WARNING: This poem contains heartbreaking material. HANKIE WARNING! Highlight to read the detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers and possibly also triggers. It includes crying men, family upheavals, genocide, 2 people left of a large family, and thus the end of the search, reference to Holocaust survivors as a possible resource for coping with family loss, insecurity, awkward family introductions, clinginess, reference to past deaths, arguing over new relationship dynamics, traumatic loss, heartache, and other challenges. However, the overall storyline brings people closer together. Please consider your tastes and headspace before deciding whether this is something you want to read. Because it features a major plot point, though, skipping it would leave a big gap.
"A Hint of the Resurrection"
[Wednesday, June 3, 2015]
Aidan was sniffling by the time
he made the call to Piotr.
"I need ... I need your help,"
Aidan said. "Legal things,
adoption, citizenship ..."
"Okay, back up a bit,"
Piotr said gently. "What's
the context for all this?"
"Braxton found someone,"
said Aidan. "He's been
turning Haiti upside down,
and he managed to locate
Saraphina's cousin Josué."
"Wow, that's big news,"
Piotr said. "Congratulations!"
Aidan sniffled. "We have
a teleporter set to bring them
here as soon as possible, but
since the transfer is meant to be
permanent, it's better to deal with
some red tape before they leave."
"Excellent, that will make my job
much easier," Piotr said. "There
can be no question of refugee status,
of course, but filing the papers front
and back is a lot more secure."
"That's ... that's the point," Aidan said.
"Piotr, this is the end. Between Josué
and Braxton, they confirmed it. There's
no one else to look for. Saraphina might
have other genetic relatives somewhere,
but nobody else that she knew, nobody
who belonged to their extended family."
"My God," Piotr breathed. "I thought
that she had a pretty big family."
"She did." Aidan choked off a sob.
"There were forty-two people, Piotr,
all murdered except for two survivors."
"That's monstrous," Piotr said.
Aidan burst into tears. Even
without being able to sense it
directly, the sheer enormity of
the loss was overwhelming.
On the other end of the phone,
Piotr made soothing noises.
Eventually Aidan managed
to get control of himself again.
"Listen, Aidan, I know this is
a sensitive subject for you, but ...
talk to the Jews," said Piotr.
"What? Why?" Aidan said,
struggling not to flinch at
the reminder, even after
decades had passed.
"Because they know what
it's like to lose a whole family
except for one or two people,"
Piotr said. "They'll understand.
Someone must have written
about it; they'll have instructions
for handling that kind of loss."
"You're probably right," Aidan said.
"I'll ask around and see whether I can
find a counselor with relevant skills."
"Ask Dr. G for that part, since he
has professional connections,"
Piotr said. "You don't have to do
all of this by yourself, Aidan."
"Anyway, I'm going to offer Josué
a place with us," Aidan said. "I hope
for his sake and Saraphina's that he'll
take me up on it, but I can only guess
at how much damage he's carrying.
He might not want the connection,
but he's only fourteen, so I worry."
"Put that right out of your head,"
Piotr said firmly. "Saraphina
attaches like Maxitack, nobody
who's part of her family could
ever walk away from that."
A bright jingle sounded outside.
"They're here," Aidan said.
"I need to go meet them."
"Go on," said Piotr. "I'll
step up the legal stuff here."
Aidan hung up and then
hurried to open the door.
Braxton was tall and slim,
dark glasses over dark skin
hiding eyes that did not work
due to his superpowers.
He had apparently taken
the time to change out of
his scruffy undercover clothes
into something more presentable.
One hand rested on the shoulder
of a black boy with sorrel skin,
his pencil-thin dreadlocks dark
with blond tips from a dye job.
Several piercings decorated
the teenager's face, and he wore
a plain black T-shirt over blue jeans.
"Hi, Aidan, this is Josué," said Braxton.
"He's all clear to stay with you now."
"Thank you," said Aidan. "Josué,
welcome to America. You'll be safe
here, and I'm happy to have you.
My name is Aidan Spencer."
Josué completely ignored him.
"Where she?" the boy demanded
in his lilting Haitian accent.
"You can feel her," Aidan realized.
"Saraphina is inside. Please, come in."
As Josué darted past him, Aidan
flicked out his power to beckon
Drew into the living room.
Braxton shook his head at
the open door, saying, "This is
a family time. I'll go find myself
a nice hotel room. You and I
can square up later on."
"Thank you," Aidan said, and
then closed the door quietly.
Drew came out of the bedroom
with Saraphina squirming like
a greased pig while poor Drew
struggled to keep ahold of her.
"Josué!" Saraphina squealed as
she wrapped herself around him.
Aidan felt the quiescent bond
between them flare up and
pull them into a tight connection.
Josué started crying, his face
pressed into his cousin's hair,
which at the moment was
a cloud of curls because
Drew had just started
to put it into braids.
Aidan steered them
gently toward the couch.
Drew supported them
from the other side,
and Aidan was grateful
to have someone else
with experience in
emotional first aid.
unwound itself a little,
reaching out from Josué
to curl around Drew and
Aidan, drawing them
into the family circle.
Josué hiccupped a sob.
"T'ought it was gone,"
he said. "Never t'ought
dat I'd feel dis again."
"Well, I try to help
her talent so it doesn't
spill over," said Aidan.
Growling, Josué twisted
away from him. "Is what
she is, what she does!"
he said. "She our knitter."
"She knits your family
together," Aidan said.
"That's fine; that is as it
should be. I just don't
want her to do that
with random people."
Josué shook his head.
"Only family," he said.
"When she came to America,
Saraphina was alone," said Aidan.
"So she did what any baby would do,
she grabbed whoever she could."
Josué burst into tears again.
"Supposed to be safe," he wailed.
"We put dem on boat, go'way safe!"
"I'm so sorry that they didn't make it,"
Aidan said. "The Coast Guard found
the boat coming from Cuba. They think
Saraphina's father died from gunshots
while her mother died from exposure.
If you need more details ... later, please."
He pointed with his chin at Saraphina.
"Later, yeah," said Josué. "So glad
to be here, wit her, but -- da ouch."
"Every parting gives a foretaste of death,
every reunion a hint of the resurrection,"
Aidan said softly. "Such is life."
"If you need someone to talk to,
we can help with that," Drew said.
Aidan nodded. "Piotr suggested
looking for Jewish resources."
"Yeah, they must have all kinds of
stuff about family tragedies,"
Drew said. "Good idea."
"Maybe," said Josué,
"but hard to talk."
"That gets a little easier
over time," Aidan said. "For
now, you need a place to stay,
and you're welcome here."
Josué nodded, snuggling
with Saraphina. "Yeah."
"Since you're fourteen,
the government will want
someone to look after you,"
Aidan said. "I volunteer
to stand as your new father."
"No!" Josué snapped. "Papa mwen
die two month --" He waved
a hand over his shoulder.
"Your father died only
two months ago?"
Aidan said, grief and
guilt twisting together
despite his efforts
to shield himself.
He couldn't shut out
his own feelings, after all.
Josué nodded. "They
catch him. He say me run --"
His voice cracked and broke.
The man had probably sacrificed
himself in hopes of saving his son.
Aidan reached out with the barest wisp
of his ability, touching the ragged edge of
loss like testing a saw's edge with a fingertip.
"I can help you come to terms with that,
later, if you wish -- or help you find
someone else who can," he said.
Josué just shrugged. He probably
wasn't used to any kind of counseling.
"You still need someone to help you
with the grownup things," Aidan said.
"What about an uncle instead of a father?
A person usually has only one father,
but often has several different uncles."
Josué counted on his fingers.
"Eight?" Aidan said, watching him.
"You had eight uncles before?"
"Yeah," said Josué. "Could
do one more uncle now."
Aidan heaved a sigh of relief.
"That's good," he said. "I'm so glad
that you've joined our family here."
Josué tucked his chin tighter
against the top of Saraphina's head.
Then he gave an enormous sneeze.
"Sorry," said Drew. "I had just
finished picking out her hair and
started on the braids when you
got here. The detangling spray
is probably a bit much still."
To Aidan, it smelled sweetly
of marshmallow, but then he
didn't have his face right in it.
Josué wrinkled his nose at Drew.
"No braid," he said. "Rope."
"I heard that when Saraphina
was found, she had her hair
in twists, but I never saw them
so I couldn't repeat the style,"
Aidan explained. "She likes
trying all different things."
"Oh, twists?" Drew said,
brightening. "Show me?"
Josué looked around. "Tie?"
"I'll get the kit!" Drew said,
bounding off the couch.
Soon he came back with
a wooden box that held
hair ties, beads, barrettes,
ribbons, and bandanas.
Josué stared at Drew.
Drew just chuckled. "Yeah,
I know, I'm white Irish. But
my best friend is black and I've
been braiding her hair since
we were little. Jaliya has hair
a lot like Saraphina's, but longer."
Josué poked gently at Saraphina
until she sat up enough so that
he could reach her hair to twist it.
He fingered the strands, evidently
finding them smooth enough
to work with, because he
started making the twists.
Drew watched every move,
even though Josué didn't
try to explain the process.
Aidan finally managed to smile.
Despite the pain, his family was growing.
* * *
Braxton Allanmeyer -- He has milk chocolate skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair that he typically shaves off. He is completely blind, and prefers to navigate with a cane. He is left-handed, but when undercover, he pretends to be right-handed; it helps him seem a little clumsy and innocuous. His father is a lawyer and his mother is an executive; Braxton also has two younger sisters. His parents put him through college, where he earned a degree in criminal psychology.
Braxton lives in a large accessible house shared with several other disabled soups including Syncope, Handspring, and the Saenz family. He has bedroom #4 upstairs, with its own covered balcony at the front of the house. His housemate Rei keeps the balcony stocked with plants that have pleasing textures and fragrances. Syncope has the second bedroom on the ground floor, with the Saenz family in the master suite downstairs. Handspring has the fifth bedroom on the upper floor, while Haru Kimura and Rei Moritomo share the master suite upstairs. The open design of the house leaves less for Braxton to bump into as he navigates from one area to another. As a hobby, he enjoys polishing things -- driftwood, seashells, bits of bone or antler, anything he can rub with a piece of sandstone until it is perfectly smooth. He likes to keep dishes of polished objects to play with, and he gives some of the larger pieces to Rei for garden decorations.
In the field, Braxton uses his abilities rather like a private detective. Sometimes he searches for criminals, other times for missing persons. He can infiltrate an area and find out what is happening there. He consults for police departments, search-and-rescue operations, and SPOON. He doesn't hesitate to track down supervillains or even venture into bottom-ten countries. That can lead to long missions. His blindness actually helps him blend in because people tend to overlook anyone with a disability.
Origin: Braxton was born with his superpowers, but it took a long time for anyone to realize that. His Invisibility impaired the development of his retinas. When it started flickering into active mode during his toddler years, sometimes people lost track of him, but he could always find his way back despite being unable to see. He learned to talk early and often picked up information that nobody had taught him. Suspecting something unusual, Braxton's parents took him to SPOON and a talent-reader revealed his abilities. After that it was much easier to train them -- although Braxton had difficulty understanding what "invisible" really meant.
Uniform: On duty, Braxton dresses to blend in with his assignment, which often means scruffy clothes. Off duty, he prefers classy menswear, often with dark neutrals and rich blues or purples.
Qualities: Master (+6) Patient, Expert (+4) Undercover Work, Good (+2) Criminal Psychology, Good (+2) Physically Fit, Good (+2) Polishing Things, Good (+2) Putting People at Ease
Poor (-2) Allergic to Fur
Powers: Good (+2) Invisibility, Good (+2) Metacognition
Limitation: Braxton's Metacognition works primarily on people and events, not on objects or places. He can sense where someone is and what they're doing, but not the layout or furnishings of the site. His awareness is vague at a distance, then gets stronger and more detailed with proximity. Pushing beyond those limits requires intense concentration and effort: it's easier just to navigate with his cane.
Motivation: To figure out the solutions that nobody else can see.
Josué Dreux -- He has sorrel skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair worn in dreadlocks to his shoulders. The ends of the longest strands are light brown instead of the natural black, from the most recent time he had to dye his hair in order to hide. He has piercings in his earlobes, right outer eyebrow, and right lower lip. He is 14 years old. Josué is the older paternal cousin of Saraphina Dreux. The two of them are the only survivors of their once-large family, everyone else having perished due to anti-soup persecution. Although not a soup himself, Josué has latent potential. He speaks Haitian Creole fluently, along with some French and English. He is found by Braxton on a search for Saraphina's family, and brought to Aidan for fostering.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Survivor, Good (+2) Family Ties with Saraphina Dreux, Good (+2) Singer
Poor (-2) PDSD
* * *
"Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the resurrection."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
(These links are sad.)
Genocide is the systematic destruction of a people and/or their culture, in whole or in part. It can have huge impact on young survivors. The book Recovering from Genocidal Trauma focuses on Holocaust survivors. Here are some ways you can fight genocide.
(These links are intense.)
Dire experiences can leave people with traumatic stress. This can cause a variety of conditions. Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but involves a long span of torment instead of a single brief incident. Developmental Trauma Disorder describes the effects on a developing psyche. Traumatic stress tends to have a profound negative impact on relationships and socializing. This encourages isolation, which can cause further problems. Understand how to cope with traumatic stress or help a friend with it.
(So are these.)
Trauma survivors often show worrisome symptoms of decompensation as the extreme stress overwhelms their coping skills. Trauma-informed care offers compassionate, effective ways to help survivors.
Maxitack is a super-gizmotronic adhesive that will attach anything and only comes loose by using a matched super-gizmo to release the bonding field. The other way to separate things it has glued together is by tearing off the surface, which is unpleasant if it is skin.
Compare Haitian Creole (derived from French) with the range of Caribbean English dialects and creoles. From the sound of what English Josué uses, he learned it from a person or people speaking one of those African-influenced versions, not off the television with its international-standard style English. Both creoles and West African languages tend to drop "is" verbs and use fewer articles along with substituting "d" or "t" for "th." Aidan will likely ask whether Josué wants to focus on learning more of the English creole, switching to American standard English, leaning more on Haitian Creole as a family language, or what.
Papa mwen -- my father
-- English-Haitian Creole Translation
Marshmallow and slippery elm are two of many ingredients used in detangling spray for curly to nappy hair. You can buy this or make your own.
Hair twists come in various styles. Learn how to twist nappy hair.
This is Saraphina's hair braiding kit, or at least, some of the decorations. A large basket provides a way to assemble a hair-braiding kit as needed. The smaller inserts make it possible to swap out types of hair ties, beads, etc. as desired without having to repackthe whole kit.