Little Cherine Book 12 - BPost077
The thought of sensing the delight from Cher when she meets the faëries perked up our mood and happily we told Marian and Cher that we are going on a river cruise. We did not give them a chance to protest and the ship was soon waiting for us to board.
I like Cher and it is easy to be in her company as she does not think of herself as special, or aggressively pretend to - as many teenagers do. Once over her shock, her natural curiosity came to the fore and she embarrasses herself by the number of questions she asks us - and we of course, encourage her to ask even more. When she realised that winning in the casino would not provide her with money for buying things she wants back in London, she lost interest in the various forms of gambling. She snuck out and stood on deck with arms wrapped around herself as if trying to hold in her joy, staring at the Trees arching over us, seemingly, from ground level, touching the top of our sky as they sometimes fade into the mists. There are no aliens living on the land close to the river, but as we drew close, I joined her and pointed out our home.
“It’s beautiful! I would have thought you would live at the top of one of those tree-apartments. The view must be fantastic from up there.”
“Each of us has an apartment for those rare times we need to be alone. If you’ll come with me, I’d love to show you my apartment.” I grinned. “You should also go to Cherine’s, it will blow your mind, I know it blew mine.”
“You mean it is fancy?”
“No. Cher, none of us chose our décor, our loves did it for us. What Cherine got was what others felt would suit her. I just could not believe it did, until she explained why it did.”
“I thought you are all telepathic?”
“Sometimes being telepathic means we know less of others’ thoughts.” I grinned as she gave me a puzzled look. “At this time you are not a telepath, so we share our thoughts by speaking. Telepaths soon learn to place great store in our rules of privacy and yet, because they are telepaths, they often forget to explain their thoughts. Result? Less communications. The only time telepathy really works is when we are sharing with someone we love. With my family, I am open to them most of the time. However, I do have times when I need to keep my thoughts to myself and we have agreed in which ways we are signalling for privacy. Mostly they respect my signal whereas I often don’t respect theirs.”
“Why is that? I mean, for you to be telling me it must mean you think or feel you have the right.”
“I exaggerated a bit, I don’t do it often. You see, we have a number of rules and they are all very important. However, we also have one rule which applies only to those who love each other and know with total conviction that the other loves them: this rules gives us an exemption to most of the other rules. If we exercise the exemption rule, we must be prepared to show that we did so only for the good of the person we invaded, or else submit to having our most private thoughts and memories invaded by non-family Cherinians. It feels like rape, so we don’t use the exemption privileges often.”
Her eyes glowed. “Wow, you’re blowing my mind! I never imagined what it would be like. Do I have to learn all the rules before I can become a telepath?”
“There is one rule that applies to every single Cherinian, of every species - without exception. Believe in this one and all the others will flow from it naturally. Cherine, this is the biggie: It is your responsibility to protect everyone, all sapient beings, Cherinian, Normal or Talents, from yourself. That’s it. Think about it, go deeper than just the surface, the first thoughts that you respond to it with, and you’ll understand why it is our prime directive.” I gently took hold of her shoulders and turned her so that she’d face me. “All life, of whatever species, they need to have certain qualities, like empathy, kindness, the ability to love all life and so on, for them to be linked as Cherinians. There are only two people in each reality who do not have to meet the above criteria. Every Cherine and Robert, for them to become Cherinians, they have to love each other and open themselves to the mind and heart of the other. Robert is more important than you can imagine at this time. He’s not just the guy who’ll be your lover and husband. He is much more - to you and all the Cherinians of your reality.”
Dommi pulled her away from me and we sensed and saw the mother love shining in her eyes. “Do not allow Samantha to frighten you. The girls will do a telling for the three of you, which should answer all your questions. If you are left with questions, ask them of us afterwards. For now, for tonight, enjoy yourself and allow your heart to sense how much you are already loved by everyone in Freddie.”
Two hours later, Cher found me where I stood watching the great paddle wheel churning up the water. It was a bit too noisy so I led her to a bench at a quieter spot. “You been doing as Dommi said and had some fun?”
“Just meeting each of you is more fun than I’ve ever had. After all these years, to be with people I don’t have to hide myself from!”
My grin strained my lips. “If I say anything, I’ll be accused of frightening you again.”
She responded with that lovely Cherine smile we all adore, as cheeky as her eyes. “Go on, frighten me.”
“If you think this is heaven, just wait until you have your Robert, a number of wives to love and your own Cherinian group of friends and loves. That gestalt of love, that is our true heaven.” Well, I did warn her.
Arthur, it is sad that you joined us at such a time. As of this morning, the part of you that sits with us hears no laughter, no sounds of joy. Even love feels like an icicle that we dare not warm in case it pierces Cher, destroying her.
Robert joined us at the taverna and even before he knew that Cher and Marian were with us, he was frozen, what emoting there was, chilled and hostile. He brought back to us the memories we shared from Vincent of the time Robbie was poisoned at his wedding. They weakened us and it was too late when we thought of Cher, she was walking with her mother and in sight. Luigi acted without waiting for our opinion. In two jumps, the one after the other so quick they blurred into one, he touched Robert and took him to the swamp, close to the coffee farm. We all ignored his furious eruption, our eyes and hearts reaching for Cher. Vaguely we sensed Robert demand he be brought back. Luigi refused him the first time and on the second demand he abruptly told him to wait as long as necessary and he jumped to us. Robert has not been told he can ask Freddie to bring him back to us.
Cher had felt Robert and it seems we’d built up her expectations with all the beauty and love she’d sensed, so, sensing him today was like suddenly diving into a witches brew of anger and despair. As almost every human being does, she assumed responsibility and fed off the guilt. Treading carefully, afraid of giving her hope, but not wanting to leave her without hope, we did our best to help her regain her balance. I tried taking responsibility for his foulness, but Cher sensed how my loves reacted to my effort and she refused to play along. The only one who did not concentrate on helping her was Dommi. She kept herself open to Robert and when she decided she’d understood a little, she explained. *Have none of you noticed that both Ivgos and Lusalith are not with us today? Robert allowed himself to open his heart to the two of them and when they argued and Ivgos attacked him, he took it as a sign that he was proven right, that he should never have allowed himself to care for anyone. He thinks they have turned against him and is protecting himself.* As I’ve remarked so often - sometimes having empathy can be a curse! Anyway, Dommi found a reason to smile. She sent to Robbie, *See what was meant in your dream when Meli called you the Hedgehog Man?* Despite everything, we were amused by her comment and Robbie’s reaction. Dommi was about to jump to Robert when Robbie asked her to stay with us and jumped on his own.
“Robert Hayes! There is a story to that. Will you tell it to me?”
“You promised to return me home the instant I ask. I’m asking. I want to return now!”
Robbie shook his head. “I’m sorry, the promise was made before anyone loved you. Now we have the right to refuse you. Tell me your story Robert, what happened to our father, why did mother marry someone called Hayes?”
He took three quick steps and thrusting his face in Robbie’s, he spoke as coldly and furiously as he could, “My parents are not yours. Don’t you refer to them as yours again! Now take me home or be dammed as the liar you are.”
Robbie kept his tone casual, but he was sensing us as he replied, “I don’t mind being called a liar by you; you’re not my friend yet.” Cherine giggled and her giggles plus the tension were the catalysts that got us all giggling, to the amazement of Cher and her mother. Cherine shared with her alter and Cher burst into giggles and suddenly everything was okay with us at the taverna. As soon as I could, I did what I should have done hours ago - I jumped to Lusalith.
Robbie said, “I’ve asked you for your story, but I see it is too difficult for you to tell. I’m sending Freddie back in time to your birth and we’ll watch your life directly. I should have done this from the start as I know you will also benefit from seeing your life as it happened, instead of through the eyes and limited understanding of the child you were.” Freddie warned everyone of where and when we are going and the emoting of Robert was a scream, a scream of fury, but also of someone being forced to face the unbearable by powers he cannot fight. He turned away from Robbie and walked towards the swamp. I could not bear to continue sensing Robert and looked back through my eyes - and saw a sorrowing Lusalith. She was holding Ivgos, who had scrunched himself into a tiny ball of misery as he wept. Tears filled my eyes as I knelt by them to softly stroke Ivgos, my heart begging his for the right to share his pain.
Freddie took Robbie’s request literally and timed our arrival for the 5th of January, the night before Robert was born. As Freddie zoomed in, we saw his father carefully driving a small pickup truck on a dirt road. Marian lay on a mattress in the back with two male servants sitting to either side of her, trying to keep her on the mattress and to prevent her from rolling onto her belly as the road wound through the mountain. We could sense Marian’s pain and Wilfred was over-tense. He kept rubbing his eyes and his fatigue was obvious, but he was determined to arrive at the hospital without delays.
Once he turned onto the thin tarmac road, he put his foot down but sensibly remained at a safe speed. We all sighed with relief when he turned into the entrance to the hospital and stopped by the emergency entrance. Marian was wheeled to the maternity ward, where she was expected. Wilfred was forced to follow as she would not let go of his hand. She did not give birth immediately and we saw Wilfred kept nodding off and jerking as he forced himself to remain awake. Marian hardly noticed him, only aware of her pain and the link between them, the touching of hands, the warmth and work-calloused hardness that she could recognise in her sleep. In the early hours of the 6th of January, Robert was born.
A few friends had come to the hospital so Wilfred was forced to go through the cigars and manly hugs routine as he was congratulated on having a son. Marian fell asleep, the baby was taken away from him as if he had no right to it and his friends insisted on taking him to the New Stanley for a fancy breakfast. They ate, they joked, teasing Wilfred, grabbing this opportunity since he would never stand for the familiarity of teasing at any other time. They ended off the breakfast with a magnum of champagne, made him light another cigar and departed, in a hurry to get to their work. Wilfred ordered another two coffees in the hope they keep him awake. As he came to his feet he put his hand in his pocket for some change for tipping the waiter. He pulled out a piece of paper, stared at the note from the doctor and his face lit up as he whispered, ‘A son! Robert Teller, my very own son!’
He decided to take the indirect route to pass in front of the Norfolk Hotel to book a room for one night. He hated wasting the money for a room, but he was too tired to drive home. As he drove past a side street, which was a stop street for the other driver, a big Mercedes drove through without stopping and smashed into the drivers door, instantly killing Wilfred.
As Robbie and the Sparklers dashed off for his soul, we felt Robert screaming. When he settled for wild sobbing, he allowed Alki to hold him. Our pappou waited until he was certain Robert would hear his words and then told him that Robbie has gone to collect a cell from the body of his father and his soul. “Your father will be alive within minutes. Why don’t we go to the taverna to be with everyone. I hope they deserve to share your joy Roberto mou?”
He pulled back. “What joy? I don’t know him and he damn well doesn’t know me. I don’t want to meet him.” Only his Cherine is allowed to hit him and their relationship has not developed to the point where she can do so - more’s the pity. Alki did not give in to Robert’s self-pity, kept calm and talked softly but insistently until Robert gave in. They arrived about fifty metres from the taverna and walked to a table together, to find a whiskey for Alki and a cappuccino for Robert waiting.
Robbie did not return Wilfred to life. He first went to Robert. “I was going to bring back your father immediately, but then I realised I don’t know your future. You tell me, would it be kinder to bring him back now so that he can share in your childhood and grow to love you as he would have had he not been killed, or will what he sees make him miserable?”
“You persist in interfering in my life and you refuse to accept that I want you to leave me alone. I don’t care what you do, all I want is to return to my life in London.”
Robbie nodded. “Hmm, that is a point I’d forgotten. It will hurt him to see how plain it is that you don’t care for him. Unfortunately, if I am to only consider what is good for him, I’m going to have to bring him now and whatever pain you cause him, he’ll just have to bear it - that is what most parents have to do for their children. At least he’ll have the continuity he’ll need to recover.”
I was not the only one confused. Seeing his wife marry another, his son adopted and the adult version cold and heartless; they would help him adapt? I knew that Wilfred will not truly understand the argument about not changing the past, since to him it will not be his past, and he will demand we take him back to his family. I guessed that Robbie was putting all his eggs in one basket - gambling on a change of heart in Robert. How could that happen? I was sitting next to the image of Arthur and, maybe because I needed to, I reached out to touch his hand. I felt warm skin! I’d forgotten that detail and turned to examine his face, but his eyes remained lost to some distant horizon. I thought to myself, what it would be like to have all of Arthur sitting by me and my hearts raced. I’m glad that even just the thought can still do that to me.
“Freddie, please leave this reality as soon as everyone is back on board. We’re going to give our guests time to share our experiences through a telling before we ask them to trust us.” Robert gave Alki a cold ‘leave-me-alone’ look and walked away. Alki was about to let him go, but then he glanced at the image of Arthur and giving his Marian a kiss, he followed Robert. It was funny sensing the reactions of the new Marian when she saw Alki kiss her alter. Since she thinks we are all degenerates, she has a long way to go before love touches her heart.
The way to think of Robert is to think of him as a game. The girls have started the telling and Alki brought Robert to join in the sharing. He sits with eyes and ears open, but refuses to allow anything to touch him. He really is not doing our ego much good, he should have been falling in and out of love with us in turn, yet he either does not like some of us or else he does not seem to notice the rest. Whatever he thinks of us, as girls, surely he cannot continue resisting the magic of the telling?
I sure hope his image doesn’t get tired or sore. The idea caught on like wildfire. We told all the species to bring their children for a portrait photograph with Arthur. Those who are too big or too heavy, they stood or sat by him and I’d drape his arm over them. We even had a photo taken of Batsy and the two Silver Boys with Arthur - the two ‘boys’ to either side with Batsy on his lap. She first made certain she did not weigh more than twenty kilos, so it meant she looked more like a five year old sized thirteen year old. When Alexis admitted she would also like to have a picture of her with you, the rest of my loves confessed to the same wish. We agreed to wait until everyone else has had their photo taken. The funny thing is that Robert watched the photo session with a look of disapproval and we could sense he felt it was a kind of…I don’t know, lèse-majesté? Every day he manages to surprise us. This Robert must be one of the most complex ones I’ve ever met.
A week into the tellings Robbie changed his mind. “I’m going to bring back his father now. Could you girls start the tellings again?”
Empathia shook her head. “No, the tellings will only confuse the issue. We must return to watching the baby Robert.”
Robbie pulled a face. “I wanted to put it off for now. Freddie is going to become an unpleasant place with two of them emoting anger and making others miserable.”
“I like your dad so I think I can help this Wilfred understand.” Robbie stared at Empathia for a moment and then nodded his agreement.
Wilfred opened his eyes, mumbled, ‘Go away, I’m sleepy’, closed his eyes and fell asleep. We stared at each other with wonder as we tried to work out what this means. Sol must have called for Solomon for he joined us. We explained.
“It does not make sense!”
Robbie laughed. “Welcome to the real world Solomon. It hardly ever makes sense. His body is a new body plus, it is at prime health, so he cannot be tired. But his mind knows that it is sleepy so he needs to sleep. I bet he’ll wake up within a few minutes.” Empathia and Robbie returned to his room as he stirred. “Feeling better now?”
Wilfred sat up in shock. “What happened? The last thing I remember, the damn car smashed into me. how did I get here and where am I?” He felt himself. “How can I be feeling so healthy and without any pain?” He looked at his hands in amazement, for his callouses had disappeared.
Robbie spoke gently. “We are from your future Wilfred. You were killed in the accident, but we brought you back to life.”
Empathia showed her genius, doing the opposite of what we think is right. “Wilfred, we had a good reason for bringing you back. Please be patient while I explain…no, first, take a look out the window.”
He started moving and clutched the sheet. “I’m not wearing anything. Are there any clothes?” She brought some of Robbie’s and telling him she’d return when he is dressed, she walked out. Robbie followed her.
“What are you planning?” Robbie asked.
“I’m going to tell him about alternate realities and that you are his alternate son.”
He stared at her for a moment with a slight twist to his lips. “I hope you know what you are doing.”
She did. Even after seeing the Trees, the waterfalls in our sky and the spaceships, a part of him found it difficult to believe Robbie is his alternate son. He shrugged the problem aside and asked about his son.
“Your son is forcing us to jump through a lot of hoops. The first thing you should know is that Rose remarried and Robert was adopted by his stepfather. He is now called Robert Hayes.”
Wilfred cut her off with an angry exclamation. “Hayes! The bastard! I knew he was after my Rose, I should have killed him.” He calmed down. “Sorry. You were saying?”
“When we met your son he was already twenty nine years old - that make him slightly older than you. We soon realised that something had affected him, twisting his heart shut. He is bitter and cold, not at all like my Robert. We wanted to help him and the only way we could do so was to return to his past so as to learn what it was that hurt him. We saw you die in the accident and our Robert collected your soul and using cells from your body he created a new body for you.” She touched his arm. “I’m sorry, I know that you are suffering from future shock, but I had to give you the true explanation so that you understand that your son needs help. Wilfred, you have lost all rights to the life you left when you died. Seeing your son and wife as they live their lives and make their mistakes will be hard for you, but you are not allowed to interfere. Let me explain again about alternate realities and how they are formed…and if you need me to explain a third or tenth time, I’ll do so, for I know the mind finds it difficult to process this kind of information.” She explained and tried to make him see why he cannot return to his world and family. He said he understood, but Empathia was right, he will need it explained a few more times when he sees his family suffer.
The years of Robert as a baby were boring for most people, but us girls watched as many hours as we could. So did most of the Terran women, because of their yearning to have a child. We could not skip those years anyway, as we also had to know what happened to Rose and how and why she chose to marry Reginald Hayes. The comment by Wilfred indicated that he knew him and was probably a neighbour. He did not turn up at the funeral, nor did he put in an appearance during the next eight months. Then he phoned Rose, told her he had just heard about the death of Wilfred and that he had booked a seat on the next flight to Nairobi. As we watched, Wilfred’s face was pale and hard, as if sculpted out of Pendeli marble. I noticed that Robert was watching his father instead of the screen and his eyes had the guarded, wounded look I’ve seen a couple of times on Robbie and my heart reached out to him. What the hell is holding him back, I asked myself, why is he fighting himself? With time, we’ll find out and help him; it is just sad that in the meantime the three (four, if I count their Marian) are suffering because of it.
Rose worked hard to save the farm. Wilfred had borrowed from the bank and she feared they would take it from her if she did not prove herself capable. That kind of hard work does steal some of our life force, shortening the years we are allotted. That, Rose would not have begrudged. It was the constant fear of one white woman with a baby living on a farm with only Kikuyu employees that was eating away at her reserves. Bwana Shambas did offer to work for her, but the farm was too small for her to afford the salary they would expect and neighbours calling on her to oversee the picking and roasting of beans only filled her with guilt, for most of them also had bank loans and struggled to keep their farms. The phone call from Reginald did not please her, but we could almost sense her thoughts that changed her mind. I like to think of myself as strong, but I cannot say what I would do if I were a Normal and had a baby. I told Wilfred my thought and he forgot that I am not an eleven year old child and his hand softly but patronisingly brushed my cheek as he thanked me. Robert heard and saw our interaction and it was the first smile of his I’ve seen for some time.
I deliberately did not write of the reaction of the two men when they first met. As far as Wilfred was concerned, just the day before, he’d held his baby son in his hands and now he faced a man of his age or older and he could not make the transition, emotionally or mentally. As for Robert, who knows. He kept his distance and refused to join in our conversations.
Luckily we depend on Freddie to show on the screens what is happening with Rose and baby Robert and he skims through the empty hours by jumping. A laborious process, but the only one available at this time. When she married, Wilfred would sit before the screen for longer hours than he had before, as if afraid to leave them unsupervised for a moment. We could all tell he was waiting for something bad to happen. When it did, he looked at Robbie as if pleading through his eyes, then turned away from Robbie and the screen and sitting at a table far from all of us he ordered a bottle of whiskey. When we went to bed he was still sitting there and though he was on his second bottle, he did not seem drunk. We all pretended not to see Robert stealing glances secretly, his face pale and troubled.
Wilfred waited for us to finish our breakfast and when a chair emptied close to Robbie, he sat. “Before Rose and I wed, Reginald was married to a tall beanpole of a woman. When she began to be seen with bruises, she denied Reginald was responsible. She stood the abuse for two years and then vanished and we heard that she obtained a divorce and a court order forced Reginald to keep his distance. He then made a play for Rose, even though he knew she was engaged to me. I found him and beat the shit out of him and warned him I would kill him if he even said hello to her. Robert, I understand you are not my son, but I beg you, please find a way for me to return to kill that fucking snake.”
Robbie turned to look at Robert. “If I do as your father asks, you will stop existing. It will be a different reality and that Robert will be a different Robert from you.”
He had been staring at his father and hardly bothering to shrug, he replied, keeping his eyes fixed on those of his father, “It does not matter, do it.” A sudden flare of hate lit up his eyes and they bored into the red eyes of his father as he said, “You just make fucking certain you kill him.”
It is just as well most people don’t understand from the first time what we tell them about the way realities are created - as a matter of fact, I seem to recall us having the same problem and irritating Arthur at the time. Actually, when I look back, I see that despite our opinion of ourselves (and my inflated ego in particular) at the beginning, the people we’ve met and the mistakes we made taught us a lot and we have matured in some important ways. I’m not worried about failures and having been stupid in the past, I just don’t want it to be true of me in the future - and the same is true for all of us, not just the family. I’ll welcome whatever suffering we have to endure as long as I see it is the catalyst that sparks growth in us. Only when suffering blocks growth is it evil.
“Freddie, jump.” Robbie raised his hand. “Wilfred, Robert, your willingness to sacrifice yourselves is heartening, but cannot help Rose. Robert, it cannot even help you. I believe you have a clearer understanding of what alternate realities are, but there is still a flaw in your reasoning. You are thinking that it is better a copy of you grows up with your father and mother, even if it means you stop existing? It does not work that way. Try and picture what I’m going to tell you now - each reality generates an infinite number of realities. Can you picture it? Your reality splits an infinite number of times and each of those split offs, or alternate realities, split off an infinite number of times. This goes on an infinite number of times. What does it actually mean for you? It means there are an infinite times infinite number of alternates of you. They started existing from the split second you were conceived.
You want a Robert who grew up with his real father and mother? That is what happened to me. You saw the early part of the telling by my loves, did you think I was as happy as you seem to think you would have been if your father had lived? Wilfred, I don’t know what you would have been like had you lived, but my father was a cold hearted bastard who not only never showed me love, but also pretended my mother had died so that I would not have her love. He even destroyed all our photos of her in the hope I would forget my mother! Would you like to meet my father, your alternate? He’ll tell you that I spoke the truth, but that he died and when I brought him back we both learnt to love each other. What I’m trying to tell both of you is that the past is important, but not as important as the future. We can change ourselves so that we live a life with meaning. Stop worrying about changing others, the one certainty is that only each of us can change ourselves for the better - we can only change others for the worse if what we want from them is not part of their nature.
We will return to your reality, at the same time we departed, so that you can watch and learn. However, if you are both not fully aware of what possibilities exist for you, then you cannot make sound and healthy decisions and what you see will destroy you. We are first going to share with you the experiences of our family - my loves will do a telling for you. When it is finished, then we’ll return to baby Robert and when you suffer, you’ll know that you do not suffer alone, there are billions of Cherinians in Freddie and the Sparklers Worlds and they will suffer along with you. You’ll never be alone again, that is our promise.”
Robert has not unbent with us or his Cher, but he does talk to his father. There is one exception (no surprise). He asks Alki to sit with them when he tells his father some of what he and his mother endured. Alki is not like me, he does not attempt to choose a path for those he helps, he prefers to allow them to find their own path while he tries to strengthen them with his caring. We see that Alki and his family spend as much time with us at our home as they can, for the pain he has to share from Robert and Wilfred needs to be healed by an ocean of love.
Once the tellings began, Alki rarely suffered, as both became entangled by what they were sharing. At last Robert has opened enough for some of the magic of Cherine to touch him. When they reached the finding of Wendy and the killing of her father, both of them were physical wrecks and the feelings they emoted for Wendy were strong and pure enough to fill a city with love. As the girls sense them responding, their telling grows stronger and it touches them deeper.
Wilfred was emoting a mishmash of emotions that showed he needed help, so when he came to Robbie, we made space for him and then withdrew when we sensed he was embarrassed about speaking, about opening himself in front of us. Robbie ordered him a cappuccino, but he grabbed a beer from the ice basin. He drank half of it, searched for the right words and then said, “I’m too new at being a father to have the instincts and knowledge I need for explaining myself in the way I should. I feel strange about saying what I want to say to you.”
“When speaking to a Cherinian, any Cherinian, keep in mind that we do not read your thoughts, but we cannot help sensing whatever emotions you are broadcasting - we call it emoting. As long as you are emoting feelings, it does not matter how well or badly you phrase yourself, you’ll be understood because the listener will want to understand.”
“The telling of your story made your childhood far more real than my own childhood is to me. What I learnt of your father, I saw a lot of him in me. I could not help wondering, if I had lived, what kind of father would I have been. Would I also have been as weak, fear and pride costing me my family?”
“My mother told me that me father had always found it difficult to show his emotions. She told me she understood him and could sense what he found difficulty in expressing. She never told me he was fearful or that his coldness originated from pride. Wilfred, you truly have caught me by surprise. Did you really sense that from my father - as my loves portrayed my feelings and memories of him?”
“In all the realities that you met me, in how many of them did I have a coffee farm in Kenya?”
“In all of them.”
“I was not an employee in any of them?”
“Not even after they became Cherinians. My father married another Rose, who’d lost her husband, and they opened a pub in Cyprus. Actually,” Robbie grinned, “I can’t imagine my father working for anyone, he’d soon be fired for being too stubborn to obey orders that don’t make sense to him.”
“I had not given much thought to that side of it. The truth, Robert? I do not think I am suited to being an entrepreneur. I fear failure too much for me to be an effective businessman. I had thought I would be better off at having defined duties and letting others bear the responsibility of their decisions.”
Robbie chuckled. “Boy! This is going to give me many hours of teasing dad. Wilfred, would you like to meet him? Could you do so without his Rose making you too conscious of what you’ve lost?”
“Surely they are not in Freddie? Do you mean afterwards?”
“No, I mean now. When we found your son, my father, Rose and their son Gregory moved to a Sparkler World copy of Athens. They could be with us within minutes.”
“You think they could help me,” he glanced aside. “Would seeing them help Robert?”
“There are no guarantees in life, as you know. Wilfred, I think my father can help you more than I can and maybe Rose can help both of you?” He nodded and a Sparkler called them. Wilfred stared at them, shocked by the suddenness of their arrival and the sight of Rose, who looked as young as his memory of his love on the day he asked her to marry him. Whatever he’d thought, he was unprepared for the reality of seeing her in the flesh, so to speak, and his knees buckled as his breath keened his grief. Robert, on seeing his mother, was not in a better condition and Rose did not know who to go to first.
The telling was suspended for two nights as father and son were benefiting by the presence of Robbie’s dad and stepmother (I’m uncomfortable naming her a stepmother since she actually is his mother, if we accept that all alternates are from the prime person they diverged from. However, I cannot just name her an alternate mother as that would not include the fact that she is married to Robbie’s father).
Our Wilfred brought his alter and Robert to us. “What you ask of them is hard. Could you watch without taking action, whatever you know about realities, as your Cherine is tortured and killed?”
At last Robert has spoken of her death. Robbie asked, “Your mother was killed?”
Robert found the courage to stare into the eyes of Robbie. “She…she took her own life but, yes, I consider her death a murder. He made life unbearable for her so he is her murderer.”
“Have you avenged her life and death?”
He gave a wild, bitter laugh. “Avenged her life…that is apt, you do understand. Robert, I have tried to be a civilised person, depending on the State or God to deal out whatever punishment is his due. Neither have seen fit to inflict any punishment on him. Maybe God does not consider what he did a crime.”
“Do both of you want to continue watching her?”
“Yes.” They both replied.
“Cherine love?” She understood and went to sit on his lap. His head sagged to one side as he caressed her legs. “I’ll ask both of you the same question tomorrow. In the meantime, let me tell you what I am prepared to do - or, to help you do. I will be present at her time of death and bring her back to be your wife and mother. Robert, if you feel it would help you return to a more balanced life, I’ll revert you to a child so that you grow up with your real father this time. That is what I will do for you. The rest is for you to decide whether you need to do it - as promised, if you want to go ahead, I will help you. Do you both want to avenge the suffering of Rose by killing Reginald?” They both confirmed they did.
“Consider this,” Robbie asked. “If you insist on returning to watch, when Rose is returned to you, the memories of all you saw will colour how you see her and mar your relationship. Robert, she is your mother and what you have already shared should be enough to keep alive a spring of compassion and empathy. Wilfred, she is your wife, your companion, your love. As Cherinians, your souls will dance with each other and if you need to share all she suffered, would it not be better you do so from her memories and with her consent? Sharing that way means you learn of all she endured from her viewpoint, better empowering your heart to find the right words to heal her. Would you prefer she knows you learnt all the sordid details and pains from watching her without her knowing? Can you see it is not the way to grow with her?” Our Wilfred did not try to block the love and pride he felt for his son, so we also let him feel how we felt. It nearly reduced him to tears.
Robbie pulled a dirty on us. He never had any intention of helping them kill Reginald, but he felt that he owed it to them to have experienced her suffering so that he would not be making his decision the easy way. Without letting us know where he was going, he returned to their reality and spent close to a year skimming through her life. The day she killed herself he returned. To us his absence had only lasted half an hour and so we did not understand what was happening and why he felt the way he did. Going straight to the bar he drank vodka from the bottle and then curled up on the bed and wept. Shocked, afraid, we did not force ourselves on him, but waited for him to want us to share. We did not resent it when he called for Cherine and Dommi. At least they kept themselves open to us and as they shared from him we also shared. I felt my own pain at sensing what Rose went through, but I made certain that I burnt the memory of how much Robbie suffered and then, how his suffering was doubled when he decided he does not have the right to be a part of the vengeance Wilfred and Robert demand. He felt they would hate him, but he cannot do what they want. I was doing it as a lesson for myself, but I also decided that if Cherine and Dommi do not let Wilfred and Robert feel what price our Robbie paid and they say anything hurtful, I will make them feel what it cost him.
Cherine has shown that she is far wiser than I am, once more. She did not let her ego demand of her that she be the one to heal him - she called for Rose and Themi to return to Freddie and she shared with his mother. They both left Robbie when Rose entered the room and Dommi made damn certain they had total privacy. When Rose walked out she got hugged by all of us, without us having felt Robbie. We had sensed what it had cost her and the love and pride for our Robbie she was emoting.
Robbie did not speak of what he had done and only asked of the two that they continue watching the tellings and when it is time, he’ll take them with him as he collects her soul. It was interesting for everyone, sensing how father and son are bonding - not as father and son, but as friends.
Cher stayed in the background all this time and when Robert was emoting his pain, she needed someone to help her through this time…since she could not stand by Robert as he did not want her. She spent hours each day communing with Arthur’s image. He has the look of someone listening and since he never speaks, he is the perfect confidante. We consider her chats as being private and block ourselves from hearing her - I wish Arthur could assume he hears her so that he knows what her heart dreams of and what pains her.
Asking the two to continue with the tellings was a good idea. The girls wanted the tellings to inspire them, spark a dream for them so that they want to become Cherinians. Meli insists that she does not know how she adjusts the tellings to suit the needs of the audience, but she has not failed in achieving her target once. They went through a period of being awed by Robbie but he performed his usual antics to bring them back to earth. It took far longer for Robert to become fascinated by Cherine than it ever has before, but as soon as we sensed it, we did all we could think of to push his Cherine forward. Our biggest problem is that she is shy and hates the limelight. She also does not exhibit the same spirit our Cherine has and if she doesn’t tease her Robert, I doubt he’ll fall for her. As Robbie teases, he fell in love with the imp in his Cherine before he grew to love her.
During the telling we’d briefly visit other realities for a coffee and by them meeting some of the local Cherinians, the feeling of the tellings being true, real, was accepted by them emotionally and mentally. Robert also did not feel he was under pressure from the other Cherines and became friends with two of them, driving his own Cherine nuts with jealousy. We should have thought of doing this long before.
It is difficult to notice changes in Robert because of his emoting a need for privacy almost all the time. The day after the telling finished we visited another Earth, enjoyed the warm welcome and returned to Freddie. Haven noticed Robert staring at the image of Arthur and drew our attention to him. He came within a couple of feet of Arthur, staring at him from close up. Tentatively, he reached out and touched the left hand as it rested on the table. He turned and looked at us as if to say, ‘look, I’ve touched him!’, and then he walked into the grass and bush and was soon out of sight. The Akiard kids were aware of his walking in their direction and they sent to Cherine that they will stay out of sight, unless they sense he wants to meet them. He walked for days and whenever it was sensed that he needed food or drink, the taverna robot took it to him. To Robert, the robot is just a machine so he did not feel its presence intruded upon his thoughts and his need to be alone.
He reached the brow of the hill and saw Elipians below him. One was playing music and the others were talking, socialising as they opened their minds to each other. It made them laugh and some would suddenly rush off with an excess of energy. They quickly returned to join the laughter and music. They ignored Robert and it was as if he was not there. He sat on a rock (the same one we usually choose when we go to watch our Elipian friends). The Elipians were not snubbing him, they were only respecting the need for privacy he was broadcasting.
A short while later, Sharipya contacted us telepathically and asked us to share. From what we saw, he was staring at the Elipians, but it was obvious he did not see them, for his eyes swam with tears that ran down his cheeks. The tears still filling his eyes, hardly seeing his way, Robert turned back towards the taverna. We did not know whether he would want to be helped back or prefer to walk, giving himself time to recover his equilibrium. When he paused to recover his breath, the robot delivered beers and sandwiches and asked if he wishes for anything else. He ignored the sandwiches, grabbed two beers and stumbled on without answering - well, I guess it was answer enough.
We shared with Cher and arranged to bring her to the taverna should he approach at a time she is not with us. The next two days and nights were hell for her but she did not complain. I sat by her. “As you probably noticed from the tellings, I’m like a cat.”
She bravely gave me a little smile. “What are you curious about?”
“We’ve more or less worked out that you sensed Robert at the school and your instincts warned you to remain out of sight until you can prepare him for meeting you. What I’m curious about is what you planned. Were you going to wait until you were an adult?”
“I made a mistake.” I saw a hint of a smile when she sensed my puzzlement. “I did not know that I would affect him and when I realised his mind is reacting to me, that it is opening, I thought the powers he would acquire would make me seem less of a freak and he’d want to be with me - since I would be the only other freak he knows. So I wanted to wait until he could not hide it from himself anymore.” I laughed, amused by the logic of it but I could also sense deep inside, hidden from Cher I think, the sadness that still coloured her inner world. I suddenly realised we’ve concentrated on Robert without taking the time to wonder at what had hurt her, stealing the spirit that animates all Cherines.
“I could not sense what powers he was acquiring, but I felt his unease, his worry and then, his joy. It was almost like he was in a religious ecstasy! That must have been when he learnt how to travel to other realities.” I nodded, agreeing with her. “Then he changed and I felt him become cold and hard.”
“What!? Only then, not from before?”
“Before…he was not so bitter, just shut in, if you know what I mean.”
“I do - and I have a horrible suspicion that I’m to blame.” I shared with her our meeting and his fading away. She did not understand why I blamed myself. “I suspect he had not given a thought to other Roberts, and if he did, he probably assumed they all lived lives similar to his, so he accepted it was something he had to bear stoically, like a man. Then he meets me, I introduce myself as the daughter of Robert Teller and he realises Hayes was not a part of my Robbie’s life. What a blow it must have been, learning he is not like other Roberts, that they have wives and children and have known love, that he and his mother were the only ones to suffer as they did.”
“That is why he feels angry…more angry, when you are near him or if you speak to him?” She looked into my eyes with her warm dark brown eyes and I saw the feelings I was sensing from her emoting. “That is not fair! It’s not your fault.”
“I have a way of dealing with such situations, I blame him (I gestured towards Arthur).” I laughed at her look. “He blames us for anything that happens to him, so why shouldn’t I do the same?” She is so pure and naïve, it was fun playing with her. “Cherine love, I’m teasing you - and Arthur. As for Robert, we all become a little bit unfair when we are hurting and I bet he’ll become one of my best friends once he is over it.” I thought of something else. “You saw in the tellings how much my Robert suffered. Do you know that his suffering strengthened and purified his soul? I think we can expect the same of your Robert.” What I said was lost on her because she had felt how my family reacted to my being used as a scapegoat by her Robert and was drawing into herself. I gave her a wink. “Which of my loves do you think Robert will love the best, maybe Diana? They fall in love with others, but it is Diana they don’t get over.” It was the first time she took a look at us in the light of how her Robert will be affected by us, as she had not dared believe he would love her. We felt the first bitter bite of jealous fear blossom in her and my loves rushed over to reassure her - and to claim I am just being nasty.
She ignored their efforts and looking at me, shook her head. “No, I think she is wrong. I think my Robert will love Samantha the most.” I don’t know whether she was paying me back or whether she believed it - I hope it is the first possibility. Now that my loves know Cher has problems, they took over while I jumped to my apartment so as to sit on my tree.