Gabriel sat down on Maria’s bed as he had done many times in the city house they were now sharing with Charlie and Mary in Eraldus. “I know you are trying your best but you really need to earn more money,” said Gabriel. “Our first six months lease is up and they have put it up a lot.” As he had originally suggested back in Waldmeer, Maria set up the veranda as a healing space. It wasn’t lacking clients. Most days people knocked on the house door asking for the healing girl. She listened to their problems and helped them with their healing as much as she was able to. “You have lots of clients and they love you,” said Gabriel. “You should be making lots of money by now.” He paused and thought he sounded too materialistic. “I just don’t understand it. That’s all. I never see you buying anything for yourself. Where does your money go?”
Maria had not explained to him that her spirit counterpart, Amira, had told her that she was not to charge any money for healing. She was allowed to have a donation box. Many of the people who came were poorer than Maria or had children and more urgent needs. Maria didn’t want to take their money. Those who had money didn’t necessarily give it. It was generally the ones with no money who insisted on giving the most. Maria felt that what was freely given to her by God must be freely shared with others, although, that was not right for everyone, otherwise, no one would be making any money.
Without mentioning Amira, Maria explained to Gabriel about the donation box. She already knew what the response would be. She added, “Please don’t worry about me. I have enough for our rent and bills and I am fine.” Later that evening, Maria told Charlie what Gabriel had been saying.
“Gabriel said not to tell you,” said Charlie, “but you haven’t been paying your full share of the rent for the past six months. He has been adding to your share to make it equal to ours. He said it would give you a chance to get on your feet financially and, otherwise, the rent would be too much for you. Now, the rent is going up and he thinks you still aren’t able to pay the first amount, let alone the new amount.”
“Oh, I see,” said Maria. It was one thing to make choices about one’s own lifestyle and quite another to be a burden on someone else.
It isn’t just the money, thought Gabriel as he worked on one of his sculpture projects in the workshop. Maria has become quite spacey and ungrounded since she has been living in the city. He didn’t know if it was the effect of all the troubled people she was seeing, or if it was living in the city that didn’t agree with her, or if it was living with him, Charlie, and Mary. He felt that if she put her mind to the practical task of making money, it would bring her back into a more functional space.
The next day, Gabriel happened to overhear the manager at their local cafe say that she was looking for staff. He told her about Maria’s experience in her mother’s cafe in Waldmeer. The manager already knew Maria from coming to the cafe and she liked her from day one. She liked all the residents of their house.
“Of course, we’ll take her. She can have a shift tomorrow as someone is sick,” said the manager.
“Thank you for finding me a proper job,” said Maria to Gabriel rather apologetically. “I will start tomorrow.” The issue seemed resolved and both put the minor upset out of their minds. Little did they realise it was the forerunner of a real fight.
Maria would, often, see the souls of people around her. Although some souls were more invisible to her, for various reasons, most were obvious and some were transparently clear. In fact, Maria had to remind herself that other people could generally not see the same thing and so they didn’t have the same information as her. She did not see souls visually, although, they may have elements which were relayed visually. It was more of a knowing something to be true. It was the transfer of information, usually, not specific, detailed information but more the general state of the person, the stage that the soul was at developmentally, and the issues they were working on.
If someone had a life threatening illness or a serious accident, not infrequently, Maria would know if it was their time to go or not. If someone was having suicidal thoughts, Maria would, often, sense the seriousness of the situation and she would pray for them. Sometimes, Maria would feel the presence of those who had recently died around their loved ones. Dead mothers, in particular, seemed to love her. Of course, no one is really ever dead and that is the irony of it all. Maria had little, if any, control over what she did or didn’t see.
When Maria was about sixteen, six months after her accident and when Amira came from the Homeland and entered her body, she had an experience of a relative’s death which taught her an invaluable lesson. One of her great aunts was very ill and everyone knew that death was near. The aunt’s sister had asked Maria to go and visit her before she died. Maria didn’t go. Not long after the funeral, the aunt chastised Maria for not going to see her.
Maria was surprised and said, “Aunty, why are you angry with me?”
“You didn’t go to her to say good-bye and now it’s too late,” said the aunt.
Still a little confused Maria said, “But none of it matters now.” She meant that it would not matter to the deceased aunt. Now that she had passed, she would realise how unbreakable the ties of love are and that, in fact, no one had gone anywhere. Understandably, her living aunt did not appreciate Maria’s response and looked at her as if she must be terribly mean. What a mismatch of communication lines. After that, Maria always reminded herself that normal people think that deceased people have gone away and, perhaps, even disintegrated entirely. She mustn’t say things which seem mean when she was simply being unconcerned because there was nothing to be concerned about.
Although Maria started work at the cafe with the best of intentions, it really wasn’t going very well. The manager and staff were kind to her and Maria was very fond of them but she was having trouble concentrating. She found it difficult to remember the relentless series of left-brained tasks. One of the problems was Maria’s ability to see people’s souls. She would get distracted by the many things she saw around the customers and would find it hard to concentrate on the practical tasks at hand. The customers seemed to sense her interest in them. Maybe because she couldn’t help staring at some of them. They, frequently, took the opportunity to tell her about their problems. However, this was a cafe not a healing room. The queue of tasks would get longer. The manager was unusually patient with Maria but the problem remained.
Back in Waldmeer Corner Store and Cafe, Maria’s mother had a far more grounding effect on her than either of them had realised at the time. If Maria was getting too dreamy, her mother would pull her back to practical issues and Maria always obliged. Being mother and daughter, much was communicated nonverbally. Lucy, also, knew when to leave Maria alone. If Maria was absorbed in a conversation with a customer, Lucy knew it would be because that person needed her daughter and so she would make things work around that. She gave her a lot of leeway because she trusted her daughter’s intentions. It was a good balance and it worked. The town of Waldmeer, itself, added to it working because the town’s spiritual energy protected Maria, whereas the energy of the city mostly seemed to do the opposite.
Two little blonde sisters of four and five, often, came into the cafe with their parents. No one liked them which is an uncustomary response to children. They were loud, obnoxious, and totally spoilt. They were somewhat better when they were with their father but when their mother was present, they were ugly. It wasn’t that their mother didn’t care about them. She talked to them constantly, read to them, played with them, bought them treats and whatever else they wanted. She was an intelligent and polite woman and so she tried to correct their lack of manners but her pitiful pleas fell on deaf ears. Maria felt sorry for them all. She could see it was the mother’s guilt that was causing the problem. Guilt about working and about her own parenting skills.
When the mother wasn’t looking, Maria would sometimes look at the girls fiercely so that they knew to behave better. Both the girls hated it but as Maria, also, smiled at them whenever she had the chance, they didn’t avoid her.
“I don’t know what to do,” said the mother to Maria one afternoon as Maria brought her coffee. “The girls are not at school yet and I have so much work to do and every nanny leaves.” The mother was very good at her work and felt much more affirmed in that environment than in her failing child-raising one. The little sisters, Marilyn and Bianca, were squabbling over their cakes, getting louder by the second. Suddenly, the younger one stopped fighting as if her mother’s conversation had just registered in her mind.
“I know, Mummy. Maria can look after us,” said Bianca. Everyone was surprised but no one said no. They were all silent and stared at Maria. Even the cafe manager, who happened to hear the conversation, had stopped moving. Everyone was waiting.
Maria turned to the manager, “Would it be alright?”
The manager tried not to look too thrilled and said, “Well, we will miss you but if they need you then we will manage.” She turned towards the kitchen and breathed out with a relieved smile.
Maria turned to the children who were still strangely silent. “Alright, but we are all going to behave. Everyone is going to be good,” she said firmly. Maria needed a work purpose other than making money. She could see that the family truly needed her. That made all the difference. The mother couldn’t have looked happier and the family walked out of the cafe as if they were walking out of a fog.