After two days in Waldmeer, Malik said to his mother, “Enough lounging around. Today, I will get a job.”
“Alright,” said Faith hesitantly. “Do you have a particular sort of job in mind?” Malik had spent the first fourteen years of his life in a palace and the next ten in the Great Valley. He wasn’t overly qualified for Earth work. Aristotle, who was standing nearby, smiled. He had been on Earth long enough to realise the problem with Malik getting a job.
“I have many abilities,” said Malik. ”Someone will want me.”
Deciding not to dampen his enthusiasm, Faith refrained from giving him advice about the way things worked in Waldmeer and instead said, “Good luck. Anyone who gets you will be lucky.”
Malik looked like he agreed and went out the door as a warrior goes into an unknown battle. He walked up and down the main street perusing businesses and reading notices. He then cased the side streets. He stopped at Vibes, the yoga studio, and his eyes were drawn to the open door. Sri, the owner of the studio, waved to him. Malik nodded back.
“Good morning,” said Salt on his way into his healing room.
“Good morning, Sir,” said Malik.
Vibes was the closest thing in Waldmeer to Malik’s own energetic disposition but, somehow, it didn’t feel right. We are not necessarily called to the place that is most resonant with our own vibration. Malik glanced across the street. He saw a rundown gym called Waldmeer Warriors. The locals referred to as the W. He crossed the street and surveyed the gym through the dirty window. It was a dump. He rolled his eyes at the sort of warriors who would train there. Nevertheless, something pulled him inside. There was a man at the front desk scrolling through his phone. He didn’t bother to look up. Malik strode over to the free weights. The heaviest dumbbells were dusty from lack of use. The lighter ones were strewn all over the room untidily. He wondered if there were enough plates for him to stack onto the bar for a squat. In the corner, a skinny kid, of around sixteen, was watching him. Once seen, the kid abruptly returned to his bicep curls.
Boys that age think that being big is all about arms, thought Malik. He went to the desk and said, “I’d like to speak to the boss.”
“I’m the boss,” said the man. “What do you want?”
Malik looked like he was thinking, If you are the boss, no wonder this place is in the state it is in. He said, “I’m interested in applying for a job as a personal trainer.”
“What’re your qualifications?” said the man.
“I don’t have any formal qualifications,” replied Malik, “but I have had a rigorous training in the Mountains.”
The man momentarily looked at Malik. “Yeah, right,” he said. “Our personal trainers are highly qualified. Come back when you have a qualification.” He went back to his phone.
Malik walked over to the wall and studied the notices of the personal trainers who were supposedly so highly trained. Pathetic, he thought. He then turned his eyes to the boy again.
“What’s your name, boy?” asked Malik.
“Michael,” said the boy so softly that he had to repeat it several times before Malik could hear him.
“Why are you here?” asked Malik bluntly.
The boy squirmed and said, “Ah, you know. To get big. Cause of the other guys and all…”
Malik picked up two smaller dumbbells and handed them to the boy. “You are going too heavy,” he said. “And bad form. Halve the weight. Double the reps. Contract your bicep as you curl.” He added while striding away, “And do some work on your triceps. They are three-quarters of your upper arm.”
Deciding on a different approach, Malik said politely to the boss, “What about if you give me a trial? I’ll get a certificate and, in the meantime, I’ll find all my own clients. You have nothing to lose.”
The man hesitated and was about to decline when Malik piped up, “I already have a client from your gym.” The boss raised his eyebrows in interest. Malik walked over to the boy and said loudly. “I am training Michael. He is interested in the bodybuilding competition that you have up there on the wall.” Malik pointed to the one that said, Annual Darnall Junior Bodybuilding Competition. Michael stood there dumbly but didn’t say it wasn’t true.
“Okay,” said the man. “You’re on trial.”
The boy mumbled something to Malik, when they alone, about having no money. “Don’t worry, kid,” said Malik. “I’ll train you for free while I get my certificate. Then when we are both on our feet, I will charge you a lot, so start preparing to be a success. See you, same time, tomorrow morning.”
The boy walked out of the gym three inches taller. By the end of the month, Malik had already been nicknamed the Warlord – the Warlord of the Waldmeer Warriors.
Faith and Aristotle were travelling to Darnall in the bus. Aristotle was having the afternoon with Gabriel, and Faith was going to the shops. Gabriel had been out to Waldmeer a few times, at Aristotle’s request, and had become more familiar with the family. Faith had been quite reserved when Gabriel visited, not because she didn’t want to connect with him but because the possibility had not gone unrecognised that Gabriel could be the husband that Bethany was supposed to find on Earth. Of course, no one mentioned that but it could not be written off. Faith felt that if she kept in the background, after a while, it would become clear if there was any interest between Gabriel and Bethany. There wasn’t. The thought didn’t even cross Gabriel’s mind. As for Bethany, she was an intelligent young woman. She probably would have considered Gabriel, if there had been an obvious interest from him but Bethany was mature enough to know that trying to get someone interested in us (who is not) is a painful and pointless endeavour. There are many people in the world. Some are for us. Most are not.
After being satisfied that Faith could see no swirling energetic pull between Gabriel and Bethany, another thought popped into her mind. She looked at Malik. Then at Gabriel. Then back at Malik. Malik and Gabriel? Telling herself that we can turn ourselves into a mental minefield if we follow the trail of all our thoughts, she shook her head and brushed the thought aside.
Today, Faith walked with Aristotle to Gabriel’s apartment in Darnall and then continued across the bridge to the Darnall shops. She had decided to modify her approach to Gabriel as not only did he have no interest in Bethany (or Malik), he also appeared to have little interest in her. Here it is, thought Faith. She stopped at Mirko Merven’s Hair Salon and read a poster advertising, Makeover in the Middle with Merven the Magician.
Mirko eyed her up and down and came towards her with a smile. “May I help you?” he asked as if it was a rhetorical question.
Faith pointed to the poster and said cautiously, “I’m thinking a cut and colour?”
“Yes, of course, dear,” said Mirko. “When?”
“I don’t suppose you could do it now?” asked Faith.
“I have a cancellation so you are in luck,” said Mirko.
After being seated and given peppermint tea and a consultation, it was agreed by Mirko, his assistant, and Faith that they would go for a soft blonde-brown and a pixie cut.
“Have you ever coloured your hair?” asked Mirko.
“Not for the last ten years,” answered Faith.
“Hmm…” said Mirko. He then added, “Your hair is already short but we will give it a bit of an edge so it looks like a style.”
“I must admit that I normally cut it myself,” said Faith apologetically.
Mirko coughed and then said, “Pixie cut will look much better than a do-it-yourself job.” When out of earshot, he said to his assistant, “I think she has been living with the pixies if she thinks she can get away with uncoloured, self-cut hair.” He then added more kindly, although still condescendingly, “Come on. Let’s fix her up.”
When Faith went to get Aristotle, Gabriel said, “Wow, that looks great.” Then he immediately turned his attention to another topic.
On the return bus trip, Faith gazed out the window to the green paddocks and the grazing cows. I suppose, she thought, I assumed that Gabriel would see who I am. In the Borderfirma Mountains, people see internally, not externally. Others are recognised by their energy field, not by their appearance or personality. Gabriel can’t see me. To him, I’m a different person to Amira. I probably am a somewhat different person to Amira. I have spent ten years away from Waldmeer. Ten years changes us. Faith looked at Aristotle who was scrolling through the second-hand phone Gabriel had just given him. He was adjusting, all too quickly, to Earth life.
I can’t make Gabriel interested in me, continued Faith in her musings. Besides, who am I to say what the future holds? Maybe, Gabriel will never be close to me in the same way that he was to Amira. Either way, it’s not something I can control. I didn’t arrange for Gabriel to show an interest in Amira so many years ago. He followed his instincts. And I can’t arrange it now.
Aristotle pointed to the distant sea and said, “Look, Mum. Between the hills. You can see the sea and there is Waldmeer. We are almost home.”