The next day — and now she was sure of that — the Jade Abbot came to see her. He seemed smaller, somehow, away from his temple. He carried a ripe peach in his hand, and smiled like a particularly clever statue.
"So you have touched the heavens and lived," he said, sitting next to her bed on a stool she didn't remember having in the room.
"I believe so," Zarai said politely. She still hadn't managed to get to her feet on her own, and no one seemed interested in helping her try. "I did not know you were here."
"Who ever knows where they truly are?" He smiled and stuck a callused thumb into the top of the peach. She watched in a strange fascination as the abbot split the fruit. Juice glistened on his gnarled hands and stained the sleeve of his robe. The sunrise shades of the flesh glistened, the purpled-dark texture of the pit within flashing at her like a wink.
Zarai realized she was finally smelling something besides the coppery tang which had filled her nose and throat since the flight.
"Would you like some fruit?" the Jade Abbot asked politely.
"Oh, yes," she breathed.
For the first time, Zarai fed herself. He handed her torn strips of peach one by one, and grinned as if terribly pleased at her progress. Eating brought an appetite undiscovered since the day before the launch.
She was awake, alive. She was back.
|Originally published at jlake.com.|