The Five Providences (Installment 11)

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Chapter 3

            “Thank you for letting me stay with you.” I say as I quietly place my things on my new bed. The other girls stiffen as they wait to hear Til’s reaction. She smiles brightly and nods a sort of bow.

            “If Vel believes you are worth a risk then it must be so. She is the best of discerners.” I wince a little at the word “risk”. The last thing I want to do is get myself into more trouble.

            “I will stay out of your way as much as possible.” I stand uncomfortably. The other girls seemed to have relaxed now that Til is welcoming.

            “That is not the way it is here.” She smiles as she sits on her bed. “We all take care of each other here. Loyalty is our most honored rule. Unity is closely following. You will learn that soon.” She smiles warmly again. I tremble a little knowing that. Unity has never been apparent in my life. “Do you know what ‘Wolah’ means?”

            “No I do not.”

            “It is from the ancient language. ‘Wo’ means woman and ‘lah’ means flower. When translated it means ‘Woman of flowers’. That is what we do in this clan. We grow flowers. We make things flourish in dry places, much like beauty and elegance in uncertain situations.” She says continuously stroking her long black hair. I shift uneasily.

            “What a lovely tradition.” I manage to regain some kind of communication.

            “It is.” She smiles again. “Well, I’m Til. Daughter of Vel. I’m the head of the Wolah clan. This is Jenmah to my right.” She flicks her head to gesture the girl to her right. “And Leven.” She gestures to the girl on her left. I cringe knowing how Leven doesn’t like me since I’ve bloodied her sister. I look at her for a second and quickly look back to Til. Leven seems indifferent.

            “You are welcomed here. This is your home for your stay here. Make yourself comfortable. I know you will only be here for so long but what are your skills that I might acquaint you with a clan?” She smiles again. She seems to be an all around cheery person.

            “I’m not sure what I excel at.” The inside of my mouth tastes sour. I can’t do much can I? “I’m sneaky.” I start to force a laugh. I receive a sympathy chuckle.

            “Well for now we will just get you acquainted with everyone.” She walks to the front of the door. “Follow me.” She says quickly as she walks out the door and I scurry on my tip toes to catch her outside.

The Five Providences (Installment 10)

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I make it home. I am no longer a human being, but a withered flower beaten by a severe and harsh wind. Kalim takes notice of this.

            “Will you be making a habit of this I assume?” He brings a bowl of water and food. I sprawl on my bed.

            “I would say no, but that would make me a liar.” I say sucking in a deep breath.

            “You already are.” Kalim says tossing a towel on my face. I leave it there. Things start to become muffled as I start to think of silly meaningless things. Then silence.

~*~

            “Wake up!” I hear a voice out of the dark. I ignore it. “Didn’t you hear me? Wake up!” a violent shaking makes me open my eyes.

            “What? What Kalim?” I snap.

            “It’s almost time for you to go, and you need to go because there is word that Jezab is coming for you today. Stay out today…Maybe the night too.” Those words sparked me to an alert state. I couldn’t help but sit there blankly. After a moment I bring myself back to reality and lock eyes with Kalim. Even such a slight panic in his eyes was unnerving. Kalim is always calm and collected.

            “Uhh…” Was all I could manage. “D-do you have my things packed?” I stutter. He nods. We both knew that it would be more than a day and a night before I would come home. Jezab would not go till I was out of reach. He had been waiting long enough as it was. Kalim disappeared for a moment and came back with a satchel in hand. He also gave me a pouch of what I assumed to be gold. I thank him and rush to get my clothes on.

            “I’ll see you in a few days.” I silently hope that’s true. “Please be safe, and if you can stay away from him. He will not have mercy on you.” I plead with him. Jezab is a fool but he knows that he will be severely punished if there is proof that he has tried to fraternize with me. However one false move on Kalim’s part and it could mean death. I don’t want that to happen. Kalim barely acknowledges my wish and hands me a tan satchel with yellow and orange thread woven in a Mandela pattern. I give him a weak smile. “I will do my best to be careful… I promise.” I don’t know why but I feel a tugging in my spirit as if I won’t be seeing him for a long time. A strange feeling indeed.

 

I stand at Vel’s door and take in a deep breath. I’m not really sure what I’ll say to her. I have already managed to make a mistake and now I need to ask a favor. I take in another deep breath and knock on the door. I remember the events of the day before. My muscles ache in sympathy with the anxiety I feel in my head. I take another breath as I feel my stomach swirl and out of an impulse knock on the door. I need to just do it. I think to myself. Vel opens the door in a drowsy state.

            “What’s wrong with you?” She says as she ties her hair up in an elaborate hairdo with a wooden pin. I forget how to talk for a moment.

            “Uh, I can’t go home.” I accidentally blurt out. I rub my eyebrows. I wanted to ask in an independent manner not blurt out my favor like an uncultured idiot. “I can work while I stay. I mean not like… I can clean.” I pin my eyes to the ground. Vel looks unamused. I feel chills roll down my back when I hear Vel laugh.

            “You are a strange one aren’t you.” You she states more than asks.

            “I just need to hide for a while.” I heave a sigh.

            “How long?” She leans against her door post.

            “Just a couple days.”

            “Just?” I realize a few days is quite an inconvenience.

            “I can do chores and I have some dharat I brought with me to compensate your troubles.” I say pulling out a pouch. She takes it from me and gently tosses her hand around to estimate the amount inside. She pours out about ten or fifteen dharat and tosses me the bag back.

            “For food.” She says matter-of-factly and slips them into a hidden pocket in her dress.

            “A couple days then.” She says nodding me into her home and I scurry inside. She doesn’t ask any more questions and it makes me uncomfortable.

            “You’ll be staying with the Wolah clan.” She says ripping back that same heavy door to the courtyard. I’m always astounded by her unseen strength. I tip toe through the doorway and do my best to wrench the door close. She comes behind be and closes it the rest of the way. She leads me across the still beautiful courtyard to an archway covered in beautiful green vines that have taken it over which is very unusual for our desert climate. Under the doorway there is a small wooden door with a little wooden sign that reads “Wolah” in beautiful calligraphy.

            “Well?” Vel says.

            “Oh, thank you Vel. I am more grateful than you know.” I quickly dip into a shallow bow. She nods her head and knocks on the door and a strong voice answers “Enter!”,

            A large one-room building presents itself with three beds on the left side and four on the right. Each bed sporting a side table, some with various items on it showing ownership.

“Ah Til,” Vel begins. A small girl with long pitch black braided hair stands and dips slightly to recognize Vel. She couldn’t be more than twelve years old. She’s petite, but something tells me she’s just like fireworks. She has large eyes and even larger eye lashes that look like fans adorning her dark black eyes.

            “I’m sure you all know…” She nods to me. She still doesn’t know my name. “She will be staying with you for the next few days.” I let my eyes shoot from one girl to the next monitoring their reactions and body language. None seem fazed.

            “What bed can she take?” Vel asks Til.

            “That one.” She points to the bed on the right side opposite of her. I smile appreciatively, but I feel a little isolated since the right side is completely unclaimed. There seems to be only three girls staying in this place.

I have a feeling this might be a more difficult couple of days than I thought

The Book of Gateways (Installment 19)

“What happens if we can’t draw?” I ask as Piers puts the book in the safe behind the hideous flower, which I have now decided, is a guardian of some sorts.

“Well I mean I can sort of draw… But I still wouldn’t want to chance it. What if the drawing is so bad we end up stuck in the middle of the portal and our bodies are separated and we die…Or worse we end up melded together.” Piers seems genuinely concerned.

“Way to stay positive.”

“Hey, I’m just weighing our options of survival.” I just shake my head.

“I wonder if we could use a photo.” Piers looks unimpressed. “Well? It’s an idea isn’t it?” I remove the framed guardian and punch in the numbers to the safe. I flick open the book to an empty page.

“Hang on, I’ll be right back.” I hand the book to Piers and quickly slip through the office door to my desk. I rummage around to find some pictures I had taken from awhile ago. I walk back to the office door and try to open it. A defiant click answers my efforts.

“Piers?” I put my ear to the door.

“Who is it?” He calls back.

“Who do you think it is? Open the door!” So childish.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. You could be here to reap my soul from rugged and handsome body.” I’m gunna break this door down.

“Quit this game will you?”

“But it’s so much fun.” He pokes one eye between a crack in the door. I take the chance and slap the door open. Thud.

            “Ow! My nose!” I enter with Piers clutching his nose.

            “Thanks for playing.” I say and close the door and lock it behind me. He gives me an ugly look. I flip the pages again to where I was before. I pull out a picture of a little street from North Carolina. The street sign read “Estrim Street” just in front of an old barn that had been there for ages. I assumed these would be “defining details” or whatever the term was. I tried to eyeball the middle of the page and stuck the picture there.

            “Now I need some tape or something.” I think aloud, but before I could grab some the book began to grow warm. Little glowing blue vines of the foreign language appear and grow from the top left corner to the right and around the page. The picture is smoothed onto the page and looks as if I could stick my hand into North Carolina right now. No longer a picture. Now it’s a gateway.

 

            “It looks like it worked.” I smile as the book begins to cool down.

            “Ya, but now you’ve wasted a page on a little old town in North Carolina.”

            “Maybe I like North Carolina.” I say still happy with my latest discovery.

            “I guess it is nice there.” Piers says flipping through more of the pages. “Ooh we could go to Germany! They have a lot of great history there. I’ve always wanted to go.” Piers points to a picture labeled “Near Munich, Germany”. Then I feel a funny scratching at the back of my mind.

            “Piers when is your class?” I ask remembering that he actually has a job other than annoy me.

            “Crap!” He shoves the book in my hand. “Put it in the safe! I’ll be back later today.” He says bolting out of the office slamming the door behind him. I do as I’m told and lock up the book and open up the shop. No sooner do I open it does good ole British guy walk in.

The Book of Gateways (Installment 18)

After our bodies adjust to their normal functions Piers and I decide to create some “guidelines” for this book. We sit comfortably on the floor of the backroom with the book on the floor in between us.

            “So?” I say my eye brows raised high in question.

            “I think it should stay in the safe. It’s secretive, and only you and I know the password.” Piers says pulling on the corner of the book to bring it towards him. I nod in agreement.

            “I think we should tell each other when and where we are going when we use the book.” I say not sure how he will react to those perimeters. Piers looks up at me, his eyes conveying the gears in his mind spinning at a million miles per hour. He doesn’t answer for a while. Still thinking. He may be a history teacher but he acts like a business man. Constantly considering all options to see which has the most benefits.

            “That seems… reasonable. After all we did find the book together, and I’m sure Milo would have wanted it that way.” He starts flipping through the book aimlessly while he talks with me. I nod as he continues to flip the pages. Then I notice a little white piece of paper slip out from between the pages and gently land on the floor.

            “What is that?” I point to the little paper.

            “I’m not sure.” Piers says picking it up. His eyebrows furrow. “It’s from Milo, ‘To whomever finds this book, be cautious, there are many nuances and guidelines to these books that I have had to figure out by trial and error. As I am sure you have noticed there are blank pages and destination pages. I have found that you can create a destination page by drawing the destination in which you would like to go. However, you must have defining keys in the design of your destination.’” Piers pauses.

            “What does he mean by that?” I ask. Piers shrugs. He flips over the little page and continues to read. “‘By defining keys I mean items in your destination that define the location. You could draw an alleyway and want it to be the alleyway next to Macallister’s pub, however if there is no sign, particular garbage can with an address, or other defining items you could end up in any alleyway in the world (if it is too similar) or the gateway may not work at all. I have affectionately started calling this book, ‘The Book of Gateways’”

            “Well that makes it infinitely more complicated.” Piers flips the page again as if more instructions will appear. “That seems to be it. There’s nothing else written here.” He heaves a sigh.

            “Could I?” I ask gently taking the paper from his hand. The paper reads true. There’s nothing else. I feel a sad twinge in my heart knowing Milo wrote this not too long. The old man still had secrets. I hand the paper back.

            “You know what this means?” Piers smiles at me as if knowing I need to see it.

            “No, what?”

            “We can go anywhere.” His eyes light up. “It was better that time, right? We’ll get used to the shock.” My first instinct is to say no and chastise him for even thinking of such a thing, but then I think on it for a while. Although my mental cogs aren’t running a mile a minute they still turn and I come to a conclusion.

            “Alright.” I say quietly. “Let’s make this happen.”

His mouth opens into a wide smile. I feel afraid, but for once in a very long time I feel alive.

~*~