After a beautiful week in Jerusalem full of feasts, singing, and celebration, the micro delegation from Sundar was preparing to go home. They had gathered in the palace's courtyard. They had packed their travel bags and gathered them into a pile. Avi made general thanks to each. Jenil and Mr. Patel thanked him. Amoli shook his hand as she talked about a host of unrelated things.
When he came to his father and mother, they gave hugs and shared their warmth with him.
“You’re not coming with us, are you?” Avi’s dad said.
“Where will you go?”
“Dendrill, in the Craggy Mountains,” Avi said. “There is rebellion there. Maybe I can sway them back to the King’s cause.”
“But why?” his dad asked.
“For the sake of the King,” Avi replied with a simple but satisfied smile. His father clasped his broad hand across Avi’s shoulder and returned a proud smile.
“For the sake of the King,” his dad repeated.
“When will we see you again?” his mother asked.
“I’ll come to Sundar in the Spring, probably.”
“I want to come,” Margreth said. Avi knelt down and put his hands on either side of his little sister’s face.
“It won’t be long before you’re going on your own adventures.” He hugged her and then each of his siblings. He gave his affection to his parents.
“What about you, Carina?” their mother asked.
“Well, I’ve got to get my truck,” she said.
“Don’t forget to fill up the tank this time,” Rachit said. They laughed.
“But then,” Carina said. “I’ll go to Tamesh City to begin my studies at the King’s Research Institute.”
“I can hardly believe my babies are so grown up,” Avi’s mom said as she hugged her twins in a tight embrace. Their dad got in on it as well.
“What about Bhoora,” Margreth asked.
“He’s been handy to have,” Avi said. “I was thinking he’d come with me.”
“What about you, Uncle Rachit?” Carina asked.
“I’m going home,” Rachit said with mock anger. The kids giggled at his abrupt demeanor. “Someone has to go home to make sure the next delegation is more than thirteen next year.”
Avi and Carina thanked Uncle Rachit for his guidance and friendship. They lingered a while longer in the courts of the palace until the transport had arrived to take all but Avi to the Skyport. They shut the massive door behind them. When they had gone, Avi stood for a few stoic minutes under the colonnade with his bear. He thought about how his world had tilted anew. His entire life had changed. Not even a piece of him remained the same.
“Hey, Avi,” Zariah said as she emerged from the stairwell. She paused for a second, standing in front of him. He didn't budge. “What?”
“You’re so beautiful,” Avi said.
“Wow,” Zariah said. “Aren’t you the guy that can’t talk to girls?”
“I could see how you would mistake me for that guy.”
“Are you ready to go?” Zariah asked.
Avi reached for her. She dropped her bag from her shoulder and let him pull her close. He looked down into her liquid eyes. He could see himself silhouetted against the sky in the deep umber. He reached up and let the back of his hand trace the delicate line of her cheek. Pushing back, he wound his fingers into her dark hair. Their lips met in a gentle caress. He could have lived in the moment for ages, but he released her, not letting his desire spill into greediness. She clung to him, apparently not wanting it to end.
“Now I’m ready,” he said. She reluctantly let go and picked up her bag once more. Avi gathered his things, and they began walking. Bhoora trailed behind as they walked into the light.