Sunday, May 01, 2005

 

the child, fifty-six


He had his fingers to his mouth still, ready to blast them with another whistle if the first one wasn't enough. 'Got your attention now? Good! Because Starr has something important to say.'

Seven faces swiveled to look at her. The slope was so silent now, they could hear plainly the light wind blowing all about them.

'Well?' said James.

Starr had been catching her breath. 'I know how to get to where they are to rescue them,' she replied. 'Safely, so no one else gets hurt.'

James was saying, 'How?' - but his question was drowned out by a much louder voice demanding, 'And just how on earth would you know anything of the sort?'

Eight faces swiveled now. Lucy! To everyone's surprise, the woman was glaring at Starr, livid. 'There is no way on this earth,' the woman proclaimed angrily, 'that you could possibly know more than the rest of us what's over that cliff! You didn't come down here when the rest of us did, and you certainly couldn't see over this edge from where you were cowering up there.'

The word 'cowering' brought out a ripple of murmurs - and Stone's angry response that Starr had stayed where she did out of obedience to him.

'Little know-it-all!' Lucy's voice went on, raging above the rest. 'Trying to tell everyone else what they ought to do! I...'

'Will you just listen to Starr?'

Silence fell. For that last voice, floating on the breeze like a leaf - that voice was Forest's!

'Forest?' James called, going as close to the edge as he dared. 'Forest? You all right?'

'Listen... to Starr,' the boy's voice replied. 'She's got this way of knowing stuff.'

'Are you all right, Forest?' James asked more sharply. 'And Joy - how is she?'

'Just... get down here,' came the reply.

James bolted straight for Starr, grabbing her arm urgently. 'Tell me what to do,' he said grimly.

She pointed. 'Down to the bottom of this slope first,' she said. 'There's a small valley to this side that joins up at the bottom of the slope. We can follow the small valley up and reach them safely that way.'

'But how can she know that?' Lucy objected. 'It's just not possible!'

'Doesn't matter,' said James. 'Let's go. Now.'

'And hurry!' added Jack.

With a venomous glare in Starr's direction, Lucy turned and swished away after the brothers. Linda hurried off as well, while Maccabees gave Starr a nod of encouragement as he and his companions followed the rest.

Stone gave another whistle, this time low and private. 'Man! What's eating her?'

'She's not very... happy with me lately,' Starr whispered.

Stone looked at her, first in puzzlement, then in realization. 'She's still upset over you trying to tell everyone to be more loving? Is that it?'

Starr sighed. 'Oh, yes.'

'Hmph. Well, don't let it worry you, Starr-girl. The truth has a way of coming out. Right now, though,' and he took her hand once again, 'we need to catch up with them.' And keeping himself just below her as before, the man carefully guided her the rest of the way down the treacherous slope, to follow the others to rescue Forest and Joy.

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