From The Smolder:
< Seth and Terresa were leaving amusement and joy in their wake, walking as they were, hand in hand, too oblivious of other people to be sheepish about walking hand in hand. If they’d been tuned in to other people, they would have heard comments like “Finally” and “I thought so” and “Won’t James be disappointed?” But they were happily lost in the bubble of first commitment and didn’t hear any of it. That they weren’t hearing a bit of it only added to the amusement they left in their wake.
Only half content to wander aimlessly, they got a notion to visit Oleevaba and see how she and the kitten were getting on. When they knocked, Solomon answered. He was looking a bit wrung out.
“I should warn you,” he said, “Oleevaba’s not feeling at all well. The medicines are starting to help, but it’s not pleasant around here. If you’d like to come back later, I understand.”
Terresa, reacting to the reluctance in Solomon’s manner, struggled with what she should say. “I’d be glad to help if there’s something I can do,” she finally managed.
“Me, too,” Seth said, manfully.
Solomon invited them in. He said, “Now, if by any chance you thought that I didn’t particularly want your help because you’re Neesay, you just let go of that thought. I just don’t like asking anybody to help around illness. I hate imposing it on people.”
Terresa was relieved. “I can’t say I’m thrilled with the job,” she said, the twinkle coming back into her eye. “But I was sick more often than not the first weeks I was here. People helped me then. I haven’t taken my turn yet. Besides, Oleevaba trusts me, I think.”
Solomon smiled. “With your permission, Terresa, and your consent, Seth, I’m going to give you a grateful hug.”
“I’m not sure I have any right to give consent for Terresa,” Seth said, blushing to the top of his head.
Terresa smiled, thrilled to have an older man (and one well thought of in the community, too) notice that she had a protector, and equally thrilled at how nervous and unsure Seth was about how far his protection properly extended.
Oleevaba walked into the room. “I am feeling stronger,” she said, bravely, right before her knees buckled.
Terresa, beside herself with newfound love, gave Solomon a hug and Seth a hug, and then, impulsively, gave Seth a kiss, before swooping to give aid and comfort to Oleevaba.
Seth, equally proud and ashamed to have been kissed in public by the woman of his heart, wasn’t sure what to do next.
“We’ve been ignoring the kitten shamefully while Oleevaba’s been sick,” Solomon said.
Seth, seeing that another man was offering him an honorable and speedy way out of the present embarrassment, took the opening and darted off on shaky legs to find the kitten.
Solomon debated with himself whether he should tell the young man that a man got steadier the longer he was truly loved. He decided he’d take a walk instead.
As he walked, he kept running into others who were grinning in much the same way as himself. “Oh, you’ve seen Seth and Terresa this morning, have you?” the others tended to say, in one variation or another, hoping to swap notes or, better yet, hand off the news to someone who hadn’t heard it yet.
To please an old lady, Solomon feigned ignorance and let her fill him in. He bet himself that long before nightfall she would have forgotten about Seth and Terresa, and about chatting with him. He hoped, though, that she’d carry a sense of having been connected in a loving way with her neighbors.
Soon after his encounter with the old lady, Solomon stepped into an exquisite little public chapel – a prayer closet, really – that had been lovingly cut into the resident rock, the finishing work done by rock carvers and polishers who had as their motto: “Do everything as unto the Lord.” It had taken twenty years to bring it to excellence. Over the door was a sign: Chapel of the Transformation of Well-Disposed Souls. Beside the door was a plaque: “As from a chunk of rock to this, thus, on a higher plane, a soul as it moves to holiness. Beloved, let God carve you into what He knows you can be.”
Solomon closed the door and knelt, leaning on the altar, feeling grateful, and sad, and weary, as well as refreshed by the beauty of the prayer closet, all at once. He offered up prayers of thanksgiving and of intercession and of woes and confusions. Life had so many swirls to it, so many neighbors, so many hurts and joys, all happening simultaneously. There’d been too many funerals lately, and the forgetful old lady’s funeral could not be far off. His generation was disappearing from the face of the Earth. How fast one’s allotted time flew by…
He got up and went in search of Lt. Westpoint, a promising young man who sometimes needed a nudge or two, but was man enough to respectfully stand up to oldsters like himself. Like steel on steel, they kept each other sharp, Solomon liked to think.