Letters from the Sky, JMS Books, June 2012
Jeanne is now in her eighth year of school, and never has the world seemed more strange. Her little town grows greyer and greyer, and every day the radio tells news of a war just far enough away, it doesn’t matter to her.
What does matter are immediate things: her friends, her family, and a magical guardian named Jericho who visits while she sleeps. Jericho’s love for her seems so perfect as to be impossible. But when Jericho disappears for weeks at a time, Jeanne isn’t sure she can continue to believe her guardian is real any longer.
As Jeanne’s relationship with Jericho deepens, can she continue to believe in her guardian? Can Jericho’s love protect her in the midst of impending war? Or does Jericho even exist at all?
- That night, the lamps were out and the heavy blackout blinds were closed. Jeanne’s hair was loose and unbraided. She was lying still in the cavernous dark, unable to see walls or door or boundaries. Lightless, the only things that were solid and concrete were the things she touched at that moment.
- Tonight the dreams would be different, she thought as her eyes closed.
- Then she wasn’t alone. It was still dark but a grayish sort, as if the room were half-illuminated from a corner of window; shadows and depth still coated the room in draperies. Someone warm was lying next to her, smiling faintly as she faced Jeanne.
- The cry was a clarion bell, echoing in that grey-green, obscured world. Jeanne surged forward and wrapped her arms around the neck of the creature in front of her. Her angel.
- “Hello, little one,” the creature said, and Jeanne felt the curve of lips against her scalp, fingers running through her hair. “I missed you.”
- “You came back,” Jeanne breathed.
- was the sweet cinnamon-yeasty scent that had been haunting her for the last handful of lonely days.
- The angel frowned — Jeanne could not see it, but she knew how Jericho would react. “Of course I came back.”
- The creature’s skin was so
- under her chiton, Jeanne thought. She suddenly felt as if she were freezing in contrast.
- Jericho tilted her head up so they were staring at each other, eyes locked. Jeanne had long gotten over being afraid of that stare.
- Jericho wasn’t human. She appeared it, long of limb and unnaturally graceful, but her skin changed hue with every second glance, switching from white and milky to exotic olive or coffee-tan, indescribable but for one word —
- reminding Jeanne of girls’ eyes that were always labeled blue but changed when put in a different light. Long, ink black hair fell around Jericho’s shoulders and across her chest, and her eyes were glass-black, the color stretched corner to corner with no white space. It should have been frightening.
- “Of course I came back,” Jericho repeated, entreating, searching Jeanne’s eyes.
- Jeanne didn’t look away, didn’t hide anything; as if she
- . “Of course you came back,” she answered in a whisper.
- Jericho’s impossible eyes closed in frustration. “Why don’t you believe me?”
- Somehow, the idea felt comical, this merry-go-round conversation that began their every encounter. So Jeanne let the laughter fill up inside her chest like honey and then it bubbled out, so she was giggling into sheets and warm skin, taking in gasping little breaths and causing Jericho to start, her brow to crease.
- “I’m serious.”
- Jeanne nodded. “I — ah — I know you are,” but she was laughing too hard for anything else to come out, and it was a long time before she could calm, red-faced and wet-eyed and breathing headily, heavily.
- “What was that?”
- Jeanne smiled. “I’m happy,” she decided. “I’m happy to be here with you.”
- Jericho blinked. “Good.”
- “Good,” Jeanne replied.
- “Good.” Jeanne laughed again, shortly, a breathy giggle.
- This time Jericho allowed herself a tiny smile. “I missed you,” the creature repeated. “What has been important?”
- Jericho never asked how Jeanne was, or what she was feeling. She never needed to. When they were together, they both just knew — if Jeanne was upset or angry, Jericho could tell, just as Jeanne could tell when the creature next to her was frustrated with her own lack of trust — still, Jeanne couldn’t help the rush of relief flowing from her in waves now that Jericho was here, and safe, and everything she needed to be.
- What was important? A much better question. Jericho knew emotions, not causes.
- “Sweet bread,” Jeanne answered her. “Cotillion and red strings and unfortunate lima beans and the river.”
- Jeanne did not ask if Jericho had received her letter. Jericho didn’t mention it and neither did she because she didn’t want her angel to say no. Instead, the question was: “What news?”
- Jericho smiled, fully this time, something that could even be considered excited.
- “A perfectly white calf was born in a tiny village in the rainforests of the Congo,” she said, her palm against Jeanne’s fingers. Jeanne nodded, eyes wide, listening to the words of the spell, a glimpse into worlds beyond her reach for now.
- “An old woman who lives alone in Hokkaido found a two-headed snake in a barrel of flour,” Jericho continued. “And somewhere, floating along the Nile, is a beautiful lotus the color blue of the sky …”
- Jeanne began to feel her eyelids grow heavy and she blinked, pawing at them. Jericho’s long fingers were around her wrists, her spell stopped for a moment.
- “Sleep, little one,” Jericho urged.
- “But –“
- “I’ll come back soon. Trust me, I’m coming back for you. We were made for this, weren’t we?”
- That was the first time Jericho questioned it. It was always a statement —
You and I were made for this, little one, remember that.
- “Weren’t we?” Jeanne echoed.
- Jericho’s flat black eyes grew flinty and hard. “Yes, we were. Do not forget that.”