The Old Woman
By the Mighty Lu Bu
The Disclaimer is now on Slim Fast
The story uses characters from the story "Reunions" but it is NOT a direct sequel to that story.
It was a hot summer day as the old woman sat down in her chair as she watched three young children play. Her wrinkles shifted as her mouth formed a smile at the sight of her great grandchildren. She was sad though as a tear moved down the patchwork that was her cheek. Heir once blonde hair now completely gray and very thin as well.
She wasn't going to last much longer, she knew that. She didn't know how long, but she knew that she wanted to spend what little was left with her family. She had buried her husband Ellander some years ago… and her daughter Ephinia had died two decades ago after contracting a severe fever.
The old woman had done everything she could to save her daughter, but there were limits to her ability as a doctor. The trials of life, the things that wear on so many great people throughout their lives. At this age, the old woman knew something that many young bucks in their twenties and thirties just can't seem to understand. Its good thing humans are not immortal.
The old woman wasn't sure she could bury her loved ones for an eternity, but on the same vine she hated the fact she was not going to see her great grandchildren grow up and marry. She bowed her head and focused carefully as her chest suddenly exploded with pain. She was careful not to let it show.
After a moment, the pain passed. A little boy ran up to her shouting, "Grandma, grandma!"
The old woman smiled, "What's that you got there?"
The little boy held up a small lizard who was struggling to escape the boy's fingers. The old woman replied, "That's nice, but I think he'd like to be let go…"
The boy nodded, "Ok…" He dropped the reptilian creature to the ground and took off running into the grass with his sister.
Then suddenly the door open as another old woman walked out. She said, "Aunt Gabrielle, shouldn't you come inside."
Gabrielle smiled, "Sarah... not today… I've got the whole day ahead of me and I don't want to waste it."
"There is always tomorrow isn't there?"
Gabrielle lost her smiled, "No there isn't…"
"What do you mean?" Queried Sarah.
Gabrielle eyed the somewhat younger Sarah, "You've been through this with your mother."
Sarah paused catching her breath, "I see… well what do you want me to do?"
"Nothing… let it happen. I've lived a good long life… sooner you realize this, the better your time will be…"
Sarah sat down beside her, "Well shoot, I'm only 85. I've got plenty of time…"
Gabrielle laughed, "And I can go on a trek to Chin."
Sarah laughed once, then sighing, "Can't I at least send out messengers so that people can be here."
"Please do, I don't have long, I would like to give everyone the chance to say goodbye. Especially Eve."
"Gabrielle, Eve is not well herself."
Gabrielle ignored her instead looking up into the sky as she said, "I'm coming soon, sorry it took me so long Xena."
Three days later Gabrielle rests in bed. Her ability to walk was just recently lost to her. It broke her heart a little, she would have preferred to spend the last day of her life outside, but instead she was cooped up in this house staring out a ceiling instead of a brilliant blue sky.
A little boy peeked through the door. Gabrielle turned her head to see her great grandson, "Elias, you can come in if you want to."
Elias slowly crept in, he seemed afraid in some way. Gabrielle said, "There is nothing to be worried about. No monsters under the bed and just in case I've got my staff and sais by my bed. But it's not that is it?"
He shook his head once sadly.
Gabrielle replied, "You're worried about me aren't you?"
The boy shook his head again, sadness filling his eyes.
Gabrielle extended her now trembling arm, "Come here…"
Elias slowly approached Gabrielle taking her hand. Gabrielle gently pulled him close making contact with the young boys eyes. She said, "You needn't worry. I know you're sad and you love me very much… But these things happen to everyone. It's just my time…"
Fighting his tears he said, "I don't want it to be your time."
Using all of her strength Gabrielle pulled him into a hug, "I know sweetie I know. But I'm going to a happy place. Going to be with your grandmother Ephinia, I get to tell her how such a nice good boy you are."
"I'm going to miss you…"
Gabrielle held the boy closely, "I'm going to miss you too." She kissed his head as she just held her arms around him.
Gabrielle grew steadily worse as the days went buy. Eventually members of her family showed up one by one. Her son, Lyceus, named after Xena's brother who was killed, was among them.
Gabrielle smiled, "Son… it is good to see you."
Lyceus paused for a moment, then as his wife ushered everyone else outside of the room. Lyceus broke, "Mother…"
Gabrielle looked at her boy warmly. His clothes gave away the fact that he had a job working for the romans administrating the city of Athens. Gabrielle could almost chuckle at that, she could remember fighting the Romans once, but now they ruled all of Greece, and in truth, things didn't turn out so bad. Perhaps it was because she and Xena were able to prevent Caesar from being the one to rule Rome in the end.
Gabrielle stated, "Lyceus… I'm glad you could make it."
They talked for hours after that, it turned out to be a moment of joy for her. For both of them were lost in conversation and each forgot about Gabrielle's impending end. Finally after sometime Gabrielle said, "Lyceus, it's been great, but I'm really tired and I need some sleep. I do have one more question."
Lyceus stared at the aged green eyes, "Yes mother?"
"Do you still have my scrolls?"
"Yes… I keep them very well protected."
Gabrielle sighed in relief, her words; they were all that was left of her journeys with Xena, once Gabrielle died. At least someone could read them and still learn about what a great woman Xena was, and just how important they were to each other. Xena eyed the ceiling, imagining the sky on the other side. Her thoughts drifted to Xena.
Sarah and Lyceus watched closely as Gabrielle continued to slip away from this world. Sarah said, "Time is really close now."
Lyceus fought his tears at seeing his mother on the verge of death, but finally there was a knock on the door as Sarah rushed to open it. It was Eve. The woman, Eve, accompanied by her youngest daughter and a walking stick as she stepped inside the house saying, "Sarah… you look well."
Sarah smiled, "So do you…"
"Very nice lie, now take me to Gabrielle."
Sarah nodded once, "Right this way."
Eve, the old woman with her daughter beside her, struggled into the room. Eve smiled, "Gabrielle."
Gabrielle opened her eyes thinking for a moment she was seeing Xena, but in fact it was Eve, "Eve…"
"It's not like you Gabrielle to lie around all day."
Gabrielle smiled, "Clearly you don't know me very well…"
Eve approached brushing a bit of gray hair from Gabrielle's face, "Yea… I know you. I know you're loving, I know you're one of the best people I've ever known. Since my mother died, and even before then, I always knew you'd be there for me, as if you were my mother. Thank you."
"Didn't you forget that I stabbed you once?"
Eve laughed, "No relationship is perfect."
Gabrielle nodded painfully, "Yea… What happened with Eli's message?"
"A young Nazarene carpenter took over spreading Eli's message after I retired."
"Glad the way of love is still being taught in the world," barely finished before suffering a harsh cough.
Eve stared back her daughter, no words were spoken but she understood that her mother wanted to be alone with Gabrielle for a while.
Eve was determined on one thing; she was going to see it to the end. Eve said, "Gabrielle, I love you."
Gabrielle smiled, "I love you too."
Four hours pass as Lyceus and Eve walk out of Gabrielle's room. Eve was visibly shaken, "Her… her…"
Lyceus continued, "Her last words were… Xena, I see Xena. Don't you see her?"
Eve finished, "Then she stopped… died."
Everyone bowed their heads in sadness at the passing of a great, caring, loving compassionate woman who meant so much to each of their lives, among them Gabrielle's grandchildren, Virgil and his kids, some of the descendants of Iolaus, members of the surviving Amazon tribe, and the two gods Ares and Aphrodite, who kept themselves invisible so no one else could see them. She would be missed.
Gabrielle was floating, or at least it felt like she was. She felt like herself, but she wasn't where she was before. Honestly she didn't know where she was. But she felt warm, happy.
"Hey sleepy head, you going to wake up?"
Gabrielle opened her eyes, "Xena…"
"It's about time you got here; I've only been waiting for you for your entire life."
Gabrielle smiled, "I've missed you, sorry it took me so long."
"Nonsense, don't apologize, you got to have a family, and you got to be happy. I was glad to wait knowing that. C'mon, let's get out of here," Xena extended her hand to the bard.
"Ok," Gabrielle reached up and took Xena's hand, "What's going to happen?"
Xena smiled, "We're going to walk down that path again, you and I, first here, and then into our next lives."
"As long as it's with you."
Xena smiled as she pulled Gabrielle into a warm embrace, "I shall always be with you."