Part 19

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Little Girl Lost

CHARMIAN DUCKED HER head as she went inside Sugar Loaf Rock again, although there was no need to; the ceiling in the passageway was high enough to allow her clear access.  She emerged in the great central room to see that a fire still burned near X, who still slept; looking around further she finally noticed Red Bird in the far corner, off to her right, curled up so as to be almost invisible.  She was sniffling and rubbing at her eyes.  Charmian approached.  When Red Bird heard her she lifted her head to see who was coming; the firelight hit her eyes and for a moment it looked as if they glowed, but then she blinked and the illusion was shattered.  Noticing it was only Charmian she relaxed and started rubbing her eyes again.

"I'm sorry you saw that," she murmured when Charmian sat down beside her; from the way the furs were arranged she assumed this was where Red Bird had slept last night.  "I should have waited for a better time, like he said."

"It's okay.  I'm just kind of...well, surprised.  I didn't know you were that upset."

"You're right," Red Bird said, sniffing.  "He does get angry, often.  He doesn't shout at me.  When he did yesterday, that was the first time.  But he gets angry.  Frustrated.  He claims to believe in me, he says that I have power, yet he treats me as if I know little of anything.  How can he truthfully say he believes in me when he thinks of me as a child?"

Charmian was, frankly, at a loss for an answer; she had no real idea what could be going through the Ocryx's mind.  What Red Bird had said about frustration somehow stuck with her.  "Maybe he feels it would be better if you didn't know so much?"

Red Bird sniffed again and looked up at her, eyes questioning.

"Well," Charmian tried to explain, "I think he knows that you're not stupid...otherwise he wouldn't put so much faith in you, right?"  She pressed on without waiting for an answer.  "But maybe he just thinks it's too much of a responsibility for are pretty young and all...maybe he'd rather you don't have this knowledge or this power, just so you can know...normal.  Like everyone else."

"Normal?"  Red Bird's eyes grew.  She glanced down at her hands.  "I've always wanted to be normal..."  She rubbed her eye and sighed.  "I've told him so...even when he first came to me, I told him it was all I ever wanted.  He told me I had nothing to be ashamed of.  He never told me I was normal.  That would have been a lie.  But he told me not to be ashamed of what I am.  I feel he's the first one who ever looked at me and saw somebody who's equal to what he is.  Not normal, and not frightening either."

"That's it," Charmian said.  She could think of nothing better to say, but at least the girl had stopped crying.  "You see?  He didn't lie to you.  Maybe it would have made you feel better, but he didn't do it.  But he has to see how upset it's all making you.  Maybe he's just angry that he can't do anything about it.  He's supposed to be guardian of the Island and all, and all he can do is see you be miserable.  I think he knows you don't want this responsibility and he'd rather see somebody else have it, but if it's really yours to have, he can't very well tell you it's not."

"Yes," Red Bird said softly.

"And I'm not saying he has any right to yell at you or get mad at you because of whatever's upsetting him, but maybe that explains it...I know he doesn't really like the idea, but from what I've seen, he does kind of take after his dad."

A tiny hint of a smile.  Red Bird's eyes were brimming but the tears stayed where they were.  "Yes...that much is true.  I wish it were not, but perhaps it's the way of all Ocryxes...except for X.  I have yet to ever see him become truly angry about something, he's always been very sweet.  But he's not full blooded like the others--"

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