154) The Salvation of Eden: Prologue

         Holding her head back to avoid the burst of steam, Kohra lifted the pot lid.

         Smells galloped past like a horde of raucous children. She tried to ignore the actual horde of raucous children jostling around her, all elbows and noise. She wanted to be fully present for “that first smell”, the extra-moist, yummy one that hits you after about a second and a half.

         The chunky liquid bubbled in viscous deliciousness, as she fished around to get a potato piece on her spoon. Then, wary of the jostling, she lifted it out, blowing gently, warm steam caressing her lips. At the moment of contact, she closed her eyes.

         Mmmmm…stew.  Surely one of civilization’s greatest achievements.  “Ecstasy forged from mundanity.” Hey that would be a good title for a –


         “WATCH WHERE YER GOIN’, YOUNG LADY!!!” a raspy, but high-pitched old-man-voice boomed, as its owner, little 8 year-old Reilly, pivoted off the elbow she had stuck in Kohra’s thigh, and kept moving, darting through the throng. She was already deep into her “routine”, shouting incoherently about the government and wobbling around the table with an invisible cane, complaining about her gums and doing her best to gnaw on other people’s food.  Or just other people. 

         This was how Reilly typically started meals. 

         Kohra felt a tap on her right shoulder.  She turned….

         Fernal hells, not again.

         She spun around, her piercing green eyes boring into Dominic’s back; he was, of course, “innocently” meandering away, gazing absently at nothing, like he was too busy pondering the deep mysteries of existence to be paying attention to anything as mundane as his surroundings.

         She was about to say something witty…but…nothing specific came to mind. Then a whole bunch of things came to mind, but it was too late.  Dom was already on the other side of the room, stalking Reilly.

         She sometimes imagined being his sibling. It would be like growing up with a wolf cub —always ready to roll around and commit some violence, but then snuggling up shoulder to shoulder to howl at the skyspots.

         And sometimes even, letting you eat the best part of the kill. That was Dominic.

         He probably thinks I have no sense of humour.

         She frowned.

         Well, at least the stew is ready. Focus on what matters, Kohra.

         She grinned. See, I have a sense of humour!

         Ensuring that a respectable number of potatoes made their way into her bowl, she ladled generously, then wound her way to the table amidst the banter.

         Reilly shot past, red-face and wide-eyed, like she was possessed, shouting “Boobies! Boobies!” until she fell over, cry-laughing into hysterics.

         These “classes” are the best. I don’t know why Ms B cares about us so much. But where would we all be without her?

         She looked at Reilly, now collapsed on the floor, gasping for air. 

         Especially some of us….

         Then Kohra’s gaze shifted to their short, zesty host, her strawberry-blonde pixie-cut smartly framing her effervescent smile, eyes an uncanny, bright blue, while her outrageous laugh frolicked around the room. The dynamo they all called “Ms B” zoomed around, finishing prepping the garlic bread, and salad, and the other salad, and cheese tray, and pickle tray, and smoked meats tray, and still somehow keeping abreast of all the conversations at once and making everyone felt like they were her best friends in the world.

         Which they were.

         It was a warmth that would stay with Kohra, she hoped, forever. Looking around the abundant kitchen, listening to the rollicking wordplay, and vibrating with the energy that zinged between them all, she knew that Something had been created here. Something of significance. Something “more than.”

         She often wondered how “Ms B’s kids” all ended up together. Most of them were cast-offs who didn’t fit the mold, who sat sideways when everyone else sat forward, who laughed when they weren’t supposed to, and invented a third option when given only two.

         Through some combination of serendipity and intuition, Ms B had gathered them together under her tutelage, taking a disarray of dreamers, loners, oddballs and others who weren’t able to live anywhere but at the depths, and loved them like a family.

         Maybe this is how she Connects. Maybe to her, the Flux is like an intuition about people. It’s like she sees our dormant potential, like seeds we carry, waiting for the right circumstances.

         Kohra listened as the chaos ricocheted around the room, punctuated almost rhythmically by Ms B’s exclamations of delight and peals of laughter.

         I hope I still belong here.  I know she would say that I do.  I just…hope it’s true.

* * * * *

         It was impossible to describe what she had learned from Ms B’s teachings. Because it wasn’t “her teachings” so much as “her.”

         She showed them a fluid process of gaining wisdom and self-awareness, not memorizing the static facts of a mere education. It was yin and yang together, balancing creativity and rigour, silliness and seriousness, authenticity and sensitivity to others, self-honouring and kindness.

         From how deeply she inhaled the vapours of a good stew, to how open-heartedly she listened, and how utterly from-the-gut she laughed, Ms B had taught them how to live.

* * * * *

            As the evening wound down and people said their goodbyes, Kohra wondered, would they gather here again at the end of next year? And for how many more?

Nothing lasts forever.

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