A set of stories about a young girl and her adopted brother in a world where magic works.
Adventures of Banu And Selena
Their First Thunderstorm
elena woke with a start. She felt like she'd just heard a really loud sound. She laid still, trying to decide if she should get up or pull the blanket over her head and hope it didn't happen again. While she made up her mind, she stared at the model of the planet hanging over her bed. Her daddy had built it and put it up a few weeks ago. It showed all the continents and rotated, so she would always see the side that was lit up by the sun. If she focused really hard on a small part of it, she could see the outlines of the larger cities. Daddy said it was a "protoplyp of gobal sitiation" or something like that. She didn't care what it was called, it was neat.
Her room briefly lit up with a very bright light, followed quickly by a loud boom. She yanked the blanket over her head, then curled up into a ball on her side.
“That was loud,” said a small brown bear, wearing a blue bow tie lying next to her.
"Do you think its Godzilla, Banu?" she whispered.
“If it is, I hope he doesn’t eat us," Banu responded.
There was another flash and boom. This didn't seem as bright or loud, but she did have a blanket over her head, so maybe it was the same. She decided to wait and talk to Banu about it.
"I don't think it is Godzilla. He lives on the other side of the ocean. It must be something else. But what?" she asked Banu.
"It could be giants. They might be mad about something again," Banu replied, then added as he shifted to a more comfortable position next to Selena. “’member when they got mad last month and broke that building?”
"Yeah. It might be them," she paused, thinking about it for a few minutes, then continued. "But what about the -"
The room lit up again and another boom. This time, the time between the light and the boom was a lot longer.
"- light? Last time they got upset, it was a lot of shouting and banging things. I don't remember any light."
“Then it’s probably witches and warlocks fighting again," Banu said.
The room lit up, but it was definitely not as bright and the boom took a while to get to them. Selena pulled the blanket off their heads and sat up. The room was still dark.
"I wonder what time it is?" Selena asked.
"Time for a snack, that's what time it is," Banu stated.
"OK, let's go to the kitchen," Selena said. She wiggled her over to the ladder and climbed down. They had a bunk bed and Banu was supposed to sleep in the lower bunk, but they often slept together. He had to use a narrow ramp at the other end of the bed to climb down because his legs were too short for the ladder.
She stepped over to her door just as the room lit up really brightly and a terrific boom sounded. She froze with her hand on the knob. She stood there for several minutes, but nothing more happened.
"Are you just going to stand there all night? I’m hungry," Banu asked.
Selena looked down at the tiny bear next to her right leg. The top of his head barely reached her waist. She smiled and said, “You are always hungry,” then opened the door.
Her room opened onto the living room and kitchen. The kitchen was to her right and the living room to her left. Across from her was another door. Her parents and baby brother slept in that room.
Banu walked past her and into the kitchen. While he didn't eat much at any one time, but he did eat often. In that way, he was like her brother. Maybe she would eat some grapes to keep him company.
Banu had his own shelf in the cupboard. He got a package of dried seaweed out of it, took out a few pieces, and put the package back. Selena retrieved a handful of grapes from the cold storage cabinet. They were just turning to go into the living room when a voice said, "What are you doing up at this hour?"
Selena froze and almost dropped her grapes. Banu gave out a small “EEP!”
Banu recovered first and said, "The light and boom woke us up."
"Oh, Daddy!" Selena finally said, then ran over and hugged her father.
At that moment, the room lit up and another loud boom sounded. Banu quickly joined them at the window.
"Are the witches and warlocks fighting again?" Selena asked.
"What? Oh, no, Lena. The light and noise is a thunderstorm. Look out the window, and you can see the rain," he said.
"Geez, Lena. Of course, it’s not witches and warlocks," Banu said, then added. "And it’s definitely not giants. Why would anyone think it was giants? They don't make light like that. Or witches and warlocks. I bet the pixies are behind it. I wouldn't put it past those little devils."
Selena looked at the little bear with narrowed eyes but didn’t say anything.
They stood looking out the window for only a few minutes when a jagged bolt of bright white light from the clouds struck the mountain, it was both beautiful and frightening. Then the thunder rolled over them, startling Selena.
"The lightning, that jagged bright light, makes a big sound as it travels from the clouds to the ground. We call that sound thunder. If you count the seconds between the lightning strike and when you hear the thunder, you can tell how far away it is from us," her Daddy said.
"So it’s not witches and warlocks fighting?" Selena asked.
"No. It is just a thunderstorm. We don't get them very often. In fact, the last one was just before you were born."
"Oh," Selena replied. She didn't know if she was disappointed or not. The thunderstorm was pretty neat, but witches and warlocks fighting sounded way more interesting.
Eventually, the storm moved on, and they all went back to bed. Banu decided to sleep in his bed since it was closer to the ground and easier to get into. Most nights they slept together as they like to talk quietly before they fell asleep.
Banu Gets A Check-Up
Banu was sitting comfortably in the snug car seat in the back seat, with Selena sitting in hers next to him. He couldn't see much, but he wasn't unhappy. He said, "I am going to get my eye looked at today."
Selena replied, "Yes, we are going to Dr. Ganda. She is really nice."
"Then I am going to hunt that pixie down and poke him for hurting my eye," Banu said.
"What would you poke him with?" Selena asked the little bear.
"Hmm. That is a problem,” the small bear said, paused to think about it, then continued. “Maybe I can find a stick."
He opened his mouth to say more, but was interrupted by Selena's father.
"OK, we are here. Let's go into see Dr. Ganda," Selena's father asked.
Selena unbuckled herself and helped Banu with his buckle. She opened the door, got out of the car, then turned around and waited for Banu. Banu climbed out of his seat and stepped up to the edge of the car seat and put is arms out. Selena picked him up.
"Ugh. You are getting heavy," Selena said.
"Bears are strong. We weigh more because we are strong," Banu said as she set him on the ground, then added. "You need to exercise more, Lena, so you get strong like a bear."
"Me?!" Selena replied as they turned to follow Selena’s father into the medical office.
The two argued about their exercise and eating habits all the way into the office. Once inside, Selena's father picked up Banu and set him on the counter in front of the receptionist.
"Ahem, young lady. I believe I have an eye appointment," Banu said in his most important voice.
The young elf woman behind the desk, looked up, gave the little bear a dazzling smile, and asked, "Your name, sir?"
"Banardu Toller the fourth," Banu said.
"It’s under Banu Ortega," Selena's father said.
The woman looked through some papers for a few moments then said, "Ah, yes, Sir Toller the fourth, we have you scheduled for eye examination with Dr. Ganda for ... 10:10 am. You are right on time. Please go through to room 4."
"Very good," Banu said to the young woman, then turned to Selena and said, "Not to worry, Lena. I will be out in no time. Hardly notice I am gone."
"OK, Banu, I love you," Selena said with tears in her eyes.
"I love you, too," Banu said as Selena's father picked him and carried him through the door into the back of the building.
Selena watched him go, her eyes teared up.
The young woman behind the counter handed her a tissue and said, "Try not to worry. Dr. Ganda is very gentle and very good. The waiting room is through that door over there," she pointed to a door set in the wall opposite the reception desk, "There are some books and toys in there you can play with."
Selena took the tissue, thanked the young woman, and blew her nose as she walked to the door and through it into the waiting room.
The Waiting Room
Selena stepped through the door and found a large room with lots of chairs along the walls with tables scattered around. There were seven people in the room. She stood just inside the doorway, undecided on what she should do. She could just find a chair and sit and wait. Or she could go over to the toys in one corner. Or she could ...
"Hi. I am Reggie," a voice said from just in front of her.
Selena looked down and saw a young Gnome. The top of his head was just above her waist.
"Oh, hi. I am Lena," Selena said.
"My pet hopper is in getting his leg fixed. He cut it when he tried to jump over an unigoat," Reggie said, then added. "Why are you here?"
"My friend Banu is having an eye exam," Selena answered.
"Oh. What’s wrong with his eye?"
"A mean gypsy pixie threw a heavy rock and hurt it."
"Oh, those gypsy pixies are mean. One stole a brass button off my vest once."
"Did you get it back?"
"No, my mommy had to sew a new one on. I don't wear that one anymore, I outgrew it. My little brother wears it now."
"Do you want to play a game?"
"Great, they are over here," Reggie said as he turned and made his way to a table in a corner.
On her way to the corner, she passed a very tall troll who had a very worried look on his face. She wanted to ask what he was worried about, but wasn't brave enough. Trolls are probably OK. They aren't like the angry giants, but she really didn't know much about them. There was only one family of Trolls in her building, and she had never met them.
"So we can play cards or put this puzzle together or play ‘Mages and Clerics’ or this game," Reggie pointed at each game as he spoke then added while pointing to the last game. "I have never played this one."
Selena looked at the game. The box had "Pixieland" written on it in large pink letters. She turned it over and the whole bottom side of the box was covered in small writing. She shook her head and said, "This looks really complicated. Maybe we should do the puzzle instead."
"OK, I like puzzles and this one is of a griffon! They are neat."
They cleared a spot and started working on putting it together. It was a 3-D puzzle, so they had to find the feet and legs first and figure out how they fit together. They worked on the feet and legs together, then Selena started working on the wings while Reggie worked on the body.
"Lena, you're putting a puzzle together?" Lena's daddy asked in a gentle voice.
His voice still startled her as she was really concentrating on putting the wing together. She almost dropped it, but didn't.
"Yes. This is my new friend Reggie. A gypsy pixie stole a button off his vest. We are making a griffon. Well, not a real one, just this puzzle. Still, it is pretty neat," Selena answered.
"Hi, Mr. Lena's Dad. I'm Reggie," Reggie said.
"Hello Reggie. You can call me Mr. Ortega," Selena's father said.
"OK, Mr. Ortega. I am waiting for Mr. Leapsalot, my hopper, to get his leg fixed," Reggie said.
"I am sure he will be out soon. I am going to sit over here and read while we wait. You two continue building your puzzle."
Mr. Ortega sat in a chair a few feet away, and Selena and Reggie continued to work on their puzzle.
Mr. Ortega watched his daughter and Reggie build their toy griffon. It had the body of a lion with feathered wings at the shoulders. He leaned back and thought about taking Banu to the examination room fifteen minutes ago.
The Clinic Examination Room
Mr. Ortega carried Banu into the small room and set him down on the steel examination table. There was a small pillow and a white blanket on the table at one end. They were there only a moment before the Doctor came in.
“Hello, Mr. Ortega and hello Banu. How are you feeling, Banu?”
“I am OK,” he said quietly, then added. “My eye hurts a little bit.”
“Well, let me take a look at it, and we can see how it’s healing.”
The doctor gently removed the eye patch and placed it on the table. The brow above the looked blue under the brown fur, but wasn’t swollen.
“The swelling has gone down around your eye, but the lids are still swollen. I am going to need to spread your eyelids to see how your eye is doing. This is going to hurt. I am sorry.”
Banu whispered, “OK”
He hissed as she gently parted the swollen lids. The eye beneath had a black pupil and iris. The rest of the eye was blood-red where it should normally be white. She used a special instrument to look into his eye.
“Well, the eye seems to be responding to light, and it looks like it is healing. It will remain red for a week or so, as your body slowly removes the blood in your eye.”
“So, he should heal up fairly soon?” Mr. Ortega asked.
“I think so,” the doctor said, paused, then added. “But the swelling of the eyelids has me worried.”
“They should have reduced to almost normal, like his brow and cheek, but they are not. There may be some damage to the blood vessels that are not allowing the lids to drain. Ordinarily I would use a machine we have that can look through skin and see these blood vessels, but that lightening storm last night damaged it. It won’t be fixed until next week.”
“Oh, what do you suggest?”
“We can do a simple procedure and relieve the swelling today. It would certainly speed up his recovery.”
“OK,” Mr. Ortega said then looked a Banu and asked, “Banu do you understand what we were talking about?”
“Yes … no … I don’t know. Something about my eye swelling.”
“The doctor would like to do a small procedure to help your eye heal, are you ok with that?”
“Will it hurt?”
“No, Banu, we will give you something to make it does not hurt.”
“OK,” Banu said.
“I will be back in a moment, I need to have them … I need to get a pill for Banu,” Dr. Ganda said and left the room.
Mr. Ortega reached out and pulled the little bear to him, and Banu hugged him back. After a few moments, the bear said quietly, “I’m scared.”
“I know. Places like this can be scary, but everyone here wants to help you get better. This pro … thing the doctor wants to do will make your eye heal better and faster.”
“OK,” Banu said quietly.
The doctor knocked then entered. “Here is the pill I need you to take. It will make you sleepy.”
The Doctor placed a small white pill in Banu’s hand and gave him a small cup of water. He looked at the pill for a moment then straightened up, put it in his mouth and drank the water.
“Can I have more water, please?”
The doctor filled the little cup again and a gave it to the thirsty bear.
“You should lay down on that blanket with your head on the pillow,” the Doctor said, then looking at Mr. Ortega added. “I will leave to go check on the operating room. A med-tech will be back in a few minutes to take him there.”
She left the room. Banu knelt down and stretched out on the blanket with his head on the pillow.
“How do you feel, Banu?” Mr. Ortega asked.
The little bear was quiet for a moment then said, quietly, “Still scared but a little tired now.”
Mr. Ortega put his hand on Banu’s chest and the little bear hugged it tightly.
“It’s OK to be afraid. Just think about nice things and remember you can trust the Doctor and the med-techs,” Mr. Ortega said quietly, then added. “I won’t leave you.”
“OK, I will try,” Banu replied drowsily, then added. “Love you, papa.”
A look of tenderness crossed Mr. Ortega’s face as he replied, “I love you too, Banu.”
The bear fell asleep and began quietly snoring. A couple of minutes later, a quiet knock on the door was followed by a young Troll in a blue smock entering the room with a small cart.
“Hi, I’m Davad. This is our patient, Banardu, correct?” the Troll asked.
"Please do not worry. We will take great care of him," the Troll said as he gently picked Banu up and laid him on the cart, then said, “I will come to you in the waiting room to take you to the recovery room we the procedure is complete.”
He wheeled the cart out of the room. Mr. Ortega waited a few minutes, then left that room for the waiting room.
The Waiting Room
Mr. Ortega came back to the present when he heard Selena say, “OK, it looks done. Let's put the crystal in it and see what it does.”
“OK,” Reggie replied as he picked up a small velvet bag that had been in the box with the puzzle pieces. Selena had opened a slot on the belly of the griffon. Reggie took a light blue crystal out of the back and dropped it into the slot. Selena closed it and set it back on its feet.
A moment passed and the griffon’s eyes opened, and it gave out a growl. It then flapped it wings and scratched it’d front paws on the table.
Selena and Reggie squealed with delight.
“We did it, Reggie,” Selena said, then added. “Papa, see it works!”
The little griffon stretched its wings, shook itself then trotted down the table a short distance, turned around and started running and flapping its wings. It launched into the air just a foot from Selena. It circled the waiting room just below the ceiling and did some acrobatics.
Selena and Reggie ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ as it flew. After several minutes of flying, it returned to Selena and Reggie and landed on the table.
“That was awesome!” Reggie cried when the griffon landed.
The griffon gave a small roar then settled down and fell asleep.
“You want to play another game?” Selena asked.
“Yeah, how about this game?” Reggie asked while holding up a deck of cards.
“OK, let’s go to that table over there,” Selena said, pointing to a nearby table.
Mr. Ortega smiled as he watched his daughter and her new friend try to figure out the card game. She sat on the floor and Reggie sat in a small chair. Suddenly, Selena turned to her father and asked, "How long until Banu is out?"
"I don't know for sure. It shouldn’t be long," Mr. Ortega answered, then added. "Try not to worry about it. They will let us know when he is out and in the recovery room."
"Recovery room? What is that?"
"It’s a room where they put you after procedures like this, where you wait to let the anesthetic wear off."
"What is and nanatheiss?"
"Anesthetic. It is medication that makes you sleep, so you don't move during the operation."
"Oh," Selena said, then returned to her game.
Mr. Ortega thought back to when Banu first came to stay with them.
Department of Fostering Children (Two Years Previous)
"Mr. Ortega?" the young dwarf behind the receptionist's desk asked as Mr. Ortega was passing the receptionist desk on his way out of the Department of Fostering Children. He’d gone in to sign the final papers. Now it was just a matter of waiting for a child in need of fostering to show up. They’d assured him it wouldn’t be long.
"Yes?" he replied, stopping at her desk.
"I know this is pretty soon, but we have a fostering candidate available right now. Would you like to meet him?"
"Oh, aah,” Mr. Ortega said. He was caught a little off-guard, but they were ready to help.
“Yes, of course," he said to the young woman.
"We found him at the train station. He seemed to be all alone. He has been very brave, but I believe he is really scared. We used an imaging-crystal and sent it to the appropriate communities but, after two months, we haven't heard anything back. He had a paper in his bag that said he was 'Banardu Toller the fourth' and the date of his birth. The name hasn’t triggered anything either."
"Oh, he has been two months alone?"
"Mostly, yes. He has been with a few different families, but they have brought him back after only a day or two. Sometimes the same day,” she said as she shook her head, then added. “He is a really nice little guy, but shy and scared.”
“Did they say why?”
“Sort of. They just said he was incompatible with their other children."
“Where has he been staying?”
“We have a dormitory for children but, right now, he is the only one there."
"Oh, that’s terrible. Poor little guy,” Mr. Ortega said, then continued. “OK, let me meet him."
The young dwarf pointed him to a narrow hall with several chairs along one side. Sitting on a chair in the middle was a small brown bear. He was a little over a foot tall and his clothes were nice if a little worn. He had a small green bag on the seat with him.
Mr. Ortega walked over to the little bear and sat in the chair next to him.
"Hello, I am Mr. Ortega," Mr. Ortega said.
Banu looked up at him and said, in his most serious voice, "Hi, Mr. Ortega. I am Banardu Toller the fourth. I am 5 and a half years old. I am happy to meet you."
"And I am happy you meet you. How are you?”
The little bear sighed then said, “I am sad. I have no one to play with and there are no toys in this place.”
“Well, Banardu Toller the fourth, I would like you to come meet my children. I have been told that you are all alone in the dormitory. I have a son who is a little over two years old and a daughter that is 6 years old. That should take your sadness away. Would you like that?”
Tears welled up in the little bear's eyes, and he whispered, “Oh yes, I would.”
"Good, let’s go talk to the receptionist and see what we need to do to make that happen," Mr. Ortega said and stood up again.
The little bear just nodded, climbed down from the chair, and followed Mr. Ortega.
It was another hour before Banu and Mr. Ortega were in his car and heading to Banu's new home. Banu settled into the car seat usually used by Selena’s little brother. They drove in silence for a long time.
“Well, Banardu Toller the fourth, can I call you Banardu?” Mr. Ortega asked.
"Yes, or you can call me Banu. My mother called me Banu before I lost her. I like that name, too," Banu answered, then added. "I know how to use the bathroom, now."
“OK, that's good. Have you had anything to eat?"
“Yes,” Banu answered quickly, then added quietly. “But I am still hungry.”
“What do you like to eat?”
“Spinach, pickles, potato chips, fish sticks, chicken pieces, bananas, pears and ice cream.”
“I think we have some of that at home,” Mr. Ortega said, then added. “We’ll get you some food there.”
They walked out to Mr. Ortega's car and Mr. Ortega helped Banu sit in a seat specially designed for small people and children. It was in the back seat. Banu could see Mr. Ortega as they drove.
Once they had parked the car and walked to the front door to Ortega’s apartment, Banu was feeling a little scared. At the last place, the children were really mean to him. Mr. Ortega seemed really nice, so he hoped his children were too.
The door opened and standing in the doorway was a tall, lean woman with dark eyes and hair. She said, “Hello sweetheart, who have you brought home?”
“This is Banardu Toller the fourth,” Mr. Ortega said as he gestured at the little bear hiding behind his leg, then he added. “He likes to be called Banu.”
“Well, Banu, you are welcome in our home. Please come in,” Mrs. Ortega said as she stepped out of the doorway.
Banu took a deep breath and stepped across the threshold into their home.
They ushered him into the living room and there he met Selena and Max. He was shy at first, but Selena made him feel comfortable. She showed him a game and they played it.
About twenty minutes after he arrived, Mrs. Ortega put a small plate of spinach leaves, banana slices and dill pickle slices on a table and invited him to eat.
“I heard you were hungry, will this do?” she asked him.
Banu climbed onto the chair, looked at the plate then said, “Oh, yes! This is great.”
Banu started stuffing spinach leaves into his mouth. Selena joined him at the table. At first, Banu seemed worried about that, but he seemed to reach a decision and pushed the plate closer to Selena and asked, "Would you like some?"
"Thank you, but no. I am not hungry, yet," Selena answered.
A few minutes later, Mrs. Ortega brought two cups of orange juice in and put them in front of Selena and Banu.
“Do you like orange juice?” Mrs. Ortega asked Banu.
“Yes,” Banu answered.
When she had left them, he asked Selena, “What’s orange juice?”
“It’s juice from an orange. Do you like oranges?” Selena asked.
“Maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted one,” Banu said as he took a sip from his cup.
“Oh yeah, I like orange juice,” Banu declared.
Selena showed him their room and her toys. They played all afternoon. Periodically, either Mr. Ortega or Mrs. Ortega would come to them with snacks or drinks.
Late afternoon came and Selena went to use the bathroom. Banu could smell the food that Mrs. Ortega was preparing. He sighed, got up, and put away the toy he was playing with. In the past, this is when he was taken back. The last time he wasn’t unhappy to go because those children were mean to him, but this time he really liked being here. As he gathered his bag and walked to the front door, he did his best not to cry. This has been the best day since he got found at the train station. He stood there waiting for Mr. Ortega to take him back.
Selena saw that Banu was gone from their room, so she went to her father to ask him where he’d gone.
Mr. Ortega was playing with Max in the front room when Selena approached him.
“Where did Banu go?”
“What? I thought he was with you. Is he in the bathroom?”
“No, I was in the bathroom.”
“Door Door Door,” Max said as he pointed to the front door.
Mr. Ortega stood up and stepped over, so he could see the front door. He could now see the little bear standing by the door with his little green bag, waiting.
Mrs. Ortega stepped out of the kitchen and asked Banu, “Banu, where are you going?”
"You can take me back now. Thank you, I enjoyed being here," Banu said, then added quietly. “I would like to come back to visit, please. I really like Selena. And Max. And Mr. Ortega and you.”
Mrs. Ortega knelt by the Banu and said, “Oh, Banu, you brave little bear! You aren't going back. This is your home now. You are going to stay with us from now on."
"Really?" Banu said, but this time he couldn't hold back the tears. He sat down, sobbing.
Mrs. Ortega picked up the little bear and hugged him to her breast. He clung to her blouse, crying. She held him until he stopped crying, then set him down. She led him back into the living room, where Selena was standing in front of her father.
“If you take him away, I am going with him!” Selena said as she looked at her father with a determined expression.
“But I … He’s not going away,” Mr. Ortega said just before Mrs. Ortega and Banu entered the living room.
“Selena, he is right here. He just misunderstood. He will be staying with us from now on,” Mrs. Ortega said.
Selena turned dropped to her knees in front of the little bear, hugged him, and said, "Whoo whee! You are staying with me! We are going to have so much fun together."
"I am ... I am ... Happy. Thank you," Banu said.
The Waiting Room
A young Troll med-tech came into the room and said, "Mr. Hanak? Your hopper, Kaido, is in the recovery room."
"Oh, that's me and my dad," Reggie said as he stood up and looked for his father.
A middle-aged gnome in a light sports jacket walked up to the med-tech and said, "Hello, yes, that's me. Come along, Reginald."
“Bye, Selena,” Reggie said as he got up to follow his father.
Selena got up, card game forgotten, as got into the seat next to her father.
“Banu is going to be alright, right? What are they doing to him?” Selena asked.
“He will be fine. His eyelids are swollen, and they are going to try to reduce that, so he can heal faster,” Mr. Ortega said, putting his arm around her.
Selena nodded her head, but she really didn’t understand what that meant. She hugged her father’s arm, leaned her head against it, and closed her eyes. Only a few minutes passed before she fell asleep.
Mr. Ortega looked around the room. There were only five people left in the room beside him and Selena. An Elf woman with two infants sleeping in a stroller and a man with a teenage boy. They were all, except the sleeping babies, reading magazines or books.
Mr. Ortega closed his eyes and thought about the last two years with the small bear. They had celebrated two of Banu’s birthdays since they started fostering him. For the first one, when he turned six, they’d given him new clothes, his old ones were far too small. They also gave him a couple of toys. A small truck with a little bear at the wheel and a stuffed bear. He cried and hugged all of them, even Max, Selena’s little brother.
It was four months after his sixth birthday that they found out how sensitive the little bear was. They were playing in the living room when the little bear got angry at Max for playing with one of his toy and yelled at him. Mr. Ortega, who had been reading a newspaper in the same room, scolded Banu for raising his voice and to go to his bed in the room he shared with Selena. The little bear looked shocked, started crying as he made his way into the bedroom. Mr. Ortega spoke to Max about taking Banu’s toys without asking, and Max started crying.
While Mr. Ortega was dealing with Max, Banu came out of the room with his green bag, he’d taken off his new clothes and squeezed into his old clothes. He sniffed as he walked toward the front door and stood by it. Mrs. Ortega was in the kitchen when Max walked by.
She poked her head out and asked, “Banu, what is going on?”
Band, sniffed and said, “I am sorry for yelling. I don’t want to go, but you can take me back to the or-panage now.”
“Do what, now?” Mrs. Ortega asked him.
“I got mad at Max and I shouldn’t have. I am really sorry,” he said then started sobbing and through the sobs, he said, “I don’t wanna go.”
“Oh, Banu,” Mrs. Ortega dried her hands, stepped out of the kitchen, picked up Banu, hugged him, and said, “We are not going to take you back to the foster care people no matter how much you yell. You are part of this family now.”
Banu had stopped sobbing and was just sniffing.
“Yes, we get mad at each other, but we always forgive because we are family. Now, go put your stuff back and take off those old clothes. I swear I am going to throw those things away!”
She set him back on the floor and watched as he picked up his green bag and walked past Mr. Ortega back into the bedroom. He mumbled ‘Sorry’ as he passed Mr. Ortega.
“What? Was he trying to leave again?” Mr. Ortega asked.
“Yes. He seems to be very sensitive about his behavior. I don’t know what he’s gone through, but it wasn’t good. What happened?” Mrs. Ortega asked.
“Oh, Max took one of the toys we’d given Banu for his birthday without asking him. It told Banu to go to his bed. I didn’t even raise my voice,” Mr. Ortega said while he rolled his eyes, then added. “I talked to Max, so now he’s crying in the bedroom.”
“Maybe we should talk to Banu about ...” Mrs. Ortega said, paused, then added. “No, on second thought that wouldn’t work. Banu would be too afraid we’d ‘take him back’.”
“We can ask Selena, they talk for a long time each night before going to sleep,” Mr. Ortega said, then continued. “I expect she has some idea what is worrying him.”
Eventually, they were able to speak to Selena alone, and they found out the last family he was with the children kept stealing his bag, clothes, and generally being mean to him. The parents either couldn’t or didn’t want to control their children’s behavior, so they returned Banu to the fostering agency.
For his seventh birthday they gave him his favorite meal: spinach, fish sticks, sweet pickles, corn, bananas, blueberries, and a birthday cake. He got more clothes, since he’d outgrown the ones from his last birthday, and a green backpack with lots of pockets and in one of the pockets. He didn’t cry at this party, but still hugged everyone.
The children would still argue with each other, but rarely stayed mad for more than a few hours. Most nights, Selena and Banu would sleep together unless they were mad at each other, then he’d sleep in his bed. By morning, they would have forgotten what they argued about the night before.
Three months after Banu’s seventh birthday, Mrs. Ortega, Selena, Max and Banu were out by the levee walking when a gypsy pixie started harassing them. The children had wandered off to look at an apple tree, so Mrs. Ortega was not close to them. The pixie got angry, picked up a large rock and hit Banu with it. The rock knocked the little bear down and his face was bleeding terribly. Selena ran to got her mother while Max stayed with Banu. Mrs. Ortega carried Banu home, did enough first aid to stop the bleeding, then drove him to a clinic.
The Doctors sutured up the large open wound across his brow and told them to put ice on it every night for the next 5 days, then return. Mrs. Ortega made a green bandana that wrapped around his wound and covered his eye.
Banu adjusted to only using one eye fairly quickly. He was in a different class year than Selena, but his classmates were sympathetic and helped him when he got confused.
The Waiting Room
“Mr. Kaan?” a voice said, bringing Mr. Ortega back to the present.
The sad Troll looked up, rose and came over to the med-tech. The med-tech led him through the door as she said, “I am so sorry, Mr. Kaan. Brenna is just too old. All we can really do is make her last few days more comfortable. We have eased her pain …” The door closed before the rest could be heard.
Mr. Ortega looked at Selena and saw she was still napping. He was glad she wasn’t awake to hear that.
The door opened and the Troll that took Banu came in, stepped over to Mr. Ortega, and said, “Mr. Ortega? Banu is in recovery room 4. If you would follow me, I will take you to him.”
“Selena. Selena, wake up. Banu is out of surgery. You want to go see him?” Mr. Ortega said as he shook his arm gently.
Selena woke up a little confused, then she understood the words her father said, so she jumped up. They followed the med-tech down a hallway past several doors before stopping at one with the words Recovery room 4 written on it. The med-tech knocked on the door, waited for a moment, then opened it and led them in.
The room had six beds in all, three beds along each wall. Most were not occupied. On the right side, in the middle bed, was Banu. He looked very small in the large bed.
Banu laid on the pillow with his head wrapped in bandaged. The bandages left his good eye uncovered. There were two small pockets on that side in the bandage. One on the side at his temple and the other nearer his nose. In the one on his temple is a yellow crystal and the other one had a small pink crystal.
“Banu!” Selena said as soon as she got to the bed.
“Wha … oh hi,” Banu said groggily as he focused his eye on Selena.
“He will come out of it in a few minutes,” Dr. Ganda said as she stepped up to the bed, then continued. “The procedure went very well. We were able to reduce the swelling significantly and that reduces pressure on the eye. It should heal much faster now.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Mr. Ortega said.
She waved off the gratitude and said, “The yellow crystal promotes healing and the pink should help with the pain.”
“How long do we keep it on?” Mr. Ortega asked.
“In three days, you should change the bandage and check that the eye hasn’t swollen up again. The yellow crystal is good for about 6 days. I am sorry that we don’t have any more pain ones. Someone keeps stealing the shipments. They are hard to get anywhere.”
“Oh. I had heard about some hijacking of some trucks, I didn’t know it was crystals,” Mr. Ortega said.
“Sadly, it is becoming an issue. There are some drugs that we can use, but they have side effects that can be unpleasant,” Dr. Ganda said, looked at Banu, smiled and added. “Bring him in for a check-up in a week if the swelling stays under control.”
“OK, Doctor. We can’t thank you enough,” Mr. Ortega said.
The Doctor stepped over to the groggy bear and said, “You were a great patient, Banu. You follow your father’s instructions and I will see you in about a week. You be a good boy.”
“I will,” Banu said.
She nodded at Selena and Mr. Ortega and went to another bed across the room.
“I feel better now,” Banu announced just as his eye fluttered, and he fell asleep again. He was only asleep a minute before he opened his eye and smiled.
“When can I leave?” Banu asked.
“When you can sit up and not fall asleep,” Mr. Ortega answered.
“OK,” Banu said and attempted to sit up. It didn’t work.
“I met this Gnome named Reggie, and we put a griffon together,” Selena said.
“Oh … what? Was the griffon … I don’t understand,” Banu said.
“It was a puzzle. Once we got it together, we put a crystal in it, and it flew around the room!”
“Oh wow. I wish I’d seen that.”
“Then we played a card game. Reggie was nice. You would have liked him. He was just as tall as you.”
“He was a bear?”
“No, silly. He was a Gnome.”
“Oh,” Banu said with some disappointment.
“Try and sit up now,” Mr. Ortega said.
“OK,” Banu said, then he sat up and stayed up this time.
They waited for a few more minutes, than Banu stood up on the bed. While holding Mr. Ortega’s arm, he walked around the bed. The med-tech came over and checked Banu’s bandages and said, “Looks like you ready to go home, Banu. You were an excellent patient. I know it is going to itch, but try not to touch your bandages, OK?”
“OK, I will try,” Banu said.
Mr. Ortega picked up the little bear and Selena followed him as he led them to their car. Mr. Ortega put Banu in his seat and strapped him in. Selena got in hers by herself and buckled it too.
Banu fell asleep again on the ride home. Banu was still asleep when they arrived, so Mr. Ortega carried him in.
Banu woke up when Mrs. Ortega made a big fuss about the bandages and asked him if he was hungry.
“Yes, I am. A little,” Banu asked.
“He’s always hungry,” Selena said while she rolled her eyes.
“It’s almost noon, we can just have an early lunch,” Mrs. Ortega said.
Banu managed to walk to the table and climb into his seat without falling. Selena followed behind him to help him if he needed it. She then got into her chair. And Max came out and climbed into his chair also.
Mrs. Ortega brought out fish sticks, a spinach salad, and raw carrots for each child. Mr. Ortega sat down but only nibbled on the salad.
“I need to check in with work,” Mr. Ortega said, then excused himself from the table and walked into the living room. Mrs. Ortega sat down with a large salad and ate while watching the children.
“Does hurt?” Max asked.
“Not now. The pink crystal makes it not hurt,” Banu answered.
Banu yawned and yawned again. He asked permission to leave the table. Mrs. Ortega got up and helped him down and followed him into the bedroom he shared with Selena.
“Do you want to sleep now?” She asked.
“I … I think so,” Banu said, then added. “I am really tired.”
“That’s fine. Surgery can be hard. You get ready for bed.”
Banu undressed and climbed to his bed. He laid on his back then changed to his side a few times before Mrs. Ortega came in with a short stool and sat down on it by his bed. She placed her hand on his chest. He clutched her hand then settled down. He murmured, before falling asleep, “I love you, mama.”
A tear came to her eye as she watched the little bear sleep.
Five hours later, Banu woke alone. Mrs. Ortega had left him once he was fully asleep. He laid there for a time then reached up to scratch but stopped himself.
“Geez, it itches,” he muttered.
He got up, got dressed and went out into the living room.
Selena and Max were on the patio playing. Mrs. Ortega was reading on the couch. He walked over and crawled up on the couch next to her.
“Feel better?” she asked.
“Yeah. It itches though.”
“I imagine it does. It’s the sutures they put in to close the wounds. In time, they will stop. Why don’t you go play with Selena and Max, to try and forget the itching?”
“OK,” Banu climbed off the couch and went out on the patio.
“What are you doing?” Banu asked.
“Racetrack,” Max answered without looking up.
“We got these wooden tracks that we can build into a racetrack for the wooden balls. Help us,” Selena said.
For the next few hours, they built and rebuilt the track. They had ball races and made up prizes for the winner. Banu forgot all about his injury for that time.
Mr. Ortega came home from work, they had dinner and watched a movie.
At bedtime, Mr. Ortega was helping Banu with his nightclothes when Selena came in and said, “He should sleep with me. I can watch over him!”
Mr. Ortega replied, “Not tonight. You move around a lot at night, and we can’t have his bandages disturbed. You sleep in your own bed, and he will sleep here. You can go back to normal in a while; after the bandages come off.”
Selena frowned but listened to her father. She wished she could do more, but papa was right. She did move around at night.
Mr. Ortega sat on the stool next to Banu’s bed and said, “OK, you go ahead and lay down. I will stay with you.”
Banu laid down and Mr. Ortega pulled the covers up to the little bear’s chin. Banu sighed and said, “Good night, Mr. Ortega.”
“Good night, Banu,” Mr. Ortega replied and placed his hand on the little bear’s chest. Banu hugged the hand and fell asleep.
When Selena was ready for bed, she quietly climbed into her bed and got under the covers. She laid there, wishing Banu was there, so she could hold him. Then promptly fell asleep.
Half an hour later, Mrs. Ortega brought some pillows and a couple of blankets for Mr. Ortega to try to get comfortable on. He briefly removed his hand from the bear’s embrace while arranging the bedding. Banu became restless in his sleep but calmed down when Mr. Ortega’s hand was replaced.
Very early in the morning, Mrs. Ortega came in to relieve Mr. Ortega, so he could get some sleep. Banu woke briefly and shifted around in his bed until she placed her hand on his chest. He hugged it and settle bed back into a restful sleep.
They continued this for three nights, Mr. and Mrs. Ortega took turns staying with the little bear. The little bear was less restless each night. On the fourth night, they relented and allowed him to sleep with Selena. In the morning, Mrs. Ortega checked the wounds, and they appeared to be healing well. Even the eye itself had less red in it. She rewrapped his head in clean bandages.
Some time in the early morning of the seventh night, the yellow crystal stopped glowing, and the pink was barely pink. Mrs. Ortega let Banu continue sleeping until his regular time to wake up. She called the clinic, and they had an appointment available that morning. Mrs. Ortega started with Max, getting him up and into his morning routine. Then she awoke Selena and Banu. It took almost a full two hours to get everyone fed, dressed and in the car.
Once at the clinic, Selena took Max into the waiting room and Mrs. Ortega took Banu to an examination room. It looked just like the one Banu was in before.
There was a knock on the door and Dr. Ganda came in.
“Good morning, Banu. How do you feel?”
“Oh, there is nothing to be scared of! We are just going to check out your wounds and see if you are ready to use your eye again,” the doctor said brightly.
The doctor took the healing crystal out and laid it in a wooden container. She gently pulled out the pain relief crystal and said, “He was lucky to get one of these. They are getting really hard to get these days.”
“It’s the hijackings, right?” Mrs. Ortega asked.
“Yes,” the doctor said while she unwrapped Banu’s head.
“I thought the crystals could be recharged?”
“They can, although they weaken each time. The average crystal can be recharged 10, maybe 12 times, before it won’t hold a charge at all. But that isn’t the worst of it,” the doctor said. She had the bandage off and was looking at the wound across Banu’s brow. The wound was hardly visible at all. Just the sutures showing where it had been. The ones on his eyelids were still visible.
“OK, we can take the brow sutures out, but we should leave the ones on the eyelid for another few days,” Dr. Ganda said as she turned and opened drawers getting supplies out.
“So what is the problem with recharging the crystals until, at least, they can’t be used?” Mrs. Ortega asked.
“That would seem to be the thing to do, but it turns out it’s really expensive to recharge a crystal. Depending on the unique properties,” the doctor said as she wiped a liquid soaked towelette across the brow wound on Banu, she continued with. “Each type of crystal needs a specific ley line or set of ley lines and a trained sorcerer to recharge them. There aren’t enough sorcerers that want to do that kind of work, and the ley line issue can be quite complicated.”
“Maybe we need to train more sorcerers?”
“That would be a good start, but the real problem is that it’s cheaper to mine the crystals than reuse them. Much cheaper,” the doctor said while she carefully snipped and pulled the sutures out of Banu’s brow.
The procedure only took about 15 minutes, then Mrs. Ortega and Banu went into the waiting room and found Selena reading a book.
The Waiting Room
“Hi,” Banu said as they stepped up to where Selena was sitting.
“Oh! Hi Banu, where is your bandage? Your eye still looks swollen? Are you OK?” Selena asked in a rush.
“I am OK,” Banu said.
“It’s still a little swollen and will be for a couple more days. Then he should be fine,” Mrs. Ortega said, then added. “We should leave now. Are you ready?”
“Yes. I was reading a story about pirates and crystals,” Selena said as she put the book down and stood up.
They went out, got in the car, and returned to their apartment. Once there, Mrs. Ortega gave Banu a green eye patch to cover his swollen eye. Selena helped him put it on.
“Oh, you look like a pirate!” Selena said.
“Arg! Gimme your treasure!” Banu said as he looked in a mirror.
They decided to play pirates until Max came home from daycare.
It had been another week passed, and they all went back to the clinic to have the doctor remove the sutures in Banu’s eyelid. He had been able to open and see out of it for three days, so this should be the last visit for a while.
The visit to the clinic went really quickly. Mrs. Ortega, Max, and Selena had barely settled into a corner when Mr. Ortega and Banu came out. Banu didn’t have his eye patch on. They left and got back in the family care. Banu, Max, and Selena were in the back seat playing ‘count the dragons’. It was a silly game as there weren’t any dragons around where they lived, so it was mostly them pointing at large birds or bats and calling them dragons. They drove for a while, then pulled into a parking lot and stopped.
“Since Banu has been so brave, how about we get ice cream?” Mr. Ortega said over his shoulder.
The children chorused ‘yeahs’ and then started chanting ‘ice cream, we want ice cream’. Once Mr. Ortega parked in front of the ice cream shop, they got out and went in. Neither Max nor Banu had been in a store that sold only ice cream before. They 'oohed' and 'aahed', looking around at the posters of ice cream desserts.
Because the store needed to service customers for people of different heights, the ice cream counter was tall, but there was a set of steps in front of the counter that ran the length, so short customers could see all the ice creams. Once they got to the front of the line, Banu and Max climbed to the top step, so they could look through the glass at the ice cream. Selena was taller, so only needed to climb to the step next to the top.
The boys walked back and forth, with Banu reading the labels to Max. Selena picked out her favorite ice cream right away, Blueberry Surprise. Banu and Max kept changing their minds as they encountered new ice creams. Their parents waited patiently while the children made up their minds.
“Banu, you like banana and strawberries, right?” Mr. Ortega asked. He’d been walking along behind them to ensure they didn’t fall off the steps in their excitement.
“Yeah, which one is that?” Banu asked as he tried to peer through the glass that was being fogged up by his and Max’s breath.
Mr. Ortega pointed out where it was behind the glass, and Banu decided he wanted that. Max was very close to choosing the same when he saw a Neapolitan and decided that was what he wanted.
They each ordered an ice cream cone. Mr. Ortega stood behind Max and signed to the server, a tall, thin elf girl, what Max meant to order. She pretended she understood Max and gave him a bit extra ice cream. He beamed as he walked out with a single scoop that was larger than his Sister's or Banu's. Mrs. Ortega, Selena and Banu were already out in the small patio area at a table under a multicolored umbrella when he came out.
Mr. Ortega soon followed with extra napkins and a small sundae that he shared with Mrs. Ortega. Once the children had gotten about halfway through eating their cones, they talked about school, books, toys, and the people entering and leaving the ice cream parlor.
“Banu, you have a birthday coming up soon,” Mrs. Ortega said when there was a lull in the talking. Banu’s birthday was only two and a half months away.
“Yes, I will be 8. Same age as Lena,” Banu said.
“What would you like as a present?” Mrs. Ortega asked.
Banu was quiet for a few moments then said, without much enthusiasm, “Clothes, I guess. My shoes are a little tight.”
“You don’t want anything else?”
Banu was silent. He really wanted a scooter, but he was worried that if he asked for it, they would think he was greedy. He wished he could be like Lena or even Max, who just asked for what they wanted.
“He wants a scooter,” Selena said.
“Selena!” Banu hissed at her. His eyebrow with the scar, where the hair hadn’t fully grown back yet, turned red.
“Hmm. What color?” Mr. Ortega asked.
“Wha … green. I really like green,” Banu answered quickly.
“OK,” Mr. Ortega said with a smile.
“Finish up, kids. We need to get to the grocery store before we head home,” Mrs. Ortega said.
Banu’s Eighth Birthday
The next two and a half months went by quickly. The children, between school, sports, and after school activities, hardly noticed the passing of time.
On the day of Banu’s birthday, a Thursday, he went to school as normal and the teacher had a party for him and two other kids who had the same birthday. They had cupcakes and sang the birthday song. He was almost giddy when he came home that afternoon.
He and Selena were dropped off by the bus with a few other kids. They walked together to the lift, then at each floor a few of the other children would get off. On their floor, it was just the two of them left. They walked quickly as they wanted to get past the crazy man's door. Sometimes he would open it and yell at them for no reason. Mr. Ortega said that the man had been hurt in the head, was not right, but he wouldn’t hurt the kids. Today was good, they made it to their door without being yelled at.
They put their school stuff away and changed into their play clothes. They played a board game called ‘Candy Mage’ until Mrs. Ortega called out that it was close to dinner time, so they needed to clean up and set the table. Mr. Ortega came home just before dinner was served. He looked like he’d been in a hurry. He went into their room and came back out after changing into his evening clothes. He hugged each of the kids and then had them sit while he helped Mrs. Ortega bring out dinner.
Banu was excited because it had all his favorite foods. He’d found out that he liked fish without the breading, and he liked sweet potatoes almost as much as spinach. It was the best meal he remembers having. He was almost sorry it was over. He ate until he couldn’t eat anymore.
Mr. Ortega ushered all the children into the living room and sat them down. Mrs. Ortega brought out a birthday cake with strawberry/banana ice cream! Banu wished he hadn’t eaten so much.
They sang the birthday song to him, and he made a wish and blew out the candles. He wished that he had been born into this family. He loved being here with them so much. He almost cried but was saved when Selena handed him a small rectangular box.
“Here, Banu. This is from me and Max,” Selena said.
Banu pulled off the ribbon and opened it. Inside were a pair of goggles. They looked like the ones the guys that fly those old airplanes wear. He pulled them out and Selena helped him put them on. Once settled on his head and over his eyes he could see fine and they were comfortable.
“Here, feel this lever?” Selena asked, putting his hand on the side of the goggles. There was a little lever sticking out.
“Pull it down.”
He did, and the room suddenly got dark. He could still see, but the room wasn’t as bright. He pushed it back up and the room returned to normal. He pushed it up and down several times.
“It’s for bright days. Like the sunglasses I wear when we go out. You can wear these when we go down to the Levee and you don’t have to be worried about that pixie or anybody else hurting you,” Selena said.
He, suddenly overcome with emotion, leaned over and hugged her. Max stood up and hugged them both and said, “Yeah, stupid mean pixie.”
Mr. Ortega pulled out a larger box and put it in front of Banu. Once he unwrapped it, he saw it was a green, three-wheeled scooter like his friends Kasias and Jordan had! Banu looked at the scooter, his goggles started fogging up, so he pulled them off and hugged Mr. Ortega then broke off, hugged Mrs. Ortega and the while repeating “Thank you”
Banu returned to where he was sitting, holding tight his goggles with one hand and the scooter with the other, and said, “This is the best birthday ever.”
“We have one more thing,” Mr. Ortega said, paused, then continued.
“Ever since you came to live with us, you have filled our lives with joy. We have seen you struggle and persevere through very rough challenges. You are brave, honest, and caring,” Mrs. Ortega said, then added. “You are everything we could want in a son.”
“So, a while ago we applied to adopt you and your papers came through today. Banu you are officially our son and brother to Selena and Max, if that is what you want,” Mr. Ortega said then asked. “Banardu, will you be our son?”
Banu was almost in tears again. He could only nod his head.
“Oh thank goodness!” Mrs. Ortega said with relief in her voice.
After moving his toys out of the way, the family hugged the little bear.
Eventually, they settled down and Banu opened a present of new clothes and shoes. Once that was done, they ate the cake and ice cream and watched one of Banu’s favorite movies, then retired to bed.
“Selena, can I come up?” Banu whispered.
“Yes, I’ll move over.”
He snuggled under the blanket with her, and they were quiet for a while until he asked, “Can I call Mr. Ortega papa?”
“Of course! You have to, it’s the rule.”
“Yes, sons and daughters have to call their father, papa. Even if you are adopted.”
“And their mother, mama.”
They talked about his new goggles and scooter. He told her he now felt better about going down to the levee again because he could wear his goggles. They were soon asleep as it had been a very happy day for both of them.