The Cloths of Heaven

The Cloths of Heaven

She does not understand beauty. He does not understand Vardin.

Finally. Acceptance in a world Josh wasn’t sure he was ready to accept. He and his friend’s sister share an evening sky in Vardin.

517 S
Vardin Science Fiction Fantasy
Flash Fiction Short Story

Family dinner became family gathering, and Josh was finally able to start settling in to his friend’s home. Vardin architecture was imposing, to say the least, and the thick, plush carpets; richly-colored hangings over wood paneling and ancient stone; and the exquisite, expensive furnishings made it difficult to be comfortable until the children were playing across the rug; the young adults laughed and talked around the fire and from various perches; and the mother and father of the home snuggled on the great couch before the hearth. The family was Vardin to the core but for some reason, preferred when in private to speak French, which Josh knew, but occasionally when their fluency in it exceeded his, dipping into plain American English to include him.

But as much as they tried to make him feel at home, Josh was still American, an intern, an outsider, still trying to take in all the things that made Vardin Vardin and foreign to him, still a little startled under the intent gaze of Renaiven’s eyes. Jean had introduced his father by name and stood back a moment to see how Josh would react. Renaiven’s eyes were black all the way through, no white, and with golden flecks. When Josh did nothing more than blink twice, they introduced him briefly to Lenee, the youngest daughter, who had clearly inherited the trait. Finally dinner and acceptance in a world he wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to accept.

After perhaps an hour of conversation, Josh found himself drifting to a small balcony on the outer edge of the room. He loved the colors in Vardin, made intense by the otherwise invisible atmosphere of the Barrier overhead, and he suddenly wanted to see the stars in that vivid night sky.

When he stepped out onto the balcony, he saw Lenee, sitting on the far side and hanging her legs over the edge between two wide rails, and nearly started. She was leaning back against the drapes, so her dress almost seemed one with them, and looking out over the view of the water gardens below.

“Bonsoir,” he greeted softly.

Lenee was the one he could not claim to know. She was always quiet and out of the way, barely able to glimpsed if he was not looking for her.

Her eyes glanced toward him, but she smiled softly and did not move. “You can come out.”

The reply was in English, and for some reason, that made him smile back as he sat down next to her.

The air was cool and the sky as vivid as he had imagined, an intense blue that remembered its color when fading toward utter darkness with bright white pinpricks and one evening star shining brilliantly just over the horizon. The sun had not yet slipped away completely, and its golden light spread benevolently over the valley of Vardin. The scent of roses and plants he had not studied the names of yet wafted up on a mild breeze.

“It’s beautiful out here,” he said suddenly, then glanced over at a slight movement at the corner of his eye.

Lenee had stiffened slightly. “Beautiful,” she murmured. “I never know what that means.”

Josh hesitated, then answered as if it was a reasonable question. “You know, pleasing to look at.”

She tilted her head to look over at him, her open gaze almost meeting his. “I can’t see color.”

He hesitated at that, the way she said it so simply, like it meant everything and nothing to her all at once. “Color blind?” he asked, but even as he said it, he realized he already knew the answer.

She answered anyway. “I only see heat.”

“But your father…” He trailed off at the sad denial in her eyes.

She shrugged, that casual French shrug not at all of Vardin. “The gifts that pass down are unique.” The gifts, a topic no Vardin native spoke of with an outsider who had not proven themselves trustworthy. She saw heat.

Josh leaned back, trying to take it in. Lenee had a sweetness, an innocence about her that drew out a person’s protective instinct, and he couldn’t deny how badly he wished he could reach up and take hold of that rich tapestry of blues and distant stars and lay them like a cloth at her feet.

A remembered poem, murmured softly,

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light…

She would have to strain to hear him, but she must have, for she smiled shyly just a little. “And those are beautiful?”

“Yes,” he answered her. “They are beautiful.” She was blind, in a sense, but not deaf, not deaf, and he went on. “The sky right now is the color of the low rumble of a father telling a bedtime story to a much-loved daughter.” He heard her catch her breath. “And there’s one bright star, brighter than the rest. It’s distinct and like a last, sweet kiss on her head. The sun is barely over the mountains. It’s shedding dark gold light, like the hum of a mother’s lullaby from the doorway as she walks out into the hall and it drifts away.”

He fell silent, uncertain if he had made a fool of himself.

I have spread my dreams under your feet…

She stared upward at the evening skies above them, then turned slowly, reaching out a hand. Gently, she traced over his features, and he realized that while she could see his body heat, this was the only way she could make out the details. At last, she dropped her hand to her side and smiled shyly, just barely, and ducked her head.

“You’re beautiful.”

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

After a long moment, he remembered how to breathe.

#


Vardin Science Fiction Fantasy

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8 Responses to The Cloths of Heaven

  1. Rabia says:

    Ohhh. *sigh*

    I love how you are able to capture these small yet significant, poignant and powerful moments between people.

    • Liana Mir says:

      I believe I'm in love with the moment. Poetry and life has a tendency to teach that appreciation.

      Thank you.

      • Rabia says:

        I learned about those moments from reading Rosemary Sutcliff's historical fiction when I was a child. I highly recommend reading her for seeing it done well in prose.

        Only semi-related question: Do you have any teaching poetry appreciation to children resources to recommend? We read poetry, but I have yet to find a text that explains about metaphor and alliteration and the *sounds* of language without being as dry as toast. (Okay, I know of ONE resource but it is too expensive :P ).

        • Liana Mir says:

          Oooh! I'll have to fish that out sometime.

          Poetry appreciation? Hmm... I was brought up on A.C.E. curriculum and the definitions of all those terms were incorporated into English, though I learned poetry from reading great big books of it. The articles on Wikipedia made me remember something. There was a book once, but it was old and full of different poem forms (need a book of those: defining pantoum, sestina, etc.) and different devices like you're talking about. I found it at the library. You might check there, see if there's anything that really catches your fancy. I found an out-of-print book about haiku there that had an intense effect on how I used language, besides LeGuin's Steering the Craft, which discusses poetic language without the poetry, and that one book. :mutters at inconstant and fickle memory.

          But if all else fails, get some great big books of fun, rollicksome, or classic poetry from the library and use a dry tome in patches. Like go over just the definition or what-have-you, then use the fun books to find that device and elaborate hands-on how poetic devices work. Just a thought. That's basically what I did without prompting when I was little.

  2. Kirsten says:

    I didn't want this to end!
    I love the use of language and the vivid descriptions. I can see and hear this magical place so well, that it's as if I'm there myself.
    What a lovely little corner of the Internet you've created here.

    • Liana Mir says:

      I think there is no higher compliment than not wanting it to end. :sighs with happiness:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It means more to me than I can really say.

  3. G.J. says:

    Oh, I love where this went. I really had no idea when I left the prompt. All I knew was that Vardin & Yeats seemed to be complementary pieces of the same puzzle, and you fit them together... well, beautifully. Thank you so much for working with it. It's one of those things with an ending that leaves me both happy and wistful, and I love all the details you wove throughout.

    • Liana Mir says:

      I could hug you. I'm so glad you liked it. When I first read the prompt, I have to admit I wondered where it would go and who it might refer to, and I had it totally wrong. Then this finally just showed itself and gently suggested I let go of the other ideas. I was worried at first about unleashing a Vardin ficlet on the world without my beautifully wonderful beta seeing it first, but since it was written for you, I bit the big one and did it.

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