Edison wanted to have a camp out in his tent that he had received for his last birthday. I agreed to camp out with him after he pleaded with me for half an hour.
After I gave in, Iana did as well, as Edison had been pleading her as much as he had been pleading with me.
So, a few hours before the sun set Iana, Edison, and I all found ourselves in the Silverton’s backyard trying to figure out how to set up the tent. Edison had lost the instructions, Pastor Silverton was out making a call, and Mrs. Silverton was baking cookies, so we were on our own.
I stared at the miscellaneous items that were supposed to build the tent.
“Do you think this goes in this?” Iana said, trying to put a long pole-like thing into one of the holes of the tent fabric.
“Are you asking me or are you telling me?”
“I haven’t done this before either.” I informed her.
Edison was no help, bouncing around the yard as he was. Then he stopped moving and gasped.
“What if…” He sped toward the back door and flung open the screen door. “Mom!” He yelled. “Can we have a bonfire with s’mores, too?”
There was a pause. Then, “I suppose if Meredith and Iana are with you, you’ll be fine.”
He let the screen door slam shut and pumped his fist in the air. “All right! Go! Go! Go!”
He resumed running in circles around the yard.
I stared at the tent helplessly before glancing at Iana. “We need help.” I moaned.
Iana stared fixedly at the pieces. “I mean…it’s just a tent…how many people does it take to put it up?”
I looked at her bleakly. “Obviously more than two.”
“Hello family!” Said a muffled voice from within the house.
“Adam’s here!” Iana jumped an inch off the ground when Edison screamed those two words right behind her.
Adam came out onto the back porch as Edison came to the door.
“Hi, there, Edison. You’re excited.”
“And…that’s new to you?” Iana asked, pressing a hand to her temple.
“Can you help us with the tent? Iana and Meredith can’t do it. But you’ve done it, so you know how!”
“All right. I’ll help.”
Adam surveyed the tent and nodded. “Simple enough.”
Within five minutes, he had assimilated the pieces into a tent. Iana and I clapped when he put the final stake in. He bowed and looked up with a grin. “Always out in impress the ladies, you know.” He said with a wink.
“Well, that certainly was impressive.” Iana replied.
“Are you staying for dinner?” Edison asked his brother.
“Yeah. I’m staying. It’s Friday so it’s fried chicken, you know. My favorite.”
“Mine too.” Edison said.
Adam grinned. “Everything you eat is your favorite.”
Adam surveyed the tent he had just erected. “Oh, and Finn is coming as well.”
Edison’s face lit up. “Maybe you and Finn can have s’mores with us! I’ll have to ask Dad when he gets back if we can have a campfire to make them.”
I smiled a small, soft smile.
Finn was coming.
My heart got all fluttery
Finn did not show up to dinner, nor did he show up for s’mores. Edison kept on saying that he would show up, as Aurelius Finn never broke his word.
“He’s kept every promise he’s every made to me!” Edison exclaimed. “He’ll be here, he will.”
“Edison, that is your last one,” Mrs. Silverton said. “You have had six s’mores already.”
Edison nodded in compliance as he stuffed the rest of his seventh s’more into his mouth as if afraid his mother would take it from him. Once everybody had had their fill of s’mores, Edison laid down on the grass next to the camp fire and fell asleep.
I studied his cherubic, freckled face cast in the light of the dying flames.
He was so jubilant, Edison was. But sometimes I sensed an almost adult solemnity within his boyishness that confused me.
What was it that Edison had been through that had caused that to come to being in him? What circumstances had created that solemnness that only adults should have?
I cleared my throat and looked at the pastor and his wife. “Pastor Silverton…I was wondering…Edison has mentioned the word…Polanco…a few times. He seems so serious when he talks of it. But he has never told me the meaning of that word.”
The husband and wife exchanged a glance that meant a thousand words. “It feels like forever ago that it happened.” Mrs. Silverton said quietly. “But I suppose that it was only a year ago that our little boy was returned to us. Safe and whole.”
“Returned…to you?” I questioned.
The pastor nodded and stared at Edison with great intensity. “You see…when he was four we discovered that he was a prodigy. He could play Beethoven’s sonata within three days of practicing it. He picked up the violin, the guitar, the cello and mastered them within hours. Nellie and I,” Pastor Silverton glanced at his wife. “Were so excited. We told all our friends and neighbors that our little boy was a musical genius. Soon, the New York Times contacted us, wanting to do a special article just on Edison. We didn’t see why not, so we gave them an interview and let them take a picture and such.”
“All of New York knew about Edison Silverton after that article.” Mrs. Silverton said, staring at her son.
“Two weeks after that article was published was when it happened.” She whispered, her eyes a sad, haunted look.
“What happened?” Iana and I whispered together.
Adam glanced up, looked at his parents. “Edison was kidnapped.” He answered, his eyes turning to the flickering fire.
Iana’s and my mouth dropped open.
“But—but how is he even here right now?” Iana stammered out.
The pastor shook his head. “That was the part we could never figure out.”
“It was Finn.” Adam said, looking up at me and Iana. “Finn…found him. Saved him. How I could not say. Nor will he tell me.” He shrugged. “But that is just how Aurelius Finn is. That man has more secrets than any man ought to carry.”
I didn’t doubt it. I wished he wouldn’t keep all those secrets. It made it very difficult to understand him.
“How long was Edison gone?” I asked in a whispery voice.
“A year.” Edison’s mother replied. “One horrible year. It tested our faith, that trial did. Put us both through more fire and more heat than any trial we had ever experienced before that time.”
“It’s almost unheard of that a child should be recovered after he has been kidnapped and been gone that long.” Adam said. “But we were friends with Finn. And Finn…well…let’s just say he was some powerful connections.”
“When Finn found out that Edison had been kidnapped, he was weeping along with us.” The pastor said.
“How did it happen?” I asked.
“He was playing just down the street at a friend’s house,” Mrs. Silverton replied. “I was there as well. Edison decided to go home to get a toy…without telling me. By the time I found out what had happened he was gone. A stranger reported seeing a man getting out of a car and picking up a little boy with bright red hair off of the sidewalk before driving away with him. That was the last any of us heard of him for an entire year. I called my husband, and he called Adam. The police couldn’t help until Edison had been missing for twenty-four hours. When that time finally passed and the search started, it was too late.”
“Finn was off on a business trip.” Adam said. “I called him. He came back the next day.”
“Showed up on our doorstep.” Nellie said. “When I opened the door and saw him, I thought I was looking at a ghost or the like. He was the palest I have ever seen him look. His hair was wild, his clothes so rumpled no iron could ever help them again. I shook my head and just said, ‘He’s lost, Finn. I think he’s lost forever.’ Then Finn hugged me and said, ‘The only forever there is in eternity, Nellie. And he’s not lost, Nellie. He’s not lost. God has him. God always has and always will.’ Then he began to cry, Finn did.” Nellie swallowed. “I never saw him like that before and I doubt I ever will again. It was as if he actually took my grief upon him and helped me cry and let at least some of the burden go. I thought later that night that it felt almost as if Jesus himself had been comforting me through Finn.”
Smith took his wife’s hand. “He was.” He said.
“Finn is so close to God,” Adam said quietly. “Sometimes when I’m in his presence I feel this…peace. This perfect peace overwhelm my spirit.”
“I know what you mean.” His father said, smiling softly. His smile slipped. “But sometimes I feel this…restlessness as well. It’s a strange combination.”
After a moment of contemplation I said, “So…what happened to Edison in Polanco?”
Smith shook his head. “He refuses to discuss it. He will only say they made him play his music for money and sometimes they took him to bad places and forgot to feed him.”
“He wants to forget about it.” Nellie said. “And I don’t blame him. I want to as well. So we never asked him too much about it. Only told him he could talk to us about whatever he wanted to talk to us about. We began to take him to a psychiatrist two weeks after he came back to us.”
“But the boy is stubborn,” Smith said with a smile. “He refused to talk for six months. At nine months he finally told us what we told you but would say nothing more. He seemed almost like his normal self by then so we stopped taking him to the psychiatrist.”
“I think he told Finn everything.” Adam said thoughtfully. “But then…Finn is the one that saved him. For those first six months Finn searched every avenue he could to find Edison.”
“And…the last six months?” Iana asked.
Adam shrugged. “The man vanished. Utterly vanished. Not a word from him for six months. Not a phone call or a text or a letter or anything. He came into my room one night, told me he had to leave for a while. Perhaps a long while. That I might have to work double time in order to keep up with everything with our business. But that was all he said. But he never told me he would be gone so long…or that he would come back with my little brother.”
“He just…showed up six months later with Edison?” I said.
“A year to the day.” Smith replied. “Adam, Nellie, and I were actually praying in our living room for peace about the whole situation. We thought Finn might be gone as well, so we were praying for both of them.”
“Then the doorbell rang.” Adam said, with a smile. “Right in the middle of our prayers.”
“We all went to the door,” Nellie continued. “And I nearly fainted with joy and relief. There was Finn holding a sleeping Edison in his arms. Both were whole and unharmed, though Edison was so skinny I could see every bone through his skin.”
“Finn looked so wild.” Adam said. “He had a beard and long hair and dirt under his nails. A gun in a holster in his belt. But they were both there. Safe. Perfectly safe.”
“But…he never told you his side of the story?” I questioned in a soft voice.
“No,” Nellie said. “But perhaps it’s just as well. I don’t believe my heart could handle everything that happened during that year.”
For about fifteen minutes after the story of Polanco—or at least one side of the story—had been told, we stared into the remaining enders of the fire.
One by one, the adults left.
Iana and I tucked Edison into his sleeping back inside of the tent. Iana stretched out by him and was soon breathing the soft, regular breaths of sleep.
I stared at Edison’s profile in the dark, my mind whirling. How strange it was to think that Edison might have been died had not Finn found him. Life without the little boy for the Silverton’s…well it would be like life without joy. Edison had so much joy in him. So much youth and vigor and fun. He was everything a little boy should be.
I silently slipped out of the tent and walked the edges of the yard, running my hand along the fence. The boundary of the Silverton’s yard.
I stopped by the door to the fence and stared up at the moon. It was close to midnight by now.
This would be the first promise that Finn would break.
It made me feel sad.
But then I heard a noise. A soft yet disturbing click. Somebody was opening the door to the high wooden fence that surrounded the yard. Panicked, I looked around for a weapon and found an empty flower pot. I picked it up and slipped to the side of the door as it opened.
The intruder would never see me coming.
As soon as he stepped past the door I rushed at him.
But he must have seen me or sensed me because he moved so quickly I scarcely knew what had happened before I felt the pot being taken from my grip and my arms being held behind my back. Then a deep, husky voice rumbling close to my ear, “That would have worked had I been an untrained criminal, you understand. I admire you for trying. But ‘tis only me, Meredith. And I shall never hurt you.”
He let me go.
I whirled around and stared at him, wide-eyed.
His smile was slow and a little lazy in coming.
I knew it was a smile just for me.
He was teasing me with that smile.
I crossed my arms and stared back, refusing to be teased, though my color heightened against my will.
But surely the moonlight could not reveal that to him!
“Told Edison I would be,” Finn finally replied. “Couldn’t break my word, could I? It’s five minutes from midnight , you know. I’m here. Just as I said.”
“You’re here.” I repeated a bit lamely.
He nodded and stared up at the moon before beginning to walk in a slow, small circle around me. I stayed where I was, feet in one place on the grass, eyes staring straight ahead. What was he trying to do?
“I’ve been here a while, actually.” Finn said.
“Why didn’t you join us, then?” I said, bewildered by his strange behavior.
“I was listening. I get the best information that way. And…I needed to think.”
He suddenly flashed a grin at me that nearly matched the crescent of the moon above our heads.
“It’s strange sometimes, Meredith. Strange to finally know that I’ve found you after I’ve searched for so long.”
I blinked and said rather dumbly. “Is it?”
“Mm hm.” He stopped circling me for a moment and looked into my face. “I don’t know how to tell you everything. Or even if you want to know everything. I wanted to start at the beginning. But…perhaps if I started with Edison you would come to the realization more gradually and…easily than if I gave it to you all at once.”
“So…you won’t tell me everything all at once?”
He shook his head. “It might be…overpowering…all that I have to tell you. One thing at a time would be best, I believe.”
I nodded hesitantly. “So…where will you start?”
Finn looked into my eyes. “Edison. With Edison. I’ve never told anybody this story. And I doubt I shall ever tell it again.”
“I do wish to know your side.” I answered him. “And I will keep secret anything you want me to.”
He studied me. My soul more than my face it seemed. After a moment , he reached out and took my hand. “I know that, love. But that you told me you would…it pleases me very much. Very much, indeed.”
He looked about the yard. “Come now. Let’s find a place to sit. This will be a conversation, Meredith, about nothing I have discussed with anyone before. Except those among the Seven. And even then, only those who remained faithful.”
“You’ve got to tell me that story soon as well.”
“When you’re ready, love. But for now this one will do fine.”
We sat down on the edge of the porch.
Finn stared down at his hands for a moment. When he finally began to speak, his voice was deep and still and husky. His voice was tinged with the poignancy of his rememberings. “The first time I held Edison, when he was just a baby, I knew he would be extraordinary. I have that in me, you know. I can sense what people are like, can know what they were in the past, what they will become in the future. A benefit of being one of the Seven. But all of us have different gifts. Discernment is one of mine…usually.” He paused, frowned a bit. “But then, I’m telling you a different story, so you need not know that one for a while.” He said this as if to himself before continuing. “When Edison was kidnapped I did everything I could do in this world to get him back. When all my searching came to no fruition and I realized even I could not find him I knew then that this was a test God had not given me yet. This was a trial my soul had not experienced.” He gave a short, humorless laugh. “And I had the pride to think I had known every trial, experienced every fire and could conquer anything that came my way.”
He glanced up, met my gaze, his eyes a tortured blue. “Did I not know that a man’s pride shall make him fall? And yet I chose to keep that vice.” Without warning, he stood, paced, countenance troubled. I blinked as I stared at him. Was his face beginning to…grow brighter? “How long have I inhabited this earth? How long have I seen the many sins of man and the payment those sins demand? And yet, there I was, determined to be just like a man!” I leaned back and scooted the tiniest bit farther away from him.
His face was shining! The light was the color of sunlight but as bright as a star.
I stood up and stared at him, mouth open. “Finn…” I could only mouth his name.
He stopped pacing when he noticed my face. Then he sighed and closed his eyes.
The light faded from his countenance. He opened his eyes once more. The anger in him had left with the light. But what remained troubled my soul even more.
Desperation. The deepest I had ever seen it.
More sorrow than one man could bear, it appeared to me.
But then…Aurelius Finn…he was—perhaps—a different type of man.
A stronger type of man.
A man with more soul than most.
A man with more depth of heart than most.
“I chose this life,” He said. “I chose it because I…wondered…”
The intensity he directed my way after he said the word wondered left me with bewildered and shy feeling fluttering within my breast.
I dropped my gaze to his feet, a blush wandering up from my toes, staining my cheeks.
I was afraid to ask exactly what it was that he wondered about.
But I was just as afraid he would never tell me if I never asked right then and there.
So I just said, “Wondered?”
“What it was like…for a man to love a woman.”
My eyes shot up to his.
But a self-mocking smile crept upon his face and he shook his head. “But that is not the story I agreed to tell you now, was it? So I shall leave that one for another day. Another time. And…when next you ask…” He looked away for a brief moment, turned back and delved so deeply into my soul with his eyes that it was as if his soul interwove with mine. And perhaps it did. “I will tell you, Meredith.”
It felt like a promise, those five words.
His blue gaze and my brown gaze melted together. And something happened in the moments after he said that. Something that bound us together.
How fragile or how strong the bond I could not say.
I broke the spell, blinking first.
He walked back over and sat down beside me again.
The moonlight filled silence reigned between us.
He began to speak again, starting his words with a deep sigh. “The first time I held Edison, I loved him. He was just a baby. An orphaned baby just hours before. I wanted to…protect him. Keep him from trouble forever. Keep him as sweet and as pure as he was in that first moment I held him. And I thought I had succeeded. But I had forgotten something.”
“What?” I whispered.
“Edison’s safety was not in my hands. Or his parents hands. No matter how we loved him. No matter how hard we tried to keep him safe. His safety was in God’s hands. He was in God’s hands. I had put myself where God was supposed to be.” He gave a self-depreciating upturn of his lips. “That never works out well in the end, you know. A fallible soul like mine could never take the place of a holy and perfect God.” His eyes fell to the silvered ground. “I think the Silverton’s got that same pride and mentality I had. That may have been a reason why Edison was kidnapped. To break the pride of the people that loved him. And bring those people to the realization that all life is in God’s hand. And no life can be controlled by man. For God decides if a man is to die or is to live every second of every day. And He controls the fate of those Who love Him and has mercy on those who choose not to.”
I nodded slightly. “How—how did you find Edison?”
He shook his head. “First six months I pulled every string I had. Followed every rabbit trail that appeared. But still I was leaning on my own self. Relying on my own strength. When I knew I had done everything I could possibly do and came to the very brink of my endurance, to the very precipice of…destroying myself…I cried out to God. I was so ashamed. I have lived on earth so long. I should have known better. But I fell into a trap. A very simple one. But I fall for those most. And…I always have. But…when I cried out to God…in desperation…in shame…as my last resort instead of my first plan…He was merciful. Compassionate. He answered me. Through that whole time He was waiting for me to turn to Him. To give Him what He needed of me so He could work through me. And when I say ‘what he needed of me’ I mean all of me. God demands everything you are, everything you have. Only when he had everything could he do his perfect work in me. And when I surrendered everything to Him, He gave me one more trail to follow. But I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I got up and left. Was gone for six months. For six months I searched for that dear little boy who is sleeping safe in that tent right this moment. I knew not if he was alive or dead. But I had to find what had happened to him. And finally, by the will of God, by the grace of God, I found him. Fought my way to get him back. Brought him home on a little airplane I flew myself. He wasn’t the same when I found him. He was so thin, so sad, when I saw him for the first time since he had been kidnapped. He was playing his violin. Accompanying a little girl with a beautiful voice. The way he played it was not the way I remembered. But the quality of it stirred my heart enough to look for the violinist playing.
And it was him. Thank God.”
I swallowed and stared down at my hands, processing this in my mind. “How about…the little girl?” I asked after a length of time had passed.
A look of incredible anguish covered his face. “I tried to save her, too,” He said. “But she…when the gunfire started…she was caught in the crossfire…died instantly.”
A tear slipped down his cheek, fell off his jaw.
I followed it with my eyes to where it landed on the porch.
His hand nearest mine was squeezed into a tight, tight fist.
I reached out and laid my hand atop of his. “You cannot perform all the good of the world.” I said. “But you have done so much good. You befriended the Silvertons, helped Adam start your company. You saved Edison. Saved me the first day I was in New York City.”
He turned his hand over and interlaced our fingers. “Would that I could do more.” He whispered. “But sometimes I cannot by reason of who I am.”
“One of the Seven.” I said.
He nodded barely. “And I have not chosen yet. And I have not been sealed. I wanted to find you before I did.”
“Have you…decided?” I said, not knowing what the decision would be, but wanting to know anyway.
He looked at me, smiled and raised our intertwined hands up. “Oh, yes.” He whispered. “I decided the first time I saw you. But I have yet to tell you everything. Once I do, it will be for you to decide.”
“I hope I make the right choice, then.” I said, naïve as I was about the situation.
He let out a breath of laughter. “I think you will.” He replied.
Looking into my eyes, intertwining our souls with his gaze once more, he said again, “I think you will.”
After Finn left that night I did not go back into the tent with Iana and Edison. I walked the yard and stared at the stars, thinking and thinking and thinking.
But it was as if no thought had an ending and no notion had any solidity.
Oh, how my heart broke for Finn! How sad his soul had been when he had spoken to me of how he had found Edison and everything that had happened before and after.
And how I wondered about him…how I tried to reason out in my mind who exactly he was!
But I could not know anything because I did not know everything.
It was somewhat frustrating, not knowing everything.
But…seeing his heart tonight…I wondered if I wanted to know everything.
Eventually, tired by emotion and the circular motion of my thoughts, I drifted into the house and laid down on the sofa in the living room. I stared up into the dark, trying to find the ceiling.
I prayed for peace, asked for God to bless Finn with it as well.
I must have fallen asleep praying for the next thing I knew, I heard the voices of the pastor and his wife in the kitchen.
I inhaled a deep, great breath and smelled newly brewed coffee. Light from the awakening sun cascaded through a nearby window, slowly cleansing the room of lingering darkness.
I sat up and pushed my hair away from my face ineffectually before blinking slowly and draping my arms over the back of the sofa, peering through the doorway that connected the living room and kitchen. I saw Pastor Silverton drinking his coffee and reading the morning newspaper.
There was the quiet sound of a refrigerator opening and closing.
Mrs. Silverton was making breakfast.
It felt strange for them to be starting a day like this.
It felt so…normal.
But so many things in their life had happened that were decidedly not normal.
Yet…still they were able to live and live with peace.
Perhaps one of God’s greatest gifts in life was the ability to move on once tragedy struck.
Perhaps one of His gifts was leaving that tragedy behind and moving on with Him. Health could be destroyed, people could hurt you, those you love could die. Bad things happened. Sometimes, horrible, wretched things. But perhaps God wants you to leave those things at the altar and move on with Him and keep on with Him.
God uses bad things to soften you, to correct you, to mold you in order to use you for His divine and glorious purpose. Perhaps that purpose would be in this life. Perhaps in the next. But He does not allow pain without reason. And always with pain will He give grace sufficient for you. The cost of pain is either bitterness or goodness. Pain will make you bitter. Or it will make you better. The one receiving the pain must choose the cost.
Pastor Silverton glanced my way and froze. He squinted in my direction. “Meredith,” He said. “Is that you, child? I didn’t realize anyone was in there.”
“It’s me, pastor.” I replied.
Mrs. Silverton poked her head around the corner. “Are you all right, dear? What are you doing in there? Did you sleep on the sofa last night?”
I smiled a secret smile to myself. It was so nice to have people who cared about me. “I did,” I said. “I needed to think and somehow wound up in here.”
“Ground too hard for you?” The pastor asked.
“You could say that.”
He shrugged. “Well, I don’t blame you. I don’t camp anymore. The ground is too hard for my old bones.”
He took a swig of coffee and frowned. “Finn didn’t show up last night, did he?”
I gave a little sigh. “He did for a few minutes,” I said simply. “He said that he’s never broken a promise to Edison and never will.”
Pastor Silverton smiled. “He is a faithful man.” He said, going back to his paper.
“That is only one of Aurelius Finn’s many admirable traits.” His wife said from the depths of the kitchen.
I heard her crack an egg and frying it on a skillet.
“Ah, yes,” The pastor winked at me. “I heard someone say once that not even the number of the stars could not measure up to the number of exemplary qualities the man possesses.”
I smiled faintly.
I agreed entirely.