Friday, September 30, 2011

Daffodil - Gen 8 Ch 7

I could tell something was wrong the minute we pulled into the driveway on our return from China. Peony ran out to meet us still in her pj's, her eyes red and puffy.
I held out my arms, and she ran into them.
"Sweet Pea, honey, what's wrong?"

"It's... it's Papa," she sobbed. H..h..he was leading a sting at the warehouse... a..and it t..turned out to be a trap.. Oh, Dilly... he's dead. They killed him!"
I couldn't believe what I had just heard.
"But..that's not possible...he was going to wait until we got back... Denis was still gathering intel...he was going to let papa know the best time..."

"He...he decided not to wait. He s..said his other informants had good enough information, t..that the time to strike was now.. oh Dilly... why didn't he wait???"
I could hear Denis muttering beside me, tallying up the reasons on his fingers why Papa should have waited, but my attention was focused on my baby sister.

I gathered my baby sister into my arms, as I heard Cy burst into tears behind me. I was vaguely aware of my sweet husband staring off into space beside me. I hoped he didn't blame himself, this was not his fault , by any stretch of the imagination. Oh, papa. We will all miss you so.

"Mom?" I whispered softly. Peony had imparted to me how mom had withdrawn since papa's death, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I saw for myself.  She lay in an almost catatonic state on the bed they had shared for so many years.
"Dilly? Is that you? Help me out to my garden, would you please?"

I let her lean on my arm as we walked slowing out to the meditation garden that Papa had build for her.
"That's good, Dilly. Thank you. Just leave me for a little while, okay?"
She settled into her meditative posture, and I slowly tip-toed back to the house.

That was the last time I saw my mom. She went to join Papa that afternoon. I think she was only waiting to say goodbye to us. She held on until we returned, but she couldn't bear to be without Papa another day.

We all mourned in our own way.
I threw myself into my work again, spending every spare moment either at the stadium, or keeping in touch via email. My dedication paid off, and I was voted MVP - which entailed even more endorsements and appearances. Anything to keep my mind off my grief.

Even so, I often found myself bursting into tears at the most unexpected moments - even in the middle of one of my workouts.

Peony, on the other hand, found other ways of dealing with her grief. She fell in with a bad crowd, and more than once found herself being escorted home in a squad car, after she and her new friends had egged yet another neighbor's front door.

I tried to be a substitute mother to her, but it was no good.
"Sis, I hate to do this, but you are grounded. How would you feel if someone egged our front door? This has got to stop!"

"You aren't my mom! You can't tell me what to do!"
Our confrontations always ended badly. I was at my wit's end, wondering how I was supposed to deal with such rebellion.

But then she would burst into tears, and run off to her room, and I would be left standing there, wondering what I could possibly do to make everything all right again.

Cypress was a different problem altogether. He hid himself in the basement bedroom that at one time had belonged to my Uncle Mel, and lost himself in the stacks of books he had brought back from China.  Even his girlfriend Shante was hard pressed to extract him from his obsession. I could sympathize, knowing the portent of the research he was involved in, but Shante was sure he was ignoring her on purpose.
"Cy, are you going to spend all weekend doing your stupid research again?" I would here the arguments all the way upstairs.
"Just a minute Shan, let my check out this one link, then we can do something you want."

More likely than not, the 'one more link' would stretch out into hours, leaving poor Shante upset and feeling ignored.

Eventually, though, he would always return to Shante, and she would always forgive him.

And Peony gradually began spending less time with the old friends she had been running with, and more time with her new friend Kelly.

More and more lately, I found myself chasing them out of the hot tub at all hours - but better that than her old activities - at least she wasn't getting a police escort home any more.

I for one, was glad to celebrate her eighteenth birthday - it was such a load off my mind, knowing I wasn't responsible for her any longer. We were all there to celebrate - Shante, and even Lotus showed up. And newly minted teenager Juniper was on hand to mock the whole proceedings.

Happy birthday, baby sister!

Then it was Cypress' turn to blow out his candles. I could hardly believe it - my baby boy, all grown up.

As soon as I could after the festivities died down, I called him out to Sunflower's Pond.
"You know what I want to talk to you about, don't you? You're the obvious choice, you have to have figured that out by now."
I flashed my eldest son a huge grin. He just gaped at me, not saying a word.

"You know as well as I do, that the obvious choice is not always the one chosen. Just look at Grandpa Brook, or... or.. even you! I've done my research, mom."
I smiled a small half-smile at that. A smart one, my boy. Only he isn't a boy any longer. And he has no idea the extent of the burden I am about to place on him.

"Obvious or not, it's time for me to pass my pendant on. It wants you, Cy, I can feel it. You just have to promise me one thing. I never did discover the mystery of the the three golden figures. Promise me you'll figure it out. I know it's important."
"I promise, mom. They've been calling to me ever since we returned from China. I feel the solution at the edge of my mind, but I haven't been able to solidify anything yet. But I will - I promise."
That was good enough for me. I know I'm leaving my legacy in good hands.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Daffodil - Gen 8 Ch 6

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the address in Shang Simla that mom had given me, was that there is only one bedroom, and it is open to the outside. Great. I guess the boys will have to deal with sleeping in a tent for the week. On the bright side, the place looks livable, and I must say, the view is amazing.

Of course, the first stop on my list was the new relic merchant. Papa had said his old friend was long retired, but his replacement was trustworthy. I had barely walked into the shop when he stepped from behind the counter to greet me.
"Ah, you must be Daffodil. Your father contacted me about your visit. You have something of interest to show me?"

"Yes, I have this old book. My father said you might be able to decipher it."
I carefully removed the ancient volume from my bag. For just a second I hesitated. Did I really want to hand over this precious family heirloom to a complete stranger? My hand absentmindedly reached for my pendant, a gesture I found myself performing more and more lately. As if reading my mind, the merchant nodded encouragingly.
"Do not worry yourself, I only wish to help. Come with me outside, if you will. It is much too dark in here to examine this properly."

Once out in the bright sunlight again, I reluctantly handed over the book for the merchant's perusal.
"Hmm.. Mhmm.. interesting.. " After a while he glanced up and me again.
"As your father suspected, this is a indeed a journal, the story of the Luoli who disappeared from this place many generations ago. I can read pieces here and there, but I would need to borrow it for a few days, in order to translate it properly. I give you my word your treasure will be safe with me," he concluded, giving me a reassuring look.
I hesitated again, but what choice did I have, if I wanted the thing translated. And my dad did trust the man. I nodded curtly, and he assured me he would have it back to me before our vacation was over. I watched as he disappeared back into his shop, then turned to see what the rest of my family had been up to while I was busy.

What the..? I was shocked to see Juniper casually swimming around in the decorative pool in front of the shops.
"Argh!! Juniper! What are you doing in that pool? That is not for swimming! Get out this instant!" After giving my youngest a piece of my mind, I turned to look for Denis. Where was he? He was supposed to be watching the boys.

There he was,  just standing there in front of the book sellers.
"Calm down, Dilly. Juni's not doing any harm. I'm watching him."
"But... but.. those are not swimming pools. He shouldn't be doing that!"
Denis just shrugged. "Why not? No one else seems to care. Come on, he's just a kid, having a little fun. Loosen up a little, we're on vacation after all."
I sighed. I was trying, I really was. I went to look for Cypress.

Cypress, as usual, had his nose buried in a book.
"Come on, Cy, put the book down. We're going to the museum," I called out.
"Just let me finish this page."
"And then it'll be one more page, and another. Right now, young man. The book will be waiting when we come back."
"Aw, mom.."

The museum, which was called 'The Halls of the Lost Army', was just a short walk across the plaza from the shops. Denis and I were both amazed at the antiquities on display.
"Look at this, kids!.. kids..?" No answer. I jerked my head around, looking for them. What were they up to now?

I barely caught a glimpse of two heads disappearing down a stone staircase that hadn't been there a few minutes before.
"Cy! Juni! Come back here right now!"

"Mom, Dad! Come look! This is so cool!" I heard the sound of their voices echoing back at me.

Denis took the steps two at a time, while I followed at a slower pace. I sneezed once, as clouds of fine dust blew up around our feet.
"Dad, Mom! Look what I found! I don't think this is a wall. It moves, see?"
"Denis, I don't thing we should be doing.." I began. But all my protests were drowned out by the loud scrapes emanating from the brick wall Cy was manipulating, as well as the excited exclamations from Denis.

"I still don't think we should be doing this." I muttered to myself as the wall gave way, and we piled through the newly created entrance.

Denis and Cy immediately ran ahead to examine the room filled with ancient statues. I caught Juniper by the arm as he tried to run past me to join them.
"Come back here, young man. Stay right here next to me."
"Aww, but mommm. Cy is playing with the statues, why can't I?"

'Your father and Cy shouldn't be playing with statues either,' I almost said, but then thought better of it.
"It might be dangerous," I settled on. Juniper watched with eager eyes as his Denis and Cy pushed and pulled the statues around the room.
"I've read about places like these," Denis chortled. "It's a puzzle. If we move the statues correctly, we can get to that chest!"

He let Cypress do the honors, opening the hidden chest and claiming the 'prize' - a handful of broken pottery.  He was thrilled when the relic merchant told him it was his to keep, and later he spent hours trying to piece the shards back together.

The next day, we trekked up the mountain to the old ruins where my mom had found her golden dragon figurine. Juniper as usual ran ahead.

When we arrived at the top, he had already crept out to the edge of the drop off.
"Hallllloooooooooo" came the answering echo from the distant hills.
"Juniper!" I yelped. "Get back here!"
He was so close to the edge!

"Get back from there this instant! You should know better than that!"
"But mom, did you hear the echo?"
"Right here, young man." I pointed down at the ground next to me. "Not a step closer to that edge than this, do you hear me?"

"Relax, Dilly," came Denis' soft voice. "Come over here, boys. Help me with this vase. We should bring it back down to the relic merchant, don't you think?"
I sighed. I was trying to relax, really I was. It was so hard, though. 

Gradually, gradually, I was starting to relax. A good thing, too, since this was our last day in Shang Simla. I even managed to agree to sending the boys to town by themselves, so Denis and I could have some well deserved alone time.
"Don't worry, love. They'll be fine. Cy will take good care of Juniper, you know that."
I smiled contentedly.

After a while I scooted closer."Do you remember the first time we were in a hot tub together?" I grinned playfully.
He grinned back. "I do..."

Later, we packed a picnic basket, and went exploring. We found a gorgeous spot on a hillside, overlooking the Great Wall.
"I wish we didn't have to leave," I sighed. "It's so beautiful here."

"Not as beautiful as you," Denis whispered as he pulled me to my feet and kissed me softly.
Neither one of us wanted to leave, but the as the shadows started to lengthen, we knew Cy and Juniper would be looking for us. There was also the relic merchant to see. I'd been checking in with him every day, and he said he would have the book ready this afternoon.

The first thing I noticed as we walked onto the plaza, was Juniper. He wasn't swimming in the decorative pool, oh no - he was fishing in it. I was about to yell at him, when I heard a muffled guffaw from behind me. I looked around the plaza. No one seemed to care in the least that my younger son was fishing in the lily pool, and Denis obviously thought it was hilarious.

Once I stopped to think about it, I began to snicker as well. Soon Denis and I were giggling away like two little kids, and Juniper was still fishing away, completely oblivious. We let him fish, while we looked around for Cypress.

It didn't take long to find him, his face buried in a book. Wait a minute - that looks like - it's the old journal. But - it's written in ancient Chinese. Is Cy actually reading it?

The relic merchant was close by.
"I hope you don't mind, your son has been inquiring about your journal. When you first arrived, I gave him some of my books on ancient Chinese characters, and he has been devouring them with a passion. Now he wishes to attempt to decipher the journal for himself. But for you, I have a translation ready - it covers all but the first few entries. Those first entries are written in an unknown language. All my research has turn up nothing."
I paged though the document he had handed to me. There was too much to digest right now. It was time to pack for home. Maybe I'd have time to read it on the plane.

"What's all this?" I inquired. "It's time to head for the airport."
"Uh.. books."
"I can see that."
"Juniper and I want to take them home with us."
I chuckled resignedly. "More like you talked Juni into helping you. Okay, but you two  are going to carry them." I pointed a finger at the both of them for emphasis.

"Get your things together then, we have a long walk down the hill to town."
"Thanks mom, you won't regret this, I promise!"