"We're at grandma's house," Jason whispered, nudging Crystal, who was sound asleep in the back seat.
"Is Mommy here?" Crystal asked, stretching her arms.
"No, she might come later," Jason replied. "Come on, sleepy head. Let's go see Grandma. Get up, get up!"
Jason lugged suitcases to the door as Crystal stumbled after him, rubbing her eyes.
Jason rang the doorbell. "My sweeties!" Grandma blurted out as she opened the door. "Come in. Come in!" She leaned forward and hugged Jason. Then she turned to Crystal. "Oh, my Crystal Kitty!" she laughed and gave Crystal a big hug.
Grandma turned to Jason and murmured, "Where's Clara?"
"We had an argument, Mom. I don't know if she's going to make it, this time."
"Oh, darling, I'm sorry."
"It's just one of those things."
"Oh, every marriage has problems. You just need to keep working on them." She turned to Crystal and held out her arms again. "So how's my Crystal Cat?"
"Okay," Crystal pouted.
"Oh, dear. Come to me. Would you like to play fairy?"
"Oh, yes, grammy!" Claire brightened.
"Here, take my hand. Let's go find the fairy wings." They pranced to the kitchen, and Grandma handed Crystal a cookie. Then she attached the fairy wings to Crystal's shoulders.
"Let's go outside while Daddy puts all that heavy stuff away."
Crystal giggled as Grandma tickled her. Grandma led Crystal out to the trellis where red and yellow roses were blooming. A kitty was hiding behind the bushes, ready to pounce on Crystal's feet.
A butterfly flitted by. "Grammy, a fairy!" Crystal blurted out.
"Oh, yes, a swallowtail fairy! They're rare nowadays. They must have heard you were coming, deary."
Grandma and Crystal heard a crashing noise inside the house and turned to each other.
"Ouch!" Jason yelled.
Grandma dashed into the house, finding Jason in front of the closet in the guest room.
"I was putting my suitcase in the closet, and suddenly this stuff cascaded from the shelf," Jason swept his arm across the closet opening.
"Oh, dear. I thought maybe it was time to clean out the closets. Don't worry about it. I'll pick it up. By the way, how are you and Clara getting along, really?"
"She thinks that I'm too emotionally distant. She thinks I hold in my feelings too much. I have fifty people working under me, and I have deadlines. I have to work all the time, and I get stressed out at work, that's all."
"You are your father's son. Don't worry. Every relationship has to iron out issues."
"She's really mad at me this time...."
"Oh, honey, I'm sorry." She held up her finger. "Let me just check on Crystal. The fence isn't what it used to be since your father died." She stepped toward the back door. When she got there, Crystal was nowhere to be seen.
"Crystal! Crystal, honey, where are you?" she shouted.
Jason soon followed her into the backyard. "Crystal, where are you? Mom, where do you think she could have gone?"
"Oh, dear, some of those boards are loose. Why don't you check the other side of the fence. I'll go look in the house."
Jason soon found several loose boards and squeezed through to the other side. He remembered how years ago as a boy he used to slip through the fence in the same way.
Jason rushed into the forest behind the house. Calling for Crystal as he dashed along the uneven ground, he tripped on a root and hit his head on a tree trunk. Rising slowly to his feet, he rubbed his head and plunged deeper into the foliage. He stumbled upon a familiar stream as a swallowtail butterfly flitted by. Jason stared for a moment into the clear, still water, lost in the profound stillness of the meadow. He remembered how he once ran free between the trees, finding columbine and tiger lilies and arrow-leaf tansy, occasionally spotting an arrow head or an interesting rock. His eyes shifted focus as he gazed at the still surface of the stream, and he noticed his reflection but quickly turned away. Crystal had wandered off once before and was lost in the neighborhood for nearly an hour before a neighbor brought her home. So Jason was dashing here and there calling Crystal's name and finally decided to head back to the house to find out if his mother had found her.
He stumbled upon the stream once again. Suddenly he remembered something: When he was a boy, one day as he lounged on a cool stone listening to the stream, all tension had slipped away--as if the surrounding trees were breathing tranquility into him, and his consciousness ballooned. The pine needles were glittering in the sunset, and he sensed that he and the trees were part of countless fields of light-filled, living energy. He felt as though a god had breathed into him--as if he were connected to all things. After that, sometimes when he gazed into the stream, he would see strange golden symbols, such as a golden chalice and a golden plate. As he grew older, after awhile he had retreated from the meadow, partly because he was more interested in girls and partly because he was afraid of what he was seeing. He couldn't help gazing again at his reflection. In the water he wore a golden crown on his head. An equal-armed cross floated over his heart. A golden plate and chalice rested in front of him on a white tablecloth. Unable to believe his eyes, he blinked, and the vision disappeared.
Jason twirled around, noticing a swallowtail on a tiger lily. Something was moving in the foliage beneath it. For a moment, Jason thought he had seen a little man running between the plant stalks, or was it Crystal? Jason lunged for whatever was ruffling the plants just a few feet away.
Stay on the same path.
Take a different path.