Disclaimer: We all know who owns (read "bought") the Power Rangers. And although I wish I could say I do, I can't. :\ The song featured in here is sung by Joan Osbourne. As for the Spanish...mine is rusty. I hope I got the translation right. If not...please let me know. What else...oh. If you don't like this story, I don't think I really care. If you like it, then that's cool, too. This is the first PR story that I've actually been able finish. And that's only because Kittie was there to push me in the right direction. Thank you! :) Now, Dear Reader, this story (I think) takes place sometime recently after Rocky, Aisha, and Adam take their place on the team. Now, it's your turn....
Two a.m. The minutes are slow and the rain is hard. Empty streets in a crowded city. A pair of light brown work boots break the streetlight reflections on the wet asphalt and in the puddles. The puddles are many because the asphalt is poor and full of holes. The work boots pass a drenched rat, who is drinking from one of the filled holes, and ignores the boots. Those light brown travelers return the rat's favor. The strides are long and the steps are heavy. The feet inside the light brown work boots are sore. But it's the tired legs that push on, encouraging the feet to continue. There are a pair of soaked denim jeans covering the legs, just as there is only a red sweatshirt covering the arms and upper body. And the body, too, is soaked. The head is uncovered, wet, and bowed. The eyes keep watching the light brown work boots break the streetlight reflections on the wet asphalt and in the puddles, as the legs carry the body through the rain in empty streets in a crowded city, at two in the morning.
Finally, he stopped. Rocky DeSantos lifted his head. The rain is still hard with a dark night to comfort the lonely. Tonight, that is how Rocky is feeling. Gone are the jokes and one-liners. The wisecracks are nowhere to be found. His smile is Gone For The Day. Maybe it'll return by morning. Maybe, but not likely. He wanted to start walking again but
how long have you been gone?...
he couldn't His feet are killing him and his legs no longer have the will to hold him upright.
Sit down on the corner, just a little climb
He narrowed his eyes. He had heard it, yes, but no radios were playing this night. He recognized the voice. It was an alto and a soprano. _Where did that voice just come from? I know it...but I just can't place it._ "'Sit down on the corner, just a little climb,'" he repeated to himself. He sighed. "Well, that doesn't sound like a bad idea at the moment. I'm soaked enough already, so a wet corner really won't hurt." He looked around for one, and that was when he really saw his surroundings.
The buildings are rundown. One is marked "CONDEMNED'. Some of those buildings look as if they still house people. When Rocky looked for signs of habitation, he found them. _I can't believe this. The buildings are below substandard housing._ Although he never took his eyes off of the buildings, he turned his head, and started walking to the corner. In all of his peripheral vision and line of sight, he saw trash and drug paraphernalia littered in the street, strewn across the sidewalks, heaped in corners and cracks, and piling up in storm drains.
when I make my money got to get my dime
He stopped again, the toe of his light brown work boot rested close to a teaspoon. It was bent and had burn marks on its bottom. A slight movement from his right caught his attention. A small body appeared in a window. The tiny face was highlighted by the streetlight, and Rocky could make out a bruised eye above a dirty, sad face. Rocky's heart broke, but he summoned a smile for her. Immediately, the girl's face lit up. She beamed at him, showing two missing front teeth. A little hand came up and waved him over to her window. He swallowed his heartbreak, kept his smile, and walked over.
"Hi there! What are you doing up so late?"
"Shh," she whispered, sounding a bit wet. "We gotta whisper so I don't wake up Mommy." She didn't have a speech impediment at all, but her missing teeth gave her a tiny bit of a lisp. But as Rocky looked at her gums, he saw tiny bits of white. _Well, at least she didn't lose them the way I thought she did._ "Oh. I lost these a few weeks ago. Mommy gave my teeth to the Tooth Fairy and the Tooth Fairy gave Mommy fifty cents to give to me." She purposefully widened her smile to show her other new teeth to Rocky.
Sit down with her baby, wind is full of trash
She bold as the streetlight, dark and sweet as hash
He blinked, but dismissed the voice, beautiful and soulful as it is.
"No kidding! I think you've got more money than me," he said mock-seriously. The little girl giggled quietly. "You know something?"
"You don't know my name."
"Yes I do." Rocky said nothing as his expression faltered to that of confusion. "It's 'Rocky'." She was still smiling her sweet smile.
"It's on the back of your shirt!" she quietly squealed. Rocky craned his neck, and belatedly realized he was wearing the sweatshirt one of his younger sisters had made for him.
"Well, that leaves me at a disadvantage," he said, quickly recovering, and returning his mock-seriousness.
"Dis-ad-van-tage." She spoke that with utter care, pronouncing every syllable perfectly. Her tiny face was cutely scrunched in concentration. "That means...it means...you don't have the same...ability...as I do."
"That's right!" She giggled at her accomplishment. "So what is your name?" Her face fell, replaced with dead seriousness.
"Promise you won't laugh?"
"Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye," he seriously replied, going through the motions.
"Well...okay. My name is Winter. Winter Daisy DeJesus." She paused for only a second, and stuck out her hand. "And it's nice to meet you Rocky," she bravely held out her tiny hand, her chest puffed out.
"And it's nice to meet you, Winter Daisy," Rocky politely replied, carefully taking her tiny hand in his big hand...giving it a gentle squeeze. "But how come you're not sleeping? All little children are supposed to be sleeping at two in the morning."
"I couldn't sleep. I'm afraid he wi...he wi...he prom..." Winter stopped talking, her throat unable to work because the words were getting choked and stuck there. And the tears began to fall. His big hand moved to rest gently on her shoulder.
"It's okay. You don't have to be afraid. I'm listening and I promise I won't tell anyone unless I absolutely need to. Okay?" She nodded. Almost immediately, she stopped crying. Her jaw stiffened, lips pressed together.
"I'm not afraid of anything and big girls don't cry." Every syllable...perfect. The main points...accented with a nod of her head. A mantra that scares away her monsters and fears.
"How old are you?"
"Six and a half."
"Wow! You are a big girl. Now...think you can tell me what's wrong?" A tiny nod.
"He promised to hurt us again."
"Mommy's ex-boyfriend. He started hurting her and made her cry. So I tried to stop him..." she choked, her lower lip beginning to tremble. "I tried. But he just punched me as hard as he punched Mommy. It hurt Rocky! It hurt Mommy real bad, too, because she was cryin'!" Winter stopped again, on the verge of tears. Her lower lip is trembling and tears shine bright in her light baby brown eyes.
And even though the rain is still hard with a dark night, a scared child reaches through her living room window. She wraps her arms around a drenched, lonely teen. And it's with a heavy heart that the teen returns the embrace. And suddenly, in that embrace...in that one moment...that one tiny moment of peace, to last a lifetime...all was right with the world. The hug lasts only a tiny whisper more, and the child pulls away.
"Daisy...if you and your mommy need my help..."
"No. Thank you, Rocky. But that's okay. You see, after he hit Mommy, she hit him back. I don't know what happened after because she sent me out of the room. Parents are strange. Wouldn't you agree?
"Yeah, I do," he managed a small genuine grin. "But that still doesn't explain why you're still awake right now."
"You are, too." She leaned in close, and assumed a conspiratorial whisper. "I'll make a deal with you. Here...let's pinky swear to make it real," and lifted her hand. Rocky hooked his pinky around hers. "Okay. I'll tell you why I'm still up, and then you tell me why you're walking in the rain without a coat or hat." Rocky couldn't help holding back a grin. She was dead serious about this...it almost seemed unreal that she would be so concerned with his lack of proper weather attire, considering her current situation.
"It's a deal. Do you know you sound ten years older than you are?"
"Quit teasing!" she quietly squealed. "Okay. I'm still awake because I'm scared." She paused and her mood turned serious. "I'm afraid he's going to come back. Mommy kicked him out, but he said some very bad words and said he'd come back to...to..." she stopped again, lower lip trembling. "He said he was going to kill us," her voice is just above a whisper, and Rocky almost didn't hear her. "But I don't think it will happen, because we take care of each other. Everybody will make sure we're safe."
"Everybody? That would be all the people in your neighborhood?" She nodded.
"We don't have much, so everybody helps everybody else. I like my home. We take care of each other."
"That's a very good thing. I used to live in a neighborhood like yours, when I was your age. And I bet you've got a lot of friends just like I did." A smile once again graced Winter's face, and she nodded enthusiastically. "Well. Now that you know you're safe, I'll tell you my story and then it'll be bedtime. Okay?"
"But what if I'm too scared to sleep? I had very bad dream."
"I think I can help you with that. But first, I'm gonna keep my end of the deal. You want to know why I'm walking in the rain without a coat or hat. Hm. See, I had a really bad dream, too. It scared me, and I like to exercise to get rid of bad and scary feelings. So I decided to go for a walk. At the time I left, the sky was clear and there was a warm breeze. I walked for about ten minutes...and it began to pour. Before I could even get back to my house, I was completely soaked. So I just kept walking...and then you found me."
"Won't you get sick?"
"Oh, no. I'm a healthy boy! And still growing, too," he said mock-seriously. Winter Daisy slapped her hands over her mouth, in fruitless efforts to hide her snickering and giggling. "And what's so amusing to you?" She frantically shook her head, hands still covering her giggles. "Was it something I said?" He feigned hurt feelings. Winter Daisy attempted a reply, but instead a giggle escaped. "Oh. I see. You think I look funny?" Another frantic head shake, accompanied by furious giggles.
"Okay," she giggled. "You said you're still a growing boy!"
"Well I am" he huffed, mock-indignantly.
"You're already tall!"
"Oh...I think I still need to grow a few more inches to be tall. Whadda ya think?" he asked, going on tip-toes.
"Mm...okay. Just only a few. If you grow too many inches, then I won't be able to see you so well!" she giggled.
"I'll see what I can do about that, alright?" She nodded vigorously, and her loose curls bounced around her innocent face. "Now. I think it's bedtime for you. And I did promise to help you with your bad dreams, didn't I?"
"So here's a little song that my little sister likes to sing. It's just that I only know one little part of it, and that's what I'll teach you. Just repeat after me." When Rocky began singing, Winter was instantly soothed. His voice was low, gentle, sweet and comforting. "This little light of mine...". She picked up after him, her tiny voice, sweet as a rose, and a perfect octave higher.
"This little light of mine..."
"I'm gonna let it shine..."
"I'm gonna let it shine..."
"Yeah, this little light of mine..."
"Yeah, this little light of mine..."
"I'm gonna let it shine..."
"I'm gonna let it shine...". Rocky saw that her eyelids were at half-mast. _I hope she's on the couch, or somewhere soft...with a blanket._ "You like that song, right?" She nodded. "I'm going to teach you a prayer...it's a small one, but it works. Do you have something I could write on and with?" Winter nodded again, and moved out of sight. She reappeared with a terribly worn piece of paper and pencil. He gently took them from her tiny hands, and wrote for a few seconds. "Here it is, but I'll teach it to you first. Does that sound like a good plan?"
"Mm-hm," Winter muttered, rubbing her eyes with tiny knuckles.
"St. Teresa of the Little Flower
Please pick me a rose from your Heavenly garden
And send it to me with a message of love.
Ask God to grant me the favor,
I Thee implore,
And tell Him that I will love him each day, more and more."
He softly finished the prayer and noticed that her eyelids had gotten heavier.
"Thank you, Rocky DeSantos. I'll remember that song and I'll keep this prayer so you won't be so far away from me when I need one of your hugs. I gotta go to bed, now. I'm tired," she yawned. With that, she leaned out her window, into the pouring rain, and once again hugged her new-found friend. "Goodnight, Rocky. I hope to see you again, sometime."
"And goodnight to you, too, Daisy. Perhaps we will see each other again. Nothing's impossible, you know." Winter giggled.
"You're the first person to call me by my middle name. I like it."
"I'll remember that," he paused and held her a few moments, cherishing the innocent love that radiated from somewhere deep within her, warming him to the bottom of his heart. He felt an emotion/feeling waking within him. This...emotion...made him want to protect and care for her. _Is this what women feel when they talk about 'Maternal Instinct' and 'Biological Clocks'? Am I feeling what a new father feels?_
But the moment was slowly and gently broken when she pulled from his comforting hold.
"I have to go now, Rocky. I'm tired," and planted a kiss on his forehead. He said nothing as she shut the window and turned to leave. He watched her disappearing form. Even after she was gone from sight, he stared into the room. An odd sort of comfort had come over him. He took a slow step backwards. And then another, his eyes never leaving her now-vacated spot.
Way down in the hollow, leaving so soon
Oh Saint Teresa, higher than the moon
The rain is still hard and the clothes no longer have a dry spot on them. But Rocky DeSantos doesn't care. All that's on his mind is the encounter he'd just had with little Winter Daisy.
Reach down for the sweet stuff, when she looks at me
I know any man sees you like I see
Slow as a waking dream, Rocky realizes that he's been standing in the same spot for about twelve minutes...gazing into someone else's home. He vaguely pays any mind to the voice he's just begun hearing. And it sings a song he knows - but just can't place. In a sort-of daze, he resumes walking down the street, and stops once more as he hears that voice
Follow down the side street, movin' single file
That's where I'll hold you, sleeping like a child
again...trying to figure out from where it's coming. It seems as though it's just become clearer and making its presence known more often. He tilts his head to the right in an attempt to hear it better, even though the voice is clear as a bell. Looking around, Rocky knows that there's no place for this voice to come from and be so clear.
Way down in the hollow, leavin' so soon
Oh Saint Teresa, higher than the moon
His head snapped up, eyes clear and focused. His body is rigid, and his ears searching for the sound. Rocky doesn't move for about five minutes, waiting for the voice to return. Only...it doesn't. But there is something else he heard. It was a tiny noise, hard to hear over the pouring rain. He listens closer, slightly tilting his head.
It comes again. This time, he pinpoints it. This sound came from his right and a few steps behind him. He turns and walks back, listening for the noise. It came, but weaker this time. And when he heard it, Rocky instantly knew two things; 1. where it came from, and 2. what made the noise.
Two quick steps bring him in front of a beat-up aluminum trashcan. As he crouches down, he begins to see tiny movements coming from a tiny body. His gaze travels behind the tiny body, and he sees a dead cat. It hadn't been damaged or mauled in any way. It simply died. The tiny body moved again, trying to make a noise. Rocky saw it was a kitten...barely alive and hardly old enough to survive on its own. The poor thing could barely mew. For the second time that night, Rocky's heart broke. He reached down and scooped up the shivering kitten. It was smaller than his hand. It was practically curled into a ball to keep warm, and let out another tiny almost-mew. Rocky drew his arm to his body, placed his other hand over the drenched baby cat, and held it close to his body to keep it warm, and to protect it from the cold, hard rain. He could feel the constant shivers from the tiny body. Rocky knew he had to get home...or at least, someplace warm.
Just what I've been needin', feel it rise in me
Every stone a story, like a rosary
The voice goes unheeded as once-light brown boots quickly find their way to the end of the littered street. Rocky quickly made his way...then came to dead stop. A light pierced the darkness from a window. The window is attached to a church. In his haste he nearly dismissed it. Rocky cranes to look at his watch, and sees that it's now two-thirty in the morning. The rain seems to have vengeance on its mind, because it started pouring harder. Then he heard a close rumble of thunder...
"Well," Rocky says to the shivering kitten, "let's get inside for a little bit. That is...if anyone's there." He slowly climbed the few small steps, and grasped the door handle. He held the kitten closer to keep it warm. It mewed again. He gave the door a little tug. Nothing happened. He tugged harder. It began to give. He pulled again, and a little
Corner Saint Teresa, just a little crime
ray of light beamed from the crack. _Why do I feel like I'm breaking and entering?_
When I make my money got to get my dime
_Stop it,_ he chided himself. _This is a church. You know that if it's open you're welcome to go in it. Even if it is at two-thirty in the morning. Oh, and speaking of which, when was the last time you did get your lazy butt to church? Better go soon, DeSantos. You're slipping and Abuelita is gonna have your hide when you get to Heaven._ He opened the door wider and stepped in.
The lights are dim, but light the church is enough to see without straining. Outside, the rain is pounding, sending echoes through the church. Inside, it is warm and comforting. A haven for the lost. Rocky is far from lost...just a weary traveler, who picked up an abandoned soul on his journey. And it is here, where Rocky hopes to find something...although he doesn't know what it is."
"Welcome, Child." It was a soft masculine voice. Fatherly and welcoming. "Please, come in. It's cold outside and you look like you need a rest." The voice's owner came out from a Confessional. He was a priest, dressed in the casual black clothes with the white collar. His hair is dark, his eyes are a deep brown. Upon closer inspection, Rocky noticed some gray in the priest's hair. Wrinkles were beginning to show on his kindly face. His clasped hands are showing age as well, along with faint signs of a life filled with hard, manual work from younger years. When Rocky said nothing and didn't move, the aging priest extended an arm outward - a symbol to encompass the whole church - to invite the soaking wet teen to enter. Rocky took a tentative step forward. Then another.
The Church itself wasn't very big, but it was beautiful. On the dais stood the altar. Behind the altar was a giant statue of the Crucifixion. Under the statue was an engravement of The Last Supper. To the left of the dais stood a table, aglow with differently colored candles...each color a symbol. Each candle, a prayer.
"What is a child, such as yourself, doing out on a night like this? And why so early in the morning?"
"I...I couldn't sleep. I've been under stress, and that's been causing some nightmares for me. But most of the time...I just simply can't sleep."
"Then I suppose you're the reason I stayed awake tonight. Oh...please, come in further and rest yourself for a while. God's House is always open to those in need. And I see that your little companion is in need of care...as well as yourself. Let's see if we can help you. Okay?" he smiled. It was the warmest smile Rocky had seen in a long time.
"Okay," he smiled back. Almost instantly, Rocky was at ease, and he followed the Father to the front of the Church.
There was a room off to the side of the dais...the Sacristy. It held all of the supplies needed for Mass - including the robes the priests wore. Also in this room, there was a sink with a medicine cabinet and a small refrigerator. The priest first went to the stand-up closet and removed two towels. One small, one big. He handed Rocky the small towel to wrap the kitten in. Once he did that, it stopped shivering and fell asleep. He carefully laid the tiny bundle on a shelf, and took the bigger towel for himself.
"Father, I know I'll be fine. I'm just stressed about school and...work. I don't think this'll last long, because it's happened before. I always find it hard to sleep when I have mid-terms. Finals, too, come to think of it." The priest smiled again.
"I understand. I remember having a similar problem when I was your age. Only, it wasn't insomnia I had...it was a short attention span. I couldn't pay attention for two seconds in a row, or even long enough for someone to put two sentences together. I sometimes wonder how I ever got through school and the Seminary," he chuckled. Rocky smiled back.
"You know, I never thought I'd meet somebody who'd understand what I'm going through! I'm so tired during the day that I wind up acting goofy, and people think I'm not all there." Smiling, he shook his head at what he'd overheard that day. It was something mean, and Rocky ignored the comment...leaving it forgotten. He'd had other pressing issues to deal with.
"God helps people. And He helps you. You may not see it, you may never even notice it, but He's always by your side, helping with every step of your journey." The father paused, looking a little closer at Rocky. "And I believe there's another reason that brings you here tonight." Rocky paused a moment, thinking if he should tell the good Father about Winter Daisy.
"Yeah...there is. See, about a half hour ago, I talked to a little girl. She lives just down the road. She couldn't sleep, either because she was afraid that her mother's ex-boyfriend would come back to hurt them." Rocky's demeanor was solemn. He was truly worried about the little girl. There was so much he wanted to do for her. He paused and roughly dried his hair. The Priest said nothing, giving Rocky time to dry his hair and pull his thoughts together. "She's only six and a half, and talked as though she were sixteen." He looked straight at the Priest. "Her name is Winter Daisy DeJesus." The Priest's face fell into a mask of uncertainty and confusion.
"Are you sure?" he slowly asked. His somberness rubbed off onto Rocky.
"Yes," he slowly nodded.
"I usually don't question anyone if they're telling the truth or not, but I'm going to ask you. Are you telling the truth?" Again, Rocky slowly nodded.
"Yes." The Priest looked at him, looking for any sign that he might be lying. The Priest found none. "Why? What's wrong?"
"I don't know if you'll believe this or not," he said looking down, "but what I have to say may come as a shock. I know it is for me." He paused, collecting himself, and looked Rocky straight in the eye. "Little Winter Daisy was a bright young child. She was smart as a whip and her personality was bright enough to chase away the darkest clouds. She was always welcome anywhere she went. Unfortunately, her mother fell in with the wrong man. She became addicted to coke, and he'd beat them both. I thank God everyday that she'd be able to get away from them and come here. He'd never be able to find her, which was just as well. And I also thank God for letting her retain her innocence through her short life. She was always under the impression that her mother would always stand up for her. Once in a while she would." Here, the Priest paused and took a deep breath.
"A week and a half ago," he continued slowly, "the situation became worse. The mother was high and the boyfriend was drunk. He started beating up the mother and she fought back. Little Winter woke up from her nap, because they were fighting. She didn't feel well and needed her medicine. Bless her soul, she knew how much to take and how to take it. But before she could get to it, the boyfriend got to her. The mother really didn't do much to protect her daughter that night...or any other night for that matter. So the boyfriend forced her to take all of the medicine, just because he could," the Priest spat.
Rocky's face fell. He knew what was going to happen...only he couldn't stop the Priest. He needed to hear what had happened. The Priest continued. "After that, he punched her hard enough to send her sprawling into the next room. All the mother did was tell Little Winter to go outside, and continued fighting with her boyfriend. She screamed at him, told him the relationship was over, and kicked him out. After more arguing, he left. But not before threatening to come back to kill them. He never got his chance, because Little Winter wouldn't let him.
She ran out of the apartment and hid behind crates and trashcans from him. She was sick from her fever, and the overdose in her medicine was kicking in." He paused again, holding back tears. "She stumbled to this church. It was the only safe place she knew she could go. We always left it open for her. We still can't figure out how she managed to hold on for so long...let alone find the strength to make it here. But she did. We called an ambulance. Even though it was here in ten minutes, she was gone." A single tear formed in a corner of his eye. "Little Winter never had a mean bone in her body. Never said a mean word. Although she was in an incredible amount of pain, her last thoughts and words were those of love. She," he half-chuckled, "she apologized for not being able to give us hugs goodbye, but she'd give us a kiss if we could please lean in close." The tear made a quick path down his face and fell to the floor. "Little Winter gave us one of her 'Goodbye Kisses', stopped shivering, told us she was tired and that she'll see us when she wakes up, closed her eyes...and never opened them again," he finished in a whisper.
There was nothing Rocky cold say. He'd felt his own tears welling up, but held them back. He was too shocked. Silence held court for an unmeasurable amount of time. After a length, the kitten stirred, breaking the Silence. Rocky spoke...whispered. "But if she's dead, then how could I touch a ghost?"
"Because she willed it. In a way, she probably doesn't believe she's dead, but she definitely knows she isn't among the living. Little Winter probably knows she has some unfinished business. Although I can't imagine what it'd be."
"I've got a question."
"She said that the whole neighborhood takes care of each other. Was she talking about you and the Church?" The Priest smiled.
"Oh, yes. We are the only neighbors she has for about three blocks in any direction. Little Winter would also pretend that the stray cats and dogs were her neighbors, too. She'd always give them food because they'd play with her and...this is another strange thing about her...protect her from harm. She just never had any concept how dangerous the world is. She never had a clue," he finished, his voice holding a mystified tone.
"What was the first strange thing?"
"Again...it's with the animals. Even though the dogs and cats would attack people and be the meanest creatures around, they'd never attack her. We couldn't figure it out for the life of us, but they'd be gentle as a feather to her, and would fiercely protect her. And when she spoke to them, it was as if they knew exactly what she said." He paused again as a thought occurred to him. "You know, come to think of it, there was this cat that always followed her around. It was pregnant, and she took extremely good care of it. After the cat had her kittens, Little Winter helped care for them. When they were old enough, she found them good homes. All but one was given away. She wanted the smallest one, because she was small, too. And," he nodded to the sleeping bundle on the shelf, "I think that was hers. Maybe she knew you were coming, and wanted you to look after her little pet. Maybe that was her unfinished business."
Rocky slowly nodded his head in agreement. "Maybe," he said just as slowly, his gaze falling on the kitten. "Maybe."
"If you want, you can light a candle for her, and say a prayer."
"I think I will. Thank you, Father." The aging Priest nodded once. Rocky put down the towel, finger - combed his hair, checked on the sleeping kitten, and made his way to the table with the candles. He couldn't remember which color to use, but he chose white. It was the universal symbol of purity and happiness. _Except for that one culture, where white is used for mourning._ He sighed at the thought. _Either way, I suppose it's appropriate for how I'm feeling._
Without further thought or hesitation, he lit the candle and placed it on the table. Even though he remembered all of the prayers, only one seemed appropriate. He kneeled, bowed his head and folded his hands. And when he began, it was barely a whisper. He spoke slowly, as if to pull meaning from every sound...letter...syllable.
"Saint Teresa of the Little Flower..."
The Priest turned away...granting the teen privacy.
Although the prayer lasted five minutes, Rocky remained kneeling. He sent his good-byes to Winter Daisy, with promises to care for her little pet. At length, he finally rose and returned to the room. The Priest was there, tending to the items needed for Mass. The kitten was still sound asleep. He turned and greeted Rocky with a smile.
"You know, Father, I realized something. It didn't hit me until a few minutes ago. When we said our good-byes, she knew my last name. I never told her what it is." The Father sighed and shook his head, not knowing what to say. After a few moments, he finally did say something.
"I'm surprised you didn't pick that up immediately." He paused again. "Speaking of which, I never properly introduced myself. I'm Father Michael Harris," he said extending his hand. Rocky shook it and the Father continued without missing a beat. "Now, I'm going on assumptions here, but your first name is Rocky."
"Yeah, it is," he answered, letting go of Father Michael's hand. "Rocky DeSantos."
"I thought you were Hispanic," he said, smiling. "My Spanish isn't good by any means, but I know that 'Santo' is the masculine form of 'Saint.' And 'De' means 'of'. So wouldn't your last name roughly translate as 'Of The Saints'?"
"Yeah...something like that," he grinned. "You're not as bad as you think."
"Well, I gotta get back home before sunrise. I've been gone long enough...too long, actually."
"You're welcome to come back any time you want."
"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind. Oh. Here's your towel," Rocky said, pulling the towel from around his neck and handing it back to Father Michael.
"Oh, no. You keep it. Might keep your neck warm on the way back. And keep the other one for the kitten, too."
"Thank you. It is quite a long walk back."
"So...what'll you name the kitten?"
"I don't know yet. I think...maybe...'Daisy'. It only seems right."
"It's a good name," Father Michael smiled. Rocky gently lifted the little bundle and mad his way for the door. Once outside, he readjusted his hold on the kitten so as to hold it closer and keep it warm. He started to walk back the way he came...and stopped himself. He didn't want to go that way. It was where he was depressed with a world of problems on his shoulders. Besides, it wasn't exactly a safe way, either. He then readjusted his body so as to walk a safer route.
Rocky didn't look back.
The rain is slowing to a drizzle. There is a cooling breeze that sings a high sweet melody.
Way down in the hollow, leavin' so soon
Oh, Saint Teresa, higher than the moon
Three-thirty a.m. The minutes don't exist and no longer does the rain. The streets are still empty in a crowded city. A pair of once - light brown work boots break the streetlight reflections on the wet asphalt and in the puddles. Rocky's eyes aren't watching the ground. Instead, they are looking forward. He dismisses the voice, seeing that he is almost home, and picks up his pace. The wind isn't cold, but it's chilling when it caresses his wet clothes. Rocky shivers and readjusts the towels covering Daisy. He turns one last corner and sees his house. It's a very welcoming sight for a weary traveler. A smile plays on Rocky's lips, and breaks into a slow run, holding the kitten closer.
You called up in the sky
You called up in the clouds
Once inside his room, keeping as quiet as possible, Rocky manages to get himself cleaned up and ready for bed.
"I haven't forgotten about you," said to the tiny kitten. "Let's see what we can do to get you clean." Daisy just looked at him from her nest of towels. He reached down and gave her back a rub. In response, she closed her eyes and started her tiny motor. Once she was happy, Rocky gently turned on the water and ran a small washcloth under it.
"I don't think it'll be good to use human soap on you, so I think we'll just work with a damp cloth. That sound okay to you?" he asked, tightly wringing out the washcloth. It was warm and a little more than damp. He let her smell and paw at it, letting her get used to the whole idea of water. Once her curiosity began to subside, he began to gently rub the cloth on her back and the top of her head.
Daisy just soaked up the attention. In her own little kitten thoughts, she felt the comfort of her mother's tongue. So she closed her eyes and began to purr. Oh how she wanted to curl up next to Mom, but Mom didn't move or breathe anymore. She didn't purr, either. And she had been cold, with hard cold things hitting her. She cried for Mom. She was hungry but Mom didn't move...and she had a bad smell coming from inside her tummy. But still, she stayed and tried to get Mom to move. Then...some big creature had come along. Oh, she had been so very, very scared.
It was one of the creatures that walked on two legs. Those creatures were worse than the big furry ones that walked on four legs, and had sharp teeth and weird, harsh meows. Those two-legged creatures would hurt her kitty-family. She was terrified when it leaned over and picked her up. She tried to tell the creature to leave her alone, but she could only manage a squeak. Her hunger and thirst were great, and this creature was going to hurt her.
But it didn't. It held her close and gently. Just as one of the other creatures had. But that other two-legged creature was far, far smaller than this one. And even though they had distinctly different smells, they had one in common. She liked that smell, and decided to curl up in the big creature's paw. It meowed gently to her, so as not to hurt her tiny ears. She wanted it to know that she was happy, but only her body would shake.
Daisy opened her eyes as the big creature began rubbing her paws with the soft thing. Gentle as Mother's tongue, but not quite the same. She made her purr come out, and flopped onto her back. The creature rubbed her tummy with one of its claws, but didn't hurt her. She told him in her language that she was now all clean and needed something to eat. It's mouth pulled back and showed teeth. Big teeth. She froze. It stopped rubbing her tummy. It's face changed again, and continued to rub her tummy.
Is there something you forgot to tell me
Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me
Rocky clearly heard the voice, and listened to it. He shook his head in response to the question, not pausing from rubbing Daisy's tummy. In a way, the voice had led him to Winter Daisy and Daisy. He blinked himself out of his reverie.
"So that's why you flopped over," Rocky said with a grin, careful not to show his teeth. He'd felt her stomach rumble and heard a tiny burble. "You're hungry." He wrapped her in a small towel and carried her to the kitchen. And at the thought of food, Rocky's stomach perked up. So between the two near-starving children, it's needless to say that what was left of the kitchen was in complete shambles.
Almost a week later, Rocky was carrying Daisy to her first doctor's appointment. And after that, they were gonna go shopping at all the nearest pet supply stores.
"You, young lady, are gonna need a collar. With tags."
"Well...your voice is getting better, but you need to use your tummy muscles to make it louder. That's one of the first things you learn, when you're being taught how to do a proper 'kiai.' But since you're a cat...kitten...then you can use that lesson to properly throw a good growl."
"Eh. I think you just need to do a little growing up," he smiled. "Your voice'll get bigger as you get bigger." She just looked at him from her perch on his left shoulder. "So. What color would you like for your collar? I'm thinking orange." She leaned her head forward a fraction of an inch, and laid a paw on his face...applying pressure.
"Hey. No slapping me in the face," he gently chided her with a smile.
"mew," she said and removed her paw, looking at him with the typical "innocent kitten" look.
"Uh-huh. Keep it up and that "innocent" look will wear out right quick, little miss." She let out a tiny snort.
"Blue?" Another snort.
"Green?" She turned her head.
"How `bout I let you pick out which one you want?" She looked at him. "But no collars with spikes." Daisy just kept staring innocently and blinked her wide, brown eyes.
Rocky suddenly tripped over a piece of broken sidewalk. Daisy sunk her claws into his shoulder to keep from falling off of her perch. Which wouldn't have happened because Rocky automatically reached up to cushion her. Fortunately for both, he didn't fall. He regained his footing and checked to make sure Daisy was alright.
"Are you alright, son?" Rocky looked up, confused as to where the voice came from. "Over here." Rocky turned his head to the left, and saw none other than...
"Father Michael!" he exclaimed with a smile.
"Rocky! Good to see you! What brings you around here so early on a Friday?"
"Daisy's going for her first doctor's appointment, and then we're going shopping for collars...and other stuff she might need."
"That's wonderful," Father Michael replied coming down the steps and over to Rocky. He reached a hand up to pet Daisy. "I hope you two have fun."
"I don't know about myself, but she's gonna be all over the place." Father Michael laughed as Daisy practically jammed her forehead into his palm, purring as loudly as her tiny motor would let her.
"Yep. She's definitely a perky handful. Just like her namesake." Instead of feeling depressed, Rocky actually smiled. He remembered Winter Daisy's sweet smile.
"And she also seems to know a little more than she should," he chuckled. "Daisy practically acts like a human."
"I think she gets it from you," Father Michael lightly teased.
"Really? I thought she got her brown eyes from me."
"Maybe the hair, too. Her eyes seem to be the exact same color and shade of her fur...". Both laughed at their little joke. Rocky looked at his watch and became serious.
"I gotta go or we're gonna be late."
"Well, thanks for coming by. It was good seeing you again," Father Michael smiled.
"I might come by a little more often," Rocky grinned as he turned and left.
Eight a.m. The minutes are almost non-existent and the sun is bright. the streets are waking up with the city. A pair of sturdy sneakers step in a puddle of sunlight. The puddles are many because the day is warm and cheerful. The sun lounges on the clouds and smiles warmly. The sneakers lightly step over a dandelion growing in a sidewalk crack. The feet inside the sneakers feel joy in their job. The legs are full of energy, and barely keep the feet in line. A pair of denim shorts and a red t-shirt cover the body. The head is uncovered and lifted, a smile resting on the face and lips. On the left shoulder rests a perky kitten...eyes wide and taking in every possible sight, smell, and sound.
"Hm? Oh. Well...if you like this, kitten, then you're gonna love being here. You can bet your purr on that!"
Every stone a story, like a rosary.