Wednesday, June 15, 2005
the child, seventy-one
In the commotion that followed, Stone took Starr's hand once more and quietly eased her out of the tent. Away he took her, out of the camp entirely, off to the shade of the nearby woods.
'All right,' he said once they were completely alone, 'explain that to me. Mac's been telling you stuff?'
'He was the one who pointed out to me that we've been going in circles, yes,' she replied.
'And the armies? The demons and angels? They have been following us around, like he said?'
'Yes. I saw the demons first. That was a long time ago. And when I asked him about them, he told me to take another look, and then I saw the angels.'
'A long time ago, huh?' said Stone. 'And you never said a word about them?'
She shook her head. 'No. At first, I didn't want to frighten the others. And then, after a bit, I... well...'
'Yeah. You forgot. Man, Starr!'
She stared down at her hands unhappily, wondering why she had never remembered to tell the others about the armies till now.
'Oh, Starr-girl,' Stone added. And his fingers curled under her chin, gently raising it. 'Starr-my-girl, you know you have the most amazingly forgetful forgetter of anyone I've ever met! Sweetheart...'
Sweetheart! He called her sweetheart!
'...do me a favor. Anything and everything you do remember - please tell me?'
'And...' he added.
'Yes, dear?' said she. Oh, those wide and guileless eyes!
Stone paused. 'Look - I feel like a heel for saying this, but - don't hang around with Mac anymore. All right?' He saw the hurt in her eyes, but he pressed on. 'I know I said I needed to forgive him, but... that's harder than I thought. And knowing that you are so close to him...' He shook his head. 'It's not that I don't trust you, Starr. It's just - for me. Keep away from him.'
He was shaking! Starr laid a hand gently on his arm. 'Stone. There's nothing to be afraid of. He doesn't have that kind...'
'...of interest in you. I know; you've told me that before. But, Starr-girl... Oh, Starr-girl, you're such a sweet, innocent, trusting little girl, aren't you? But I'm a guy, and I know how guys think. Trust me on this.'
She started to protest further, but the words he used just then, asking her to trust him! Ah, that stirred up her memory of the Master telling her - oh, so long ago - to trust Stone by trusting the Master, and to trust the Master through trusting Stone.
Even when Stone was making a mistake.
And now was the time to obey that. She shut her mouth on her protests of Maccabees' innocence. Instead, she said, 'All right, Stone. What you tell me to do, I will do.' And she smiled up at him, her heart firmly settled on trusting. The Master would see to this. She knew he would.
In the meantime, there was only one thing she could think of that she hadn't yet told Stone, and that was who and what Maccabees truly was. But before she could tell Stone that, she would need to ask for permission. And since she would need to receive that permission from Maccabees, and she was no longer permitted to, as Stone had put it, hang around with Maccabees - well, she was rather stuck, wasn't she?
That night at supper, as Forest always used to, now James pointed across the fire and announced, 'Stone, Mac - you two have first watch tonight.'
Stone glanced over at Mac. It had been bad enough to have to walk the watch with Maccabees the night before. But now, after what had happened today with Starr, after finding out just how close the two of them had become...
Frowning, Stone got up from his seat and started around the fire to have a quiet word with James. Maybe James would be willing to let him swap so he could share the watch with one of the others instead.
But as he was coming around the fire, Stone saw Starr with her hands full, gathering the dirty plates from the meal. All the forks suddenly slipped from her fingers and spilled all over the ground. He hurried to pick them up for her.
And the next thing he knew, he was helping her wash the dishes. And the next thing he knew after that...
It was full dark. Everyone else had gone to bed. He had just seen Starr safely to her tent for the night.
And here was Mac coming to join him for the first watch.
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