This is the last part of Circles of Separation (Book 3 of Waldmeer).
Chapter 76: Salt and Ide
“What do you think, Ide?” asked Salt. He was standing in his new massage and healing room at Vibes Yoga Studio in Waldmeer.
“I love it,” said Ide. “It’s beautiful. Just like you,” she added with a kiss.
Salt didn’t need her kisses but he was happy to have them. Not long ago, he had asked Ide about the idea of him staying in her house for most of the week. Previously, he had been staying there a few days and spending the rest of the week in the back hills with the Clinker clan. Ide knew that if she said yes, she was saying yes to a couple relationship. She recalled when Farkas asked her if she wanted to jointly buy this house with him. At the time, she had considered all the things that could go wrong. There were a lot. As it turned out, some of them did happen. However, she now pondered, many of her fears didn’t eventuate and many wonderful moments came from her and Farkas’s time together. One of those moments turned into their child, Lan-Lan. Her greatest fear had been that the relationship would fall apart. It did, thought Ide, and, you know what, we are fine.
Salt broke Ide’s train of thought and said, “No one replaces anyone else, Ide. No one substitutes for another person. Every person is unique. Every relationship is unique. Every relationship’s purpose is unique.” He walked to the window. “Life is fluid; it moves,” he said. “It doesn’t die; it reforms.” He looked towards the Clinker hills in the distance and then to the town below. “Each day is new,” he continued. “We can only try and do our best for today. It’s enough, don’t you think? No more is asked. But also no less.” Nothing more was said about the issue and it was assumed by both that the agreement had been agreed to.
Sri and Gloria came into Salt’s new room at the yoga studio to have a look.
“Hey,” said Sri, “looks great in here. Where did you get the rug?”
“When I was driving here,” said Salt, “I passed Amira’s old house and the new owner had put some furniture and this rug on the nature strip. So I took it.”
Gloria ran her hand over it. “Gorgeous,” she said. “It makes you want to lie on it and float away.” She took Ide’s hand and they both lay on the rug.
Although Gloria and Amira had not worked out as friends, Gloria found Ide to be a much more viable female companion. In her heart, Gloria knew that the problem with Amira was jealousy but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling. She not only felt jealous but she also felt bad about being jealous. It was easier to avoid Amira. Besides, Gloria and Ide had the common ground of both having toddler boys. Those little ones were currently playing with the yoga props in the main room. They rolled and unrolled the mats with endless amusement, piled the yoga blocks to make castles and then knocked them over with equal delight, pushed the round bolsters along the floor like road rollers, and jumped on the stacked blankets like a trampoline.
“I saw an Arabic word woven into the rug,” said Salt. “I wrote it down. Can you read it Sri?”
Sri spoke several languages – English, Hindi, and Arabic. Sri looked at the word, لا يموت, and said, “Undying. It means something that doesn’t die.”
Chapter 77: Odin and Malik
In the Borderfirma Mountains:
Today was the last day of Lady Faith and the children’s holiday in the Great Valley with Odin and Nina.
“I have an important announcement,” said Malik over breakfast. Everyone looked at Malik and then at Lady Faith expecting that she would already know about the important announcement.
“I don’t know anything,” said Lady Faith. “Malik is a young man now. He doesn’t need to run things past his mother anymore.” She did, however, look at him with some concern as to his new plan.
“I will not be returning to the palace tomorrow,” said Malik. “I will be staying here to continue my training with Odin.”
Over the holidays, Odin and Malik spent a great deal of time training in the forest. Odin gave Malik various sized pieces of wood as weights and taught him how to do pull-ups on the tree branches and how to drag big logs and chop wood for strength training and endurance. Odin also made Malik run along the never-ending forest tracks and gave him simple stretches so that his rapidly increasing muscle mass would not take away from his speed and flexibility. The latter were, more often than not, avoided by Malik who much preferred the weight training program.
One afternoon, Malik jumped down from a tree branch and landed like a fridge smashing into the ground.
“That’s odd,” said Malik. “I could always jump from great heights with no problem at all.”
“You see,” said Odin, “if you keep building muscle and don’t include your exercises for suppleness and movement then you will become too slow and heavy. Everything is balance, Malik.”
Unrecognised by Malik, Odin had also begun the long talk about the true mental way of a Borderfirma Mountain warrior.
After Malik’s announcement, everyone rushed to him with a combination of congratulations and sadness at his growing up. Lady Faith sat still while the fuss was made around her. Malik was not her oldest child but, as it turned out, he was the first to leave home. She decided not to say anything, at the moment, unless her words betray too much of her emotion. She smiled at him in acknowledgement and respect. Malik saw the respect in her eyes. Although he had made his decision independently, he searched for that look on his mother’s face. When he found it, he knew that his path was indeed chosen.
Chapter 78: Gabriel and Aristotle
Today was also Aristotle’s twelfth birthday. In the afternoon, he was given a few presents that were all handmade by his family: a little book about forest birds that Bethany had illustrated, a leather bag that Odin and Malik had made from the hides of deceased animals, a special cake from his mother. The last present was from Nina.
“I must say that this present isn’t exactly from me,” said Nina. “In fact, I don’t even know what it is.” She went to her room and brought out a large, flat parcel. “The last time your father was in these parts,” said Nina, “he delivered this parcel to us here in the Great Valley. He said it was for Aristotle’s twelfth birthday. That was how we found out that you were going to be born in nine months’ time. The worst part was keeping you a secret,” she said to Aristotle as she passed him the parcel ceremoniously. Everyone was intensely interested to see what it could possibly be.
“An old picture frame,” said Aristotle somewhat puzzled and trying not to show his disappointment.
“With no picture in it,” said Malik. The two boys looked at each other not sure what to make of their father’s gesture.
“There is something written on the back,” said Nina.
I would like all my children to remember that it is not the frame which matters but the picture. Make sure that the picture is beautiful. The frame is only there to draw the eyes to the picture.
The two boys again looked at each other blankly.
“There is something else in small print,” said Nina.
This frame entitles Aristotle and one adult companion to an Earth visit. It must be used today. Choose your companion wisely. Stand in the frame and you will find yourself transported.
“Wow,” said Bethany. “Earth. What fun. How I would love to visit Earth.”
Then a hush set over the group. The problem was obvious. Naturally, Aristotle would want to take his mother and she needed to return to Earth to fulfil her mission there. However, Gabriel also needed to return to Earth. It was not his choice to be here. Evanora had pulled him to Borderfirma in the hope of enticing him into the Lowlands. It was not right to keep Gabriel here in the Borderfirma Mountains. Besides, after a while, he would not cope with it.
As young as Aristotle was, he saw the problem clearly. He also knew the answer but he hesitated as he searched for the right way to proceed. He did not want Gabriel to feel responsible for the decision.
“I will take Gabriel,” said Aristotle cheerfully, “because he will be more fun than Mum.” His eyes radiated the wisdom and kindness that were in that answer.
That child, thought Lady Faith, has too much empathy for a twelve-year-old boy. She said, “Hey, I can be fun. If I want to. Sometimes.” Everyone laughed.
Although many things went over Gabriel’s head in Borderfirma, he knew what Aristotle was doing. He admired the child. He didn’t know what to say. He couldn’t offer to stay in Borderfirma, instead of Lady Faith, because he didn’t know what he was doing there. It was all beyond him at this stage.
“I do have a birthday present for you, Aristotle, after all,” Gabriel said suddenly. “I will be your personal guide on Earth.” He smiled and added, “It’s a good offer.”
Later that day, as Gabriel and Aristotle prepared to leave via the frame, Gabriel said, “Ah, there’s one small problem or should I say large problem. Aristotle is skinny. He will fit through the frame but I am too, ah, big.”
“You mean fat,” laughed Malik. “You ate too much breakfast.”
“I’ll push you through,” said Odin with a big grin.
“Thanks, guys,” said Gabriel sarcastically.
“Just stand in it after Aristotle,” said Nina. “You will have dematerialised before your belly gets to the frame.”
After many goodbyes, Aristotle disappeared through the frame with the words, “Don’t be long behind me, Gabriel. I’m scared.”
“Don’t worry, buddy,” said Gabriel. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Lady Faith put her hand on Gabriel’s heart and closed her eyes for a moment. On opening her eyes again, she looked at him steadily, took a step back, and said, “Look after my boy.”
Chapter 79: Lady Faith and Bethany
The next morning, as Lady Faith, Bethany, baby Lentil, and Odin were about to set out on their journey back to the palace, Nina said, “Well, Malik, it will just be you and me here tonight. Aristotle is on an adventure with Gabriel and your sister has to return to the palace with your mother so that she can start taking over the running of the Borderfirma Mountains.”
“Ha-ha,” said Bethany. Nina didn’t laugh. “What are you talking about, Nina?” asked Bethany much more seriously. “As if I could run Borderfirma. And, anyway, Mum is here.” She suddenly panicked and said, “Right? That’s right, isn’t it?”
“You are your mother’s daughter, aren’t you?” said Nina. “You are more than capable.”
“Calm down, Bethany,” said Lady Faith. “Everything is fine. I’m not going anywhere until you are ready.”
“But where Mummy?” said Bethany.
“The Inner Circle is not the end of the journey,” said Lady Faith. “There is another land. It lies between Borderfirma and Heaven. It is the place where all conflicting thoughts are settled and all illusions are dismantled. Once there, Heaven’s pull is very great.”
“What?” said Bethany in distress. Odin also looked more than a little concerned.
Lady Faith pulled herself back to the here and now and looked at them both. “Oh, don’t worry, you two. I’m not going yet. And I’m not staying there. They told me I’d be back,” she said without elaborating on who “they” were. “They also told me that I will return to Earth.”
“Come on then,” said Odin satisfied that there was no imminent danger of his world collapsing. He put his arms around Bethany (who was holding Lentil) and Lady Faith. He said with rather more familiarity than he would normally dare, “I have my three favourite girls. So, I’m a lucky man. Let’s get back to the palace now. We had a wonderful holiday but there is much for us to do.”