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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty: Tea for One (Continued)
Previously: Not caring whether he lived or died, Zack entered a strange cottage and encountered the mysterious Rhema.
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“Will you have tea, dear?” Rhema asked as she poured boiling water into a pumpkin-shaped teapot. Her voice was so kind, and the smell of the tea so bracing, that Zack could not bear to accept.
“I don’t deserve it.”
“Of course you don’t. That’s why I’m offering it to you. It’s made from the berries of the kharis bush, which many believe does not exist, but look.” She pointed at the tiny blood red berries on her skirt.
Gina stood in the doorway, watching. What was Zack doing anyway? He’d settled into a weird little booth and seemed to be talking to someone, but there was no one there. She called his name, but he didn’t hear her. She finally got up the courage to enter…but when she put her foot forward, it stopped as if it were at the edge of a video game scene. All she could do was watch. Zack was gesturing as though he were speaking with someone, but the table was empty. Had despair sent him over the edge?
Rhema poured some tea into an ivory cup and slid it over to Zack. “Are you sure you won’t accept?” The aroma was unlike anything he’d ever smelled. It reminded him of all of his favorite flavors at once. No, he suddenly realized, it’s not like them—they’re like it, meaning that his favorite flavors were, at best, only echoes of kharis, at worst, imitations. As he breathed in, his mind flooded with memories…
…of Dad telling creepy stories in their backyard tent…
…of Mom running her fingers through his hair, making him almost glad he was sick…
…of Tuber dying in a meadow.
He also remembered things that hadn’t happened yet:
…gliding across a frozen sea on the back of a dragon with sail-like wings…
…the Dark Tinkurs ripping the last of the Thirteen Objects from his hands…
Then he looked up and saw tears running from Rhema’s eyes.
“I started a war.”
“I turned friends against friends.”
“Bud got shot with an arrow. He’s just a lee chelding, and he trusted me. Sniggle and Noddie hate me now. It’s my fault their son almost died. It’s my fault Naimian is ruined.”
“True, but not your fault alone. The naims live between childhood and adulthood. You are anxious to move forward, they have chosen to stay where they are. They see black and white. You showed them gray.”
“They made me their leader, which is wack because I totally suck at being a leader!”
“No, you totally failed.”
“No. It’s almost the exact opposite. You failed to understand the people you led, which always ends badly, but beyond the end it may produce sweeter fruit. You’ve left something out. Finish it.”
Zack dropped his forehead onto the table and moaned, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
“I know, dear. Now, have some tea.”
Thoughts: The primary job of healers is to show us what lies beyond the present.
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