LEADERS - not followers

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fourth Millennium (9)


5 Eye Contact (Cont)

Nightingale remained seated as Robin led Starling, back up the earthen steps, to the living room above them. When they reached the door to the front bedroom, Robin stopped, holding out his arm, to indicate to Starling that he should do the same. He pushed the red key on the Introcom, and waited for a response from inside the room.
Almost immediately, a woman’s voice could be heard, asking;
“What is it, uncle? Do you require some assistance?”
“No, Rose, but I would very much like it if we could continue the discussion we were having.”
There it was again, that…individuality; that personal…something; in the name, Rose. It sounded so deliberately considered; rather than just a title, passed down by default.
The door opened, slowly, and Rose made her appearance. To Starling, her stunning beauty was not a figment of his imagination, influenced by his romantic appreciation of her name. She was young; early twenties, slim, tall, and confident. She had a smile that Starling thought capable of melting the heart of the most committed misogynist. And her eyes…her eyes were neither blue, nor green, but somewhere in-between…both, in fact. They seemed to change colour with each subtle movement of her head; or perhaps the changes of intensity of light and shadow. Starling couldn’t decide which. Whatever it was about her, or her eyes, Starling was transfixed. He found himself staring; unable, even if he wanted to, to avert his gaze.
Robin brought him out of his reverie, by stating;
“Starling, I’d like to introduce you to Rose, my niece. Rose, meet Starling; the young man I told you about”
Rose’s smile became even more radiant; if that was possible.
“Pleased to meet you…Starling. My uncle’s told me lots about you.” She had never stopped looking, directly into Starling’s eyes.
There was something in the way she articulated the word, the name, Starling. It sounded so…intimate. Had she actually said ‘darling’? Once again, Starling had to snap out of his fantasy, which was beginning to possess him.
As a teenager, the sort of attention that he seemed to be receiving from Rose may have caused him to turn away; even blush. Now…today at least, he continued to stare. He didn’t flinch as he drew a breath to speak. Confidently, he said;
“I very much doubt it; we only met for the first time on New Year’s Eve.”
“But that was a thousand years ago, and my uncle is a very perceptive man.” Rose countered with the type of repartee that was the trademark of her uncle, Robin. She continued. “He is able to judge another man’s character, with a single, seemingly nonchalant glance. He speaks very highly of you, Starling. It’s such a shame he is not able to perform similar assessments when it comes to the ladies.”
That’s quite enough for now, Rose. I think Starling understands your…drift. We have more serious matters to discuss.” Robin sounded somewhat irritated.
This had been the first sign of hesitation, weakness Robin’s character had displayed. Women were quite evidently a sore point with him. Had he really been unlucky in love, or was he merely attempting to disguise some unspeakable tragedy that he’d prefer to keep hidden?
Starling discerned a hint of what the answer might be, in Rose’s reaction to the unintentional severity of the reprimand. Starling took mental note, once again acknowledging the teachings of the man he now considered his mentor; Robin, for his ability to do so.
A bitter-sweet sparkle, that possibly indicated a clue to the secret behind the blue, or green, or blue-green eyes of twenty three year old Rose, made a fleeting appearance. With the identification of this ephemeral phenomenon, Starling was transported momentarily, to a secret world; a world in which both the harshest and most pleasurable conditions existed, side by side; extremes which ranged from the utterly dark and depressing depths of sadness and sorrow; to the giddy, intoxicating heights of pure and unadulterated ecstasy.
Was it just another moment of reverie, or had he experienced a mystical, magical flash of insight into the essence of human nature; the human condition?
This time, Starling had to shake himself physically, in order to concentrate on matters at hand, while still retaining a permanent imprint of this vision that had etched itself into his consciousness.
“So…er, where were we?” Starling attempted to return to reality.
“My niece can be quite brutal in her observations, at times, but she knows I’ll never stop loving her.” Robin had experienced his own, personal ‘moment’. His, however, had been one of painful recollection that needed no repetition of the unanswered questions he’d spent more than ten years attempting to come to terms with. His outward display of self-confidence was a façade; a mirror image of the lost soul that dwelt beneath the, once solid surface, of the now fragile, rough diamond who called himself Robin.
“Are you going to tell him, or should I?” Rose’s impatience was forgivable, under the circumstances.
Both men actually appreciated the jolt that served to correct their deviation from the course Robin had intended to steer.
“Rose will be accompanying you from this point onwards. This is a condition attached to the continuation of your quest.” Robin spoke directly, turning to walk away, when he’d finished.
“Hang on a second, Robin. Don’t I have any say in this?”
“I’m afraid not, Starling; this is my call.
Come downstairs with me, both of you, so that I can explain to you and Nightingale, together. This decision affects him just as much as it affects you.”
Nightingale accepted this new development without opposition. Instructions, conditions, and advice, he could accept without question. It was problems and incompetence, if anything that may have caused him to re-assess his role in the quest.
The explanation followed. For the first time in a decade, Robin spoke of the horrors that had haunted his dreams, as well as his every waking moment since.

He and his sister, Rose’s mother, had been very close, until she’d left home, at twenty years of age, to marry, outside of her native district. Five years into the marriage, she had given birth to Rose. During this period, Robin had also been married. Unlike Rose’s mother, Robin’s wife had been unable to carry children. Then one day, a little over ten years ago, Rose’s father had been taken away in a ‘Service Raid’. Rose and her mother, returned to Sector 4735, to take up residence with Robin and his wife, in a house in the south of the Sector. They’d brought Rose’s grandfather, Sycamore, along with them, and he’d remained with Robin until this day. Day’s later, Robin received news that the two women had also been taken away by the Secret Police.
“This was in the days when raids were more common, due to the daily Voice of the Nation bulletins, which demanded increased vigilance from everybody, and when torture, or just pure sadism, was used on prisoners. It’s quite clear that the intimidating broadcasts were responsible for their abduction. The frightened citizens were just as likely to be taken away for not inventing reasons to have their neighbours arrested. You have to be aware of the fact, and believe, that that they were, all three of them, totally innocent. The arrival of newcomers to the area was the perfect opportunity to draw ‘official’ attention away from the rest of the neighbourhood. I don’t hold any of my ex-neighbours personally responsible for the atrocity”.
No explanation had ever been given for the abductions, but Robin had been summonsed to ‘official’ headquarters, where he was casually informed that he was now the child’s ‘father’. His protestations fell on deaf ears, and he was forced to accept his new role; one that he actually cherished, as reminder of his sister, Rose’s mother. What had been particularly haunting him all this time, was the apparent indifference he’d displayed towards the abduction of his wife. The truth of the matter was that he had wanted to experience the same sense of loss, for his wife that he felt for his sister, but found that, no matter how hard he’d tried, his wife just didn’t feature in his thoughts, to the same extent as his sister.
“To cut a very long, and extremely personal, story short; it has been Rose’s ambition, ever since, to embark upon a similar quest to your own. I…we have been waiting for just such a team as the two of you, to come along and turn this dream into reality. Rose has genuine scores to settle, for sure, but this will in no way detract from her professional approach to the quest; you have my guarantee of that.
It is our firm belief that her mother, and her father, are both still alive and well; as, we believe, is my wife. It is also our belief that a successful conclusion to your quest will not only reveal the truth behind their arrest, but will also secure their release from incarceration.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m acting on impulse. There have been others like you, but none have qualified to assist my niece in her quest; until now.
She goes with my, somewhat reluctant blessing. I know, without doubt, that you are both capable men. I’m just not sure how I’m going to fill the gap her departure will create.”
Starling now felt he understood the sensations that had visited his consciousness, during his initial exchanges with Rose, and wanted to defend his impetuous response to Robin’s introduction to the subject of her inclusion in their personal quest.
“My earlier reaction to Rose’s inclusion was an instinctively protective one. You know you can depend on us.” This served the equally practical function of apology for his spontaneous outburst.
“It was the appropriate and correct reaction, Starling. It re-confirms my existing absolute faith in your abilities and your integrity. My heartfelt blessings, for what they are actually worth, go with you; with all of you,”
“Thank you Robin, that means the world to us.” Starling offered.
“I hope you’re referring to the world you are about to discover, and not this sad excuse of a world, which we all share the misfortune of inhabiting.”
“Touché,” seemed the appropriate response.
It was understood and agreed then, that Rose would be joining them on their quest. Nightingale, was grateful for the extra company, while Starling privately entertained further fantasies about how his own relationship with this goddess, Rose, might develop. He was convinced that a mutual connection had already been made, but his naiveties, and inexperience with members of the opposite sex, were the potential obstacles to any possible romantic encounter that may develop. He was also only too aware of the potential consequences of allowing himself to succumb to the strange and beautifully, haunting voice of the siren that was already beginning to fill his head.

Copyright © Stanislaw Skibinski
Click Fourth Millennium (10) to read on
Click FORBIDDEN to start at Chapter 1
Click Fourth Millennium (8) to go back to start of chapter 5

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