Monday, June 27, 2005

 

the child, seventy-five


'I don't know why this is so hard,' Linda was saying. She and Starr were making some lunch for the camp, while Stone and Jack sat nearby, occasionally lending a hand. Usually, it would have been Starr in the women's tent right now, assisting Malachi to tend to Joy's wounds - but Lucy had insisted on taking over Starr's job this time. After all, she had found the wild 'german' plant; she should be the one to help Malachi prepare and apply it.

'What is so hard, Linda?' Starr asked.

Linda sighed and nodded towards their tent. 'Being nice to her.'

Starr nodded in reply. 'I had noticed you've been trying.'

A slow tear melted down Linda's cheek. 'Why isn't it working?'

'Working?'

'Well, it worked for James and Forest! Once James started being nice to Forest, Forest started being nice right back. They're friends now. So how come that doesn't work for me? I'm being nice; Lucy just gets nastier.' She glanced at the others. 'Is she always like this? She didn't use to be like this, did she?'

'Not that I recall,' put in Jack. 'She was pretty nice back at the Master's house. Well, yeah - a bit bossy. But not like this.' He looked at Starr. 'But you knew before that, didn't you?'

Starr didn't answer at first. 'She doesn't remember,' Stone said quietly, when Starr just stood for a long time, looking at her own feet. 'There are many things that Starr doesn't remember. Her life before the Master's house is one of them.'

'Really? But Lucy told us that she and Starr had been best friends before...'

'Yes, but...' Stone started to reply. When Starr spoke up.

'The blanket.'

'What?'

Starr looked up at them all. 'I remember. I had this blanket, and Lucy - Carol - she was Carol back then - wanted it. It was a silly thing; it was just a blanket. But it happened to be blue, and no one else on our level had a blue one. She wanted it.' A long pause. 'She wore me down about it. Wouldn't stop pestering me about it. If I was really her friend, I wouldn't be so selfish. I'd want her to be happy. I wouldn't be so cruel...' She shrugged. 'I finally gave it to her. I was so tired of hearing about it...'

Starr did a bit more work on the lunch. And then she said, very softly, 'Two days later, she wanted my bowl...'

The tent door behind them boiled open, as Lucy swept out. 'Water,' she said briskly. 'Hand over your canteen, Jack.'

He blinked at her. And took off the canteen and passed it over.

To their surprise - for they all assumed she was asking for water to use for Joy's wounds - Lucy upended the canteen and drank deeply, then splashed the water over her head and hair. 'What a horrid hot place!' she complained. 'You'd think James could have at least had the sense to pick a shady place to camp for days on end!'

'Oh, yeah. That is so true,' Jack replied breezily. 'But then, Joy and Forest were so inconsiderate in not picking a more idyllic spot... to fall off a cliff!'

Lucy's eyes narrowed at the sarcasm. 'Well,' she said at length, tossing back the canteen, 'I have work to do.' And she turned and strode back to the tent.

Another tear slid down Linda's cheek. 'She is so mean!' she whispered.

'Do you love her?'

She glanced up, startled. 'What?'

'Do you love her?' It was Stone asking. He leaned forwards, something intense in his eyes. 'Why is it you want her friendship? Because you love her? or because you just don't want to be treated badly anymore?'

'I... I never thought about it.' Her face twitched. 'So I... won't be treated badly anymore, I guess. Why?'

Stone studied his own two hands for a bit. 'What do you think,' he said at last. 'Is that the best reason you could have?'

'Well - since you already asked do I love her, and I couldn't give you the answer, yes - well, I guess it's not the best reason I could have.' She thought for a bit. 'Are you saying that there's some sort of love between James and Forest?'

'When Forest fell off the cliff,' Stone replied, 'James changed. He even called the boy buddy. Yes, there's a friendship there between them now - a brotherhood. When James started treating the boy as his friend, his brother - Forest responded with the same. But that's because there was already a foundation there. In the midst of the rivalry, there was a, well, a respect of sorts, I guess you would call it.' He looked up at Linda. 'Is there already a foundation like that between you and Lucy?'

Linda shook her head. 'No.'

'Then that's where to begin,' said Stone. 'You think?'

Linda thought. And then her head came up, and she turned to Starr, realization dawning in her eyes. 'Love! That's right. It keeps coming back to this. You - all that time ago - you said that we needed to start loving each other, to start acting like we are all parts of the same body together. And I brushed you off.'

A bit more thought, and Linda added, 'But it goes back even further. That first night, when we argued, and Starr saw the vision of wolves...' Stone's head snapped up then. Wolves! He had forgotten about that. 'Even back then. We were warned back then. No arguing. Treat each other right, with respect. We lost track of that.' She turned to Starr and said, 'No wonder you heard Jessie laughing. She's probably been enjoying every bit of this.'

And then Linda smiled. 'But not anymore. With the Master's help, which I pray for right now,' and she nodded, 'I want to learn to love. Like the Master loves. I want him to awaken my heart to love Lucy the way he loves her.'

'Amen,' said one of them. And, 'Amen,' said they all.

Linda sighed, and then smiled. 'Well. Let's get this lunch finished, eh?'

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