Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter

The Watcher sat in a corner of the square, watching the large dark birds clustered under an old fruit tree. They had spent an hour there, first perching on branches and pecking at the fruit to dislodge it, then swooping down as it splattered on the pavers, enjoying first the sweet flesh of the now softened orbs, and then the tangy taste of the insects that gathered to sip the juices.

The sun shone on the fountain, and light splashed as merrily as water. A young mother and her child stopped in the shade on their way to market, to dabble their hands in the water and spruce up their faces. It was a warm day, at the end of the late summer, and the sky was frosted with high, wispy clouds. It wouldn't be long now.

The child caught the Watcher's eye and started to wave, then looked up as its mother warily curtsied. The Watcher approximated a smile and dipped his head to acknowledge their presence. He was unused, still, to the ways of Pancho's people their customs and mannerisms would be peculiar and stilted no matter how much time he spent among them.

And that time was coming to an end. The Watcher knew that it was almost time for Sebastian to return home, and he pondered what that would mean for the young man.

Deep on the back shelf of a wardrobe, the scrolls of pictures were slowly changing. The image of Adam had faded away, and that of Ava was faint, and depicted a thin woman, often sitting by a window with a cat in her lap, but no work. Helena's image was grim, and Peter's showed worry. Daniel and his new wife were often depicted in the fields, or the garden. And Inga's more often than not showed her in a kitchen or with children at the school, teaching them hand crafts. The pictures didn't show that the harvests were diminishing, or that often times the children were ill, falling behind in their studies.

But Sebastian rarely looked at the images these days. He had moved on in his life, in this fishing village with Pancho. It was as if the images hurt too much. But reality would hurt more, or so Sebastian seemed to think.

The Watcher knew that Sebastian had to face what he had done, and return to his home. It was only a matter of getting him there. And that was going to be difficult.

Pancho was about to return from his first visit to his mother's home. The Watcher had been there briefly, observing the dynamics as Pancho attempted to explain how he had been so far away.

But his mother hadn't believed him fully, and Pancho was unsure how to proceed. He would figure it out in time, but for the moment he had decided to return to his home by the sea, where his ongoing work with the young adults was bringing new hope to what had been a poverty-ridden section of the coast. He would be home this evening, more reserved than when he left, but a little wiser. The story would be told over dinner, and Sebastian would offer good insights. Both young men had matured considerably as they had assumed their place in this village.

And that, the Watcher finally decided, was going to be the way to engage Sebastian in his continuing journey: He would encourage Sebastian to undertake a similar project at home. By supporting the youth of the mountain community, he could in some way both made amends for the harm he had caused and carry forward his grandfather's legacy to the village. The new maturity he had gained here, would serve him well as he faced his responsibility there.

The Watcher relaxed, and stood so slowly that the birds at his feet were not disturbed, his long cloak barely shifting around him. Until, with a glance around the square to be sure no one was watching, he took flight. Only Sebastian, glancing out the parlor window as he kept the books, noticed the peculiar illusion, as the Watcher appeared to vanish in an explosion of birds from the pavement.