Rianna's Voyage - Novelette

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The vista, while not terribly impressive, still managed to reveal much of the campus despite the heavy fog. Some newer buildings that poked out of the mist seemed out of place when compared to the older parts of the campus that sprawled all over the hill. The older buildings were almost fanciful in their size; like so many quaint model railroad houses. And from above, many of the trees seemed to resemble lichen in that their foliage was thick and very, very green.

“This is where…”

She looked out to glimpse Howard Bay; soft clouds obscured most of her view. The song, fitting it seemed for the moment, bounced around her head; her resolve sharp and focused, as if to push her along. She stepped forward and expelled a frustrated breath. She looked at the gun in her hand and shook her head; not to deny, but to lament what she was about to do. She raised the weapon to her head and pulled the trigger....


Hinba


Klamath Falls, Oregon...

“Holy shit.” The man said as he came up next to the woman who knelt by the young man before her.

“Jerry, shut up and help me get him onto the gurney.” Rianna snapped at him, but her anger wasn’t focused on her partner but on the blood needlessly spilled on the ground.

“It’s a graze? I never knew ….1…2…3…Lift… I never knew this much blood could come from a flesh wound,” Jerry said. Rianna peered at her partner. Jerry had seen a lot in his day, but never anything so sad and frustrating as a self-inflicted wound. She looked down at the young man.

“You’re going to be okay…” The words of comfort might have seemed robot-like coming from anyone else. Rianna prayed silently and spoke softly to him; almost a spiritual version of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

‘No….” the voice was soft; a gentle tone more appropriate for the daughter of the president of the school instead of the son who lay before her. A moment later they were in the ambulance on the way. On the way... She sighed deeply, almost a harmony to his moans.

“Shhh….shhh…”

Rianna would have stroked his hair but for the mass of clotted blood. She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. She did that whenever possible; even the deceased would be thusly blessed if she didn't arrive ‘in time.’ Mostly, though, she would do what she could and hold a hand or touch a cheek when they did arrive time. The young man looked up and into the bright cabin light of the ambulance; the glare from over Rianna's shoulder was almost blinding, but appeared almost-halo like to the young man. It might have seemed to anyone that an angel was ministering comfort to him, he felt otherwise.

'Don’t they come as angels of light,' he thought. Wouldn't an angel bear him up to heaven?

“No….please…” He would have added ‘let me go’ but for the growing realization that he had failed. He slumped back and gave into the moment; turning his head to the side he began to weep softly. The woman half-frowned, wondering just what would motivate a life with so much promise to give up hope. She touched his cheek and spoke softly.

“It will be alright.”

Rianna’s eyes filled with tears over the utter waste of life; even though he lived, the young man felt pain so hopeless that death must feel more certain and more rewarding and safer than living. She sighed, wishing she could pick him up and hold him close. At thirty-seven with her diminishing circle of friends, she never believed or dared to hope for herself as opportunities for love waned more and more each day.

She felt her face grow hot in embarrassment as she gazed upon his face. She shook her head 'no;' not to his life but ashamed of hers. She had all but given up hope as well. But in that moment things changed for Rianna Pentangelo and Christopher MacIlroy; an union of sorts that would both define and empower each of them to be exactly as God planned for them.

“N…” He barely got out the thought when his grief interrupted him and he gave into hopeless sobs. Rianna felt a hand on her back and took the gesture as an encouragement from Jerry. She spoke once again; this time a bit louder as the sirens and the traffic noise threatened to drown out her voice.

“I promise. This is going to be okay… Things are going to work out.” She paused as if to search for another word. Lyrics off an old CD came to her and she sang, if a bit too soft and wee bit off key.

Here you came to make your fast
Prayed for mercy 'til at last
You heard the word, you waited for

She could barely sing the words when she felt the hand move up her back to knead the very tight bundle of muscles from her neck to her shoulder. It felt good, and as a result, she felt almost ashamed; why she felt that way would be the key to how to help the young man, and his life would come to be the instrument of her peace, in a manner of speaking. The siren droned on, so nobody else in the ambulance would hear her cry. The young man seemed to be resting though his glances moved from place to place but in an almost ordered and restful fashion.

“Thanks,” Rianna said, reaching up and across with her left hand to pat Jerry’s hand. The soft but even pressure remained on her shoulder, but she felt no hand as she reached out. Turning slowly, she spoke.

“Not a word, Jerry. Okay?” Her habit of 'blessing' was certainly off base by anyone's standards, but especially when she ministered to someone like the young man. As she turned, he moaned and she pivoted back to him. The distraction of his voice came at just the wrong time, but actually, it might have really been just the right time. Rianna leaned closer and sang again,

This is where you prayed
And Heaven's light shone down
This is where you sang the angel song
Rising higher, rising higher to beyond

At the word ‘beyond’ his eyes grew much less dim, in a way, as he focused on the sight just over Rianna’s shoulder. The moment gained a measure of peace as he smiled before turning his head toward her. She remained focused on him noticing how...handsome wasn't the word. He seemed almost pretty. She was so intent in her stare that she didn’t feel the hand leave her shoulder. Had she turned she would have noticed nothing, which would have given her a start or maybe even a shock; as painful as that might sound, she would know that her prayers were answered. And she would have seen that Jerry was up front with Raheem; riding shotgun.

Had she the eyes of a desperate child like the young man before her, though, she would have beheld a miracle of sorts as a very tall, strong looking woman stooped behind her; wings outspread enough to disappear from view through the sides and the back door of the ambulance....

Pushing against the eastern wind
Salt that bleeds into the skin
Looking over your shoulder to Hinba

This is where you prayed
And Heaven's light shone down
This is where you sang the angel song
Rising higher, rising higher to beyond


River Flows

As her eyes opened she saw the bright light everyone talks about; as if folks could travel back and forth between a hell on earth and paradise. But the light was harsh and she thought that an angelic being…what were they called? Seraphim? Another word from another class… Burning ones? It certainly felt hot enough to scorch. Had she fallen into the wrong place?

“Jerry?” the Seraph spoke. What a name for an angel. Not Uriel or Michael. She tried to move and her head burst forth with the heat of a thousand suns, or so it felt.

“You’re going to be alright.” The words, as simple as they were, disappointed her in a depth of sad profundity as she realized she had failed. She began to cry as she saw the woman kneeling beside her; the glare of an overhead light and the motion spoke to her in words of discomfort even as the woman next to her tried to help.

“You can’t even get that right!” The words seem to emanate from a dark shadow that covered her and dimmed the light a bit until she heard singing. As the words flowed from the woman, the darkness seemed to dissipate like so much smoke from a chimney in the face of a strong wind. The woman touched her cheek and kissed her forehead; probably the only time anyone would ever kiss her; at least if she had another chance to succeed in her quest. As the glare from the overhead light streamed its harsh rays into her mind, the ambulance seemed to fill with a soft, more welcoming illumination.

“This is where you prayed
And Heaven's light shone down
This is where you sang the angel song
Rising higher, rising higher to beyond”

The woman looked at her with a welcoming smile even as tears rolled down the woman’s cheek and onto hers. And while they weren’t quite twins, she recognized that the woman’s smile strongly resembled the smile of woman standing over her angel’s shoulder. Somehow earth and sky melded together in the ambulance as the taller woman spread her wings over them like…. (she struggled…) like an eagle ‘fluttereth over her young.’

She looked once more at the angel before her and realized the woman was exactly like her… human if not for any other resemblance. The moment was precious and frightening and warm and cold and sad and joyful at the same time. But her self-default of shame took over and she passed out even as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

Throwing light into the darkened cold
Hands that toil until the night grows old
Pure devotion of a faithful heart
The patience of one who knows Your Spirit


Sky Lakes Medical Center, Klamath Falls, just before midnight...

“I need to see my son.” The man appeared to be well kempt, as the old word goes, but his affect was tense and unruly in a way. He didn’t quite pound his fist into his hand, but the nurse got the message loud and clear.

“Chris is resting, Mr. MacIlroy. The doctor insisted that he get some rest until he’s evaluated.”

“I don’t understand. They told me that all he had was a cut to his head.” Christopher MacIlroy Sr. looked past the nurse’s station to the closed door of the ICU.

“I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated than that, Mr. MacIlroy. Why don’t you have a seat in the waiting area?” She put her hand on his elbow to guide him, but he pulled it back; not angrily but still with a firm insistence. Glaring at her name tag, he insisted,

“I need answers now….Miss…. Johnstone!” He really didn’t need answers so much as her appeasement, as if she owed him some sort of allegiance. Connie Johnstone smiled and swept her arm in a broad gesture to indicate otherwise while directing him once again to the waiting room.

“When will the Doctor be in?” The tone was respectful enough, but almost patronizing at the same time; as if Connie was under his authority.

“Dr. Rahma is with another patient; she’ll be with you shortly. Please.”

“I don’t understand what’s so hard about getting a decent answer,” he snapped. She smiled politely at him while the thought occurred quickly to her but slow enough so as to be stopped before speaking it aloud,

“How about asking a question decently?” Instead she spoke.

“I’m sorry Mr. MacIlroy, but I’m not permitted to say anything to you unless the Doctor gives the okay; your son is nearly twenty and as such is an adult. You can, of course, wait until Chris wakes up or when Dr. Rahma is free.”

Christopher Sr. breathed out a heavy sigh of reluctant resignation and walked to waiting room and sat down.


“You gave us quite a scare.” The woman said. He looked up to see another welcoming smile like the ones he saw in the ambulance.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he lowered his head; what she meant as sympathy was taken as a complaint. She had seen enough of that gesture over the years to know shame; the same shame that had motivated him to take nearly irrevocable action.

“I’m sorry that you are sorry, young man. You’re too valuable to lose. We shall see what we can do to help you know that as well.” She smiled at him once again.

“Miss Johnstone tells me your father is here and wants to speak to you. After I speak to him, he is free to speak to you….” She noticed the growing redness on his face before he lowered his head once again.

“Let me do what I do best, okay, Chris? I’ll be back shortly after I talk with your father.” She stepped outside and walked up to the nurse’s station, blowing out a relieved breath; someone had the foresight to get the boy…the young man… to sign a consent form so that she could talk to his father. As she went to the desk to replace his chart, she spotted a very intense looking man and at once regretted the signed form in her hands.

“Are you my son’s doctor,” he spoke without any acknowledgement or greeting.”

“I am the physician here, yes.” Another breath; deep and long.

“What’s wrong with my son? Why won’t you let me see him?”

“Let me answer both your questions, but please, we should discuss this in private.” She used her hand to usher him into a secure area. He followed, if altogether reluctantly.

“Please let me assure you that your son is receiving the best of care.” He exhaled slowly and gathered himself as he spoke calmly.

“I’m sure he is. But what's wrong? Why is he here? They told me when they called that he received a minor head injury…some bleeding and all that.”

“First? No one had the authority to say anything about his condition over the phone. I’m sorry you were misinformed.” Christopher Sr. bowed his head a bit and furrowed his eyebrows.

"And I should say that there is nothing wrong with your son. He is, however as they say, not out of the woods."

“I’m confused. You just told me that he’s going to be okay.”

“Yes, Mr. MacIlroy….he will be. Eventually.” He went to interrupt but she put her hand up in a calm caution.

“Chris sustained a minor laceration to the scalp; with the bleeding, it appeared to everyone to be much more serious than it actually is. But that’s not the reason for his need to be here. The laceration was addressed and nothing more of him has been harmed.”

“Harmed… I’m not following you! Who did this to my son? I need to know.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I can only give you assurances that he will be okay. But he needs to be here overnight for observation; to evaluate if he’s safe. Dr. Glenys will be by sometime within the hour and she’ll be able to give you an answer shortly after that.”

“What needs to be seen, if he’s alright?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. MacIlroy, but I never said he was alright. He is doing very well; much better than expected; he will be alright, but we still have to see to his safety.”

“I can’t believe this. What is keeping him from coming home?”

“Do you own a gun, sir?”

“What difference does that make? No, I don’t own a gun.” He spat the words out like a childhood bully making threats on the playground.

“It’s just that in these cases, we want to get a bigger picture.”

“Picture of what? What are you talking about?”

“Chris tried to kill himself. He missed hitting his temple by mere inches. We believe that a last second 'remorse' may have stayed his hand enough to force his aim off target. He…” Christopher Sr. cut her off.

“What? He tried to kill himself… oh no. That can’t be right? Someone must have shot him and dropped the gun.”

“That’s what we thought when he was first brought in.” Dr. Rahma sighed as she looked past him and to the nurse’s station. A pretty woman in her late forties stood at the desk, looking very anxious. Christopher Sr. turned around to follow Dr. Rahma’s gaze.

“Oh… “He barely got the word out when the woman rushed up to him and began to cry.

“They told me he was hurt. Where is my son?” She looked around nervously as if she was searching.

“He’s resting right now. You can go visit him in about an hour; he’s had a very long and trying day.”

“Long and trying? What about me?” The man demanded. No ‘we’ or ‘us.’

“I can expect today has been hard on you both.” Dr. Rahma smiled at the woman. “You must be Mrs. MacIlroy?” She held out her hand.

“O’Bannon. Keeva O’Bannon. I’m Chris’ step-mom. His mother died when he was little.”

“Keeva…it sounds Hindi, but I’m not familiar with it.

“Actually it’s one of those Gaelic names that spells much different than it sounds.*”

“Ah…well, Ms. O’Bannon. Chris asked about you. As I said to your…” She paused, looking at the man’s left hand; seeing no ring, she continued.

“As I said to Mr. MacIlroy here, Dr. Glenys will be here at about three, and you can talk to her after she’s seen Chris.”

“What…will he be okay? Oh dear God in heaven…” Some people use expressions like that to emphasize or even to express anger over disappointment. Keeva O’Bannon said it like the prayer it was.

“He’ll be okay, Ms. O’Bannon. He just needs help to recover. I was just explaining to your…to his father that we strongly believe he tried to kill himself. He hasn’t admitted as such, but neither has he protested. I believe he is a truly sad young man.”

“Oh, please. He’s just a little depressed. Tell her, Keev….”

“I’ve been trying to tell you for weeks that he’s very distraught…almost hopeless. He’s been seeing a therapist..." She turned to face Dr. Rahma.

"Dr. Ragazza... for a while. It’s all about how he feels about himself….” She paused, almost in thought as she spoke of Chris in the reflexive pronoun in hesitation.

“Oh, dear God in heaven,” Christopher Sr. said; not in any resemblance of prayer.

“He’s a boy, Keev…”

“No, Chris! Your son is not a boy…” She turned to Dr. Rahma.

“We’ve been going to a specialist. He’s so conflicted and sad. I was worried he’d do something he’d regret.” She shook her head as her face grew red with shame. Too much of that in the family, as if their self-worth was genetically impaired.

“He’s in the best of hands. Dr. Glenys is very good at what she does. I’m confident that Chris will be alright.”

“Well, as far as I’m concerned, all he needs is to ‘man up.’ Forget that B.S. his teachers fed him before he finally saw the light and went to Bible college.”

“The college isn’t for everyone, and certainly not for a kid who’s.” Christopher cut her off with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“Don’t start. I really don’t need to hear this right now. I just want to go talk to him. Get him to come around.”

“Don’t you see? Your insistence upon ignoring what he’s been saying…Damn it, Chris. The doctor says…”

“The doctor says…the doctor is wrong. I have a son…You hear me?” She could hardly have missed what he said; he stood only inches away and while he didn’t yell, neither did he whisper.

“A son.”

“Dr. Glenys will be talking with Chris and then you can go in and visit. He’s been asking about you. “

“See…” Christopher Sr. sounded almost like a little kid who had won an argument about Pokemon or Matchbox cars.

“I’m sorry, Mr. MacIlroy. I’m afraid I didn’t make myself plain enough. Chris is allowing you access to his medical information. But.” Aliya Rahma kept her stoic professional presentation but inside was almost glad for the information. With a Yemeni father and an Israeli mother, she was used to conflict. Both her parents had emigrated to the United States despite protests from both families, Reconciliation took an uncomfortably long seven years, but in the end, both families embraced the couple and peace settled upon each household. She smiled.

“Chris has asked to see Ms. O’Bannon only for the time being.” He struggled to control himself with some success, but his face grew red.

“But he’s my son!” He protested.

“And he’s an emancipated adult.” Aliya smiled politely and continued.

“He doesn’t want to see you just yet. He hasn’t talked much at all, but he’s making enough of a recovery already that he might change his mind. But I must say that for your child’s sake that you hold off for the time being, okay?” She failed to include that he would be barred from the hospital altogether if he insisted.

“Chris… your…” Keeva paused, wanting to say ‘our child,’ but thought better of it. She did, however say something almost as provocative to her ex-husband.

“Face it, Chris. Your child has been crying out for someone…anyone to pay attention. I know that his time with Dr. Ragazza has been good.”

“A fine job she’s done. He just tried to kill himself, for Christ’s sake.” It wasn’t for Christ’s sake that Christopher MacIlroy, Jr. had lost hope, but some might say that Christ never lost hope in Chris…both Jr. and Sr. so to speak. But for the moment, it was all about Senior and his disappointment with his only child.

“He’s….your child has lost hope. No one tries to kill themselves if they have hope.” Keeva shook her head and her eyes teared up once more.

“We’re not going to go over all of this until you child has had the opportunity to be seen by someone who will help, okay?” She put an encouraging palm on Christopher’s back, sending a shock up his spine.

“Let me see if Dr. Glenys is around. She can talk with Chris and then we four can all talk after that.”

Keeva turned and held her arms out from her sides as if to say, ‘well?’ He looked away.

“Chris… I’m sure he loves you… He’s just not so sure that….” Her voice trailed off, which almost led to a very frustrated and rude interjection. She followed quickly,

“Chris needs to know you believe in him, okay?”

Keeva touched his arm; an abandoned gesture from a not-too-distant past. Instead of pulling away, he turned and faced his ex-wife. She noticed just a glimmer of sparkle in his eyes, which were set off nicely by the tears that had welled up. Hope. She put her arm in his as one being escorted instead of the adversary she had grown to be in his eyes. Christopher Martin MacIlroy, Sr. put his head down slightly, feeling somewhat ashamed. And as you may know, feeling ashamed for something you actually did or said is a good thing; it leads to change. Hope.

They walked off, leaving Dr. Aliya Rahma feeling hopeful as well. And behind her, a tall, handsome looking woman breathed deeply before exhaling a relieved breath as her wings stretched out to span the sixteen feet between the cubicle and the door to the ICU....

And at the same time, across town, a solitary soul knelt by her bed in the darkened room. She almost looked posed, with her hands together palm-to-palm like a little girl praying. She wasn't little, but she had the heart of a child, some might say.

"Help that poor boy find hope?" Nothing demanding in her tone; rather a plea backed by a lifetime of faith in someone greater than herself. She hadn't meant for this to get so personal. Nevertheless, her eyes welled up with unexpected tears as she put her head on the bed and cried.

Had the room been lit or maybe if she wasn't so intent upon entreaties once again that excluded her but included the world, she would have noticed a tall, strong looking woman standing beside her, bathed in a soft, almost imperceptible glow. Her wings wrapped around the woman like a down-like coverlet. She leaned closer and began to sing even as Rianna sang softly to herself.

And the river flows
Through eternity

Down through the ages the Truth will survive
Turning the pages the Light cannot die
Down through the ages the Truth will survive

*Caoimhe (pronounced Kee-vah) from the Gaelige - ‘precious’


Beyond These Shores

Beyond these shores
Into the darkness
Beyond these shores
This boat may sail
And if this is the way
Then there will be
A path across this sea

Rianna sat on a large flat stone that rested on a bluff that overlooked Klamath Lake. While the ‘bay’ seemed huge and promised adventure and such, it really didn’t go anywhere other than a few miles north. No shore from which to depart; it certainly seemed fitting as she felt she was going nowhere fast, as the old saying goes. Routines can be fun or not so much; life is what you make it, right?

She pulled out her cell phone and dialed direct to ICU, bypassing the operator.

“Nancy? Rianna…yes…that boy…oh…the young man we brought in the other day? Yeah… I figured they’d keep him for a few days. So young…yes…uh huh….too young!” She paused and looked back over the lake.

“Nancy? Could you say…Yep I know it’s against regs…You will? Thanks…you’re a dear.” She closed the phone and sighed. What kind of pain causes that much loss of hope? She knew that pain. Probably right at the same age when she came out to her family.


Years before…

”Dear God in heaven, Vic…what the hell?” The oath was more out of habit than out of any remote semblance of reverence. Joey looked at his baby brother with an almost disdain, leaving their mother to literally throw up her hands in resignation.

“Your father would be rolling over in his grave if he actually has one.” Sally shook her head; the late, lamentable Joseph Pentangelo lost his life when his Cessna took a one-way dive into Crater Lake just days after Vic was born.

“I’m rollin’ over, myself, ma!” Joey proclaimed as he pointed to the younger child of the home.

“You? No way you’re a girl, Vic…or should I say Vicky?” He laughed at his own humor even as the younger brother set his hand on the front door.

“I tried to tell you and Mom, but you wouldn’t listen.”

Angry, frustrated tears flowed even as the boy ran off. Barely past his eighteenth birthday; he was certainly emancipated in a legal sense. The estrangement between him and his family had started years before as Sally Pentangelo doted on the elder son even as she neglected the younger, less promising child. Whatever Vic would do with his….her life, she’d do it with the help of strangers or maybe an understanding friend or two, but not at all with her mother and brother.

“Yeah…You should go. Look how much you’ve upset Mom!”

Words spoken; not in haste, but with measured patience as Joseph Junior had been almost looking forward to this moment. Words that would not soon be regretted and then only with too much sadness and pain even if the gulf between her and her family was healed.


A few weeks later…

Victorianna Pentangelo stood on a hill overlooking Lake Ewuana. She trembled at the thought of what she was about to do. Looking down at her right hand, she felt the weight of the gun pulling at her; beckoning in a way. She breathed a deep sigh and put the gun to her right temple. As she did, she said a quick prayer, seeking forgiveness for the unforgiveable. As she prayed, she squeezed the trigger; the pull seemed too much for her index finger, but she persisted. Her struggle with the trigger threw everything off and the gun went off as the bullet sped harmlessly past her ear through a lock of her hair; embedding itself in a pine tree.

“I can’t even get that right!”

Words thankfully spoken in frequency; nothing says success like a failed suicide. She collapsed onto her knees and began to weep; her prayers had been heard, even if the answer was one of mercy rather than absolution. She fell further and prostrated herself on the ground and wept harder; the intensity of the moment proved too much to handle, and she failed to notice the figure standing beside her.

The tall woman smiled and stooped down. Rianna felt the tension in her neck and shoulders leave even as one hand gently massaged her while the other picked up the gun and cast it into the lake. A moment later she was alone; the sound of a new wind obscured the sound of the flutter of wings…


Several years later…

“I’m glad you came.” Joey stuck his hand out; an honest if shopworn gesture that caught Rianna off guard. She took her brother’s proffered hand and shook it firmly. The moment became a watermark, so to speak, in their relationship as she saw the tears that had welled up in Joey’s eyes. He pulled her close and gave her the first hug she’d ever gotten from anyone in the family. She patted his back awkwardly. He spoke haltingly.

“Vic….Ree…Rianna… I… I’m so sorry. Mom…she was asking about you.” Words spoken to relay other words that almost went unsaid. He pulled away slightly.

“You gotta know she was sorry, too. She asked about you…really.” The words were unnecessary as Rianna saw the truth in Joey’s eyes. Which made the words all the more painful, as if in speaking them her loss was magnified since they never graced her ears. Sally passed before she could get a flight back from Chicago. It could have almost proven that her life indeed was worthless as she thought but for the envelope that Joey thrust quickly into her hands.

“My…I don’t know what to call you, my baby? I am so sorry for doubting you. I never hated you. You must know that. I’m not going to live much longer, and I wanted you to know that I never stopped loving you. I was so wrong in how I treated you. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, but I understand if you can’t. I love you. Mom”

The answer to Sally’s question came in a heartfelt gasp followed by sobs as Rianna fell into her brother’s arms as they both wept; tears of cleansing and forgiveness even in the midst of the greatest pain either sibling would feel.

“I…I forgive you,' she said, stressing the word 'you.' The emphasis wasn’t lost on Joey as he smiled at Rianna through grieving tears that also promised healing. She hugged him again; this time filled with hope instead of fear. It was going to be alright.


The present…Sky Lakes Medical Center…

“I’ve got the car parked right by the exit; I’ll go get it while you’re saying your goodbyes,” Keeva touched Chris lightly on the arm. He turned and sighed.

“I’m not ready for this.” He looked down at himself and shook his head.

“It’s just a step, hon. You’ll be okay. Listen…” She paused. The last thing she wanted to do was send mixed signals.

“It’s alright if you don’t want to, Chris. But it’s very much alright if you do want to, right?”

She moved her head as her eyes darted back and forth; indicating the clothing that cause so much anxiety. He…rather, she was wearing plain jeans and a top, but Chris’ shape was somewhat enhanced by a lightly padded bra that hid beneath the shirt. Boots and a dark green cardigan completed her outfit; so what if the sweater buttoned on the ‘boy’s side.’

“You look just fine, and really, if it’s too much at once, just take the bra off and put your jeans cuff outside the boot and no one will know the difference.”

She smiled at her step-child and shrugged her shoulders. Thankfully, Chris’ Dad had taken his child’s request to heart and had stayed away; at least for the discharge. Keeva hoped he would follow through and honor Chris’ wishes. The erstwhile girl looked nervously down the corridor toward the elevator.

“It’s okay. Really. We can order in for dinner later and you won’t have to go anywhere if you’d rather stay home.”

Home…how she had managed to gain ‘custody’ of Chris amazed her, since she wasn’t even related to the girl except by marriage. Chris was an adult, and as such could live anywhere she chose. That Chris trusted Keeva over her Dad spoke volumes and gave her strength and hope to believe the best for Chris. Believing the best for herself came a bit harder, but so long as she was keeping things together for her step-child….step-daughter? Things could be a lot worse.

“I’ve reached out to some folks that might be of help to you; you don’t have to meet any of them or even talk with them if you’re not ready. And you’ve got an appointment tomorrow with Dr. Ragazza, okay?” She pulled the cardigan closed and smiled.

“There…nobody can tell either way, so just relax for a few while I get the car.” She waved bye to the nurses at the station before walking to the elevator. As the elevator door opened, she had to step back as a woman about her age stepped out; looking very anxious.

“I’m so sorry…please excuse me,” Keeva said as she stepped aside. Riana Pentangelo nodded.

“Oh, gosh…my bad.” She noted the woman’s face and kind expression and said,

“I would be happy to,” which was followed quickly by a very hot, red face and a slight turn of the head. Keeva noticed the EMT patch on Riana’s shirt.

“Oh…” She read the name tag and began to blush as well.

“You’re the woman I talked to…from the support group. And you...you saved her.” She said it loud enough that both of them turned to note if the nurses had heard the exchange. They hadn’t. Rianna struggled to ignore the last statement. The young man...woman...had been saved, but not by any earthly intervention. She stumbled over the next few words.

“Yes. I’m glad I caught you before you left. And before you ask; yes...I have a friend who works here and she called me this morning.” Riana turned slightly and saw Chris being ushered to a waiting wheel chair; regulations are regulations, and being discharged demanded the escort. Riana and Keeva turned at the same time; Keeva to her left and Riana to her right, causing the two to collide as they attempted to walk back toward Chris. A moment later they were both on the floor, laughing. The soft, sweet laugh of the Irishwoman blended nicely with the hearty alto of the Italian; a mixture that wasn’t lost on either of them.

“Maybe you two need the wheelchair more than me?” Chris said with a smile; the first real smile since her admission days before.

“Don’t mind me; I was chewing gum when I got out of the elevator.” Riana said. The joke went over Chris’ head but Keeva laughed again. The two helped each other up and stood face-to-face. Sizing up, they used to call it. Only two reasons for sizing someone up, many might say. Either they were looking for weaknesses in preparation for a fight or, at least a rivalry. Or perhaps they were looking at each other to see how things ‘fit’ with how they felt. At least for Riana. Keeva wasn’t looking for any attachments, and besides, she was as straight as they come. The moment dissipated quickly as Chris spoke.

“Do you think we could go out for lunch?” A big step to be sure; even if her gender might seem ambiguous to the casual on-looker, the idea of stepping out for the first time as a young woman, if only underneath so to speak, was a huge step for her.

“Actually, I was hoping to find you here. I’d love to take you...both to lunch.” She looked at Chris, but Riana’s attention, at least in spirit, was on the attractive woman who stood next to her.

“I’m okay if Chris doesn’t mind.” Keeva looked at her step-child….was that even any way to describe her love for Chris. She nodded at the girl and Chris nodded back. Keeva turned to Riana and said,

“My daughter and I will be happy to take lunch with you.” She was about to add ‘thank you’ when Chris put her hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp. Tears quickly welled in her eyes and she shook her head in disbelief.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry. Did I say something to upset you? I’m sorry if I spoke for both of us. We can go home for now.”

Chris shook her head no; unable for the moment to speak what was on her heart. Keeva was going to continue but Riana put her hand out in caution; actually grabbing Keeva’s wrist with a soft grip. She recognized the look on Chris’ face because it was the very same look she had when her brother finally and lovingly accepted her. A moment later her take on Chris’ expression was confirmed.

“It…you called me your daughter.” She stammered; alternately sobbing and laughing in quick succession.

“You…you called me YOUR daughter!” A moment like this demanded a ‘group’ hug, but Riana held back; actually nudging Keeva toward Chris. Healthy, robust, and relieved sobs seemed to fill the corridor, but really they were barely heard over the loud beep and an innocuous announcement about some hospital function later that day. The two held each other and in those few seconds a family was being knit together.

The moment wasn’t lost on Riana. She stood back and watched the two as they faced each other, alternately laughing and crying. And Riana knew one thing if she knew anything at all. She would give all of her worldly possessions and then some if she could be a part of that family as she promptly and almost inexplicably fell in love with Keeva O’Bannon.

And if I sail beyond
The farthest ocean
Or lose myself in depths below
Wherever I may go
Your love surrounds me
For you have been before
Beyond these shores


Vision of Naran

I was following somebody's footsteps to this place
A wind was blowing
And I thought I felt you touch my face
And I danced on my own
But I wasn't alone on the hillside
And I sang for the king
I could hear angels sing in the distance

Nibbley’s Café at Washburn Way, Klamath Falls….

“I can’t begin to thank you enough for your help.” Keeva said as the waitress approached with their drinks. She paused as the girl spoke.

“Two diet cokes and an unsweetened tea for you, right?” Rianna nodded as the girl placed the glasses on the table. Her name tag read “Kyra,” which was almost ironic since ‘Kyra’ was a name that Chris had toyed with early on before deciding on her own given name.

“Your order should be out in a few, okay?” The girl’s words were really a statement; she walked away quickly to another table as the trio sat quietly. Rianna felt completely out of place in a place of her making, so to speak; inviting them for lunch seemed like a good thing at the time, but the more they sat the more awkward she felt.

Apart from her support group and some close friends, she really didn’t talk much at all about being a transsexual; more out of a need to be accepted just as a person rather than any label. How she had ended up in the midst of this drama was a mystery to her; almost as if someone had orchestrated her every move. And the drama wasn’t histrionic; no divas but a stage, so to speak, filled with real characters working out their own tragic lives, including Rianna as a newly added cast member

“As I was saying,” Keeva spoke again, leaving Rianna nervous. Perhaps it was a good idea after all; the restaurant was quiet since the lunch crowd had pretty much departed, leaving them alone save for couple of men finishing up what looked to be a long business meal punctuated by more drinks. Rianna felt nervous, none the less as she tried not to stare at the woman sitting across from her. It didn’t help that Chris had excused herself to use the restroom.

“I’m not much of a well-read woman when it comes to non-fiction… real life things are too often intruding into my life as it is, so I tend to stick with fantasy and sci fi for reading, you know?” She spoke in a matter-of-fact manner, but there was much more to her than the lighthearted and casual demeanor. She had, after all, participated in the care and raising of someone else’ unique child.

“Don’t get me wrong, please?” She pled; leaving Rianna wondering why she would feel the need to preface or apologize.

“Chris ….Senior… He’s a very busy man; I found out that he only had room for two things in his life…his business and his business.” She grinned at the words; consumed with work was likely the best thing she could say about her relationship with her ex since he did provide for a good home and an almost acceptable presence in the family. Their breakup was more due to his inability to deal with his own obsession than the obsession itself, so to speak.

“And he’s much better to both of us since the divorce. It hurt Chris… It hurt my daughter more than me.” Ever the conciliator, she minimized the hurt she felt even as she did accurately describe how much damage Chris had endured.

“I’ve known and believed for some time how different Chris …funny to even say that, but with being her father’s namesake? Anyway, Senior flat out has refused to accept that the son his beloved bore him is a daughter. I guess I didn’t have any dog in the fight, you know? It’s easy for me to talk, since I didn’t know the family back then, and I’m not losing a dream by accepting Chris as a young woman. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to overwhelm you, but I had hoped you might be of help with her. She has very few friends, and some of them have pulled back since she started to stick her toe out of the closet.” At the word ‘closet’ she blushed; not of embarrassment at the word, but at the fear in her heart that she say something that might embarrass Rianna.

“Oh…I understand, and please; it’s alright. I’d rather you were open and said too much than held back.” She meant because of Chris, but Rianna found herself staring at Keeva. Hopefully her gaze would appear as attentive rather than something more. Or maybe not. Rianna was never one to hold back either, but being forward about a virtual stranger’s family is one thing. Staring at someone because they had captured her attention with everything else was another matter entirely. She shifted in the bench as she realized she was leaning on her hand as her arm rested on the table.

“I had a friend in college who was a lot like you.” Keeva paused and then proceeded to qualify her statement.

“All through school she volunteered for the local rescue squad. Very intense and absolutely loyal and diligent to the task. She ended up dropping out of school and she’s a full-time fire fighter. She has the same look about her as you do.” Keeva stretched her hand out absentmindedly and touched Rianna’s wrist, causing Rianna to pull away. The gesture wasn’t lost on Keeva and she pulled back slightly in a mirror image almost of Rianna’s embarrassment.

“What I mean…sorry, this trip is taking an awful lot of time with too many stops. Chris needs to know that she’s okay. She knows I love her and her father does love her in his own stubborn way. But she needs to see that she’s fine just the way she is. When your friends back away, you know. Of course you must know.” As she spoke she had a look that almost said ‘I’m sorry’ without any words.

“Oh damn, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to imply anything. I just thought you might have had to deal with rejection like she has, you know?” Keeva shrugged her shoulders and looked off to the alcove leading to the restrooms, hoping Chris would return quickly.

“Don’t worry, okay? I’m glad you’re so sensitive to her needs. Growing up trans is difficult enough, and whatever we can do to make things work better for her.” Rianna smiled a half-smile; her expression was lost on Keeva as her attention remained focused across the dining room.

“And I’m glad to help. I think mostly that I go to the support group to get encouragement, but when I think about it, it’s more like I’m there to encourage. So helping Chris seems just right.” She paused as Keeva turned back around in time to notice that Rianna had resumed staring at her. It was only a bit disconcerting, but much more intriguing at first, which made Keeva feel embarrassed and even ashamed in a small way. She looked over at Rianna with the same sort of gaze one might employ to look past the glare of high-beams while driving; just enough off-focus to keep her eye on the road.

“It must be awkward; having so much contact with your ex, but I suppose it’s for Chris’ sake even more so because of the challenges she’s facing. So whatever I can do to help you.” She quickly added ‘both.’

“We can use all the help we can get. And friendship.” Now it was Keeva’s turn to qualify her words.

“A….Chris will be so blessed to have a friend who understands.” Rianna nodded and looked past Keeva to see Chris emerge from the restroom. It seemed like an eternity that the two women had talked, when it was really only a few minutes.

“It seems to me that you’ve made a great effort to understand; not all that common for parents, sadly, but even more so with step-parents.” She regretted the description, but it was more of an acknowledgement of what Chris had… whom Chris had as opposed to what was lacking. Keeva picked up the subtlety and nodded.

“I’ve know her almost all of her life, you know? I can’t take the place of her mother, you know?” She sighed. She indeed had taken the place of Chris’ mother in so much as she cared for the girl more than anyone else on earth, including her father. But Keeva was fairly intent on minimizing her role in the girl’s life; feeling inadequate and inferior will do that.

“You don’t know, do you?” The women looked up to find Chris standing by the booth. Keeva put her head down; embarrassed over her words, which anyone beside her might find to be kind and thoughtful and loving if somewhat inaccurate.

“No, Keev….” Chris leaned on the table and reached over to touch Keeva’s arm. Another attempt at retreat was thwarted as Chris gripped Keeva’s wrist like a vise.

“You just don’t get it, do you?” The words seemed harsh and an indictment over some insensitivity unvoiced. But she shook her head and continued. Turning to Rianna, she spoke.

“Keev’s my mom…not my step-mom. I sorta love my mother, but I never knew her, really. She gave birth to me and I think the little I know from what I remember is that she really loved me. But I grew up with someone else in my life.” She used her eyes to indicate Keeva, who by now had put her head down.

“She’s loved me like nobody else…even Daddy. And she knows me like no one else. I wish to god she’d realize just how much I …. How thankful I am.” Her words were crisp and almost loud; filled with conviction. She sat down; still holding Keeva’s wrist. She tugged gently and Keeva looked up.

“I am so sorry I…. You didn’t deserve that…. It must have scared you so much.” Keeva nodded as tears began to flow. No one could ever care for the care like she did, from everyone else’ estimation. But if they had a contest between the three women at the table as to who was the most insecure, it might have been a dead heat. The girl felt so badly about herself that she had given into hopelessness. The woman who loved her felt overshadowed by a woman whose only fault was that her husband had built her up into a hero of mythical proportion, even in death. And the woman sitting across from them witnessed the love between the two, feeling entirely unworthy and inauthentic; as if being herself was some mere phase of life rather than the huge struggle she had endured with much success.

Three women feeling incompatible and unworthy and foolish and awkward and fearful. No amount of explanations nor any words of encouragement would dint the lack of hope each felt, but for the odd fulfillment of some solomonic adage about a cord of three strands being not easily broken. Faith would play a part in their hope; a spiritual faith, to be sure, but also faith in each other and faith in their own selves as the three of them were being wound together like that cord. A mystery, some might say.

“Excuse me? I’m so sorry.” Kyra placed three plates on the table; two Chicken Cobb salads and a Kobe Burger. The three women sat up and tried to pretend they weren’t at all embarrassed and the girl went along and tried with some success not to be embarrassed at their embarrassment, saying.

“Is there anything else I can get for you?” Keeva and Chris smiled politely and practically whispered ‘no’ in unison. Rianna looked up at the girl and smiled and said with what seemed like more conviction than was called for,

“No, we’re fine for now. Thank you.” And in a silent muse in the back of her mind, she added,

“I’ve got everything I need right here in front of me.”

Despite the thought that remained unspoken, Rianna Pentangelo sighed deeply like a school-girl with her first crush as her face grew very hot and red. The girl nodded and walked back to the drink station. A tall woman stood in the nearby alcove; her arms were folded in a pose of satisfaction. And Kyra looked over her shoulder, feeling a soft breeze and hearing what she could swear was the sound of the flutter of wings.

What a mystery, what a mystery
What a mystery, Your love for me,
Your love for me


The stones here are worn
And the flowers are torn from the very sod
In the light of the morn
I am reborn in the sight of God
And I danced on my own
But I wasn't alone on the hillside
And I sang for the king
I could hear angels sing in the distance

What a mystery, what a mystery
What a mystery, Your love for me,
Your love for me

And my heart's on fire
But still I desire the stillness there
This is where it began
In the heart of one man in a night of prayer
And I'm dancing no more
As I lose the shore from my vision
And there's only the sound
Of a gull crying down in the distance

What a mystery, what a mystery
What a mystery, Your love for me,
Your love for me


Treasure

Rianna sat in her car in the parking lot of the restaurant. Keeva and Chrissy had left for home; both a bit overwhelmed by all of the emotion of their lunch ‘confessional.’ Almost from the moment they had arrived, the time was very intense and soulful; almost a cleansing of fears and doubts; at least from their perspective. But our insecurities don’t just vanish as we address them. Often they lurk around the corner; seeking an opportunity to gain purchase on our lives. Each time we push hard against them, they return, but perhaps with a little less power.

She pulled the lever on the seat and settled back into a recline; the events of the past few days had caught up with her, and she needed to rest and think. Of course both might take a back seat, so to speak, to the sleep that quickly overtook her.

* * * * *

Consider the flowers of the field
In their beauty
More lovely than even the clothes of a king
Consider the birds of the air
Flying high, flying free
You are precious to me

The field was green and lush, covered sparsely with the occasional daisy and dandelion. Rianna walked up a slight rise to stand next to a large oak that looked back down at the lawn while seeming to stand guard to a path that led down the other side to a beach….a shore, in a way, even if it was lakefront. She walked down the path until she came to a pair of thick beams that lay across a stream, functioning as a crude bridge. She stepped carefully and continued down until she was standing on the small beachfront; a thin ribbon of sand that traversed the lake but widened at the foot of the path. She sighed as she looked around; hoping to find company in her brief but vital quest.

“Right…” The breeze seemed to speak, but she didn’t quite make that out as she turned to her left instead; noticing a trumpeter swan waddling away; her tufty brood of three cygnets following after. She felt alone and ugly, almost as if she should follow the swan herself.
A honk startled her. She turned to face the shore and followed the takeoff of a snow goose about a hundred yards out. She watched as the bird flew back and forth across an island in the middle of the lake until she heard the voice again and spotted a small chest that lay next to an intrusion of grass that bisected the beach. She walked over and looked down. The chest was of a reddish-brown oak and it had brass straps perpendicular to the bands of wood.

Stooping down, she went to lift the lid, and it gave way to her without argument. Opening it up, she reached inside and pulled out what looked like a small purple beaded purse. She unlatched it and discovered the purse empty save for a silver locket. She pulled slightly at the clasp and it came open, revealing two pictures. One of her, although she didn’t recognized the picture at all. And on the other side, there was a picture of two women; one her age and one nearly half as old. The pictures seemed almost to complement each other, as the poses made it appear that they were looking at each other.

“Right.”

She heard the wind again. Turning right, she saw nothing but the grassy hill she had just descended. Fearing she misheard, she stood up and faced the lake and then turned right again. She saw nothing but the ribbon of sand that she had noticed previously. A heavier breeze seemed to almost embrace her as she heard the word one last time.

“Right.”

She looked down at the locket in her hand and smiled, Nodding once, she shook her head; not so much in denial but instead as to note that the meaning of the pictures couldn’t possibly be true; that things for her could never be so good. But she shook her head again; this time against her doubt and its ever present companion, fear. She moved her gaze back and forth between the two pictures, as if to question the meaning until it dawned on her as doubt pulled back in discouragement and fear just walked away. Smiling, first at her own image and then at the two women who seemed to approved of her, she nodded once again before saying,

“Right.”

A second later she felt the gentle breeze echo her and she could almost swear she heard a soft flutter, as if a bird had hovered over her. She closed her eyes, failing to notice the woman standing just off the beach on the path. The woman was tall and handsome and appeared to be surrounded by a very large white cloak. And a second later, the wrap unfurled once again, as if she had been hugging herself. She walked over to Rianna and said something softly, heard above the gentle breeze but almost unspoken as well. Her hand touched Rianna’s face gently before she disappeared like so much fog on an ever-clearing morning….


Where your treasure is
There is your heart

At Keeva’s place…

“I know this is hard, but we really have little choice; at least for now. Your Dad is coming over to talk, and maybe we can mount up a defense.” Keeva seemed barely convinced herself, much less convincing for Chrissy’s sake.

“That’s just it. It feels like an attack every time we talk; that we have to …I have to defend myself.” She put her head down; feeling defeated even before the contest was waged.

“Well, then. Perhaps we should go on the offensive. There’s not much we can do about what you don’t have, but maybe we can show off what you do?” Keeva jumped off the couch and ran to her bedroom. A moment later she returned with a laundry basket filled with clothes and such.

“It’s going to be with the ‘big play,’ not the subtle slow time consuming drive at the end of the game, okay?” Girls who used to be boys, so to speak, don’t necessarily stop liking things for the sake of their more recent persona, and while Chrissy never was good at playing football, she still understood the game.

“He’ll be expecting something over the top; your dad means well, but he just doesn’t get subtle. So we’ll give him a very obvious display of who you are; not gaudy, but a bit more femme than even I’m used to showing off, okay?” It almost sounded like a plot from one of the stories Chrissy read on-line except that it was her life and how she fit in with her own family. Keeva would never turn her away but she feared her father would, no matter what she said or did.

“I don’t think that I want to do that.”

As matter-of-fact as any words could be; Keeva nodded. The last thing she wanted to do was usurp what little control the girl felt she had, and really, it was incumbent upon her father to understand; what he might perceive as subtle was blatantly obvious to everyone else. She nodded.

“Whatever you think is best, honey.” Chrissy had always been ‘honey’ to Keeva; the way she said it and even showed it now took mother-child to a whole different plane of existence. Though their relationship had started off as civil and respectful, Keeva had quickly taken to the child she helped Christopher raise, and though they were closer in age than she was to her ex, she felt the bond that only a mother can feel for her daughter.

“You don’t mind?” Chrissy was almost apologetic. Keeva shook her head no. She walked over to the girl and pulled her into a warm embrace.

“Of course not.” Hell, I’m only here to assist. You’re the one who has to live with whatever decisions you make.” That wasn’t entirely correct since she would bear the brunt of the disappointment and hurt the girl might feel should her father fail to accept her. Nevertheless, how and when Chrissy decided to ‘show’ herself was up to her and her alone; which is how Keeva felt it should be.

“I’m afraid…” she sighed and shuddered; the place was warm and the cold came from a place deep inside her. Sometimes fear can be hot and invasive and overwhelming. But fear can also be cold and soft and insidious. Keeva pulled her closer.

“I know, honey. I’m right here with you, for what it’s worth.” The selflessness of the moment gave the girl the strength she need as well as extra courage to feel as if what she believed really mattered.

“You’ve been more of a parent to me than he has. Don’t….” She choked on the words; almost overcome by a sense of feeling unworthy of the woman’s life-long care for her. But she went on.

“Don’t you ever feel like you’re not worth it, okay? I used to tell my friends I never knew my Mom. I am so sorry…. I’ve known her all along….She’s been right here beside me since I was a little…girl…” It was hard for her to even speak her own gender after so many years of confusion and many more of feeling abandoned.

“It’s hard to call you Mom sometimes.” She paused and Keeva’s eyes widened in disappointment. Chrissy noticed her expression and spoke.

“No….it’s just I’ve been so used to calling you ‘Keeva’ or ‘Keev,’ you know? Like you’ve been my best friend since I can remember. But you are my mom.” She paused again and gasped out a sob. Keeva stroked her hair.

“Your mother gave you life, and to recall that is precious and wonderful. I know it’s just how I feel, but there are some days I wish I had been your mom in every way. I’ll never know that joy.” She stopped for a moment and looked up at the ceiling as if in prayer. And she added.

“But being your mom now is the greatest joy I’ll ever experience this side of heaven. You’re so precious to me; like I was wandering on the beach and found a pearl…you know? Like in the Bible. Being your mom is the biggest gift I’ve been given. I love you so much, Chrissy. I hope you know that?” She bowed her head. The girl kissed her on the cheek and stepped back. Keeva looked up and saw that Chrissy had been crying, but the expression on her face seemed to shine out with a radiance of gratitude. The both breathed out a sigh at the same time, causing them to laugh.

“Okay. Subtle it is. But I get to pick the accessories,” Keeva laughed again and Chrissy just shrugged and smiled.


At the Safeway a few days later…

“Oh, gosh.” Keeva practically shouted as her cart banged into another; Rianna looked almost as surprised as she did.

“I’ve been meaning to call you.” Rianna said quickly. She hadn’t meant to rush what she wanted to say, but the mere presence of the woman before her left her practically tongue-tied. Keeva backed off enough to free her cart.

“Me too. I wanted to thank you again for lunch the other day. It’s not easy sharing yourself, I suppose, and it meant the world to Chrissy.” Rianna nodded, wishing that it had meant the world to Keeva as well.

“I’m glad I could help. Not to make a big deal about me, but when I went through my discovery I didn’t have anyone to help me. I’m only glad that we’ve been able to hook Chrissy together with some support. I hope you don’t mind that I took the initiative to have Jenna contact her?”

“No, not at all. I’m glad for the help.”

“While I’ve got your attention….” Rianna laughed and stepped closer, causing Keeva to step backward; nearly knocking down a cardboard kiosk filled with corn chips, Her face grew warm.

“I’m sorry. Anyway,” Rianna began quickly in an attempt to diffuse the embarrassment both women felt.

“I wanted to know if you might be free for lunch on Saturday.” She didn’t include Chrissy’s name in the invitation but would welcome them both if the question came up. Keeva looked slightly down before returning her attention to the question.

“Oh, We can’t. Christopher is coming over to discuss the future.” She hadn’t meant to sound dismissive but that’s exactly how it sounded and looked to Rianna. She sighed and said quietly,

“Oh…okay…I understand.” She really didn’t, but it appeared that way to Keeva as the two danced around in a sort of misconstrued pasodoble.

“Well, I’ve got to get going.” She smiled weakly and turned around; gone before Keeva could say a word more.

A few minutes later, Rianna sat in the parking lot of the store. The windows were rolled down despite the cold rain falling into the car. The windshield wiper was on even though the engine was off and the car had almost filled with a fog of sorts; belying both the cold of the moment and obscuring the tears that fell freely. She was at least glad that she had parked in a space away from the building and that Keeva had left the parking lot without noticing her.

If a son asks his father on earth
For fish or for bread
Who among you would give him
A snake or a stone
How much more does the Father above
Have a heart full of love
For the children that He calls His own


A while later at Keeva’s apartment…

“I ran into Rianna at Safeway today.” She laughed at the irony but continued.

“She invited us for lunch, but I explained that your father was coming over. She seemed to be a bit put out by that.” Her expression finished her sentence with a ‘wonder-why’ shrug.

“Are you serious?” Chrissy said, answering the unasked question. Chrissy started to grin; it was good to see the girl gaining some balance of humor. Keeva stared at her and practically whispered,

“What?”

“You obviously weren’t paying attention when we went to lunch.” Chrissy shook her head and grinned like a cat.

“What????”

“When we all stopped crying, you didn’t notice her looking at you?”

“No…should I have?” The metaphoric carpenters were already working on the wall as her tone turned very defensive.

“No…I guess not.” Chrissy’s tone allowed for the confusion of that moment since all of them had been highly emotional and for entirely great reasons. Still, she couldn’t let it go completely.

“She stared at you. She had her chin resting on one hand and she just…”

“What?!” Keeva was almost angry as the dialogue played out slowly; or at least slower than her patience could bear.

“She hung on every word you said. I think….” Keeva glared at her as she ‘dawdled’ in the explanation.

“Okay…. I think that Rianna has a crush on you!”

“No…no….”

“Oh yes.”

“But I don’t feel that way…I don’t feel that way about any…girl.” Rianna protested.

“Well, maybe, but she feels that way about you!”

“No…that can’t be.” She shook her head and her daughter mirrored her expression.

“Why not? She’s attractive. You’re very attractive.” Chrissy grinned as Keeva’s face turned very red.

“I am not.” She actually believed that; insecurities she thought she had killed and buried leapt from their crypt and pulled at her. She shook her head no, but less in protest and more in fearing the implications of being wrong. Chrissy walked up to her and put both hands on Keeva’s shoulders; almost a pep talk, but from the rookie to the pro.

“You’re about the nicest, prettiest woman I know. She sees that. Hell, even Daddy saw that, even if he was an idiot to blow his chance with you. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

“Oh…I don’t….” Part of her still entertained the notion of some sort of reconciliation. Christopher MacIlroy may have made some great strides in rejoining the human race, but the reunion ship sailed long ago, only to sink in the ocean of his selfishness.

“What I’m saying means nothing; you know? She obviously sees something in you that you don’t see in her. And you hardly…you never see the good in yourself. But I see a side of you that no one else has ever bothered to notice…except maybe for a nice paramedic. You’re kind and considerate. You’re wise without …you don’t realize what you’ve done for me, and it’s too…. Sad,’ she said, omitting the expletive.

“But I’m not…” Keeva protested, as if it would be wrong to even acknowledge one fraction of what her daughter had said. And she sat down; putting her hands in front of her face as if to hide from the truth. That moment in the store where she literally ran into Rianna was a moment of very awkward truth; that while she might not be able to speak it, never the less, when it came to being attracted, the feeling was mutual…and painfully apparent at that.

“Face it, Mom!” Chrissy laughed once more before walking over to Keeva. She stood next to her and patted her back. Keeva looked up; the tears practically pleading for her daughter to be wrong while desperately hoping she was right.

“What?” No argument but instead a quiet, resigned near-whisper, which Chrissy answered in almost the same tone.

“You still got it!” She kissed her mother on the cheek and then walked into the kitchen humming an old tune she had heard in a dream only the night before. And off in the corner a tall, handsome woman stood, her head bent low to allow for the ceiling. Her wings were unfurled and wrapped around her like a relieving, confident hug. And she smiled before fading softly away.

Where your treasure is
There is your heart


Wave After Wave

Wave after wave rolls on
And the water falls and the line is drawn
Wave after wave rolls in
And the line is gone where my feet have been

The Safeway parking lot….

Rianna had never been one to push a faith on any other, but she held fast to some things that proved to be more than just helpful. Now was a time to cling to what faith she had even if her first inclination was to rail at an unfair universe and a capricious God.

“What do you want from me?” She practically shouted while pounding the steering wheel; not just a prayer of desperation but also an expression of what anger she felt she deserved. It was as if every moment in time had conspired to meet her; that funny feeling we all have that asks ‘what if this is all for my benefit’ as if the whole world revolved around us? She rested her head on her arm and wept; if her shaking had been any more intense she might have set off the car horn. As it was, she drew the attention of two girls walking through the parking lot; they stopped only long enough to point at the spectacle before laughing and moving on.

And a large, rather robust looking woman sat on the hood of her car; the smile on her face was of little indication of the fervency of the prayer she offered as her hand reached through the windshield to touch Rianna’s forehead in a kind of blessing. Rianna sat up, feeling useless and useful in the same moment; realizing it wasn’t really all about her. She sighed and wiped her face with her sleeve before starting the car. The woman on the hood hopped off and sighed softly as Rianna drove off.

Hills that I know are there
Hidden from my view by the misty air
Light shining through the gray
Turns the water deep shades of lilac blue


Keeva’s home, the next afternoon

“Can I come in?” Chris stood on the doorstep; the proverbial hat in hand was unaccompanied by a corresponding humility. He looked over Keeva’s shoulder to scan the room behind. She stepped back and gestured for him to enter.

“Jeez, Chris. You know you’re always welcome here. “ She walked into the kitchen and pour both of them some coffee.

“Really?” His eyes lit up with a false enthusiasm, and she shook her head.

“You know what I mean, Chris. Your daughter has been wondering when you’d make a new appearance.”

“Don’t start with me, Keev….I don’t need this.”

“Start with you? Your daughter nearly killed herself, but for the grace of God, and it’s all about you?”

“I’ve wanted to come over, but I just don’t know how to deal with him just yet.” He looked away as if a script girl had a cue for his next line. Keeva gestured for him to sit down on the sofa as she placed a mug on a coaster on the coffee table.

“See….here’s where it gets to be so hard for her. You can’t even use the right pronoun. She started transition over two years ago when she was in high school, and you can’t bring yourself to recognize her. Jeez, Chris. You couldn’t hurt her more if you tried.” Keeva sat in the wooden arm chair across from the sofa, cradling her own mug with sleeves pulled past her hands.

“I don’t understand, Keev. I mean just why does a boy just up and decide in the middle of high school that he wants to be a girl.” It had gotten old the last several times he said that. Keeva shook her head, promising herself she wouldn’t get angry.

She didn’t just decide. If you had bothered to pay attention, you would have noticed she was conflicted all through middle school. We’re quite aware that you don’t understand. It’s the lack of trying that gets hard to bear. You can’t even say her name.”

“Sure I can. Chris.” He laughed at his own joke, but Keeva frowned.

“You know what I mean. What’s her name? What has she asked you to call her?” He looked down and away.

“Come on. Say her name.”

“Chris…” His voice trailed off.

“It’s Christina. Is that so hard? It’s not even that far away from her old name. And it’s not like she’s asking for the moon. All she wants is for you to care.”

“What am I supposed to do? I feel like I lost a son.” He sighed, and it was likely the first time in ages that Keeva saw him getting emotional over something important.

“I know, Chris. It’s hard because you expected something from your child that she couldn’t deliver. But it would have been like that if she had decided to major in art instead of business in a way; not meeting your expectations. I guess that’s why….”

“Now who’s starting. I never placed any expectations on you.”

“No, I guess you didn’t. You just got disappointed in me because I didn’t measure up. Like you didn’t say what you wanted until after I didn’t give it to you. That’s what you’re doing with your daughter. You want a perfect child in an imperfect world. If Lisa’s death didn’t prove that, then I don’t know what would." She paused and looked away; she wanted to include Chris but he needed to know the truth.

"You can’t have what doesn’t exist. People die and people disappoint, Chris, even if you never spoke a word to me or our daughter about what you wanted.” She hadn’t meant to make such a contrast, but she was protective of Chrissy; even if she never bore her, she was still the mother of someone else’s child as much as anyone could be.

“She cries a lot.” Perhaps too much, some might think, but a child with one parent in the grave and another as cold as if he were dead in a way. Keeva felt helpless to fix the rift between father and daughter, but it couldn’t be repaired until someone took a step closer. It wasn’t fair, so to speak, but it was how things were.

“Dad?”

A voice came from off to Chris’ right. He turned to see a fairly nondescript young woman standing in the kitchen archway. She wore jeans and a black tee. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail at the base of her neck, revealing her fairly-scrubbed face. Just a hint of eye shadow and lip gloss ‘betrayed’ her gender.

In virtually every way, she resembled her ‘predecessor;’ the sister in a set of fraternal twins, in a way. But her expression and her demeanor were all Christina. No hint of Christopher other than the same reluctant half-smile borne of insecurity and hope. Chris looked at his daughter; perhaps for the first time, in a way and sighed.

“I just….I’m glad you’re here.” She resisted the urge to run to her father for a new-girl embrace; the fear of rejection coupled with a wise decision to allow her father to take it in a bit before going all out. She looked over at Keeva and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, ‘I’m trying…I’m really trying!’ Keeva half-frowned; not at the girl’s attempt, but at her need to be acceptable when it should have been second nature to her father.

“I…I’m glad, too.” Chris practically whispered; his head down. It would have seemed that he was ashamed of her, and at one time that might have been true. But that he echoed her indicated a huge change that no one could have imagined only days before. He looked up at her and smiled weakly and patted the cushion next to him. She slowly walked over and sat down and faced him. She held her arms back; fearful of being rebuked once again merely for wanting what any child, boy or girl, would want from a father. Chris leaned closer and pulled her into an awkward hug; the kind where both parties pat each other on the back for lack of a better thing to do.

“I’m sorry.” He uttered softly. It was the first time that Keeva had ever heard her ex-husband apologize for anything, and it wasn’t lost at all on his daughter as well. Chrissy began to shake in his arms; not violently, but with an underlying release of grief and sadness over several years of lost hope. She began to sob softly, which Chris matched with a soft stroking of his daughter’s hair. The loss and sadness gave way to relief as she realized in so many ways for the first time what most children know from their earliest of beginnings; that her father actually loved her.

“I’m going to head out to get something for dinner.” Keeva smiled and patted Chris and Chrissy both on their shoulders. They looked up as if to say, ‘ you’re not going, are you?’ She smiled.

“You two need to connect. And I’m only going to get in the way by either pushing or pulling you both when you need to take this at your own speed. God doesn’t need me fudging this up with my take, guys, so you just go ahead and hug and talk and whatever else needs to be done. I’ll be back in a while.”

She nodded at them before grabbing her car keys and heading out the door. A tall woman sat on the stool by the counter and smiled at another woman who almost appeared to be her sister, but for the decided difference in the color of their wings. She smiled as Keeva walked past; a nod and a grin of approval for a job well left done by the ones who needed to talk. The other woman nodded and smiled as Chris pulled back just a bit and revealed to his newly-appreciated daughter that she wasn’t the only one in the family who could cry.

Music in every sound light beyond each cloud
Hope in every dream
Songs like a healing breeze every breath inhale
And the goodness feel


Thai Orchid Café, Klamath Falls….shortly thereafter

Keeva paid for her take-away and turned to leave. Two fairly large women seemed to be arguing in the doorway of the restaurant. She shied back and turned around just in time to walk into another woman. Their feet got tangled and they fell sideways into the booth by the doorway. A moment later Keeva was greeted with a broad grin and a soft chuckle.

“I was hoping I’d run into you, but this is ridiculous.” Rianna said as Keeva struggled to extricate herself from their two-woman pile. She offered her hand in assistance, and Keeva took it; albeit reluctantly. As she stood up she seemed a bit of a loss for balance, feeling somewhat dizzy from standing up too quickly, perhaps. Rianna continued to hold her hand as she righted herself and the woman’s soft touch made her feel uncomfortable and welcome at the same time.

“You can let go of my hand now.” Keeva said, but as Rianna loosened her grip, something inside prodded Keeva a bit and she held onto Rianna’s hand.

“Okay.” Rianna smiled. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t only on her end, she supposed. Keeva’s face turned a soft red and she let go quickly as if she had been holding a live wire. And for all the emotion that seemed to be flowing through her at the moment, she might as well have been. She shook her head and grabbed the bag of food that had fallen on the bench in front of Rianna. The woman smiled and reached out and lifted the bag up and handed it to her; leaving her in a very minor if crucial debt as her face grew even redder.

“I have to go!” She snapped and turned to walk away. Her coat had gotten caught on the frame of the wooden chair next to the booth and she once again lost her balance. This time she fell backwards and into the arms of Rianna, who had stood up to help. They came face to face, and would have kissed each other but for the propriety of one and the confusion of the other. Keeva pushed away slightly and nodded a thank you before running out the front door; failing to notice that the two women who had been arguing were now shaking hands for a job well done. A moment later she was in her car, which she had parked a few spaces down from the restaurant. She looked up in time to see Rianna walking her way. She went to lock the doors, but hit the window switch instead, opening it to the cold air and warm encounter that seemed to wish to never end.

“Listen. I understand if you’re shy or you don’t really find me to be your type. It’s okay?” Who was she to tell Keeva what was okay about how she felt? But Rianna continued.

“But there’s nothing wrong with me or you either. Alright? I just thought I’d mention that before you drive off scared.” Rianna wasn’t used to being so forward, but she seemed emboldened by the odd opportunity that had presented itself. And she, as they say, wasn’t getting any younger. Keeva pressed the lock switch and the lock clicked loudly. Rianna laughed softly and reached in through the partially opened window; unlocking the door once again. She opened the door and plopped herself down in the seat beside Keeva and smiled a silly smile as if she was a mischievous child instead of a ‘full-grown’ woman.

“What…wha….” Keeva began to protest, but Rianna was determined and would have none of that. She leaned close and put her hand on Keeva’s face, caressing it softly. The woman tried very hard not to respond, but her face, already hot with embarrassment, took on a new change of temperature as her face cooled slightly and her cheeks lightened slightly; a new emotion or rather a newly-focused emotion began to display itself. Rianna missed nothing and leaned closer. She smiled with a soft sigh and kissed Keeva full on the lips; all the while still touching the woman’s cheek with her hand. A hand that had helped heal and sooth and restore as part of a job took on a new function as the healing and soothing and restoration was for as much benefit for her as for Keeva’s.

“I…no….I’m not….”

She wasn’t so much protesting Rianna’s gesture as much as protesting her own worthiness. But for the first time since they had met, both women were on the same page in communication. Not misunderstanding; an economy of words was accompanied by looks and sighs and smiles that neither woman had incorporated into their repertoires. Each understood full well what the other felt and thought though no other words passed between them as they kissed each other.

Normally, Keeva would have worried that she was being selfish; knowing that the Pad Ruam Mit was getting colder by the moment, and that Chris and Chrissy would be waiting for dinner. And practical Rianna would likely have glanced at carry out in her tote bag and the bag on the back seat of Rianna’s care and noted that Pad Phet is easily reheatable. But both women uncharacteristically ignored the food and continued to kiss, carried along, as it were, riding wave after wave of new and wonderful emotions. Of course, the two waiting for Keeva weren’t really worried about dinner anyway, and it’s indeed true… you can reheat Pad Phet.

Songs like a healing breeze every breath inhale
And the goodness feel
Rise from the bird above from the flower below
In a song of love

Light shining through the gray
Turns the water deep shades of lilac blue
Music in every sound light beyond each cloud
Hope in every dream


And the Angels Dance

True confession from a heart that seeks
The pure desire for cleansing love
And a prayer for His healing touch
Any of these and the angels dance

Keeva used her sleeve to wipe the steam from the car window. She was desperately and vainly seeking a way out of the moment; flight from the woman beside her, even in a real sense, was pointless since there was no escaping how ‘comfortable’ Rianna made her feel. She turned back to face Rianna and found her sitting with her head against the passenger’s side window, crying softly.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.” She protested. Her shoulders shrugged almost involuntarily as she shied away from the one truth beside her own existence that she had sought nearly all her life. It was another example of feeling unworthy and inauthentic and false in the midst of the truest moment in her life. And of course, with Keeva pulling away as well, it seemed the moment would soon be lost. A gentle nudge came from her right, pushing her toward Keeva.

And Keeva wanted to answer, ‘no you shouldn’t have;’ feeling things should never begin if they are doomed to failure or if they are given to those who do not deserve favor. She leaned closer to the window; wanting so much to comfort the woman beside her but feeling incapable and vulnerable at the same time. A soft hand seemed to push her sideways and she found herself face to face with Rianna.

Keeva tried to speak, but look of acceptance on Rianna’s face stilled her protest. Always the one to dance to someone else’ lead, she found instead in herself a brand new confidence. That feeling that she had prayed from the depths of her heart all her life. She smiled; almost a polite ‘I hope you don’t mind,’ expression before reaching over and firmly placing her hand on the back of Rianna’s neck. Softly but with intent fully displayed, she pulled the woman close to her and kissed her. It was the first kiss she had ‘given’ anyone; every single preceding kiss was given to her, so to speak. Today it was her turn to bless.

“Mmmmm.” The two purred softly. And outside the car two women stood on either side. They were tall and strong and handsome in as gentle a way as you can imagine. Rianna and Keeva seemed to take no notice of them and the people who passed by the car took no notice at all as two sets of wings; broad and powerfully built, fluttered gently to provide a cover for the scene that unfolded inside. And the two women smiled at each other; satisfied that the healing the two so desperately needed was manifest in ways that even they would never have conceived.

And the angels dance
And the angels dance


Back at Keeva's place...

“I….” Chris put his head down; ashamed of his neglect over so many years for some many foolish reasons in so many horribly displays. His shoulders began to bob up and down as he sobbed; a confession of sorts that he had loved his child all along with complete and utter conditional expectancy. Any child would have been nearly destroyed; that Chrissy had survived was miraculous, to say the least. But the mercy that was woven into the moment overwhelmed Chris as he realized he had been given a chance that few receive when they hold onto their own wants and needs with a tight fist. He had finally let go, and the blessing of knowing his daughter for the first time was too much to bear without being swept away in a flood of gratitude.

“I am so, so sorry.” He repeated over and over; practically murmuring at times. Some may speak in apology to ease their own pain and guilt. Chris had moved beyond that in mere moments to seek forgiveness; not for his sake alone, but for the sake of the girl whom he had just met. Chrissy put her hand on her father’s chin and pulled his face up gently and slowly.

“I’m so sorry, too, Dad,” she sobbed. She reached up and touched the place on her head where the bullet had glanced. Success would have meant no reconciliation; no chance to redeem a life-time of her own regrets and failures. No chance to lose the anger that had welled inside her. No chance to let go of the self-hatred that she had built upon her father’s foolish neglect; feeling entitled to be broken and lost and alone. The hand that pulled the trigger had been unsteady, but only but the hand of another had her aim been deflected. Only by the flutter of unseen wings and the gentle touch of an unseen hand had her life been exposed. Not as a worthless bit of rubbish, but for the hidden treasure that lay beneath.


In Keeva's car in front of the Thai Orchid Cafe....

“I don’t know what to do.” Rianna said. As confident as the two had seemed only moments before, they appeared tentative and almost frightened. Two lifetimes for one, in a way, and a lifetime for the other of hesitant self-acceptance did still have their affect, but quickly and happily waning as Keeva spoke.

“I do.” She reached over and grabbed Rianna’s right hand. Stroking it softly, she smiled and hummed a tune; vaguely familiar to Rianna from a concert she had attended a few years back.

“Where your treasure is…there is your heart…..” She paused and smiled with a modest shrug.

“I think I know where my heart lies, Rianna. I don’t know what to do, either, but I know what not to do, and that’s to pull away and act like I do every time. I’m not going to let go.” Keeva demonstrated without even realizing as she gripped Rianna’s wrist.

“I guess…I know… Oh, hell.” Overcome by another wave of confidence, Rianna turned to face Keeva fully. She held both of Keeva’s hands in hers and spoke.

“Right!”

“I…I don’t’ understand,” Keeva said. Rianna smiled and shook her head. Dreams do occasionally make sense and portends occasionally come true. She glanced down at the console between them and noted that there was a small locket lying in the coin tray. It was open, revealing two sides; one was empty of any picture, but the other side displayed a photo of two women. The picture that she had seen in her dream; the two women who looked across the locket as if longing for someone to join them. The two women; Keeva and Chrissy looking for someone…for her.

“I don’t know why or how, but something deep inside me tells me that this,” she used her hand in a gesture back and forth between them,

“This is right.” She smiled and tilted her head as if to ask for agreement. Keeva noted Rianna’s glance and looked down at the locket. Her eyes widened in relieved recognition as she raised her eyes to meet Rianna’s once again. She smiled and sighed, her eyes welling with grateful and happy tears as she said,

“Right!”

Spinning round in a blaze of colour
Carried high to a realm of light
Wings that brush the air with motion
Soft as breath - when the angels dance

Hidden treasure in the waiting earth
Brought to life again, to dance like children
Free to feel again the warmth of heaven
Into love, and the angels dance


Shortly thereafter, back at Keeva's place...

“I’m sorry we’re late. I ran into Rianna here, and we got to talking.” Keeva said as she placed the bags of food on the kitchen counter. She noticed no sounds of protest or welcome, and she walked into the living room. On the couch, side by side, were Chris and Chrissy. The girl was sitting up straight, but not uncomfortably so. Chris had fallen asleep with his head on her shoulder. She looked up at Keeva and smiled; a smile that no one had seen before; a smile that said it was going to be alright. Keeva nodded.

“I can come back at another time,” a voice came from behind Keeva. Rianna’s face was red with a modest embarrassment; understandable considering that the hour had grown late and she was responsible in part for the delay. Her embarrassment was met with a broad grin by the girl on the couch as her glance darted back and forth between Keeva and Rianna. She laughed softly and shook her head, mouthing words toward both.

“You still got it!”

And outside the condo, several tall, handsome looking women gathered in a circle that seemed to illuminate the parking lot in the otherwise growing twilight of the fading day. Almost as one, they began to step back and forth, in and out, as a melody seemed to permeate the air with a gentle mixture of sweet and strong and even bittersweet, which quickly gave way to joy that played out almost as if the notes were lights that blinked in harmony with the song. And the angels danced….

And the angels dance
And the angels dance

Spinning round in a blaze of colour
Carried high to a realm of light
Wings that brush the air with motion
Soft as breath - when the angels dance

The End



Hinba
from the album, Open Sky
written and performed
by Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=zpnJpcJfivg...

River Flows
from the album Book of Kells
written and performed by Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDbFtU994Bw

Beyond These Shores
Words and music and
performance by Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_mR-dNAJ38

Vision of Naran
Written and performed
By Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZCoc-aIRe4

Wave after Wave
Words and music by
Frank Van Essen, Dave Bainbridge and
Troy Donockley
As performed by Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY_Kbq1laqs
And the Angels Dance

Written and performed by Iona
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JljpKn_3RQ



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