Author’s Note: It’s not just about making the decision to achieve your goals…it’s also about keeping them alive in your heart, and letting them blossom into greater things.
Tassh stopped digging in the soil and looked up, wiping his brow with a sleeve and studying him with interest. “There’s something different about you today, Diwa,” he said. “You seem to be so much more kriishii today.”
Diwa grinned unashamedly at him and continued to pinch away the dead leaves and shoots as he found them in one of the raised beds. He’d been expecting this since they met up on the green that afternoon to tend to Tassh’s allotment. “Just a lot of positive things going on at the moment,” he said, and left it at that.
“Ah yes, enjoying life for what it’s giving you,” Tassh said, winking and pointing his trowel in his direction. He understood and didn’t need to ask any questions. “Embrace it, annh. It will set you off in so many different directions, but your spirit will always know the right way to go.”
“Hmm. I’ll keep that in mind, Tassh,” he said. “How is your family, by the way? I haven’t seen Moffer in a while. I usually see him coming home from work at night.”
Tassh face screwed up into a mean grimace and made a noise that sounded partly like a grunt of frustration and a whine of annoyance. “He’s been recruited for a temporary project in the city,” he said, stabbing at the earth a little harder than usual. “He’s been staying with our family the last few weeks, so he doesn’t have to travel so far. It’s good pay and it’s only for another month, but it’s put a bit of a strain on Kantah and Koie and I’m exhausted. I’ve been doing all I can for both of them.”
Diwa slowed to a halt, turning towards him. “That’s got to be tough. If you need any help at the house, by all means let me know. I can ask around and get you some part time help.”
“I appreciate that,” he said, his broad shoulders dropping with relief. “I will let Kantah know when I see her later today.”
“No worries, it’s what this estate is about. We’re glad to assist any way we can.”
Tassh snorted and pushed himself up to his knees, his fists pushing into his sides. “You are definitely a dreamer, Diwa,” he said, giving him a wily grin. “You and your friends. Mind you, I’m not complaining. It’s refreshing, is what it is. Sometimes such optimism is hard to come by.”
“I always try to be optimistic, but I try to be realistic as well,” he said, pausing to take in Tassh’s comment. He thought of the many times he’d been led to second-guess himself for being too excited about his ideas. He thought of Kaffi sitting next to him on the light rail, worried about their plans. “It’s too easy to set my hopes too high sometimes,” he added.
“Heh. You sound like Samuel.”
“I should!” he laughed. “He’s thrown those exact words at me multiple times over the last few years!”
“Ha! My annoh has given me that same advice as well.”
“Well…” He stood up, wiping sweat from his brow and brushing dirt off his clothes. He looked around the estate grounds; it was a quiet afternoon with not too many tenants milling about, though it was never completely quiet. He could hear the echoes of the younger kids at the playground just beyond the hedges. He could hear a few tenants laughing and talking while they walked one of the outer footpaths on the green. He could hear someone in one of the bungalows behind them practicing scales on a woodwind instrument. All was well, and Diwa felt at peace. He turned back to Tassh, flashing a smile at him. “I guess I just have faith in this estate, yeah? If I’ve learned anything from Pop so far, it’s that everyone has different levels of acceptance. Some of our tenants are more than willing to jump in and give a hand to anyone that needs help. Some are extremely social, want to be a part of whatever’s going on. And some are solitary, would rather keep to ourselves and not make waves.”
Tassh stood as well and brushed himself off. “And what about you?” he asked, tipping his horns in his direction.
“Me? That’s a good question.” He looked away in thought, taking Tassh’s question to heart. “I suppose I’m a bit like Samuel and Graymar mashed up. I make it a point to connect with a lot of people for that exact reason. To learn what levels our tenants work at. Get to know who needs help, who’d rather be left alone, and who goes either way and just enjoys the company.”
Tassh shook his trowel at him again, giving him a wide grin. “Yes, but who are you, youngling Diwa? What kind of tenant are you? An outsider? A busybody? A watcher like your father, or part of the community like your mother?”
Diwa opened his mouth to answer, but to his surprise couldn’t come up with a good response. “I bit of everything…I suppose,” he said.
“This is how you are seen by others, Diwa,” Tassh said, nodding at him. “Something to think about, yeah? Come – Let’s take a break. Our allotment will be waiting for us when we return.”
Kaffi swooped down onto the railing outside Diwa’s apartment building and nailed the landing on the first attempt. This surprised him greatly, considering he would usually duff it and slide off to the balcony floor, or he’d overbalance and need to kick back off and hover so he could try it again. He hadn’t been thinking about his technique this time, trusting himself and letting it come naturally. He smiled happily as he hopped down to the balcony floor and knocked on the apartment door. Perhaps he was getting more out of his training than he’d expected!
Maricel answered, a big grin already on her face. “Hey there, Kaffi!” she said. “Come on in. Diwa’s busy helping Pop in the back office right now, but I can get him if you want?”
“No, that’s fine,” he said, dismissing the offer with a quick wave. “I’m in the middle of doing rounds so I can only stay for a few moments. I just wanted to give him a message anyway. Can you tell him to come over after dinner tonight?”
She nodded, but she also crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at him. He knew that look well, and he steeled himself for the inquisition. Nothing ever got past Maricel, not when he and Diwa were involved. “Anong ginagawa mo, Kaffi?” she said. “He came home yesterday with a big stupid grin on his face, you know. He wouldn’t elaborate, but he was insufferable for the rest of the night!”
Kaffi fluttered his wings and tipped his head innocently. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Of course you don’t,” she giggled. “I know that look.”
“Yes! You two decided to bond!”
He chittered his fangs together and snorted in amusement. “That is your own opinion, my dear Mari,” he said. “And I am currently in no position to confirm or deny.”
“You are such a bad liar!” she relented with a laugh, and wrapped her arms around his neck, giving him a squeeze. “Can’t say I didn’t see it coming. Still…ang sayá-sayá ko! Welcome to the family!”
Kaffi’s wings rippled with joy and he draped his arms around her small frame. “Salamat, Mari,” he hummed. “Please…keep it under wraps for now? I don’t want any news to break without Diwa’s okay.”
“You got it,” she said, and planted a kiss on his snout. “You treat him good, Kaff. Or you’ll be hearing it from me!”
He returned to his nestroom later that afternoon, feeling nervous and twitchy. He sat on his pallet bed, looking at the large package he and his paddir had brought back from his uncle’s, sliding his long fingers along the corners. He felt nervous and excited at the same time; the contents of this package were going to assist in one of the biggest advances in his flight training and he couldn’t wait to begin.
He didn’t want to open it just yet, though the temptation was incredibly high, and Graymar had understood his wishes to keep it closed when they brought it home via light rail. He wanted to share it with Diwa first, signifying the start of their long career together. Dee had been sitting in that spot just yesterday, professing that he too wanted to bond, and each time Kaffi thought of that moment he felt another happy chill coursing through him, making his wings flutter.
He wondered if his paddir knew of their bonding plans. He must have figured it out by now, as nothing ever got past him. His manae probably knew as well. Iliah must have known before anyone else; that had to have been one of the reasons why she’d given him that armband.
As long as his family continued to welcome Diwa with open wings…!
His manae soon called him to dinner, even though he was too nervous to eat. He nibbled away at another of Iliah’s delicious dishes, far too distracted. Iliah understood and left him alone. Shahney eyed him once or twice, more out of curiosity than concern. Graymar had said nothing, but he’d already shared his words with him privately earlier in the day. He’d had a long talk with him during the trip back from his uncle’s; one that he hadn’t expected but had treasured. He’d told Kaffi how proud he was of his progress, how pleased he was by his dedication and drive.
But he’d grown silent again by dinnertime, distracted and grumpy and keeping his distance from everyone. It obviously wasn’t anything Kaffi had done or said, so he didn’t feel guilty…but he was still concerned. He’d been tempted to get him to open up, but shied away after Iliah tried and failed, and Shahney had waved the two of them off. He let it go for now. In his heart, he knew that his paddir was indeed proud of him.
Diwa arrived a little after seven. He’d brought a few textbooks for a study session, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t be using them right away, considering Kaffi’s bristling excitement. Kaffi let him in and led him towards his nestroom, and his wings would not stop twitching. He hopped onto his pallet bed with much more of a spring in his step than usual, hastily reached over the other side, and placed a large cardboard box in between them. “Come,” he said, flashing a wide smile at him. “Sit. I have something I want to show you.”
Diwa raised his eyebrows, amused. Kaffi could be quite animated on a good day, but he was rarely this close to spilling over with barely contained glee! “Okay,” he said, climbing onto the bed. “What’s in the box?”
Kaffi tapped the top with one of his talons. “Open it and see!” he said.
“You haven’t opened it yourself yet?” he said.
“It’s for both of us,” he said, bobbing his snout. “I want to see what you think of it. I saw it earlier, but I want you to see it now.”
Diwa wasn’t quite used to this side of Kaffi before. Not that he minded, but it would take getting used to. He slipped the interlocked box flaps open and began to push aside the packing pellets that hid the mystery item. His fingers brushed against something hard and round, and took a hold of it try to pull it through the packing material.
His eyes went wide in surprise as he began to uncover what was underneath. No wonder he was so excited! “Whoa! Is that…?”
Sitting in the middle of the box was a ride’s saddle, wrapped up in a light clear plastic. Small and compact, and much lighter than he’d expected.
Diwa couldn’t help but laugh. “It is..!”
“Go on, take it out!” Kaffi said, grinning madly.
Diwa lifted it out of the box and studied it closely. It was a lighter, lower-end style of saddle that was made both of leather and ultra-strong polymers, a perfect starter version for those just starting out in flight. The seat was slightly padded for ride comfort, and the underside was lined with a soft microfiber for flight comfort. The foot wells were hinged for easy storage but locked into place once unfolded. There were also a few small unexplained hooks and eyeholes around the sides that he wasn’t sure about. He’d seen such saddles before, but he’d never seen one up close. He hadn’t expected it to be so light! It was slightly worn and discolored, but it had been cleaned and repaired very recently, and had been kept in good shape.
He placed it on the bed between them. “This was your uncle’s?”
“My cousin’s,” Kaffi said, tapping his fangs together. “He took good care of it after he got a replacement and gave it back to his paddir. And now it’s ours until we buy our own.”
“Yours, you mean?”
He waved a talon between them. “I wear it, you use it,” he said happily. “Ergo, it’s ours.”
“Ours…” Diwa smiled as he let that word sink in. “Hmm. I like the sound of that.”
“So do I, Dee.”
He placed it back in the box, but he couldn’t keep his eyes off it. “Seriously, I love it! Are you going to start training with it soon?”
Kaffi bobbed his head quickly. “Paddir will show me how to wear it and use it this weekend. I’ll need to get used to it first before I start flying anywhere with it.” He reached out and touched Diwa’s hand, patting it twice. “You’ll just have to wait a bit more. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” he said. “Annie still needs to train me, so we have time.”
Kaffi beamed at him, squeezing his hand. “You like it? It’s nothing exciting, but I wanted to share it with you.”
Diwa hummed in response, squeezing back. “It’s great. I’m glad you did.”
Kaffi lifted his snout from his reading and glanced at him. “Hmm?”
Diwa pushed his textbook aside and leaned back on the bed. He’d been too distracted to study tonight, even before he’d come over here. He hated to ruin the positive mood they’d shared just a short time ago, but this irritation had been nagging at the back of his mind all day.
“Is there something going on with Graymar?”
Kaffi slowed his movements and held his wings still. “Not that I know of. Why?”
“Well…Pop was in a mood again today. He didn’t seem angry, just upset at something. He won’t tell me what. I thought it might just be his usual thing, but…he was just so happy when they came back from Panooria the other day.”
Kaffi hummed, quiet and extremely low; concerned. “You know how paddir is, Dee. He’s grouchy on any given day. No less than usual lately.” He finally let his wings twitch just a little bit. “He was fine earlier today when we went to pick up the saddle…but he was quiet by the time we got home. I wonder…”
Diwa watched Kaffi flutter his wings again, this time stretching them out to almost full span before pulling them back against his body again. “Flight?” he ventured.
“Hmm. Maybe. He won’t admit to anything, but he has been favoring his right wing lately. If it’s bothering him, it could be affecting his flight.” He hummed again, quick and tight. Concern. “I hope he’s getting it looked at.”
“I’m sure he is,” Diwa said, frowning. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“No, Dee,” he said quickly, his wings fluttering again. “I’m glad you did. I should be more worried about him. I’ll bring it up with my manae.” He rested a hand on his shoulder, brushing a thumb against his skin. “Thank you for telling me. You were concerned about Samuel’s mood. This means they’re aware of an issue. I won’t push him if your paddir is already doing so.”
“I suppose you’re right…” he said, placing his hand over Kaffi’s. “I just want to do the right thing, Kaff. They both needed that positive connection. I just want them to keep it.”
“So do I, Dee,” he said, giving him a soft smile. “So do I.”
kriishii (kree-shee) — (aanoupii) in good spirits, emanating a positive outlook
“Anong ginagawa mo, Kaffi?” — (Tagalog) “What are you up to, Kaffi?”
“…ang sayá-sayá ko!” — (Tagalog) “I’m extremely happy!”
“Salamat, Mari…” — (Tagalog) “Thank you, Mari…”