Bee had always been a nature lover. Now it returned the favor.
|The storm raging outside the orphanage windows howled louder. The class’s Halloween decorations whipped and tore free from the holiday lights they hung from. Ghosts, bats, witches, and goblins danced and were flung away in the screeching wind.
Bee watched the newly installed shutters bang open and wrench themselves off her building. Rain drenched windows teared up, quivered, and threatened to shatter but strangely held. Silence and calm breathed eerily into the classroom where yellow light bathed over upturned faces.
The liquid image of Bee’s invisible friend framed in the closest window pane disappeared like magic. It was the first time Bee had ever seen him, but ‘Mike’ had Bee’s back whenever anything threatened. What others might call an Elemental which fed off of and controlled weather events was Bee’s best and only friend.
She was past the age to be easily adopted. Her tall and gangly features framed by a drab brown mop of hair were rarely noticed which was a good thing. Her talent for almost becoming invisible and never being a bother was what made it possible for her to remain as a quasi-volunteer slash teacher assistant.
The news about climate change was alarming. It had grown from bad to worse. The world’s reef systems were beyond damaged. Shorelines rose, drowning major cities and threatening more with each tidal wave launched by category five cyclones and hastily named hurricanes. Drought fought with freakish storms like this one for the next headline.
“Mike, I can’t leave now. I’m in charge of the children,” she whispered.
Silence and calm breathed eerily into the classroom where yellow light bathed over upturned faces. Bee stumbled, brushed herself and urged her charges to line up by the school door.
Like well-taught soldiers after the many emergency practices, they followed each other down to their basement dorms to await further orders.
Bee enveloped herself in the familiar shape of shadows caught against turns and disappeared along the way.
“We have to stop meeting like this, Mike. All it takes is one time seeing me go like that and we are caught.”
“I’ll protect you. It was me who fought the storm, ate its energy, and appeared stronger than ever before. Feel.”
A gentle cool breath kissed her neck. A warmth of sunshine caressed her in an intimate embrace. Mike’s touch was like that no human had ever known. Bee closed her eyes, feeling the length of her hair tease and dance, tugged and combed behind her. Mike knew her most intimate feeling exposed by her very breath, gasp of yearning pleasure, moan of released tension. Theirs was the invisible language of love needing no words only shared awareness connecting with a bond of pure feeling with its wealth of endless promise.
“I love you, Mike. I wish you could take me away. I only feel whole when you are with me, close like this.” It was only in the briefest of moments Bee felt a visceral presence she could touch in return.
As a child, she had reveled in the fantasy of her mind turning shadow into form and substance. Imagination knew no bounds back then. Now, in her early grown-up years and with Mike having revealed so much of himself, there was a blank wall remaining unformed between them.
She blessed the fact that it always came tumbling down when some new crisis in her young life appeared. God knew there were enough of those and they were growing worse. It was almost as if there were equal presences like Mike, forces of evil, elementals intent on furthering climate change instead of learning to manage and possibly tame it if enough of its secrets were revealed.
“The orphan children are settling down in their beds. The nuns and staff are giving them hot porridge there, cider and toasted bread.” Mike’s voice was the gentlest whisper of air tickling Bee’s ear.
“Come walk with me. No-one will miss you for a while, yet.”
Bee came back from her reverie with a start. She rarely noticed when Mike came or was gone. There was so much she didn’t know about him. Perhaps that was part of his charm. Her drab and steady drudgery with the same daily tasks to be done left little room for mystery. “All, right.”
She felt his gentle brush of pressure and led the way out to the forest path behind the main building. The tree branches arching overhead became a pattern of black lace filigree, backlist from the starlit sky. The grass whispered against her feet. It reminded her of Mike’s way of teasing her when he returned after dealing with some matter of his own.
“How can we go on like this, Mike? It is impossible.” The words blurted out on their own. There was a sudden silence heavy in the gathering gloom.
Bee stopped. They had arrived at their place by the pool mirroring the night around them. She sat on her rock, polished by many sittings, now clothed in fall leaves of red and gold. “Talk to me, Mike.”
“Watch,” sang the wind. Mist hovered over the water, clung to it making a widening circle of waves. In their midst, a whirlwind spun silver from the light of the moon. Beads of water became shiny tear-shaped beads clinging to each other.
Mike appeared in liquid human form to Bee’s applause. He bowed with a flourish. The sound of a chuckling stream tickled the hour’s cool breeze. Mike climbed up onto the muddy shore. Earth shaped a more solid man before her eyes.
“Oh, Mike. Wonderful.” Bee rose to greet him, reaching for his hand. The memory of her childhood friend solidified in a blink of her eyes.
Mike’s magic was in being an Elemental who was used to dealing with the energies of earth, wind, fire, and water. His aura had feasted on the storm. Now it blended each of those stirred up powers he had eaten and made them do his will.
Mike endless curiosity of things human and what made them so, took a dazzling display lasting but a moment. From Mist, foam, his earthly attire took shape in the form of a man. Mike stood before Bee, reaching out ready arms for their first physical embrace.
“You are naked. Let me warm you.” No questions were asked. The miracle was too great to leave room for them. “We can become one.” And they were, for a time filled bubble of ecstasy they were united.
It felt like a dream when Bee awoke, alone, lying in the wet dew. At times she felt she might be going mad. She’d been laughed at for her strange behavior when it was noticed at all. There was talk behind her back, when nothing else of interest was offered, that Bee’s strange silences, disappearances, and mutterings to the air were those of an apprentice witch.
Do what she could, there were those who occasionally paused to poke and ponder why Bee was never bullied like the other orphans in residence. She was teased, of course, as they all were, and given impossible tasks to perform in a timely manner. It was supposed to keep them humble and willing. The lash or three-day fasts were given for the slightest infraction.
Mostly, Bee always seemed to be someplace else, no-one knew where, when mischief occurred, or penance was enforced. When she was called forth and appeared from wherever she’d been, a floor had been washed clean, walls and furniture clean of dust, or other chores on the tip of the tongue of one nun or another already done.
Things happened so smoothly all was forgotten even as they occurred. Except for this time, when Bee came in with the sunrise dawning. Those in authority were waiting, seeing the blush on her cheeks, the starlight captured in her eyes.
“We needed you for the storm’s repairs, child. You’ve been gone and up to no good, by the sight of you. Bare your back and stand ready for the lash.”
It was not the usual paddle or switch being swung ready to strike. This was the cat of nine tails with its metal barbed endings. “We’ll have the truth out of you.”
Sister Halerith was worse than a bully. She thrived on hell, fire, and damnation, believed in the corruption of the human soul, and only pain and suffering prevented its loss gone to the devil’s own. Her mission on earth was to prevent that by beating weakness out of existence. More than one orphan had found heaven by way of this entrance.
The snap of the whip in her hand drew sparks ready to taste Bee’s flesh.
“Mike? Do not hurt her.” Bee clenched her teeth, staring at the snake-like twisting leather tongues ready to strike and bite.
Sister Halerith twisted her neck around, licked her lips, and made strange signs with her cross dangling from her neck. “What devil do you summon. It will do no good. Nothing like that can enter this holy place sanctified by service to God. Ready yourself, girl. You may be going to meet him.”
The whip was raised and in-flight when it jerked from the sister’s clenched fist. Each lash twisted and tangled with the others of the cat of nine tails until there remained but one knot. The handled nudged at Sister Halerith, pushing her back into a dead faint.
“There is no going back, now, Mike. We are wed with one another, as is our fate.” Bee finished speaking to whatever invisible ghost inhabited the space by her side. The air breathed an unearthly moaning sigh ending in a shrill whistle of wind, piercing the ears of the sister witnesses stunned into immobility.
Bee walked without being followed to claim her few private possessions with a second shadow at her side.
“Witch,” screamed echoing voices as doors were shut and locked with her passing.
“I’ll find you and send you to hell,” yelled the recovered sister Halerith from the safety of her second-story window.
The newly repaired shutters slammed closed with the rising tide of storm winds brewing their anger. “Hush, Mike.” Bee’s bitter smile eased into less of a frown. “I am tired of walking. Let’s fly.”
Lifted on invisible soft wings, buoyed by the realization she was free and with the one she loved, Bee relaxed into the moment’s grace. The future, surely filled with uncommon adventures to come would take care of itself. If this were but a mad dream, she was happy to remain lost in it forever.