The prophet found Lavi blocking the driver’s side door of his car after he abruptly left the bistro. “Don’t,” he snapped ungraciously. Andre did not need a lecture from a spirit. “Let’s just assume I know how badly I handled that and leave it at that, alright?”
Lavi gave no reaction. He stood immobile, unemotionally obstructing Andre’s way.
“Move,” the prophet commanded. It was raining, he was wet, and he wanted to go home. “I’m sorry alright, but they’re not listening. What’s the point of telling them what I know if this is what they do?”
The Panoplia Warrior still did not speak or move a muscle, staring unblinking at the prophet with unnerving, illuminated eyes.
Fed up, Andre walked around the front of the car and tried the passenger door.
It was locked.
Pulling out his keys to press the electronic button to unlock it when they dropped on the ground and disappeared. He bent to search under the car, but couldn’t find them. Andre glared at the back of Lavi’s head in disdain. “Give them back.” This wasn’t funny, and he was really getting tired of the Warrior trying to interfere with his perfectly normal displays of frustration. He had every right to get upset when the people acted in such a ridiculous fashion.
“Fine,” he spat. He didn’t need his keys. “I’ll walk home.” Maybe it was what he needed to help cool him off. “Can I at least get my sweatshirt out of the trunk?”
After only a moment of delay the locking mechanism clicked and the trunk popped open.
Andre passed Lavi another sullen glare of annoyance before walking around and reaching in to pull out a hooded sweatshirt. Shoving his arms through the sleeves, he zipped the front and slammed the trunk cover back down. Andre stood with his hands deep in the pockets and stared at the Panoplia. Lavi looked as though he had forgotten Andre was even there.
“You can’t tell me it doesn’t upset you that they aren’t following what Theos wants them to do?” he said insistently. “So what if their train was derailed? Obviously Theos took care of them. So what, now every time something bad happens in the world we have to duck and cover? No one would ever leave the island!” He took a few steps closer so Lavi would have to look at him. “The purpose of the vision wasn’t to scare them. It’s supposed to give us an advantage!”
Andre kicked his tire in anger, pulling his hood over his head and leaning against the back passenger window with his forehead against the curved edge of the car to hide his face. They stood there in silence listening to the patter of raindrops on concrete and the whistle of the wind through the shop eaves. Andre knew desperate wishes didn’t change anything, but he really wanted Costa back. He had never realized how much he valued the komer’s advice and calming influence until it wasn’t available. He was exhausted after the strenuous trip on the sea, confused by his vision, and he had no patience for the elders anymore. A vote of confidence from the komer would have gone a long way.
Sniffing, and running a sleeve under his nose, the prophet straightened and looked at the Panoplia again. It was obvious that he wasn’t moving. His orders were to stay put, and Lavi never broke orders. Despite his unchecked pride, Andre gave in and turned back to the rear entrance of the bistro, yanked open the door and stepped inside.
The crowd had moved very little in his absence. The conversation was broken in small concerned groups of worried faces which abruptly ceased the moment he moved from behind the counter and out of the kitchen.
Andre glanced at several faces without seeing any of them. Lavi was right without even saying it, as usual. It didn’t matter if the Agabus disagreed with the people. He should not have reacted as he had.
“I’m sorry,” he said to the congregation with his gaze meeting Elder Mathis’. “I’m sorry reacted like that. It was disrespectful and…” He wasn’t really sure what else to say. “I’m sorry.”
The people responded with a low rumble of acceptance and forgiveness. Mathis reached out and placed an affectionate hand on the boy’s shoulder, pulling Andre into a rough hug. The mood in the room lifted instantly, at least for the people. The Agabus struggled to swallow his embarrassment.
Coming clean was Andre’s least favorite part of setting an example as the Agabus. He was no less frustrated with his countrymen, but at least he could no longer be faulted for a poor choice of words or actions. He was not sure he would ever be able to express himself without blowing up. He had never seen his grandfather shout at any member of their society, certainly not an elder. If Dr. Dietrich could show unwavering respect to everyone, then Andre was determined to do the same.
Mathis released him and returned to his conversation and meal at his table. Andre turned and prepared to face his next obstacle as Demi stepped up shaking her head and speaking in rapid, disappointed Spanish. “…si su abuelo se había visto ... ¿dónde está tu mente a veces?”
“Lo siento, tía,” he accepted her hug and refrained from looking annoyed by her reprimand since Laken was watching him closely.
“Well, you should be. Voy a salir de mi mente…”
Andre met his uncle’s eye apologetically as Demi moved on still spouting her frustrations under her breath. Laken held no grudges once the elders had spoken. Andre was not his to discipline anymore anyway. “Go eat,” he said. “Your friends have been waiting for you. We’ll see you at home.”
“Bring your brother with you.”
Andre promised that he would, and joined the table where Declan, Svana, AJ, and Jora sat finishing their food. Brisket swooped in with a steaming plate of chicken parmesan and set it in front of Andre in his usual friendly manner as if nothing awkward had just transpired.
“Boy, Agabus, you sure know how to crash a party.” Svana, however, liked to address things shamelessly and received her customary glare from Jora across the table for doing so. “Where did you go this afternoon anyway?”
“To the altar,” he replied.
“Are we doing the wrong thing?” Jora wanted to know in undertones with a quick glance at the table of elders across the room. “Bringing the missionaries home, will it upset Theos?”
He met her eye over her plate of food and took his time responding with an honest answer. “It doesn’t matter does it? The decision’s already been made.”
“That’s encouraging,” Declan snorted sarcastically.
Andre shrugged, not really caring. He was done discussing it. He just hoped his apology had been enough to satisfy Lavi. Despite his careless claim before, he really didn’t want to have to walk home.
“I’m with you on this one, Agabus.” Kylan appeared and slapped Andre on the back before pulling up a chair. “I mean, we didn’t just bail when May Beth encountered a Daimon did we? I don’t know how that compares to a train wreck, but if we could stick it out, why can’t they?”
Andre really hadn’t been looking for Kylan’s opinion on the matter either, and didn’t bother responding. Focusing on his food, he practiced his new vow of silence and kept his thoughts to himself.
“I heard you had quite the fishing tip.” Kylan took no notice of his desire to let the matter drop. “Ackers said you saw a Daimon too.”
“No,” Andre shook his head. “I saw a vision. I don’t think there actually was one there.”
“Same thing,” Kylan shrugged, and Andre let him believe it. “Kind of put a damper on the whole experience, I’ll bet.”
“Nah, man it was awesome,” AJ input. “At least for me. I had a blast! Does your dad need another man on his crew? I don’t even need to finish Sunesis. I already know what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Kylan laughed and leaned back lazily on two legs of his chair. The conversation around the table meandered from fishing to Declan’s hatred for boats, to their next internship in the Phulake guardhouse after the annual Harvest celebration at the end of the week. Kylan continued to watch Andre curiously until the prophet grew uncomfortable and glanced up.
“Nothing,” Kylan grinned. “You just fascinate me, Agabus. I don’t know how you do it.” He shook his head with amused awe. “Life is hard enough without messing about with spirits and trying to get people to listen to you all the time. I don’t envy you, Dre. Not at all.”
Andre didn’t recall having ever given Kylan permission to call him by his nickname.
“It must be insane, speaking with them and seeing them pop up wherever you go,” he continued. “What do they look like?”
“The Panoplia?” Andre used his cloth napkin wipe his face before dropping it on his half empty plate and pushing it away.
“Sure,” Kylan shrugged.
“Like everything we’re not.” Rising from his seat, Andre excused himself from the table. Speaking to Jora, he said goodnight and left in search of Davi.
It took the efforts of nearly all the Koinonians to prepare for the Harvest Feast and ready the island for winter. The last of the barley and wheat was put up, the Sunergeo Farm greenhouses were organized and prepped, more vegetables and fruit were dried, canned, and stored. Personal cellars were jam packed with stores for the long, cold months. Coal bins were filled and the Gennema slaughterhouse was busy meeting the demand of butchering thousands of pounds of beef, pork, and poultry to be frozen along with whole freezer lockers full of fish.
The women scoured the community center kitchen for the feast and decorated Metoche in tasteful harvest décor. Streets were cleaned and last minute paint and small construction jobs were accomplished before the snow would inevitably fly. Andre spent much of the week before the feast at home helping Laken prep the sheep barn and ready the house. Their own deep freeze and store room was overflowing with homegrown foodstuffs and supplies traded at the market. As usual, Theos had provided for them well, and there was no fear of going hungry through the long winter months.
The day of the feast, Andre took advantage of not having to rise early for Sunesis. He lay in bed until Demi called down the hall that she was leaving for the village, and he would have to find his own breakfast. Sitting up, he ran a hand through his hair and winced under the bright sun streaming through the uncovered window. There was a lumpy outline in his brother’s bed, reminding Andre that Davi didn’t have school that day either.
“Hey,” he threw his pillow at him. “Wake up.”
Davi startled but didn’t respond or roll over until Andre got up and body slammed him hard into the mattress. “Get off,” Davi growled with his face pressed into his pillow. “Go away.”
“Get up.” Andre squashed him with all his weight and fought off his brother’s attempts to push him off the bed. “It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a run.”
“You’re coming,” Andre insisted. “Get up or I’ll run the hose through the window and give you a shower.”
“You’re mental.” Davi burrowed back beneath the covers.
Andre got up and pulled clean sweats out of the dresser. “You have ten minutes.”
It took him twice that to actually get Davi to agree to come along, and another fifteen minutes before they finally stepped out in the brisk, mid-morning air to hit the road at a warm-up jog. Rizzy followed them as far as the neighboring farm before halting on the road and watching them go. “Go home!” Davi yelled back at the dog impatiently.
“He’s going to get run over one of these days,” Andre panted, wishing he was in better shape for running.
“Good,” Davi grunted. “Maybe we can get a new one with some sense.”
“Maybe a dingo,” Andre suggested.
“Or a kangaroo.” His brother’s bad mood was dissipating as his adrenaline accelerated from the exercise. Davi always enjoyed a good run and was far more physically fit than his brother, a discipline derived from his passion for sports.
Andre picked up speed and ran until he couldn’t breathe any more. Davi moved at a steady pace, pulling ahead and stopping only when he reached the highway to wait for his brother. He stretched and walked out the run in circles while he caught his breath. “How far are we going?” he asked when Andre finally made up the distance.
“How far do you want to go?”
“We could run to Mama’s,” he suggested, and then realized what he said. “Or…not. Sorry.”
Andre actually agreed that it was a good idea. “Let’s do it. We can stop and say hi quick. I should anyway.”
“Okay.” Davi checked for traffic on the highway. “Race ya!” He took off at a sprint and quickly left Andre behind.
They didn’t run the entire distance to the shore. Andre didn’t have the endurance, and Davi got tired of stopping every few hundred feet to wait for him to catch up. They crossed the highway and took a short cut along the beach, passing Erotao and coming upon the row of segregated Iasis healing houses from the south.
Davi knocked on the door at Imani’s and checked in with her nurse to see if it was a good time to visit. They sat on the stoop and waited while the healer informed their mother that they were there. Davi lifted the collar of his t-shirt and wiped the sweat from his face. “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it the whole way,” he teased.
“I wasn’t sure either. You do know you’re going to have to carry me home, right?”
“We’ll flag down a ride.”
“Sounds good.” Andre looked up as the door reopened and they were granted entrance.
Imani waited in her rocking chair in her room, wrapped in a wool shall with an open book in her lap. “Hola, Mama,” Andre greeted her first, standing just inside the door as Davi crossed the room to give her a quick kiss on the cheek before he sat on the window bench next to the rocker. Andre was willing to see her, but he didn’t want to get too close. He carried his experiences like a disease and didn’t want to infect her with their aftereffects. He was never very good at keeping things from her.
“What are my boys up to today? This is a surprise.”
“We were out running,” he told her.
“I was out running,” Davi corrected him. “I don’t know what Dre was doing.”
Imani laughed and her cheeks glowed with healthy color encouraging to see. “Today is the Harvest Feast,” she said, and Andre was surprised she even knew.
He nodded, “Demi’s already down at the Center getting ready.”
“Feast days are long days for women.” Imani smiled, looking at Davi. “Remember that when you’re married and help your wife by making them easier.”
Davi gave her a look of disgust but said nothing to that.
“Did you tell your brother how far my line is now?” she asked, lifting her eyes to the window.
“Almost to the water.”
“That’s right.” She grinned and watched for Andre’s response. His eyebrows rose in pleasant surprise. “My healers and I have set a new goal.”
“To reach the Alleluia House by the time Andre returns from his Therapon.”
“Why?” Davi asked.
“So I don’t miss his wedding of course.” A teasing smile lifted at the corner of her mouth, and Andre’s heart skipped a beat. “Just because he doesn’t think that beautiful young fisherman’s daughter is worth telling me about doesn’t mean I don’t know.”
Andre didn’t know how to respond to that. He watched her exchange light banter with Davi with a sense of awe. He had been gone a long time. All the talk of crossing the island, standing in the presence of hundreds of people, and using words like ‘Therapon’ without flinching; it was amazing. Andre was thrilled by his mother’s advancement.
And then he wondered what he was thinking coming there.
Could she tell that he had been conversing with spirits the way she always could with his father? Could she guess his thoughts just by looking in his eyes and see the faded visions imprinted there?
Andre felt a guilty pang in his chest. He was selfishly risking her health for one measly visit. It didn’t matter that he missed her. It shouldn’t matter, and he moved compulsively at the door as if preparing to bolt from the room before she would have time to sense the reasons for the stress he carried like a dead weight from his burden as Agabus. He would not be the reason for a possible regression. Not after she had come so far with him staying away.
“We should go,” he interrupted Davi’s recap of his recent afterschool soccer game. They both looked up in surprise, but Imani managed to smile before patting Davi’s knee.
“I’m glad you came.” She accepted his hug and watched him meet Andre at the door. “I’ll see you next week.”
“Dre?” Imani stopped him before he followed Davi to the door. “She’s a darling girl,” she told him. “I know her mother well. She comes from a strong family. Stronger than me. You chose very well.”
He nodded slowly without responding.
Imani opened her mouth as if to say more but changed her mind and smiled instead. The sadness which suddenly appeared in her eyes tasted like bitter remorse, and Andre quickly turned away in the hopes that the damage wasn’t too great.
“Te amo, Dre.”
“ Tú también, Mama.”
The day of holiday and giving of thanks for all Theos had provided was dampened slightly by the visit to his mother’s. Andre spent the rest of the day thinking about what she had said in regards to Jora and wondered about it a hundred times over. Was that Imani’s way of giving her blessing, what she said about him choosing very well? Her conclusion was based off of a memory and an assumption that Jora was anything like her mother. Svana was, Svana was tough as nails, but Jora…Jora was delicate. It was what he loved about her, and now he worried that he was committing her to a life of fear by wanting to partner his life with hers.
But Jora was not his mother.
And he was not his father.
Pushing the thoughts from his mind, Andre joined his countrymen for the feast of the season. Not even Eleutheros could compare to the anticipation surrounding the Harvest celebration. The joy of sharing the fruits of their labors with their friends and neighbors after months of planting, raising, nurturing, and harvesting was accompanied with a huge relief that the work was done for a time. There was always more to do, but the pace had slowed and they took the opportunity to enjoy it.
Strings of lights had been strung like great spider webs heavy with sunlit drops of dew from storefront to the roof of the Alleluia House and back again. They would remain there until after the New Year and add to the festive atmosphere of the holiday season.
Long rows of tables branched out from the worship house to the circle of shops like the spokes of a great wheel. Coal troughs and torches were lit between the rows along with thick bees wax candles set at intervals along the tables. Plates were set before chairs and benches brought from both the Alleluia House and the Community Center where dozens of volunteers and cooks brought out dish after dish of steaming vegetables, meats, pastas, and sauces.
Andre helped set up smaller tables under the massive domed roof of the worship house, and was enlisted to help gather whatever chairs could be spared from the surrounding shops and homes. It took a lot of planning to feed that many people in one sitting.
“¿Dónde está tu hermano?” Demi spotted him while setting a large crock of sweet potatoes on the nearest table. “Davi should be helping you.”
“Laken wanted his help at Iasis,” Andre told her before rolling his empty trolley out for more chairs. The healers, patients, and deacons weren’t going to miss out on the feast just because they all couldn’t make it to the village center. Food had been packed up and delivered to Iasis and Erotao where they were enjoying their own versions of the celebration.
Once the food was out, Elder Mathis encouraged the great mass of congregating people to find seats before it grew cold. He nearly lost his voice trying to be heard, but once everyone was settled he was able to give a prayer over the meal and thank Theos for His bountiful blessings. “Dig in!” he announced as soon as the prayer was concluded, and everyone did so with gusto.
It was customary for families to sit together for the Harvest meal. Andre and Davi ate quickly, piling on seconds, and entertaining their cousins by roasting bits of potato, candied yams, and whole chicken legs over the candle flames while sharing jokes which had the girls giggling so hard they couldn’t eat. Demi, finally able to slow down long enough to eat, told them to cut it out, but not with much conviction. What was a feast without a little unruly behavior at the table? Laken seemed to share this opinion, borrowing Viva’s fork and spearing a whole marshmallow out of the crock of yams to brown in the fluttering flame.
“Can I have your attention please? Can I have everyone’s attention?” A slim man of upper middle age wearing a fur-lined cap with ear flaps and a bright yellow checkered flannel, stood straight up on his bench near the center of a lines of tables and waved his arms above his head until the crowd was quiet and attentive. Andre recognized the man to be a turbine technician for the energy department named Ray Landers.
“I have an announcement I’d like to make!” he shouted so everyone could hear. “Actually, it’s my son who has an announcement.” He yanked a rather sheepish looking kid no older than nineteen out of his seat. The younger Landers turned red from his tight collar to the roots of his dark hair, and took his sweet time finding his voice.
The crowd tried to encourage him with catcalls and cheers, but this only made him more self-conscious and finally his father wacked him hard on the back, jolting the news right out of him. “Me and May Beth are gettin’ married!” Landers grabbed the hand of a beaming, blushing May Beth George and forced her to partake in his embarrassment as a roar of applause rose from the tables.
“Oh, how wonderful!” Demi clapped. “Just what that girl needed after such a hard year, bless her soul.”
Demi wasn’t the only one who seemed to think so as a murmur rippled among the people of how good it was to see May Beth smile so, and won’t this be just the distraction she needed?
Andre watched the happy bride-to-be drink in the attention with a giddy inability to keep from smiling. He tried to recall how she had looked the day of her return from Therapon, as distressed as the rest of them when he burst so abruptly into the Community Center. He could not remember her specifically but was sure it was a far cry from the way she looked right then, brimming with happiness. He wondered if any pieces of that night in Mexico had ever come back to her. He wondered if it haunted her in her sleep.
“Cheers to the happy couple!” Elder Mathis raised his drink.
Everyone followed suit, hundreds of glasses catching the glint of the stars and dancing strings of lights overhead. Laughter mixed with a swell of easy conversation as the dessert trays were brought out and passed down the line.
“Finally!” Davi nabbed a massive slice of chocolate cake heavy with icing.
Andre speared a large bite with his fork and confiscated it before his brother could block the move. “Cheers,” he grinned and reached for some more.
“Get your own.” Davi shoved him away and guarded his plate possessively until the last crumb was gone.
Andre managed to get a hold of a slice of pie and a scalding cup of cider. He had never appreciated the food he ate more than after having gathered a great deal of it himself during Sunesis. It was hard to believe that half the year was already over, only two more departments to intern for. It was going faster than he had expected.
Glancing around the candle lit faces of his friends and neighbors, the Agabus’s feeling of contentment was bittersweet under the knowledge of his vision.
The vision you were given does not show all that is to come…
Did that mean what went unseen was good or bad?
It doesn’t matter, Andre decided and shook off the mood dampening speculations before they ruined his evening. If he spent all his time wondering what and when things were going to happen he would miss an awful lot of what was going on right then. Like another cup of cider and the possibilities of a quiet walk with Jora.
Andre found her in the crowd of packed tables, and slid his chair out so he could stand. “Here, Davi,” he gave him the rest of his pie in exchange for stealing his cake. “Now we’re even.”