with a half-
hearted smile, even more confused and her expression changes; tears
stopped mouth gaped in surprise.

“Honestly.” Her voice seems stronger, more confident but very sweet.
“Dominic, how could you think that?” My heart races, hearing the sound
of my name escaping her lips for the first time. There is no doubt in my
soul; I don’t think I could give her up even if it was her desire.

Absently, I wipe a tear from her cheek, but she stops the movement of
my hand covering it with her own and holding it against her face.
“Please.” I plead “Tell me what this is all about. I honestly don’t know.”

She swallows thickly. “I know.” Her voice trembles and she pauses for a
moment to compose herself, diverting her eyes to the blanket resting
on the bed. “They, um, prepared us. For what it would be like… and I
know” She looks at me sternly taking in a deep breath “what you are
expecting. But I don’t…” She huffs one more time “I don’t know if I can
do that. I don’t know if I’m ready.”

“Oh?” Color me confused, didn’t we already do it? I mean we’re already
married according to the teachers. “Oh!” recognition finally dawns on
my innocent mind. “Oh Minta, please don’t worry. I wasn’t intending
for us to. I mean, I’m not going to make you.” I’m flabbergasted at
having to try to explain this to her. “Minta, we are not going to having
sex.”

Her cheeks flush vibrantly and I can’t help but reach to stroke the
uncovered one with my other hand. “We aren’t?”

“No.” I smile at her and then clear my throat “However much I would
like to, however much they expect us to. We won’t be doing that.”

“Why not?” she seems agitated now instead of scared, is that a step in
the right direction? Lessons in conversation with the opposite gender
should have been part of my curriculum, I muse.

“Because I haven’t even managed to kiss you yet.” I mumble, trying to
smile at her, to break her mood. “And because… well, just because I
want to doesn’t mean I’m ready to either.”
“You’re not?” She seems surprised.

“No. And I’m not sure I like this entire arrange marriage either. Not that
I don’t want to be married to you.” I quickly interject before her anger
or hurt can return. I swear; Girls must be like a magic pot of emotions,
you never know which one will turn up on top. I take her hands again,
intertwining our fingers.

“I would have liked to do this differently. If we were still with our
families, still out there.” I gesture to the sky with my eyes, not wanting
control of my hands just yet. “I would have liked to have asked you on a
date or two first, taken you to a dance, met your parents, and made you
fall in love with me before I asked you to marry me. Please let me at
least do this one thing in the right order, Please let me get you to love
me before we even consider that?”
Chapter 12

It had started out an unusual day; that is to say if any day on this ship
could be considered usual. I had promised Graydon a complete day of
rest, a full 24 hours, and I was already beginning to regret that only an
hour after sunrise. I had awoken at first light, as was becoming
customary for me- but unlike other days Graydon was not here to greet
me with breakfast after my bath.

         I imagine he intended me to starve, but in truth he probably just
thought I would sleep in. I used to love sleeping in, but something about
this ship, or the air always had me on edge and sleep was not as restful
as it should have been. I didn’t have nightmares or dreams really, just
memories replaying in my mind as if I were recalling. Sometimes it was
hard to remember in which life I fit in, they all began to blur together.
Emotions, I realized were hard to keep where they belong; the
chemicals triggered by memories being just as potent.

         I settled in to read a book, the last one remaining that I had
borrowed from the library. It was a scientific book; not a story but
rather instructional on steam propulsion. I didn’t have that much of an
interest, but the illustrations were fascinating and I figured I better learn
something about the contraption in which I was suspended. After an
elaborate chapter of heat exchange there is a light knock at the door.
My stomach was starting to gurgle, so I could only hope it was someone
with breakfast.

        Opening the door I am surprised to find not Graydon or Starling,
but Jonah waiting on the other side. “I apologize if I woke you.” He
speaks in his soft confident tone.

        It takes a second to gather my thoughts. Seeing Jonah was
unnerving, it seemed to undue something in my mind. Not as it had
before; after last night I no longer felt as if he were about to strike, but
rather looking at him was like staring at some curious puzzle I haven’t
yet figured out and still fit into place all at once. His green eyes bore
into mine. “Not at all, I was actually just reading a book.”

        He steps into the room carrying a glass and plate. “I realized
when Graydon was still asleep that no one might have brought you
breakfast.” He set the items down at the table and proceeds to wander
the floor, picking up the book I left resting on the lounge. “Steam,” he
quirks a brow, collapsing into the cushion with the book on his lap
“nothing like a bit of light reading before breakfast.” He smiles that
canny lopsided grin.

        “I’m bored.” I reason.
         “Well, eat some breakfast and then we’ll find something to do.”
I roll my eyes at him, as if it were that simple, but I did as he asks. I was
starving, and the biscuits and eggs he brought smell divine. I was at the
table devouring them before he had even turned a page.

        He chuckled when I had practically cleaned the plate. “I have
never seen a woman eat so fast.”

         I merely grumble with my mouth full. “You can’t blame me. I
was practically starved the second half of my last life.” His smile spread
at that, gazing at me wondrously.

          “How different it must be for you.” He muses, crossing the
room.

          I answer after taking a sip. “Aren’t you recalling too?”

         “Yes, but I’ve been training for this for three years. To come at
this so completely unprepared, I just… I just can’t imagine.” He sits at
the empty seat by my side, leaning closer in concentration. “What is it
like for you?”

          “Confusing.” I blurt after swallowing half the glass of milk.

          “Elaborate.” He chuckles once more.

         “Hmmm. Have you ever had a dream that was so real, so
infuriating, that you found yourself mad at that person in it when you
awoke?”

          “No.” he answers honestly “But I think I can see where this is
going.”

        “Sometimes…. Sometimes I can’t seem to remember in which
life a moment belongs, and some things are just so familiar, so similar it
seems it wouldn’t matter.” I pause to give thought “Like Graydon. It
seems he’s always been over bearing, this life or not.” Jonah’s hands
tense around each other but there is still a sly smile on his face.

          “And Abban.” He interjects, and I can see a fierce curiosity in his
eyes.

          “No. I don’t know about Abban.” I sigh.

        “How can you not know with Abban?” His voice peaks in
distaste.

          “Oh, I as if I know him as well as all that?” I answer sharply.
         “I guess you’re right.” His voice softens. “It’s not as if he’s up
here bringing you breakfast.” I look at him closely then, for a tell tale
sign, he’s not blushing or looking away, his eyes are fixed on mine;
stating a fact. He pulls a medallion from his waist coat pocket “There’s a
trick you know.”

         “A trick?” I repeat confused to where the conversation was
going.

         “Yes, a trick to keeping the moments in the right life.” He leans
in closer, sunlight glints playfully in his emerald eyes. He holds the coin
up with two fingers flipping it repeatedly “The trick… is to make this life
more interesting than all the rest and then you’ll be sure to know which
one is the dream.”

         “Is that so?” I smile.

       “It is. So…” He grins, leaning back in his chair “Now. What shall
we do?”

         “So much for the trick.” I groan.

         “You are truly not in a good mood.” He states with a chuckle.

      “I’m not in a bad mood. I’m just bored.” Okay, maybe I was in a
bad mood.

        “You have the day off. You could do anything.” He gestures to
the space as if I were in the Taj Mahal.

        “Ah, but you forget. I’m not allowed off this floor. I can do
nothing.” He furrows his brow, bringing the coin to his chin, deep in
thought and then there is a spark in his eye.

         “I’ll be right back.” He sprints for the door.

         He returned in the matter of moments, it seemed, panting from
his run. Grabbing my hand he pulled me out the door and down the hall
towards the library. Of all places on this floor this is my favorite, so I
can’t complain. As the door opens I can hear the soft murmur of music,
a waltz I believe, getting louder as I step inside although I cannot find its
source. The tables have all been pushed to the side, leaving a clearing
in the center of the small space directly in the path of the windows.
“You’re bored.” He states gracefully stepping around my body, where I
stood. He extends a hand with a bow “And I believe I am still owed the
remainder of a dance.”

         “You want to dance. “ I snicker, shaking my head.
        “Come on, I know you can dance. Amuse me. You said you were
bored… and there’s nothing else to do.” I sigh, halfheartedly placing my
hand in his. He grins “Do you know the Saint Bernard’s Waltz?”

          “I’m afraid I don’t.”

        “Let me teach you it.” He pulls at my hand, causing me to
stumble forward; where he firmly places his other hand about my hip. I
chuckle at his eagerness.

      “I didn’t realize how much you liked to dance.” I tease,
remembering his reluctance at the New Amsterdam Ball.

         “I don’t” he states with that crooked grin. And then laughs as
my perplexed expression “I merely am providing a means to prevent
ennui, and as I said; you still owed me a dance.” He is graceful on his
feet, as he teaches me the steps; three to the right, then stamp our feet,
two to the left, two forward then back, He spins me under our joined
hands and then spins us both about the room only to start back with
three more steps to the right. I giggle as I stamp my feet a second time
and he is chuckling with me once we are spinning once again. By the
forth repetition we are stumbling in bought of laughter. “I never
realized the waltz could be so much fun.” He chuckles, still with a
crooked smile “It must be the partner.”

        “Where did you learn to dance?” I ask, as we spin a fifth time.
The grin permanently plastered to my face.

       “My older sister.” He states as he lifts his chin in the air
mockingly.

          “Oh. I thought Starling was younger than you.”

          “She is. But she is not my only sibling.” Our feet stamp in
unison.

          “How many do you have?”

       “There are seven of us total. One sister who is older, and four
younger” He spins me under and I am startled to meet his eyes.

          “Six siblings!” I baulk “Are you the only boy?”

       “No.” he smirks. Spinning us round again “There’s Peter, the
youngest, he’s 10.”

        “What it must be like.” I wonder, always the only child. “Starling
never told me that.”
         “You never asked before.” The song is winding down, in the final
repetition he takes the opportunity to spin us round and round until I’m
dizzy and doubling over with laughter. As the final note plays we
collapse on the ground.

        “I guess there isn’t really much I know about you.” I muse,
catching my breath.

          “Did you know the waltz was considered risqué?”

       “Really?” I smile at him, amazed at the course of our
conversation.

          “It’s true. It’s because it was one of the first dances where men
and women would have to embrace.” He reaches a hand out and gently
takes mine again. “’To press the hand so press'd by none but thine; To
gaze upon that eye which never met. Another's ardent look without
regret; Approach the lip which all, without restraint, Come near enough -
-- if not to touch --- to taint; If such thou lovest --- love her then no more,
Or give --- like her --- caresses to a score; Her mind with these is gone,
and with it go .The little left behind it to bestow.’” Our fingers twined, he
gazes into my eyes as he repeated the lines. “Byron” he slyly grins,
“particularly hated the waltz.”

       He stands now, and pulls me up with him. “The waltz isn’t the
only uncouth thing I know.” He raises a brow. “Did you know I can do
magic?”

       “Magic?” I chuckle; amused at the pleasant turn the morning
had taken. It seemed Jonah had managed to dispel all of my gloom.

         “Parlor tricks really.” He states offhandedly. He releases my
hand, to pull a coin from his pocket, holding it carefully in front of my
eyes before firmly presses it into my palm, closing my fingers around it.
Both his hands are wrapped around one of mine. I realize, I have barely
left contact with his skin since beginning the dance. His touch is warm,
like the sun and it surprises me that I rather like to feel it. He releases
my hand and my fingers flex open revealing no longer the coin, but a
small copper bird. I lift my cupped hand to my eyes as the bird hops
about my palm. It’s metal with tiny gears and slivers composing its
wings. “Have you never seen a recon sparrow?” He inquires as I
examine in detail.

         “No. Not that I am aware.” I can only marvel as I notice the
bird’s eyes; lenses, I believe.
       “We use them; us - Watchers that is.” He leans closer stroking
the mechanical bird as if it were his pet. “They find all who we need to
know and document their lives. They fly all around the world and then
back here to their nest.”

        “Are they always this small?”

        “No” he grins “Some are larger. This is a short range sparrow. It
can only go out for a couple of hours before returning to the nest.”

        “It’s marvelous.” I smile as the bird takes flight. Jonah’s hand
lingers closely above mine, his fingers hesitating. The bird swoops
around the room searching for a notch. Spiraling upward it finally finds a
shelf on which it can perch.

         “I have one more trick. It is very difficult though so I would
appreciate your cooperation.” He leans in to whisper soothingly in my
ear. “I am going to kiss my own shadow.”

        “And how pray tell do you plan on doing that?” I giggle
curiously.

        “Shh! Shadows are very fickle things, they startle very easily.”

        He turned me then, I should have seen it coming. His back is to
the window haloed by the brilliant sun. I was directly in front of him,
and only then did I realize what he was to intend. I was his shadow.

        “Jonah” I sigh somewhat still in surprise. I was all too familiar
with the intentions of that look, but his was different; as if he were
challenging me to let it happen.

         “You owe me this.” He mumbles with a gentle smile “after that
bite.” He takes a step forward; his hand slowly ascends from my own,
up my shoulder to rest on my neck. I hold my breath as he brings his lips
a mere inch from mine. He swallows, hesitating, as if he thinks I will stop
him. He doesn’t plead, although I can see it in his eyes. I resolve to hold
myself very still, closing my eyes as his lips reach mine. His touch is as
soft as petals; his breath smells sweet. I sigh.

        “Jonah!” a fierce voice exclaims from behind me. The door shuts
with a thud, I hadn’t heard it open.

       Time stands still has he removes his lips murmuring his wit for
only me to hear. “I was just beginning to enjoy that.” I feel his hand on
my neck, not ready to let go. I lower my head in confusion. This
moment, the kiss, it didn’t feel wrong until now. Now, I was hopelessly
embarrassed. He shifts slightly as snarl escapes his throat. “What do
you want Starling.”His voice is stark, sharp with no trace of that melodic
drawl remaining. I open my eyes to find him glowering at the girl
standing behind me, much as he had the book that first day. I hear her
footsteps as she approaches my side, but his hand prevents me from
turning to look.

        “What are you thinking?” She charges “After last night…”

        “Not now.” His voice is stern and has her coming up short.

       She exhales loudly, and then speaks through her clenched jaw.
“Teacher would like to see you, now.”

        “I’ll be there in a moment. Now, go.” He demands forcefully.
She hesitates for a moment, her hand lightly touching my arm, but then
I can hear her footsteps heavily retreat. I wish I could look at her, know
her thoughts. The door closes and he sighs in relief, all conflict leaving
his form. His voice is softer again, when he speaks. “Next time.” He
muses, leaning his forehead to mine, “this floor restriction be damned.”
He smiles even though I cannot find the words to speak. “It was too
easy to find us.”

“You wanted us hidden?” I squeak; still tense.

“Not necessarily hidden” he smoothly drawls, “I just wanted us to be
able to spend some time alone. It seems you are always under constant
supervision.” I take a deep breath.

“I can’t argue with that.” My voice is steadier now. He smirks, observing
me closely.

“And it was rather nice.” His hand moves now from my neck, ghosting
the line of my jaw, his thumb gently skimming my lips. He moans as I
close my eyes. The sensation is conflicted; both desired and wrong. “It
seems now I must go. But I hope we may have some time together
again.” I open my eyes as he removes his hand, taking a step back. I nod
my head simply before he turns, leaving me and the room behind.

I relax on to the floor, breathing deep. The sparrow takes flight once
again and I marvel, watching it circle countless times while I ponder
what felt wrong.
“Minta, are they closed?”

        “For the tenth time yes Dominic!” she shouts in my ear. “I don’t
see why I couldn’t have walked.” A jolt still goes down my spine each
time she speaks my name, the effect never lessening as the days go by.

        I can only laugh at her complaints now. “Because it was too far
and I didn’t want you to trip.” I release her legs from where I was
holding her on my back. Her arms are still tightly wrapped around my
shoulders nuzzling her head against my neck, but I can’t say that I’m
complaining at the contact. She constantly amazes me with the
confidence she exudes after that first frightening night. She has
assurance in not only our relationship, but with others. She has taken a
pivotal role in our community and I wonder if our decision has been a
factor.

       We have been on land for 1 week and 5 days now. In that time
we have mostly been separated during the days, me foraging for a
communal food supply and her helping provide materials from which
we can all be clothed and cared.

         Our nights are our own at least. We spend them lying awake for
hours talking, learning about each other as I wish we had a chance to do
before. It seems she is letting me get my way, although it has not been
as difficult as I thought it would be. After half a week she refused to
allow me to sleep on the hard ground any longer and insisted I share the
bed. Sleeping more pleasantly by her side I always seem to awaken with
my hand in hers and a smile on my face.

        Our time in the barracks is almost up. Another ship is set to land
in three days and we have yet to stake claim to a property, partly
because I wanted to surprise her with this and she was too indisposed
with her duties until now. “Okay.” I sigh. Stopping at the top of a hill
“You can open them.”

        She drops down from my back as an audible gasp escapes her
lips. “Where are we?” Her eyes roam the valley, taking in the oddly
formed lake, ancient orchard of trees rolling hills and far distance sky
scrapers. I put my arm around her waist to turn her around with me to
face the direction I want.
         “Our home?” I murmur the words like a question, hoping she is
as pleased with the find as I. Before us lies a large low roofed wooden
box structure with its closest wall being made completely out of a
transparent glass making it so when you are inside you have the most
breathtaking view of the fields and lake. This, I reckon, is the furthest
plot we would be allowed from the city without the Teacher’s objecting.
I wanted us to be removed. I had realized in those first days we were
under careful watch. I wanted us to have some semblance of a normal
life, and perhaps this distance could grant it.

         The usonian house was in spectacular condition. It seemed little
had effected it in the past 200 years since its vacancy. It was easy to tell
when it was abandoned because the previous owner even had some
mail left at the door, which I found when I broke in. There were a few
broken windows, a few rotten boards, and of course a newly broken
door, but none of the repairs I wouldn’t be able to handle with a little
aid. The house was even fully furnished and miraculously enough had an
old generator which could power the entire building if we found fuel.

          I lead her into the front door and sweep her into my arms
before we encroach on the threshold. She laughs at my antics and
insists I put her down before taking another step inside; which I, of
course, ignore. I deposited her not quite so gently on the sofa, laughing
hard as she struggles to be released. It was all in jest. “Will you please
just let me do this right?” I laugh at her again and she stops to look at
me with a cunning smile.

         “Alright then.” I seat myself next to her and procure a
handkerchief from the table beside the couch, carefully unwrapping the
present I had collected earlier in the day. She eyes the contents warily
and I slice into the tender flesh and place a wedge into her palm before
taking a bite of one myself. “They are called apples, I believe.”

        She examines it carefully before slowly raising it to her own lips.
Letting the tart juices cling to the delicate skin before she licks them
gently with her tongue taking in her first taste. She smiles brightly and
takes a bite. Her eyes close, marveling, as she chews and a moan
escapes her throat. “Where did you get these?”

        “They grow on our trees. There are only a dozen or so still
bearing fruit, but I imagine with a little care we could have the whole
orchard back in production.” I smile back, holding her gaze for a
moment before she redirects her attention towards the windows
overlooking the woods.

        “Our trees?” she questions wondrously.

        I murmur to her softly “If you would like. I could claim this
entire valley for you.” As was typical, I was discovering, I had not
properly anticipated her reaction. In a split second she flung herself
across the sofa onto my lap, making me drop the apple. As I reach for it,
she takes the opportunity with my head tilting down, and our lips
meeting most passionately as she raked her fingers through my hair, my
hands lock on her waist, holding her still. I’m too surprised to move, to
reciprocate until she practically purrs. She licks my bottom lip and my
mouth opens in surprise granting her the access. She grazes the tip of
my own tongue with hers; much as she had done with the apple. She
smiles against my mouth as if she too were amused by the same thing,
and then slowly pulled her head back, holding mine steady with her
hand still in my hair. Her smile grows even larger as she attempts to
hide her face. I am nearly panting from the quick exchange.

        “I’m sorry.” she blushes. “I forgot you wanted to be the one to
do that.”

        I finally manage to collect my thoughts, shaking my head with a
chuckle. She stays comfortably seated on my lap even after my hands
release her. “Umm.” I mumble, raising a brow. “I’m guessing…”

      She sighs, leaning her head down to rest on my shoulder.
“Welcome home.”




         I thought the point of the delay was to get her to love me, I
didn’t realize how much more it would make me love her. It has been
three months since we moved into the orchard; long glorious months.
The season had changed. When we arrived it was warm, the trees and
grass lush and well nourished. We had to work swiftly, after a month, to
collect the apples as colder weather quickly approached. Now the forest
resembles a slowly burning fire; flickers of orange, red and brown, and
the grass is encased in ice when we wake every morning.

         Minta is the hardest worker I have ever known; alternating her
time between helping the community one day and preparing our home
for the colder weather the next. She treats everything like an adventure
and every find like a treasure.

        “Oh, Dominic!” She bounded up to me from the kitchen on our
second day in the house, “Look What I found!” She held out a flimsy
colorful rectangular box which crinkled as she moves it. “It’s breakfast
cereal! Can you believe it! They used to eat this stuff!” She opens the
box, face dropping in disappointment; the contents having turned to
dust long ago. I couldn’t help but laugh at her reaction. It’s that
excitement that has me falling in deeper, week at the knees at her
slightest touch.

        At least I have that; her touch. I managed my turn at kissing her
a mere few minutes after she had taken hers. It was sweet she told me,
like the apples, and my hands shook from nervousness. Could it really
have been that easy? I have no intentions in progressing further, at least
not yet, but our hands, our lips, seem to find a way at being constantly
intertwined.

         Our house had ample space for the two of us and probably half
a dozen more the way we were used to living. Before even bringing her
to the orchard I had picked out the nicest of the bedrooms for her and
fixed it up, best I could, with a new mattress, fresh linens, and flowers
from the yard. I had intended for it to be her space, a place without my
presence forced upon her. I woke up that first night to find her sneaking
into my bed, two rooms down. “Is there something wrong with your
room?” I murmur half dozed.

        She tucked herself into my side sighing “You’re not in it.” I could
feel the heat of her face against my arm as the corners of her mouth
pulled up into a grin. “I’ve kind of gotten used to you being right here.”
She placed a hand firmly on my ribs and I couldn’t help but beam as
sleep wins out. She got her way after that, as she welcomed me
innocuously into her room every night, and we both slept better.

         Our supplies have dwindled and the ice forming has been
lasting later into the day. We had never determined a fuel source for
the generator, so it became necessary for me to return to the main base
in order to acquire batteries and some additional simple rations. For the
past month I had only remained at the orchard while Minta traveled
back and forth; bringing apples for the others and returning with
supplies and a few stories. With a load of supplies the trip there and
back would take a day, so she often would stay at a friend’s to rest for
the night. There was so much preparation for winter to be done in the
valley; gathering wood, repairing of windows; it seemed impossible for
both of us to abandon the space at the same time. I was always
preoccupied while she was gone, though, never accomplishing much
and was happy when she took the trip less and less often. She seemed
hesitant to go this time, so I volunteered.

        The main base has been transformed since I had last visited. In
the past month six additional ships had landed, adding to the
population of the 3 which arrived in procession to ours. There must
have been roughly 1,000 people residing within the city limits now,
mostly adolescents and young adults. Few had wandered as far as we
had, I mused, being very aware of our lack of immediate neighbors. I
realized, as I made the trek, I had not passed any signs of occupation for
at least 5 miles from our valley.

        I passed through the outskirts and into the heart of the city.
Some of the streets, like Dunbarton Way, were vastly over populated;
people stacked on top of each other in the rubble of buildings and
converted shipping containers. It seemed after so many years cramped
on the ships they could not find comfort in any other way.

          Minta’s friends, she had told me, could be found on the
intersection known as Strafford Square in the north part of the city. It
was easy enough to find and a more sparsely populated location, its
buildings in a much cleaner state of repair. They reminded me of the
houses from old stories; like the house of seven gables, all peaks and
ornate details which would not be found in the tall structures that made
up the lower part of the city. The streets, here, had been completely
taken over by grass and trees. They so vastly resembled a park I was not
surprised to find dozens of men and women out enjoying a leisurely
stroll of a game of sport.

         I approached the corner, walking a little slower now that my
destination is in sight, toting my filled pack and a bag in each hand. A
man broke from the game to rush up to me and offer a hand. He looked
vaguely familiar, one of the many boys on the same ship I demised. I
was never one for interaction and only had interest in conversations
with one other person, of which I was promised to have plenty now.

           “Where ya headed?” he asks pulling a bag from my hand. He
lifts it as if it weighed nothing and my arm floats, being released from its
pressure. He is taller than me, probably a few years older too,
approaching 20 if I were to guess. His features are more defined and I
can’t help but feel puny in his presence, although I know the months of
work in the valley have not left me a weakling.

        “Ah,” I pull out the directional paper from my pocket, a simple
name and address scrawled in Minta’s beautifully messy script. “The
Alden’s? House number 89, I believe.”

        He looks at me startled for a minute, than observes me and the
contents of the sack he carries more closely. “Oh! You must be Dominic.
Minta’s husband?”

        I furrow at that word, still not necessarily happy with the
description, although the intent pleases me more than I would admit.
“Yes.” I stop turning to fully face him in confusion. “And how do you
know Minta?” I challenge.
        “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I should have introduced myself first.” He
reaches out his empty hand to grasp mine. “The name is Killian. Killian
Alden. Your wife has been a great friend to my wife and I, we are so
pleased to finally be able to meet you.”

        He led me to their house, a two story old Victorian in various
states of repair. It was then, I realized, how well the old wooden
structures like ours and theirs fared the elements far better than the
concrete and rebar. The outside, was worn and need of a fresh coat, but
the inside was warm and clean. One miracle after another, the house
was brightly lit inside, although there were few windows in the hall.

        “They got the power plant up and running about a month ago.
All the houses on this block are properly wired, and so we are blessed
with electricity.” He laughed as I marveled at the ancient lighting fixture
hanging in the hall. “Not the most efficient, but it works for now.”

        He dropped the bag in the hall, grabbing an apple as he set it
down, and invited me to set aside the remainder of my load. “Mary
won’t be happy if I don’t take you to her immediately.” He smiled,
opening the closest pocket door and gesturing for me to enter inside.
The room was bright, brighter than the hall with sparkling lights and
open windows. There was a sofa and a couple of high back chairs
framed around a plush faded rug and a fireplace, brilliantly warming the
space. He approached the sofa holding out the apple and it was only
then I recognized we were not the only people in the room. A woman
slept peacefully curled at one end, covered with a warm knit shall.

        He kneels down at her head, kissing her forehead lightly “Wake
up sleepy head.” She stirs lightly and he chuckles, kissing her again.

        He held the apple in front of him and she bound to sitting
quickly calling out “Minta!” in the process. I couldn’t help but duck my
head as she quickly scanned the room looking for her friend.

        Killian just chuckled. “Almost, but not quite.” He laughs again,
squinting his eyes “Someone much more elusive. May I introduce to
you Mr. Dominic Donat?” She smiles at me excitedly.

        “You know my last name?” I question, confused.

        “Well, I assumed it would be the same that Minta had used.” He
replies unabashed. I marvel once again at my beautiful creature; never
even having thought that she would take my name, use my name, I
smile at the thought and he pats me on the back with a smirk “Still
pretty new to this, aren’t ya?”

        I can only chuckle. “You have no idea.”
         Mary tries to rise to greet me, but Killian refuses to let her
stand. “Remember what the doctor said. Dominic, why don’t you come
sit next to her, lest she disobey his wishes.” I do as he asks and notice
immediately, at such close proximity, the unhealthy pallor of her skin.
She is roughly the same age as Minta, I presume, a few years younger
than Killian, and if not for a strangely sickly quality she would be quiet
beautiful. She has taken the apple from his hands and bites into it
eagerly. He glances at me once before turning back to her. “Thank you
for this.” He gestures to the apple. “Most days it’s the only thing she can
keep down. We were down to just one jar of sauce left, so I am most
grateful for your visit.”

        “Of course.” I reply. “I’m glad to be of service.”

       “How is my dear Minta?” Mary interrupts with her mouth full. “I
have been missing her so dreadfully. This is the longest we have been
without a visit.”

         “She is well. Busy making preparations for the winter. We have
just closed up the orchard and she is busy stock piling the house. She
sends her regards.” Her face falls at the mention of the orchard closed,
our supply of apples dwindling.

        Killian rises. “Dominic, I know you must be exhausted. Please let
me show you to your room and get you settled. I know Mary will want
to host a feast tonight in your honor.”

        I rise, just as he finishes, thankful for the suggestion “I would
appreciate that.” I nod to Mary “Thank you so very much for letting me
into your home.”

        “My home is your home.” She insists, with a half-hearted smile.

         We gather my packs and ascend the stairs in the hall. Killian
shows me to the first room. “This is to be yours and Minta’s- that is, as
long as you will ever need it. The bath is the next door down the hall
and our room is the last. Although Mary generally just sleeps on the
sofa right now and I like to keep watch.”

        “Is she.” I hesitate, unsure how to ask. “Is she alright?”

        He smiles. “She’s going to live if that’s what you are asking. She
is pregnant, with child, and it’s taking a most extreme toll on her.” He
places a sack on the floor by the bed and proceeds to produce a towel
and washcloth from a closet, setting them down as well. “She conceived
immediately, to both of our surprise. We were wed as we departed the
ship, just like you and Minta.” I swallow uncomfortable; unsure how
much I liked this stranger knowing our history, or how much of that
history he knew. “We were aware after a month; by that time Minta
had gone to the orchard, I believe. They were as thick as thieves on the
ship, I’m sure you know. It struck her immediately, the morning
sickness, and has not let up since. She is so weakened from exhaustion
the doctor has mandated bed rest for the majority of the day.”

        “She looks so ill.” I comment offhandedly. “Is… Is pregnancy
always like that?”

       His smile turns painfully concerned “There have been other
complications, too… Bleeding. But the doctor assures us all is well for
now. She only needs to rest.”

        “Does Minta know?” I ask puzzled. Sure that if she did I would
be finding her missing more often than not.

       “No. Last she was here things were looking well. Mary was up
and about. She misses her so.”

        “Let me fix that.” I state, firmly placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Our valley can wait. I shall go collect her at once.”

        “Oh- I couldn’t let you.” He means to interrupt.

        “Nonsense, with no load I can make the trip there and back in
less than half a day. We’ll be back before dinner.”

        He smiles warmly at me then “And you shall arrive to a feast.”

        True to my word, I ran the entire way back in order to ensure
the dinner deadline. Minta was surprised to see me and, if I was
interpreting her gaze appropriately, slightly glad. It warmed my heart to
know she was missing me in such a short time. I took a moment to catch
my breath as she entwined her arms around my torso holding me tight.
“Come with me.” I huff.

        “You know I can’t. The orchard.” She mumbled, dejectedly. I
notice a flicker in her eyes though as she glances away. Something
hidden, something untold, leading me to realize this is about more than
the orchard.

        “Minta” I plead “Mary needs you. Come with me.”

        “Mary?” She startles, examining my face.

          “It’s not as bad as all that.” I state raising my hands in truth.
“But it is bad... And she misses you.”

        We rush back, not quite as fast as I had made the run, but
Minta’s legs were shorter than mine and I had decided to keep pace
with her, my hand in hers the entire run. We had passed through the
center of the city and into the park-like northern area just as the sun
was beginning to set. She ascended the front stairs, panting, pulling me
behind her. She didn’t bother to knock. She flung the door open,
immediately stepping into the hall and I reached to shut the door
behind us. Even now she grasped firmly to my hand, pulling me lightly
as something safe, something secure.

          “Who’s there?” Mary called from the living room. Minta opened
the pocket doors one handed and quickly stepped into the room,
fumbling over to her friend as she finally released my hand. “Oh Minta!
Dominic! You shouldn’t have! Oh she always worries so… Minta I’m fine.
I’ll be fine.” Minta just hugged her friend tightly. Minta was my family, I
mused, but it seems I was not the only member in hers. I smile at this,
and so it appears my family has grown by two… and soon to be a half.

         As he had promised, that night we were treated to a feast. We
were not the only guests, but we were the guests of honor being
treated like royalty for our return. The others arrived within an hour of
our return each bringing in a scrumptious dish. Meat, cheese, milk and
bread; there was even a frozen dessert the likes of which the orchard
would never see. These people, I realized more specifically, these
women were Minta’s friends; all having been close on board the ship,
but none as close as Minta and Mary. They truly were ‘as thick as
thieves’, as Killian had stated, having been friends long before even
boarding the ship. The women gossiped and told stories, while the men
all sat back and admired, exchanging smiles, in awe. I had never seen
Minta with so much life, so much vitality. She had laughed more in the
past hour then I believe she had in the past month. How could I have
been so selfish? I wonder. How could I have taken her away from all
this? So much she must have been missing without even telling me. I
couldn’t do that to her again. I wouldn’t do that to her.

         We retired to our room after the last guest had left, exhausted
and full. She immediately went to the closet, obtaining another towel
and switching back across the room to head for the door, the path of
which I was blocking. She stopped, noticing, and glanced up at me with
that clever smile and a raised brow. “Dominic” she enunciated each
syllable letting them roll off her tongue in a way she knew made me
weak at the knees.

        I swallow thickly firmly planting my back to the door, re-
gathering my thoughts. “I think we should stay.” I blurt out. “At least for
a while… It is clear Mary needs you.”

        “But what about the orchard?” her brow furrows and I, once
again, question if that is her only concern.
         “We’ve already cared for the trees, they will be fine until the
spring. If we spend the winter here we won’t need to worry about the
supplies there.”

        “The whole winter?” she seems truly surprised at the
suggestion.

         I take her hands into mine, looking at her earnestly. “Minta, this
is your family.”

        “You’re my family.” She interrupts.

         “Yes. But… Mary was your family long before. She needs you
and I think you need her. I think we should stay, at least for the winter.”
She kisses me fervently then, it no longer takes me by surprise. This kiss,
it tells me her answer. It tells me that she thinks I am wonderful and
miraculous and that she can’t be more pleased. I smile as I release her
hands to cup her face, continuing the kiss, telling her all that I can about
my love and devotion with the touch of our lips.



        Killian took me to the center of the city the following morning.
He was so pleased with the idea of Minta and I staying through the
winter. Mary I noticed already seemed stronger and I was sure Minta’s
presence was making a difference.

        We took all but half a bag of apples, leaving that for Minta who
was already studiously at work in the kitchen turning them into sauce to
be preserved. Mary was smiling from her sofa as she bit into another
apple.

        “Here” He gestures to a rebuilt granite structure which has a
giant white cross painted on the front.

        “A hospital?” I ask perplexed.

       “It used to be a library” He muses “But Mary is not the only
pregnant woman in the city.” He chuckles.

        We enter the building and are immediately greeted by an older
gentleman, definitely not from our ship. Killian calls out, holding up a
single apple “Dr. March, We come bearing gifts.” The man smiles at the
offering and turns that smile at me.

        “Dominic Donat, I presume.” He chuckles at my furrowed brow.
“We are so pleased to see you. I was afraid Minta’s previous visit was to
be the last. Your wife has been such a great asset to us.”
        “I’m beginning to think there isn’t a single person her generosity
hasn’t reached.” I smile warmly, thinking only of her.

        He grabs the apple from Dominic and tosses it into the air,
catching it. “You know the old saying, don’t you? An apple a day keeps
the doctor away.” He chuckles again “Never thought you would have to
go to the doctor to get the apple.”

        “I am afraid,” I interject “That this will be the last delivery for
the season. We’ve picked the trees bare.”

        “Well, then, his smile fades slightly. We better not let a single
one go to waste. I’ll have half turned immediately into sauce and we’ll
distribute the fresh ones to the new moms.”

        “New Moms?” I question.

          “I think it sounds so much friendlier than ‘with child’.” He smiles
“We have seen 200 pregnant women in the past month, most within
their first trimester- although they are a few further along.” He
mumbles now and I have to lean in to hear. “It appears not all of the
restrictions on the ships were upheld. Never the less, it is those in the
first trimester who will be needing these. Apples and bread that seems
to be all they are able to keep down, the poor things.” He continues to
ramble, now walking down the hall guiding us to the kitchen. “Some,
like Mary, can’t even handle the vitamin supplements.” We are met up
with a Teacher, an older gentleman with an expressive face, just as we
enter the space. “Bread, at least, is in easy supply. We have plenty of
access to flour and such, but there isn’t much nutritional value in that.
Ah, Teacher! Look what Dominic and Killian have brought us!”

        “Wonderful!” the man’s eyes light up as he gazes at the apple.
“Perfect timing, we finished off the last jar of sauce last week.”

      “I was just telling them how much these apples mean to our
new moms.” The doctor smiles.

        “Of course! The teacher continues, and then turns to fix his eyes
on mine. “I do hope you have kept some for yourselves. I am sure you
will need them before long.”

        It is Killian who speaks up now, interrupting as I try to process
the teacher’s train of thought. “We have. Minta is busy turning them to
sauce right now.” He laughs then, although I can tell the mood has
shifted slightly uncomfortably. “Mary has eaten 3 since yesterday; you
should see the change in her doc.” He exchanges a look with the good
doctor, but the teacher’s eyes stay fixed on mine.
        “Is Minta expecting?” The Teacher asks boldly and I am
beginning to comprehend.

        “Excuse me?” I scoff.

         “Is she expecting?” His voice is softer but the question is still
just as loaded.

        “I do not believe that is any of your business.” I respond as
patiently as I can.

        “Merely curious” he responds “I want to be sure she is taking
care of herself. She cares so much for others.”

       “I will be sure she is.” I state plainly, putting an end to that
conversation.

        Killian excuses us at that; “We really must be getting back.” And
the doctor dismisses us with an apologetic look in my direction.

        “What was that about?” I ask as we shut the door behind us.

         He grabs my arm and leads me down the path. He is taller than
me so it is easy for his to mumble angrily in my ear. “That.” He starts.
“Was a poor move on your part. Minta has been so careful with her
conversations with Teacher; you could have just undone that veil of
privacy you and her have worked to build.” He huffs and we walk a little
slower now, he releases my arm. I look at him questioningly and he
continues. “Teachers have all the power here. And there are others,
new ones, called Watchers. Their ship arrived only two weeks ago. They
are like, I don’t know… They are like the Teacher’s spies. They do their
bidding and report back what they find.” He looks around, as if to make
sure we are not being observed.

         “What you and Minta have, what you are doing… let’s just say
that’s not expected.” My muscles stiffen and I can feel my face flush. I
halt my step to turn and look at him. Yes, I was right; I truly do not like
this stranger knowing my business. He holds up his hands defensively.
“Hey man, I’m not saying that I agree. If I had known there was another
way, if I had known what pain doing that would cause her, I would have
waited too. But nevertheless, we are expected to and the majority has
willingly accepted the roles.” It’s his turn to look uncomfortable, his face
turning red in embarrassment. “However fumbling and disgusting it may
be…”

        “How do you know we haven’t?” I ask pointedly.

       “She didn’t betray you, if that’s what you’re asking. “ He grins at
me. “Just call me observant, I know Minta well. I’m not sure if others
would have noticed. I see her clearly and I see the way you look at her,
as if she were a treasure.”

        “You must look at Mary the same way.”

        “Yes, but the way Minta looks at you… well there is nothing that
compares to that.” He looks down at his feet. “Mary looks at me with
adoration, sure, but also with pain. As if she will always remember I am
the one who caused her this pain. Maybe that will change… I don’t
know. But if it doesn’t….” He sighs “Minta looks at you in wonder. I
could even see it when she was here by herself. At the mention of your
name she would get this dreamy look. That, and also the way I’ve heard
her fumble through conversations with Mary.” He chuckles “She is as
innocent now as she was the day we landed isn’t she?”

        “Well, not quiet.” I respond “We’ve kissed.”

       “You think she hasn’t kissed before?” He asks with a raised
brow and I scour, I had never thought about it before. Has she kissed
another before me? He looks at me in awe. “How do you manage?” he
chuckles. “You must want to...”

        “It’s not about what I want.” I interject. “It’s about what is best
for us… being sure that she truly loves me before…Before.”

        “Man, you have more will power than I ever would.” I can only
grin, my face flushing once again.

        “It is really disgusting?” I ask quietly.

        He laughs once again. “No. Not really, it was so unbelievably
enjoyable. But I look at Mary, look at how sick I have caused her to
become and I can’t help but be disgusted at myself for causing her to be
that way.” We continue down the path, through the most populated
parts of the city and into the north. The walk was one of silent
companionship, each of us deep in thought. Me, thinking about Killian’s
Guilt, Mary’s health, Minta’s hesitance to return and wondering about
the Teacher, Killian no doubt would make his thoughts known in due
time. “You know she does.” He finally interrupts my inner turmoil.

        “Does what?” I ask hesitantly.

        “She loves you.” He looks at me, almost bitterly.

       “I know.” I smile, realizing I had known. I had known for at least
a month, possibly since we moved to the orchard.

         “So why wait? Why wait now?” His voice rises, in sharp tones;
as if my hesitance was a personal affront to his own guilt.
        “Because I want to be sure she knows it.”



         Starling came to collect me from the library, maybe an hour
later. I was sprawled out on the floor in front of the windows; soaking
up the sun and watching the bird flutter by. “Graydon was starting to
worry.”

        “When does Graydon not worry?” I snap.

         She smiles in response. “I told him I thought you needed some
time. He’s waiting in your room; I said I’d bring you back and then go get
lunch.” I groan and she moves over, sitting next to me.

        “So.” She states.

        “So?”

        “So… Are we going to talk about what I walked in on?”

         I sigh, but say nothing in response. We stare out the window, in
time to see the light glint off a flock of birds in mid flight. I remember
then, something that peaked my interest before. “What did you mean,
after last night?”

        “Pardon?” She doesn’t meet my eyes but her face blanches in
surprise.

       I sit up, determined for an answer. “Earlier, with Jonah you said
something about last night.”

        “I can’t tell you.” She looks at the floor. She groans and I would
give anything to hear her thoughts. My hour of thinking has been less
than conclusive in my mind. I like Jonah; he is clever, funny and
unexplainably curious to me. I picture him in my mind and butterflies fill
my head; although something lower, in my chest screams out in protest.

        “What about Abban?” Starling seems in tune with my heart.

        “What about Abban?” I groan.

        “You must know that he loves you.”

        “Does he?” I chide. “I know that Logan loved me, I know that
William loved me, Christ even the eagle loved me but I don’t know
Abban!” My voice rises in a fiery pitch, the words spilling out in anger
“Don’t you think if he loved me he would be here? But he’s not… and
your brother is. Christ your brother found me and Abban did not.” She
looks at me then, her face saddened. “What does that tell you Starling?”

       “It’s not what you think.” She mumbles, dejected still.

       I groan, once more. “I don’t know what to think.”
Chapter 13




        Four weeks flew by quickly, and then another two. Time
moved faster here, it seemed although I wished it would slow down.
The bitter cold of winter was bearing down on us, putting an end to
roaming in the park-streets or longer trips for supplies. I was glad, in the
end, to spend the winter in the city. We surely would have run out of
provisions at the orchard and the cold would have made the trip
impossible.

        Minta took the greatest care of Mary and she was in much
better spirits; whether that was because of her companionship or
because of the end of the first trimester, we would never know. Minta
was careful, though, to not leave the house often. This did not eliminate
a few bouts of anxiety I noticed in her, as the Doctor would check on
Mary at least twice a week. He would always leave with a sympathetic
smile to me as he passed in the hall.

        The Teacher visited too. The first time while I was away,
researching the new power cells they were developing out of
abandoned materials in the city. It seemed the fuel source, required for
the majority of the generators, was long gone, and so they had altered
the design to rely on a power supplies we have readily available; water.
I was excited as the possibility, had already added our name for a spring
delivery and was eager to tell Minta. I rushed home and searched her
out- finding her closed up in our room, curled up on our bed looking
more scared than I had seen her since that first night on this planet.

         She flung herself at me, wrapping her arms up around my neck,
kissing me fervently and drawing me further into the room. Her cheeks
were wet. She fell back when her knees hit the bed frame and pulled
me down on top of her, never halting her assault of kisses that tasted of
salt. I pulled back a fraction, catching my breath and looked at her
closely. She was more than scared; she was petrified. She reached up, a
sob escaping her throat, grasping a button of my shirt and quickly set
her hands to work. I was so caught up in her actions it took me a
moment to realize her intent and I slowly pulled away placing a hand on
her shoulder to keep her at a painful distance. “Minta” My voice was
thick, more gravelly than I had ever heard before. “Please, Minta. Stop.”
I was getting better at this, I considered, as she burst into tears and I
immediately gathered her into my lap, resting her head on my shoulder
as I stroked her hair. “You know I want to.” I reminded her, mumbling. I
placed a gentle hand under her chin, tilting her head so her eyes bore
into mine. “But not because you are scared.”

      “But we have to.” She insisted, after the tears had slowed. She
seemed angry now, angry because I had stopped her.

        “Who says?” I murmured to appease her.

       “The Teachers.” She blurted and I swallowed thickly. “A Teacher
came to visit today, the one from the hospital. They are concerned; they
have been visiting all of the women who have yet to conceive.” Her
voice was shaky as she tried to regain composure.

        I kissed her lightly on her lips, to give her comfort. “Just because
they are concerned, doesn’t mean we have to jump immediately into
bed” I mumbled, holding her a little closer.

        “If I don’t conceive they would request a divorce.” The words
hang strong, but dead in the silence, my arms clutching her relentlessly.

       It took me a moment, but I eventually swallowed the anger I felt
enough to reply. “I won’t let that happen.”

        “There would be an easy way to prevent it.” She responded in a
snide tone. Her face contorted still.

        “Minta, we won’t be having sex because you are scared.” I
responded calmly “And I would let them take you away from me.” I
allow my fingers to roam from under her chin up her jaw bone, gently
caressing her cheek. She releases a sigh and closes her eyes, letting the
last few tears fall as I wipe them from her face.



         Neither of us would leave the other’s side after that, she was
always fearful of the Teacher’s return and I sensed a protective nature
in myself I had not felt before. Mary was amused at this, describing us
as being ‘attached at the hip’. She was off of bed rest now; free to stand
and resume her house hold duties. She looked sad, I noticed, as she
observed us. It made me truly understand the difference between us;
she saw her and Killian’s relationship as a duty where Minta looked at
ours as love. It made me thankful, once again for the extraordinary gift
of patience. Minta was not bound to resent me the way Mary might
Killian.

       The second and third Teacher’s visits Mary had given us enough
warning, seeing him approaching on the street. Minta was closed in on
herself for nearly a week after his first visit and neither I nor Mary
wanted that to happen again. We would manage to slip out the back
door through the kitchen, wandering the winter streets for a time while
we waited. Winter was beautiful, frozen water crystallized and hung
from the tree branches, the sun reflected in every surface. It made me
long to see the beauty of it from our own windows, as I was missing our
orchard.

        The doctor still visited twice a week so I was not surprised when
there was a knock as I passed the door in the hall, today. What did
surprise me, was the guest he had in tow; a Watcher. His presence
unnerved me almost more than the teachers would. It seemed his sole
purpose was to observe; observe and report, I could only guess what
mission he was on now. I let the Watcher and the doctor into the living
room and excused myself momentarily to fetch the girls. I found them in
the kitchen and sent Mary on her way. Minta went to follow but I
stopped her, grasping her arm before she could step beyond me.
“Minta, I want you to go up to our room.”

        “It’s only Doctor March, Dominic.” She went to take another
step, but I held firm.

        “It’s not only Doc, Minta. There’s a Watcher.” I pull her closer,
putting myself between her and the hall door. “I want you to go up to
our room.”

         Her eyes widen, and she merely nods her head, her jaw forming
tight. I release her and she turns to take the back stairs, from the
kitchen to the end of the second floor hall. I stay in the first floor hall
until I can hear her close the door to our room and then proceed into
the living room, closing the pocket door behind me.

         The good doctor was busy examining Mary. Measuring the
changes in her stomach which had gone seemingly unnoticed to me
with the baggy clothing she wore. Now, with her shirt lifted to her ribs, I
could see the slight extension and could only marvel at the thought of a
life growing inside. Mary noticed but said nothing, only gave me a sweet
smile.

        The Watcher had taken perch by the lit fire, observing our
interaction. It was strangely silent, for a doctor’s visit, as if we were all
on guard with this new presence in the room. The doctor finishes his
examination and the Watcher clears this throat as the man went to rise.
He turns to face the Watcher fully and then with a huff turns in my
direction. I can see the apology clear in his eyes. “Where is Minta today?
Dominic.”
         “Ah,” I hesitate. “She is not feeling well; I believe she is resting
in our room.” Mary gives me a perplexed look, which goes unnoticed by
either of the other men in the room.

        “Oh! Well, I must go attend to her at once.” He strides to the
hall.

       “That is quiet unnecessary,” I rush after him “I’m sure it is
nothing; just a headache or the likes.”

        “Nonsense, it’s my job. No worry, I’ll be back in a jiffy.” He
quickly ascends the stairs leaving me unmoving at their base. I know his
purpose here, I know the Watchers purpose, but I don’t know what I
can do to prevent it. Fear rises out of my bones and I have to grasp the
banister to keep from bounding up the stairs.

        Mary approaches and places a gentle hand on my shoulder. “It
will be fine, Dominic, just wait and see.” I glance back to see the
Watcher still standing in the living room, although he is just on the other
side of the door frame gazing at us curiously. I glare at him for an
undetermindly long length of time before I hear a door upstairs open.

       The doctor descends the stairs with a smile and pats me on the
back. My hands are still firmly griping the banister. “It appears
congratulations are in order, Mr. Donat.”

        “Congratulations?” I question through my teeth.

         “Why of course!” The doctor pointedly looks me in the eyes and
then flicks his gaze in the Watcher’s direction. “It was only a matter of
time of course, but sure enough- it seems we have another new mom in
the house!” My eyes widen in surprise and I release the banister, falling
back a few steps. How is that possible?

        “Oh that is wonderful!” Mary interrupts. “Oh Dominic, I am so
happy for you!” She hugs me then, giving me a moment to compose
myself.

        “I have a few more patients to check on today,” the doctor says,
“but I have some time tomorrow morning. I will stop by then to check in
on her.” I merely nod as he moves to depart, the Watcher following
behind.

        I sit at the base of the stairs then, breathing heavy. I drop my
head in my hands. I can hear light footsteps around me, Mary ascending
the stairs but I cannot think to raise my eyes. I try to gather my
thoughts, but the adrenaline is still coursing through my veins. Was she
unfaithful? Is this a farce? My mind is still reeling as I come to one
definite conclusion; the most important one, she is safe and they won’t
be taking her away from me. The footsteps return, this time louder and
more numerous, but I still cannot lift my head.

         A hand reaches under my chin, lifting it for me. My eyes meet
hers, my beautiful creatures, and all other worries slip from my mind.
They won’t take her away from me. I quickly stand up grasping her
around the waist with one hand and pull her mouth to mine firmly. My
free hand tangles in her hair, holding her head so she can’t break free.
She is shaky I realize, standing on her tip toes, so I lift her completely off
the ground with the arm around her waist and brace her against the
closest wall. Her legs lock around my waist and her arms wrap around
my shoulders as the kiss deepens. Our tongues brush at the ends and
she makes that purring sound which sends shivers down my spine. All at
once I am very aware of the pressure and friction of her body against
mine. I moan into her mouth as the tip of her tongue passes my lips
once more. A throat clears, not hers or mine I realize, and I slowly pull
my lips away to glance to the side, still holding her against the wall.

         Mary stands halfway up the stairs grinning like the Cheshire cat.
“I figured I should make my presence known before the clothing started
coming off.” Minta hides her head in the crook of my neck and I can feel
the heat radiated off of her blushing cheeks. I want to respond with
something witty, but my breath is ragged so, I just stand there panting
instead.

        I slowly lower Minta back down to the floor and she unlocks her
legs from my waist. “I think I will go take a shower.” I grumble “A very
cold shower. And then perhaps we can talk.” Minta simple moans as I
step away and quickly ascend the stairs without another glance.



        It was a very simple story, she told. One so smart I didn’t know
why I didn’t think of it myself. It was the doctor who came up with it in
the end. She had told him of my wish and he seemed to be as pleased as
any at the idea. “Better a family born of love” he told me, the next
morning, “than a child born of necessity.”

         “Love…” he mused, in the living room, “That used to be the way
most children came into the world. Not to say the matched couples
here don’t end up in love,” He glanced apologetically in Mary and
Killian’s direction, “but it’s something else entirely to start out that
way.” He smiled at me tenderly then “My wife and I fell in love.” I could
only smile back.

        “So, simply…” He continued “We lie… Of course, no one should
question me, but just in case - I need all of you to agree. Minta would
only be in her first month now, giving a good 4 or 5 months before she
really would be showing. You intend to head back to the orchard in the
spring?” He glances at Minta, asking.

        “As soon as the roads are passable.” She answers without delay.
I look at her perplexed, that we hadn’t discussed and Mary’s baby
would be due in the early summer.

       “So, if you stay away none would be the wiser. We could say
you had a miscarriage. And then…” He smiles “You will be sure to come
to me when it truly is a joyous occasion.” Mary and Killian smile,
nodding in agreement and I am left baffled, amazed at the plan
arranged for us.

        “You want to return to the orchard so soon?” I question her
quietly, after the others had moved to the kitchen. I can hear the
doctor’s laughter through the thick walls. “What about Mary?” I kneel
before where she sits on the couch.

        She strokes my cheek tenderly “Mary will be fine now. Killian
will take good care of her and I will return to help when the baby
comes.”

         “The roads will be passable in about a month; we haven’t been
here that long. You heard the doctor, Minta, no one would question…
we can stay longer if you want.” I plead with her, not wanting to force
her to leave.

        She holds my head still between her hands, forcing my eyes to
focus on hers. “Dominic” she drawls, melting my resolve, “I want to go
home.”




         The harsh winter let up in exactly 4 weeks time, this was both
too soon and not soon enough in my mind. It seemed difficult after the
moment at the staircase to keep my hands to myself, and I had realized
the challenge was not entirely mine. Minta would blush furiously
groaning as I kissed the base of her neck knotting her hands into her
shirt to keep them from reaching out. The thought made me grin, that I
could torment her as easily as she could, and did, turn the tables on me.
The wait now, I had requested, was for the comfort and privacy of our
own home. I wondered if I would constantly find a way to delay.
         We spent the majority of the time still inside, in part due to the
weather and in part because of her supposed condition. The doctor
continued to visit, twice a week, which should have helped alleviate any
curiosity, but the Teacher still returned for another visit. We didn’t
sneak out this time, with the doctor’s ‘concern’ Minta was supposed to
be resting in bed, so that was where I had left her; heated after another
kiss.

       I answered the door and he seemed startled at my appearance.
“Teacher.” I greeted him plainly.

       “Mr. Donat, What a pleasure it is to see you again. I came to
send by best wishes; the good doctor informed me of your joyous
news.”

       I smiled at him hesitantly, inviting him into the living room.
Mary and Killian were already seated by the fire. “Thank you.” I bowed
my head. “It is a most happy occurrence.”

       “He also informed me that you plan to return to your valley.” He
questioned, pointedly.

        “Actually we are planning on returning next week. The trees
need tending before the buds form.” I raise my brow and continue “It
seems with the influx of population it will be necessary to have our little
orchard at a maximum for production.” I had realized, in a short period
of time, how unprepared the Teacher’s were to care for such a large
population. They had supplements of course, but no real plans on how
to feed the thousands who lived in the city, nor care for the 500 children
yet to be born. They would rely on us, us and others who had taken to
the farms and orchards.

         “Well, I hate to see you go.” He states absently, “but I come
today bearing gifts to make the life in the valley a little more bearable,
especially with your wife in such a condition.” He rises, heading for the
living room window, which he draws the curtain back from. There- out
on the street in a two wheeled contraption with a motor strapped in
between, he gazes at the machine in awe. “It’s called a motor –cycle, I
believe. One of the first to be repaired and refitted. It should make the
trip much quicker than your feet and only requires water as fuel. It’s
yours.”

        “Thank you.” I gawk - in amazement. Mary and Killian admire
the vehicle as well, murmuring from the hearth.

        “I hope this means you will return often. I would hate to have
your lovely wife stuck out in the valley in the midst of labor.”
        “Of course.” I respond, feeling a forced smile on my face,
diverting my eyes lest I reveal any falseness.

          “There is something else I wanted to show you.” He produces a
small contraption from an internal pocket of his jacket, holding it tightly.
It is shiny, metallic with lots of little cuts and details reflecting the light. I
do not recognize it until he relaxes his hand and the small copper
creatures stretches its wings. A bird, I finally realize, a small mechanical
bird. “It’s called a recon sparrow.” The Teacher continues and my
curiosity peaks. “The Watchers have created them for us. They can fly
for days without any fuel; delivering any message and documenting all
that they see.”

         The smile drops from my lips immediately and the teacher
seems to notice. “I just wanted you to know.” He speaks solemnly. “We
will be keeping watch over you. You and your darling wife. We wouldn’t
want anything to happen to you so far out.”

        I try to swallow down my nervousness as Mary takes the
opportunity to interject. “Oh that is so thoughtful, Teacher. Tell me, Can
the sparrows do anything else?”

      “Of course!” He responds eagerly. “You may use them to send
messages; they always find the one they seek.”

        Mary continues, as I gather my composure. “Oh that will be so
useful!” The bird flutters around the room for a moment before landing
on the teacher’s outstretched hand.

       “Thank you, Teacher.” I respond hoarsely “That is most
generous.”

         “Think nothing of it.” He dismisses, excusing himself from the
house.

       I collapse on to the sofa once the outer door is shut. It’s gone.
The security and privacy I felt in the orchard, it’s gone with the flap of a
wing.



       “What time is it?” I scrub my face with my hands, emerging
from the memories.

        “Just about time for lunch.” Basil calls from across the room. Of
course he would be thinking about food. “You’ve managed to cover
quite a bit of time in only 3 hours.” I can only moan as I stretch my stiff
muscles. They are stiff not from sitting, but from the strain of holding
still when the last memory calls out for fight or flight. “How strange.”
Basil continues “That you should be afraid of us.”

         “It is strange.” I agree, but only half heartedly. I know the fear I
felt was not for myself, no, the fear was for Minta. It was that protective
nature that was so new to Dominic and I was becoming all too
accustomed to in many lives. I feel the need to protect her even now,
but I can’t even find her. The whole situation makes me groan in
frustration.

        “Come on.” Basil chides. “You’ll feel better once you’ve eaten.”

        Lunch was a welcome distraction. Actually, anything was a
welcome distraction and so when I had noticed once again that Graydon
was absent when the others were present, well, it caught my attention.
I needed not to think of that impending life; the return to the orchard,
the fear of us. I took it upon myself to discover Graydon’s secret; in part
it was curiosity, in part premonition. I truly do not know what it was I
hoped to find. Perhaps he was searching for her as well? Perhaps he
was ? Oh wouldn’t that have been embarrassing.

        Glancing out of the dining room windows I noticed we were
docked, in a small island village not much bigger than the shadow of the
ship. Teacher was occupied on land, I saw him debark from that same
window. I quickly went down to the Maps room to see the Register;
signed out for the night. I had plenty of time and I took it as the perfect
opportunity to check up on Graydon.

        As usual he wasn’t in the berth, nor was he in his assigned
meditation compartment. I knew exactly where to find him, because it
was where I had found him last; the guest quarters. This time I do not
shout his name; I approach quietly and politely knock.

       “That must be Starling with lunch” his voice reverberates
through the door. “Do you mind getting it?”

        The door swings open. “Please come…..” She froze as she
recognized my form. “Abban” she whispered. Maya, my stilled heart
aches. Maya here. Maya stands at this door dressed in Watcher’s linen.
Whatever my curiosity was expecting to find this is not it.

        “Abban!” Graydon shot up from the lounge where he was
reading and crosses the room in one swift movement, pushing me back
into the corridor. He follows behind and slams the door between her
and I.

        I only take a second to collect my thoughts. “How could you
have brought her here!” enraged, I pin Graydon between myself and the
wall next to the door, her door. He’s taller than me, but in this moment I
could make Paul Bunyan feel small. I can see shock in his eyes.
Whatever he anticipated, this reaction was not it.

        He is at a loss for words, never thinking he would have to
explain this to me. “I didn’t know what else to do. I only wanted to
protect her…”

        “You thought the Teachers would protect her?” I spit “Who do
you think she needs protection from?” I can’t let go of the fury just yet, I
have to find out.

       His mouth drops open and I can see a shift in his expression,
sorrow mixed with the fear. He inhales sharply “I…”

        Closing my eyes, I lean back away from him, truly not wanting to
know the answer now. “You were trying to protect her from me?” I ask
with a shaky voice; still angry.

         He misinterprets my shift as a lax in hostility and takes a
moment to better compose himself. I can feel a strange unfriendly pity
emanating from him. “I’m sorry, Abban. I didn’t have any other
options.” He tone is stark “I was only trying to keep her safe, and my
intuition is usually right.”

        “You think I would hurt her?” The words are barely a whisper.

        He doesn’t need to answer. I grind my teeth, I try to freeze my
muscles, keep myself from reacting, but my body seems to move of its
own volition; fists clenched and pouncing. I managed a square shot to
his jaw before Graydon had sense to try and restrain me, pushing me
against the opposite wall, holding my hands down at my sides. “Stop it
Abban! Just stop! Get a hold of yourself.” I know he wants to be
shouting at me, but it’s more of a mock whisper, as if raised voices
would alert her of our struggle. He finally finds the words that have me
coming up short, “You’re not exactly disproving my theory.”

        I relax in his grasp, shocked at my own reaction; surely it was
the remainder of the fight or flight Dominic was trying to desperately
not to act on. I can feel the growl forming in my throat. “I would never.
Never hurt her.”

        His hold softens at that “I know you wouldn’t intend to. I know
that. But you don’t know all that has happened.”

         What does he know about it? I chance a glance at his face. His
blue eyes are troubled and his teeth are clenched in pain. The left side
of his jaw is starting to swell and turn colors. Ouch. I shouldn’t have
done that. “I’m sorry.” I raise my hand to his face “About that. Can I
take you to the medic?” I groan thinking of the reprimand I’m sure is
coming from the teacher in the morning. Violence is not very becoming.

        He shakes off my hand just as the door across us opens.
Graydon quickly looks back across to the open door to find her balking
at he and I’s stance against the wall. It only takes her a second to
observe the scene, to notice his jaw and her posture shifts from a
curious kitten to a fierce tiger. She slams the door stalking back into the
confines of her room. “Worry about that later.”

         It seems her appearance has done little for my composure. I can
feel my muscles flex as the door slams and adrenaline surges to remove
any obstacle between her and I. Anything, including my dear friend
Abban, who I have already injured. I close my eyes and shake my head
in order to try and clear my mind. When they reopen I notice he is
glancing at me with a look of guilt and pity. I sigh. “What do you mean?
All that has happened?”

        He backs away from his defensive stance and slouches down to
the floor on the opposite side of the hall. I hesitate before doing the
same. “You were right about one thing” he glances at me with a painful
smile “The minute Teacher realized the connection he couldn’t get her
onboard fast enough. I had just recalled one life. One life with her as
my sister and you… you.” He pounds his forehead with his fist as if to
clear the picture.

        “Edward Barton.” I whisper, comprehending.

       “Yes.” He sighs. “Yes. And she… She was destroyed after, after
you were gone.”

       “Were there others? Were you in other lives of hers?” I ask
impatiently, wanting to piece together more of the puzzle.

         “I can’t be sure. I haven’t had a chance to recall since the first.”
He states with a pitiful half-smile. “She, on the other hand, has recalled
5 so far.”

        My forehead wrinkles in confusion. “She has been recalling?”

         “Ever since we left port in New Amsterdam.” He hesitates,
taking in my reaction to this news. I try to force myself to be still,
controlling my expression, closing my eyes. “At first it was because of
Teacher. He insisted. But then it was her, she wants to know and I can’t
stop her.” His voice is pitched as if this is hurting him.

          I can’t help but reach out to him. “She has a right to know.” I
still struggle to keep my voice steady, to make it harder to hear the lie.
Of course, she does have the right to know, but I still wish she wouldn’t.
It’s painful for me at the end; I can only imagine how it makes her feel
each time.

        He moans, meeting my eyes in an understanding glance. “I
guess. There’s no sense in trying to keep you away from her now.”

         I grin at him. “I wouldn’t let you if you tried.”

        “Well…. You better be getting in there then” He nods towards
the door. “She’s going to want an explanation for this.” Tilting his head
back he showcases his now shiny and bruising jaw.

        I can’t help the sound the air makes as I suck a breath in
between my teeth. “I really am sorry for that. I don’t know what got
into me.”

        He smiles painfully again. “Yeah, yeah, now you better get in
there.” I scramble to my feet and approach the frame, knocking
hesitantly. “Oh! Just go in!” he practically shouts exasperatedly from his
spot on the floor. I take the knob and turn it slowly opening into the
space and walking through the threshold.

“I’ve been looking for you” I mumble softly.

       She‘s pacing the room fists tightly formed at her sides,
glowering at the floor. “Really? In what life?” She strikes like lightning.

         I can’t help the sheepish smile as I answer honestly “In all of
them.”

        Her pacing halts in surprise and she finally shifts her angry gaze
on me while shaking her head. “You can’t mean that. You don’t know
that.” And then the anger over takes her again. “How could you do that
to Graydon!” she rushes at me hands pushing at my chest. “How could
you hurt him?”

        “I know” I groan, catching her wrists, holding her hands still
against my chest. If she only knew how long I’ve wanted a simple touch,
even this restraining eases my heart. “I know. I’m truly sorry. I’ve
already apologized to him; I just lost myself for a moment.”

        She never could hold her anger long, or at least she couldn’t in
any other life. I’m sure I’m forgiven. I pull her closer and wrap my arms
around her as I’ve longed to do. I manage to inhale her warm salty sent
once, closing my eyes, and then there is an excruciating pain in my left
arm.

       I scream in pain, stepping back, I releasing her, my eyes flying
open to take in this new sensation. “You bite me?”
        Graydon chuckles from the door, closing it behind him. “Not the
exact same girl you’ve been recalling is she?”

          “You bit me!” I repeat, not fully comprehending.

          She leers, now from across the room. “You deserved it.”

          Graydon still laughs, shaking his head. “Although I think Starling
is starting to rub off on her. Biting would seems to be a Starling trait.”

        She turns to grin at him laughing lightly “She knows how to fight
dirty? We’re usually civilized girls and only manage witty banter.”

          “Starling?” I interrupt their off handed conversation.

         Graydon has the nerve to look sheepish. “Well, you don’t think
I could have kept her from you all by myself did you?”

          “I needed a friend.” She states firmly.

         “You have a friend” he counters delicately, already familiar with
her style of debate.

       “I needed a friend who didn’t act like a Kevlar jacket.” She
approaches him, tilting his head to get a better look at his jaw.

       “Touché” he sighs, giving in. I cringe as she glances back over at
me, cradling my now bleeding arm.

       “Let me get some ice for that.” She mumbles walking across the
room to the door. I feel stunned as she walks through it, closing it
behind her.

        “I got to admit.” Graydon testifies from the table seat she left
him in. “I was surprised to see her so tame in her past lives.” He
chuckles and I approach as he gestures to the seat next to his. “That
isn’t exactly the Maya I know, but sure enough, in pure essence it is
always her” he quirks an eyebrow.

        “I should have expected this.” After the images from the birds,
the presence I have felt; Maya on the docks must have been in a pure
state of shock, not entirely herself. I can’t help but grinning at him.
“Abban, she is so obviously not defenseless. Why keep her from me?”

        He sighs. “I wasn’t going to for much longer. I just wanted to
wait for the right time. I didn’t want…” He rubs his jaw consciously.

          I rake my fingers through my hair as I take a seat. “I truly am
sorry.”
       “I know. I understand.” He chuckles “I guess I should have
handled this better from the beginning.”

        “I guess you could say that” I leer, then huffing out. “Do you
think she’ll stay mad at me for long?”

        He smiles sadly, and then looks at me. “She’s been waiting for
you for too long.”

        The door opens and closes swiftly and I keep my eyes fixed on
his. Not wanting to face her wrath. “Hope you boys have made up.” She
calls sourly, approaching the table, plopping a small box down on it.
Graydon glances at her and then winces as she places an ice pack on his
swollen jaw. “Hold this there.”

        She then turns her attention crossly to me. “Let me see it.”

        I hesitate.

        She grabs my wrist pulling my arm toward her, mumbling “Don’t
be such a baby.” She dabs the cut flesh with a wet cloth before pouring
a stinging liquid over it. I groan at the added pain and she chides
“Honestly, Jonah didn’t make such a fuss when I bit him.”

       “Jonah?” I balk, trying to fix my gaze on hers, but her eyes
remains on my arm as I notice her face flush.

        “Well, I didn’t bite him quiet so hard.” He mumbles “But
honestly, what did you expect me to do?”

        “Is there anyone onboard who doesn’t know you are here?”
She startles at my accusatory tone, dropping my arm as she takes a step
away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just… Here I have been,
out of my mind, searching for you for weeks and you… you were just
right here.”

        “You were searching for me?” she studies my face for some sign
of untruth before turning her back to glare at Graydon “He was
searching for me?”

       “Oh, now you’ve done it Abban.” He cringes back in his chair,
mockingly. I couldn’t help but laugh.

       “He was searching for me and you couldn’t be bothered to tell
me that much!” She smacks his arm.

         “Well, it would have been counterproductive to tell you details
like that when I was trying to keep you away from him.” He raises his
brow in challenge. It seems to her he can never lie.
          “And Starling and Jonah too?” I question from behind her back,
shifting sideways to see his expression. “How did they end up in this
little circle?”

          Graydon replies quickly “Starling found me out after only 3
days, she insisted on helping. Jonah was… an accident. They met in the
library. It was somewhere Starling had me convinced was safe, because
it was some where you would never go.” Maya giggles at this and I feel
like I’ve been given a drink of water in the desert. “At least now I know;
if there were ever a dire secret I needed kept the Lindi’s are who I
should call on.”

        She turns her form and her attention back to me and I finally
have a chance to notice the subtle changes in the past few weeks. Her
skin has all but lost its golden hue, settling for the pale color of butter
milk. Her hair, I noticed, seems to have changed too; not quite as dark
and thick as I remembered, but just as straight. The light glints of the
red and brown highlights warming it still. The scent of salt is lacking
from her, most likely responsible for the other changes as well. Now she
only smells clean, like soap. She looks tired although there is an
alertness in her eyes I don’t recall before, it is accompanied by a
confusion, a conflict permanently etched in the set of her mouth and
brow, the slightest scowl that makes me grin. She reaches for my arm
again and I offer it willingly. She smoothes an ointment over the cut
then places a small cotton bandage on top of it. “Just like Verdie would
do.” I mumble, in awe, to myself and she smiles.

      “I think that has been my favorite so far.” Her smile grows
“Whatever happened to William?”

        I hesitate, “Well you know what happened eventually.” I try to
smile, but she sees through it painfully.

          “What happened immediately?” she persists, coaxingly while
still holding my arm. I find her damn near impossible to resist.

        “That I think perhaps I shouldn’t tell you.” I whisper.

        “Why not?” I swallow thickly, not wanting to feel her wrath
again tonight.

        “Perhaps you were never meant to know.”

        She groans. “You are worse than Graydon and Starling! I swear.
All you Watchers are just alike!”

        He chuckles and Starling opens the door at just that moment,
carrying a tray of sandwiches. “Well, what have we here?” She
gracefully stalks into the room setting the food down on a low table by
the door. Graydon rises from his seat with the icepack still pressed to his
jaw. “Well I see you got what you deserved, Graydon” she smirks than
shifts her attention to me, glancing at my arm laughingly “And you too
Abban.”

        Graydon and Starling exchange a lengthy beseeching look
before she grabs his arm hauling him towards the door. “Well, I believe
you two have a lot of lives to catch up on.”

         He continues her thought. “Maya, if you need anything, I’ll be at
Starling’s.” Then he looks fiercely in my direction “Only two doors down,
Abban.”

        Maya huffs’, taking his now vacant seat and slides it closer to
mine. I lean forward on the edge of my chair wanting desperately to
close the difference. “What has been your favorite?” she asks eagerly.

        I glance at the table top before looking back up to meet her
eyes. How to answer this honestly? In truth it would have probably
been as Logan or Dominic, but I can only imagine the panic she must
have felt in those. She notices my hesitation and leans forward placing a
palm on my knee. “Please? Tell me what has been your favorite?”

        I quickly cover her hand with my own and close my eyes with a
smile feeling the warm softness of her skin. No hesitation this time.
“The Eagles.”

       “The Eagles.” She states with a smile I can hear in her voice
“That was a good one, so peaceful. You know- I almost wasn’t sure if it
was you. There are some times I think I can’t find you.”

        I smile with her, opening my eyes to gaze into hers. “I will
always find you, even if it takes a couple of lives. That I promise; I will
always find you.”
Chapter 14

        “Don’t say it.” I hold my hand before his mouth. Abban had
turned at the door, hesitating to say goodbye. The look in his eye told
me those were not the words he wanted to speak and so a halted their
escape. He sighs, twining his fingers into a lock of my hair.

        “But I’ll mean it.” He mumbles against my skin.

        “You can’t.” I smile. “You don’t even know me.”

         We had spent the entire afternoon locked up in my room. The
only interruption was dinner being delivered by Starling, but even she
departed without a word. Graydon had yet to reappear and I assumed
with Starling’s help I would not see him till morning. We talked, simply,
about our lives; all our lives and where they intertwine. We shared
favorite memories and avoided painful ones. It seemed his favorites
would often make me blush. We spent very little time discussing our
current lives; he seemed content to live in the past. He was ahead of me
in recalling, but only just slightly. He made me eager to continue, being
told there was much I was going to enjoy, but of course he wouldn’t tell
me too much. The sun had set long ago and sleep was calling to us both.

        He moans and I can see the resolve in his eyes. He swallows the
words back. “Ok.” He moves my hand with his own, our fingers
intertwine and my heart jumps. “I’ll just wait for Dominic to show you.”
He murmurs with a smile.




        This life, especially those first months on the planet were
intense, a whirlwind playing by faster than any other life. The last few
days in Killian and Mary’s house even more so. I would taunt him, trying
to entice him to break his delay. I would dress with him in the room,
moan as I lay in bed. We opted for staying in, where most of our time
was spent with our lips locked and hands roaming. I am almost
embarrassed at the display. But, it was fun. It was passionate. It was
heated. I don’t know what made me so fearful when we first arrived.
On occasion things would get a little too heated and Dominic would pull
back with the “We should stop” line, but in truth I didn’t want to stop
anymore and I couldn’t fathom that he did either. He had more patience
and more restraint than me.
        The day of our departure approached and Mary was reluctant
to say goodbye although Killian seemed eager for us to be on our way.
There was something in our relationship I don’t think he ever was quiet
comfortable with. “Perhaps we shall come stay with you next?” Mary
asks while wiping her eyes.

         “There is nothing I would like better.” I replied, touching her
now visible belly with my palm. My own personal greeting to the tiny
life growing within. She smiled at me then, knowing how much I wished
for them.

         The trek was much shorter by motorcycle, although the chilled
air makes the time drag on. Where it would have taken us a half day
with the loads of supplies it had only taken an hour by bike. Dominic
actually made the trip twice, once before I was ready with the first load
of supplies. We rounded the last hill on the outskirts of the city and
were greeted into our valley, ice gleaming by the brilliance of the setting
sun. The air smelled fresh and crisp, open unlike that in the city. We
rounded the last curve and I gasped in amazement of the bright electric
lights shining from the windows of our home. Dominic turned his head
to the side, with a crooked grin, his hands still firmly on the handle bars.
“Surprise!”

         That evening, I decided to return the surprise by taking him on a
trip to the lake. It was only a short walk, the water was still frozen and I
had acquired skates. We bundle in wool and I drag him out the door,
toting a cloth bag containing the secret treasure. I wanted us to return
to the valley as joyous and carefree as we had in the fall. I loved it here,
and I wanted him to remember that too.

        Dominic had been preoccupied lately. His attention, as always,
was on me but it seemed sometimes his mind was elsewhere. It was
worse when we were out in the city. He was constantly eyeing
strangers, looking over his shoulder, paranoid; in part I think this is why I
agreed to stay in. I think the doctor’s solution to our dilemma had
helped for a while, but with one final visit from the Teacher and all that
was undone. He never would tell me what the visit was about, I only
knew about the new motorcycle in our possession. Now though, we
were back in our valley, just us. I wanted us to forget all about the city
and return to just us.

         I stepped out on the ice first, extending my hand to reach out to
him. He quickly glides past me catching me around the waist as he
twirled. He smirked. “I see you’ve done this before?” I grin back at him.

         “You could say that.” He smoothly moves away, moving more
rapidly, with a gracefulness I had never seen. I am in such awe of him I
don’t notice my own feet slowly drifting apart. I lose my balance, my
arms flailing to the side as he quickly returns to my spot, placing his
hands firmly on my hips to help steady me. He laughs “I see I have
something to teach you.”

         I give him my most cunning smile as I attempt to step further on
the ice. The skate bends under me and I am down on the ground with a
thump too quickly for him to react. He laughs as a cloud of ice shavings
fly into the air and however agitated falling might have made me, it is
nothing to the sound of his laughter.

         We returned to our house after only a short lesson. I was sore,
bruises beginning to form where I had landed the hardest in my many
falls, but I loved watching his gracefulness as he practically danced on
water. He was at peace in the valley, at the lake, but the return to the
light of the house had brought back a small amount of panic in his eyes.
I decide, insistently, to distract him. We are, as he had requested, home,
and I was determined not to let him find another excuse to delay.

        He opened the front door and, with a hand on the small of my
back, guided me inside. Once the door was shut I immediately turned in
his arm pushing him back against the closed entry, unbuttoning his
jacket as I did. He shrugged it off and this, I mused, was as far as I had
planned. He was so much stronger than me, I couldn’t force him
anywhere. He had grown so much taller than me in the six months since
we landed, I couldn’t even reach his lips unless he crouched. I just
stood, my hands clasped around his collar as I gave him my most pitiful,
wide-eyed, lip-parted look. He caved, with a moan, lowering his mouth
to mine.

         I could never stop the sound from escaping my throat, that soft
purr, but it always seems to persuade him more so I no longer try to
hold it back. He pulled of my coat, turning us; pushing my back up
against the wall while deepening the kiss. His hands seem fretful,
clenching and unclenching, hovering in the air. I remove mine from
around his collar, grasping his wrists and bring his hands down to my
hips. He takes the direction, and lifts me so I can wrap my legs around
his waist, making it so he doesn’t have to stoop any longer. I moan as
his hand presses into one of my fresh bruises but he mistakes the noise
as eagerness and moves us to the couch. His hands release my hips,
laying me down on the soft cushion. I turn my head slightly to catch a
breath and the room still smells like apples. He trails kisses from my jaw
down my neck resting in the hollow of my collar bone while his nimble
fingers worked at the buttons of my shirt. His breath is ragged, heating
my skin. I moan and, as if on cue his lower body naturally presses closer
into my hips. I gasp and he disengages, hovering a mere two inches
above, to look at me more closely. I bite my lip, holding back a whimper
of pain.
        “I love you” he breaths out, in a soft raspy voice and all pain
subsides. All I want in this moment, all I want to feel is with arms reach.

        “I love you too” my voice catches and a moment later we are
swept up in another passionate embrace; limbs intertwining, bodies
braced, all parts locked and longing. I can sense urgency from his
movements; his hands grasping in possession, his lips brace against
mine marking me as important. His body engulfs mine as if to declare
me as claimed. I let him- every motion, a silent declaration of this first
chance. His silent statement ‘you are mine’.

          That wasn’t the first time. No, we did stop amazingly…
reluctantly. Not because we changed our minds, but because eventually
the pain had won out. Once he had removed my shirt and I his, his
hands began to roam once again. His cool fingers trailed the seam of my
pants, releasing the button quickly, before sliding his palm down in
between the fabric and my hip. A painful noise escaped my lips before I
could tense the muscles and it did not go unnoticed this time. He
removed himself then, from my embrace, and gently proceeded to tug
my pants past the point. He gasped when he saw the discoloration,
lightly trailing his fingers over the contusion. He then gently pressed his
lips to the mark and pulled back murmuring “not tonight.” I whimpered
and he smiled, knowing it was not from pain. “We will have plenty of
time, a life time really, for that.” He raised a brow, trailed his hands back
up my body resting them to cup my face. “I want… the first time, Well…”
I can’t help but smile at his mumbling “I don’t want you to be hurt… I
don’t want there to be even more pain; inflicted by me or not.”

         The first time we made love was less than a week later. The
bruise was still visible, but I have convinced him the pain had subsided
and somehow lured him in. It was also in our own bed. He kissed me
gently then, his lips trembling with need while his fingers gently
caressed my skin. In true fashion, it turned out to be a beautiful and
humorous occasion. Ignited with slow burning and then passionate
kisses, warm, pleasant, painful, exciting electric jolts traveling down my
spine and finally interrupted by a storm in our Valley. For near a month
we hardly left the solitude of our house; in fact it was the solitude of our
bed. Each time I let him claim me as his own, each time strengthening
the lines that tied me to him; now stronger than steel.




       “I’m not sure I wanted to witness that.” Graydon groans,
hovering about the machine.

        My face turns furiously red, my heart rate still soaring from the
last remembered exchange. I can still feel the light touch of his fingers
caressing my thigh. “No one said you have to watch.” I snap, distracting
myself.

        “I don’t have much of a choice.” He grumbles, removing the
medallion.

        “We could have someone else guide the session. Maybe…”

       “Do not say Abban.” He interjects “I can only imagine what
would happen if he was here for that.”

        I feel the blush spread. “I was going to say Starling.”

         “Oh.” He seems surprised. “That might not be such a bad idea,
at least for a little while. I need to get caught up myself.”

         Now it is my turn to be surprised, but I try not to let him know.
I detach the glass probes with the utmost care. “Alright, I’ll ask her at
lunch” a statement so simple- yet, it elicits another groan.

        “Lunch.” He gripes, truly in a foul mood. “Well, we better get
this over with.” He notices my perplexed expression and sighs before
elaborating “I’ve promised Abban to not keep you locked up like the
princess in the tower anymore. You are to dine with all of us, my
classmates that is.”

        “Oh.” I exclaim, more eager now to be on my way. It wasn’t just
because of Abban or Jonah, I told myself, although either was sure to be
waiting at the door. It was the idea of being free to wander the ship, of
meeting others; other Watchers.

        We proceeded into the hallway and Graydon immediately
grasped the handle directly across the hall. “I thought the dining room
was on the teaching floor?” I question, perplexed.

         “It is” he chuckled, opening the door wide revealing the hidden
spiral staircase. “You really mustn’t have tried to escape too hard.” I
could only gawk at his clever smile, as I smack his arm. He rubs the spot
with a chuckle, mocking hurt. Of course I had never looked.

        Jonah met us at the landing of the stairs “I was just coming up
for lunch.” He looks surprisingly perplexed as Graydon continues to
march me through, one step ahead. Jonah falls in place at my side, one
hand resting on my back. I stiffen at the sensation, feeling slightly more
wrong.

        “There’s been a change in plans.” Graydon announces to the air.
        Jonah looks at me with a smile. “No more restrictions?” I can’t
help but smile back at the glint in his eyes I shake my head. He leans
over to whisper in my ear just as we turn a corner in the hall.

         “Maya?” Abban exclaims. I can feel Jonah tense beside me, his
words replaced with a groan. We stopped there for a moment, while
Abban approached. The hall is deathly silent; I dare not breathe never
mind speak as a pain ignites in the middle of my chest caused by
Abban’s questioning look. Why does being near Abban make it make me
feel this way? He steps in front of me and after another cautious
exchange of looks takes my hand in his, leading me further down the
hall without a word.

        “Of course,” Jonah grumbles, to no one in particular it seems,
“Doesn’t he have some bell to ring.” He is no longer at my side, but
rather one step back; sullen because of the man who took my hand. We
enter the dining room, and I marvel at the space. It is the largest room I
have encountered with a ceiling open to the entire balloon. There are
only a few low windows on opposite walls which curve with the
balloon’s skin and tension wires suspended from which chandeliers
hang. Circular tables seating 5 are scattered about, except for one table
in the middle set to seat 6. Starling is already there, with an exotic
looking man already seated with a tray. He looks up at us approaching
taking in Abban’s hand holding mine and smiles with a goofy lopsided
grin.

         He rises, his full stature not quiet reaching mine, and extends
his hand. “Maya, I presume?” I look at him questioningly as Abban
stifles a laugh at this man’s expression, releasing my hand. “I’m Basil, I
am Abban’s Ngah la grog.”

        “Ngah la grog?” I sound it out, questioningly, finally reaching for
his hand.

        “Speak English” Starling chides. “I didn’t teach her Watcher
yet.” Graydon and Jonah have left the table approaching a counter on
the far side of the room. I glance around, taking in my surroundings
again before focusing on the small man in front of me.

        He smiles brilliantly, wrapping his fingers around my palm, and
instead of the shake I was expecting turns our hands raising them to
place a kiss on the back of mine, Abban scoffs. “But of course, I
apologize. I am his partner, and guide in recollections and as such” He
winks “We are well acquainted, you and I.”

        I can feel the heat rise in my face as Abban steps in between
with an amused expression. “Okay, that’s enough, Basil. You’ve
tormented her enough. How is it that you’ve managed to get your lips
on her before me?”
       “You didn’t call dibs.” Basil smirks. “That and I didn’t realize you
wanted a kiss… I’ll gladly fix that problem” He releases my palm then,
and takes his seat.

        “No.” Abban interjects “Thank you. But yours would be the last
on my list.”

       “Which list is that?” Graydon returns with two trays, setting
them down at two settings, He pulls out a chair and gestures for me to
sit.

         Abban departs at that moment, conversation forgot, and I
notice the little arrangement around the table. Graydon is to my left
and an empty spot to my right. I imagine that is where Abban will return
and in a moment he does with his own tray. Smiling, Basil is on his other
side followed by a clearly conflicted Jonah and Starling, who currently is
whispering to Graydon.

        The conversation came easy, or easy enough in a strangely
tense environment. Abban couldn’t be happier to have me by his side,
constantly bombarding me with simple, tamer questions about the
moments, another perspective he mused. It seems so strange to know
him now when all my memories are revolving around the past and the
past is all we reflect. Graydon and he still seem slightly at odds with
each other, neither really addressing the issue directly; the issue of
course, being me. When Graydon was distracted; which with Starling
present was often the case; Basil would allude to a heated moment, but
was otherwise careful with his words. Graydon seemed no less tense
now, than he did prior days on the guest floor. I wonder what it would
take to put him at ease. Jonah I noticed was silent; not uttering a word.
He stared at his plate dejectedly his mouth set in a firm line, eating at a
slow pace. It pained me to see him this way. He was, after all, a friend, if
not more. Was he more?

          “Jonah” I address him with a slow smile. He looks up at me from
across the table, his expression unchanged but wariness in his eyes. I
think quickly of a way to remove the hesitance, assure him he and I are
fine. I glance down at my tray and reach for the source of amusement
the other night. “Want my roll?” I hold it out and he breaks out into a
sly grin. Starling chokes on her soup and I can’t help but giggle as Abban
and Graydon look confused. He didn’t take the bait, just simply smiled. I
brought it to my mouth tearing the hardened crust with my teeth as he
scoffed teasingly. We are definitely at least friends still.

       “Starling, I have a favor to ask.” I address her impatiently, once
she had recovered herself.
        She looks at me expectantly and I take that a sign to continue. I
lean over Graydon as to not speak so loud. “Would you mind replacing
Graydon for a while? In the recollections that is...”

        She looks between Graydon and Abban, hesitantly “Ahh...”

        “I’d be glad to guide you.” Jonah chimes in eagerly.

         “No. I’ll do it.” She hastily replies and his expression falters ever
so slight. “But why do you want to change guides?”

        “I just think Graydon might be more comfortable not being the
guide for the remainder of this life.” I can feel the heat on my face rise.

         Abban’s fingers reach over and stroke my cheek. He leans down,
his lips curving upward, hovering above my ear with a sigh. “Dominic is
way more timid than I.”
Chapter 15




        There’s eagerness in spring. The birds are eager build their
nests, the trees eagerly wait to bloom and my fingers are eager to
caress her skin. We’ve been back at the orchard for a month and Oh!
How she’s indulged me so. It seemed Minta’s eagerness was just as
great, making us both impatient to claiming each other’s bodies again
and again. Winter is truly over now. The ice and snow have melted. Rain
has begun to pour, day after day; a natural wonder seeming to agree
with my disposition to stay in bed.

       The doctor came to visit once. I groaned as he knocked on the
door, not wanting to leave the comfort I have found flush against her
form where I had just begun kissing down her neck. Since arriving we
had not been disturbed by a single soul or fluttering of wings, I would
make quick trips by way of the cycle for provisions, but not a person
encroached on our orchard. I truly had felt at peace and in this moment
it was disturbed. Minta chuckled after the third knock patiently
sounded, when my feet finally hit the floor.

         The doctor was smiling and admiring the view when I welcomed
him inside. It was a surprisingly sunny day and only then did I recognize I
should have been attending the trees and not to the pleasure of my
wife. “I was beginning to think you weren’t home.” He chuckled and I
duck my head giving him a moment to take in my state; shirtless,
barefoot and hair in disarray. “Dominic, it’s two in the afternoon.” He
looks down at his watch, accentuating his point and for the first time I
can remember I can feel myself blush. “Am I interrupting something?”
he insinuates.

         I scratch my nose to hide my obvious grin. “Nothing that can’t
wait.”

        He takes the lead walking further into the living room. “And
how is your darling wife?”

        “Wonderful.” He turns to face me, curious as I elaborate, “And
truly mine.” I beam, he smiles knowingly back. “Let me go retrieve her.”

       “Oh, that is quiet alright.” He stops me before I can take
another step. “Let her rest. We have much to discuss and pardon my
boldness; I was hoping to spend the night.”
         “Of course! We’d be glad to have you. But I must insist on
retrieving Minta.” I smile “She will be so relieved to see it’s only you.”

         “Alright” he chuckles and I bound down the hall taking gigantic
steps.



        The company was pleasant, although the conversation was not
all what I had come to expect. The good doctor came on behalf of the
Teachers, surprising enough. He explained they were well aware they
might be turned away at the door and that by his coming instead it was
a good way to conclude our pregnancy charade.

          “Have you noticed the Sparrows?” he asked, taking a sip of his
dinner wine. Minta had prepared us a wonderful feast; roast chicken
with bread and hard cheese. The bottle of wine I brought back from my
last city trip was carefully poured.

       “I have not.” My brow furrowed as I reflect back on my careful
assessment. I really had been listening for them for a fear of being
watched.

         “Nor should you have.” He smiled taking another sip.

         “Pardon?” Minta asked, completely in the dark. I had
purposefully not told her anything about the birds. Her caution against
the teachers already being greater than my own; I didn’t want to worry
her so. I gave her a gentle look that is meant to say I’ll tell her later.

       “The Teacher, you have been so fortunate to become
acquainted, has done you a favor. Of course, after I intervened. The
sparrows will leave you alone, at least for the time being.”

         “How did you manage that?” I asked.

        “Simple.” He replies with a movement of his wrist. “We need
your help and privacy I believe might be the luxury you desire most.”

       “How do you need our help?” I lean back in my chair, not
wanting to bring attention to the discomfort his accurate assessment of
me has brought on.

         He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. “You are
already aware of the population growth. Well, it seems our provisions
are more lacking than we thought. The winter was not very kind in the
city and we have approximately 200 little ones on the way. Your orchard
is the first outside the city to be brought back up, but unfortunately
waiting till you can harvest the apples will just not do. We need you to
form a full farm.”

         “This arrangement, privacy for a supply of food, it cannot last
forever I am sorry to say. Teachers can be very political in their ploys
and it seems there is a strange fascination with your darling wife.” He
chances a look at Minta who blushes at the accusation. “The only
reason he was able to guarantee it now was because he is in charge of
the birds. There is another Sparrow Master on his way. At that point,
well I don’t know what to say.”

        “Minta?” I exclaimed in surprise, finally recovering myself. I
grasped her hand much as I had when we first were joined. Always
feeling she was bound to escape. Her eyes were wide as she took the
bits and pieces of this story in. “Why her?”

       “That, I’m afraid, I don’t know. It’s a privileged life- the
Teacher’s that is. They have some much more information that the rest
of us… We may never know.”

         I retired, in a silent reflective mood, trying to make sense of it
all. My fear had always been for Minta, and not myself, but it still came
as a shock to have it confirmed. Why did the teachers have such an
interest in her and how was it that she would not know? For that I was
certain, she was as clueless as I. My nerves was a muddled mess and
there was only way I knew it would feel calm. Minta, always wanting to
play the part of the host, had the doctor settled into his guest room
before returning to ours.

         I took her by surprise the minute she shut the door. I had her
pinned against the heavy wood in a kiss so intense it could only show
my desperation. I was desperate; frantic to keep her by my side,
reckless to claim her once again. I needed her to know how important
she was to me. I acted swiftly that night and she, sensing my urgency,
did not protest. Only after the act was complete, her body still quivered
beneath mine, did I gasp in a ragged breath and worry about her
comfort. I quickly moved my crushing weight off of her and separated
our bodies on the bed. She soothed my mind almost immediately,
closing the distance, wrapping her warm body around mine like a
blanket; resting her head on my shoulder, her belly to my belly, leg
draped over my hip, hand resting on my neck. I wrapped my arms
around her back mumbling incoherent apologies into her hair to which
she giggled and hummed; some of her actions still perplexing me.

        The next morning I awoke to her warmth still flush against my
skin. She squirmed as I stroked her back and then gave a little yelp as
she remembered there was company to which she needed to attend. I
chuckled as she leapt from the bed, fumbling with the chest of drawers
to retrieve and pull on clean clothing. She pulled on a shirt after her
pants and stopped to give me a scolding look which only made me laugh
more. She shut the door then, a smile on her face when she turned.

         The doctor remained for the better part of the day and after a
delicious breakfast he showed us what supplies he had brought for us.
Not the typical rations you would find in the city, he had obtained items
from the Teacher’s special stock supply; dried heritage seeds from
vegetables and other plants collected many generations ago. They, the
doctor and the teacher were placing their trust in our ability to tend the
land. We surveyed the valley, with his help, to determine the best plot
to turn into a garden field. It was again a beautiful day and I was happy
to spend it in the sunshine as long as Minta’s hand was in mine. The
doctor would often turn to face us with a content sigh; it didn’t take a
mind reader to know his thoughts on our love. We decided on a spot
not too far from the lake, which we determined would be an excellent
source to handling the field’s irrigation.

         The doctor left once we had a plan to put in place to turn the
field’s soil, with the help of workers sent from the city and the tools we
have uncovered at a neighboring homestead. It meant guests for our
humble house over the course of two weeks, but I swallowed back my
discomfort the knowledge the sacrifice would grant us security for at
least the near future.

        Killian and Mary were the first to arrive a week later. They came
in some mechanical contraption Killian called a truck. It was motorized
much like our cycle, but with 4 wheels instead of 2 and a large platform
behind the compartment where people were to sit. I marveled at the
vehicle for hours; noting the thickness of the rubber on the wheels, the
faded green peeling paint and the strange blue and silver family marking
stuck to practically every surface. I was fascinated with all of the
motorized devices, them being not as sleek or efficient as our space
ships, there was still a nostalgic quality about them that grabbed my
interest.

         They brought out more supplies of tools and hardy provisions.
Mary, well into her pregnancy, had begun an odd gated walk, which left
her confined to house duties; unnecessary precautions she claimed.
Still, she happily obliged, preparing meals and cleaning while Killian,
Minta and I began the field work.

         Minta stayed with the apple trees, where she was always
happiest. She loved those trees and the perfume that wafted through
the air. In the few times I let her out of bed in the first month she had
begun a process which she called grafting, having spent much of the fall
researching the process. She had explained it to me once when I was
reluctant to let her go out of the house. It began by cutting some of the
new branches off of the bearing trees, which then she would take and
stick in the ground. Miraculously these branches sprouted roots and
began to grow independent of the original parent. Now was the time
she was excited for most, and although the fruits of her labors might not
be evident for years it was hard not to get caught up with her.

          The nights were still very cold and days were warm, which
meant the sap of the trees was flowing well. It was precisely the time
she needed to make the cuts. I was with her when she did the first one.
She took the branch that she planted and quickly hacked it at an angle. I
gasped as she mutilated her work and she just smiled. Inspecting the
cut, she pieced out an additional triangle along the slanted edge. She
then took a new branch extracted from different parent tree, always a
different tree she explained, and cut it with a reciprocating mark, then
slid it in place on top of its new partner. I held the top for her as she
wound it tightly together with elastic and sealed it with wax, intending
for the sap and pressure to slowly join the two forming one trunk. All
we could do now is wait to see if the pairing would take.

         She had close to a hundred trees to graft and although the
individual process was not that complex she wanted to tend to it
herself, so I let her. Killian offered to aid her, after the first wave of
workers had arrived. I had wished to have been able; it being our
orchard, I felt a strong desire to be there but resigned after realizing one
of us would need to oversee the garden work. And so that is how our
days went for about a week; breakfast as a group, Minta and I confined
to spend the days in our separate sides of the valley with our own
groups, Mary and two other women preparing the food, and we were
all exhausted by sunset.

        I miss her. It was strange not to have her presence by my side at
all times. With such a crowd in our orchard we barely had time to
connect. Work in the garden has progressed at a steady rate. The soil
has been turned and now a small group works on pipes which bring
water from the lake, while another handles the seeds. Both groups fall
under their own lead leaving me with nothing to do but pitifully miss
her. By my side, that is where she belongs.

        I check on the teams and resolve my steps back to the house,
grabbing a filled canteen and progressing further past into the orchard. I
want to surprise her, but it seems she’s surprises me first. I hear them
laughing as I round a bend and continue down an isle of trees. They are
close, but I cannot see them yet. The new trees are further back, the
last rows but I feel she is much closer than that. Her giggling stops. I
turn around knowing I should see her right then but she and Killian
elude me.
         A snicker escapes directly above and I glance up to find her and
Killian scaled in the top of one or our orchard trees, delicately balanced
on their feet. He is looking down at me but she is intensely
concentrating on something else; her hand gingerly work. “What are
you doing?” I practically shout. “Get down that can’t be safe!” Killian
laughs at my outburst and descends gracefully from the limbs, but
Minta stays where she is. “Minta” I groan. “Please.”

        “Hush now.” She mumbles back. “I’m working.” Killian slaps my
back with her dismissal and leads me away. We proceed to the next row
where I can no longer keep an eye on her.

         “What is she doing up there? Shouldn’t she have a harness or at
least a rope?” I try to turn back but he forces me away.

        “She’s fine, Dominic. She’s been doing this for the past week.”
He sighs in exasperation.

        “She’s what?” I practically shout I dig my heels into the ground,
halting our progression away.

        He gives me an annoyed look, as if I were asking the obvious.
“How else would she prune the trees? How else could she get the
branches to graft with?” He motions with his hands as if this thought
process should carry on.

         “But… what if she fell? She could get hurt.” I turn back, taking a
step in her direction.

        “If you think you could stop her you don’t know her that well.” I
turn back toward him.

         He has a smug look on his face, as if he had just won some small
victory. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

        His arms are crossed in front of his chest. There’s a slight tilt to
his head but his chin is raised in defiance. “Exactly what I said; you don’t
know her as well as you think.”

       I take a step closer; unsure of this confrontation I try to break
the tension with a joke. “No… I might not. But I’m willing to learning
more every day.” He jaw goes tense and I stutter. “She is my wife after
all.”

        It seems to take him a moment to collect his thoughts and then
he merely turns away, heading back towards Minta and her tree. “She
won’t fall.” He mumbles.

        I fall instep behind him. “She might.”
        He stops and turns to face me. “In the 12 years I have known
her I have never seen her fall. She is agile and limber and surefooted.
She makes everything look graceful. She won’t fall.”

        I smile at his admiration. “You haven’t seen her on skates.”

        He chuckles painfully before composing himself. “Dominic, do
you know she sees this job, this orchard, as her life’s mission? She thinks
it’s her responsibility to feed the whole nation, to care for these
trees…To revive humanity… She can’t. She won’t let herself fall.” In his
statement I can see his fierce dedication; his comprehension where I
can only plead innocence.

         I can’t help but believe he is right. Here I was thinking I was
keeping her in the dark, where was she leading me? I smile at him. “I
didn’t realize you knew her so well.”

        He turns back towards the path and continues along the way.
“She’s not as fragile as you tend to think.”




          We worked on grafting the trees for a little under two weeks,
just Killian and me. It was nice to be able to spend time with him once
again and he seemed just as pleased, well for the most part. We grew
up together as kids, and subsequently were inseparable on the ship. It
was only when we landed that we had grown apart. He seemed angry at
first, in the weeks following landing he wouldn’t even speak to me, but
then, after a while I would come and visit and it seemed better then. I
was happy. Mary was elated. He was content. We could all be friends.

         It’s not that I have any misconceptions on his feelings then or
now. Now…He thinks there’s been some mistake. He hasn’t spoken the
words but I can see it plainly in his expression. I could always read him
like an open book but it’s been for the best if I play naive.

         We were high in a tree and I caught him staring at my lips,
longing to steal another kiss as he constantly did in years past. But I am
not his, I never was. His hands grasped my hips to steady me as I
descend after him and I can feel the tension in his limbs as he tries to
refrain from doing as he wishes. I should have made him realize much
earlier than departing the ship. I should have deflected his attentions,
but in truth I loved him and at the time I couldn’t be certain he wasn’t
right. I loved him but I didn’t realize how much confidence he had
placed in us until he was to be joined with Mary and his expression fell
into shock.

        Mary couldn’t have been more pleased and I was happy for
them. Her love for him made her blind. It took Killian a long while to
come to terms with the idea of me belonging to someone else, even
though he was settled with Mary. Now I only have to endure the
occasional longing looks that get intermingled confusingly in our
friendship.

        I thought it was settled. I though he knew what Dominic meant
to me. The love I feel for Killian is familiar and comfortable; where my
love for Dominic is all consuming. It has been from the beginning and
that was part of what scared me so much. I thought Killian saw that, but
it became obvious after we stayed with them he wouldn’t allow himself
to believe it was true and that’s why I insisted that we had to leave. I
was honestly surprised that Dominic couldn’t see it.

         I didn’t anticipate to see him again until Mary’s baby arrived
and I figured at that point he would be so head over heels with their
creation he’d pay me no attention. I didn’t expect them to show up so
soon at the orchard. But they did, and it seemed we were back on the
path to remaining friends which I was happy for, because in truth- I
missed him.

         Dominic took to checking in during the afternoons of the second
week and Killian began to get agitated. That much was evident when he
first heard Dominic’s steps crunching through old leaves. Not that he
was interrupting anything. We were working in a steady silent rhythm; a
comfort we had found in silence over the years of knowing each other;
neither feeling the desire to fill nature with pointless conversation. So
when Dominic’s whistling disrupted the peace, Killian immediately
started grumbling.

         “Sad sack of potatoes.” He chuckled quietly. “Look! He’s
managed to lose you in your own orchard.” I spot Dominic a short
distance below, having nearly passed us. I sigh. A snicker escaped from
Killian as if to say ‘I am definitely better suited than him’ and then
Dominic finally looked up. I was already frustrated with Killian, but I
shouldn’t have dismissed Dominic like that.

       After that afternoon it was constant snide remarks from Killian,
even when Dominic wasn’t around. I never got the silence I missed,
although hardly a word was uttered from my mouth. I tried to ignore
him and finish up the work with very little help.
         Sometimes there were rumors and stories he would tell me
about Dominic on the ship. Nothing new, just embarrassing antidotes…
Like the prank from the boys dorm. Other times he actually seemed
interested in conversation, as if to determine the attraction and why we
were matched.

        We were pruning the last tree when one of his trains of thought
emerged. “What I don’t understand is how he can know so little about
you.” Killian had always lived with these fantasies that no one, including
me, seemed to correct; that earth with be perfect, that he should be my
mate, that he knew me best. The last one undoubtedly was true at one
point, but that’s what comes with 12 years of close companionship.

          “He knows the important stuff.” I tried to shrug it off.

          “Like what?” He stopped his shears to direct his attention to
me.

          “Like my birth date” I smiled. “My favorite color. My favorite
fruit.”

        “He doesn’t know what is inside you.” He murmured loud
enough for me to hear. “He doesn’t know your strength. He doesn’t
know your fierceness or how you can always manage to handle
yourself.”

       “He’ll learn those things.” I interrupted before he can flatter
more. “With time.”

          “Why?” he questioned “Why do you let him treat you that
way?”

         I was puzzled for a moment by this question, and I looked at
him instead of the tree growth in my fingers. For a second I though he
implied I was being abused but on the contrary he meant treated as if I
were weak. I smiled at the thought, knowing it was not Dominic’s intent.
“It’s been kind of nice to be treated as something delicate.”

        That apparently was not the right thing to say to Killian and he
made the rest of the work a point to remind me I was not fragile. I
couldn’t manage to comprehend how the loving, caring husband I see
with Mary every morning was the same bitter man who goaded me all
afternoon. By today, the final day, the final tree I am grinding me teeth
wanting nothing more than to finish the work alone and send him on his
way. Just one more day I tell myself. Then I notice Killian is looking more
dejected at that moment than defiant.

         “So this is the last one.” He brushes his fingers against the stock
while I bind the joint. “The last chance.”
        “Chance?” I snip at him, already frustrated beyond belief.

         “I’m sorry.” He looks at me then, meeting my eyes for the first
time in days. “I thought it would be easier if I could show you that I hate
him. I thought I could make you see how ill fit you are. He doesn’t even
know you. But I think all I’ve managed is to make you hate me.”

        “Killian.” I moan. “I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. I
don’t understand you…”

        I had more I wanted to say but I couldn’t as his lips came
crashing down into mine, unexpectedly. I push him away with a yelp.
“What do you think you are doing?”

        He holds me close, arms wrapped around my back, preventing
my escape. “I know you can’t love him like you love me. You’re meant
for me, there’s been some mistake.”

        “No Killian.” I struggle in his grasp.

        “Yes Minta.” He ducks his head to meet my eyes, which were
stinging with tears of frustration. I think he means for our lips to meet
again so I push harder against his chest.

        “What about Mary? What about your child?” I try to reason
with him.

         “Poor planning on my part.” He holds on tighter. “We can leave.
Run away together. It would be easy. They would be fine. I don’t… I
can’t love her like I love you. I’ve tried.” I manage to break his grip and
quickly fell to the earth. I scream but more from anger than hurt.

       “I’m sorry.” He quickly and quietly kneels before me. “I don’t
mean to be so impulsive. I just… I can feel you slipping away. You were
meant for me and… and something has gone so horribly wrong.” He
stammers through his teeth.

        “No. Killian… You’ve got it wrong.” I take a few deep breaths to
contain myself. “It was always to be him.”

         “Of course you would begin to think that now.” He looks at me
with a look of incredulity. “It’s just like these damn apple trees.” I raise
my brow questioningly “Any two bound tightly together would form a
bond. It’s nothing to do with him. Or you. Or love.” He spits. “Just
because you’re bound to him doesn’t mean its love. Why do you think
you haven’t slept with him?”

       My stomach sinks as his words set in. He thought he still had a
chance because he knew about the delay…The delay that ended when
we returned to our orchard, our home. Dominic was always to be my
home. It is this moment I knew I was going to break Killian’s heart with
the truth and Dominic’s if he ever doubted me. “We have.” I murmur
simply.

       “What?” he seems shocked? I don’t think I can understand how
much faith he had in his made up vision of us.

        “We know each other in every way now.” I try to put it
delicately but it’s too late. He leans back on the balls of his feet,
grinding his teeth.

        “I can’t believe it.” He shakes his head.

        I don’t offer any more words just exhale slowly, no additional
confirmation necessary, Dominic is mine and I am his. Killian stands
quickly, hatred clouding his features. He turns and leaves the freshly
bound apple trees while I remain waiting on the ground.



         I didn’t return to the house and close to sunset Dominic came to
look for me. “Oh there you are.” He sits right next to me his gaze turning
to fix on the newest tree. “Was this the last one?”

        “Yes.” I croak. Dominic wraps his arms around me and I
practically collapse into him, exhausted.

        “I figured as much.” He’s silent for a moment and I finally glance
at him try to guess the tenor of his thoughts.

        I don’t have to ponder for long as he finally spits it out. “Killian
came and collected Mary hours ago. They’ve left for the city in the
truck. She was upset that she didn’t get to say goodbye, but he said he
already said enough for both of them. What on earth did that mean?”

        I answer, miserably. “It means goodbye…” Permanently.



          The door to Teacher’s quarters is shut as I passed by it down the
hall. I kept my head down trying to avoid the necessary conversations
any of the teachers would want to have. Why does the staircase have to
be down this hallway? There wasn’t much to say right now… At least I
didn’t have much to say to him at least. I always knew the Teachers
were not really our friends, they were more like our parents, but I still
felt betrayed. I know he had seen my recollections, he had seen me
breaking down in the past couple of weeks but he still kept her from
me. However light I felt now knowing she was just right upstairs, I still
wasn’t light enough to question his motives. Teachers always have
motives.

        “Abban.”

        I stop in the middle of the hall, only two doors from the
staircase from which Teacher has just emerged. Bollocks.

        “I just returned from the guest floor where I found Graydon
looking a little worse for the wear.” I have nothing to say, I feel
absolutely awful. “He wouldn’t tell me exactly what happened to his
jaw… but I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out.”

        He cleared his throat, taking a couple of careful steps towards
me before lowering his voice. “You will have to be in better control of
your emotions, Abban before you take the oath. That is… if you still
want to take the Oath.”

        If I… what? Why wouldn’t I still be taking the oath? Oh. Maya.
Of course, “I hadn’t even thought of that.”

         He shows me a small meaningful smile. “I know. That was part
of the reason I didn’t inform you of her presence. I didn’t want you
distracted with knowing she was right here.”

        “I…”

        “I know. You were distracted anyway.” He sighs, heisting on a
course of action, and then continues. “Well, I unfortunately have some
work to be doing and I think you have some things to work through on
your own. I will check on you later and we can have a real
conversation.”




         It was a comfortable summer; tempered weather, being not too
hot or cold, too wet or dry. The garden and the orchard were both
flourishing. Almost all of the newly grafted trees were succeeding, all
except for one- the last one. Perhaps it was just cut too late, or not
joined quickly enough. Its failure tore at Minta though and, although it
was evident in her expression, she said nothing about it. Killian was
right about the weight she was putting on her shoulders. So, I tried to
make her forget the burden the best way I knew how.

        I consumed her. And in turn she reveled in me. The tree was all
but forgotten.

          By the end of the summer I found myself a breathless, quaking
fool. It seemed no matter how many touches, kisses, embraces I could
never claim enough. I was, amusingly, a classic teenage male and never
alleged to be anything else. It’s not that we constantly had sex. I mean,
we did have sex, but more often than not it was just us; lying next to
each other, me breathing in the scent of her skin, twisting a lock of her
hair. It’s grown so long, flowing well past her shoulders, skimming
against the delicate smooth skin of her back as she lays her head
peaceful against my chest. She taps her fingertips against my rib cage
lightly rousing me from my silent worship.

        “What are you thinking?” she murmurs without moving more
than a fraction. It’s early, the sun has risen but we have yet to
acknowledge the start of the day.

        I gently tug on the lock of her hair I’ve been fiddling with and
hum while wrapping my other arm around her back. “Nothing” I
mumble absently. She always asks me that… and I never have a good
answer. I hold her a little tighter knowing what typically happens next.
She squirms, trying to lift out of my grip. “Please?” I press my mouth
into the top of her head, “Just a little longer?”

         She sighs but relinquishes to my grip, flopping her head back
down on to my shoulder. “We really should be getting ready.” She
reasons. “The workers will be here soon and I think the Doctor is coming
with them.” It’s the same tune every week, actually twice a week. A
group of workers arrive from the city, bringing us supplies, tending the
fields and returning to the city before nightfall with the harvest they
have collected. It’s been rather nice not having to make the trips
ourselves, but I look forward to the time when it will just be Minta and I
in the orchard again. The hand I have tangled in her hair trails to the
back of her neck while my other hand roams down from her shoulder,
past the small of her back and settles just below her hip. “Dominic” she
scolds just as I flip her over, positioning her underneath me. “We really
should be getting up.”

         I grin at her unintended crude humor as I nuzzle into her neck,
just below her ear. “I don’t think that will be a problem.” I am, as I’ve
already mentioned, a teenage male. She squirms only to further
accentuate my statement. I hum in appreciation and she chides me
once more. I kiss the ridge of her collar bone. “Now you’re not really
protesting.” I murmur trailing my nose along the hollow of her neck.
“You don’t really want me to stop.”

        She groans in frustration. “Just because I don’t want you to
stop, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.” I finally relent lifting my head to
smirk at her. She practically whimpers when my lips leave the contact of
her skin. Oh, how I love to torment her.

         “Alright.” I smile, shifting over to the edge of the bed, leaving
her just as breathless but much less constricted. I swing my legs down
over the side and rest my hands on the edge in preparation to stand.
“What makes you think the doctor is coming?”

          “I…” the groans, whether frustrated because of me or the
visitors I’m not sure. I turn, reaching back to stroke her hair. She is still
lying in the bed exactly where I placed her. “I don’t think I want to tell
you why…” She mumbles, drawing my attention and my body back into
the bed.

        I turn to her, placing a hand on each side of her head trapping
her in my sight. “Minta…” It’s my turn to scold. She should know not to
keep things from me. “After the stunt you and the doctor pulled in the
city…”

         “It’s nothing like that.” She quickly interrupts, placing a hand
against my shoulder but not really pushing me away. I kiss the tip of her
nose just as there is a knock at the door. She quickly squirms away and I
let her, edging back off the bed to pull on a pair of jeans before I head
down the hall to the front door. I laugh as I open it, revealing of course,
the good doctor himself.

       “My goodness, Dominic!” He exclaims “It seems I can never be
greeted by you with a shirt on.” He smiles and I smirk back, no longer
embarrassed enough to blush. Minta rushes down the hall now, fully
dressed in a button down shirt and pair of shorts.

       She collides into my side, and reaches around me to open the
door more fully. “Please Doc, come on in. We were expecting you.”

       “Were you now?” He asks raising a brow. Minta’s blush doesn’t
go unnoticed.

         “Well, At least for some reason Minta was expecting you.” I turn
to face her as the doctor proceeds into the living room “She hasn’t
exactly told me why… yet.”

      He turns to face her as well, and we both wait expectantly. “I
umm…. I saw a bird yesterday in the orchard.” She meets my eyes
hesitantly to see if I will panic. It barely took me a blink to comprehend
her meaning but I try to hold back the alarm it has caused.

        “Yes.” The doctor mumbles “I’m afraid that is why I have come.”



        My eyes open to find Basil leaving the compartment. He nods in
the direction of the far corner, rolling his eyes before shutting the door
behind him. Glancing to that space I see a burry shadow of a shape, I
blink several times to try and clear my vision.

        “I’ve been reviewing your recollections. Not that is was entirely
necessary; I’ve seen them all before.” Teacher states from his corner,
perched in his Lotus stance. I know his intent; he wants me to join him
in a moment of meditation and then we can discuss. But I don’t want to
meditate, I want to know what he meant by having seen them all
before.

        “You were in those lives? You were there with us?” I walk over
to the corner, looking down at him questioningly.

        “No.” He states plainly, placing his open palms on his knees.

        “Then what did you mean… You’ve seen them all before?”

       “Sit.” He commands looking up at me and I do as he wishes.
“Now.” He reaches across to pat my knee. “Meditate. Then we talk.”

        I exhale loudly; placing my own open hands on my knees and
close my eyes. “Clear you mind.” He orders and I wish it was that
simple. It used to be that simple. This used to be my favorite time. It
used to be so easy to do; to think of nothing. Now, visions of her and
memories of how we were flood my mind looking for an escape; the
happy memories, the sad, the painful. Those always seem stuck as if
they were tethered permanently, unable to be dislodged by anything.

        I can feel my eyes lids tense up. “You’re not focusing.” Teacher
chides with a chuckle.

        “I think the problem is that I am focusing too much.” I shake my
head to try and clear my thoughts and start again.

       He pats my leg gently and answers my question “I’ve seen all
these memories before because they also belonged to my Ngah la grog,
not me.”

      I open my eyes. “Your Ngah la grog was in those lives? Who was
he? Where is he now?”
        “More often than not, he was a Teacher” he smiles. “But
unfortunately he is no longer, so I’m afraid he won’t be able to provide
you with any answers.” I can’t mask the disappointment in my face.
“Not to fret, Abban, I have a very good memory and I will try to clear up
any confusion.”

        “Is that even allowed?” I meet his eyes hesitantly. “I thought
we were only allowed to know the details of our own lives and our own
Ngah la grog.”

         “That rule is for Apprentices. You will be a Watcher soon
enough.” He gives me a pointed look. “Plus I’m not really giving you the
details of another life, just rather another perspective of your own.”

       He’s silent for a moment, I wonder if he’s gone back to
meditating. “What moment did you just emerge from?”

        “I…um. The sparrows have just started watching Minta again in
the orchard.”

       “Hmmm. It must be so confusing.” He looks at me, tilting his
head as if a different angle would reveal more. “To be so panicked in
your memories about something you now are.”

        “Confusing doesn’t begin to describe.” I rub my forehead
absently. A pressure has begun to build at my temples just thinking
about it.

       “Dominic had it mostly wrong you know; his theories about the
move to Earth.” Teacher leans in closer to me resting his chin on his
own hand which is propped up on his knee.

        “What?” I question still rubbing my forehead. “That the
teachers brought them here, unprepared, inexperienced, to repopulate
the earth?”

        “Yes.” He smiles “That.”

        “Amuse me then.” I chuckle “What was the purpose?” I lean
forward, mimicking his stance.

“It was the only way to keep the children alive.” He mutters the reply
while closing his eyes, and sighing.

        I shake my head, not understanding. “Humans were doing fine
in space. There were settlements forming on several other planets.”

       He opens his eyes, looking at me steadily while a small smile
forms on his lips. “Oh, Dominic, he was too young to think otherwise
when the ships departed. We were all failing. Human kind was failing.
Provisions in space were scarcer than they were on Earth when they
arrived here. There wasn’t even enough air to go around.”

      Dread rises in my throat, cold fear for thousands of souls
unknown “But our… But the others.”

        Teacher reaches across to pat my knee; an effort to calm me,
using his very best bedside manner. “They only wanted what was best
for you... for their children. They all knew a greater chance of the
children’s survival resided on earth.”

           “Why didn’t they come too then?”

           He sighs, and then replies meekly. “As I said, resources were
scarce.”

           “What happened to them?”

        He rubs his forehead, shrugging at the same time “the same
thing that happens to all souls, eventually.” Repeating back the same
answer I’ve given to Maya.

         I ponder this revelation a moment. If what he is saying is true, it
still doesn’t all add up. “So... Why the marriages then? Why did the
Teachers bind us?”

         Teacher smiles brilliantly in amusement “Well… Only human
nature would dictate what would happen once they landed, and so
many souls wanted to be born. It wasn’t like there was much of a
choice. We wanted to make it as pleasant and safe as possible for the
new little ones.”

        I narrow my eyes, some things still unclear. “The Teacher’s
threat of divorce?” I question.

         He shakes his head “Idle at best. I think the Teacher was just
trying to accelerate your course.” He chuckles at that.

           “But how could he have known? Why should they care?”

        He touches the tip of his nose with his index finger. I am spot
on. “There are some lives they were more vested in than others.”

        “Why ours?” I blurt, frustrated at the lack of a direct answer.
Not that I could ever expect a direct answer from Teacher. He clears his
throat as if to remind me of that fact.
        He leans in closer to me “That, you will have to find out. Now…”
He pats my knee once more before straightening his back. “Meditate.”




<!—You are here.




        Transcendently happy

        The Watchers visit with the Teacher - Dominic

        Pregnancy recalled - Minta

        Childbirth – Dominic

        Her death and after - Dominic




        He rushed at me the moment I was blinking my eyes, emerging
from the moment. I gasp once I notice him, unexpectedly in my room.
Agitation was set in his limbs. His arms grabbed at my sides pulling my
close to him on the lounge as his lips crushed into mine feverishly. I
stumble back, my head slamming against the cushions, awkwardly
caught up in his hold and tangled in the still attached wires, his lips not
relenting. I gasp and he relaxes a little, trailing his mouth now to my jaw
and neck still holding me tight. My first reaction is to slap him, push him
away, but my body betrays me and I can feel myself relax against him.
“Abban?” I question, not knowing what to say next. This is the first time
he has kissed me and it seems an act of desperation.

        He sighs, shifting his lips to my temple next. “You have no idea
the tortures I have been through Minta”

         I stiffen. “What?”

         “40 years. That’s how long I just had to live without you;
without your touch.” His fingers trace from my side down one of my
arm grazing my fingers. “Without your kiss” His other hand ascends, his
thumb brushing my lips, which are firmly pressed into a line as my teeth
bite my tongue. He notices the tension which as returned to my limbs.
“What’s wrong?” He releases me then, shifting his face away to get a
better look.

        “What did you just call me?” My voice is firm. He falters for a
moment, agape. There is a silence between us I that is building that I
can no longer stand, my voice is now barely a whisper “You called me
Minta.”

         “I….” he shakes his head, confused.

         “We haven’t even been in each other’s presence a week.” I
state.

         “I know.”

       Graydon clears his throat, my face flushes remembering
another presence in the room. “I think you should leave, Abban.”

         Abban looks as if he is going to argue with him or possibly
apologize to me. He hesitates, faltering, while his eyes plead with mine.
I look away. “Maybe you should.” My jaw is clenched and eyes trained
on the window across the room. I feel him shift off of the lounge and his
footsteps slowly retreat. I hold myself together until the door is firmly
shut; at which I crumple into a blubbering hostile ball, pulling at
anything still attached to me. The probes and wires go flying smashing
into the wall. I hear glass break. I fumble to untangle my hands and feet
from wires from my kicking.

          Graydon stayed across the room, as if over the years he had
learned better. I scream out in frustration several times. “Get it out of
your system.” Graydon mutters soothingly, finally making his approach
yet still keeping out of throwing distance.
         Over the years Graydon has learned precisely how to read me.
He knowing how to comfort me when I’m sad; cradling me in his lap, He
knows to keep his distance when I’m angry, not that I would hurt him,
just that any touch at a moment like this seems to suffocate me. Even
these damn wires are too close. It’s killing him, I can tell, by the strain in
his eyes; he’s doing all he can to keep from reaching me. “I wouldn’t
have let him in here if I knew he was going to attack you like that.”

          I growl “It wasn’t because of that.”

         “OK.” He huffs, hands raised “but I still didn’t want to see that.”
He is still observing my form and deciding I’m still not calm enough. He
raises his brow waiting patiently.

         I groan one final time, slowly pressing my eyelids shut to stop
the tears from flowing. I take a few deep breaths and my body starts to
unfurl. I attempt to quiet a pitiful sob and when I open my eyes Graydon
is perched next to me. He smiles at me softly, his hands tightly folded in
his lap. “Hi there, nice to see you again.”

         I smile at his unusual greeting, the way he acknowledges me
coming down from the ledge, so to speak. I’ve always had a bit of a
temper; but whenever I manage to get mad at myself; there is nothing
he can do but wait. I’ve never broken down in front of anyone else. Only
with Graydon can I seem to let myself go to pieces, only Graydon knows
to let me pick myself back up. I curl myself into his side as more tears
start to flow and he wraps his arms around me. “I don’t know what I
would do without you.”

         “I don’t know why it’s taken this long for you to get furious.” He
replies honestly resting a hand on my shoulder. “I mean, we practically
kidnapped you, subject you to torture, limit your actions, and only
now….” He looks down at me “Why are you mad now? It wasn’t the
kiss? It wasn’t because he was here?”

          “No” I moan. Not wanting to answer. I wipe my eyes with my
sleeve.

       He pulls on my shoulder, prying me away from his middle.
“Maya.” He voices cautiously. “Tell me.”

          I exhale loudly, dropping my head “He called me Minta.”

          “Minta?” He questions, his voice sounds perplexed.

          “Yes.” I groan.
         “Oh.” He lets my head drop into his lap then and he smoothes
out my hair. “well.” He sighs “Not to come to his defense, but he did
just watch you die...And then felt like he spent a lifetime without you”

        I groan at his logic. “I’m not Minta.” The pain of her life still
seeps through me. The weakness I felt in the end, the missing piece in
my heart for the child I barely knew. I want to push the memories aside,
deny its presence, and remind me I am still me. Not her.

       “You aren’t… anymore.” He lifts my chin to look up at him, “but
you were… and he feels like he just lost her.”

         “What are you even doing here?” I only just now recall it was
Starling who guided me under. Where was she?

       Graydon sighs, “I finished recalling a life. I needed to see where
you were.”

         I chuckle at that, as if I would be anywhere else. “I’m always
here.”

         He smiles “No. I meant in the life. I want to be here for the next
one.”

         There’s an excitement in his expression that I am having trouble
trying to interpret. “Do we… do we share another life?”

         His lips jump into a classic teasing smile “You’ll just have to find
out.”

        There is a light knock at the door and I launch myself at it,
swinging it open, ready to yell, giving Abban a piece of my mind. I
breathe in deep and then expel the breath with a groan when I find
Jonah there instead. I stomp back to my lounge. “Well, I’m glad to see
you too.” He smirks.

        Graydon joins in my groan. “Jonah… Really, what are you doing
here.” He steps between Jonah and me.

         Jonah chuckles as I take up pacing the floor once again. “You
look like a Siamese Fighting Fish in a very tiny bowl.” I stop very briefly
to scowl in his direction.

       “I thought Maya could use a distraction.” He raises his hands in
innocence.

       “Another dance lesson?” I snap, crossing my arms over where
an ache slowly starts burns. I tilt my head staring at him waiting for a
response. No matter my temperament he is always so controlled. I
cannot fathom my responses to him; fear, hope, pain, anger; yet his is
always resolved.

        He steps around Graydon with a brilliant smile that melts my icy
exterior and has be fumbling inside my head for a clear thought. “If you
would like, but actually, I was thinking of something with a little more
room.”

        “More room?” I question, looking at him curiously.

       He extends his hand to me while nodding his head. “Walk with
me?” he murmurs softly.

       I take his hand and mumble my response. “Of course.” I nod to
Graydon as Jonah leads me to the door. Graydon groans once more as
the door shuts Jonah leads me on. “Where are we going?”

        I should know better now than to expect a direct answer from
him. “Did you know we are docked?”

        “Docked?” he leads me to the stairwell and down a flight.

          “Yes. The ship, we are currently tethered into port, have been
for half a day.” We continue down an additional flight, to the berthing
deck if I recall correctly.

         We reach the platform and he places both hands on my
shoulders to hold me still. “If you stay still for a moment you should be
able to feel the difference.” We stand and I try to feel what he means
“See? When we are docked the sway of the ship is just a little off.” He is
right. The ship, which usually tousles my body in six directions, has
settled down to a milder four.

        He drops his hands, grabbing my left once again with his right
and then tugs me towards the remaining flight of stairs, down to the
navigation deck. “Where are we going?” I ask once more.

        He smiles at me again, his eyes meeting mine. “You’ll see. It’s a
surprise.” We reach the bottom and there is no more stairs to go down.
He pushes me behind him for a moment while he looks through the
small window in the door.

        “Are we going to get in trouble for being down here?” I whisper.

          He turns to look at me and smirks “Not if we don’t get caught.”
Still holding my hand he opens the door and pulls me through into the
hall. We turn and proceed down past the open port, from which I can
see the dock and a few lines tying the ship. We pass a few closed doors;
some with small windows and some without, Jonah is more occupied
with these, his eyes shifting from one to the next. We move quickly, but
not in a stealth-like manner. A teacher emerges from behind a door and
greets Jonah with a nod and a smile. I freeze in shock at being found and
he tugs on my arm once more. We’ve reached the end of the hall and
there is a single solid door. He reaches for the handle, opening it and
temporarily blinding me with a bright light.

          I close my eyes in order to help them to adjust and only then
does the smell register in my mind; heavy of brine, salt and seaweed.
Oh how I’ve missed that smell. I warm breeze picks up swirling through
my hair, emerging me in the scent and I take a step, with Jonah’s hand
still in mine, then I open my eyes. There’s a railing about six feet in front
of me, it spans the whole width of this deck of the ship. Beyond it is the
churning dark salty sea, shining in the light from the bright sun. The
balloon creates a shadow for quite a ways back, making it so the sun’s
warmth doesn’t touch my skin but the breeze carries it to me as well as
the scent. I sigh contentedly.

         Jonah pulls me to the rail, releasing my hand only to firmly place
each of his hands on the bar on either side of my body. “I thought you
would like this.” He murmurs directly in my ear. “You needed a much
bigger bowl.” My stomach flutters at his sultry tone while a pain in my
chest grows exponentially, making it impossible to ignore. I gasp and
take a step back, trying to get away from the pain but stepping more
fully into his body. He wraps his arms around me, swaying with the
movement of the ship. I try to swallow down a whimper, he doesn’t
seem to notice. “I would have taken you here sooner, but the balcony is
only open when we are in port.”

          “It’s wonderful…” I answer honestly stepping forward again to
the rail, breaking his grasp. The dark water rests 15 feet below, hiding
any treasures from view, just as the balloon hides the sun, but it is the
span of water I have most wanted to see. “It’s a beautiful view.”

         He steps to my side then extending a hand to my cheek. “That it
is.” He grins with a raised brow. I can read him better now, after only a
few days. I know what he is about to do. He leans in closer, hesitantly
with a sigh. My head is still swimming in part because of the unrelenting
throbbing in my chest. This time I can’t let him proceed. I moan, unable,
for some reason, to form the words no or please don’t and he halts his
progression questioningly. “Maya?” I need an escape.

         A solution presents itself in the water as quickly as that and I
clamber up the rail, balancing on the arches of my feet at the top. Only
a second has passed giving him merely time to gasp while I step out off
the rail stiffly, crossing my legs and arms in a perfect divers stance.
My feet hit the water hard, and it is colder than I had expected. The
water washes over me and the pain is soothed on contact, my mind
settles as I am submerged. I give myself a peaceful moment of dulled
senses before swimming up to break the surface. The frigid water
temperate prickles my skin, a breeze cools my head.

        “Maya!” he shouts as soon as I can hear, but all I can do is
chuckle. He sheds his boots and waistcoat in order to dive in after me. I
swim further away, out of the shadow of the ship into the warmth of
the sun where I pause.

         I laugh fully, treading water, as his head emerges 5 feet away. I
push the hair out of my eyes with my hands. “You have no idea how
long I’ve wanted to do that.”

        “What? Kill yourself?” There’s bitterness to his sarcasm and I
splash him with salt water for it.

“You don’t know me well at all!” I accuse. He smiles brilliantly and
splashes me back.

         I shift effortlessly in the water once I am exhausted from our
drenching war and call a truce. My feet float up, arms extended to the
side I press my head back so the water engulfs my ears muffling any
sound and I close my eyes in the brightness of the sun. Through the
water I can hear Jonah swim closer to my side. A hand folds around
mine, tethering me like the airship. It is hot in contrast to the water, and
then the water stills around me. I float peacefully.

         Time moves while my body doesn’t and I count it only by my
breaths, slowly in and out. 100 breaths, 300 breaths. His fingers lightly
stroke mine. 500 breaths; the pain is still gone and I wonder when it
might return. Isn’t Jonah still here with me? Has the water wash away
my feeling of betrayal? 1000 breaths; I open my eyes, staring straight up
into the sun filled sky. There isn’t a single cloud; I look back towards the
ship. There’s a shadow on the balcony that I cannot make out. I blink
and it’s vanished. 2000 breaths, he tugs gently on my hand pulling me
closer to his side. I shift, once again, so I am no longer floating on my
back and am looking straight at him.

       “We should be getting back inside.” He speaks softly reviving
me from my meditation. “Unless…” He gives me his crooked smile “You
were meaning to escape.”

       I laugh at that. “I would do no such thing… I just needed to feel
the water.” He smiles fully at my admission and I splash him once again.

        He pulls on my arm one final time before releasing it. “Race you
to the docks.” I beat him, of course. I am more graceful and natural in
water than I am on land. I belong in this much bigger bowl, as he so
kindly called it. We ascend the ladder and sit on the edge of the boards
to catch our breath. “I think I’ve been deceived.” He smiles at me, while
still panting.

        “I never claimed to be a novice.” I push his sopping wet
shoulder and he chuckles, rising with his hands crossed in front of
himself, he holds the hem of his shirt. He raises them over his head,
removing the waterlogged garment from his pale skin.

         It is then I look down at my own body and realize how
unforgiving water is to the light watcher’s linen. The wet material clings
transparently to my skin and undergarments. I blush, feeling exposed.
Jonah’s eyes are wandering as I glance back at him and he swallows
thickly. “Ah,” he hesitates. “If I had anticipated your actions better I
would have been prepared with a towel.” He smirks. “Wait here.” He
jogs off to a shack at the end of the dock and returns a moment later
with a small makeshift blanket made of sail material. He shakes it open,
spreading it wide in his arms then nods to me. I stand and he wraps it
around my shoulders, holding on for an extra beat before releasing his
grip.

        “Thank you.” I say meekly.

        He drops a hand to the small of my back and points in the
direction of our ship. “We really must be getting back.” I roll my eyes
but he continues. “This is an unscheduled docking; I have no idea when
the ship is to leave. We wouldn’t want to be stranded here now would
we?” He leans in closer to my ear in a mock whisper, “We really
shouldn’t be off ship in the first place.”

        “Why did you jump in after me?” I ask him. He smiles, shaking
his head.

       “I couldn’t let you have all the fun.” He stares straight ahead,
not meeting my eyes.

        “Hmm.” My brow furrows as I think.

       “Did you honestly think I was in need of rescue?” I try to hide
my mirth.

        “It was an awfully long perilous fall.” His smile turns pathetic. “It
could have been my chance to be the night in shining armor.”

        “Oh, Jonah” I muse, leaning closer into his side, “someday you
boys with learn.” I rest my head on his shoulder and am pleased to find
the ache has not returned. Perhaps my body was no longer betraying
my heart; after all, he did jump in after me. “Tell me, who were you
afraid would catch us?”

         I can feel his breathy laugh causing his shoulder to gently rise
and fall. “You should have been able to figure out that one yourself.” He
pauses for a moment for my mind to catch up, my teeth clench as the
anger reappears. Jonah’s hand moves to encircle my back, rubbing my
arm as if I were cold. “You think Abban would be pleased to see you
doing something like this?” He guides me to the gangplank, still rubbing
my arm, holding me close.

       The words spit out in anger “I’d rather not think of pleasing
Abban right now.”

       Jonah leans over on his toes to place a chaste kiss on my
forehead, a smile formed on his lips. “That’s my girl.”



        What was I thinking! Or rather why wasn’t I? I was so caught up
in the pain of the last life I couldn’t even recognizing what I was doing. I
just needed her. I needed to see her that very moment. My fingers tug
at my scalp without a conscious thought. Why does every bloody life
end in pain!

         I was surprised Graydon even answered the port, but the look
on his face was one of pity and he acquiesced immediately and stepped
aside so I could enter. My eyes immediately trained on her form and my
heart hammered in panic. Her lifeless body lay limp on a sofa, Starling
gently dabbing a cloth to her sweat drenched forehead. My breathing
hitched and she glanced in my direction. “No, Abban. She’s just
recalling.” Starling clarified. I quickly approached, noticing then the
nearly transparent probes and wires.

        My brow pulled together. “But she’s so still. Is she even
breathing?”

        Starling answered by holding up a small mirror to Maya’s
mouth, a fog appearing very slowly as her breath rose and fell
unnoticed. “She emerges really deeply. Teacher has never seen anyone
so entranced. Everything; every emotion, every illness it all effects her;
even death.” My eyes follow the trail of the wires, across the room to
where Starling’s vision has settled. The device is set up in the middle of
the space, whirling and flashing in the dimmed light; the projected
image vaguely defined in the air above it. That was where Graydon had
settled back to sit and watch, hand hovering closely over the controls.
The image was blurry; pulling in and out of focus. There were flashes of
fog and light, brief moments of a vision of my face pulling in a worried
expression, and the briefest image of our daughter. “She’s nearing the
end.” Starling pulls my diverted attention back to her.

        I reached out my hand. “Please?” I plead at her, “Let me do
that.” She sighed and quickly handed over the cloth, stepping back
towards the door.

        “It won’t be much longer.” She whispered into the air.

        I smiled “Thank god for that.”

          I pace the length of our small berth thinking about the
consequences of my actions, of my words. She obviously hasn’t been as
affected in the present with recalling as I. How is that even possible?
The Teachers claim about her emergence? If she is so affected in
recalling why isn’t she affected outside of it? I see her. I see her in every
life. I’ve seen the light in her eyes; I see the hurt, the triumph, the love.
She is drawn to me in every single life. Why isn’t she acting on it in this
one?

         Perhaps I am being too forward. What I am thinking? Of course I
am being to forward! I kissed her! I bloody kissed her when she had
barely opened her eyes. I kissed her and practically pinned her to the
couch. My fist connects with the wall in a resounding crack that shoots
sharp piercing pains through my knuckles. I shake my hand to dull the
throb. She should have hit me; should have pushed me away yet she
didn’t. What did she do? My pacing stops. What did she do? I try to
think. Play back the recent memory more in my mind. My legs fold
under me and I find myself seated on my bed as I think about the kiss
and flow of emotion. She drew me in. I smile slightly at the thought. She
didn’t mind the kiss. It was desperate at best, but it wasn’t the kiss that
had caused her distaste.

        It was my insufferable use of a name. A name I had come to
love so much in the past few days, a name that was purely hers as she
belonged to me and yet it was not her name, not now. I growl at my
own stupidity and my hand rakes through my hair once more.

          The port opens on an angry looking Graydon. “I don’t need a
lecture right now.” I hold a hand up in defense. “I know what an idiot
I’ve been.” He stalks forward, towering over me a foot from where I sit.
His fists clench tightly at his sides. “Go ahead. Hit me. It’s the least I
deserve.”

        His fingers twitch and he groans. “Damn it Abban!”

        “I know.” I respond through my clenched jaw, more flustered
than before.
       He starts to pace, wearing out my same path “If you know then
why aren’t you doing something about it!”

          “What am I supposed to do?” I baulk. “She didn’t want me
there!”

        “No.” He stops, leaning down towards me with an arm resting
on the upper bunk. “I didn’t want you there after that.” He jabs a finger
in to my shoulder. “She was in the process of coming undone, but you
couldn’t see that. She wouldn’t let you see that.” His voice rises in a
pitch and his pacing starts again. Why is he so flustered?

        “I’ll go to her now.” I resolve. “I’ll make this right. I promise you
that.” He wants me to take action and that’s just what I’ll do.

        I stand and he halts my first step towards the port by blocking
my path. “You can’t, she’s not in her room.” He shakes his head, more
anxious.

          Well, where is she now?” I ask desperately.

         He stops, once again, with a piercing stare into my eyes. He
swallows, allowing him an extra second before he gives his controlled
reply. “She went for a walk.”

         “A walk?” I question, “Well it’s not that big of a ship. I’m sure I
could find her.”

       “No.” he firmly plants his hands on my shoulders, preventing
me from passing by. “Please. Just let her be. Let her calm down. You
don’t want to be near her right now.”

         “That’s where you can’t be more dead wrong.” I whine,
collapsing back into my bed. “I can’t seem to want to be anywhere but
near her anymore. “

       “Well,” he grumbles “If you want to be with her you better
bloody well get to know her now, and not just a memory.”
       The library is my solace still; there in the warmth emanating off
the windows, the stale dust floating in the air. Here I can breathe deep. I
need the sanctuary



        The door closes and footsteps approach.



       His arm wraps around my waist, fingers splayed about my
middle drawing me in, in an all too familiar gesture from another life. I
grind my teeth. He leans his head down tilting to press his lips to my
neck



        --- Discussion with Starling about Her family

        “Starling? Why is Jonah’s waistcoat different?”

       “You noticed that?” I nod, she rolls her eyes. “Of course you
would. His waistcoat, it belonged to our father.”

        “Your father is a Watcher?”

        “Was. Our father was a watcher.”

        “Watcher’s can have families?”

        “They can’t, or rather they aren’t supposed to. Watchers can’t
marry. He chose to leave the program when he found our mother.”

        “I didn’t know that was possible.”

          She grinned then. “It’s not supposed to be, but he had his ways.
It’s scandalous. He met my mother and says that was it. They met at
first in secret, and he only resigned when he could no longer take the
long separation. Their perfect life wasn’t to last long. He was a
lawbreaker, living on the run. My mother followed him everywhere until
my older sister came along and then… then she needed to have a home,
a house to raise us. She moved in with her parents. But of course, he
couldn’t stay.”

       “My father would come and go, never home for long, but long
enough for us to be sure that he loved us.”
        “Why couldn’t he stay?”

       “They had Sparrows watching our home most of the time. They
were looking for him… They still are. He is smart though, he always
knows when it is safe. I’m not sure how.”

        “Where does he go?”

        “I’m not sure. I’ve never asked.”

        “What about you and Jonah? You are training to be Watchers.”

        “The Teachers say we can’t choose who we are born to.” She
shrugs while her lips tug up more in the corners. “But father, I don’t
think he could be more pleased when we ended up in the program.”

         A thought just occurred to me. “How do you have so many
siblings if he is always gone?”

        “You really are asking that?” She glared at me mouth gaped
before bursting into a fit of laughter. “Let’s just say… every homecoming
is a happy one for him and mum.”



         “Are you close with your father?” I’ve meant to ask him
something else… but the words just blurt out as if my mind couldn’t
think of anything else. I have a strange obsession with this family. I’m
actually embarrassed at my curiosity.

        “As close as I can be.” Jonah responds evasively.

         “You wear his waistcoat.” Again, the words spill out without a
thought and I stumble over an apology, an explanation, which he
ignores.

        “You’ve talked to Starling…”

         “I was curious.” I avert my eyes, embarrassed. “She told me a
little about your family.”

        “What did she tell you?” He takes a step closer to me. A feat
given there was only foot of space between us to begin with. I swallow
compulsively. Sometimes I feel like he is trying to intimidate me…This
would be one of those times. The effect has begun to wear off as I
answer him but he doesn’t step back.
        “She told me he chose your mother over being a Watcher.” He
chuckled and I glanced at him “And that because of that he is always on
the run.”

        Jonah’s laughing falters for a moment as he steps away, looking
out the window at a small sparrow flying by. “I guess that would be how
she sees it.” He murmurs.

         “Is she wrong?” I plant my feet to keep myself from getting
closer to him, so I can see his bright green eyes which seem incapable of
hiding anything.

        He glances over his shoulder with a crooked smile in my
direction “She hasn’t necessarily painted the wrong picture… just
incomplete. He’s always been careful to keep most of it hidden from
her; she might be missing a few colors.”

       “Care to add a few brush strokes?” I mumble, continuing is
amusing analogy. I take a hesitant step. I don’t think I have ever been
more curious in my life.

         He turns fully to me then his eyes boring into mine. “Why?” he
asks pointedly, raising a hand to my jaw making it so I can’t turn away.
Do my eyes betray as much as his do? Right now I can see hesitance in
his, masking a desire. The all too familiar burn flares up at the contact
and I clench my jaw to steady myself. It shouldn’t hurt to be near him.
He isn’t hurting me, I am hurting myself. “Why are you interested?" I
swallow back the pain, unable to answer with words, I meekly shrug. He
smiles at me and strangely the pain begins to subside leaving numbness
in its wake.

         His hand drops back to his side but he does not break eye
contact. “He’s not the only rogue… There’s a whole crew of them. All
would-be Watchers” he chuckles at some internal joke. “They do try to
keep off of the Watcher’s grid that much is true… They have their own
airship and are constantly on the move.”

        “To avoid the birds?” I interject piecing together the picture and
he smiles deviously.

         “No. She would think that, wouldn’t she?” He turns away,
shaking his head. “When we first were acquired for training she would
spend hours in the sparrows nest looking through images on the main
frame. It was so obvious, she was looking for father, but in the last 24
years you won’t find a single memory of him.” He glances back in my
direction, speaking quieter now “They don’t avoid the birds, they
skyjack them… They download all the memories for themselves,
carefully remove their own and then send them back on their way.” His
low voice is controlled, showing neither admiration nor disgust, just a
statement of fact I’ve come to accept from Jonah.

        I hesitate “So he’s a pirate?”

         “They prefer the term Alternately Funded Watcher.” He smirks
“Pirate seems so much cruder. They aren’t hurting anyone, really.
There’s no commandeering of ships, no walking the plank; the only
thing they pilfer are memories....” He tries to warm me to the idea.

        “So… no eye patches then?” I smile.

      He grins, “No… No eye patches. Although one did build a
mechanical parrot.”

        “Why did they leave the watchers?”

          “Different reasons really.” His face drops in thought. “In general
I guess it would be an aversion to rules…For my father, it started with
his recollection and my mother but then continued with his discovery of
an agenda he didn’t agree with, and so he left.”

        “It was that easy?” I can’t imagine that.

        “Watchers are non violent to a fault, its part of the Oath we will
take; not to cause harm. No one chased after him, it’s never come to a
confrontation more of a challenge of the mind- like the old game of
battleship.”

        “Battleship?” I ask, never having heard the term.

        “It’s a board game…” He chuckles under his breath “They are
constantly seeing who can get to an unseen target first.”

        “What’s the target?” my curiosity peaks.

        He murmurs, with a raised brow. “I’m sure I wouldn’t know.”

        ---




        Tears are streaming down my face as I try to silently sob on my
way to the living room. It’s a small house- the trip shouldn’t take that
long. Dominic has a look of confusion which quickly transforms into
concern the moment he sees me, or maybe he heard me before he saw
me. I flop onto the sofa bringing my hand to my mouth in an effort to
calm myself. He strokes my hair patiently, but I can’t even get the words
out when he asks what’s wrong. All I can manage is “In… In the Ba—
Bathroom”.

         I know exactly what he’s going to find there- I’ve left it right on
the counter. The pregnancy test with that added blue line which is
currently making me feels like crap. Irresponsible, shameful, just crap.
What I did not expect was his reaction. His damn reaction- How could
he react that way? How could he come out of that bathroom grinning
like the Cheshire cat and engulfing me in his arms?

        “We’re gonna have a baby!” How? How can he be happy about
this? This isn’t what we’ve planned! I still can’t manage to talk- he just
holds me in his arms until my sobs have calmed down and I can hear my
heartbeat over the tears and I can finally speak and tell him what I’m
thinking. Then he releases me- leaves for a moment I’m not sure where
and then just as quickly is back- standing in front of me. I look up to find
him holding a paper and pen out to me. “Please write Mary.”




        ----

          I should have realized- I mean she’s been overly emotional- but
then again I’m a guy… I’m not all that observant of things like that. So I
wasn’t all that shocked to find her crying- but I was shocked to find that
stick in the bathroom. I mean we had one scare a few months ago, but it
was a false alarm, what would even make her think now I don’t know.




How Minta Dies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HELLP_syndrome

        ----

      Dialog between Abban and teacher after Abban is aware how
much maya appears.

        “So, you alone have known all along.” I ask our Teacher
incredulously.

        “Well, me and anyone else who has experienced my memories”
He corrects. “That is why I had selected each of you as my class, each of
you have had experiences with this one anomaly.”
        “The anomaly has a name… Maya” I spit at him.

        “You must understand how unusual it… she is. Here, for the past
hundreds of years we have kept a record of the coming and goings of all
souls their deaths and rebirths, their pauses in heaven, their assent to
Nirvana, we keep record of all that- with one exception.”

        And then it clicks. I understand “You… you have no records of
her?”

        “None.”

        “But… but how is that possibly? Surely she has a soul. I can
vouch for that!”

         “I know. I understand your need to protect her as well. I have
experienced it from you before.” He pauses. “But you must understand.
She will continue, because… because that is the only way we will know,
the only way we can find out why we do not know her.” He stops for a
moment, then squares to me in warning “and you will not interfere.”

        ----



       “We each have a purpose” he chides, over confident seeping
through his words.

       “A purpose” I scoff. “I know mine.” He chuckles at that. “So tell
me, dear Jonah. What exactly is yours?”

        He leans in close, with a cunning grin. “My purpose. It seems. Is
to get her away from you.” My jaw slackens.



        “Did she tell you we kissed?”

        “You what?”

         “Mhmmm. What a memory too. She wanted me to kiss her, if I
recall, and so I did.”



      She is my only tether to each human life. Without her the
moments seem to float by with no recognition. Complete lives barely
remembered until her presence emerges.
        like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic



          I’m by the flag pole, at the fair, waiting for Anne. Won’t be too
long- she promised… I should be a better friend and try to remember
what it is she does with her time- but for the life of me rolling logs
doesn’t interest me. Honestly, I don’t know why I even come to the fair-
It’s not really my cup of tea… I don’t like being the country hick like my
sister or some of my friends. I’d rather be in the art studio or on the
stage than anywhere near farm animals and chain saws. Maybe that’s
because I’d had enough of farm animals and chainsaws by the time I
was 12.

         I hear a familiar laugh and glance to catch a glimpse of his eyes.
They aren’t quiet blue, but they aren’t green either. More like a steel
grey that reflects the colors around him. I know him. I must know him,
he looks so familiar. My conscious mind pulls away from the moment
briefly before the contraption forces it back. Its him.

        His curly blonde hair is pulled back into elastic at the base of his
neck and his broad shoulders are trembling slightly as he laughs. Who is
this person? He shoots Robert a glare with intent behind it, I must know
him… I know Robert- he’s friends with Anne.

         Anne jumps next to me and startles me. She giggles. “You
alright Olive?” How Anne can always seem so upbeat confounds me.
She’d find a reason to smile at a serial killer.

           “Yeah... hey- who is that” I incline my head in his direction then
quickly look down at her. I always feel like a giant around my friends,
standing about half a foot taller than them. Not that I’m abnormally
tall, I think I just choose short friends.

        “Oh…. That’s Ethan Smith. He’s been here as long as you ” Ethan
Smith? The kid from Preschool I realize- Didn’t picture that. Never could
have pictured that. I don’t think such an affectionate and optimistic boy
would be worth a glace- they just weren’t my type.

        No- My type was brooding and geeky. Snow White and the
Seven Quarks- Yes, Of course they nick named me snow white.
Seriously, There were seven of them. Seven guys who I gravitated
around like a pet, never quiet as smart as them but they took me under
their wing anyway.

         Not that I would date any of them, I mean David had been my
best friend since 3rd grade. We spend a lot of time together- but mostly
reading comic books and him lecturing me about not “blossoming” too
quickly when he was afraid I was getting to serious with a guy (like
anything would seriously happen). David’s like a protective brother
although I think I’m probably just as much the protective sister- but it’s
been that way for years, we support each other; from deep
conversation about god, hanging out on the hood of my car, to watching
stuff blow up at late night trips to the movies- Dave is always there.

         The seven were all where smart, funny, endearing and slightly
socially inept around girls. I came to realize right away that they were
fine around me because I wasn’t really a girl to them, I was just me.
How they could see me as Hyper I still don’t really know- I was
awkward, bumbling, not like the bright sun emanating from Anne, more
like a red dwarf with a solar system not warm enough to be inhabitable.

       If you were to ask what my dream guy would be, I’d pull out a
comic book from my back pack. The Crow: Romantic, Bold, Mysterious,
and drop dead gorgeous- in that ‘already dead’ sorta way.

        Maybe that’s my draw to this new transfer kid- Alex. Every
morning my eye draws to the wall where he’s crouched head down with
his arm folded over his knees. He is the embodiment of the crow if not
for being a little more scrawny. The hair, the clothes, the lips…. Not too
many guys would be daring to wear black lipstick.

         I glance back to notice Jess, a friend from art class, walking up to
Ethan cautiously. She hands him a balloon and I don’t know if his face
could turn any more scarlet. Robert tries to wipe the smirk of his face,
but is too dumbstruck to take in the expression of his friend. My eyes
glance down Ethan’s muscular arm to the hand holding the string and
then up the string to the Mylar balloon which is heart shaped and says
“I love you”.

        Crap.
        Computers might be my favorite companion up here. They
don’t yell back, they are silent until asked, they don’t criticize, they just
do as you ask and there is something artistic about them. In the past
two weeks on board I’ve taken to converting sheet music into
programmed sequences. So far I have Debussy’s complete catalogue
transcribed into info graphics, digital paintings, and even robotic
renditions.

         The computer lab is also, unfortunately, the one place I’m
guaranteed to encounter Kevis. He teases, caresses, flirts and pouts all
in the course of one day. I’m sure there would be more of the caressing-
if he was right next to me, but of course there’s always Darby between
me and him. I think this is a good thing.

        Darby and I attempted a relationship for the period of 3 days. It
was just too awkward. He’s a great friend, but he’s just that a friend.
The great thing about Darby is the fact that he doesn’t get caught up in
the past. The minute we both realized we didn’t like each other that
way we were right back to being friends.

         Kevis on the other hand, is as forceful as a bull. Our relationship
is a constant struggle of torment and fighting, with a slash of affection.
The heat of which is not conducive on a space ship.

       One late night in the lab, Darby and I are working on the works
of Mozart. He leans over to rest his head on top of mine, as he has since
we were five and whispers innocently “I love you, my little spider”, an
obnoxious pun on my surname.

         It was so late, I was so tired, hadn’t even realized Kevis was still
in the room. Nor had Darby for that matter. Kevis tore apart his station
destroying the machinery before setting his eyes on Darby. Darby
quickly pushed me towards and out the door before locking it behind
me, with him still inside.

          I separated myself from both of them for a day. When I find
Darby at supper the following night it appears most of the angst
dissipated with what ever happened in that room. He has no visible
marks on him, but when he rises to return his plate I notice he does so a
little slower than normal.

        The lab is quiet tonight. Kevis, wisely, has not returned to the
space- which leaves Darby and I to work alone.

        Constructing a symphony of lines, I rub my eyes to focus in the
low light. A message from a command deck code appears on the screen
containing a folder. ‘Noa, Open this…if you can’ are the words below
the 16 bit icon. What? That’s kinda funny. Darby looks back with a
smirk. “Darby, Who’s code is this?” I gesture to the text.

         He’s jumping with excitement- but then again he could turn
walking into an extreme sport. “Ares Concord, why?” He has a smug
look on his face like he already knows. Ares Concord? The Commander
himself?

         I click on the folder and am prompted to enter a password.
Secured? Are you serious! I enter a few combinations of silly phrases
and words that come up on the ship: “lobotomy”, “peter42”… Nothing
works. I exhale in a sigh and Darby starts laughing. Almost to the point
of his infamous donkey laugh- but he gets cut off when Kevis sulks by
the open door.

        Silently I think Ares Concord… Why do you need my curiosity?




        There isn’t much to do floating around in space. I think that is
how Mina or may it was Darby somehow convinced me to go to the
commander’s dinner. I’m not sure which- as they both have locked arms
with me, leading me down the corridor. He’s conducting some
discussion on the mission of this ship… and he needs opinions, or rather
soap boxes for him.

        Mina, after allowing me to bunk with her over the past 6
months, has discovered that- although Ares is her Ex boyfriend… I might
have the as semblance of a little crush. Uhg. I hate admitting this, even
to myself. Grown women are not to have crushes, especially with the
Commander of the ship on which they are stationed. I now believe
Nima has taken it upon herself to try and make me feel as
uncomfortable as possible around him… Including getting me to go to
his dinner.

        We’ve all been assigned our various seats and now have to wait
out the incubation period for the food before we can consume. While I
was under the impression the focus on the evening would be discussion,
this was given falsely. This means a movie. Christ! Nima must have
known. At least there are a lot of people here and the movie, a classic is
innocent enough. Actually- there are too many people here, and I really
don’t know many of them.
        Ares’ crew is a little strange. An eclectic group which includes
not only Darby, Nima, and Kevis but every tall and short, dark and pale
Tom and Jerry you could imagine. I am one of the few civilians on this
ship, and have always tried to keep tucked away lest I disturb the crew. I
know Ares has some brothers on board too, but in all these unknown
people I can’t pick out any family resemblance.

         There are more people here than there are seats by the screen,
so I settle on the floor in front of the couch where Nima is sitting. Ares
preps the movie and then moves back… sitting on the floor right next to
me. Why would the commander sit on the floor? I look around- sure
enough there isn’t really anywhere else he could sit. I beat down my
enthusiasm at his closeness- this is purely coincidental. The movie
progresses thru scenes and songs.

         While the movie might be innocent enough, on the other side of
Ares is a couple I don’t know who seem to be getting a lot closer every
minute or so. They started out with the girl sitting cross legged, and the
boy resting his head on her lap. By the first song I noticed her head bent
to his and their mouths interlocked. Before the 3rd gasp, Ares has leaned
over, tapping the woman on the shoulder letting them know they are
dismissed. I flush a little at the thought of them being ‘caught’ but it
doesn’t seem to bother them.

         Thru this, Ares seems to have shifted his body away from them
and by the end of the movie we are both in the same position; leaning
back with our hand out behind us supporting our weight, our hands are
a meer centimeter away from each others and on occasion his fingers
gently brush against mine has he readjusts his posture. Ah! The
electricity that touches brings. Rein it in Girl! He doesn’t even realize he
is doing this- He’s a Commander for Christ sakes! How could he be doing
this on purpose if he doesn’t even know you exist.




        Coe Brown Science Fair.

       I’m not in the science fair, I’m just “Science Security” we get a
badge and everything. Todd, being overly dramatic turned his into an
arm band. I’m hanging out next to the bleachers with him, Adam and
Glen.

         Its times like this when I’m glad I don’t date people I go to
school with. Most of the guys who ask me out are just dumb as rocks
and I like being able to have intelligent conversations with my friends. I
know I could say ‘no’ when they ask, but I don’t want to hurt their
feelings. That’s how I’m stuck dating Bob. What 18 year old would want
to be called ‘Bob’?

         The benefit, or downfall, of dating someone you don’t go to
school with is you don’t have to see them that often. This is great in the
case of Bob. He did come to the alumni basketball game with me- in
order to meet JoAnna. But that was a trek in itself. I had to drive all the
way out to his house to pick him up, and on the way to the game he
took me on a convoluted trek which leads to an old dirt road where he
was hoping I’d pull over to the side of the road so we could make out.
That didn’t last long. Even as I have butterflies in my stomach from his
hand touching mine I know this relationship isn’t going to last long.
JoAnna, confiding in me after the game, is not impressed… and she
usually likes everyone.

         Why is it all these guys who ask me out apparently think of
nothing other than getting in my pants? I mean, I’m around guys all day
and none of them want to get in my pants! Not that I’d consider dating
anyone I go to school with- that would infringe too much on my secret
split personality… and I value my ability to be completely different
between school and Rainbow too much.

          And then there’s Kevin. He goes to Coe-Brown but I can’t really
say we’ve dated, nor can I say we’re just friends. Sometimes I feel like
one of those rubber balls attached by elastic to a paddle. We keep just
smashing into each other, bruised by the force and then inevitably doing
it again.

        Bored just sitting here… The conversation has gone awry and
they are now discussing something I have no interest in. I stand up and
start walking through the rows of cardboard displays, potato batteries,
and a colorful parachute. I stop at the end of the row and spot Boy.

        My heart is racing. I close my eyes and try to steady my
breathing. Looking at him always does this to me. Why? I’m not sure.
He’s one of my closest friend’s ex-boyfriend. He goes to school with me.
He is completely off limits. His hair is shorter now than it was when I
first met him. He’s chopped it all off and often changes to colors to
depict his mood: green, blue, bleached, and once I even saw it silver.
He’s wearing a Metallica t-shirt underneath a dress shirt that doesn’t
look to be quiet the right size. He walks over as I open my eyes. Page is
with him, as usual and Andrew is only a stone’s throw away. Wonder
where Jotham is?

          Boy’s laughing and hands me something small. It’s circular,
transparent and slightly blue. I look at it confused before I realize it’s the
little seal from the inside of a soda bottle or a ‘cancerous blue dot’ as he
calls it. Oh great. He’s just given me cancer. He’s still laughing as he
looks at me and says “Oh come on… You know I love you.”

        And that was it.
        The Prom

        It’s my senior prom. I am surrounded by friends. I’m wearing
pink and have a feather boa. My date, Brandon, a friend from DeMolay
in Keene is wearing a basic suit and red converse sneakers… I love it.
He’s just as quirky as I am. I was really nervous about getting a date for
prom…. I didn’t want to have to go by myself and with Joanna’s 40 days
of no dating dare the only alternative I saw was to ask a friend. Of
course, now the 40 days are over and I should technically have taken
Tom, my apparent boyfriend… but I had already asked Brandon and
didn’t want to back out when he seemed so excited.

         Plus- Brandon is an incessant flirt and loves to tease, but is also
taken and not entirely straight either… those qualities make him a great
friend. He’s also 3 years older than me. To be honest I am a little
disappointed that Boy didn’t ask me. I can’t really blame him though- it
is my prom and I’ve been pretty clear about the fact I don’t date guys I
go to school with.

        Brandon and I have done the obligatory photos with the
parents, arriving a little late, photos at the door of the prom. We’ve
somehow ended up sitting at a table with Boy and Candy Moore… his
date. Brandon is incessantly flirting- but all of his attention isn’t entirely
directed at me, in part he’s flirting with Boy, who appears to be
completely oblivious. Oh man, this is amusing.

         Candy is off dancing which leaves me alone at the table
between the two guys. Their attention has come back to me and I can
feel both of their gazes I quickly start making jokes. Brandon is giving me
his sly smile… the kind that says he know something… I blush and Boy’s
smile expands infinitesimally. A little later on Boy asks me to dance.
Brandon just nods at me and promises me I should. We make our way
on the dance floor and awkwardly sway in remote time with the music. I
don’t think we said a word the entire time. Page yells across the dance
floor “It’s about time!” and I turn scarlet red. Then a thought occurs…
wait. Was he directing that at me or Boy?

         The rest of the night flies by and I found myself at the beach
with Brandon, Joanna, Patty, Kevin and Aaron. This is going to be the
parting for Brandon and I, as we girls are staying at Joanna’s for the
night- needing to be at the school by 5 am to leave for our class trip.
Before departing Brandon takes me aside by the steps to the sand. He
kisses me gently on the lips and says “It appears Tom has some
competition”. Quick to redirect I ask Brandon about his current
girlfriend. And then his sly smile reappears “I wasn’t referring about
me.”
        5/25/98 Girl is 18, Boy is 16

         I walk back over to the main building after graduation practice.
It’s a beautiful day out. My hair is back to reflecting light as its becoming
closer to its naturally dark brown color and no longer purple or black-
Figure I can’t be going away to a military school with purple hair.

         Kevin cuts me off as I ascend the steps emerging from the
tunnel, wrapping his harms around my waist and draws me in closer. I
miss being close to someone. I’m a little confused, I didn’t realize we
were back on this friendly of terms- I mean I thought he was dating
Danielle, and I haven’t seen him outside of school on a couple of weeks.
Sure I’ve given him a ride home, but Sony was always with us and he
hasn’t showed this much affection in a long time. Unless you count
massaging my hand affection?

        The last time we were this close was the day before he went too
far. When Madam Morin had that horrified expression on her face as
she took in the sudden outburst of violence and I could begin to feel the
tears well in my eyes. It was then I decided that maybe, just maybe
Kevin and I should not be that close.

          I guess I couldn’t say I blame him. He had just discovered that
after beating Joanna’s dare, that I not date anyone (which really was
difficult for me… I was always dating at least one person with another
person as a ‘close’ friend and that person was usually Kevin,) that after
beating that dare I had been asked out by Tom and said yes. I don’t
know why I said yes. I mean I like Tom and all- as a friend, but not like
that. I just didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

          I guess Kevin had thought after the dare had ended I would be
his. I’m not sure why, He knows I don’t date guys I go to school with, but
then again we can’t really say we’re just friends. Even during that 40
day hiatus he had me convinced that making out did not constitute
dating, although I don’t know if JoAnna would agree with that
distinction.

          This brings me back to this moment, with his arms wrapped
around me tightly and his lips pressed gently to my neck. He knows I’m
still dating Tom, but that doesn’t seem to faze him for the moment. I
am completely flabbergasted.

       “You know I love you, right?” He says it with an air of both calm
and panic. Confused, I only open my mouth slightly to exhale… I don’t
have anything to say in response.

         “Just say you won’t leave me?” The pretenses of calm have
flown out the window and the boy who is wrapped tightly around me
pulls his face away from mine so I can see the panic in his eyes.
         “I’ll always be here for you…” I try to say the words as smoothly
as possible, knowing at any minute he could snap into sorrow or hatred.
“But I got to go to my locker quickly.”

         He slowly loosens his grip and I take a step back from his
embrace then walk up the short hill. I glance back to see him waiting at
the top of the steps to the tunnel, one hand on the handrail, looking
back at me with an expression of sorrow. Like he was attending my
funeral looking into an open casket. This gives me chills and I move
quickly up the hill toward the front doors.

         Page, Jotham, Andy and Jason are playing hacky sack now that
the buses are gone. I spot Boy leaning against the railing and my heart
immediately races. He spots me, smiles questioningly and takes a few
steps in my direction. My breath hitches for a second as I’m sure I’m
imagining this… he’s really not smiling at me, is he?

        “Hey Girl?”

        “Hi”

       “Um… I was wondering.” He pauses to take a deep breath. “Do
you want to go out for dinner with me on Sunday?”

         I must be imagining this. I’m dumbstruck. He is so confidant,
there’s little question in his voice. How he manages it I don’t know.
Most boys his age only mumble thru the motions- but he’s got it down
to a science. No question about what we’ll do, or when... Not a “Want
to go out sometime” or “we’re all going to the movies, want to come?”

        For once my inability to say no is a benefit, as I don’t want to
say no- but can’t manage a complete sentence. “Sure” As the word
leaves my mouth I feel a Cheshire cat grin spread across my face.
Contain yourself Girl!

       “Cool, we’ll say 5 o’clock? We can talk about it at your
graduation party.”

        “Sounds good” is all I can manage. Between him and Kevin I
could probably have a heart attack today. Kevin must have known. How
am I ever going to manage to get thru the graduation party? Oh Crap,
the graduation party! Tom is going to be there- Tom who I have not yet
managed to break up with. I’ll have to face the music eventually, but
right now I’m just on cloud nine. He actually asked me out.

        I quickly turn around and walk back down the hill to my car. I’ve
given up on going to my locker as soon as I hear Page giggling like a
school girl. Page has been ‘working’ on this for a long time. I’m sure
they are going to give Boy a hard time as soon as I’ve disappeared and if
I went to my locker I would only reappear to have the tides turned on
me.

        Sony meets up with me halfway to the truck and asks what just
happened. I can’t even manage a complete sentence to tell her. All I
can do is think about the next week, graduation, the party, and the
date.

       And that was it.
        5/28/98

        Girl’s graduation party in her back yard.

         The party has been interesting so far. It’s kind of worked out
nicely. The day started early- with friends and family coming at noon.
My parents have really gone all out for this. I think there still just
amazed that not only did I graduate- but I’m also putting myself in a
regimented school. What teenager decided on their own to go to a
military school? Honestly! The day is filled with Sparkling cider for me
and my closest friends to toast with, burgers and hotdogs, volleyball,
and of course- Jello Twister.

         Tom got here right at noon. I thought this would make me a
little panicky- but I still can’t manage to break it off with him. What’s
awkward is that even though we are supposedly ‘dating’ it still more like
hanging out with a good friend. Joanna is getting a big kick out of this-
seeing how I tried setting the two of them up no less than a year ago.
Boy won’t be here until tonight, he has to work at Johnson’s Dairy bar-
but he said he’ll be here as soon as his 5pm shift ends. All I can do is
pray and try not to panic. I know Tom has to leave around 5. He has a
family obligation tonight, that and I don’t think his parents are too keen
on letting him stay overnight at his supposed girlfriends… no matter if
there is adult supervision.
        5/29/98

        Sony and I are out in Rochester to get an outfit for my big date
tonight. I’m so nervous and giggly, but that could have something to do
with the lack of sleep. The guys didn’t leave until about 8 this morning
and then we both crashed sideways on the bottom bunk in my
bedroom.

        I’m not sure who woke up first, but the minute I noticed it was
now noon I realized time was moving too quickly. The air was warm but
the wind whipped quickly turning any exposed skin slightly into
gooseflesh. We managed to reach town, find an outfit (jeans and a new
striped shirt), and be headed back home with plenty of time to spare.
Sony was going to help me get ready and then I’d drop her off at her
house on my way to meet Boy at his.

        We’re in the car halfway not even outside of Rochester when
we hear a familiar high pitched screeching sound from the radio. We
both stare at it blankly- they don’t normally run tests during the middle
of the day do they? All the air of excitement rushes out of me as I listen
to the prerecorded message dooming my excitement for the day
“Tornado warnings for Strafford and Rockingham County. Please be
advised….” I groan, deflated for the moment.

        Of course. I’d have to cancel my first date with Boy… because of
tornados… In New Hampshire. I smirked a little at the idea. At least it
was interesting.

        And that was it.




         The month moved by at a slow and steady pace. I didn’t mind, it
would only be another couple of weeks before I would have to depart
for my self-imposed prison, an exile from all that has become familiar.
Abban and I spent the nights together until 2 in the morning, and the
usually separated to our recollections during the day.

         Always amused at our ‘interactions’; by our second ‘date’ we
had hugged, although we remember complete lives consumed in each
other’s arms. by the third, watching a film (not considered a date by his
account) we were holding hands. I remember the fourth date, in which
escorting me to my berth I was promptly rewarded with a kiss on the
cheek when in my most recent recollection we had given birth to a
child. What was amusing was the times where we weren’t alone. In
those times, the times with Graydon and Basil, it was like a lifetime of
banter was already had.
       I remember a talk Graydon and Basil insisted on having one day.
Abban was stuck with guard duty and the 3 of us had decided to go
torment him. As we’re sitting in the corridor, awaiting his round,
Graydon finally broke the silence with “You know I guess I’m okay with
you and Abban dating” he smirked.

        Without hesitation Basil agreed “Yeah… but you’ve got to make
time for us too…”

         I nearly fell over laughing. Here were some of my friends, my
dear friends over all my lives, attempting to make custody
arrangements over me. But that was exactly what we did. They agreed I
was ‘allowed’ to date Abban (as if that wasn’t what we had been doing)
as long as I promised to spend time with them, with Abban not around…
I hadn’t realized that that time with them was lacking until they brought
it up. As I was sure the reciprocal was happening, I gladly agreed and we
departed on our first ‘mandated’ outing without Abban- a trip to the
ship’s garden.

        The second mandated outing was well planned. It was a
Teacher’s presentation. We spent the morning horsing around the
berth, mostly banter, and then walked up two flights to the auditorium.
We sat in the back, murmuring to each other our thoughts and riddles
The whole day was hilariously entertaining and for once I was back to
being just one of these guys.

          What made the day over the top hilarious was the moment I
realized how serious Basil and Graydon were about this shared custody
thing. See, the thing about Teacher’s presentations is that the whole
ship is in attendance. We saw their Teacher, the cook, all the guests…
and of course Abban, Starling and Jonah.

         This was not part of their plan... We weren’t even close enough
to talk, but the minute Graydon spied him, he and Basil being on either
side of me, quickly turned me around so we would head in the opposite
direction. I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh; Abban had a look of utter
confusion on his face. We were avoiding him? I could only manage to
turn around and mouth the words “I’m sorry”.

         The remainder of the day progressed in this manner, a manner
of total Abban avoidance until finally we walked back to their berth. I
don’t think Abban ever asked for an explanation, I’m not sure if Graydon
or Basil ever gave him one… but I know that was the last mandated
outing we had without Abban.
        The next month wore on quickly and the explanation of our
lives was just around the bend. Not wanting to let the past effect our
present he constantly surprises me with affection when he knows the
recollection must have been the hardest. Session after session
experiencing life as weak and pitiful creatures I would come to my berth
finding him waiting to just hold me.



        Tonight was no different. I open the door to find him relaxed on
the floor of my room, a bottle of wine and tray of unusual fruit laid out
before him. “What’s this?” I ask.

        With a sheepish grin he responds “just because.”

         So here we are, several hours later… I never had someone do
something like this for me without me knowing, I am amazed every time
he pulls it off.

         Relaxing on the floor lying against him feels as much like peace
as I’m going to have for a while. We aren’t the only ones on this ship,
but he’s the only one who matters to me in this moment. Ever goofing
off, he takes a piece of the fruit and dangles it from his mouth. No time
like the present… I lean in closer and grab the other end of the sweet
berry between my teeth inching closer until my lips tingle as they gently
graze his; our first kiss. Its slow, gently, silly and closely followed by a
second- albeit without a prop. It’s taken nearly 2 months but we are
now kissing on the floor like the young adults we are.

        Things accelerate quickly as our lips are locked and other parts
of our bodies are moving together- caressing, intertwining… and
suddenly a voice sounds from the hall... A throat clearing. Abban quickly
moves back away from me only a fraction… “Abban… This is the voice of
God” Basil puts on his most booming voice “Put that back…” I can’t help
but giggle. With an impish grin Abban says “okay” while he slides his
hand slowly up to my left side and closes in to resume kissing.



        The separation

         By the time I left for school those lines must have been made
out of steel. I honestly do not remember saying goodbye. I do not
remember the last time I saw him before I left nor what was said. We
never talked about it- no discussion just left open and painful for me as I
departed. I would miss him.

        I could have made it easier. I could have forced a conversation,
could have forced us to divide or make it less formal- but I didn’t want
that. With all that was changing in my life I wanted there to be one
thing I could count on, one thing to look forward to. Boy loved me and
at the end of the day at the end of the month I could think of him, call
him, email him and know he would be thinking of me.




        The first visit



        The Choice



        The plays



        The birthday concert



        The note



        If there was ever a way to spend the moments before an
eminent apocalypses it would be in the company of your devoted
boyfriend and sadistic ex. That’s right… Kevis is here at Ares’ quarters
with the rest of the crew to ‘celebrate’ the potential end. If I said my
pulse didn’t quicken when he appeared at the door I’d be lying- but it
was more out of anxiety and not due to some oppressed feelings. I
know that was what he was hoping for, that being in his presence would
bring back the feelings- but it didn’t.

        It was public knowledge that Ares was throwing the party
tonight- it was an open invitation. I shouldn’t have been surprised when
Blake came either, Kevis’ closest friend, but with all that had transpired
between Kevis, myself and Ares, I was.

        While I was away on planet, learning to be a good member of
the crew, amused at how adult college made me feel, Ares as well as
Darby had turned slightly protective. I didn’t realize this was
happening- I mean, I’m over 4,000 miles away and in my own mind I
don’t need protecting.
         I probably wouldn’t have known anything about it if it weren’t
for Nima recounting occurrences when she had a chance. Of course,
these tattles I’m sure were romanticized for my benefit, but I’d never
had a chance to judge their accuracy because they were simply
something Ares did not talk about. Darby would voice his frustration
about situations, but would never go into details.

         Piece by piece I’d find out about rumors spread about me-
possible true or not, Kevis confidently claiming my return to him was
inevitable- like a possession, and then the potential for a fight. I don’t
think it ever got to a fight, I don’t think Ares even ever raised his voice,
honestly- I can’t even imagine Ares acknowledging any of these claims…
He was the commander. He’s always so put together in situations like
this, so confidant.

        Here we are… 10 seconds till the time, after a relatively peaceful
evening. The countdown starts, Ares leans in as we approach 6 and
doesn’t wait to reach 0 before molding our lips into one. I immerge
after several dizzying seconds later to notice the look of broken resolve
from across the room. It’s at that point I know what ever battle was
brewing between them is done even if our lives do not end. Ares has
made it apparent I won’t be returned and Kevis has lost his hope.
Unfortunately the countdown continues and we are all peacefully
finished.




        2/10/2000

         Lying back against the cold hard stage, eyes closed while Joey
plays Pachabel’s cannon on the baby grand piano in the auditorium.
We’re supposed to be practicing our lines- but in truth we’ve both had
them memorized for weeks now. We, as the best part of the Maine
Maritime Academy Drama club have the leading roles in California Suite.
I play Diane a British actress going to an awards show and Joe plays my
affectionate but very gay husband. The show is complete with me
‘drunk’ in my lingerie, Joe in my real pajamas, and a kiss (which we
always skipped over in rehearsals.)

         Joe has a story as to how he came to Maine Maritime Academy;
He’s a part time student and has an undeclared major. This is funny-
because undeclared is not allowed at MMA, but he manages it. See-
Joe’s dad is a Marine Biology professor, and as such Joe can take classes
at MMA for free. He was going to a different school, learning ship
building, but he realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do and now he
is taking a year to figure out what exactly it is he wants to do. Like an
eccentric tornado he’s torn through this school- making friends
everywhere in his wake, playing soccer- acting, studying, drinking.

          This is just what we do now… hang out near this empty stage…
talk, joke… usually just the two of us. If there was ever a fear of me
betraying my boyfriend it would be now. No- it’s not really like that, I
mean Joe doesn’t think of me like that. He’s just a friend. But if there
was ever a person to have a crush on it would be Joe. He is the epitome
of ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’, with shoulder length hair that remotely
reminds me of Boy when I first met him. There isn’t a single girl in this
school (all 80 of us) who doesn’t think so.

         Unfortunately Joe isn’t the only guy in this school. Over the past
year I have discovered that it doesn’t matter how many times you
mutter the word ‘boyfriend’ when your presence consists of 2% of your
genders presence in the school. It scared me at first, and then thrilled
me. I’ve felt every emotion from tempted to guilty and have finally
settled on weary. Weary because I never seem to realize a guy’s
intentions until it is too late, until the kiss is initiated or the touch
becomes too intimate.

        Maybe I could blame this on the guy, maybe I’m just too naïve
or maybe- I don’t know- maybe subconsciously I’m missing the
closeness. Some guys are relentless- waiting for me in my room,
creating opportune scenarios and I’m always too oblivious.

         I know- you think after the first time this happened (with a guy
named ‘crash’ of all things) that I would realize… but there are the good
guys, the guys who truly are just trying to be good friends. The guys like
Hamm, who I can hang out and relax around- study until 2 in the
morning before finals, and talk cars. Heck- I’ve even gone to the
shooting range with Hamm. I thought he was scary at first, but he’s
proven me wrong.

         “You should break up with your boyfriend.” What? Joe is still
gliding his fingers over the ivory keys, not even missing a beat. Did he
really just say that? “I mean, you don’t seem to have anything in
common.”

         “I know…” I want to tell him he’s wrong- but at this point I don’t
think he is. I don’t know why we are still together, we just are. Christ,
I’m in college and dating a high school student- how different can you
get? Part of me wants that to end, want the anchor line to snap but part
of me is afraid of what that would mean.

         I had planned on leaving ‘home’ behind after I left Strafford,
with no need to return. Here I was a year and a half later and some
home I was tethered to that place. I wanted to resent it. I wanted to
travel around the world, free, but even if I did a piece of my mind was
wondering what he was doing right then as it always was while I was at
school.

        Joe breaks up the somber atmosphere by quickly switching to
playing “Piano Man” and singing the words out for me. Two more
weeks until showtime. Two weeks until Boy will be up to visit for the
weekend. Just two more weeks of hell and temptation. Just two more
weeks.

        Chinese Restaurant

        It’s been a long day. Joe and I are sitting at a Chinese restaurant
in Old Town eating a celebratory lunch after having just both passed our
EMT practical exam. It was a grueling 4 hours of assessing, bandaging,
and necessitating starting at 6 in the morning. Now that it’s over I’m
kind of proud of myself- but more frustrated.

        “Girl, your upset… what’s going on?” Crap… he’s noticed. Why
can’t he be oblivious like Boy.

        “hmmm…”

       That does it… I get the mockingly stern “Girl” from him which
means he’s not going to give up so easily. There’s is no point in evading
him now.

        “It’s just Boy…”

         “Oh.” He says it like it explains everything, and I guess in a way
it does. Joe still hasn’t changed his opinion on this matter, even after
meeting briefly on a few occasions.

        “He took me to this party last night, at some of his friend’s
apartment and they were just grotesque. He was drinking, flirting with
other girls, I mean- there was even ‘girls gone wild’ on the TV. It just
wasn’t what I expected.” Joe raises one eyebrow as if to say ‘what did
you expect’, him apparently knowing college boys a whole lot better
than me- then again he is one. “He practically ignored me the entire
night and then got mad when I said I had to leave… Christ it was 1 in the
morning and we had this exam today!” I’m livid now remembering it.

        “You already know what I think.” See, that’s the great thing
about Joe- He’s not going to try to beat the same message into my brain
over and over. “But it’ll all work out- don’t worry. Plus… you just passed
the practical exam- only one more test to go.” Diverting, of course, it
was welcome. We start talking about what will be on the written exam
and study over the remainder of our lunch. I’m much more calm by the
time he drops me off at my apartment and looking forward to seeing
Boy tonight.
        University of Maine

          It’s been a year since I’ve enrolled in a class, socialized with
other students, or lived in a dorm. Here I am, going thru orientation-
just like I’m a freshman. Of course I’m not a freshman, not even close-
I’m jumping into this school some hybrid of a sophomore and Junior.
That is I have completed all of the electives I will ever need, I only have
the courses of my major to complete in order to graduate- and I am
going to attempt to do that in 2 and a half years. I know, its crazy. The
entire curriculum for new media is geared around requirements of
having one class before the other and this semester I could only manage
to get into one class… but I want this. There is nothing I have found
more exciting than the code, design and creativity that goes into the
field of New Media. What’s funny is that while helping me research this
new major at the University of Maine, Boy seems to have found a
passion for it to… He switched majors already.

        So here I am at orientation at my new college, the same college
that Boy attends, in the same major as him. Oh- did I mention he’s also
managed it that instead of living in a dorm or off campus I’m renting a
room in his fraternity’s house? Yeah… kinda funny. Its great though- it’s
a private room with internet, cheaper than the dorms and we even have
our own cook. Boy has been so supportive and helpful this past year. I
don’t think anyone expected me to go back to college, but I don’t think I
could allow myself not to.

        Orientation has lead us to the blank and essentially left us there
to fend for ourselves. It’s a brand new building with a food court
complete with sandwiches, taco bell, pizza and a salad bar. Lunch is all
ready back at the house, so I’m just going to head back there… that is if I
can find my way. I head down a ramp to the direction of what I think is
the main entrance, eyes down the entire way… I’m always nervous
around new people in new places.

        I feel two hands on my shoulders at the same time I see a pair
of boots in front of me. I freeze. The hands release my shoulder’s to
come closer and envelope me in a hug. As my mind things that wasn’t
what I expected. I hear from a familiar voice excitedly ask “What are you
doing here?” I feel myself instantly relax as I look up to see Joe with the
biggest smile I have ever seen.

         “I’m ahh…” for some reason I can’t manage a sentence. Wait?
Boy didn’t tell him? Ironically- Boy and Joe have become friends since
Joe transferred over a year ago. Joe even now belongs to the same
fraternity as Boy. Maybe part of that friendship involves not talking
about me? In some ways I think Joe might know as much about me as
Boy- just not in an intimate way.

         He takes in my look… studious clothing, backpack… the
excitement kicks up a notch “You’re coming here! You’ve transferred!”
Really, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Joe so excited. I still can’t manage a
complete thought so I just nod. That’s when I notice we’re not alone.
Joe has two people standing to his side, girls of course- when is Joe not
followed by girls. “What are you up to right now? Orientation?”

        Finally a question that I’d have to answer with words. “Just
finished. I was going to head back to the house for lunch.”

       “You’re living at the house?” honestly… Boy told him nothing?
“Let me give you a ride”

        I quickly want to dismiss him and say no it’s okay, but before I
get the chance he is excusing himself from his friends and guiding me
thru the building. Well to be honest it would be nice not getting lost,
and spending time with Joe is exactly what I need right now to relax a
little.

         He still has the same crazy crappy Cadillac, with a few minor
hacked adjustments- like a wire cable holding the hood down. I smirk
remembering this car. We talk the entire way while he’s driving across
the campus back to the fraternity house. He wants to know everything
that is going on; what my major is, what classes I’m taking, what room I
have in the house. I even manage to sneak a few of my own inquisitions
in to find he’s working for the ambulance on campus, is now majoring in
mathematics and doesn’t live in the house. Darn it- Would have been
nice to have at least one more friend in the house. He drops me off at
the back of the building and heads back to campus with the promise to
see me soon. I exhale a little more relaxed than I was a few hours
before; new school, new people but the same Joe. It’ll be nice to have
Joe here.



         All I can feel is the electric charge, the tingling sensation as the
skin of his lips gently graze across mine. Softly, as light as the touch of a
ghost and I wonder if it is real. These are the moments I long for- all
other senses removed from me no other touches to interfere just his
lips on mine, there is no light from which we can see, his tongue on
mine. His smell is taste invading my senses. There was no reason for this
brief interlude but I’m grateful for it- grateful for every reminder of our
connection.

        ----
        And that was it… Like gravity our lives were destined to be
intertwined. No matter the choice made all paths have led us together.
Until that day.

        Every time I look at our son I think of him.

        When Mannix was 3 He went to school the other day and told
me about his girlfriend. I asked him how he knew it was his girlfriend
and he said because he gave her a cup of rocks…and that was it.



         I had the strangest dream last night. We went to the hospital to
visit Andy and Ashley and their new baby and while we were there a
nurse came to me and told me it was time. They took me to a delivery
room which had a woman I couldn’t see in it. And a baby was born and
handed to me. “Of course it’s a boy” was all I could say and next thing I
know he is in my arms for weeks. But everyone was calling him the
wrong name… Or rather the write name but with the wrong
pronunciation. It was Regulus but they were pronouncing it Regus. And I
said No like harry potter but even then they wouldn’t say it right.

         But then I was thinking –no… that’s not the right name either,
but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what the name was to be.
And so we had a second son…. But I was all panicky because I wasn’t
prepared…. It was a shock, unexpected and we weren’t ready- again.




         Fiery, Red-headed beauty… that’s what I see across the room.
And deep in my belly I’ve got that all familiar feeling. She belongs to me.
It’s her. Observation is a strong skill of mine, it has to be when you’re
the captain of a pirate ship- no matter how small so I sit and observe
her from here. She’s with a man, a known snitch to the governor but
she seems as disgusted by him as the rest of us. He notices me, leans in
and reaches down with a hand to cradle her hips, staking a claim and
she very graciously reaches down below the equator and grasps his
bollocks with such force that has him doubled over on the ground.
          I can’t help but burst into laughter with half the room at her
mutinous actions. She is clearly telling that bloke she belongs to no one.
I am going to have to adjust me feelings no matter how apparent they
are. I glance to the left and right picking out the sources of laughter, all
eyeing this beauty… her names is whispered throughout the crowd:
Anne Bonny. Apparently she has a lot more than just my attentions,
should make this interesting.

          She storms across the room and out the door into the alley
which serves as the entrance for this and several other bars. I quickly
slide out of my seat and sidle to the door before turning to give an eye
to all before slipping thru. She is about halfway to one of Pierre’s
establishments before I have a chance to greet her.

         I make my voice low and gravely.“Ahoy there Anne”. She spins
to face me still several paces away with a knife already quick pulled
from beneath her skirts. Ah, yes. Fiery, I smirk. I can tell by the spark in
her eyes and confused look on her face that she can feel it to. And then
it clicked she knows me too.



         My mother said I was born angry and haven’t let go of that
anger since. I cannot deny that, my temper always gets the best of me.
It was the reason I stabbed the servant girl when I was 13, the reason I
defied my father marrying the lowly sailor named James Bonny and oh
how I regret that particular anger. I should have known his affections
were for the dowry and not the figure in the dress. The moment my
father disowned me for my elopement James’ tenderness took a more
tenacious and torturous touch. Leaving me bruised, ashamed and even
more angry.

        Anger is the only emotion I readily feel above all else… until he
found me in that alley. At first I was furious, as expected- no one tries to
sneak up on me, but then I locked eyes with him and the anger
dissipated and was replaced with a sense of longing and something
else…

        Ever since that night we have met in secret , whenever he is in
port, which is fairly easy to do given my friend Pierre and the fact that
the King has granted pardon to all pirates. I believe Pierre himself might
be smitten with Calico Jack. Of course meeting in one of Pierre’s
establishments means tarnish to my reputation- but it does little to
affect me and more to my traitorous husband.

          Pierre would always keeps the best room set aside for us, dimly
lit with candles, red velvet drapes, and a large canopy bed covered in
red. He always was a sucker for romance and he confided in me he
believes this romance to be tied with that of Romeo and Juliet, if not
more scandalous. If only he knew.

       Pierre would greet Jack with pleasantries when he arrived
escorted him to the room, who then patiently awaited my arrival. Pierre
escorted me to the door of them room but then came no farther and
reminded me to lock the door lest we be disturbed.

         What awaited me on the other side brings a smile to my face
and I feel lighter immediately in his presence. Jack pulls me quickly into
his arms and gently kisses from the peak of my hair down to my chin,
trailing kisses over both cheeks and my nose. He then recants tails of
adventures and longing since our last time together. We continue like
this for hours, me safe in his arms, him telling tales locked together as if
we could only find peace in this way. Never once did he try to make me
a dishonest woman, although being in his presence like this one could
only assume- as Pierre did.

        It was only one dreadful night when all went awry. We had
become so comfortable here. It had been 4 days since we both left the
confines of this room and time was running short. Jack’s ship was
preparing to depart in less than one day’s time.

        Pierre was kind enough to send food up for us and Jack was very
gracious with the coin he tossed his way. A late dinner was sent up on
beautiful silver- a true feast. I moved the platters to our modest table
and went to sit down for across the table from him, before I could walk
past he snaked an arm around my waist cradled my hip and brought me
down onto his lap. He quickly brought his lips crashing into mine
murmuring his affections. It was at that very moment that I realized I
had not heeded Pierre’s obligatory warning because it was at that very
moment the door came crashing open to reveal James, my husband
storming on the other side.

          Jack was quick to his feet and pulling me behind him. I couldn’t
help the rage I felt at that action and quickly stepped away… I was not
some damsel in need of rescue. Jack turned his head at my movement
and I can see the hurt in his eyes as he interprets my action. I want to
tell he didn’t understand but my voice was stuck in my throat. Better
not to say anything anyway.

         James took two steps into the room and fixed me with a glare.
“This is how you repay me? I take you when no one else will have you….
I rescue you from certain death… even when there is nothing to be
gained and this is what you do to me?”

        Jack looks at his foe with a slight tilt to his head; sizing him up,
he taking a few steps closer. James shifts his glare. “She is mine… She is
wed to me… She belongs to me!” With that he lunges past Jack and
quickly snatches my forearm pulling me towards him and towards the
door as Pierre comes running in. Jack looks at me appalled- clearly
confused how James could be so cowardly to grab me instead of fight
him. Then he is panicked, reaching for me, before I find my voice.

        “No” I tell him. Trying to keep my voice from breaking I say
“Don’t… We knew it wouldn’t end well…” and with James has pulled me
out the door and down the hall. Turning me to face way from him while
his grasp still tight on my arm, now pressed behind my back he clutches
my hair and uses that to direct my steps outside the building.

        Walking quickly I stumble a few times only to have him yank me
up quickly by the roots with a sneer on his face. “You are mine!”

         Once again my temper rears like a vipers strike “You couldn’t
keep me happy if there was a mast between your legs!” And with that
he releases me and I fall to the ground with more force than that of just
gravity. He strikes me with the back side of his hand across my left
cheek.

        “Keep you happy? Who said anything about your happiness? I
could care less about your happiness…But I will keep you.”

        He is rambling.. His temper always gets the best of him when
he’s been shamed, and I’m guessing by this tirade means the Governor
is aware of his darling wife’s associations.

        “You won’t. I refuse to stay with someone so traitorous and
black-hearted!”

       “We’ll see what the Governor says about that!” pulling me back
on my feet his hand circles my wrist and dragged me in the direction of
the Governor’s house.



         He couldn’t have anticipated that I, a lowly pirate captain,
would do something so clever. No. He didn’t and I could tell the
moment he was led thru the door by a maid. Governor Rogers and I had
both hear his pounding knocks and the Governor gave me a clearly
apologetic look as James Bonny entered the room. He still had Anne
firmly in his grasp and I ached to tenderly attend to her bruising wrists. I
glanced from her arms up her body to her face. I couldn’t help the growl
that sprung from the back of my throat. Her left cheek was swollen and
oozing while the corner of her mouth still bled freely. I clenched my fists
at my side to keep myself from moving.
         The Governor seems attuned to the hostility in the air and did
his best to diplomatically smooth it over. “Ah, James Bonny. We were
expecting you.”

        He shoots a glance between the Governor and myself “Indeed,
it appears you were, Governor Rogers.”

       “We were just discussing your predicament and I believe Jack
Rackham has a proposal for you to consider.” Again always the
diplomat, he ignores the snort James emits at that word ‘proposal’.

        Speaking thru his teeth, in a way I find very familiar, he release
Anne and she tumbled to the floor. “I was just bringing Anne here to
serve her punishment and be flogged for her adulterous ways.” He spits
the word at her face like it itself could hurt.

         I speak before the Governor can answer. “If I may interject. If
you would allow me to buy Anne in a divorce from you and can see that
you will be well compensated for your … your humiliation.” From the
corner of my eye I see Anne scramble to her feet and pulling at my
jacket so I am facing her before I can persuade the conversation any
further.

        “How could you?” She locked me in a stare with the pain in her
eyes.

        I whisper to her softly, pleading her to understand. My fingers
find their way tangled into my hair, a subconscious action “It’s the only
way I keep you from getting hurt” I correct myself after a glance at her
cheek…”Getting hurt even more.”

       Setting her jaw tightly she tries to control her rage I was hoping
would not come. “I will not be bought and sold like cattle!”

        This time I speak with a little more authority but just as softly
“There is nothing else I can do. Either he allows me to buy your divorce
or I become a criminal once again… I cannot…” I fix my eyes on hers
once again. “I will not watch you be hurt because of me.”

       Still set she mumbled back. “So don’t watch.” She steps away
from me and fixes her eyes on the Governor. “I accept my punishment.”

        The Governor, clearly flustered by her words is abashed as to
what to do now. Here, he was thinking, we had a nice clean resolution
with no reason for the tails. Clearly he didn’t know my Anne very well
and clearly I had underestimated her stubbornness. “Well… It’s too late
to do anything about it now. We’ll have to wait till morning; no one is
awake at this hour.
      “If you pardon, Governor Rogers” I interject once again.
“Where is Anne to go right now?”

        Again, a stumper for the Governor. He scratches his wig and
then gives up when the itch gets the best of him and takes it off. Clearly
he does not work best after the dinner hour. “Well, yes… that is a
predicament. We could keep her in the brig if that would be agreeable”

        I sigh a little at the thought. The brig, however bad that option
may be it is clearly the best option for this predicament- those bars will
keep her safe until I have a chance. I only have a moment to breathe
easy before James’ next outburst.

        “It most certainly is not agreeable! She is my wife. She will be
coming home with me where she belongs and where she will remain.”
He moves his cold eyes from the Governor to me and with as much
venom as he can muster thru a clenched jaw mutters “And she will be
attending to her wifely duties.”

          The Governor clears his throat hands nervously picking at a
button on his jacket. “I do not presume to interfere with others marital
affairs. James… If you believe your house would be best.” Before he
could even finish the sentence James had a claw around the back of
Anne’s neck pushing her back out the door. She didn’t utter a sound just
moved stiffly as he directed her.

       The door slammed and I could not contain myself any longer.
“How could you let him just take her!”

         Slightly confused by my outburst the governor responds “What?
How could I let him? She is his Wife… The law states she is his property,
even if- as she stated- she would not be bought and sold like it.” Clearly
flustered once again about the predicament I can practically see the
gears turning in his mind. He looks on me with pity “There is nothing, I
mean- nothing I can legally do- even if I wanted to. She has tarnished his
reputations in her associations and she has broken one of the Ten
Commandments, this is above even me“

        “But… but she will be destroyed before you even have a chance
to glance at her at day break”

       “Now I don’t quite believe that… James Bonny has been loyal
and always a gentleman in all the time that I have known him.”

        “And by loyal you mean traitorous to his own kind”

       That gave him pause. “I will not deny, he has been employed in
my service and in that he has been loyal. Whatever he decides to do
tonight with his wife is between him and the lord. The law with not
intervene until morning.”

        Ah, at last- an opening. “I’ll hold you to that.”

           I turn to head toward the door and just as I reach the knob I
realize a fact I need to clarify. “Governor Rogers, since receiving the
King’s Pardon I have been proud to call Nassau home. I have tried to live
a civil life and have not broken any laws.”

        He attempted to interrupt “Ah, but what about Adul...”

       “Under god in heaven I have not broken any laws.” This gave
him pause. “I hope you remember this tomorrow when you see what
has come to pass. “



         It had been nearly an hour since we left the Governor’s house
and arrived at our own. I’d hardly call this my home as I never felt like
more than a slave to James Bonny. The first step I took through the door
I ended up on the floor after his hand came in contact with the back of
my skull. He immediately threw himself on top of me and roughly
attempted to lift my skirt, tearing it in the process, fixated on my ‘wifely
duties’. My struggle and his concentration made it only easier to grab
the foyer table leg which I then pulled down on top of his back. The
strike knocked him dizzy for a moment and I managed to pull away and
right myself in a defensive position- pulling the knife from beneath my
skirt. This was not the first time he had forced his way. He also
scrambled vertical but not before I had the knife pointed at his chest. I
eyed the only door out longingly – located directly behind his form.

        “Do not even think you will be walking out that door” he growls
at me. “Attempt it, and you will- in a wooden box.” He smirked as if he
would enjoy that solution.

         I hastily think through my options. Escape as stated was not
possible. I could easily kill him, which would cause even more problems
and imminently lead back to that wooden box. I could just allow him to
have his way but I doubted I could keep my temper as the pain from the
latest strike nearly had me seeing red.

         Ah! I could hide. I take two steps back and with my hand behind
by back I reach for the door to the kitchen. I step back thru and quickly
close the door behind me. Looking left and right I spy a mop which I
wedge between the wash basin and door to prevent the door from
opening. Taking a deep breath I reassess the room. That door- the one I
just jarred was the only entrance and exit from this room. There’s a
small port window, but not large enough for my foot let alone my hips.
Well, If I can’t get out at least I can prevent him from getting in. Hiking
up my skirt I start moving as much as I can against that door. First the
heavy wooden block table, then the chairs and finally some of the cast
iron pots for good measure.

         It’s a good thing the servants have all gone for the night. I can
only imagine what they would think of being trapped in here with me.
The thought has me laughing which quickly turns into hysterics... sobs
escape my throat before I can quiet them. I do not want to let him know
what power he has over me. What have I done? Has my stubbornness
truly divided me from the one I love and delivered me to a life of pain.
Silent sobs tear through my throat as I curl against the wall opposite the
door. Where is Jack? I try to keep my ears sharp to hear for any struggle
against my barricade. His attempt lasts only a mere 10 minutes before
he starts yelling profanities and promises in my direction. Quite a while
later I hear another pounding but coming from a more distant location-
certainly not my door. After a moment of silence the sound of wood
splintering is followed by the crunching of several feet.

        “Where is she?” my heart soars at that voice, a voice I would
recognize even from the depths of Davy Jones Locker. James is silent as
the grave. I hear an easily identifiable series of clicks- guns... several of
them being cocked ready to fire. Of course- he didn’t come sooner
because he did not come alone. “I said where is she?”

         I finally get a hold of myself, “Jack!” Scrambling to my feet, I
cross the room in one stride and attempt to disassemble my barricade
as swiftly as possible. Why does this chair seem so much heavier now?
Once only the table is left I tug and pull at it with little effect.

         Jack can hear my struggling. “Stand back!” I do as he says and
moments later hear that sound of wood grinding and cracking. The table
shifted 4 feet and the door is shredded to pieces. I scramble over the
table and throw myself through the opening directly into his arms.

         He holds me tight for a moment then moves me an arm’s length
away. Carefully examining each new bruise and cut, eyes settling on my
torn skirt and then back up to my tear stained cheek bones. He gently
cradles my face and with the pad of his thumbs wipes away the wetness
and with it any signs of weakness. “He didn’t …. He didn’t hurt you did
he?”

         “No.” I answer with a smirk “Not any more than I would allow.”
It is then I notice James still against the wall, Jack’s crew holding the
barrels of 5 loaded and ready guns fixed on his head. At that distance it
would be hard to miss.

        Grasping my waist Jack pulls me in close and whispers promises
to never let anything happen again and then tells me to pack my things,
but not the gowns “You’ll need nothing of dresses out to sea” he
promises. I return a short while longer with a modest carpet bag.

        He leads me to the door and motions for the crew to flank us.
“We have until morning to be out of port, I have the Governor’s word
on that.” He states, with a glint in his eye. “After that we shall be
outlaws once again.”

        “Wouldn’t have it any other way” a familiar gruff voice I’d come
to recognize as Old Dad the Cooper answered. With a canny wink in my
direction he concluded “She is definitely worth it.”



          I come to the present still gasping for breath with my heart
pounding. Graydon gently wipes my eyes with a handkerchief he pulled
from his trouser pocket before detaching the contraption. “I believe
this life might be a little too intense for just once session”

        “No argument here.” I catch my breath.




        --Anne and Jack’s consummation



        --The first child

          He made me leave the ship, my home. He said it was for my
own protection and the protection of our child. Jack already loves this
child desperately although I know he may never meet him, it is just not
destined to be. He made me leave my comfort, my home and for that I
am angry. Barely showing in the belly I was banished to an island, set up
in the house of friends to wait out months until the birth. I know if we
are ever to have another child I will try my best to conceal it a lot longer
if I can. He has no right to take me from my home, to take me from him.



        --Introduction of Mary Read … Starling’s revelation

        “Graydon was telling me about the past moments we’ve
shared… he and I.” I broach the topic lightly with Starling awaiting her
reaction.
        “ Truthfully, I think we all might have shared past moments with
you, but I cannot know for certain- I am not privy to all the other’s
moments, only my own and Jonah’s.”

         “Really?” I can’t contain the excitement in my voice, I have such
a warm affection to Starling even though I barely know her… perhaps
there is another reason. “Have we shared past moments?”

        “ah… Your sailing the seas with the contraption now right?”

        “Yes…”

        She smirks “Kind of the jealous type isn’t he?” With that I smile
broadly, knowing no matter what happens in the future I have found a
new true friend.



        -- The betrayal (fight, capture, quote, plead the belly) Bonny's
last words to the imprisoned Rackham were that she was "sorry to see
him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been
hang'd like a Dog."

        Pleading the belly…



        -- The rescue (Joseph Burleigh, sent by her father to collect her)

        Crew names to reference: John "Old Dad the Cooper" Fenwick,
was tried with Tom Brown (alias Bourn)

         I had a dream about Dave. He was at a theater and I was there
with Mannix. I lost him before the show even started and kept looking
for him. After the show was over I found him with the musicians and he
had Mannix with him although I was certain I had Mannix with me
during the show. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders pulling me
close and I wrapped my arms around his waist. “My Kelley” he mumbled
into my hair. “You know I would do anything for you.” It wasn’t a feeling
lust or being in love it was the feeling of true and honest brotherly
affection; protection, inspiration.

Somewhere near a resolution between Abban and Maya
Chapter

Apocalypse

Because he is bound to me in love, therefore will I deliver him; I will
protect him because he knows my Name. (Psalm 91)

I caught up with her before she reached the external port. Her back was
turned to me, silhouetting her form in the bright sunlight. “Where are
you going?” I reach for her arm but she steps out of my grasp.

“It’s not your job to save me.” She spoke vehemently. “That’s not your
place."

I scoff, in part from her response but also because she once again
avoided my question. “It is my responsibility. Can’t you see that?
Haven’t you been seeing that?” I plead with her “I need to save you.”

“No.” She turns to face me boldly and I can see the water in her eyes.
“Haven’t you learned anything? People can’t save people. They can only
forgive.”

I long to comfort for her; my arms straining to reach her. “If I’m not
supposed to save you what do you think I am supposed to do?”

She notices the pull and takes one hesitant step closer. “To love me.
Just that… Love me and forgive me for what I am about to do.”

The tension leaves my body as I wrap my arms securely around her
pulling her into safety. “But that’s not enough.” I mumble into her hair,
not intending for her to hear.

Of course, she misses nothing and she speaks stronger now, with
conviction. “It is. Don’t you see? You can’t save me. Besides, I was
already saved. He forgave me a long time ago, just as he has always
forgives. I am here because I have chosen to be, because I want to be, I
want to live because it matters… it matters to me- how ever unpleasant
the result.” He? I try to think back as to whose forgiveness she could
have been looking for; Graydon’s? Jonah’s? Certainly not mine.

We stay that way for a moment, wrapped up into each other, the way I
would always want to be, the way it has always intended to be, but in
the pit of my stomach I felt as if it would never be again. Her next words
made that feeling strike true. “Maybe I haven’t forgiven myself.”

She stepped out of my arms then to look up at me with resolve. “But
you… I told you, you can’t save me; but you can save yourself.” I take a
hesitant step closer, unwilling to allow the space, I rest my hand on her
arm lest she disappear before my eyes. “You don’t need to do this,
these lives… you didn’t choose to do this, you were choosing for
something else and for that I’m sorry.”

Her eyes bore into mine; trying to convey a message I do not
understand. “I want you to know, you don’t have to do this. You don’t
have to hold on to me. You can let go. You can move on. You have more
than earned it... I will understand, I do understand now and that’s
why…. Why I have to go.” She takes a bolder step away, threatening to
turn.

“No.” I spoke the word as quickly as I could, it came out angry.

She releases a pitiful laugh “What life are you in?” It’s torture to hear
the question. The question she has asked me so many times before in
moments so much warmer than this; moments of happiness. I have to
look away from her, but she can already see the tears in my eyes. Her
own steadily streaming down her cheeks.

“A life of nothing.” I murmur. “Nothing but wanting.”

She sighs heavily. “It won’t be much longer.” She pauses, taking another
step away, only an arm’s reach from the open port. “You could stop you
know. You don’t have to relive any more; you could save yourself from
grief. But I think, if you do continue it won’t be too much longer. I know
that much and then… Well, then you might understand.”

The thought of understanding brought me up short. It made me stiff,
too stiff to reach her before she crossed the threshold and whispered
her goodbye, too adamant to run after her as she bolted down the
gangplank and through the cargo crates lining the dock, disappearing
from my sight.

Graydon found me there, standing by the port, staring into oblivion, an
hour later. “I’m sorry.” He states bluntly, waking me from my thoughts.

“I don’t want you to be sorry. I want you to help me.”

He speaks quickly, stepping in front of my view blocking the port. He
firmly presses a hand into my chest as if to push me back. “I won’t let
you go after her.”

“I’m not going after her.” He seems confused, as if it were not possible
for me to have come up with any other solution. “I want to finish this. I
want to understand. Help me understand.”

He sighs in exasperation and leads me down the hall towards the stairs,
away from the port. We ascend a floor and he moves as if to lead me to
our berth. “No. Now. I want to understand now. I don’t want to rest, I
don’t want to eat. The only want I am feeling shouldn’t be and I need to
understand.” He sighs once again but only nods, his shoulders slumping.
We continue up the stairs to the Teaching floor and make our way into
my dark quiet meditation compartment.



I’ve lost track of time. I barely notice their presence; Graydon dispelled
by Basil, Basil by Starling, Starling by Jonah, and then back to Graydon
once again. It was a complete group effort; keeping watch over me. I’m
not sure how many times the cycle repeated. They spoke in hushed
tones and moved softly lest they disturb my recollection. I didn’t eat.
They didn’t interrupt. I would drift into sleep in the moment, letting the
want I was feeling slip through into my dreams, always bringing me to
her. I would wake and just continue, never stopping through countless
unmarked years - unmarked moments of nothing; nothing but desire. I
could tell I was encroaching on the end. The end of nothing wasn’t like
the end of a life. It wasn’t filled with being tired, or fear. It was filled
with a strange sense of hope, as if I could feel the demise, the
approaching rebirth and all that resounded was the possible end of
wanting; the hope of finding in the next life.

At this notion I was thrust out of recollections, blinking- my vision
cleared back into the cramped meditation compartment although I still
was consumed with longing. “Graydon” I groaned shooting him a glare
as he crouched by the contraption.

“I didn’t, Abban. You came back on your own.” He seemed just as
perplexed.

“Leave us.” Another voice answered; a tired, withered voice; the voice
of my teacher. My eyes shift to search out his form. He was seated by
the door, looking peacefully relaxed. I wonder how long he has been
here.

“How long was I out?” My voice comes out strangled; scratchy and dry
from disuse and thirst. He stands, holding a tray and takes a few steps
closer.

“Drink this.” He hands me a filled glass which I knock back without
preamble. “You have been recalling uninterrupted for 6 days.” He looks
at me sternly “You ought to be dead.”

The liquid disappeared quickly, only sating for a moment before my
mouth is parched again. I moan when the last drop passes through my
lips. Teacher reached, grasping my hand holding the glass steady and
produced a pitcher from somewhere on the floor out of my sight,
refilling the glass. I eagerly raised it to my lips once again, this time
savoring just a little more slowly. He chuckles at this. “Don’t worry. You
can have more.” I release a deep breath and feel myself relax ever so
slightly at the lack of thirst. “It would be unforgiveable for me to let you
continue without being nourished physically.” He placed the tray down
on my lap; Sandwiches. The first is in my stomach before I can even
recognize having taken a bite. It hurts to swallow, but I only realize the
pain after the throb in my stomach lessened. I quickly guzzle another
glass to sooth the hurt. “To keep the body in good health is a
duty... otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong
and clear.”

I can only scoff. “I didn’t realize I had been out for so long.”

“Yes, well.” He looks at me sadly. “I had a feeling you weren’t
really think much of this life, although you still need it. You are
so focused, Abban, on getting to the answers, getting to that
first life you were neglecting this one, not to mention torturing
your friends by making them witness.”

“I’m sorry.” I mumble, pausing from my feast.

“Without health life is not life; it is only a state of languor and
suffering.” He murmurs back. “I know, Abban. I know you are
suffering but it is not for nothing. She didn’t leave for nothing.
You have to know she wants better for you and I...” I close my
eyes briefly before he can continue.

“I don’t have to know, because I don’t understand. That’s what
this is about. I need to understand.”

“Do you think you will understand then?” His eyes gesture to
the contraption in the middle of the room.

“If there is only one more life it has to be it, where else could
the answers be?” My voice rises, unsteadily breaking, “Why do
we keep being tormented? Why can’t I save her?”

He smiles at that. “Such a heroic thought.” His hand reaches
shakily for my cheek “No one saves us but ourselves. No one
can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. You
want to continue?

“I want to finish.”

“We always get what we need.” He mused “But not always
what we want.”

“I need to continue.”

“Alright then.” He stood, crossing the small space to the
machine. “Please. Allow me to be the one to guide you.”
<!—the life of Adam -- >
Chapter

Absolution

What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst
of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris?
What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each other
in this flood?

          I have wandered for no more than a week. I thought it would be
difficult to disappear. That they would come after me. That he would
come after me the minute my feet hit the dock even though I pleaded
with him not to, but he didn’t. They didn’t and the day after I debarked,
the Great Western left port without me.

           It was a mixed feeling of elation and sorrow. Happy to be free;
free of the memories, of the expectations, of the obligations but also
sorry for the friends and family I can never return to again. I had only
spent such a short amount of time on that ship but it felt like a lifetime,
many lifetimes really, that I cannot soon forget. People I can never
forget; even as I try desperately to not forget myself. I have to abandon
all ties I have ever formed. I have to make a new life. But how can I
when I have just lived through so many?

        I left the city by foot after two days and headed east. I have no
idea where I am but the road seems well traveled. I’ve wandered
through small quaint villages greeted by smiling children, and dense
forests with nothing but the wind to fill my ears. A vehicle occasionally
drives by but I continue on my slow and steady pace. There always
seems to be a room where I can sleep at night and a meal passing
through my lips when I need it. It makes me think about the goodness of
people. Is it because of the Watchers we have such goodness?

         This life, it’s a choice. My choice. I could just go back to the
mountains to my parents or the city to recover history, but I don’t think
in either I would find any escape. In truth they never provided relief
before. With the knowledge I know now, I at least can understand, but
that doesn’t make it any easier and so I’ve wandered wracking my brain
for what to do next. What to do with the knowledge that I am the cause
of the first sin; the first guilt ever felt was mine. I expelled us from
Grace, I opened Pandora ’s Box on mankind. Is it better, now, that I
know?

           My mind is constantly going through the past and the present;
it’s still hard to keep it straight. I have to find a purpose. I have to make
this life interesting. I am currently Maya Nicholas and in this life I need
to stay.
         I hear the squawk of the gulls only minutes before the salty
breeze meets my face. I find myself entering a small town and just on
the other side is the sea. For some this lightens my tired steps. I head
straight for it finding a small beach only a stone’s throw from a small
water dock, where there is a single strangle looking vessel and its crew
is meandering almost as aimlessly as me. I try to make out more details
about the ship but the majority of it, including its name, is obscured
from view.

         For a moment I wonder what town I am in. I purposely avoid
reading signs as I enter and usually avoid noting many details from place
to place, so my curiosity has peaked my own interest. I glance back to
the town, as with the other towns I cannot place a single distinguishing
quality. Just like this life is destined to become; forgettable among all
the many. There is no rest for my soul; it lives and dies and immediately
is born again into another forgettable life. There is no break in heaven
for me. There is no end to reach.

         I shed my shoes. My bare feet quickly make it into the water.
I’m careful to lift my skirt, keeping my only garments dry. I’m amazed at
how well they have kept up over the week. The salt stings but in that
feeling I am at ease. In my mind I hear a mechanical chirp and it
immediately brings me back to watching the Sparrow in the library. I
glance around looking for the source but the soft clinking of metal wings
seems in fast retreat. Was the Sparrow meant to look for me?

        I try to dismiss the thought. They already found me, they gave
me knowledge and now their purpose with me is complete; their
purpose, where mine has not yet been found. I might not yet have a
purpose but at least I can find comfort in the sea. The waves gently
splash up to my knees. The sun is just about to set over the peaceful
town so I turn my gaze back at it.

        A figure emerges onto the beach. The man, I believe, blocks my
view only a mere couple of feet from me. I cannot make out his features
because he is silhouetted by the setting sun but there is something
about his shape that seems so recognizable to me. I’m sure he can easily
read the confusion in my face. And then he speaks.

         “Ah… I have finally found my shadow.” The sultry dark voice
causes me to gasp in surprise, “or rather, my shadow has found me.” He
lets a chuckle escape. I struggle to speak his name when he steps closer
to me, placing a hand rigidly on my shoulder, turning us both before my
mind can register how the outline has grown slightly taller in the course
of a week.

         He face is no longer darkened and with the light I can see the
familiar crooked grin, the sharpened edge with a strange softness of his
skin, the slight curl to his dark brown mop. It’s when my eyes finally
reach his that the look of confusion sets back in and I find my fingers
lightly reaching for his face to examine it more closely. His eyes have
changed. The beautiful soft green replaced by something deep and
brown. He smiles and then I notice the shallow lines which accent his
skin. “Ah. The green…” He realizes my confusion. “Jonah gets that from
his mother.”



Goshô wa daiji.

The future life is the all-important thing.




On life's journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter,
wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by
night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the
candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being
shared.

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring
peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a
man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and
all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

What we think, we become.

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is
more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and
that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as
anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.



You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your
anger.



Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give
yourself to it.




        Bible/ BCP/ Buddist Quotes to put in at beginning of Chapters



        http://www.icelebz.com/quotes/buddha/


Psalm 95 “It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not
known my ways; Unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not
enter into my rest.

Great Litany

Remember not our offenses, nor the offenses of our forefathers;
neither reward us according to our sins. Spare us. spare thy people
whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and by thy
mercy preserve us for ever.



From all evil and wickedness; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of
the devil; and from everlasting damnation, Good Lord, deliver us
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy, from
envy, hatred and malice; and from all want of charity, good lord, deliver
us



In all time of our tribulation in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of
death, and in the day of judgement, Good Lord, deliver us

The supplication

From our enemies defend us

Graciously behold our afflictions

With pity behold the sorrow of our hearts

Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him

Prayers for sleep

Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have
promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a
your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me
according to your will sense of your presence.

In pain

Be near me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace,
that my strength and courage may not fail

This is another day, O Lord, I know not what it will bring forth, but make
me ready, Lord for whatever it may be.

And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly




Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto
wisdom.

139 Thou art about my path, and about my bed, and art acquainted
with all my ways
Japanese Buddhist Proverbs

1.--Akuji mi ni tomaru.

All evil done clings to the body.[1]

6.--Bonnô kunô.

All lust is grief.[3] 3. All sensual desire invariably brings sorrow.



17.--Hana wa né ni kaeru.

The flower goes back to its root.[2]

2. This proverb is most often used in reference to death,--signifying that
all forms go back into the nothingness out of which they spring. But it
may also be used in relation to the law of cause-and-effect.

19.--Hito wo tasukéru ga shukké no yuku.

The task of the priest is to save mankind.



28.--Ingwa na ko.

A karma-child

3. A common saying among the lower classes in reference to an
unfortunate or crippled child. Here the word ingwa is used especially in
the retributive sense. It usually signifies evil karma; kwabô being the
term used in speaking of meritorious {footnote p. 175} karma and its
results. While an unfortunate child is spoken of as "a child of ingwa," a
very lucky person is called a "kwabô-mono,"--that is to say, an instance,
or example of kwabô.]



35. Jigoku dé hotoké.

Like meeting with a Buddha in hell.[3]

3 Refers to the joy of meeting a good friend in time of misfortune. The
above is an abbreviation. The full proverb is, Jigoku dé hotoké ni ôta yo
da.]
Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the
vesper light, we sing your praises

26 I love the house in which you dwell and the place where your glory
abides.

As for me, I will love with integrity; redeem me, O Lord, and have pity
on me.



Chapter titles- Absolution

Anointing

Apocalypse – the revelation

Apostle — A person sent by God.

Atonement — Literally, "a covering," as in covering our sins from God's
sight. It is used in reference to a sinner's reconciliation with God
through the sufferings of Christ. "Help us, O God of our salvation, For
the glory of Your name; And deliver us, and provide atonement for our
sins, For Your



Called — To be chosen of God for a particular purpose.

Deacon — Literally a servant. An office of servant ministry within the
church. "But let these also first be proved; then let them serve as
deacons, being found blameless" (1 Tim. 3:10).



http://www.victorious.org/glossary.htm

http://www.chezpaul.org.uk/buddhism/books/glossary.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_terms_and_concepts

http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/meaning-of-om-mani-padme-
hung.htm

http://www.icelebz.com/quotes/buddha/
wind Horse



28.--Ingwa na ko.

A karma-child



---

This wasn’t ever just about you and her. That wasn’t why teacher
brought her here.

Then what was it about?

It was about her. She has been tormented for countless lives. A true
karma-child and she never knew why. She needed to know why.

---

Starling: This isn’t my first life as a Watcher



To be kind, honest and have positive thoughts; to forgive those
who harm us and treat everyone as a friend; to help those who
are suffering and never to consider ourselves superior to anyone
else: even if this advice seems rather simplistic, make the effort of
seeing whether by following it you can find greater happiness.



As long as we observe love for others and respect for their
rights and dignity in our daily lives, then whether we are
learned or unlearned, whether we believe in the Buddha
or God, follow some religion or none at all, as long as we
have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with
restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt
we will be happy.
Any idea that concern for others, though a noble quality,
is a matter for our private lives only, is simply short
sighted. Compassion belongs to every sphere of activity,
including, of course, the workplace



To familiarize ourselves with the virtue of patience, it is
very helpful to think of adversity not so much as a threat
to our peace of mind but rather as the very means by
which patience is attained. From this perspective, we see
that those who would harm us are, in a sense, teachers of
patience. Such people teach us w...



Patience acts as a counterforce to anger. In fact, for every
negative state, we can identify one which opposes it.
Humility opposes pride; contentment opposes greed;
perseverance opposes indolence. If we wish to overcome
the unwholesome states which arise when negative
thoughts and emotions are allowed to develop, cult...



You think I love her? I don’t love her.

I can see how you are to her.

That’s not love.

If it’s not love than what is it?

I might of thought I loved her… but it’s not love, not now that
know. She’s like a catalyst…

She’s a catalyst for all of us.

I want her. His voice rises

I have to prevent myself from striking.

“Like I want her.”

“No. Not like that. I don’t need her. I don’t care for her safety or
have some strange desire to protect her. It’s not brotherly like
Graydon either. I just want.”
You don’t care what happens to her.

No.

I kissed her you know.




Jonah… always stuck in a whale. … Go get stuck in a whale




Watchers are what you get when you combine unadultered
scientific curiosity with absolute faith.



Watchers aren’t trying to disprove faith. That’s been done before.
That’s the reason there is only one faith left to believe.

Know that we know it They are just trying to better understand it.




This book is dedicated to all the Graydons and Basils in my life
and my one and only Abban. I love you.




Agrogs – Means to bind… Agrog is the partner bound to you.

ngah la – Means me

Ngahlagrog – Bound to me.



Song of Solomon

Want them to play questions.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mizpah_(emotional_bond)




american kestrel



Knowledge has given us a loss of innocence



Not everything is about love



So… Why?

Would it be aweful me to answer that question with Why not?

Why does she need to know?

She doesn’t… but it will make life easier for us. She is responsible, it
seems, for keeping so many souls in lives. It would be nice to know the
reason why… If that’s any justification.

But It’s hurting her.

And hurting you. Only temporarily. She will be fine. You both will be
fine.

Isn’t it better that she knows?

No.

You really think not?

You think it is going to change anything?

If she has her way it might.

Knowing doesn’t change anything… and not knowing didn’t mean it was
destined to happen. It just is.

You don’t believe in destiny?
I do believe in destiny. It’s destiny that I found her. I just don’t believe
history has to repeat itself.

For the 20th time that is.

Who’s to say this life isn’t different?

You’re such an optimist

I know.

It’s unfortunate for you.

Why’s that?

She isn’t.




Abban,



I’ve always had an interest in heritage. I guess it comes from a lifetime
of traveling. I try to place people based on the history books. Impossible
now, I know… but it’s an internal Hobby. It’s interesting that some
families, like Basil’s, have settled where their ancestors most likely had
come from, based on his appearance.




Knowledge is knowing that we cannot know.

Ralph Waldo Emerson



Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.

Leo Tolstoy
A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything,
should conceal it as well as she can.

Jane Austen



Lives are flying by at a much quicker rate. Its as if my soul is
trying to tell me something. Only allowing me to focus on the
moments it wants, the things relevant to now. Like an old friend
saying “Hey remember that time…” and I can only groan because
I do. It seems to never change.



She’s a force, isn’t she?

You have no idea. The sun would set if she asked it to.

…But she wouldn’t.

What?

…She wouldn’t want the sun to set. If she had her way nothing
would change… It would never be night. She would stay exactly
as she is...where she is… always with the warm sun.



The sun has always been my only constant. Well, the sun and
Graydon. But for so long he has always been out of reach. But the
sun is always there. Even when I am 100 fathoms deep in the
ocean I can still see the light from the sun. It reaches me even
there… immersed in the past, in the cold.



“Her favorite color is green.”

“Her favorite season is summer.”

“Her favorite drink is iced English breakfast tea … sweetened with
real sugar but no lemon. And she prefers that real sugar that
makes the last sip taste gritty.”

“Her favorite toy growing up was this little plastic fish. I imagine
at one point it was mechanical. You could have wound it up and it
would have moved, but it was broken long before either of us had
been born. She found it one day when we were playing in a field.
It was half buried in the dirt near some old ruins. She uncovered
it, held it so delicately in her hand while dusting off the dirt. I
remember she had this look of concentration on her face as she
tried to figure out what it was, and then like a light bulb she
knew. She rushed to a puddle left over from the last rainstorm
and put the little hunk of plastic down in the water and smiled. It
practically looked alive- floating there in the water.”

“Ever since then she’s always loved the water. It’s like water can
make anything seem alive.”



“She had a birthmark right above her left hip, which looks like a
strange scar in the shape of a leaf. Her parents used to joke it
was because she just fell out of a tree and into their arms when
she was born.”

“She sleeps on her right side and she snores, ever so lightly, it’s
almost like a cricket chirping...” He smiles as he recalls the sound,
as if it was a soothing lullaby which lulled him to sleep. “or at
least she always had when we shared a bed. I haven’t seen her
sleep peacefully since she came on board.” “Oh don’t look at me
like that. It’s not what you think. She is my best friend. There was
never anything like that.”

“She hasn’t stayed in the same place since she was 16, when she
left me…she left her parents home. She didn’t run away really. We
all knew the time was coming, that she was leaving. She has
always kept in touch and let us know she was safe.” “New
Amsterdam was the first time I had seen her in four years.”

“She looked so different there than I had remembered. It’s still
her, she’s beautiful, strong, but she seemed so timid, so unlike
herself.



“She likes the library here not because she likes books. Actually
growing up she always hated books. Written words seem to
confuse her, funny because her parents were librarians. Their
house was always filled with books.”
She likes the library because it’s the only place she’s found on this
ship that feels like home. I walk in there and with her here it even
smells like home to me. I hadn’t noticed it before she got here. It
must be the same way for her.”



“She’s scared. She hasn’t said it but I know it. She’s scared of
standing still…She’s always been scared of standing still, but she’s
also scared of moving on. I think that’s really why she is here…
Right now.” “She’s tired of running, of moving, without apparent
reason. She’s just always unsettled. She’s looking for a reason.”

“A reason to stand still?”

He gave me a half-hearted smile, as if any other realization might
pain him more. “I’m not sure.” And then he turned away, heading
straight for the port. “But I hope so…I’m tired of watching her
run.”




(1 fathom =6ft)



Songs-

Jonah- In Between



Conversation between present day teacher and Abban.

Why such an interest in her? Same reason we are interested in her now.
Put yourself in their shoes. The Watchers have only been around for one
generation, the sparrows are brand new, they have no contraptions
with which they can recall lives. They have not yet documented the
song of all souls so when they find one they have not yet met of course
they want to get to know it better. You mean to tell me no Watcher has
ever heard her? No.

								
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