Thursday, December 23, 2004


the child, twenty-six

They talked a long time that evening, the two of them. The crowd had dwindled off to a mere handful by the time Mathilda came in and quietly called for Starr to come away.

Ah, there was no doubt about it - Starr had fallen in love with Stone. And Stone...

The next morning - as well as many mornings afterwards - he showed up at sword practice to share the lesson with her. Many noontimes he would come looking for her to share lunch together. Or evenings, to share supper.

And many nights - many nights! - they walked together, the two of them, in the cool of the evening under the radiant stars. Talking, or not talking. Simply being together. His hand holding hers.

His hand held her heart as well. But he did not yet know it.

One evening, as they walked together under the stars across the thick dewy lawn, Stone said to her suddenly, 'I've been thinking of something.'

'Yes?' said Starr.

He glanced at her, smiled shyly, and glanced quickly away again. 'Something that someone said to me not so very long ago.' Curiously, he did not look at her as they went on walking. But he held her hand the more tightly. 'Not long before I first began to notice you practicing with the sword master, someone came up to me one day and said to me that the Master wanted me to hope for a wife.'

Starr's heart gave a leap within her. Forcing her voice to sound normal, she responded, 'He did?'

'Yes,' said Stone. 'And then I had that dream of the star falling into my hand. And then I met you...' He glanced her way again. 'Well. Actually, every time lately when I meet an unattached woman, I can't help wondering - is she the one? So it isn't just you. But...' And now he stopped, and turned to face her straight on. 'Starr. You hear from the Master much more directly than I do. And I was wondering. Has the Master said anything to you? About me?'

Heart in her throat, Starr replied truthfully, 'Y-yes.'

Stone dropped his gaze, then met her eyes again. 'Because if he's already given you a no about me...' And he sighed. 'Well... I'd like you to tell me. So I'll know not to look in your direction anymore.'

'He...' Starr's ears were roaring from the pounding of her heart. 'He hasn't said no...'

'Oh!' He smiled, and then began to walk on, her small hand still tucked in his. 'Hasn't said no, hmmm?' And then, to her dismay, for she knew she was not to tell Stone all that the Master had said about the two of them, about the Master's plans for them together, Stone asked, 'What has he told you, then? About me?'

She was silent. So silent, that Stone stopped walking again and turned to face her. 'Starr?'

'Is...' she paused to swallow the lump in her throat, 'is it fair for me to tell you that? You need to know such things for yourself, don't you? Without me telling you?'

He studied her face silently for a long moment. 'You're right,' he said at last. 'If you are the one for me, it's not for you to tell me so. It's just... you're good at hearing the Master. And I'm not.'

'Don't be afraid of that,' she answered. 'What you need to know, you will know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt.'

'I sure hope so,' said he. 'Oh,' he added. 'Here's Mathilda.'

Inclining its head respectfully, the cherub greeted them quietly. 'Time to take her away again?' said Stone.

'Only for this little one to sleep and be refreshed,' Mathilda replied.

'I know,' said Stone. 'It's just... well, seems like there's not enough hours in the day, to be together.'

'If,' Starr replied, choosing her words carefully, 'you are the Master's choice for me, and I for you - there will be. Some day.'

Stone smiled on her. 'I'd like that,' said he.

'I'd like that too,' Starr answered. And then Mathilda led her away.

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