A merciless sun beat down upon the city of Sydney, casting waves of heat upon glass that became mirrors of the sky. Shimmering, the power of that heat rose from the windows of cars, buses, and buildings. A canopy of pure blue sat above them, as far out of reach as the North Pole, and just as promising in its relief. Through the air-distorting thermals walked men, women, and children, all intent upon one duty or another with barely a glance or nod for their fellow air-breathing compatriots. Some wore suits, no doubt only moments away from closing a deal that will land them that new Porsche, the one thing keeping Mary Lou’s legs sealed tighter than a banker’s wallet. Women, some with young children in tow, walked about in sun dresses or shorts, sunglasses reflecting a world they took no pleasure in while they hurried to one appointment or another, hair and nails, breast and lypo, daycare or a safe-looking corner. Upon them all the uncaring sun shown, and from them all glowed an equal amount of indifference.
However, there was one part of Sydney where the sun did not beat down with the vengeance of a scorned woman; a single city block in one of the poorer sections of the city, free from the hustle of corporate nonchalance and rotten flesh wrapped within a guise of cashmere and Abercrombie. On this district the sun shown, but not with the blistering heat felt elsewhere in the large city. Instead it fell as a blanket, sending not unpleasant waves of heat cascading down around decrepit houses and buildings, turning windows into mirrors that painted for passersby’s’ a scene of azure tranquility.
Here also men, women, and children walked, but not with that hurried step of appointment, but rather with a knowledge that whatever they were headed toward would be there for five more minutes, and could wait. They would stop off at The Corner and see the girl, listen to her music, watch the people approach her and receive healing.
“Have you seen her?” One man asked a woman as they passed one another on the street, complete strangers and going in opposite directions.
“Of course! Not today, yet, but I am going to,” the woman replied as she walked on, smiling.
“Mommy, can we go see her now?” A little boy asked, tugging his mother’s hand as they walked. She simply looked down at his beaming face, blue eyes reflecting the sky above, and nodded. Together they hurried toward The Corner, him in his dirty blue overalls and awkward gait, and her in a frayed brown sundress and large straw hat. They could hear her before they could see her.
Today she seemed to be playing a violin from the sound of it, something uplifting and filled with hope. They couldn’t see her as they approached, for the crowd as always was thick. The mother bent down and scooped the boy up, lifting him to her slight shoulders, shoulders made stronger at the sound of the sweet notes rising like waves of heat into the clear air.
From his perch on his mother’s shoulders he could see her. The young woman stood upon a wooden box, as always in a soft white dress, something seemingly made of the same thing his mother’s filmy curtains were made of, the way it swayed in the light breeze. He couldn’t tell how tall she was, really, but knew she was shorter than his mother, and his mother was pretty short. Her chin rested on the violin, hand moving back and forth rapidly while the fingers of her other hand seemed to fly along the neck of the violin.
“I want to play like that one day, Mother,” he said softly, unsure if his mom heard him.
He watched as she bent forward just slightly, pulling a long note from the instrument, her silver-blonde hair falling forward. The sun glimmered off it almost as though its light was brushing it for her. She opened her eyes then and he could tell they were green, greener even than the emerald on his mother’s brooch. She seemed to be looking right at him, and even smiled a bit. He felt his face grow warm and without realizing it found himself grinning back at the girl. His leg, which always seemed to hurt, for it was twisted oddly since birth, seemed to lessen in pain while she smiled at him like that.
She played a few more tunes before taking the instrument down and bowing to the crowd, which clapped and dropped money into the violin case at the base of the wooden box. Cries of ‘That’s our angel’ and ‘God bless you’ and murmurs of how downtown had nothing on The Corner washed through the gathering of fifty or so people. Her cheeks flushed at the words of praise and she ducked her head, teeth worrying her bottom lip in a look of embarrassment. She hopped down and set the violin and bow in its case, closed it, and stood up straight. Instantly a hush fell on the people gathered, and one by one they began to look around, knowing what was coming next.
From the center of the throng came a parting of people, and from the parting a woman holding a small child in her arms, the baby thin and waif-like. The girl and the mother talked softly for a minute, all the while the girl stroked the baby’s head, then kissed its soft though gaunt cheek, and then the mother’s. Tears fell from the young black woman’s face and she thanked the girl, though nothing had happened. It would though, they all knew that.
As always, the crowd began to break up, the bigger men hanging around to make sure no one harassed the Girl, and left only when the majority of the other’s had done so. Many nodded their heads in respect; others gazed at her with admiration. It was an odd sight all around, and if the boy hadn’t witnessed it four times before, he would have thought them all insane.
“You’re getting heavy up there boyo,” his mother said as she lifted him just enough to set him from her shoulders. Even though he was six his body and frame was that of a younger child, making him light. She took his hand and they turned away, prepared to make the half-mile walk home, withstanding the pain with as much courage as he could muster. Before they had taken even two steps they heard a soft voice call out from close behind, turned, and found the Girl not five steps away.
“Hello,” she said, smiling. Her accent was odd, but not odd. She was from somewhere off but no one knew where. With her hands held before her, gripping the violin case, she looked nothing more than a school girl from the early nineteen hundreds. She smiled at them and bowed slightly, looking first at the mother, then the boy. She bent down and pointed at his leg, the one twisted at a slightly off angle. “Does it hurt very much?”
For a moment the boy was dumbfounded and couldn’t find the air to form his words and push them out with any success, but a slight nudge from his mother solved that.
“S-sometimes, ma’am. But not so bad that I can’t walk,” he said softly, trying his best to stand up straighter.
“You’re a brave boy, Jonathan.”
The boy blushed and swallowed, but smiled.
“What do you say to the nice lady, Jon?”
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.
“You have lovely hands, Jonathan,” the Girl said. She looked down at the case, then back to the boy. “I am not going to play the violin any longer, it’s served its purpose for me. Is it ok if I give it to you?”
The boy gaped, remembering the music the instrument had produced, her hands as they roved back and forth, up and down along the strings. He looked up at his mother, but she was looking at the girl in shock as well.
“Oh now Miss, we can’t be taking Your instrument, why you never know when you’ll be needing it again, just wouldn’t be right Miss.”
“I will no longer need it, I am sure,” She said in her soft, almost musical voice. She stepped closer, sat the case down at the boy’s feet, and took one of his hands in hers, bent down again so they were eye level. “All I ask is that you make beautiful music with it, Jonathan. Make your mother proud.”
The boy felt warmth spreading through his body, radiating from his hand and coursing through every vein and cell in his possession. He could only nod and watch as she stood up, smiled, and walked away. It was only after they returned home, opened the case to find several thousand dollars, that he realized he still felt warm and that his leg hurt him none at all.
“There are better ways to spend your time, Calista.” The voice seemed to reverberate within the small room as thunder, but she knew that no one outside of her would hear it as more than a slight rumble. She looked around and smiled, glad that nothing had been shaken from the walls or from the open cupboard in her tiny kitchen, also part of the same room. It was simple furnishings; a single room with the exception of a bathroom and closet, with nothing but a bed, desk, small table, and chest of drawers.
The source of the room-quaking voice stood beside the only window in the room, one that overlooked a small market in the street below. He was a big man, six foot five inches with massive arms, thick neck, and not a single strand of hair on his head. Right now those large arms were folded over a barrel chest, a look of intense dissatisfaction on his barely angelic face.
Calista entered her apartment and shut the door. Rather than walk to her desk and sit there, she simply willed a plush armchair into existence as she sat down, and settled into it. She crossed one leg over another, making sure to spread the skirts of her white gown wide, and then folded her slim hands into her lap. Her large green eyes surveyed the man, a twinkle in her eye.
“Oh Gabe, are you telling me that you would rather be somewhere skewering someone with your flaming stick?” Her voice was teasing, but he still shifted uncomfortably against the wall.
“That is not my place to suggest. However, I can think of things we could do worth more than healing a few vagabonds in this… place.”
Calista made a tsking sound and shook her head.
“You have no eye for the future, Gabriel. Something is about to happen here… I just know it.”
“It better. If I have to stay cooped up in this place much longer, I’ll go crazy.”
“You do know,” she said with an eyebrow raised. “You are free to come and go as you please, it’s not like you actually need to use the door, and it’s not like you’ll be seen if you don’t want to be.”
“Yeah, well,” he said gruffly, looking down and out of the window. “Someone has to keep you from turning this building into an orphanage for bloody kittens.”
She grinned as the sound of mewling came from the bodice of her filmy dress.
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