Saturday, December 04, 2004

 

the child, twenty-three


Lucy led the way to a room that Starr had never seen before. It was huge! People. People everywhere. Tables everywhere. Chairs everywhere. Talk everywhere. Starr could feel her heart quicken, and her breathing as well, at such an overwhelming mass of people. She drew back, pulling away from Lucy, ready to retreat to the familiar solitude of her little lonely room.

'Starr, what's wrong?' said Lucy. And she took Starr's hand firmly, pulling her into the room, into the swirl of people, people, people.

Starr clung to Lucy now. If escape was being denied her, then she wanted at least to be able to stick close to the only person she knew here. She held fast to Lucy's arm as the woman led her deeper and deeper into the crowds, dodging past tables, a call of greeting here, a friendly laugh there. Till they came at last to a certain table where the men and women made room for them, finding a pair of chairs to push together to welcome them.

'These are my friends,' said Lucy, settling into her chair. She made rapid introductions, none of which lodged in Starr's head. A rapid succession of hands gripped hers in greeting; a rapid succession of eyes looked into hers.

She was glad when the greetings were over. Embarrassed, she sat quietly looking down at her hands, her fingers twisting together in her lap as the other's conversations swirled around her.

'Starr, dear,' said Lucy. 'Michael's talking to you.'

Starr looked up, trying to guess which one was Michael. Two of the men were looking at her at the moment, and she glanced from one to the other, hoping someone would take pity on her and tell her which man was which. 'Starr...' said Lucy. And she turned her around to see yet another man standing behind her chair. 'This is Michael.'

'Hello, Starr,' said Michael.

'Oh,' she responded. 'Hello. Is the Master looking for me?'

For Michael, she saw, had a multiple face with multiple eyes, swathed in brightness.

He - it? they? - smiled solemnly. 'The Master sends his compliments, little one, and bids you peace.' And as the voice of rushing waters spoke that final word 'peace' - she felt it settle over her. Peace indeed. Calming her, sweeping away the nervousness, flowing into her a sweet quietude. A joy.

She smiled back. 'Thank you,' said she. 'And tell the Master my thanks to him.'

He inclined his head. 'I will.'

'Oh, but Michael! Stay and eat with us!' called Lucy as the cherub turned away. He only shook his head and disappeared off into the crowd.

'He never eats with us,' Lucy complained. 'Only comes and goes, delivering messages.'

'Yes. That is what he is here for - to serve the Master,' said Starr.

'She speaks!' said one of the men she had thought before was Michael. And as she cringed in embarrassment, the other man said, 'True - but we all serve the Master here. Every one of us. That's why we're here.'

'He could at least sit down and eat with us once in a while,' said Lucy. 'I don't understand that.'

Starr looked at all of them. No, they didn't understand that. She had been right - none of them saw the cherubim for what they were, the way she saw them. They thought the angels were simply people like themselves.

She dropped her eyes again. Not in embarrassment this time, nor in fright. In acceptance. She was different.

And she smiled to herself, just a bit. In relief! She had felt so completely different, so alien, among the rest. But if she was in fact different...

That made it easier then. She wasn't feeling a difference that wasn't there. She was merely feeling a deep awareness of the truth. Different she was. Strange. Weird even. That was fine. She could live with that. She had always been...

Hmmm. She had always been different. She remembered that now! Frowning slightly, tilting her head a bit as if listening to a voice that no one else heard, she scrambled through her mind after that elusive memory. Always different - why? in what way? where...?

A hand landed on her shoulder, holding her back as the memory spurted away and was gone. Starr glanced up, expecting to see the remarkable face of the cherub Michael again.

Instead, she saw the delighted face of Stone.

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