A Day So Still and Soft
The day had begun overcast and shadowed; the darkness lingering into the morning. The sunrise was visible only as a brightening of the sky, turning the grey clouds on the horizon briefly opalescent before disappearing into the vault of the heavens. Later on a chill mist had begun to fall, finally settling in for a day of light spring rain.
Delenn sighed. The rain made her joints ache. She rubbed her wrists, first one, and then the other. Her skin was beginning to feel thin and papery, similar to one of the ancient scrolls from the Council library. The Minbari healers had prescribed a powder for her aches and pains, to be taken in water, but it had an extremely bitter taste. She was still, after all this time, occasionally taken by surprise by subtle differences in taste and smell between her old Minbari senses and her now mostly human ones. Sometimes she took the medication in orange juice, which she kept in the house out of habit and memory. It still had to be imported; the trees had never taken to the soil and light of Minbar.
Rain always made her think of John. As she made her way from the bedroom, where she had finished her afternoon meditation, towards the kitchen, she smiled wryly. Everything made her think of John. There was not one moment of the day when he did not occupy her thoughts. Their first spring in Tuzanoor, he had surprised her by asking after her favorite spring flowers, telling her how much he looked forward to seeing the brash bright colors of the first blooms to brave the cold. She had to tell him Minbar had no such plants; their spring was prolonged, with the chill lasting into the brief chaotic green of summer growth. The first signs of renewal were subtle and understated, from the blush of light orange over the senn'tha fields, to the rose haze over the pullar trees that would deepen to bright red narrow leaves in summer.
She sometimes marveled at how many springs she had seen, and from how many vantage points. As she set out cups on a tray, and waited for the water to boil for tea, she tried to recall if there was any springs that stood out especially. One hundred years of worlds turning, undergoing their annual rebirth ceremony, and they all cluttered together in her mind. I am growing old, she thought to herself, old in years, old in body, old in spirit. Still, she had much to look forward to. Susan was coming to dinner, and what was more, she was bringing the meal. That was always an adventure. The last time the human had offered some kind of aquatic animal with short arms that felt like rubber in the mouth. Delenn had stuck to the accompanying grain and vegetables after one attempt to chew the stuff. Susan had laughed at her polite refusal, and also when counting the arms. For some reason it had amused her that there were six.
And next week David would be returning from his trip to Earth, where he had been negotiating for monetary assistance for the new Alliance fleet. He was almost forty now, about the same age his father had been when they had first met. And so like John that sometimes, when he came upon her unawares, her heart leapt into her throat. That didn't happen as often these days. Delenn's duties as advisor to the Alliance president had grown lighter and more ceremonial each year. Last spring she had started spending more time in this small house outside Tuzanoor, in a sparsely populated but scenic village. As a result, she saw less of David, although he visited her as often as his schedule allowed.
Susan came regularly. She had turned over the title of Anla'Shok Na two years ago to a respected Minbari Ranger who had been her lieutenant for years, but she was still was running the training academy. From what Delenn had heard, all the cadets, of every race, were terrified of her. They called her 'Ivanova the Strong' to her face, and 'Ivanova the Terrible' behind her back. They also loved her, and would die for her in an instant. It was a legacy of which Susan could be proud.
The door chime sounded, and she hastily finished pouring the boiling water into the pot, and left the tea to steep while she went to greet her dinner guest.
"Is it never going to stop raining?" demanded Susan, as she stepped into the small foyer of Delenn's retreat. Shaking the raindrops from her hair, she set down an assortment of packages on the small table on the side of the entryway, and embraced her friend. "How are you today? I'm sorry I haven't made it out here the last couple of weeks, but it's been hell at the Academy. New recruits arriving all the time now, and getting them settled in for the summer orientation is keeping me hopping." She shed her light jacket, hanging it carelessly on a hook by the door, then gathered up her parcels and headed for the kitchen. Delenn thought that humans often entered a room like a whirlwind, sweeping everyone along in their cheerful wake. It was something she had always liked about them.
"I know you are busy, and when I am in town, it is the same. Still, we keep to our monthly dinner dates, and I look forward to them, as you know." Delenn went to check the tea, and placed everything they needed on a tray. "Let's sit for a moment before we eat, shall we? I would like to hear what is happening in your life."
Susan nodded, but kept searching through the packages a moment longer. Finally she found what she wanted, and removed a tall cone of silver paper tied with a thin ribbon. "I found these in the market along with some extras for dinner, and couldn't resist. I had no idea they had spring Earth flowers for sale now in Tuzanoor." She pulled at one end of the ribbon, which had knotted, then finally slid it off the bottom of the paper at the narrow end. As she unwound the paper, a profusion of bright green leaves topped with brilliant yellow blooms emerged. Susan looked around, and Delenn, realizing what she wanted, handed her a deep clear blue vase from the counter. Running water from the tap, Susan placed the flowers in it, then bent over to inhale their fragrance. "Not much perfume to this variety," she said, "but they still smell like spring."
Delenn had picked up the tray and went ahead into the living area where she placed it on a low table in front of the couch. Susan followed, carefully placing the vase on the glass table top, near the center, and sat down next to her friend, gratefully accepting a cup of the steaming, fragrant tea.
"What are they called?" Delenn asked, gently touching the sunny blooms. "The flowers look a bit like teacups, set on frilled saucers."
"Daffodils," replied Susan, in between blowing on her tea to cool it. "Funny name, isn't it? Daffy-down-dillys, my grandmother used to call 'em. They come from bulbs, and survive the coldest winters underground. Then when spring comes, the leaves poke up, then the buds, and then they bloom, briefly. Afterwards the leaves stay around, feeding sunshine back into the bulbs. Winter sends them back to dormancy, to wait for another spring. Very circular." She settled back into the couch cushions, and examined her friend. "You look tired. How are you liking living out here?"
"It is fine. Quiet. A pleasant change from the city, as much as I enjoy it there. I have my apartments at Alliance headquarters when I need to work, or want a faster pace to life. But I like the stillness. John liked it here, the times we visited. It seemed a good place to settle." Delenn looked around the tiny room, there were memories in every corner, not of her husband's presence, but of his life. His personal effects were here, some on display, some hidden away. Twenty years since he had left her, and she still sometimes expected to see him when she entered a room. Looking out the glass doors to the small garden, she saw it was still lightly raining. "It's a soft day," she said, then at Susan's expression, she laughed. "John said some of your people call a day of light rain, a 'soft' day. I always liked the phrase; it is very descriptive."
Susan answered, "Never heard it, but it does fit." She leaned forward, balancing her teacup on her knees. "Twenty years. It's hard to believe." She looked moodily into the yellowish liquid. "Has it gotten any easier for you?"
"Not really. Some." Delenn put down her cup, and studied the blooms on the table. "It is another stage of life, and I know I will see him again." She reached over and placed her hand over Susan's briefly. "I have my work, and I have you and David. It is a good life, and even if I have twenty more years to wait, I will, with no regrets."
Nodding, trying not to show Delenn the tears that stood in her eyes, Susan took another sip, then said, "I need to get our dinner in the warmer or we'll be eating at midnight." Setting down her cup, she replied to Delenn's offer of assistance. "Stay put. I'll be right back." She called over her shoulder as she headed towards the kitchen, "It's Italian tonight. I heard from Lise today, I'll tell you all about it in a minute."
Delenn sat waiting patiently. While she had her friends and her son and her work she would gather memories to store against a time when she might have none of these. She suspected her long winter was yet to come. With the deep certainty of faith, she already knew how it would end. Her soul would eventually break free, and reach upwards, out of the darkness, to touch the light again. The world would turn, the circle would close; and then, once again, her spring would return.