A warm embrace (Day 1, Khao Rom Temple)

Lyen felt alone.

She was shoulder to shoulder with Brothers and Sisters; yet she was so far from where she wanted to be: beside her Marisol. Her mind flashed to those caramel brown eyes, her own hand traced the path Marisol's had traveled along her neck. Her fingertips landed on the wooden prayer beads which rode the curve of her shoulder and ran beneath her kasaya robe. A Sister caught her gesture, "Join me in prayer," she said. Ly nodded and kneeled beside her.

Despite the comforting sounds they made, her thoughts were still with the mechanic's pained looks these last few days whenever their eyes met in the galley or in the hall. How could she communicate in silent arbitration the depth of guilt; the pang of love without betraying the duality of her condition? A nun should want for no fleshly thing. She should exist in the realm of the spiritual. She can't let anyone touch her--see her like those brown eyes had seen her.

Hands in the lotus, Lyen tried to relax into the chant.

The tiny voice of her twenty-something self chided her for stunting love in its crib, but these myriad robes had reminded her that in solidarity there was once proven safety. But she didn't feel safe. Not like she felt inside Marisol's embrace. Was it her own fault that she didn't feel safe among others seeking enlightenment?

Her will had been tested by the Alliance officers and she had been found wanting--blemished by lies which had spilled out of her as plentiful as Keller's plum wine. It was a focusing moment, realizing that she had let herself slip into deceit. She had thought she was protecting someone. 'The truth will out,' that voice had said in her ear. The looks she received from the monks and nuns aboard the Veil had been chilling enough, though their conversation was encouraging. Lyen could see inside their heads. Disappointment.

The prayer dried in her mouth as an errant eye rolled over the other practitioners.

Ly was disappointed, too. Allowing herself to be with Marisol--really be with her--had awakened something long dormant. The world was more mysterious, less predictable, with emotion leading ahead of faith. The comfort of her ten years were falling away like unfastened armor. But it had been worth it to know and to be known, hadn't it? To let herself be touched and to touch. Her teaching had brought with it a stoicism that kept others at arm's length. There was a safety in pleasantries and kindness. One knew exactly how and who they were to others in light of their deeds.

The pursuit of enlightenment had been, for her, a lucky happenstance. Joining the Order of the Interverse was a decision made out of spite. In time, and in spite of herself, their lessons began to sink in. Lyen could still recall the warm, comforting energy washing over her when she first felt the Verse calling to her. She had been accepted for who she was despite her wrongdoing and her vices. Caring elders emboldened her with their seeming limitless peace. It was that warm embrace she tuned into now.

Finally, her chant settled into its rhythm, and she allowed herself to fall away. Fall away from it all, the room, the other voices chanting beside her, from everything. In her mind there was but a single point of light and under it she saw herself, eyes gazing upwards under the glow. Then, a smile crept to her face as two slender arms encircled her from behind: Marisol's cheek pressed against her own.

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