“It’s something to do with granddad and mummy, isn’t it? Daddy says I shouldn’t say anything, but the others talk either way…”
She glanced over to her friends, slight nervousness darting through her eyes.
Elderly Aidelle took Lynnie by the shoulders and led her away from Peter, the latter still fuming inside his own world, but showing nothing more than silent indignation upon his face. When Aidelle was almost at the centre of the church and within the sets of hard wooden pews, she stopped lightly pushing Lynnie and turned her round so that they were face to face when Aidelle crouched.
“You see this church, sweetie?” She said softly to her young granddaughter, “Well, it has been through a lot; time has ravished its once spectacular features, and love and loss have been at its heart. Many families are like this church, Lynnette-”
“Are you saying that our family will survive- as this church has- through anything, grandma?” Lynnette understood almost instantly.
Aidelle pinched her cheek gently, gingerly holding her squat so that she could see it all from her granddaughter’s level.
“We’ll make it, don’t you worry. Just don’t ask questions, and don’t let any of your friends tell you a different story- it’ll only make any bad times worse.”
Lynnette pouted and bit her tongue. Finally, she turned and smiled at Aidelle, and then trotted back over to her companions.
She had wanted to ask more; her mind was bleating out ‘but-‘, but little Lynnie knew that it was unwise to question any more of what her grandmother said. After all, things would sort themselves out.
The congregation had lost interest in the fight, and went back to living their fancy lives, oblivious to the beat of time.
Lynnette’s father, on the other hand, scurried over as Aidelle collapsed into a pew, her face in her old palms.
“Is anything the matter?” He asked softly.
Peter, having too wandered over, brushed him away with an uncharacteristic flick of his wrinkled hand, and slumped down in the pew in front of Aidelle’s. He rotated to look at her, staring solemnly until, eventually, she gazed up into his soul-searching eyes.
“First Phillip’s time-lines, and now this. I’m starting to believe that it’s all wildly true.” She stopped and shook her head violently, as though getting rid of unwanted thoughts like flies, “Well, of course it’s true! My baby daughter, my only child, disappeared… My husband losing his mind- or gaining a new one- and saying that ridiculous tale…but his leg…”
“He never lost his mind, I believe,” Peter said quietly, his previous anger banished, “Not in any of the ‘time-streams’, even if many people thought him mad.”
“Oh, he’s not,” cried Aidelle, “Phillip is…was the smartest person I knew. He would never be out of his mind. Yet…I wish there was a way to remedy it all.”
She paused, remembering Peter’s bitter words.
“Do you think you could have led a different life then?”
“I’m not sure. Intuition tells me that I made choices… Well, not this me whom I know, but the me who Zara went to find… And there’s your remedy, dear Aidelle: Zara’s gone to find you…the other you… She’s gone to make it all right.”
He clutched her hands.
Lynette excused herself and wandered away from the entourage. She gazed woefully at Peter and Aidelle. She pondered her one lost childhood, nothing amongst the many others, and wondered if the starving orphans or those people with their life-shortening illnesses had ever had members of their family vanishing from the face of the earth.
Lynnie was a young girl and had, as most girls of her age, a mind full of wonder. She wondered if her Mommy was dead, or if Zara had actually crossed into the underworld, that ‘place after death’ to get her back. They had told her that it was all going to get better; that Zara would make sure that their family returned to normal. But Zara was just one girl! What could she do now?
It wasn’t in any part of Lynnie’s mind to hope so- for she was too young to envision the power of hope- but she did, in flights of fantasy, imagine a time when all had been well, and a time when even the brightest larks sang on that broken, murky piece of land that they called the common grassland.
As she snuck around the church and made for the door, she remembered things that were before her time, when the little stretch of land had no dark building where the misery-causing people came from…
And, presently, as she wandered out the grey stone building, unbeknownst to anyone, the little girl vanished right into thin air.
Time had taken one more.