The woman whom Hilda had hired to care for her grandmother was a stranger in town. That was an oddity. No one moved to the sleep little farm town. Hardly anyone visited. She had told the shopkeeper Mr. Bevins that she had cousins in a nearby town, when she came to put up a “job wanted” note up on his bulletin board.
Hilda had entered Standard Wares just as Mrs. Seawell was clicking the last bit of information into the electronic wall. The grey-haired woman had struck up a conversation and Hilda had felt an immediate kinship.
Mrs. Seawell was tall and big-boned. She wore her hair in a tight bun but curling wisps of it were always escaping. Aside from this aberrance in her appearance, she was scrupulously clean and radiated a quiet authority and order.
Hilda had hired her on the spot, not even bothering to check her references – which was very unlike her.
Now the woman bustled about the cottage cleaning and humming. Hilda was not the most stringent housekeeper. But Mrs. Seawell was wiping windowpanes, dusting rafters and washing every cup and saucer. The house was prepared as if for an important event.
Cleaning done, Mrs. Seawell brought a glass of cold water into the bedroom.
“Here you are. I thought you’d like something to drink.” She placed the glass in the gnarled hands of the old blind woman and then sat on a stool near the bed. “Would you like anything else?”
“It is you, Tamara, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Yes, Beatrix, dearie, it’s me.”
“Oh, I’m so glad. I hoped you would be the one to come.”
“It took the girl long enough to leave. I thought I’d be too late.”
“Yes, I know, Tam, Hilda is very attached to me. I thought I might have to order her to go see her sister. We have very little time now.”
Beatrix was beginning to sweat profusely. Tamara Seawell got a basin and cloth and began to bath her hands and feet with cool water.
“Beatrix, I have to make a report. What do you want me to tell them?”
Hilda’s grandmother sighed. “They aren’t going to be pleased. Tell them I’ve taught her all her lessons. She is talented and discreet. There have been no suspicions in the town. I gave her the amulet and told her her special name.”
“That’s it?” Tamara dropped the cloth into the basin with a splash. “She has a duty to fulfill. She needs to know that.”
“Tam, please. I was very direct with her mother and we all know how that turned out. But I have prepared…”
She had to stop speaking. Her body began to tremble. Her teeth chattered. Slowly and with some difficulty Beatrix composed herself.
“I have prepared something. I have set a very specific dream sequence in motion. She will gently come to understand who she is and what she must do. The amulet will help her and those twins of Giselle’s, my great granddaughters, are strong in our blood. They are only children but they can help her, too.”
Mrs. Seawell spread a white gossamer sheet onto half the bed and then carefully lifted Beatrix onto it.
“I bet that feels cool and clean. That’s good, you’ve stopped trembling. You’re right, they won’t be pleased. But Viv will see her. I hope she’s as talented as you say. She’s needed. Things have gotten bad, Beatrix. You’ve been isolated here.”
“Please, please, give her some time. Let her discover it for herself.”
“I will advise them to wait. But I can’t promise anything. They don’t really listen to me. Anyway…”
“What Tamara? There’s something else. I can feel a troubling presence near, but I can’t see it clearly. My physical eyes stopped working long ago. But now my inner sight is fading too.”
“I hate to even say it…but there’s a Domus Durum cruiser orbiting this planet.”
“No, no,” Beatrix cried. “They can’t know about her. You know how careful we have been.”
“It may mean nothing,” said Mrs. Seawell trying to soothe her.”They are having one of their stupid rallies today in your capital city.”
“Is Loomis with them?”
“Yes,” whispered Tamara.
“Oh this is terrible. I will never forgive myself. But she will be safe when she gets to Giselle’s. You’ll see to that, won’t you?” And she began to shiver again and then to shake violently.
“I’ll see to everything, dearie, don’t worry. It’s your time now. Don’t fight it. I’m here with you.” She held out her hand. Beatrix grasped it tightly.
The shaking became a rhythmic rippling of her flesh. Her breathing slowed and grew deeper. Intense heat began to radiate from her. Soon she was actually glowing. A wind blew up whipping Mrs. Seawell’s errant curls. It was a whirlwind erupting from Beatrix’s body. A low rumble barely in the audible range vibrated through the room
Beatrix now seemed to be composed of fiery spots of light, her eyes shining like twin stars. She let out one last breath and Tamara was sure she heard the word farewell. And then everything was still. Beatrix’s body had collapsed in on itself.
Her final caretaker looked down at the gossamer sheet and saw her friend was now a vague outline of fine white ash. She gathered up the sheet into a neat package.
Late that night, Mrs. Seawell went into the meadow next to the house and shook out the sheet under the light of the moon. The winds carried the remains of Beatrix Bluestar high into the sky. According to Beatrix’s beliefs her spirit had already gone to the Creator, the being that was both Mother and Father, to join the great celestial adventure after death.