Tears slipped down Zara’s face as she became thin air and reappeared again a second later.
“But,” Aidelle stuttered, “What do we do? What will I do without your guidance?”
“There’s nothing you can do about my situation, Grandma, but you must continue with your plan, and those plans for the rest of your life. You have less than half an hour to sort your mess out. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.”
“But…I don’t know how.”
“Yes, you do.” Zara’s image, and person, flickered again. “Think. You already have the ideas, from the mind of a genius. Take the clock, go out there; you’ll find exactly what you need. I promise you.”
Aidelle bit her lip as tears welled up for her too.
“What about you, though, dear-?”
“I’ll be gone.”
“And, what about your desires for the knowledge of those horrible ‘scientists’? What about your investigations into that department?”
“Oh, they’ll settle,” Zara said lightly, her calm voice standing out from the pain that was clearly displayed across her features, “I’m sure my suspicions were just nothing; a child’s angry revenge, nothing more than just thoughts. Besides, if all goes to plan (which it will), I won’t need to spy on them. There may not even be an ‘institute’.”
Once she had finished speaking, Zara grandly vanished. Aidelle stared, open-mouthed whilst she caressed the nothingness in front of where she was standing. Soft tears felt from her eyes as she sobbed bitterly.
Suddenly, Zara was back, clasping hold of Aidelle’s outstretched hands.
“Grandmother,” Zara said breathlessly. She seemed in physical pain now too. “I don’t have much time. I-I don’t want to leave…”
She burst into tears, proper tears, for the age of being brave- or at least, putting on a brave face- were over now, and Zara could not fight the true inexperience that came from her youth. Aidelle didn’t dare release her granddaughter to wipe either of their damp faces, and she could feel that Zara was shaking almost as much as she herself was.
“I am so scared…”
Aidelle held her hands even tighter.
“Don’t be scared of the unknown,” she whispered to her granddaughter, “Remember how brave your mother was.”
Zara nodded, and tried to blink away some of her glistening tears as more fell down the curve of her cheek; her eyes seemed to light up at the mention of the mother so dear to her heart.
“Aidelle…” she sniffed, “Goodbye, Aidelle Masters, I know that you can do it. Believe in yourself as much as you have believed in me, and your dreams will come true.
“And, when you do, there’ll be a special prize for you.”
“I know: Phillip remaining, Phillip’s love, my Phillip,” Aidelle replied.
“No,” Zara shook her head, “More than that.” And she smiled slyly, her eyes gleaming as they told of the secret knowledge she had gained in her non-existence, and which she would withhold.
With a final sad smile and a childish sniff, all which remained of the girl, Zara’s solidity, vanished from her feet upwards in a speedy, stylish sweep. Along with her physical body, faded were her words goodbye.
Now, it was over. Having managed to say their goodbyes to each other, Zara had finally let time claim her. The realisation that Aidelle would never see Zara again in this time-stream hit the older woman, but she could not even collapse. The shear shock of it left her, for over a minute, standing frozen beside the space that Zara had occupied. The irony of the parallel never occurred to her, but remembering how Zara had been the one to break her stilled ‘five-year’ fast for Phillip was enough to lead Aidelle back into action. She was no longer working for herself, but for the two or more lives that she might never hold in her hands, but yet could always clasp tight to her heart.
Wondering what on earth the girl’s final message had meant, Aidelle, trying to pull herself from the daze that sadness brought, took a deep breath, brushed away her latest tears, and opened her pensive eyes to face the front door.
This was it; there was no time left and no-one to share the task with. Aidelle had to become brave for all of them. She would have to venture alone.
Taking a final deep breath, Aidelle grasped her hands on to the doorknob, and pulled.