(The below is a direct follow up to Falling Awake)
Amrita had rolled into lotus after her last pose of the morning, body sweating pleasantly from one of her more strenuous routines. Her connection to Gaia was still strong this morning, and she let her awareness expand in the meditative state, flowing into “all that is” with each exhalation. It was a kind of pleasure that was difficult to explain to anyone who’d never felt something similar, that letting go of the ego-self in favor of the ultimate release into everything at once. But those who’d been there knew it too, and sometimes that had to be enough.
She was deeply aware of the shifts of consciousness in the house. One such shift rang like a bell in her own consciousness, just as the sun peaked above the eastern horizon.
Linda had awakened.
With a huge smile, Amrita pulled her awareness back into her own skin and bounced to her feet in a single, fluid motion, then scampered down the hall to the bedroom where Joseph had taken her, the night before. She knocked briefly, then let herself in, so anxious to lay eyes on her friend that she pushed past the “good manners” boundary just a bit.
“Hey,” she murmured, glance going to Joseph just momentarily. “Welcome back.”
“Mornin’, sugar…” Linda said with a tired smile, sitting up in bed. Though she didn’t look like a woman in the blush of health by any means – she was still a cancer patient after all – she did have a light behind her eyes that Amrita had never seen in her before. That thick, cloying and vile-tasting aura of misery that Linda had carried with her at all times since the two of them had met was conspicuously gone. Joseph was sitting in the bed next to her, where he had held her close through the bulk of the night. She seemed slightly disoriented however, and inquired, “… how long was Ah gone…?”
“Gone?” Am smiled even more broadly, flowing over to the opposite side of the bed from Joseph, to sit and take Linda’s hand. “You’ve been out since the ritual, yesterday afternoon. How do you feel?”
Linda took Amrita’s hand and smiled to her again, a smile without the poison of the Wyrm tainting it. She looked herself over, taking stock of her physicality. The Kin woman was only wearing her bra and panties, and she inspected herself curiously, almost as if surprised. Slender fingers rubbed at the back of her shoulder blades and she sighed.
“Ah almost fergot what it was like not havin’ somethin’ coiled up hidden inside’a mah shoulders… but Ah half expected mahself ta wake up with wings or somethin’,” she said softly.
Am exchanged a glance with Joseph over that. “Wings?” She smiled, then folded back into lotus on the bed. It was such unadulterated pleasure to sit with Linda — without the bane resident — and talk, she could barely stand it. “Clearly, you’ve got a story to tell us, honey. What happened?”
Joseph smoothed down Linda’s platinum blond hair. “Was it a dream?” He asked, his rich voice low and gentle.
“Ah reckon… Ah guess. But Ah don’ think it was,” Linda said, gnawing on her lip and her pale eyes going to the side as she tried to sort things out. “Ah remember all’a y’all howlin an’ carryin’ on, an’ then ah blacked out… then Jez an’ me, we was fightin’,” she was struggling to put things in a rational order, because it was all so vivid and present still. “There… there was a voice, tellin’ me ta let go’a her an’ Ah did, but Ah fell… we was up inna clouds, ya see, real stormy like. Ah fell fer a real long time, right inta the blackness, an’ eventually Ah hit water.”
Linda shivered visibly then. “It was cold an’ the currents was draggin’ me down, but it was burnin’ too.” She gestured up towards her shoulders again, wincing at the memory, “Mah other arms, they burned right off, an’ Ah kept burnin’ till Ah was human again… but Ah was still drownin’.”
Her big Galliard lover listened wordlessly, stroking her hair as she talked, not wanting to interrupt her. He was glad to have her back, and to listen to the vivid and frightening dream that she had had, and glad that Amrita was there to comfort her as well. On impulse, Amrita reached across Linda with her free hand and took one of Joseph’s, which he gratefully accepted — comfort went better when it was being passed all around, after all. Besides, she wanted a word with Joseph at some point that morning, and a touch could convey a lot more than words could, in the right circumstances.
Am turned her attention back to Linda, squeezing her hand gently. “This sounds like a shamanic initiation rite,” she mused, eyebrows raised. “Did you go all the way to the bottom during this experience, Lin? Lose the rest of your body somehow?”
The Kin woman started a little bit at what Amrita said about shamanic initiations and gave her a shy little look, “Ah’m gettin’ there, baby.” She looked at the handclasp that her best friend and lover were sharing and felt a warmth inside of her. “Well… If Ah got ta th’bottom, Ah don’ rightly know. Ah couldn’t see nothin’. Far as Ah know there weren’t no bottom. But mah body, it shut down… all’a that cold, an’ no air… Ah died, Ah reckon… but…” tears came to her eyes and she choked for a moment. “Krissy came ta mah mind as Ah died… mah baby girl. Ah knew Ah hadda fight fer her… so’s Ah started swimmin’ again, hard as Ah could, but Ah still weren’t gonna be able ta reach th’surface, an’ Ah weren’t alone inna water.”
She took a deep breath, as if to remind herself that she was capable of doing so. “There was somethin’ else in there too, an’ it kept brushin’ up against me as Ah tried ta swim. Real big, like… an’ ah think it was scaly. When Ah’d jus’ about given up again, it wrapped me up an’ hauled me up ta th’surface, an’ then let me go.” That part of the ordeal seemed to haunt her, and her eyes went distant. “Ah didn’t never get a good look at it; it went right back inta the water, but it kept swimmin’ around me. Ah called out fer help, cus Ah couldn’t see no shore, an’ it was still real cold an’ dark. Then Ah heard that same voice again. Ah don’ know if it was th’thing in the water’s voice or what, but it was like Ah’d heard it afore… Ah recognized it, but Ah knew Ah ain’t never heard it clearly inna past.” Linda’s face scrunched a bit as she tried to get a handle on that part of the tale. “Does that even make sense at all?”
“Some,” Joseph murmured, as Amrita half-nodded, and kissed her on the temple. “A familiarity that you can’t place, almost like deja vu?”
“Yeah, sorta like that…” Linda breathed.
“Ah asked th’voice for help, an’ it tole me that if ah could make mahself seen, help’d come fer me… ‘on silent wings,’ it said.” She chuckled. “but Ah couldn’t even see mahself, barely… jus’ a couple’a stars. So Ah looked inside…” Linda placed a hand to her bosom, speaking reverently, “An’ found a light there.”
Tears ran down Amrita’s face at this. They were tears of utter joy and happiness for Linda, and those feelings were so strong she could not hold them in.
“Ah held that up, high as Ah could, an’ struggled real hard ta keep from sinkin’ again. Then…” she smiled faintly. “Ah was rescued. It was Owl… he pulled me outta the water. He tole me… he’d been watchin’ me since afore even Steve found me… ah tole him Ah was scared that Ah couldn’t find my way home back here ta all’a y’all, or ta find mah Krissy.”
Linda looked down for a long moment. Amrita sniffled once, then wordlessly squeezed her hand again.
Finally, she spoke again, solemn but welling with gratitude, “He tole me he’d help me… he’d teach me… he’d be mah Totem. Then he put his own wings on Mah back an’ taught me how ta fly back here.”
“Wings…” The young kami breathed the word, then released their hands so she could pull Linda into a tight embrace. “Wings!” she repeated, crying and laughing at the same time. She was still weeping when she released Linda, mostly to let Joseph have a go at it, if he wished.
He did wish, and he kissed Linda deeply, her slender arm going around his neck. He held her close for several long moments, and then pulled back slightly to look her in the eye. His dark eyes and her near-white eyes were both warm, and both glistened on the brink of tears.
“Ah’d say Ah’m back,” Linda breathed, “but Ah ain’t th’same ‘me’ no more, if’n ya folla… so Ah guess Ah’d better say, ‘Ah’m here’ instead.”
“The part of you we loved is back,” Am murmured, wiping tears with the back of her hand. “Gods, I can’t stay long, not nearly as long as I’d like. I’ve got head back up to the caern today, and see if I can get Rides-The-Winds and maybe even Nina Howls-down-the-Avalanche to discuss adoption issues with me. I can’t really believe they still want me after all this, but I’m grateful that they’ve not just written me off, for sure.”
“I think that they understand the difficult position that you were in,” Joseph said softly, his facial muscles working. His own wounds were still pretty fresh. “Trust has been injured… but where there is understanding…” he cast a quick glance at Linda’s anxious expression. “There can be forgiveness.”
Amrita smiled gently. “Well said. I’m very glad we’re all on a more open footing with one another. I was never that good at lying anyway.” She leaned over and took Joseph’s hand again. “Hey — I just wanted to say: I’ve had doubts about some of Linda’s choices, and her relationship with you was among them,” she admitted, meeting the big Galliard’s eyes fearlessly. “Now I see I was wrong to doubt. I’m sorry about that.”
Linda almost spoke, but saw the thoughtful look on Joseph’s face and held her peace instead.
“You had every cause for doubt,” Joseph said just above a whisper. “How could you not? But thank you… I am thankful that I did not prove your doubts correct.” He looked down, taking a deep breath. “It was a near thing.” His expression showed remorse at his near-murderous anger, even though he was still not entirely past the hurt. Linda brushed the hair away from his cheek and kissed him tenderly.
“Yer a good man, Joseph,” she said softly. “Way better’n Ah deserved… Ah’ll try’an be a better match now, best ah can…” her voice betrayed her own doubts at her own ability to make a strong relationship actually work, but also a desire to do so.
“What more could I ask of you?” he said with a tender glance her way.
“That’s all any of us can do,” Amrita agreed. “Try. And keep on trying, even when we’d rather give up sometimes.” She smiled happily. “Ro will probably be in to see you soon, and I do have to go. You take it easy today, kiddo, because starting tomorrow, I’m going to work your butt over in yoga routines until you’re all better, and then beyond that too. Got it?”
“Gottit,” Linda chuckled. “Take care’a yerself today Amrita. Love ya girl.” She pulled Amrita closer and gave her a sisterly, loving kiss, one Am returned happily. She then leaned over to kiss Joseph’s stubbly cheek, then slid off the bed.
“Text me or something later,” she grinned. It was almost a traditional parting from the girl. “See you!”