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Chapter 5

I still had many times of doubt and confusion but I've learned by now not to call home every time I get overwhelmed looking for answers to these doubts and questions that seem to pop into my mind. I didn't want another scolding as I'd had with the hologram of my teacher knocking on my door. That was kind of spooky. I mean she is nice but I felt like a little faery again, just beginning.

I had discovered a beautiful rose garden in a remote part of the campus. I love it there. It's where I feel most at home and safe. The fragrance of the roses always makes me feel snug and cozy. They make me think of my Mother. When I'm there, away from the busy-ness of class, clubs, and friends, I find the memories of my early life coming back. But I don't know yet what I am supposed to do.

I sat on the bench closest to the biggest rosebush where I could smell the roses the best. I kept very still when I thought I heard a tiny tinkling. I wasn't certain whether it was coming from outside or inside. I sat and felt the vibration of a bell going through me. I felt as if I were gliding through the galaxies, tiny particles floated around me. I heard color and smelled sound. It was all very clear to me.

I opened my eyes, I don't know how, but I was certain that these were signs that I was finally on my path. I was learning and getting credibility in my human form and inching along till I opened my heart to the Universe. My people will be heard, remembered and loved again. A sense of peace flowed through me. I heard the bells that ring at the beginning of classes in the distance, I must get to class. Celtic mythology, mythology was becoming one of my favorite classes.

As I was walking, I felt the love still humming inside of me from my trance in the rose garden. All of a sudden I knew, I knew with all my heart. I was so filled with love that I felt as if I were in a vortex. A vortex was exactly what was needed, I thought! I will build a vortex of love around me that is so strong, people will follow me and then I can lead them to remembrance and forgiveness. I will also have to follow that path.

On my way, I passed an old woman She was very bent over, had white hair cut very short and limped. Our eyes met and I almost fell down. It felt as though a laser had gone through me. I caught my breath and looked up, the woman was gone. What was that? Something began humming in my head. Was it a song? A melody? No, it was more like a whirring sound. Now the woman stood in front of me, then beside me, then behind me. I had to remind myself where I was.

"Who are you? What do you want?" I asked. The only words the woman said were "Go to class Belinda, I will meet you at dusk right here." and then the woman was gone.

I couldn't decide whether to go or not. Maybe this woman was psychotic and meant me harm. Should I take someone with me? My knowing said no but I put mace in my pocket just in case. I arrived but the woman wasn't there. "Belinda, you are looking well." My head snapped around. The woman was perched on the lowest branch of the tree munching on a crabapple. "Darling, do you remember when your Mother told you about the elves because you were afraid of them?"

I almost fainted. "You know my Mother? My real Mother?" The woman eyes turned an opaque shade of emerald green, which jolted me again. I was terrified and excited at the same time. "You may call me Gammy. We will meet weekly right here, you are to follow everything I tell you to a tee." The woman turned those eyes of hers right in my direction. "Okay," I stammered. The woman continued "If I were you I would drop the mythology course and take that Advanced Religious Studies class. I just stared at her, how did she know? And who was she to tell me what to do?

A sense of familiarity came over me. "Yes, Ma'am," I answered. "Good! Now be sure you look at all the people in the class carefully. I want you to notice, my Belinda, what you see and what you don't see. You always excelled in your Observation Class. Ok! Goodbye! Will you throw this away for me?" She handed me the apple core and was gone. I shook my head, dumped the core in the trash. Who was she and how did she know me? Observation class.? A slight tinkling sounded in my head as a picture of a Gnome with green clothes flashed in her head. The gnome was very old, and I could sense that he was also very, very kind and wise. It was an unusual sight to see a Gnome dressed all in green.

I suddenly remembered. It was Mr. Blienkins. He had taught The Observation Class. He had taught her to see first with her eyes, then with her thoughts, then with her feelings. Goosebumps and tightening tummies were signals that she must pay attention to. Oh, I remember! I can see beyond the surface, I can see pain, fear, love, all sorts of things. It was so fascinating. But who was this Gammy and how did she know about Observation Class? I told myself to relax. It would come, Mr. Blienkins had always said I was the best in the class, I will figure it out. She was obviously an elemental of some kind but it was confusing about who to trust.I told myself to get very still and quiet.I knew the answer would come.

I did what Gammy told me. I dropped mythology which fascinated me and signed up for the Advanced Religious Studies which I didn't particularly like.I don't like dogma and rigidity but I guess I need to understand more. Gazing carefully around the class, there was no recognition. Monday, Wednesday still nothing. What was it I wasn't seeing?

The following Monday I looked and listened, intently. I took deep breaths, which allowed me to be fully present. Again, what am I not seeing or feeling? Everyone seems anxious, a little defensive. Could that be what I am supposed to see she wondered? I slowed down even more and soon could hear the young handsome man behind her thinking the Professor didn't call on him because he was Indian. He thought the professor was prejudiced against Indians. His name was Amar.

How ironic, I thought. The Professor was from Georgia and felt self-conscious about his southern accent which had made him cautious around and afraid that people, especially a minority ethnic group, would assume he was,” what I had learned was a cliche' southerner". Slow, bigoted, angry.” Oh, this was fascinating. Both student and teacher were afraid to communicate because each of them thought the other was too different to be accepted or respected.

I turned around and said quietly "Hey Amar, I think he's scared. Why don't you, give him a chance!" Amor gaped at me. I smiled. Ok, I thought, this is what Gammy meant when she said I am able to hear what people are thinking or feeling. It was a "Faery thing." I sighed with understanding and relief. I wasn't crazy or schizophrenic. There was nothing to be afraid of. I just know this stuff, that's all. It just seems so obvious once I started noticing, I don't believe it takes special power, it is just a matter of paying attention

Mr. Blienkins, the green Gnome, could help me find how and where "Gammy" fit into my life. He was considered one of the best instructors at the school. As a gnome he had taught Observation, Creating Spells and Ethics and Magik. There was usually a waiting line for his classes. Although he didn't look it, Mr. Blienkins was so old and so funny. He taught us the wonderful, joyous spells and treats for all beings that were open to receiving them. We would also laugh and laugh as he told us about botching spells and some of the mistakes he made.

While at the Academy I had worked very hard in his class because somehow I knew his was the magik that would be the most useful. I wanted to be careful. "Do No Harm" was the credo of the Academy. I would be still and listen carefully. Having power was a terrible responsibility. There were stories of those who misused it, both human and faeries. That was why Mr. Blienkins wore green. It was in honor of an elf he had put a spell on when he was young and the elf had to live 7 years as a cat.

Mr. Blienkins put the green on to remind him that a lack of consciousness has consequences and can do others harm. He and the elf - suddenly I realized that the elf was now Gammy. Oh now it was making sense.

As my memories of my time at the Academy came back, I recalled that he and the elf had always been the best of friends. Gammy couldn't blame him for the spell (after all, she had gotten caught doing mischief) but being chased by 3 year old and dressed in dolls clothes had not been fun nor was it her first choice of consequences. But who gets to choose consequences?

Gammy had lived among the humans as a cat unobserved for 7 years. It gave her great insight and wisdom, and lots of funny tales. Who had sent her to me? I realized that my people were cheering me on, that they are closer than I realized."There will be others" my Fathers voice echoed.

But, I am not to make contact until I have met my destiny.I thought back about what Mr..Blienkins had taught.I remembered him talking about a brave, lovely elf who defied her parents for the love of a gnome. oh, there was more Belinda thought. She must be, that was it. Gammy was banned from her home. Her parents disowned her I remembered hearing about her, she was a real heroine to the realm. She was a legendary elf who had run messages through very dangerous places to help save different elementals. Though she had been turned into a cat for 7 years, the more poignant thing was she had been captured by the Vikings and kept captive in a cave for no one is sure how long. She was kept in a cage the way some human keep birds and it left her crippled and bent. The rumor is she was prodded and made fun of, they made her cry as though that was an accomplishment. It left her reluctant to show much to anyone about how she felt except Mr.Bleinkins.She had only breadcrumbs and water to eat, it was a bad time. She was someone I could learn a lot from. Oh, what an honor that she is helping me! She was a legend of courage. She stood in her own right as did Mr.Blienkins, he was renowned for his skill with spells and had helped humans escape treachery at his own risk. He so wanted to help the King and my Father and very reluctantly went along with his plan. He was always learning and teaching.

Friday I waited for Gammy,. I was pretty pleased with myself that I had figured out what was going on in class and who she was. She looked impatient when I arrived. "We don't have much time. I am allotted 4 hours a month with you and I am not sure for how long. Be quick my child."

My questions spilled out like an overflowing creek. Grammy stopped me., "I am not here to tell you, I am here to help you strengthen the skills that you are developing that will enable you to remember what and how you are supposed to become." She continued, "Mr. Blienkins always spoke so highly of you. Don't dawdle. You must practice Belinda, practice. Why do you think I wanted you to take Advanced Religious Studies? It is because you are afraid of religion. Never fear knowledge. Remember it is through the knowledge that we gain understanding. You are learning that religion itself is neither good nor bad, rather it is how it is used. The religion won't hurt you but those who misuse it might try. This is why you need to understand it." "Of course you can take mythology, such fun and more accurate than a lot of the history courses they are teaching. But you must remember child, you are here for the Realm. Your assignment this week is to listen to classical music for an hour a day." What? I was young and loved to dance but not to classical music which was okay for sleeping and such. Gammy continued "If you are afraid of something or have an aversion to it, consider your fear as a wonderful signal to explore it. Next week bring me some doughnuts from that shop on the campus, will you? That's a darling. Goodbye!"

Poof, she was off again. She is so rude, she just demands. I heard a tinkling laugh in the distance and the knowledge that Gammy was laughing at her infuriated her. "I'll show her," I thought, putting on my headphones and started to jog to Beethoven's 9th!! It actually was pretty good and I made a faster time than I did when I played the music of my own taste.I started to listen to Mozart during my sleep because I read it made me smarter. I would do this!

And so Gammy and I began to meet weekly. As Gammy prodded me more and more into areas of discomfort, I began on my own to wander toward the scary, the unknown, and sometimes found love. I picked up a half-starved kitten that looked skinny and maybe creepy. I'll just keep her for one night, I said to no one. Months later my best friend Zooey purred against me as she slept. I had forgotten the tender love that animals show. Zooey knew in the same way I did if anything was wrong. We communicated very well. And I must admit, I loved seeing Zooey sitting in the window waiting for me. It was a real comfort to come home to life.

I was surprised to find classical music so amazing! In it I could find angels more clearly and the music took me to other dimensions. I must remember to tell Gammy about this. I was so excited I rushed to meet her. But Gammy wasn't here. I waited an hour, looked around and walked along the creek, a creeping panic rising inside. I had a huge lump in my throat. I'm not even sure I liked Gammy that much but having her around has made me feel less alone and frightened. Week after week I returned on the same day at the same time.

Weeks later I was sitting with a heavy heart on the bench holding the bag of doughnuts. I absentmindedly pulled one out and was starting to eat when a crow swooped down and picked it out of my mouth. Angry and startled I looked at the crow. He landed right in front of me. He was munching away when he looked at me. He had the most amazing emerald green eyes. A now familiar jolt ran through me. I looked at the bird…"Gammy "she whispered? "Caw, Caw," the bird started hopping around. He started flying short distances, coming back and repeating the process.

"You want me to follow you?" I asked.

The bird swooped toward her, pecked her scarf and flew away. In the middle of the campus ran a creek, it had bridges and although parts were very wild and private, I was able to still see the campus. I followed the erratic crow to a spot that was by the creek. Bushes leaned into the stream, giving cascades of shadowy, sunlit structures overlooking the water. I sat on a smooth rock waiting.

Suddenly Gammy appeared, sweaty and almost anxious. "Listen quickly, Belinda. I have gone into hiding, the Dark Forces are hunting me and I don't want to lead them to you." Then she grabbed the last doughnut from my hand, "Thank you, my dear, it is ones of my greatest pleasures."

"There are others like you that the High King and your Father sent into hiding." I brightened with questions but she said "Hush, there is no time to further explain. There are also Dark Ones disguised as light so you must use your powers very carefully, reveal as little as possible for if they take you, it would be the end of us." The fear in her voice frightened me.

"I will be close but always in a different disguise, you must be quicker Belinda, always look for the signs. They are all around you. It took you weeks to spot me. You must practice until it becomes almost effortless and obvious. Every night invoke the wisdom of the old ones and pray especially for only good to befall all. You must also pay attention to yourself, my dear. If you begin to have a feeling of fear, resentment or anger - those will be signals that the Dark Ones have begun to take you over. Pick roses to remind you." Gammy uncharacteristically leaned over to give Belinda a peck on her cheek. As she was leaning, the bird re-appeared, pecked her cheek and flew away, cawing.

I was so stunned I just sat with my mouth hanging open. Suddenly there was a rustling and when I looked up I saw Amar, the boy from my Intro to Religious Studies class. "I thought it was you Belinda, are you well? This is a little remote for such a lovely girl." "I am fine" I replied, a little self-conscious. "Sometimes I like the solitude and this place feels like home to me."

Amar continued, "I have been looking for you. I want to thank you for what you said in class. You were right. I stopped by and talked to Mr. Metzger after class. Turns out he feels self-conscious about his southern accent and is afraid of being perceived as a bigot. He told me he was especially nervous about me because he didn't pronounce my name correctly the first time. We had a great chat and I feel accepted, even acknowledged by him. But, how did you know? "

"Oh no big deal, I just…" I stopped talking and remembered Gammy's warning to be careful, "I just noticed he was new and look nervous" I quickly recovered. "Lucky Guess. Glad it worked out." It was exhausting to be on guard all the time.

It is innate in the realm , to tell the truth and, not infrequently, blurt it out. I had been about to say "I could hear his thoughts" Changing the subject I asked "Have you read the chapter on "….my voice droning on as I walked out of the tiny, sacred space. I smiled and waved goodbye to Amar at the next bend in the path. "See you in class, teachers' pet," I teased. Whew. Oh my, this assignment was going to be challenging. It is really hard for me not to say just what I am thinking.

Walking back, I felt a tightening in my stomach and a sense of aloneness and fear permeated my being. I felt so out of step. With Gammy, wretched, bossy old woman that she is, I can be myself. But now, who was there? Where would I find my kin? Tears sprung into my eyes. As I swallowed hard, a terrible pain ran through me as my heart constricted in pain. I just wanted to run and hide. That old adage "Fight or flight" was true! "Breathe," I said to myself "breathe. Struggling to regain my composure and focusing on what was in front of me, I was able to bring myself back to the present moment.

As I walked I saw a tiny little rabbit. As I watched it scurry, its sweetness and innocence cheered me up a bit. Still aching, I trudged up the hill back to campus.

I went home that night and Zooey snuggled next to me. "Thank you, for knowing how much it hurts, thanks for just being here." Zooey purred, she looked at me so knowingly, I felt relieved. she understood. Cats are mysterious and psychic.

I took out one of my most precious things, a lock of my Mothers hair, dark and strung through with silver. My eyes filled with tears just looking at it. An image of her Mother brushing her long hair and briskly wrapping it high on her head flashed in her head. Always efficient, never vain. I never realized how beautiful she truly was, her soul was iridescent, she was like watching a moonbeam flow through the room. Despite the pain, I let myself reminisce about the woman who taught her a rare form of gentleness.

I was more like my Dad. Intense. My bright, articulate, sometimes intimidating Father was also one who felt so deeply about those he loved , he cried when I was learning to fly and got tangled in a spider web.

Another object I had was a stone he had given me that last night. When I held it I felt his strength, his conviction. He was a risk-taker who, time after time, loved fiercely and deeply. My mother's hair, my father's stone, my legacy. So much love, so much mystery. "Come on Zooey, let us find some catnip," as Zooey jumped quickly and followed me to the kitchen.

I fell asleep that night holding my Fathers stone and dreamt of the hammock where I was born. I saw elves, gnomes the woodland spirits, nymphs, and water sprites. I smelled the moss and drank the fresh dew. and there was a mist over everything that began to clear, I saw glimpses of friends still a little blurry but getting clear. How I missed my beautiful home.

Sitting up with a jolt, everything was so fresh and clear. I was remembering! I looked at the stone. I surmised my Father had programmed it to help me start to remember when the time was right. Of course, he was a historian, he knew how to record things. For the first time since Gammy's disappearance, I felt clear and determined. I was convinced I would know what to do. I was still being guided. My heart swelled with love for my parents and my realm. I thought of the lovely multi-colored hummingbirds, flitting from one flower to another, so enchanting in their iridescent beauty yet strong. The tiny were often underestimated. I remembered being taken to the "Ballet of Butterflies". It was breathtaking to see them swirling and soaring through the air in unison like colorful clouds of silk.

Amar had asked to meet him for dinner so I quickly showered and got dressed in jeans and long dangly earrings. I knew Amar liked me. It was obvious. I really enjoyed him but how close could I really get? I was here for such a distinct reason I had to be so careful. Those huge dark eyes were dreamy and it was fascinating to hear him speak in his clipped, distinct manner. He seemed familiar yet exotic. It was enticing. He smelled spicy as if he showered in sandalwood. Lovely. As they walked into the restaurant, he touched the small of my back and I felt a tingle of anticipation wave through me. He was so bright and so interesting.

"How is teachers pet?" I teased. Very seriously, Amar said "You know, he is an extraordinary man who has suffered from great prejudice" This saddened me. I had sensed the professors shyness and discomfort but prejudice? Amar went on ."He told me that when he moved from Savannah to the Northeast he was treated very strangely. After a time he began to realize that when he spoke in his mellifluous southern drawl people mistook him to be rather uneducated and ‘slow-witted'. Can you believe that? I mean, the guy has a Phd. in history and a Masters in Archeology from Harvard."

Mr. Metzgers had explained to Amar he could have gone back to the south easily but thought perhaps his bright mind and easy manner might help him confront and combat some of the rampant racism in this country. . He was doing a study on bigotry and decided to make it his life's work. Amar spoke eloquently, showing a depth of concern for the man who had now become his mentor.

Amar then told me about the racism he had experienced himself. He looked different than many of his classmates. His skin was darker, his carriage more formal. He gazed directly at me and asked "does it bother you that I am Indian?" Before I could stop myself I answered "Nope, just that you are human"

He roared with laughter, as I swallowed hard. He thought it was a clever joke, thank goodness. Goosebumps rose on my skin as a chill ran up my spine. While they ate and laughed, Amar reached over to touch my hand several times. Each time he did, the thrill of his touch moved me but I hesitated to reciprocate. How could I?

After dinner they walked through the campus, the evening sky lighting up the hills in the background. She felt like a young faery. I ran around the fountains' ledge until Amar lifted me off. As he gently put me down he leaned over and their lips slightly brushed. Suddenly his arms were around me in a firm embrace. Before they could go any further the moment was interrupted by a threatening growling sound. A stray dog was baring her teeth and staring at them. "Stand back Belinda," Amar said. The dog was medium size had now started barking. She seemed to be trying to tell them something as she looked at me, the dog's eyes flashed a familiar brilliant green. " Amar, I have to go, thank you for a really lovely evening." She took off running after the dog into the deep woods surrounding the campus.

Stunned, Amar called after her but there was only silence. He stood for a while, then with a shrug, he hunched his shoulders and began to walk home.

I ran after the hound until it rounded a corner that was secluded. Sure enough, there was Gammy. "No doughnuts I suppose," she said. Out of breath, I sputtered "What are you doing? How dare you? I was just having a lovely.." "Stop talking Belinda!" Gammy demanded. "I will ask you the same question. What are YOU doing? Have you fully scanned him? And even if you have, what are you going to do with him? Explain about the realm? Explain to him that you are over a thousand years old? Think about it, but listen quickly, I have news. I have word that I am being watched carefully so I need to disappear for a while. From this point on, when I want to get word to you, I need to be even more cautious. The Dark Forces have become increasingly aware of the danger that Light is to them and are devising clever ways to diffuse them. You are becoming quite astute with your powers. You weren't wrong child about Amar, he is a light being but he is not one of us, and you can't take the chance. The next time I meet there will be a specific assignment."

Suddenly, there was no Gammy, no hound, only fog rolling forward. I looked around. I was alone. I looked at my phone, 6 missed calls from Amar. I texted quickly "No worries, something came up, thank you for a great dinner. You are a lovely friend." I wish I didn't sound so aloof. I wish I could tell Amar how fond I am of him. Putting my hands in my pockets I remembered his touch, his kiss and began crying softly. Then, remembering Gammy's words I cried harder.

Amar heard the ping of his text. He read the message. He didn't know what to do. The coolness of Belinda's words confused and hurt him. As was his custom, Amar began to meditate. Belinda was like a spirit that had danced into his life. She was unique in her strange ways and there was a sparkle within her that fascinated him. She was unlike anyone Amar had known. She wasn't a flake or a tease. She was simply the young woman he was falling in love with. He thought of her sweetness in his arms as a single tear rolled down his cheek. Soon his pride set in and he approached her no more. It was not his custom to approach someone who wasn't interested in him and he couldn't read her interest behind all his hurt. There was only one logical explanation and that was that she didn't like him.

The weeks flew by as graduation approached. I had managed to avoid Amar except for a brief hello but this afternoon I was going to Professor Metzgers house for tea. He had invited some of his students to his home for a goodbye celebration. I had dressed up and had arrived with an armful of daffodils which I handed to Mrs. Metzger.

What a surprise his wife was. Mrs. Metzger was nothing that Belinda had expected.

Professor Metzger was rather frumpy. But, she was so beautiful. Tall and imposing, Delilah Metzger had lilac eyes that bore into whoever she was speaking to. There was a grace about her that was instantly recognizable, a vision of a huge oak tree swam before my eyes. It was inhabited by a lovely tree spirit. I used to go there and tell her my woes. If Krien beat me in a race, if my mother was disapproving of me, I would talk it out with her.I thought of her as my go-to, my comfort. My confidant. When I looked at Mrs.Metzger, I felt the same thing???? Was this possible? I had never seen this woman before, yet I recognized her as a tree 900 years earlier.It is because we recognize the energy rather than the form. Wow, love to explain that to someone. Well, I can, it is like meeting someone you feel you have known though you just met. You have known them just not in this lifetime.

I stopped myself from asking "who are you ?"Instead, I kissed Mrs. Metzger's cheek and said: "so nice to see you again".

"Call me Delilah, my dear, it is a pleasure after so long. I've heard so much about you since we first met." I could barely contain my excitement. I knew Delilah Metzger had recognized me as a faery! Oh, it was happening as my parents told me it would. There were those I knew around. Laughing, I spun around and bumped right into Amar. There was a stillness and for a moment it felt as though they were the only two in the room. I shook myself free of the spell, walked away, knowing I was hurting him.I hated doing that, he was so handsome and nice.

What a rollercoaster of feelings coursed through me: recognizing Delilah, aching to touch Amar, walking away filled with regret. I faked smiles and went through the motions at the Metzgers but when I went to leave, the Professor asked me to stay for a bit after. I went into the kitchen to help but it was empty, turning I saw Delilah.

"I've missed you, Belinda I've been watching. You know we were all sent here to help, you are never fully alone. Dakeh has dropped by to tell me of you and Gammy keeps tabs when you don't see her. Speaking of Gammy, she came by earlier and told me to tell you that you must go to Mass tomorrow." "Delilah, how did you know?" I asked. She replied "same as you darling, same as you." I stared at her and just smiled. It was a whirl of confusion, validation, and hope.

"Your Mother and Father were special, we are carrying on for them."All of us are bound by that day, we know what he did I rushed over to Delilah hugging her, tears streaming down my face. "I've missed you, I used to tell you everything. I loved you so much, I knew you would always find a way to help. What do I do now?" I cried." You were so gorgeous and solid, not that you aren't now " I stammered. Delilah laughed,” it is an adjustment being a human when you've been a tree for centuries"

"You must do what Gammy tells you. The Dark Forces watch her carefully so she is very careful. Despair, doubt, greed, jealousy, anger all are their weapons and tools. Just because the force is evil doesn't mean it isn't immensely brilliant Go to meet her tomorrow.”

I turned to see Professor and Amar. "I see you have met my beautiful wife, she has wanted to meet my top students." I glanced at Delilah who shook her head no ever so slightly. Turning to Amar, Delilah introduced herself , and began telling him about her research in the forestry dept. The two got on famously and began to talk about deforestation and the importance of preservation of varying forms of plant life.

The four of us sat down and Delilah turned to look at Amar and me. "Of all of Bob's students, the two of you are extraordinary and we wanted to talk about your plans after you graduate. We are offering you both a fellowship to study and teach in different parts of the world. It has become clear to us that to sustain the earth we need to educate the people. We cannot educate people filled with hate and fear, so you are to have control group a year to see which is the most effective. Neither of you is better than the other it is just to determine the best method for change."

I sat thinking, this is perfect and of course coming from Delilah, it must be my next step. She is such an amazing spirit, so strong and brave almost ruthless in her protectiveness, yet the sweetest of souls, enfolding you into her limbs, I mean, arms for comfort.

Amar stared at Delilah, " But I've already been accepted to my graduate program. I am going for a PHD. in Spirituality Amidst Chaos, a combination of history and religious studies. Bob beamed "perfect, my young friend, we want to see what brings the Light forth in people most efficiently so the Dark may be healed. How relevant this work will be for your thesis!"

Amar wasn't as sure."Well, maybe" was all he could manage today. I knew what he didn't say was that he wanted to be as far away from me as possible, I'd hurt him too much already.

"Now we propose Belinda goes to Germany, there are deep wounds there that need healing but underneath there is great spirituality and love. Belinda will lead groups that address the shadow side of that country to help it heal itself. She will concentrate on bringing up the shame of the past so they can forgive themselves and their forefathers. Amar, you will go to Mexico where you will work in a village teaching people how to have sustainability and independence. The children will be taught this as part of their school curriculum. You two will fly to Paris to meet every 4 months to compare notes. After a year we will see what is the most effective."

I started to object when I was overcome with a whiff of roses. I simply what nodded in agreement. Amar looked grim, "What is the purpose of the meeting, don't you think phone calls would suffice?" Bob roared, "You would object to spending time together in the loveliest city in the world with your smart and beautiful friend? Belinda's brain can scan work and compile it into a clearer form in half the time most advanced experts can? What the devil are you complaining about…"

"Bob", Delilah interjected, "why don't you consider what Amar just asked?" Flustered and embarrassed Amar said "never mind, I didn't mean to sound ungrateful. Of course, it is a privilege and honor to be chosen and to work with Belinda" But inside Amar was in agony. Delilah watched the two of them. She had a calming effect on situations, "Let us go to dinner and discuss some methodology. My dears you are helping this old worn hippie make her dreams come true."

Again the scent of roses permeated me. I looked at Delilah. She knows, so what is she up to? I caught Amar's scent of sandalwood. So many scents, it was overwhelming. I stared at Amar searching for a flaw to dislike, but every imperfection was endearing, and finally laughing "yep, let us go to dinner and figure it all out!" Putting on some lipstick and marched toward the front door.

"Psst…" Delilah was calling out "let's sit together at Mass tomorrow." I nodded, but my head was swimming with so many conflicts I lost count.

The evening flew by, I was distracted by Amar but thrilled by the excitement of my assignment. It felt better than I was going to be taking action. "Would you like me to walk you home?' Amar asked. "Sure, that would be nice".

We walked carefully avoiding touching each other. We hung onto each other's word, finishing each other's sentences. When we reached my door both of us felt the awkwardness return and we ended the evening saying only "Thanks" to each other Finally I looked at him and said"I'm sorry I have stuff going on in my life I can't talk about but I truly think you are awesome. I am really sad because I want to tell you but am not allowed. He looked at me puzzled" "are you alright? " he asked," is someone threatening to hurt you?"NO, nothing like that,I am under oath and have said more than I should.I am so sorry."

The next morning, I went for a run before walking to Mass.I was foggy and I loved the way the air smelled, the whiff of eucalyptus was pungent, everything was moist and clean.I felt refreshed. After my shower, I drank tea and petted Zooey. I left walking to the church It was the 8am service so it was sparse. As promised, Delilah was waiting for me.. She took my arm and we walked through the sanctuary down the stairs and into a tiny cubicle. There was Gammy,. I was taken aback seeing both of them together. Turning to me she said "Isn't this nice dear? A reunion of our realm. We would never have left you totally on your own but for your sake, it had to look as though you were." I began to protest but Gammy hushed me. "We have been following strict orders from your father, Belinda and his orders do not affect only you, my child. There are more we have been watching over, so please calm down." Again, I started to interrupt but Gammy continued as if she hadn't heard me. "As I was saying, your father had the gift of sight and he knew who to trust to watch and advise each one of you. He programmed the ones who were to return. Soon you will meet others. He spent years preparing for this, his love of the realm was as great as that of the High King's. Delilah, you are as beautiful as ever."

"The Dark Ones look upstairs for the vulnerable and the ones that are wavering. The best place to hide is right under their noses. Darlin' " Delilah drawled as she unsuccessfully tried to suppress a giggle. "I am so happy to see your sugar. What a long and strange trip it's been!"

The steadfast Delilah was enjoying the mystery. "Do you remember when the rabbits were corralled by the sparrows and your Mother got so angry at the birds? Misuse of power, my darling friends, leads quickly to tyranny. Of course, we all made the best of the situation and I have to say the rabbits played it up. They certainly gained lots of sympathy from their ordeal."

As I nestled into my chair I felt like purring the way Zooey does, everything was so familiar and homey.

I listened as Gammy and Delilah outlined the game plan. I was to go abroad, working with the groups just as my assignment had been described but I was also to begin infusing more love and hope into every creature I encountered. I was told that I would remember that power in time. I listened for as long as I could but then interrupted them.

"Why are you assigning Amar? He is not one of us, is he? I know he is brilliant but I am trying so hard to stay true to my kind and now you are throwing us together, it seems cruel." Gammy stared at me. "Cruel? Are you saying you think it's cruel that you are restraining yourself? Perhaps little miss, it is training. Can you imagine what the dark forces would do with an undisciplined faery? We have examples of McGurkick, that out-of-control disappointment, drinking like a sot and setting his son up to go to jail for him because he is too sick to withstand the treatment there. I know you lost your parents and that broke your heart, but you are on a journey that takes much inner strength. We are helping you develop it step by step. Also, Amar is brilliant and his heart is good. We need all the Light on our team we can find. Why don't you think of it like the training you went through with flying school. Remember how you felt when you beat Clarence the eagle in the race? Well, that didn't come easily nor will this! You must perfect your restraint. It will serve you well."

As Gammy pulled out a doughnut, I stopped myself from saying anything about self-restraint. Then I saw the sadness on her face. What lessons had she learned? Also, she had lived 7 years as a cat, she had been a captive of the Vikings and a heroine of the realm. She adored Mr.Blienkins and he ,her I had learned.She pictured the pudgy Gnome dressed in too tight green. It was not as easy as she had imagined. She realized she really didn't know Gammy was. "Please," I said softly, "may I know more?"

The old woman took my hand and looked at me with her wise green eyes that held both love and intelligence, and as she held my hand my knowledge of her grew. I saw the young elf who went out on a limb and defied her parents by falling in love with a fat Gnome. She was a scholar exemplar, renown in the realm for her expertise on Humans. She had taught all over the world. Yet, she loved Mr. Bleinkins and the two had been a couple for centuries dedicated to the protection of the realm. Having had no children of their own, they considered everyone in the realm their family.

Now here she was many centuries old and part of the underground movement. I felt ashamed of my dismissive thoughts and vowed to bring Gammy doughnuts if not more often, certainly more willingly. A voice broke my reflections.

Delilah looked directly at me, "Darlin' I know this isn't easy but I love you the way I always did when you would come to sit and tell me everything. I consider myself as an aunt of yours and have never stopped listening to you - even when you didn't know I was. I know you know about the Dark Ones but you don't nor could you fully understand because we've kept you away from them. They are disguised as Light, they are clever beyond measure and they grow if we believe in them."

I could not hide my doubt so Delilah took her iPhone and showed me a short video. Simply put, it showed an elderly woman being pushed down, her purse stolen, and the passers-by walking right around her with no show of concern.

I could see this was sad, but as the video continued it showed the elderly woman at home later that day. She was crying. going into her bathroom, slipping on the floor, hitting her head and dying. Did the mugging cause her death? Did the indifference kill her? Nobody to blame? Yet what if someone had hugged her, or noticed or helped her home? "Darlin we've got to help people see their power to love and what it can do. This is just a wee example my lovely, we can and must do more."

Too choked up to speak, I nodded in agreement. Delilah continued, "My dear friend, let me help you the way I used to." I looked at her with grateful eyes; she hugged and kissed me. Brushing my tears away, I told Delilah "Don't worry, I got this."

It felt so snug in the familiarity of her old confidant. It was at times like this that I wondered how could I have ever doubted or faltered in my belief of everything I know. Delilah was right, I needed to be fully conscious. I would have to work on this. The Dark Ones feed on unconsciousness, indifference as well as insecurity and fear.

Classes were ending soon and there was a palpable feeling of anticipation around campus. I had done very well in all my subjects and felt very proud of myself. Even though I knew my next mission would get me closer to helping my realm, I also felt sad that this part of my journey was ending. Ever the faery, I decided that what was needed was a celebration - a party!

"Amar! I am going to have a graduation party! Do you want to come? Bring your friends!! " I called Mom and Dad and asked them to come, and asked them to bring everyone they cared about. I cheated a little and send the birds to deliver the invitations. I rented a hall and brought in flowers and boughs of trees that had already been broken until the whole place was transformed. I strung lights and asked the band I loved to come to play my favorite songs. My Mom made the food, Dad did the punch. My Mom bought me a new sparkling dress.

People started coming, everyone was amazed at the loveliness of the transformed hall. I had cheated a little more and with the elves' helpful magic, everywhere one looked was glittering, gorgeous and seemed to shine from within.

When the music started I began dancing, almost flying around the room. "I am doing this," I muttered under my breath. Amar himself stood transfixed as he watched her laugh. Musical in her movement, he thought she looked like a bell chiming through the air.

He knew in his heart that Belinda was special. He also knew he would find no one to take her place. So all night they partied, laughed joyfully and finally cried tears of goodbye with promises of reunions.

An unfamiliar man entered the hall. He was tall, blonde, with blue eyes and a huge smile. He asked me to dance. It was glorious. I laughed and spun around in his arms. He seemed to follow me all night long. As the guests were leaving, he approached me, "I've wanted to meet you for some time, Belinda, my name is Conner. Would you have dinner with me?" My head was in a blur as I nodded. I was giddy from the evening's festivities and Conner was very good-looking. A nice distraction from my complicated feelings for Amar. "Sure. why not? I'll be around a few more days." I quickly danced off, kissing and hugging everyone as they left.

Amar had watched Belinda dance with the man with the blonde hair who by now everyone knew as Conner. He was not pleased and stabs of jealousy permeated him. Finally, he couldn't take anymore. "See you at the Professors," he said curtly and walked out. Belinda watched him go, turned to say goodnight to the rest of her guests. She wanted to run after him.

Zooey kept nudging me, to wake up. It was after two in the afternoon and Mom and Dad were coming to take some of my things home. I hopped into the shower, humming. I thought about the evening before. It had been hard but I had been able to distance myself from Amar. In doing so, I realized I'd had the courage and strength to start the new assignment that had been given her. Meeting my parents at the restaurant I was surprised when I saw Conner walk through the door. Lily and Herman graciously asked him to join them. He was charming and seemed utterly at ease talking with my folks.

"So where are you off to?" Conner asked. after graduation? I replied "I have a special assignment in Germany, I am leaving in a couple of days

I needed to change the subject so I turned from him and said "Mom did you try the artichokes? They are great" Conner persisted. "Sorry. So where exactly are you going?" he asked. Getting annoyed I answered him vaguely. "We're working on the details". Undeterred Conner pressed on. "We?" he asked. "My team." I was getting annoyed answered frowning. " Why do you ask?" "Just wondering if our paths will cross since I am going abroad." " Oh" I replied casually, perhaps we will but it seems unlikely."

The conversation ended and they said their goodbyes. As they walked away, Lily said "That was strange Belinda. Who is he?" "I don't really know" but I have a hunch. Let's forget him, help me decide what to take."

The rest of the day we packed and joked, even cried a little. We had dinner at a place on the water and silently I said goodbye to this phase of my life. I was going to miss the beauty and openness of this area. Smiling, I watched the fog roll in, thanking it for the love and protection it had given me for the thousandth time. "May things be good for you," I whispered to it. "May the elements be protected and safe." I then gave a quiet sign of respect and love all the elementals could recognize.

"Goodbye" Goodbye. I love you. I'll call" I called to my parents as I walked past security at the airport. I don't think I'll ever get used to flying in something, rather than freely and under my own volition.

As the plane rose I watched the water below. Holding the stone my father had given me I dozed. " Belinda" she heard her Father's voice call softly. "The next part will be more difficult but on the surface will seem easy. Listen to yourself, use your power if need be but be very careful." When I woke up I felt my cheek and was not surprised to find it wet with tears. I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed but everyone was sleeping. I yearned for my Father, knowing he had coded the stone 900 years before. I closed my eyes again and slept for the remainder of the flight.

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