Today’s dream began, and mostly takes place in a Spanish resort. Not a Mexican, or other hispanic derivative, but someplace on the coast of Spain.
The setting is a courtyard, with many trees and bushes, and metal benches scattered far enough apart to provide users with privacy. It is approaching darkness as we see the silhouette of a wizard walking the perimeter. He is dressed simply in a white hooded robe, and has an oak staff approximately his height.
As he walks slowly, we begin to hear the soft sounds of a young woman sobbing. He pauses, listens to the sound of her tears for a moment, then softly lifts his staff and taps it to the ground. His robes become a white linnen suit, and the staff becomes a gentleman’s walking cane.
Walking to the source of the sounds, the wizard softly coughs as he comes close to the woman. “Ahem. Is there something wrong?”
Startled, she quickly begins to gather herself to run. What she bears in her heart is private, and she does not wish to spread it’s hurt to just anyone.
“No, please. Sit.” the wizard says softly. “I am an old man, you have no need to fear me, and there is no way you can harm me. Perhaps I can help you find a solution to your problem?”
Still a little uneasy, but calmed by the older man’s ease and demeanor, the lady haltingly began, “Sir, you are most kind, but I do not see how you may be of help. My problem is one that can destroy lives.”
“See, you are already focusing on the damage, and not the solution. I knew that you did not see how I might be of help, because if you saw that, you would have already come to me and asked for aide. Instead, you sit here and sob into the shaddows. Perhaps you are right, and I can’t help, but we will not both be certain of that unless we take a few moments to explore the problem, and see what my perspective offers to the situation. Why not start at the beginning.”
“Ok, what have I to loose? I am Cicillian, the daughter of a mafia don. I get to travel, and have a lot of fun wherever I go. I have been here for about 2 months.” Pausing, she begins to cry again.
“So far, that does not sound so bad. Has this visit been unpleasant for you?” There was humor in the older man’s voice, but it wasn’t enough to overpower the young girl’s pain entirely.
“No, sir, it has not. Quite the opposite, in fact. I met a young man, who was well groomed, well spoken, and seemed to be from a very nice family, if you know what I mean. We got along fabulously. Now, he has returned from whence he came, and I have learned that I am pregnant. I’m only 16! I’ve tried to find him, and nobody even knows he was here, let alone where he is from! He has just vanished – like a ghost. Madre Dios!”
The old fellow thought for a bit, then said gently, “I can assure you that it was no ghost. I’ve been around a very long time, and have yet to document a case of a young lady becoming pregnant due to the advances of a haunted spirit. Please, tell me more about your family.”
They sat and talked for nearly an hour before she began to calm completely. Hearing her belly complain, the man offered to treat her to supper, if she would be willing to hear his suggestions afterward. As yet, he had only asked questions and listened.
When they finished the meal, they returned to the place where they met earlier, and he began.
“First, you will need help from someone in your family. But, it needs to be someone with a reason to listen to good advice. Your family isn’t exactly known for taking advice from outsiders, so we must move with care. I suggest you go to your grandmother. Tell her what has happened, except instead of telling her about the mysterious boy, tell her that I am the father of your baby, and that I am still here, waiting to hear from you. Let her know that I suggested you choose her, rather than another of your family, to ask for help, and invite her to come speak to me herself on the condition that you join her so that we can all talk this over together.”
“But, why do you think my grandmother can do something about this that my father could not?” the girl was becoming alarmed. “If my dad were to find out . . . “ her comment hung in the air unfinished. It did not need to be.
“Just go, and bring your grandmother to me. Make sure she lets you come along, because what I will say to her will be things you will need to here as well. You are taking the first steps to becoming an adult. I’m trying to help you learn how to be respected as one – but you have chosen a very difficult lesson to put at the top of our studies. Now is not a time for more questions, but there will be plenty of answers, in due time. Now, go.” He helped her to stand, he bowed to kiss the back of her hand, and escorted her back to the lobby.
Three days later, again about evening, he was sitting alone on the park bench in the white linnen suit when the girl approached. Hearing her feet on the stones, he stood and turned. Several feet behind her was a female battleaxe, with a perfectly coifed silver mane that looked like it might be able to shave with. The battleaxe was flanked left and right by body guards who looked like clones of the lead character from the “Rocky” movies. The way they stood expressed their total comfort at handling any sort of violent situation, and they were packing heat, too.
“Ah, hello.” The wizard-in-disguise began. “Perhaps we should adjourn to a private dinner I’ve arranged. There is room and seating for all, including the gentlemen with the small cannons.”
Once everyone was seated and served, the battleaxe fired the first broadside. She was genuinely curt as she said, “When my granddaughter told me her tale, I hardly believed it. Yet, here you are. If it were not for her claim to love you, you would be dead already. Please tell me why I shouldn’t turn you over to my son.”
Silence hung in the air for a few seconds. Then, abruptly, the wizard began to laugh. With full, hearty guffaws, he slowly put his fork aside, and leaned back in his chair.
“Madamme,” he began, “I have tried to make this as civil and painless for you as possible. By creating this meal, and this atmosphere, I had hoped that you would recognize the respect that I was extending to you, and through you, your family. Our young lady here assures me that respect is something your family prizes highly, especially when it is extended between the older families. My family name is one of the oldest and most respected in all of Britain!
“Nevertheless, you ask for a reason. Alright, I’ll grant you that boon, and forgive the insult attached to it for the moment. You doubt that your granddaughter would genuinely have fallen willingly into my arms, and in that you are right. It was not I who joined her in creating her problem. I’m simply a kind old man who offered to help her learn how to solve such problems.
“First, I sent her to you. Why you? Because you, who claim to be her grandmother are in fact only her grandfather’s current wife. You have no blood tie to the girl, or her father. And, you are rather new to the position, less than six months married, is that not right? Still, you are newly married into a family that deals in, trades in, respect – as if it were a commodity to be sold in a local store. Your position is that of clan matriarch, but being new to the role, you have no accumulated respect. I present to you an opportunity to handle this situation in a way that will garner respect.”
“Just how do you propose that I should do that?” The battleaxe asked.
“Oh, it is quite simple. As a matriarch, it is your position to deal in the matters of the family’s relationships. No, I’m not proposing to your granddaughter. Neither she nor I would be served by that arrangement, and it’s swift disaster would only bring humiliation on you if you should recommend it to your family. There is a better way, one that will help us all. You are all Catholics, right? Therefore I can safely assume that, for you, abortion is not an option.
“You have an ancestral home nearby to here, right? You should board this youth there, and privately arrange a discrete doctor to care for her until the time of her delivery. Buy plenty of aloe vera lotion, the pure stuff, and have her apply it everywhere she will swell, 3x a day before and after the childbirth. Afterward until she has fully regained her youthful figure. This will minimize stretch marks as much as possible. Tell her family that she took ill while here, a nasty pneumonia after she nearly drowned, and your doctor is insisting that she stay put until she has recovered and regained her strength. There will be some suspicion, it cannot be avoided, but when the ‘illness’ passes 9 months and hasn’t suddenly ended, the suspicions will pass.
“This will give you cachet within the family, because these guards here will know what lengths you’ve gone to in protecting a member of the family. Whispers will pass, as they always do, that you can not only be trusted, but deal fairly, even wisely, with those you give counsel to.” Then he stood and turned to the young lady seated to his right. So far, he had never once raised his voice.
“And you, I have not forgotten the answers you must yet have. When we last talked, I told you that I recognized that you are taking your first steps into adulthood. Your path could have been a nearly painless one. Indeed, I’m certain that your family would have done anything to make sure it was painless. Instead, you’ve chosen this route.
“What you need to realize is that being an adult is about being responsible. It isn’t a matter of the chronological age of your body, it’s the maturity of your soul that makes you an adult. You can earn respect in your family by agreeing to this minor deception, and staying put at your grandmother’s home until you have fully recovered. But, let me first warn you, this is NOT a vacation we offer you. Pregnancy and childbirth will be the most physically painful events you’ve ever yet endured. You will have months of waking early in the morning with your belly upset so violently you will wish you were dead. The stretching, and other physical adjustments your body must go through to prepare for delivery will be harder on you than most women, because you’re not physically mature enough to handle them easilly. The childbirth itself will be hours upon hours of nearly ceaseless pain, as though someone were ripping your belly and back open with a dulled butter knife. Over, and over again.
“You did not need to have sex with someone to be able to enjoy your holiday here, but you did. You wanted it. You must pay this price to be responsible for your choice to create this situation. There is no responsible alternative.”
Durring his entire lecture, she has sat with her eyes focused in her lap. She does not respond to him, or even look into his eyes as he instructs her. Suddenly, standing next to her, he reaches out and grabs the crucifix hanging around her neck and with a snap, yanks it off. Shocked, she jumps up, ready to challenge him. As she moves her eyes to look him in the face, fire flashing radiantly, she sees instead the crucifix.
“Look at it.” he challenges her. He raises his voice for the first time. “Do you REALLY believe in what this represents?”
“Yes, I do.” she spits back as she makes a grab to get it back, failing.
“Then know this. Everything you do must be someone’s responsibility. EVERYTHING, and I do mean everything, that you deny your responsibility for will inevitably end up being the responsibility of someone else. If enough people deny responsibility for something, it ends up here.” He points at the crucifix. “He was innocent. He did not get you pregnant, nor did he tell you to have sex with some boy that you were absolutely mad about for 15 minutes 2 months ago. But, there he hangs. Voluntarilly, paying the price for every sin you won’t accept responsibility for yourself. Will you add this one to the pain he already feels? Can you truly say you love him, and still do that to him? Is that what his death means to you – a license to do anything you wish no matter how much pain it causes him?” He pauses for emphasis at the end of each statement, and each sentence hits her like a slap across the face. By the time he has finished, not only is the fire gone from her eyes, but from her posture. She knows he is right. Slowly she eases back down into her chair. When she has done so, he takes her hand and drops the necklace into it, and folds her hand closed.
Straightening up, he turns toward his chair to find the girl’s grandmother standing, facing him, next to his chair. No longer the battleaxe, but an elder-stateswoman. Her posture and expression convey respect for the old man. Holding out her hand, she offers to shake his. As they shake, she says, “Thank you. I know I would have made a terrible mess of this had I not had your counsel, and my step-son would have been far worse. All that you have suggested is good, and for the good of all, save one. You have not yet told us what to do with the child.”
“Oh, that is the easiest part.” the old man smiled. “When the child is born, you will give him to me, and I will take him to a home where he will be instantly made welcome. They will never question where he came from, nor care. His presence will save the life of a young woman with no good reason to die.”
“How can you do this?” the young girl asked.
“Just one month before I met you, I was somewhere else and met another crying woman. She was about 10 years older than you, and had just learned that she would never be able to bear a child for her husband. This was caused by some thoughtless, soulless man’s attack on her when she was even younger than you are now. Her husband is a good man, and loves her very much. He will be a good father, and wants to be. Knowing she cannot bear children, she was crying as she tried to work up the courage to kill herself, so that he would be free to marry a woman who can carry children. I begged her to wait – to give me a year to find a solution to her problem. Now, just a month later, here you are, and in about 7 months you will deliver a healthy baby that will fill their home with life and love forever.
“My final lesson for you, then is this. Everyone is connected to everyone else. When you do something, it is like tossing a pebble into a pond. The ripples reach all the shoreline, no matter how far. You can choose to cause ripples of good, or evil, but know for sure that you cause ripples no matter what you do. And, like me, you can learn to turn other people’s misfortunes into an opportunity to help them and still more others.”
Now the grandmother laughed. “Sir, may I have your name, please?”
“I have been known by many names, but I spoke the truth when I said that my family name is one of the oldest and most respected in Britain. I am Merlin Pendragon.”