Serendipity: The faculty of making wonderful, desirable but unsought–for, accidental discoveries ...

*****************************

Clasping her books to her chest, feeling weighed down by the extra books in her shoulder bag, and fervently wishing for the umpteenth time that day that she hadn't worn flat-heeled sandals on that dreary, rainy morning, she hurried down the crowded immensely long Wordsworth Wing corridor, all full of students in a similar hurry to reach their classes, students congregating around half-open room doors, in the attempt for a last minute conversation with friends before the inevitable drudgery of lessons would begin. The hallway was also transformed into a danger zone, with classroom doors suddenly swinging outwards unexpectedly, people bursting out in relief, suddenly bright-eyed and cheerful, to be replaced by the forlorn, depressed and dull boredom of the new students trailing in for the next class. In addition to this danger, there were the lockers which were cheerfully swung open while their owners engaged in yet more conversations while gathered around them, glinting mirrors, large coloured posters, reminder notes and other such pasted up inside the lockers, an optimistic attempt to brighten the sordidness of university and lectures and clubs and societies and …

Sh-i-t … I'm going to miss the goddamn bus again …

Danah paid no attention to the thronging, throbbing mass of fellow students as she bravely tried to battle her way through the thick accumulation of bodies, metal locker doors and dangerous swinging wooden ones. She was dimly aware of her wet sandaled feet hugging the linoleum floor with every attempt she made to rush – the wetness and the annoying flooring creating an irritating immense suction power, firmly molding her feet to the floor and resisting all her vain efforts to hurry …

Her arms were aching most painfully already, but she had already debated hotly with herself in the library if she really did need all these thousand books, then decided fervently that she did, that the annoying essay would certainly not get itself done, and her useless group certainly seemed far too busy this weekend, too many plans for Friday night and Saturday and so on, far too many plans to bother with getting their proper share done ...

Fleetingly, as she thought of them, a furious ugly scowl flitted across her features. Features that were slim-boned and fine, almost delicate, but somehow had not yet acquired the dainty delicate beauty as so many young women of twenty-one had – Time had left her behind, had forgotten to change her from a girl to a young woman, had not employed that heavenly sculptor to chisel out her features into something ... magical ...

Not that the girl really cared, not anymore. Looking girlish may have had its advantages, she supposed, not that she was in any hurry to employ them. Even after almost five years into her degree, after five years of her new-found independence – the only other times she had left her family was during the customary boring three-day school camps – Danah may have grown, have flourished beautifully within, had achieved a strength, a purpose and determination inside her that astonished and almost frightened her parents and siblings, had even left them in awe of the worried, nervous little girl who had gone away to study to become a doctor, and had returned with a set of golden wings, the wind in her wake, a shimmering aura around her …

All which, not many others could even see. Could not begin to see, so it seemed.

Danah had all but lost track of the times she had sat in her room and cried bitterly over her plainness, her homeliness. Her mother had just looked at her helplessly, and her father had watched quietly, placidly, seemingly unmoved. So many times in her early years, when she'd been his little princess, he'd taken her in his lap, telling her again and again how beautiful she really was, that no jewel in this entire universe could ever match the shine of her eyes. The breathtaking beauty and shine of them, the scintillating sparkles in them, the magnificent divine colour that no twilight hour could ever hope to match – and so wonderful would be his description, his adoring praise, that she would be mesmerised by his words, even though he was referring to her … Daddy could always make her feel better, he always knew what to say.

But the world was not full of these Daddies – they were full of blind people, people who truly failed to look beyond what was at the end of their nose. Basically, everyone operated on the unwritten guidelines: in this material world, where 'The Look' sells, if you do not possess what other people are buying, then you must try a damn lot harder at being happy, or seeming to be. You must draw your sense of humour around you, like a warm cloak, to protect yourself from the cold shouldering, when people applied, 'the freeze' ...

She would watch the adoration fall upon her beautiful sister – Lily had been the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Well, she still was. Even as a child, Lily was the one praised and practically worshipped, adored. She herself would be the little girl who would peep around the doorways, watching in delight as some gorgeous young man would offer her sister a rose, sometimes a beautiful white one, sometimes it was a giant bouquet of mixed ones, but sometimes it was deeply, passionately red. She would giggle in glee at the innocent kiss they would share before he would take her hand, lead her out to his waiting car, or the waiting cab, take her out to the dances or the discos, or the night out.

And as Danah grew older, she would wait impatiently, delightedly, eagerly for those times for herself … how wonderful it must be, to be so adored, so admired – and by someone who wasn't obliged to do it, someone who wasn't a family member …

So she waited … and waited …

She still waited …

And then one day, she had grown up. Gone was the excited, energetic and vibrant little girl. Like the mermaid Clytie who watched eagerly as the Sun Lord drove his chariots across the sky, watched him from afar, loving him, adoring him … and had watched for so long that the earth had grown up around her, ground and plants, weeds had taken root around her, her friends pleaded with her to stop this and go about her business, to do something worthwhile instead of wishing for the impossible …

The impossible …? Was that what they had all thought of it …?  That she was wishing for something so impossible, she might as well have wished for the moon ... Did they really think that she was so plain that no one would ever be likely to take an interest …?

Undoubtedly. It was now evident to her, that they had not wanted her more hurt than she was …

Clytie had not listened to her friends … Clytie the mermaid had kept on watching the Sun Lord adoringly, taking no heed, paying no attention to anyone or anything …

Clytie had been claimed by the earth, but so beautiful was she that her long golden hair had formed a halo around her face … her slim, tender body had turned into fresh, leafy green stalks and leaves, and she had become a sunflower – the sunflower to this day which always looks out for the heavenly charioteer, who follows his progress as he drives his golden horses across the sky each day.


But Danah was not Clytie. Danah was more sensible.

She had, at the tender age of seventeen, quietly packed up books and items she would need, had tidied away those she wouldn't, organised her room, numerous unnoticed trips to her parents' real estate agent who held the keys to the house a thousand miles away, and had then one day announced just as quietly to her family that she'd been accepted into university because she had applied for an early foundation year after submitting her high school reports. That the university had replied saying they were rather impressed with her results and achievements, and were interested in giving her a study grant over the next seven years to complete her medicine degree – it would take her longer, because they felt she was applying so young, however they would still like to give her a fighting chance – they would reimburse her educational expenses and so on as long as she could provide her own independent set–up and accommodation and transport and so on ...

Shocked, stunned, flabbergasted and amazed looks had passed – little Danah going to university? Little insignificant, hardly noticed, constantly passed over little Danah? No way! And especially this university, meant she was practically going across the country. It meant that she would not be there at home when Daddy returned from work, tired and wanting some intelligent company, that of his youngest daughter; Danah would not be there when her brother returned from school to boast to her about his day's magnificent achievements – bearing yet another glimmering trophy of first in judo, first in softball, honorary black belt in karate, first in dance, first in his mathematics class, the top prize in science, the music award gained with his fabulous new electric guitar, given to him as a birthday gift by proud and adoring aunts and uncles, a gift that most young men would spend a lifetime saving up for … he might be the top accountant right now, working at a firm which had practically begged him to come work for them after he finished school, but that didn't stop his immense extra activities, which had continued for as long as she could remember. Danah would not be there when Lily would run home, squealing in delight and eager to tell her little sister about this wonderful, gorgeous, new guy in her class in college, and who had just asked her to accompany him to the Autumn Ball that next week …

Danah would not be there anymore … little inconspicuous, mousy Danah had achieved what no one had thought possible – a placing at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, to complete an intense, demanding and highly respectable course …

She didn't listen when her aunts and uncles had quietly heard to her parents' delight at her achievements. She glowed inside when her mother had squealed in delight and hugged her, and then had cried that she would not be seeing her darling much when she went away, then joyful that she had achieved what she'd always wanted. She had glowed more when her darling daddy had collected his little girl into his arms and had not said anything, just held her close. But despite her own joy at bringing this much happiness and pride to the two people she loved best in this world, she couldn't escape the comments of those aunts and uncles ... or rather, the lack of comments from them ... "Of course, Lachlan could have achieved such a thing any day if he'd wanted, he just does not feel like being a doctor … and our beautiful Lily, well … being an interior designer and decorator instead of going away to study medicine, is certainly something befitting of so lovely a girl!"

No praise. No congratulations for anything she had ever done. Not that she had ever done much … well, not in their eyes. Never mind that her entire life had been one painful slaving away session, always desperate to be seen for someone different, other than the youngest, plain, dull daughter of an otherwise handsome, intelligent family ... her father being well respected and known leading innovator in scientific products, the head of a company which passes out grants to eager, avid research scientists who were to find the cure to the most deadliest of diseases within the next decade ... her mother a highly successful lawyer, with a mind so brilliant and quick people thought it left their best private detectives for dead ...

But what they had not known was that little Danah was anything but dull. No one else had taken the time to see her quiet achievements. Only her mother, her father ... perhaps they had always knew that one day she would shine, they just hadn't expected to lose her in the process ...

Her father, after silently watching her eyes, the painfully clear running emotions flash across those blue depths, booked her ticket a fortnight earlier. It may be breaking him to let his youngest daughter leave, but it was better than seeing that pain in her eyes. The quiet, numb pain of so many years of –

Danah cursed as her sandaled foot caught fast into the shoulder straps of someone's bag, as the person carelessly let their bag trail on the floor as they leaned into their locker with their entire behind waving in the air. She stumbled and was half tempted to put this person into orbit of the Earth with her sandal, but decided she didn't have time …

Gritting her teeth, clutching her books tighter, straightening her shoulder bag, she hurried on, thankfully spying the turn of the corridor, the turning, the exit through the giant sliding doors, and then the bus stop only a few more minutes away down the slope of that small hill …

*********************

Not too far away, a young man blinked from his position by the window of the library, realised he was so absorbed in his book that he hadn't noticed how dark it was getting, hadn't noticed the long silvery-grey trails of the rain running down the window, casting strange dancing shadows on the pages of his book.

Removing his reading glasses, he groaned as his eyes burned from the intense focus in the semi-darkness of the library … slim hands raised to his face, his fingers gently rubbing his eyes back into awakening, then ran a hand through silky dark hair, idly allowing his fingers to trace the hair down to where it was caught up in a single tress down just past his shoulders …

Intelligent dark eyes surveyed the rain-tossed sky through the windows, the mass of people rushing for shelter then slowing down into a weary plod as they reached the shade awnings and begin their trudging to classes. From where he was, he could see most of the upper campus area of the university, and his eyes ran unseeingly past the tall buildings, the wide expanse of the giant green – now intensely soggy – training field and the stand seats set along its perimeter. He knew he couldn't see the horizon in the thick fog that had descended to accompany this rainy day, but he was all to well aware of the city skyline, the outline he had dreamt of in his past days, the city that he knew he would one day escape to, an escape from the days spent in that towering, forbidding, dark house, its temperature made more extreme by the coldness of the inhabitants ...

It was with a slight searing pain he thought of those who had brought him up – had brought him up as best, to their knowledge, as they knew how ... then they had watched their eldest son turn into nothing short of a delinquent, in their eyes.

So small ... he'd been so small when he had picked up a felt-tip pen lying around the house, had found a nice white clean sheet of paper, and his little chubby fingers had clasped the pen, had pressed that tip to the paper, and magic, absolute pure magic had come from it ... he had never had enough paper in the days that followed to satisfy that craving thirst for drawing ... the response to this magnificent talent at school had been his teacher's delight and awe, her newfound reason for living almost, because the art teacher had been engaged to sit with this boy an hour every other day and help him progress, develop this incredible gift, like training a little baby bird to test its beautiful, powerful wings ...

The pictures that came from the young boy's fingers were hailed as nothing short of magic, of the worlds of fantasy that lay beyond the borders of most normal people's imagination which had suddenly spread through this young boy like fire, a spark of a whisper that he had touched something in this universe denied to so many other people.

Dragons, castles, landscapes, ancient battle scenes, the celestial realms still as–yet unknown, scenes of creation, of breathtakingly lifelike portraits of people, haunting images of otherworldly supernatural whispers that supposedly rivalled even the top science fiction writers ... his teachers' initial responses to this pure enchantment was to eagerly find places to put up these living, moving, breathing artworks. Delight after delight would follow when someone – students and teachers alike – would stop in the school hallways, trudging in from a boring meeting, a roaring, loud classroom, a rainy day ... they would just stop and gaze up at the captivating, enthralling beauty that would adorn the otherwise dreary school hallways ...

That had been his school's response to their discovery of this brilliant prodigy, a prodigy who, in their estimation, was only just beginning.

His parents' response to this magic would be every single bin in the house constantly choked up with paper, paper, paper ... tight lips, white faces, and eyes ... eyes always so cold, so unfeeling, so full of ...

... of hate ...

His father never yelled. He'd never yelled in his life. He was not a violent man by nature either. And his mother ... his mother was far too dainty and lady–like to ever take out anything physical. They were both always consisting of nice, quiet sympathetic bedside manners, as doctors were wont to possess. Their throat–boxes did not possess decibels levels higher than that of a purr of a kitten ...

Relatives looked on quietly, sniggering to themselves that though their own children were not close to prodigies, they were still set for a bright, stable future in their medical, scientific, mathematical, journalism professions. And all through this, the son of the most intelligent parents ever was destined to become nothing short of a loser, a man who would be doing menial jobs like a common labourer, who would be lucky if he ever got a commission for his artwork ... it was after witnessing the backstabbing remarks, the gloating sneering, tittering of their rivalled family counterparts that his parents decided enough was enough ...

They worked quietly, behind the scenes ... keeping him from school. Depriving him of paper. Piling their son with mathematics textbooks, English compositions, science ... military school had been somewhere in that mix as well ...

In short, they were willing to do anything. Anything to stop the shame of bringing into a prestigious family of highfliers a worthless dropout ...

They tried to stop everything ... and yet his fingers itched. They itched so badly his hands shook ...

It was when he'd turned seventeen he felt something snap inside. Felt those years of repression finally explode from where it had been building up.

The day he came home with an earring was the same day he coughed and spluttered, staggered, his slight, slender frame crashing painfully against the back wall of the toilet block all the way in the bottom of the school grounds ... he'd felt arms lift him roughly and straighten him against the wall again, felt another lit cigarette pushed in between his fingers, faintly heard the urging of his companions to try again, take another drag and feel the magic starting ...

Magic, they'd said. And he'd done it. He'd inhaled again and again and this time fought back the painful fumes that threatened to make him choke, and he'd apparently gotten "the hang of it" quicker than any of them had, judging from the admiring looks on their faces ...

Magic ...? This – somehow this doesn't feel like magic ... magic was when I had a brush between my fingers and a large clean sketchpad ... that's when I felt magic ...

But he had stuck with it ... this may not be the same magic, but it prevented the hurt that rose within him at the treatment he was undergoing at home. It stopped the raging fury lashing against the inside of his mind, drove away the screaming frustration, the howling wolves ...


Then they had assured him that a couple of beers were so much more instantaneous than a dozen cigarettes ... merely about a month after trying the acrid but now wonderful smoky fumes, he had accompanied them to the sleaziest bar in the city ... about half–a–dozen giant topped up glasses later, he'd been faintly aware of a very large bosom pressed against him ... perfectly manicured hands stroking his hair, a hoarse, rather silken voice ...

Then he remembered, even through that terrible haze, that something was wrong ... this didn't ... feel right ... and the next thing he knew was that there was a fist flying ... his fist ...

He remembered leaping back from the bar stool, staggering drunkenly yet his mind was crystal clear ... crystal clear because he was watching this slutty little bitch lying on the floor, covering her face where it had connected most painfully with his panicked fist, watched the faces as everyone else stared at him in horror, with disgust ... faintly recalled his furious yells at his so–called comrades, that what the hell did they think they were doing, was this what they had asked him for, what they all gathered together on a late night to do ...

He'd run out of there so fast, and disappeared just as quickly that even his more concerned, worried companions hadn't been able to catch up with him. Despite the massive load of drinks, he was weaving in and out expertly in between the streaming traffic, the furious yells of the drivers, people on the footpaths ...

Somehow he'd reached the tall grey city centre, the giant building with its soaring columns and solemn, hallowed halls. Collapsing against the shade of one of the pillars, away from prying eyes, the clarity that had come with his frenzied dash also brought to him more than a 'wake–up call' ...

What on earth am I doing ...? What am I achieving doing this ...?

And with that came another, more horrifying thought ...

I haven't so much as touched my paintbrushes in weeks ...

And the itch in my fingers ... hasn't stopped ... not once ...

He didn't return home that night. He'd stayed the whole night in that silent secluded area of the city, huddled against the unfriendly but grudging shadow of that wide pillar. And when he had stumbled to his front doors later that second day, he'd found he wasn't welcome ... that he hadn't been for a long, long time ...

His next memory was one of total and utter humiliation, of a tall, solemn–looking distinguished man in a smart grey suit – the suit this man always wore to his doctor's rooms – standing and talking in his low, quiet voice ... he was saying that he had only ever had one son, and currently he was enrolled in a top, prestigious school within the city, and set to lead the respectable life he and his mother had always wanted ... that no longer did anyone else exist, and that if a certain person ever so much as tried to approach his little brother, more than legal action would be taken against him ...

Little brother ...

It was with immense pain he thought of the little boy, those large dark eyes full of the utmost admiration, the worshipping adoration whenever he would smile down gently into the little boy's eyes. The delighted excitement when he would present his little brother with another magnificent picture, the absorbing gaze with which he would sit beside his older brother and watch the magic spill out joyfully from his fingers, would watch the simple brush strokes and boring white paper have life breathed into it, would watch a live, roaring dragon fly out of the sheets, raging fire from its nostrils ... would watch an entire world created within minutes – the rushing bubbling stream, bringing and creating life along its banks ... the walks he would take him for, the sweet, soft little chattering he would listen to ... the nonsensical chattering of a little boy whom no one else wanted to listen. Everyone else just wanted results, they wanted him to tell them how well he was doing in school, want to hear that he came top again. They didn't want to hear that he had had so much trouble writing the advanced essay his teachers had set for him, the advanced mathematics problem sheet which was making him awake in the night, panicking and anxious ...

They certainly didn't want to hear that he would run into his older brother's room in the middle of the night, clutching his work. His room was always bright and happy and lit, it had absolutely beautiful pictures on the walls, pictures that made the little boy's heart soar just like the eagles on mountain–tops ...

They wouldn't want to hear that this older brother had laughingly pulled up a spare chair and taught the confused, anxious child in a matter of minutes what those grim, solemn teachers could never achieve in hours ...

It was him, not mother, who had gone into a frightened little boy's room when he woke from terrible nightmares ... he was the one who would sit and quietly coax the horrors out of his mind ... he who would pick up the terrified child and take him into his own room and allow him to watch a cartoon, or a movie, or play a game before allowing him to sleep on his bed ... and he would promise to sit by him, look over him all night, and not let those nightmares come, ever again ...

The little boy who would leap up in delight, as he sat waiting to be picked up from school, as he would catch sight of his elder brother, the person he loved most in all this tired world, the whole reason why there was such a bright resonating, pulsing light in the gleaming, spotless, forbidding halls of home ... the adoration, the pride in the little boy's eyes ...

Intelligent dark eyes softened as the more gentle, happier memories swirled over him ...

The buildings looming out through the haze outside, the way they stood out so brightly, so starkly ... he realised this giant library tower was the same one he had seen that night he'd run away from home, run to the city ... having paused for a minute to gaze in awe at the city skyline, the bright, sparkling and glimmering lights as the world came alive in that dark night ...

That had been magic ... out of everything, all he had been through since The Treatment had started ... since that night he had felt something ... lying slumped against that lonely column, he'd felt that something had died within him that would never be reborn ...

And he'd been right ... something had died in him ... it was gone forever, the tired, lonely spark of fire, the flame which had burnt bravely, struggling against the howling, forbidding winds that tried to quell its brightness for all these years ... that night, in his loneliness, in his realisation of the disgusting sleaziness of the bar, in what he had allowed himself to be reduced to by falling prey to those stupid dropkicks, those low–lifes, with their promises of what had only led to emptiness ... yes, something had died a most terrible, painful death ... and it would never be reborn ...

But something had risen from the ashes ... and this would never die ...

This was what had brought him here ... the tiny spark of fire which had been cruelly extinguished suddenly had grown into a powerful, raging inferno ... it was a fire which outshone everything, everything he had ever done, ever felt in his life ...

Seventeen ... seventeen and not yet finished school ... and yet ...

Mere weeks afterwards, the university in that magical city had seen his application form for a foundation year, after they had inspected the attached samples of his artwork, his portfolio of his range of talents ... and weeks later a letter had arrived in the pigeonhole of the hotel's letterboxes ... he'd been offered an interview ...

The rest was nothing short of a rushed dream – rushed but, having continued for a long time, years and years in its duration. Slowly the dream was settling into a reality, that even if he pinched himself, he'd realised he'd awakened, that he'd been awake for a long time ... he fleetingly recalled the scholarship he'd been awarded, the added study grant concession when they had realised his lonely position, the way he had been left suddenly destitute by his family ... kind words of encouragement from the top art scholars of that university, about how many families usually found it hard to accept such rare talent, especially when they wanted to produce heirs of legal and medical experts, not sheer geniuses from whose fingers pure enchantment came, who possessed the minds of the generation–thinkers, those who shaped the future to come ...

He had listened to all their encouragement, not having the heart to tell them that it was useless, that the raging fire within him did not need any more encouragement. He had smiled and refused their offer of counsellors and all ...

After intense searching, he'd found the perfect place ... a partly furnished apartment with a breathtaking view of that city that had stirred the spark of life within him that terrible, wonderful night ...

Numerous art supplies had joined the throng ... soon a motorbike as well ... established classes, and four years later ...

His thoughtful gaze turned to a grimace as he heard a slight thud of someone else entering that silent tenth floor space, a high-pitched giggle, followed by a deep laughter. He turned his head slightly, glaring through the rows upon rows of books, catching a glimpse beyond them of a girl's brightly coloured dress flashing in that otherwise solemn library room, the sound as the happy couple settled into the comfortable lounge chairs ...

A tired, highly irritable frown marred his handsome features.

God damn them, he though irately, don't they ever stop?

Gritting his teeth, he stood up, abruptly, weariness forgotten in the light of this sudden unpleasant intrusion into his otherwise quiet library time. A slim, slender figure, he swiftly gathered up his books and writing implements and looked blankly at the paper cup that was sitting quietly in a corner of his desk.

Dang it … I forgot all about finishing that coffee …

A wry smile stretched across a handsome face, a momentary sparkle in those black depths before it died away in the wake of  more giggling and crooning and nuzzling sounds coming from the direction of the nearby lounge – the lounge in the tenth floor of the library where people were supposed to sit and quietly read the magazines or make notes from the reference books or some such positive employment of their time. Certainly not, he mused, for making out about five times a day while others are trying to get some study done …

He felt his bad temper rising, then dejectedly forced it down again.

I've got to damn well ride back home through this rain, on the bridge and all … the motorbike might be in top shape, but it's not helped any by a bad temper …

Replacing the books back on the shelf, he slipped on his leather jacket, tucked his notebook under his arm, and grinning again, picked up the now cold remains of coffee. As he left the tenth floor, heading in the direction of the stairs, he sighed as he heard another delighted shriek and had a sudden urge to tip his coffee over the pair of them.

Instead he quickened his pace, balancing himself carefully on the stairs and effectively jumping down it three steps at a time. He turned his mind to thoughts of returning to his apartment and musing over what to make for a Friday night dinner. He decided to reach the motorbike shed by the driest way possible …

Upon reaching the ground floor landing, Jo turned resolutely in the direction of the adjoining building, which was the Wordsworth Wing …