Sunday 12th AugustMature

JENNIFER

I awoke fairly early on Sunday morning: I always woke up before I needed to be up in the summer - I often slept with the curtains open and so the bright light woke me up. I gazed around me in that absent way you do sometimes and was startled to see an envelope with my name written on it in sloping, curly lettering. I reached out and picked it up. I opened the envelope and pulled out the letter, wondering who it could be from.

Dear Jennifer,

          I deeply regret disappointing you yesterday in our conversation at the bowling alley. I was being self-indulgent to allow myself to think that it would ever be acceptable to choose love over Order. While I cannot deny the pain this unreciprocated love causes me, I do accept that it is better that the world does not fall into Chaos. I imagined how a life with the woman I love would be if she were the sort to encourage an illicit love affair and realised just how idealistic I was being. I would not enjoy that sort of relationship at all: the reason I love this woman is precisely for her selflessness, bravery and tireless consideration of others. And thus I am proud to tell you that I have not in fact lost myself - as was feared.

Proud, that is, because your respect is something I never wish to lose, Jennifer. The thought that I may have caused you to hate me is almost as distressing as the thought that I can never have a relationship with the one I love. Please forgive me for upsetting you, for making you think badly of me: I could not bear it if your negative feelings towards me persisted.

As we Guardians of Order say, may Chaos be kept at bay.

And may we both be strong, Jennifer, though the road is tough.

My kindest regards,

Yours,

Kenner Charleston

Guardian of Order and proud of it.

I stared in awe at the script as I processed the content of the letter. I was delighted to discover that Kenny hadn’t lost himself at all - yesterday at the bowling alley had been deeply disillusioning regarding our conversation: I had thought ‘If someone as caring and brave as Kenny can be lost, can believe that Chaos isn’t worth staving off, what hope is there for any of us?’ - albeit quite startled at his communication of such through a letter. It was so formal... and yet so quaintly traditional that I loved him for it. Plus, reading his handwriting was like looking at a painting: it was absolutely beautiful. I only wished he had woken me to deliver it: it would have been nice to read it while he was here and then to tell him that he was, of course, forgiven -  that yesterday I had been so shocked at the thought he had sacrificed his principles because it didn’t fit in with the idea I had of him, as the brave, caring Guardian who knew what had to be done so that the world would be safe.

That afternoon, I went to his apartment to visit him. This time, it was Kenny who answered the door.

“Jennifer,” he said warmly. “Did you get my letter?”

In response, I hugged him.

“I did,” I told him. “I was so happy and so relieved. I knew you couldn’t have lost yourself, Kenny. You’re just not like that.”

“Oh, Jen,” he whispered. “You don’t know what it means to me to hear you say that.”

He hugged me back and for some reason, I felt more than the platonic comfort of hugging a friend. This hug was intense: I felt contented, safe..., complete.

I hurriedly let go and stepped back.

“Well, this mystery woman you’re in love with would be very proud of you too, I’m sure,” I said, blushing at my reaction to being hugged by Kenny.

Kenny smiled serenely.

“Yes, I think she would.”

“I only wish she were a Guardian,” I sighed.

“Oh, I don’t,” Kenny said. “She’d have chosen to be a Guardian of Order and ... I wouldn’t want her to be one. Better that she doesn’t know the full horror of Duty.”

I shook my head slightly.

“You’re unreal, Kenny. Just amazing. I hope you know that and never forget it.”

“I won’t, Jen; because you said it.”

“Kenner, 6.4,” called Svetlana anxiously from inside the apartment.

Kenny winced.

“Sorry... I’m going to have to end this here. But you have a good rest of the day, Jennifer. And just let us know if there’s any problem.”

I smiled.

“Thanks, Kenny. You have a good afternoon too.”

“Bye then.”

“Bye.”

I walked away as he shut the door, not at all resentful as I understood that high Chaos ratings were dangerous. I was touched by Kenny’s evident respect for me and found myself in awe trying to imagine what his love for someone might engender. ‘Let him find a Guardian,’ I thought on my way back home, absently stroking Kenny’s feather which hung around my neck, as though subconsciously imagining I was making a wish. ‘Let him find love that can be returned.’

‘And for you?’ my mind asked itself. ‘Do you want to find love yourself?’

I thought about Kenny’s hug and blushed, pushing it out of my mind.

‘As long as it’s not forbidden. For a human, not a Guardian.’ And hopefully, Susanna would too.

The End

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