Lughnasadh was not a big deal for most of us, although we did have that day off from classes--the summer semester ended the day before, and there was a break of a few days before the fall semester began. There was also a big lunch that Sarah used to more or less show off the farm. I can't remember if I've said so before or not, but we ate very well on campus. We ate strangely, because there were almost no foods that weren't local (coffee and chocolate were both exceptions), and either in season or dried or canned. We had no refrigeration on campus, either, and some things, like eggs and milk, were rationed. That all doesn't sound very good, it sounds like deprivation, but we actually always got enough--there just was no room to waste. And everything we did eat tasted fantastic, and a lot of that was Sarah's doing. Every vegetable of hers I ate was always the best one of that kind of vegetable I'd ever had. On that first Lughnasadh, I remember I was eating stuffed squash, and I don't even usually like squash. There was a big party tent set up outside, in case of rain, I suppose, because we ate out on the meadow near the Dinning Hall, just eating and talking. It went on for hours. Some people brought guitars or juggled, or just sat around and read. One girl, Amanda, took a nap under a table.
The masters left the party early, and they did not all leave at the same time. The only reason I noticed was that I watch people (I’m a writer), and I happened to be watching Greg when he left. I’d been watching him much of the afternoon, because I was surprised he was there; Greg did not usually attend community events if he didn’t have to, though today he seemed to be in an unusually good mood, joking and laughing with some of his friends. Then he left. I was watching the door to the tent, thinking, when Alan left. Odd. Were they going somewhere together? I knew they got along, but Greg seemed so separate from the others, it seemed strange to think of him making plans with somebody. I decided to look around and see who else had left, and I noticed Joy was gone, as were both Joes and Chuck, the maintenance man. Obviously the masters were going to do something as a group that we students weren’t supposed to know about. I debated asking one of them directly—a direct question usually got an answer, and the masters sometimes did things mysteriously in order to provoke students into asking. But they also sometimes acted mysteriously for the pleasure of being mysterious, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spoil their fun—or mine.
But I got distracted from any snooping or questioning I might have done that day, because Kit and Sarah started singing. They weren't performing. Maybe they were practicing. They were sitting off by end of the big tent where we'd had our holiday lunch. Sarah was sitting on a tall stool, Kit was standing. She wore, I remember, not the school uniform, but a green dress with mirrors flecks sewn in that set off her hair, just so. Sarah wore a simple, grey skirt she had sewn herself, and she had her hair done up in a yellow bandana. And they sang "I Come to the Garden Alone," Sarah in a sweet soprano, Kit weaving her earthy alto in and among Sarah's tune.
I went over to listen to them--Kit looked at me briefly, nervously, but otherwise they both ignored me, which was fine with me. I would not have thought they were friends, except for those occasional duets. They were both so zealously committed to religions that each excluded the other, not that it had to be that way--Sarah was not the only Christian on campus--but that was how they had both made it. And yet they sang duets. I'd heard they were once close, as students.
Finally, they stopped, embraced, and Kit began to gather her things to leave. Sarah sat down next to me, but she was looking off behind me, watching something. I turned, and saw she was watching Charlie. Here eyes followed him as he gathered his things, spoke briefly to a few people, and left the tent.
"You were his student, weren't you?" I asked. This was common knowledge, but I was being conversational. Also I was being nosy. I wanted to know about the strange, almost but not quite neutral expression on her face as she watched him. She blushed, slightly, but whether it was because she'd been rude enough to completely ignore me (Sarah was usually very conscientious and polite), or because I'd clearly noticed her watching Charlie, I couldn't tell.
"I still am," she told me, quietly.
"Did he always make it so hard to be his student?" He had just made me re-label several dozen trees again, so I was a bit irritated, but Sarah clearly thought I meant his resistance to taking on students to begin with, which was legendary.
"Oh, no. He used to be pretty outgoing, to a fault, if anything. He seemed to think he was God's gift to students. He couldn't wait to teach us."
"Really?" I'd never heard of this. "What happened?"
"If he has not told you, I will not."
"Well, what else was he like? What was he like when you were a candidate?"
"He knew everything, same as he does now," Sarah smiled nostalgically as she spoke. "You know how your parents seem to know everything when you're small? He really did. He made the world seem bigger."
"I guess you're like Alan, then, stuck between him and Kit?" I shouldn't have asked about this, and Sarah shot me a look, but I thought it was common knowledge that Kit and Charlie were more or less allergic to each other. To my surprise, Sarah shook her head.
"It wasn't like that. We were his students together. I found my way to Jesus through him, and she found her Goddess. She admired him as much as I did,"
"We both grew up, I think," she answered. I must have asked too many questions, though, because Sarah nodded to me in farewell, and abruptly got up and left. It was a self-protective gesture so like Charlie that if I didn't know better I could have sworn she was his daughter.