Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 118

written 5 Feb 2009

Sebastian looked up as Pancho entered the house.

"Where have you been? Anneli was asking for you an hour ago!"

Pancho sighed heavily, "I know -- she won't give up until she gets an answer. But," he shrugged, leaving the end of the sentence open.

Sebastian laughed. "No need to tell me!"

The young women were always clustering around Sebastian and Pancho, eager for tales of far away lands, and to perhaps gain the favor of the first dance at the monthly festivals.

Pancho set down the bundles he was carrying and stretched out in a chair three sizes too small. His dark hair was shaggy and coated with dust from the road, and his beard was nearly as unkempt, only the neatly trimmed mustache kept him from looking like a bear in clothes. He closed his eyes briefly, for a moment looking like the youth Sebastian had first met on board the trading ship.

"Do you remember the last words you said to your mother?" Pancho asked quietly, but impulsively.

Sebastian paused from the small net he was mending. He glanced out the window at the oppressively blue sky, and noted a flight of swallows over the square. Good luck finding any insects in this weather, the thought.

"No, I really don't. I left rather suddenly, you know."

Pancho nodded. He remembered the story that Sebastian has related many times... and the sad look Sebastian always wore for a day or so after looking at the pictures of his family.

"It's just that -- you know, my mother was pretty annoyed with me the day I left. She had set me to mending a fence, and instead I had snuck away for some quiet time to play my new flute. When the sailors came and asked directions to the inn, of course I climbed down to show them the way, but they grabbed me and went in the opposite direction. I know my mother was furious, and I hadn't said good-bye to her, either."

Pancho rubbed a hand across his face, smearing the dust into a comical expression. Sebastian waited, knowing there was a point to the conversation.

"So when I got back, and I asked about my family, they said they had moved inland a little while back, right? But since then, I have learned that Mama was still upset that I had gone away and not sent word. She didn't know what happened to me, since no one else went missing from this area... " He looked quizzically at Sebastion before he continued, "Do you have any idea how long it has been since I left?"

Sebastian shook his head, and guessed: "About two years? We've been together for about a year. - You hadn't been part of the crew that much longer than me."

Pancho made a face that Sebastian couldn't interpret.

Silence filled the room. The sounds of the fountain in the center of the square filled the room, a cacophony that tumbled in the empty spaces between thoughts and speech. All the people were indoors in the heat of the late afternoon.

"Seven years. And in that time, people changed, moved on, grew up. Anneli was only 6 when I left, following her grandmother around. She doesn't remember me, but the older people do. And they are asking questions about where I was, and what my secret is."

" My friends from childhood all have children older than Anneli was when I left. I don't look, or feel for that matter, much older than Anneli. But I am. Apparently."

Pancho looked gloomily at his friend. "I don't know what I will tell my mother, what she will believe, or how I can make up for all those years she had to survive without my help."

Sebastian looked thoughtfully at his friend before he answered, "I don't know why you didn't age -- why the seasons had shifted when we came out of the cave on the island -- and I don't know what you can tell people except that obviously the sailors did you a favor when they kidnapped you, seeing as how the sea air was so good for you..." He smiled as Pancho snorted at the joke, "I do know that your mother will be glad to see you, and pleased you are well. But not until you take a bath!"

He dodged the pillow Pancho threw then, and helped him carry the bundles into the back room. Vegetables for supper, a length of cloth for a dress for a young girl to start school with, and items Pancho wanted to trade with the next ship to make port. Big questions could wait a little longer. Life forged ahead.