Laughing at a Funeral
“Guess what, Amira,” said Gabriel excitedly on the phone.
“I don’t know. It sounds good,” said Amira enjoying Gabriel’s happiness.
“Come on,” urged Gabriel. “You’re a healer. You’re supposed to be psychic.”
“Only sometimes.” Amira smiled. She had no idea what his good news was but not wanting to spoil his fun she ventured, “Hmm, my powers are telling me that…,” she paused waiting for a suitable idea to pop into her mind. “You sold your painting for a small fortune.”
“Nope. Guess again.”
“For a large fortune?”
“No, Amira. Not even close,” said Gabriel getting annoyed that she wasn’t on the same thought-track as him.
“What is it then? You will have to resort to telling me yourself,” said Amira.
“I got married!”
Amira almost dropped the phone. Married? she thought incredulously.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” purred Gabriel.
“Yes,” said Amira weakly. “But to who?”
“What are you talking about? To Paul, of course,” said Gabriel. A few years ago, when Maria/Amira moved to Eraldus, she shared a large inner-city house with Gabriel, Charlie, and Mary. When Amira inherited a rundown house from her deceased great-aunt Rose, she moved into it and Paul took her room in the share house. Paul was one of Gabriel’s gay friends. Amira recollected that Gabriel and her worst argument happened when Paul had manipulated Gabriel into saying that Amira meant nothing to him other than as a casual housemate. The memory of it still had some sting.
“I see,” said Amira searching to make sense of what Gabriel was telling her. How could I have missed this? she thought. What else have I missed?
“You sound surprised,” said Gabriel.
“I knew you were dating him but I didn’t realise it was so serious.”
“Why wouldn’t you realise? We have been together ever since you moved out of the share house?”
“You rarely talked about him and so I thought,” Amira hesitated, “that he wasn’t that important to you.”
“Well, he is. He is my husband,” said Gabriel. “You are not being homophobic are you?” said Gabriel accusingly.
“That’s silly. You know I don’t see people as bodies. You are entitled to everything that everyone else is,” said Amira. You are entitled, she thought, to all the same stupid mistakes as everyone else. In another world where communication is transparent and honest, Amira would have been able to say, My concern has nothing to do with sexual orientation. My concern is that I don’t think you love him; not enough, anyway. Unable to say this, Amira could think of nothing else to say.
Breaking her uncomfortable silence, Gabriel said, “We love each other, we have great fun together, our interests are the same, and we seldom fight. We aren’t that young anymore. After speaking about it, we agreed that there is no one else for either of us and that we should just take the plunge and start making memories together as a team.”
“That’s great,” said Amira not accustomed to outright lying.
“Don’t worry; we’ll still have lots of time together. Paul wants to come with me whenever I travel to Waldmeer and so the three of us can spend some time together when we are there. It’ll be a bit squishy for two people in that little bungalow but we are newlyweds. It’ll be cosy,” said Gabriel.
Amira laughed in return. It felt like laughing at a funeral. “I look forward to it,” said Amira. The last thing she wanted to do was spend time with Gabriel and Paul together. She had to search to find qualities in Paul that she liked and she did not like the person Gabriel became around him. She pulled herself together, feeling that any moments spent with Gabriel were now precious and fast declining, “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate it. I’ll let you go. I’m sure you have lots to do.”
It was a defining moment for Amira. One of those great surprises life can throw our way that leaves us searching for meaning. She got off the phone and walked to her favourite chair. It was the one where she read and prayed; where the angels gathered. She sat down and cried.
Although with Verloren’s unexpected intervention, Amira had a victory with the church council about the Clinkers, it was short lived. Less than two weeks later, she received a letter from the town council telling her that she was no longer able to practice as a healer in Waldmeer.
The town protocol clearly states that no one is to conduct a business which is seen to undermine the reputation of Waldmeer as a leading tourist destination. As numerous residents have complained about the appearance of ‘an unprofessional business of dubious nature’, we regret to inform you that you may no longer conduct your business as a healer in the vicinity of Waldmeer. We trust that you will cooperate with our instructions immediately and, as our decision is final, we will not enter into any further correspondence.
Cowards, thought Amira. Do I not have the right of reply? And what complaints? From whom? Is the council calling me a charlatan? She knew that they were repaying her for helping the Clinkers. It was a large price but Amira felt that it was not for her to say what the price would be. With a heavy heart, she took down her sign from the front gate and told herself that she would have to be satisfied with her practice in Eraldus.
Amira told Ide about the letter from the Council. Ide, in turn, told Farkas. Farkas, in his turn, told the Clinker guys he had been seeing lately. For all their faults, the lost ones were not lost in every way. They were men with the fire of “this will not do” inside them. Generally, however, it tended to get focused in the wrong direction. Not this time.
The Clinker guys decided with Farkas to approach the Chairman of the Council. They knew where he lived. It was dark and quiet as they stood at his door one evening. The Chairman was far from at ease when he opened the door to the group of wild-looking Clinker men. He went to shut the door but Farkas came from the back of the group and put his foot in the doorway.
“They have something to tell you,” said Farkas.
The Chairman recognised Farkas from town and visibly relaxed. He looked at Himach who was the Clinker spokesman and said, “What is it then? What do you want from me?”
“We know that the trouble with Amira is not about her,” said Himach, “but us. If you let her have her practice and if you don’t stop our mothers and sisters being involved with what they want in the town then we will move on.”
“Will you?” said the Chairman thinking that this would make many of the townsfolk happy.
“Not all of us,” said Himach. “Just us young guys. We are the ones you don’t like. Leave our families to live in peace and we will go to the Flatlanders.”
“The Flatlanders?” said the Chairman.
“Yep,” said Farkas. “That’s what they call the city dwellers.” Himach and the young men were itching for a change and the idea of the Flatlanders seemed much more fun to them than the boring back hills of Waldmeer.
“We do not compromise our high standards under threat or bribery,” said the Chairman pulling himself tall. He knew that it was this group of Clinkers who were the drug takers and, sometimes, dealers. To get rid of them would be a great advantage to the town. “But I suppose the Council would be willing to reconsider its decision under unforeseen circumstances.”
Himach started shuffling his feet. Farkas turned to him and said, “It’s enough. Let’s go.”
After a few days, Amira got another letter from the Council saying that they had reconsidered their decision because the complaining parties had withdrawn their objection and she was now free to practice as a healer. Amira didn’t know why. She was just grateful for the unexpected turnaround. In the afternoon, she walked to Ide’s house and showed her the new letter. Ide was also surprised and equally glad.
“I can’t believe that stupid Council came to their senses,” said Ide to Farkas that evening. “Wonders never cease.”
“People who make mistakes are not all bad,” said Farkas. “Everyone is learning something.” He turned towards his bungalow leaving Ide to stare after him.
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