It backfired on me, for she turned into a real girl - an exact copy of myself, but as a little girl. She has the same instincts to protect and has saved my loves a couple of times. Little Jade is not only loved by me, all the girls adore her.
I guess that brings us to you my sweet little Cherine. Why don’t you tell me what it is about you that makes you so different that you fear they might not want to love you or link?”
“I was bad Robert. I hurt Cherine and tried to kill you.”
“Yeah, you gave me quite a fright - but then, having a Cherine of my own I’m used to that by now. All you Cherines scare us Roberts.”
Jo asked, “Is she trying to tell us that she was not born?”
“That’s right. In another reality there was a Cherine who believed she was responsible for the death of her father. She split in two and the one part kept the other paralysed for years - you could say this one was the good conscience of the other. When I entered her mind to find out what the reason for her paralysis is, I was attacked. I brought her father along and when she met him she reverted from an avenging angel into the lovely and very sweet angel you all see here. I think that even among all the Cherines she is one of the best loved.”
“I don’t understand. How did she find a body then?”
I had to give a fuller explanation than I had intended. “So as you see, she is actually our miracle baby.”
When Cherine and I left it was to the accompanying feeling of happiness from Cher as she was looked at with awe. She saw clearly now that she’d worried for no reason. As for me, I left with the feelings of my own Cherine flooding my heart.
I have never found a way to name the different realities and still use either the ‘signature’ of each Cherine or Robert when communicating mentally or else, when talking or writing about them, I use the description of my first visits, so this last one will have to remain the reality of ‘baby Cherine’.
We arrived at the world where Cherine and Robert had the misunderstanding with the Sparklers and the Earth was destroyed. Cells of about four billion from the fire-world reality are being held by the Anadir and the Sparklers are holding more than that number of souls. It has only been months since I last visited, but I had expected to see more of Athens repaired since they now have workers joining them from the void, but only a fifth of Athens has been restored and I am told that no other city is being healed right now. They want to take it slowly and start off by growing in a more organic manner. As they become comfortable, they will ask for about five thousand more people to be returned. Then, as they grow into a community, they will bring back the next lot…and so on.
This is their world and I do not have the right to even comment, unless they ask me my opinion.
Over time, men and women have been sent to other alternate realities where they have found love and brought back partners, widening their gene pool. Not strictly necessary with the healers to care for them, but it was felt that they should represent as many of the people of Earth as possible. If they had remained locked within the gene pool of the cells used from the Cherinians, or only brought back people from the suburbs they have repaired, it may have caused them to think of themselves as being special and apart from the rest of humanity. I like the idea of what they are trying to do and percentage-wise I find they are the most cosmopolitan people of any reality, since so many of them come from a variety of alternate realities.
As soon as we arrived they felt us and jumped out to the street to welcome us. Cherine was caught by surprise. To actually see Cherinians free to show themselves for what they are to the world was something she has some difficulty in adjusting to. To prevent any misunderstandings, as became the pattern of every visit, I explained what has happened and that we are on our personal ‘anniversary’ trip. The knowledge that the Cherine they are all in awe of is in all ways truly a child of eight made them tender and they did all they can to fill her with love. On this world I was also to see something else that filled me with great joy.
Being in a world made up exclusively of Cherinians made it possible for Cherine to lower her guard and allow her gift of empathy to rule her. It did not happen overnight, but over many days. It felt almost criminal to be taking her from this environment when the time came for us to leave.
Cherine and I jumped to many of the places we know on our own world, Cherine already becoming proficient at jumping. It was heartbreaking to see how the traces of mankind are rapidly vanishing. Cities that had been alive with a life and character of their own now nothing more than ashes, rubble and the signs of nature trying to reclaim what it considers belongs to it.
“What do you think will happen Robert? Will they build cities again?”
“I think not. Transport, time spent travelling has been one of the major reasons for the growth of cities in the recent past. They can literally work in Greece and live in South America if they want. Communication is also instantaneous, they have developed their ability to reach across continents with their thoughts. I visit here as often as I can my love, so as to learn how a world of Cherinians would develop. We will never be the same as them, our development will be over thousands of years and we will always have a larger number of Normal humans. Even though we will have to find our own answers, they can teach us a lot.”
“By then they will be advanced even more. We will never catch up with them.”
“Perhaps. It does not worry me. We will have had to face other problems and we will have advanced beyond them in other ways. My biggest worry has been that with Cherinians jumping to and fro between realities, no society will be able to grow and find its own personality. Just because we are Cherinians, it does not mean we do not need the diversity of culture that comes from at least some isolation. As long as it does not develop to extremes, it makes all of us richer. Think of the music you hear Wendy create. If her music affects them here, how will they develop their own? As great as the differences between English pop and Greek music are, they both have their own way of touching your heart. Think of a world where one of the two is missing. Do you know how many other types of music there are in our world? Every now and then some musician discovers the music of another country and allows it to influence his own music and the people of his country are richer for it.
Multiply that by art, drama, theatre and opera, architecture, poetry, philosophy, customs and traditions. Cherine, we have to encourage some isolation, but this world is so bereft of comforts we have grown used to, and it is so easy for us to supply all they need, it becomes very difficult to know where to draw the line.”
“I don’t think so Robert. Not where it brings joy and beauty. Where it is only a way of being lazy, it may not be necessary.” She hesitated. “I think I sound selfish; why should any other little girl on this world not have anything I can have on my world.”
“Now you see my problem? There are always somewhere from two to a hundred sides to every argument. Who makes the decisions?”
“You have to let them Robert.” I can’t find the words to say how happy I am that my love has the self-confidence to express her opinion, despite her feeling she is out of her depth.
I try to look at all the worlds we know and weave a picture and then influence the final outcome so that what I hope for comes to pass. Do I have the right to do so? Who says that the picture I dream of is what they would want? How can I be a leader if I have no dream? Do I even have the right to try and help them make their own dreams come true? Even God, so I understand, does not do that.
And yet! Do I have the right not to help? Will I not be reviled for not helping? Would that not bring about bitterness and would that bitterness not be a poisoning that would have a negative effect on their future? So I argue myself full circle till the only answer seems to be, do as I see fit for each particular instance and then accept the blame when there is blame to be laid at my feet.
Cherine was mostly bemused by my logic (or illogic) and my tortuous thinking processes. Though not as other children of her age, she knows enough through her own sharing that nothing is as black or white as it seems, but she finds far too many shades of grey in my thinking processes. I cannot help agreeing with her, for I can see that to take my thoughts to their extremes would only paralyse me. Though, that could be good also; that would at least prevent me from interfering when I should not…
I had not realised that Cherine has become so ‘Greek’. The one thing that upset her more than anything else on this world was discovering that the Parthenon has been destroyed. No proud Acropolis stands to remind the Athenians of their glorious past. When, in our original time together at this age, I had taken her to visit the Parthenon, the old theatre and Agora, enthusiastically speaking of what they symbolised, not only for Greece, but for all of Mankind, I had not sensed any deep interest in her and had been slightly disappointed, feeling that I had failed to bring it alive for her. Although she has not lived those experiences with me, she was upset! It meant so much to me.
On a day that she spent with her alternate, visiting children and trying to spread love and joy, I took a walk on the hilltop and looked about me at the ruins. There is not enough for me to rebuild with. I thought about it for a long time, wondering whether I really have the right to break my own rules. My love for Cherine won.
All Cherinians here are so healthy that they could do without their healers for months without suffering any bad effects, as long as there are at least one or two healers within the community to take care of accidents. I asked Rob and Cher and others for their healers. They were sorely puzzled and their questions itched within their minds, but not one asked. They all sent me their healers.
I went to the void and becoming the void I carried them all with me back to the distant past. I moved back in time fast enough to see the buildings and statues leap back into existence, each part, destroyed or stolen at different times re-emerging from the mists of time. Finally I decided that enough exists to give the future a clear picture of how it had truly been without giving them something that is whole and new.
Some healers were sent to examine all that had existed on the top of the hill. Some went to examine the theatre to the one side. Others went down to the Agorae and committed it to memory, each column and slab examined almost to the molecular structure. As my healer had gone back in time and reconstructed damaged brain cells by mimicking the undamaged copies in the past, so would they return to our time and gather from the dust and stones and reconstruct what man and time have destroyed.
They toiled through days and nights, taking of the void energy from me and like invisible ants they slowly built upwards from the soil. I was away from my body for four days when they returned to me, their mission accomplished. I sensed from my healer that all the other healers were pleased. They cared not for what they had created. They saw this as an exercise that taught them how to repair the bodies of their hosts.
It was night when I returned to my body. Even before my eyes opened I was conscious of Cherine, exhausted and drooping with fatigue, sitting by my side, watching over my body. Having left them without disclosing my plans had not contributed to her peace of mind. I kept the knowledge of what I had been doing to myself and opened my eyes.
I should have realised that all would awaken when their healers returned to them. As they appeared, either in the house or in the street outside, I realised we will have to go out to them. I picked up my love and sat on the edge of the bed until my body had recovered enough for me to carry her as I walked.
“You are all curious and I don’t blame you. Spread the word that all must gather here at eight in the morning. I’ll show you then.”
“Come on Robert, that’s not fair! We’ve all been dying of curiosity for days now. You expect us to go to sleep now?”
I laughed. As I did I looked up and saw the moon shining bright and silvery and I saw in my mind how it would appear bathed in her magical beams.
“Can you last another hour my love? We’ll sleep for as long as we want afterwards.” Sleepily she nodded.
All those who still slept were woken and soon they all stood out on the street.
“Take the hand of the one next to you. We are going to jump.”
Soon as they were ready I jumped. We landed high up on Mt. Lykavittos, facing in the right direction. There were gasps and without words they stared. Some, such as Alki, turned faces to me that shone with the tears that ran down their cheeks. Cherine had woken up entirely now. She turned to me, her eyes darker than the night of space.
“You did this for me?”
“I did it because what you wanted was a good thing. I also did it for them. Thank you my love, you have made me do something good.”
How different this sweet child is from the one I first met. She did not say a word; she buried her face against my neck and wet me with her precious tears as she clung to me tightly and drowned my heart with her love.
Not one man, woman or child thought of sleep. They all wanted to wait for the sun to rise. They wanted to see it’s first rays golden upon the marble. I sat upon the edge of a large rock so that my feet dangled and Cherine rested her back against me as we waited.
Perhaps some wanted to speak to me; perhaps some wanted to thank me or offer me their tears, but they all sensed how precious this moment with my Cherine is to me and to her and none approached. Slowly the sky lightened.
The sun must have peeped over the sea and for a moment the Parthenon was dark as it was lit only from behind, it’s silhouette stark. Then the golden glow spread and it seemed to be on fire. Breathless we watched and every one of us knew that this was a moment that will become an important part of their history. I realised that they are not in my debt, I am in theirs, for having been privileged to bring back something as beautiful and as important as this. My words were soft, thoughts that my breath whispered like a prayer.
“Every chisel mark upon that marble was made by a man who was part of a dream that belonged to his people. Every line of beauty was first seen within the mind of a man and countless generations later all their dreams return to us. This must remain a symbol to remind Cherinians of all worlds that all humans at such moments are equal to the best in us.”
“God! What have you done Robert!” Rob whispered back to me.
“Why this ashen world Roberto? Why not your own?” Alki asked.
“This is not just for your world Alki. It is for all the children down through the ages, since the tear of a child brought it back for them.”
When we returned home I insisted Cherine and I have a few hours sleep. She was slightly withdrawn, but came into my arms to sleep.
“This is not fun Cherine, I think I made a mistake.”
She sat up, alarmed. “Did I do something wrong?”
“Not you, me love. I did not get back your memories and brought you on this trip as you are because I wanted my little cheeky Cherine for a while and I wanted the pleasure of seeing her reactions. I thought that it would give you great joy to see how we have grown. I forgot to put myself in your shoes. I should have realised that for you it must all seem alien and terrifying. As far as you are concerned, we just met and suddenly you have been thrown into the future. The Cherine of my time has lived through all the changes and got accustomed to them - I wanted to see how you would feel when you faced them fresh and young. I did not expect it to frighten you.”
“It does not Robert. Only you do.”
“You fear I have outgrown you?”
“Then you are looking at this the wrong way. Pretend that you are Cherine, eight years old. You went to sleep and had a dream. In that dream you came to the future, took over the body of Cherine of that time and you are now seeing all that your gifts and love for me brought about. Didn’t you fear that your gifts made you a freak? Can’t you see how many changes have come about because you are a freak? You have billions of people of many species who are proud to call themselves Cherinians for to them, to be named after this little freak is an honour.”
She lay there, her ear against my chest, and thought about it. I lifted her face to look into her eyes.
“It is something you see in the memories of your future?” She nodded. I took a stab at it. “You have been looking at the fears you had during these years? Fears that I will grow away from you?” Again she nodded. “Cherine, look at me. Not at my face, at my heart. Fifteen years afterwards and my heart has had to grow and grow to fit the love I feel for you. Did you dare dream it would be this way? Has not my love for you exceeded your expectations? What do you fear? Do you think beauty could take me away from you? You have seen Diana, Gilli, all of them. Which one is not a beauty? Yet you, that sweet adorable face, those dark eyes, that secret bump I adore, your cheeky grin and that obstinate mind, they still hold me captive. You have to learn to see your fears for what they are. They have nothing to do with me, with changes or growth in me. They all have to do with your own fears, your blindness. Cherine, you are the only person I know who cannot see how special my Cherine is.”
“You are like a god Robert.” She softly whispered. “You can do so many things I can’t do.”
I sat up, holding her so that she was placed on my lap. “Cherine, cut your link to me. Do it now.”
“Do it love. It won’t kill me, nor you.”
Fearfully she did it. I felt as if my world inside me had collapsed, but I held on. She became afraid and began to link me again. “No, don’t.” I forced myself to say. Cher ran in, followed by Rob. They saw my face, pale but determined and Cherine in tears.
“Tell the others there is no problem Cherine.” I ordered Cher. “We are trying an experiment.”
“He made me do it!” Cherine cried out.
“Robert,” I asked, “will you explain to Cherine what powers I have now?”
“If your Cherine cuts your link, what gifts do you have?”
“None. I would probably get sick and die very soon.”
“Do you have gifts or powers that your Cherine does not have?”
“Yes. But then she has other gifts I do not.”
“But yours are more ‘flashy’? Hers are of the heart?”
“That would be one way of describing it, yes.”
My stomach cramped and I bent over. Again Cherine tried to link me, but I rejected her. Soon as I could speak again, in control of my mind that was dizzy with my need for her, I explained.
“This is the only power I have that is stronger than you Cherine. The power or right to reject your link. To grow old, perhaps sick and to die. I don’t think that is a very impressive power. Look in your memories, you will see that I did try to break away once and ended up with a knife in my chest as I struggled to find a way to beat the pain of not being a part of you.”
“Robert, please let her link you, I can’t bear the pain.”
At Cher’s words Cherine looked at me and I nodded. I felt that sweet joining that brought me back to her and instantly all suffering vanished. I had but one fleeting instant of awareness of the pain I’d put her through and then my heart was flooded by her relief and love. I pulled her tightly to me.
“You hold part of my soul Cherine, as I hold yours. That is true of everyone in our family. The rest, the part of my soul that is me, it aches all the time with the need to become one with you. Because you keep me linked to you all the time you forget that all I am is what you make me. Without you, I am not much.”
Cher reached out and pulled at her shoulder, forcing her to turn and look at her.
“Don’t you believe that Cherine. When he found me he had no powers and yet he saved us. What Robert really means is that without his love for you he is nothing. As long as he loves you, he is a Robert and every Cherine in every reality is safer and is loved.”
Rob smiled at my Cherine, his eyes tender. “I think all Cherines are prejudiced when it comes to their Roberts. Were you worrying he may stop loving you? I think all Cherines must have the same fears… take my word for it, not one of us ever will.”
“Thanks guys, how about you scram now and let us get some sleep?”
Rob laughed, taking Cher’s hand. “They forget who they are talking to. Come love, we better leave them alone…to sleep”
“Look through your memories love. This was for me the most terrifying Earth. I fell asleep and found myself here, cut off from you. Let’s walk over to the farmhouse and meet them as soon as you are ready.”
She preferred to go sit by the stream and after looking through her own memories she waded through mine. She clung to me for body heat, but also in reaction to what she’d seen.
“Were you really so afraid I was just a dream?”
“You felt it love. That damn file of papers nearly convinced me I was mad to think you existed.”
“But it also made you believe.”
“Thanks to Keith. No, that’s not entirely true. My memories of you and the girls, they were far too detailed for me to not believe in them. I would have taken much longer without him though.”
“I find it strange.”
“You could not come back to us because you missed us, but you could because you felt his pain.”
“Hmm, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick love. I was not a Cherinian here, I could not feel him. What his pain did though was make me feel mine more keenly. Looking back, I am beginning to suspect that I was not in control. I think it was the old man who sent me here.”
“I hope we never see him again.”
“We will love.”
“Then you must give me back my memories so that I am stronger. I won’t let him take you away again!!”
“That’s my girl.” I laughed. “I was wondering when my little cub would surface again. You don’t need to worry, when he comes, it will be for a good reason.”
We walked to the house and let ourselves in. Cherine enjoyed herself playing with and petting the dogs. I guess dogs can’t tell the difference between alternates.
“Hello, hello! When did you arrive?”
“A few minutes ago. Ron, where are the others?”
“At Cherine’s home. Her parents wanted to see her. The old geezer went with.”
“How’s he been?”
Ron, the farm manager, knows about us and understands why we have not altered his body age, but he is kept healthy. One day he will be linked as a Cherinian. “Rose has been pestering him. She wants them to get a house of their own. Why don’t you push him to make himself younger? ‘Tis not fair to her, she such a lovely and young lass and him looking like her father.”
I laughed. “Maybe he is like me, likes them much younger than him.”
“You’re a pervert, you know that?”
“Of course! Much more fun this way.” I love teasing Ron. Despite becoming a Cherinian-to-be, he has stuck to his old values and it still upset him to see ‘his’ Cherine as a child with her Robert. I know that she loves teasing him about it and tries to shock him whenever she can. Now that I think about it, perhaps he too is playing a game, enjoying her teasing of him. We jumped.
“I’m sorry, I did not realise you were having a party.”
“You’re always welcome. Come in.”
I smiled. Bringing my little Cherine with has brought memories back to life and I could not help recalling the shock I gave them the first time. Since they are both, her parents, Cherinians now, they were able to pick up what amused me.
“That was not nice of you Robert. Our reaction was only normal; now that I think of it, I’m surprised I didn’t knock your teeth out.”
“You’re welcome to take a swing if you want.” I teased.
“You think I’m crazy? Have it said I tried to hit our leader?”
I pulled a face. “I would have preferred the punch.”
“I’m sorry. Robert, you know my little girl loves you, I would not dare hit you, even if I wanted to - and I don’t!” he ended emphatically.
“What are you celebrating?”
“Nothing. Well, to tell the truth, I got a job offer with a much better position and salary.”
“Are you certain you should take it? You British workers are such a lazy bunch, they’ll soon realise you don’t deserve it.” I put on an accent similar to Jonathan’s and they laughed.
“You’ve been away too long Robert. Nowadays you get promotions because you are lazy. They need the real workers on the shop floor.”
The light banter did not conceal his real pride and when he put a drink in my hands I smiled. Raising my glass I toasted him. “Here’s to better things.”
“You know that I got my promotion because I’m a Cherinian? Think on it Robert. My memory is a hundred times better now. I can ‘read’ my customers and close more sales. When negotiating with companies who want credit terms, I can sense if they are having problems. I’ve saved our company tons of money and the word got out about me.”
“Perhaps…” Suddenly what I’d been about to say no longer seemed a joke. I frowned.
“What’s wrong now?”
“Nothing, just thought of something. I’ll have to think about it some more.”
“I think I can guess. You are worried about the Normals once the Cherinians become the majority? I worry about it too. You do realise the day will come that Cherinians will be preferred?”
“That is a scary thought and I don’t like it. We have to find a way to prevent it happening.”
“Why? It would be a good incentive for them to become Cherinians.”
“Incentives don’t help. They have to be invited. Many will not be, and it will not be because they are bad people. Perhaps just too narrow-minded, too locked-in by the prejudices they grew up with.”
“I don’t see how you can prevent it then.”
“There must be ways. What if we made it a rule that all companies owned by Cherinians have to employ a majority of Normals. Let the other companies employ Cherinians, that way the advantages get evened out.”
I became conscious of the huge eyes of my Cherine. She was staring at her father, her heart racing. I sent him a quick message of the status quo. He looked upset for a moment, but recovered quickly and turning picked her up.
“And how is my little princess?”
“You are a Cherinian, dad?”
“Yes, I am. Are you glad?”
She recovered very nicely. “That means you are also a freak now.” she replied cheekily.
He laughed and as he responded I left them so as to find our alternates. They were sitting in a group, Dominique and Nicko with them.
“Welcome Robert. You have reverted Cherine again?”
I explained and little Cher went to Cherine. I then explained that I am having problems as Cherine cannot adjust, making it impossible for us to be close.
“Perhaps you should reach out to her by making yourself younger?”
“I’d hoped to enjoy her with my full memories. That way I am able to treasure the Cherine I have with me for now.”
Dominique insisted. “I did not mean all the time. Why not give her a week of being with you at about her age?”
“You mean, if she meets the child in me, she may find it easier to identify with me? I don’t know if it will work, but I’m willing to try it because I think we will both enjoy it.”
Cherine and Cher came over. I drew both of them onto my lap and after softly kissing them both on the cheek I told Cherine what had been proposed. It frightened her a little, but she agreed. As is usual with children, once she had agreed she became excited.
“We will need an adult with us.”
They decided that Dominique and Nicko should come, after we had considered and rejected the possibility of having the parents of Cher with us. While we were discussing it, I sensed Cher longing to have the same experience with her Rob.
“It will not work. Dominique, you and your brother should experience this with your Cherine and Robert. That applies to all of you, so we are stuck for an adult again.”
“What if Cherine and I aged ourselves and came with you?” Rob asked. That idea was enthusiastically accepted. I’d been watching Cher running her fingers up and down his arm while they talked and felt how she adores him. Rob too is changed, her love has rid him of his fears and given him a lot of self-confidence.
The Little and Big Roberts and Cherines
I was annoyed that I had to sleep in the same room with a little girl. I mean, I am ten years old! Not just a little kid anymore! However, the couple who claimed to be friends of my mother long ago had been kind enough to take me from school during holidays and bring me to this strange place. The tropical climate reminded me slightly of the little I could recall of our life in Africa. Still, I was morose and would not let her come to my bed like she wanted. I would not even answer her when she wished me goodnight.
The next day I was far happier. Another couple were there with their two sons, the one slightly older than me and the other slightly younger. We soon got away and spent the day playing in the palm groves. Although the older brother likes to think of himself as our leader, it was obvious the younger one, wiry and full of energy is the one who thinks up all the games we play. He has a vivid imagination and has us pretending our way through some pretty hairy adventures.
When we got back, I saw the girl had slumped right down in her chair, almost half lying down and she looked up at us with solemn eyes that looked hurt. I had to go and have a shower and when I had dressed and returned I found out the parents of my friends had taken them away from the hotel for supper. I could sense throughout supper that Rob was watching me with displeasure, but could not understand why. I knew that I had not done anything naughty.
I sat through the rest of the evening with the girl talking to me while I answered her with a bored expression and kept my leg swinging, kicking lightly the leg of our table. When we had to sleep I turned my back to her and got into bed quickly. Then I thought of something and sat up.
“You have to promise me that you will not tell my friends that we sleep in the same room.”
“I don’t even want to talk to your stupid friends.”
She looked as if she was about to answer, thought about it again and replied, “I promise.”
At breakfast next morning she asked softly so that the couple would not hear, “Can I play with you?”
“No. We don’t play any girl games. You can’t come with.”
I had promised to return in time for lunch. When I got there I could see the little girl had been crying. I decided she must have been naughty and got spanked. That made me a little bit more sympathetic, but she would not talk to me. I shrugged my shoulders and dismissed her from my thoughts. After all, what can one expect, she is a girl and still a baby.
Soon as we had eaten, Rob called to me to follow him. We went to the table of the other family. They welcomed us and the father got up to bring an extra chair for Rob. I got my own and went to place it by my friends.
“Robert, bring your chair and sit next to me.” Obediently I did so.
“We have a problem. We brought Robert with so that he would keep Cherine, the little girl, company. Being a boy and finding other boys his age, he has ignored her completely. The little girl has been miserable since we arrived here and I see no purpose in staying if that is how it will be for the rest of our stay. Either the three boys promise to include her in their games or we have to leave.”
Their father made the brothers promise, but I could see they had their fingers crossed under the table. I did the same as I promised and that made the adults relax. They chatted a while about some boring things and then we left them. As we walked back to our table I turned to Rob. I was still smarting and spoke sharper than I ever had till then to an adult.
“I don’t want to share a room with her. If my friends hear that I sleep with a girl they will tease me.”
The sour expression of earlier returned to his face. He grabbed my hand and changing course took me to the beach where nobody could hear us.
“I am very disappointed in you. I had not realised you can be so selfish.” I did not answer, worried I had provoked him, and just dug the tip of my shoe in the sand.
“Why don’t you like Cherine?”
“She’s a girl and she is a baby.”
“She is only two years younger.”
“Why must I sleep and play with her. I don’t even know her!”
He muttered something that sounded like, ‘we slipped up’ and crouched so that his eyes would be level with mine.
“Don’t you care if you hurt someone? Robert, if she fell down and cut herself, would you just walk by without caring that she was bleeding?”
“Do you think wounding her heart hurts less?”
I decided to get smart-alecky. “But the heart is supposed to be full of blood.”
He shook his head, upset. “You must be glad your mother died…”
I attacked him, screaming, using my fists and kicking at him. I went totally berserk while he only stood there blocking off some of my blows and trying to grab hold of me. His wife and Cherine came running. He got his arms around me and held me tightly and I sobbed from my anger.
“It’s alright. Leave us alone. Get your things packed, we are leaving tomorrow morning.”
I was still blind with rage and did not care. We were soon left alone.
“Robert, I phrased that badly. What I meant is that you must be glad your mother is not around to see what a mean and selfish boy you’ve become. Cherine has suffered, something very bad happened to her and we brought her here to help her get over it. With the way you have been treating her, she would have been better off not coming. All you’ve done is make her cry.”
I calmed down and was surprised to feel guilty and even a little protective of Cherine. I had not known and wondered what bad thing happened to her. Maybe her mummy died I thought, as I already knew she is not their daughter.
“What happened is none of your business and it no longer matters, since we are leaving in the morning.”
“It’s okay, I won’t mind if she sleeps in my room.” I wanted to apologise, but found it hard. I did not think I was entirely to blame, he should have explained to me about her from before.
(I found out afterwards that Cherine also sensed my desperate need not to be parted from my friends and sent back to school. I had never had friends to play with and did not want it to end now. She ‘told’ Rob she wanted to stay.)
He surprised me by giving in. “Okay, we’ll stay, but you must treat her better.”
The next morning I was up by first light and ran out to meet my friends. We ran off into the palms and brush and soon were playing, everything else forgotten. After a couple of hours I found myself thinking about the little girl, recalling her sad eyes and I could not concentrate on the games. Afraid of what they would think, but not able to do otherwise I stopped.
“Guys, I have to go back and play with the little girl. Something very bad happened to her and she is very sad.”
“I don’t know, they won’t tell me.”
“It must have been very bad.” They walked back with me, speculating as to what it could be. I told them my theory about her mother dying.
Now that I am writing this, I feel my heart rejoicing. The brothers joined me in playing with her, not once worrying about being thought sissies. They treated her the same as they did me and each other, only their ways were more thoughtful and tender. It makes me wonder, why is it that adults never talk about the abilities of children to feel such empathy? That boys of such a young age can, is what makes me rejoice. Could it be that children are far closer to what Cherinians are than adults?
Cherine may have started off having our sympathy, but she turned out to be more of a tomboy than we were. She ran, climbed, scrambled over rocks and was tireless, soon putting us to shame. For the rest of our stay there we ended up vying to be her favourite friend. As for the adults, they became very affectionate - which I put on a show of tolerating, but inside me I craved.
“Damn! Cherine, I’m sorry. We should have implanted memories to make our being together seem right. It just shows that Meli has her uses.”
Rob is a bit wary of him and his Cherine doing the same, but Cher refuses to be daunted. With the experience they have gained, she knows they can avoid most of the misunderstandings we experienced. Cherine and I kissed them goodbye and prepared to leave for our next visit. They all knew that the next time they see her she will have all her memories and this is the last time they will meet this Cherine and they hugged and kissed her, telling her how much they love her, as if they will never see her again. In a way, they never will.
I hope you enjoy reading this story of fantasy, adventure and love - and should some of it be true for our reality, I hope you will love our Cherine.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
9th November, 2019
- posted on Steemit: 9th November, 2019
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