Charlie and Maria were headed for the Post Office in Waldmeer one lovely, sunny morning. Their sunniness was interrupted by a lone, male voice and snickering.
“You still kissin’ girls, Charmaine?” The intention was to insult. However, Charlie would have felt it was more insulting to be called, Charmaine. No one called her by her real name. She turned to see who it was.
Charlie groaned to Maria and said under her breath, “Those idiot boys.”
Maria knew them well. It was a group of boys from her school year level. She didn’t like them then. She still didn’t. Bullies, she thought, led by the biggest bully of all, Harry Maclary. Harry’s parents owned the dairy outside Waldmeer. He was spoilt, not so much with material things but with too much pandering and too little responsibility. The result was not pleasant. Many times at school, Harry and his hoon mates would torment Maria.
“You still a virgin, Maria?” they would say to her loudly. “We can help you with that.” They would laugh and amble off proudly. Maria was quiet at school and found them embarrassing, offensive, and scary.
Being pleased with the annoyed look on Charlie’s face, Harry continued, “Or you kissin’ that pussy-boy you live with?” The boys found this even funnier.
Charlie was no push-over. She had a mouth on her and a spirit to match. However, instead of firing up, to Maria’s surprise, Charlie was withdrawing. Maria remembered that Charlie had recently had more upsetting confrontations with her girlfriend, Elizabeth, and she must have been feeling defeated. Harry opened his big mouth again as he was on a roll. The other boys looked on with amusement as if it was the best morning fun they had had in a while.
Suddenly, Maria swung around and headed straight for Harry. She disregarded the other boys who instinctively moved out of the way. Maria had her eyes tunnelling into Harry. He looked startled and tried to regain his position. Every past memory of his abusive, threatening behaviour to Maria and every other vulnerable girl he had harassed came to the forefront of Maria’s mind. His current remarks about Charlie and Gabriel threw fuel onto the fire.
Looking for support, Harry nodded to his boys who circled Maria and stood a foot above her in height. Charlie disappeared from Maria’s view as the tower of boys closed in on her. She was not afraid anymore. You can hurt my body but I don’t care, Maria thought. I will never allow you to hurt my soul ever again. And you will not hurt those I love.
Maria poked a finger into Harry’s chest, “Do not come into our cafe again, Harry Maclary, until you have learned some manners.” Did she say, Harry Maclary? She might have said, Buffoon. Either way, he got the point. Harry was so shocked that quiet little Maria had lost her fear that he stood there dumbly and the boys decided to open a path for her and let her out.
When Charlie and Maria got around the corner, they collapsed into hysterical laughter. It all seemed so ridiculous, including, Maria’s reaction.
Maria was driving up the long driveway to her little shed the following Saturday after work. Gabriel was back for the weekend. He walked up to her car and smiled.
“Charlie told me about your run in with the buffoon. Thank you for defending my ‘pussy-boy’ status,” he said still smiling, “but you don’t need to bother. I am fine.”
“Of course, you are fine.”
“Well, don’t put yourself in that position next time.”
A few days later, when visiting the cafe while Maria was out getting fruit and vegetables, Charlie decided to tell Lucy about the incident with the hoon-boys. Charlie was like that. Why hide things? she thought.
That evening, Lucy, in turn, told Lenny. Lucy was a mother. She tended to be more understanding of the problems of other people’s children.
She would say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and be thankful that somehow she had cornered lots of God’s grace.
Lenny said nothing but he was a father. His job was to protect. Harry and those boys had better watch out the next time they crossed paths with the gruff fisherman of Waldmeer!
A few weeks later, a small posy of flowers was delivered to Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe with Maria’s name on it. It didn’t have a sender’s name. It was the sort of posy with pretty, pink paper that you buy if you don’t have a lot of money but you want to impress somebody. It had a little hand-written note by someone who looked like they were trying to write neatly but didn’t write very often. Sorry Maria, was all it said. The writing looked familiar. A memory from school came up. Maria smiled. She had already forgiven Harry. After all, forgiveness is something you give yourself every day.
One night, around 2.00 a.m., Maria woke and looked out the window of her little shed home. The night sky was perfectly clear with masses of brilliant stars forming a blanket of beauty. Someone was standing next to the bed. Oh, thought Maria, relieved, it’s Milyaket.
Milyaket smiled down at Maria, “It’s lovely to see you again, Maria. How did you go crossing the North Country pass after I left you?”
Maria felt that Milyaket knew exactly how she went but, to be polite, she said, “Well, I met the wolf pack, and Galahad took me to the border of Garourinn, and there I realised Amira had already returned to me.”
“That’s wonderful. Now, I have somewhere else to take you. Someone is waiting to see you in the Vastandamine Forest in the Homeland.” The Vastandamine Forest is where Farkas met his earth father.
“If you think so,” Maria said hesitantly. She wondered who would be waiting there for her. Milyaket took her hand and, before any time seemed to pass, Maria was sitting in the forest in full daylight, on a grassy patch, next to one of the happy rivers dancing along its way. After a few minutes, a man appeared and sat next to her.
“Zufar,” Maria gasped as she hugged and kissed him. Actually, Maria didn’t know who Zufar was. However, Amira certainly did, although, it was eons since she had seen him.
Zufar and Amira were lifelong mates. They fell in love as young adults and were soon married. It was a good, spirited match and they gave much to each other. Many of their joint life lessons came from their bodies. Sometimes, people love each other and connect in their mind or heart but do not ever really connect in their bodies. Zufar was a soldier and very aligned with his own healthy and strong body. He was also very aligned with Amira’s body. They were as much at home with each other’s body as they were with their own.
In those days, soldiers spent long periods of time overseas and most slept with other women while away. Although Zufar did not do this for a number of years, eventually, he did. Amira knew as soon as he returned. His body was different. Part of it felt foreign. Zufar’s guilt made him protect part of himself. Both decided it was best not to talk about it. They tried to focus on the essence of their love rather than the betrayals to it. They worked to get the purity of their connection back. It took time but they did get it back. That is, until the next long trip away.
As time progressed, Zufar learned to control his sexual drive rather than it control him. It was a happy day when next he returned home. His body felt as it did when he left home. However, along with Zufar’s ability to transcend his own body’s desires, he also learned to transcend the thought of separate and conflicting bodies in general. He found that he could no longer kill another person. He could not see anyone as an enemy anymore. This was a wonderful achievement as a soul but, as a soldier who was now in command, it was a serious conflict.
One time, in order to protect one of his men, he confronted an enemy. His own soldier escaped. Zufar was unable to harm the enemy and was killed instead. As his guides took him to the Homeland, he told them that he was very happy to be going Home and no longer wished to live in a world where brothers were seen as enemies. He knew he would see Amira again.
Amira was the one left behind. The grief forced her to learn that souls can never be separated. She could see that even though we have a body which can thrive and be used for beautiful things, it is the changeless soul which connects. After that, she often felt Zufar around and even heard his voice. Her grief was totally healed. Further, the actual capacity for grief was starting to dismantle.
“It has been a long time, Amira,” said Zufar. Amira nodded.
“I have come to tell you that I will be travelling to a different dimension soon and you will not feel me around for a long time. It is my happy duty to go but I wanted to let you know.”
“My dear Zufar, you are so kind to bring me here to say good-bye,” said Amira taking Zufar’s hand. “We have already said more goodbyes than are necessary. Those were goodbyes that brought about the end of partings. You have your work which will bring you great fulfilment and I have mine. We taught each other that no parting is possible.”
Zufar stood up and looked beyond the trees to a distant land. He turned to Amira one last time and silently knelt before her. “Then there shall be no parting,” he said and walked towards the trees and disappeared.
Maria had been totally voiceless while witnessing Zufar and Amira. She did not know what to say. Amira spoke first, “Come, Maria. We have work to do and people who need us. It is time to go.”
The stars were no longer shining through Maria’s window. The sun was creeping over the hills, the hens were making a racket, and the morning was calling. It was the beginning of a glorious, clear day.
A Better Book
One afternoon, Harry Maclary’s twin sister, Mary, came into the cafe. Mary was the opposite of Harry. Reserved, clever, peaceful, polite. An altogether delightful, young woman. By now, all three – Harry, Mary, and Maria – were twenty-three.
“I’m so sorry about my brother,” said Mary. “You know what he can be like.” She added hopefully, “I’m sure with a few more years, he will work himself out.”
“Of course he will,” said Maria smiling to let Mary know not to give the incident any more thought.
Mary turned to leave but hesitated and quietly said, “Maria, umm, I was wondering if you had a minute?”
“Of course, yes.”
“I have a problem and I can’t talk to my family about it or anyone else in Waldmeer. They are so conservative.”
“Yes,” said Maria encouraging Mary to continue.
“I realised some time ago that I am not really attracted to boys. Last time I went to the city, I met a gay girl there and it dawned on me that I am also gay. There is no one that I am interested here in Waldmeer. I mean, are there even any gay people in our little town? I just wanted to tell someone who would not repeat what I have said.”
Maria smiled, “I don’t think that’s a problem at all, Mary. Relationships are valuable no matter who they are between.” Mary looked relieved. “I think you need to come and have dinner at our house,” Maria added lightly but with intent.
“I’d love to,” said Mary.
“Then come tonight, after I finish work. Charlie’s property is beautiful and it will still be light enough for us to walk along Merri Creek.”
Charlie instantly liked Mary and felt relaxed around her. So relaxed that she soon delved into a deep and honest conversation about Elizabeth. She complained about her girlfriend’s numerous infidelities and the, almost, totally collapsed state of their relationship. Maria let Mary and Charlie do the talking.
“I don’t think we have to stay in a repeating bad story,” said Mary with calm maturity. “We can pick up a new book that is better and happier, just by putting the other book down.”
Maria smiled. It was as she thought. Mary was a good match for Charlie and vise versa. At thirty-five, Charlie’s life and career were thriving and she no longer needed to look to other people to make her way. At this stage, it would not matter to her that Mary was younger and only starting out in her adult life.
In the past, Charlie had always been drawn to women like herself; full of fire. She enjoyed the energy, power, and life-force of those relationships. It helped her to become who she now was but they were, also, full of damaging fireworks. Fire doesn’t need more fire. It needs water – calm, healing, restorative water. That was Mary. She was mostly Water; a substantial bit Earth for practicality and stability; and a little Air. Without a little Air, Mary would not have been able to relate to the creative in Charlie or herself.
Maybe it’s a match made in Heaven, thought Maria, but, maybe, not. Relationships are a gift from God. One cannot arrange what is not written in Heaven. Both people must feel the spark of God which ignites the love and says, “Come this way, I have a good story for you.”