"W ill you not come inside?” Aster steps back from the entrance.

But Jocef does not move. He stands at the entrance, his amber eyes lit with pain. There is something different about his face, she sees. It is in the set of his jaw, the smoothness of his forehead. It is in his upright bearing.

A decision has been made, she knows, suddenly. One that he will bear nobly. But that does not stop the wing beats of her own heart.

“I have come to bid you farewell.” His voice is low.

She startles. “I do not understand.”

He is still, as if every movement must be accounted for. “My father has ordered that I leave the island. At sunset, a ship sails.”

She swallows the sudden breath. Bites down the questions of where and when and how long and why. She only knows that she stands in his presence for the last time and what that means, what that means.

She looks down, sees not the gray stone of the street, but a room swathed in silk, Jocef’s long fingers holding the globus in his father’s study.

A new knowledge rises in her, sharp as the blade of a sword. It is not true what Papa said, that Jocef is the wind and she is the earth and they have no place together. It is not true. For what of the nest they found, all those years ago, the nest that had fallen from a tree. They had raised the egg to chick, in the stone hut in the courtyard of their home.

A bird cannot lay her egg on the tail of the wind. And it will not build a nest in the earth. So it finds a tree: of this earth, but raised above it.

She should have known this, her womanly knowledge should have murmured, we must find a tree, gather grasses and twigs, weave the future in a place that is neither sky nor ground.

As she stands there, and wills him not to take leave of her, she knows something more. Perhaps he is the air, but she can ground him with her belief in him. And if she is the earth, he can lift her beyond the borders of her spirit.

She bows her head. “We are fated to always be traveling away from each other.”

Jocef does not answer. He turns, walks down the street. She watches. He is going. He is almost gone.

At the very last moment, he turns.

She lifts her hand.

Fare thee well.


The hammocks are filled around Ramon, and the air is heavy with sighs and snores and whistles and groans. Ramon tries to close his eyes, but they feel scratchy as unspun wool, and he despairs of sleep, even as waves of nausea wash over him. Eventually, he climbs down from his hammock and staggers across to the ladder that leads up to the deck. He drags his woolen blanket behind him.

Up on the deck, there is little to hold on to, to steady himself. He finds a small corner, behind a wooden trunk, and melts down into it. Then he tips back his head. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 571)