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The Village of Hope (part three)
"If she wants to lie, let her." thought Ramiel as he walked solemnly to his room above the boathouse. "But did she really think I would believe such a preposterous story? Just what does she take me for?" He was beginning to feel a little angry. "I would have understood if she had simply declined to tell us. I only wanted to help her. Or doesn't she trust me?" Ramiel didn't really understand why he cared so much what Kamali thought of him. After all, he hardly knew her, and she apparently didn't think highly of him at all. But he did care. And he knew that if he ever got ahold of the person responsible for hurting her, he'd tear him limb from limb.
It was evening. Dianthe had prepared a spare room for Kamali inside her charming cottage. Ramiel was left alone with his thoughts. He pulled on his old nightshirt and sat upon his mattress. Quietly, Wolf joined him, sensing his master's disquiet. They sat together for a long while watching the moon rise over the lake, contemplating. As he sat there, he thought about his past, about how he felt when he first arrived at this village. Scared, lonely, heartbroken -- all things that Kamali must be feeling right now. His frustration with her dissolved in empathy. He felt deeply remorseful, wishing that he had treated her with more kindness and sensitivity. His sleep that night was troubled and unrestful.
The next morning Ramiel awoke early. The sun was only just beginning to rise, it was still quiet and dark. Softly, he and Wolf crept into the surrounding woodlands. They followed a faint path for awhile, listening to birds greeting the sunrise. Eventually they came to a beautiful meadow filled with all kinds of wildflowers. Golden sunlight shone upon the pinks, purples, yellows and blues with a kind of divine glory. Ramiel thought that Kamali would enjoy a vase-full of these lovely flowers. He knelt down on the damp ground, picking out the ones he thought she would like the best, while staining his white canvas trousers with grass and mud. He stood up and brushed the hair out of his eyes, anticipating the smile on Kamali's face. He would love to see her smiling . . . happy. He called Wolf to his side and turned for home.
When he returned, he found Kamali sitting at the end of the wooden dock, staring out at the lake. Quietly he sat down beside her.
"I found these for you," he said, handing her the bouquet. He saw Kamali's eyes light up, sparkling with surprise and happiness. But then a shadow passed over her face, dragging away the smile that had begun in the corners of her mouth.
"You didn't have to do that . . . " She murmured apologetically.
Ramiel frowned. This wasn't going the way he had expected. "Yes, I did," he insisted. "Listen, Kamali, everyone here cares about you. We are all concerned about what happens to you, and we want to help you." Ramiel finished sincerely.
Kamali nodded, looking a little stunned. Then tears began to well up in her eyes, and she hastily wiped them away. She looked at the wildflowers and smiled gratefully.
"Perhaps we should find a vase for those," Ramiel said, helping her up.
Ramiel led her into the boathouse and found a pretty white vase. He handed it to her.
"Beautiful," she said. "I'll go put these in my room." As she walked towards the door she tripped, sending the vase flying. It shattered on the brick floor. She looked at looked at Ramiel uncertainly. His face wore an injured expression.
"That was my mother's vase . . . " he said.
"Ramiel, I'm so, so sorry--" Kamali began earnestly and then stopped, Ramiel was grinning. She couldn't understand why anyone would be smiling at moment like this.
"Kamali, I'm joking. Don't worry about it."
"Oh," she said, and then laughed. "It was very convincing." Then she looked at him in mock severity. "Never do it again."
The next day found Ramiel and Kamali walking through the forest. Wolf romped about, chasing squirrels and shadows; his soft white coat was speckled with loam. Gentle shafts of sunlight shined down upon them through the leaves. They talked as they went: light, cheery conversation. It was pleasant, but Kamali still seemed . . . reserved, thought Ramiel. He wondered desperately about her past for what felt like the millionth time, saddened as always.
Ramiel felt as if he needed to talk to her about it, but wasn't entirely sure what to say. "Kamali, I --" Ramiel started. He didn't get any further, however, because a bold magpie swooped down and stole the shiny necklace that Kamali was wearing. The crazy bird flew into a nearby tree, dropping the necklace into its nest. Shocked, Ramiel stared at Kamali.
"Ramiel, that was my mother's!" she gasped.
He saw the honesty in her blue eyes and knew that this was no jest. His arms and legs had begun to climb the tree before his mind knew what was happening. "This is insane!" he thought to himself. "That nest must be sixty feet off the ground."
But he was going to get the necklace anyway; he wondered vaguely why, but he couldn't come up with a sensible explanation.
"Stop, Ramiel! You'll kill yourself!" cried Kamali.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine." Ramiel called over his shoulder, wishing he felt as confident as he sounded. Branches and leaves brushed past him as he climbed; twigs stuck in his hair. He rose steadily until the nest was in sight, it was out on a long, skinny branch. His brow furrowed in anxious concentration. Carefully, he shimmied along the branch, it bent from the weight. He stretched out his hand and took the necklace from the nest. He sighed in relief. At that moment the branch gave way, sending him plummeting toward the forest floor.
Quick as a flash Ramiel lashed out for another limb, catching it with a single hand. It bent and then snapped, breaking his fall. He landed face down in the semi-soft loam; branches and debris crashed to the ground. Kamali rushed to him.
Ramiel grinned up at her sheepishly; blood ran from his forehead. He sat up shakily, pushing the bloody hair out of his eyes.
Kamali stared at him reproachfully, striving for the words to express her frustration and bewilderment. "Why--?" she began, and then stopped, noticing a strange buzzing noise. "Ramiel, what is that?"
Ramiel's face paled. He stood up quickly, pulling Kamali to her feet. "Run, Kamali!"
"What? Why?" she asked, running alongside him.
"Bees! I must've knocked down a hive when I fell," he explained, breathing hard.
They ran through the village gate at breakneck speed, screaming like young children, their faces a mixture of panic and glee. Their appearance was rather comical and they knew it. Ramiel glanced backward -- the bees were gaining on them; not wanting Kamali to get stung, he pulled her across the rickety dock.
"Take a deep breath!" he yelled, and together they jumped into the lake.
Kamali came up spluttering and gasping for air. The bees had gone away, they were safe. They laughed awhile with relief and foolishness. Ramiel looked at Kamali, her dark hair was lank and dripping, her blue eyes shone with happiness. He smiled at seeing her so carefree.
He realized that he was still grasping her necklace and he handed it to her.
"Thank you, crazy boy." she murmured, smiling.