Thursday, December 02, 2004

 

the child, twenty-two


She woke. The light filtering in through the window of her room told her that it was now late afternoon. Ah, she had slept! she thought, stretching.

And then she gasped. Lunch! She had missed it!

Hurriedly she washed her face and strapped her sword again round her waist. Her clothes were a rumpled mess - for she had been so tired earlier, she had simply fallen into bed without bothering to change. Not bothering to change now either, she merely shook out the rumples as she slipped from her room and along the corridors, hurrying to get outside.

And even as she did, she told herself how silly she was being. When Stone had mentioned taking lunch together, he hadn't necessarily meant today! And yet she hurried, hoping to see him, hoping to find that perhaps he had been looking for her.

She pushed through the outside door of this house and began roaming the grounds, looking about, scanning for his face. There were so many faces surrounding her! And so few of them that she might recognize - only Stone, or the Master, or Mathilda. Or, she reminded herself with a shudder, Jessie. But none of those four did she see now.

So many people - so many strangers, here in the Master's house!

Or were they strangers? For the some of the faces, as she studied them, did begin to look somehow familiar. Most familiar of all were the bright four-fold faces of those who were like Mathilda. The cherubim. There were several of those, she saw, moving unobtrusively among the ordinary people. And unnoticed by the ordinary people as well, Starr decided. For no one else seemed to be amazed at the shining of those bright beings. They were no longer blindingly bright to her - not since the day the Master had kissed her eyes. But they were bright nonetheless. Why did no one else seem to notice?

It was only gradually that Starr began to notice other faces, faces that would stir up a touch of a tickle in the far back of her memory. Faces she had once known...? Or had she?

'Elisabeth!'

She turned at the sound of a woman's voice. 'It is you, Elisabeth - isn't it?' the woman said. A dark-haired woman, her head tilted inquisitively, was studying Starr's face. 'You are Elisabeth, aren't you?' said the woman.

'I...' So familiar this woman looked! Starr stared back, struggling, grasping at elusive memory. Only to have it evade her again. 'I'm called Starr now,' she replied lamely.

'Oh, of course. I'm forgetting! We shed our old names when the Master brought us here. I'm Lucy now. It means light. Starr - what a lovely name you were given!' She tucked her arm through Starr's as if they were old, old friends.

And maybe they were. If only she could remember!

'I'm so glad you're here, Elis... Starr. The last I saw you was the day the Master set me free and spirited me off to this house. I saw you just as we were leaving. The Master stopped to say a few words to you. So I hoped you would be coming here as well. It's so good to see you again.'

'You... you remember...?'

'Well of course, I do! Don't you?'

Starr dropped her eyes and made no answer.

Lucy stopped walking and turned Starr to face her. 'Don't you?' she repeated.

'I...' And Starr, ashamed, dropped her head as well. Also shook her head.

'No? You don't remember?' The woman tilted Starr's chin up to look her in the eye. She studied her intently for nearly a full minute. 'Yes,' she said at last. 'You are Elisabeth. There's no doubt of that. But you don't remember me?'

'No,' Starr whispered.

'Well, how strange that is! I'm Carol. We lived side-by-side for years, you in your cell and me in mine. We shared everything - hopes, dreams, gossip...' She paused and laughed. 'Well, we won't be doing the gossip part anymore, shall we? But I'm surprised you don't remember me! Don't you remember anything?'

Starr's head dropped again. 'No,' she whispered, even more silently than the last time.

'How curious,' said Lucy. 'Hmmm...' And she steered Starr on as they walked randomly over the grounds.

Lucy came suddenly out of her reverie. 'Oh, but it must be time for supper. Come along, dear. We'll eat together. It'll be like old times.' She smiled engagingly. 'Except now it's new times - and far better times than either of us ever knew before. Come and meet my friends.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

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