Taking a Moment to Relax

Once they had finished cleaning up from the fight, things became rather dull, so far as Liesel was concerned.  The Stars might consider themselves to be totally different from the Crosses, with their own community and their own rules for governing it, but Liesel couldn’t see any difference.  Both groups wanted to talk everything to death.  The only good thing about the Stars was that they didn’t expect kids to stay in the meeting.  That meant that they were allowed to go out to the playground near the community center.

It turned out to be the same park they’d visited with Konrad, where they’d first met David.  This time, they were allowed to see the whole playground, since they didn’t have to stay where Konrad could see them.  Liesel found the large climber that Markus had played on during their first visit and climbed up to a platform with two slides coming from it.

“Hey, Olivia,” she said, grinning at the other girl.  “I didn’t know you were here.”

Olivia nodded.  “Daddy told Mommy to keep us outside during the meeting,” she said.  Then, she shook her head.  “I didn’t know why, but them Mommy said there was a fight!”

“Everyone’s all right,” Liesel said, nodding.  Her brows furrowed and she shook her head.  “Mr. David mentioned that there was a map of gateways, like the one over in the forest there.”

“It’s in the book that the Elders keep,” Olivia said, nodding.  Her brows furrowed and she shook her head.  “Most of them are gone, though.  They got closed or broken.”

“How do you break a doorway?” Frieda asked, shaking her head.

Olivia shrugged.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I just know they broke somehow.  Mr. Malcolm was telling Daddy about it.  Crosses closed some of them, he said, but a lot more were broken.”

Liesel hummed to herself.  Then, she sat on the slide.  At the bottom, she looked up at Konrad.  “How do you break a doorway?” she asked, shaking her head.  After a moment, she seemed to think better of the question and added, “I mean… the magic doorways, that lead to the Otherworld.  How could one of them get broken?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Konrad said, shrugging.  He ruffled her hair and said, “We’ll work on the problem together, later.  Markus might be able to get a copy of their book.”

“Why Markus?” Frieda asked, as she reached the bottom of the other slide.  “Why not you or Opa?”

Konrad smiled.  “If these Elders are anything like the ones back home, they’ll figure that Staffs are the ones that do research,” he said, nodding.  “Markus is our staff, so they might lend him a copy of the book Olivia mentioned.”

Frieda nodded and then scampered over to where Markus was playing with Johannes.  It was a large ball-shaped climber with webbing strung between the larger points of it.  Johannes was climbing around in the webbing, pretending to be a spider.  Markus was pretending to be a fly that was trying to get free of the webbing.

“Do you want to borrow the portal book from the Eden community Elders?” she asked, frowning up at him.

He climbed up to perch on one of the large green beads at the juncture of several bars.  “Yeah, sure,” he said, nodding.  He looked over at Johannes.  “Do you want for me to borrow it?”

“I think we need to see it,” Johannes said, his expression serious.  Then, he looked at Frieda and said, “Do you want to be a pretty butterfly?  Come into my web!”

“Pass,” Frieda called, as she ran back over to the big climber.  She climbed up the side, using the hand and footholds.  Then, she grinned at Olivia and Liesel.  “Johannes is pretending to be a spiddy spider,” she said.

Olivia shook her head.  “Why’s he wanna be a spider?” she asked.  She made a face and added, “Spiders are icky!”

“I think it’s because that dome has webbing in it and it makes him think he’s a giant spider in a giant nest,” Frieda said.  She hopped onto the platform and then said, “I don’t want to pretend to be stuck, though.”  Then, she went down the slide.  She was just hopping to her feet when she heard Opa calling her and her sister and brothers.

She sprinted over to the entrance of the playground.  Once she was there, she caught Opa by the hand.  “Is the boring stuff over?” she asked.  “Markus wants to borrow book.”

“The one that talks about the doorways,” Markus said, glancing over at David.  He adjusted his glasses and shrugged.  “It might help us know how everyone here became tainted.”

“And more about the doorways,” Frieda said, nodding.

“Not a bad idea,” David said, nodding.  He smiled at Konrad and nodded.  “I’ll clear it with the Elders and then Markus can borrow my copy.”

“Thank you,” Johannes said, grinning.  He looked up at Konrad and spread his hands.  “Why do they keep forgetting?” he asked.

“Because it’s not how they do things,” Konrad replied, lifting one shoulder.  He smiled at David.  “The Cross is in charge of things like this, even if he is only seven years old.”

“Right,” David said.  He chuckled and looked down at Johannes.  “Didn’t keep you from skipping a meeting, though.  Did it?”

“It’s not my fault you didn’t invite me to stay,” Johannes said.  He looked up at Opa and said, “I was a spider, Opa.”  He pretended that his pointer fingers where the spider’s mouth, waving them back and forth and making clicking noises.

“No spiders in the car,” Opa said, as Liesel and Frieda screamed and hid behind Konrad.  He chuckled and then shook David’s hand.  “I’ll get in touch with you about that book,” he said.

“Sure,” David said, nodding.  Then, he called for his own children.  “Time for lunch, kids,” he said, as Josh and Olivia ran up.  “Say goodbye to your friends.”

“We’ll see them again, right?” Olivia said, frowning.

Frieda grinned at Olivia and nodded.  “We visit here every summer,” she said, her tone certain.  “Even if you don’t see us again this summer, we’ll be back next year.”

Olivia grinned and then hugged Frieda.  Turning to Liesel, she hugged her as well.  “I hope you can come to the founders’ festival next month, at least.”

“Yes,” Liesel said.  Then, she giggled and danced back from Olivia.  Waving, she said, “Enjoy your lunch, Livie.  We’ll see you again soon.”  Then, she scampered off towards where Opa had parked the van.